Saturday, 25 March 2017

Social Media Icons for my Blogger sidebar

I've had a Spring Clean tidy up across my two blogs, Stephanie Jane and Literary Flits this week. I thought the sidebars particularly were beginning to sprawl and their multiple social media widgets took ages to load on our campsite-strength wifi. Maybe it wasn't not so noticeable on home-strength broadband? I liked the streamlined look of social media icon sets I saw on other blogs so had a search around. It turns out that Bloglovin and Goodreads icons aren't standard in many matching icon sets (free ones anyway!) so that did limit my choice somewhat, but I eventually decided on these smart monochrome icons by Alfredo at IconFinder.
I chose to include Bloglovin , Etsy , Facebook , Goodreads , Google Plus , Instagram , Pinterest and Twitter .

Fitting the set together into a neat block with all their individual links was quite a faff, but I am really pleased with how they look now.

Recently I also did away with the Google Ads from the top of each blog's sidebar so these now only appear under posts. Instead you will now see (in desktop view anyway) my chosen Advertiser Spotlights. This feature is on a monthly rotation and I host four different promotions each month. They are mostly affiliate links to businesses I love, but you can advertise your business/event/book launch/etc too if you want! Anything with a bookish connection is welcome on Literary Flits and pretty much everything else will probably suit Stephanie Jane. There's more details here including image requirements and pricing. I am currently taking bookings for May onwards, but could just squeeze in an April Spotlight if you get in touch before Monday!

Friday, 24 March 2017

The Millennium Olive Trees of Calig

We took ourselves on a walk from the opposite side of Calig a couple of days ago and discovered a duo of ancient olive trees in an orchard just out of town. A bright green signboard drew our attention to the orchard and we were both glad that it had. Otherwise we would have passed by thinking 'just more olive trees'! They are one of the most predominant crops in this area and have been for centuries meaning that certain trees are now considered millennium olive trees or Oliveres Millenaries. There are over 4000 such specimens in the Territori del Senia which encompasses Alcanar, Benicarló, Càlig, Canet lo Roig, Cervera del Maestre, Freginals, La Galera, Godall, La Jana, Mas de Barberans, Peñarroya de Tastavins, Rossell, Sant Carles de la Rapita, Santa Bàrbara, La Sénia, Traiguera, Ulldecona and Vinaròs.

Of course no one actually knows exactly how old each particular tree is - scientists aren't cutting them down to count rings! - instead, membership of the 'club' is determined by a tree's circumference. For an olive tree to be included in the inventory, it must have a trunk perimeter of at least 3.50m at a height of 1.30m above ground. There's more information on this on the Millennium Olive Trees website.

These are the two stunning trees we saw:

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

#TreatYourself - special offers that caught my eye

With both Mother's Day and Easter galloping towards us at great pace, retail businesses are falling over themselves to offer us the best deals so I have an excellent selection of money-saving offers and discount codes for you this month.

I'm starting with a generous 35% off promotion at The Body Shop, but you need to get your skates on to take advantage of this offer because it finishes at 9am on the 27th of March. Use checkout code 14666 to activate your discount. Certain product ranges are excluded from the offer so do double check first to avoid disappointment! Further details are available on The Body Shop website.

New accessories retailer FY stocks an eclectic range of jewellery, beauty products, home decor and stationery items. Featured in lifestyle magazines including Stylist, Vogue, BuzzFeed and Sleek. FY is the perfect place to shop for a fashionista Mum! Even better, you will get free worldwide delivery for whatever you choose to order and, if you sign up to the FY newsletter before placing your first order, you will be entitled to a 10% discount. Check out FY's Mother's Day selection and maybe pick up a treat for yourself too.

If spring weather has your thoughts turning to the great outdoors then this Alloutdoor offer might appeal. Whether you’re off for a short weekend break or a lengthy cross country journey, Alloutdoor have the products you need. With over a decade of experience founded on a passion for adventure they know the value of the right gear for the right job and have individually selected the best brands and products from around the world to ensure you have the essentials at your fingertips. From tents to backpacks, clothing to accessories, you can find pretty much everything you need here and get a 5% sitewide discount with the checkout code ALLOUTDOOR5 which is valid for all customers throughout March. Happy travels!

Homewares, jewellery, gifts and clothing with a luxurious and historical theme can be found at Museum Selection which is a beautiful website I recently discovered. They offer worldwide shipping and I love the gorgeous designs of far too many items here! As a seasonal incentive, Museum Selection are offering a 10% discount for new customers across their website shop. Simply use the discount code SPR17. I'm not sure how long this code is valid for though so don't wait too long to take advantage.

And I think I will finish up with a superb Easter chocolate offer from Thornton's. If you're the type of person who can do their Easter egg shopping ahead of time and NOT then need to do it all over again just before the day itself - that's so not me then! -  hop over to this Special Offer page where a variety of chocolate eggs and Easter treats are 2 for £10 or a generous 5 for £20. The choice includes filled dark, white and milk chocolate personalised eggs and very cute milk or white chocolate rabbits.


Sunday, 19 March 2017

A Sunday afternoon cycle - Vinaros to Cases

Machine gun post near Cases 
We cycled all the way to Catalonia today! Yay us!
Admittedly this feat only actually meant about a three hour pedalling round trip, but it was fun to pass under the Welcome to Catalonia signpost on the N340.

We drove from Calig and parked near the outward point of our previous Benicarlo to Vinaros cycle so we could continue along this stretch of the coast. It was a glorious day so the promenades and restaurants were packed. Fortunately the car park is huge so we had no trouble finding a space and unfolding our bicycles. The route is on roads through the edge of town for the first 10-15 minutes which could have been hairy were we in the UK, but here drivers are patient with cyclists and gave us a wide berth when they did pass. Eventually, just after an uphill curve, we spotted the beginning of a dedicated cycle path and this continues all the way into Cases. There were stunning sea views all the way!

View from the Vinaros-Cases cycle path 
After detouring to zoom round a potential campsite for next year, Camping Estanyet, we pedalled into town. Cases was even busier than Vinaros. We paused at a little Tourist Office kiosk to pick up a couple of local hiking maps, pleasantly surprised at its being open on a Sunday, before continuing straight on as far as another campsite, Camping Cases, which didn't look as promising for future trips. We didn't immediately realise that this was about as far as we would get. We tried cycling further, but had to rejoin the N340 which was heading to a grim-looking industrial plant and wasn't fun. We decided to about turn and look for lunching opportunities in Cases.

It soon struck us that, while we might have enjoyed the excellent cycle path facility, we hadn't seen any bike stands or bike parking since Vinaros. A quick zoom around Cases revealed only one bike hoop which had a restaurant table so close to it as to be unusable. Despite many cyclists, there was nowhere to lock up bikes and weirdly, none chained to railings or lampposts either. Where were they all? Hmmm! Fortunately we hadn't been sure whether any food places would be open - they all were - so had packed an emergency apple! We ate this on the prom, hoping it would provide energy enough for our return to Vinaros.

Machine gun posts near Cases 
I was intrigued by the sight of these two Civil War machine guns posts just outside Cases. We had seen them on the way in and couldn't work out why they were just offshore. You can see in the first photo that Curious Dave nearly got his feet wet in reaching one to peer inside! According to a handy signboard (in four languages!) the concrete emplacements originally faced out to sea from above the waterline and were part of extensive anti-fascist defences along the beach here. Since the 1930s, sea moving the shingle underneath has turned them around so they now seem to glare inland. As well as these two, there was another single post about half a mile further on.

Once back in Vinaros we were pretty tired. It turned out that the 'flat' cycle route had been slightly downhill on the way out! We thought again about lunch, but couldn't make a decision so instead treated ourselves to coffee and cake (and a caipirinha for Dave) at The Royal Bar before heading home.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Walking the PRV201 from Sant Mateu

We're into our last week at Camping l'Orangeraie now and have both loved this beautiful tranquil campsite. The glorious hot sunshine is an added bonus - we'd started to think the might be our first sun-free winter! On Thursday we returned to nearby Sant Mateu for a good tapas lunch at Bar Moderno in the Placa Major - I can recommend the delicious Ensalata Mixta - followed by what was supposed to be a 11k walk following in Roman footsteps and viewing the ruins of a medieval mill.

Our walk started out well. The route is the PRV201 (map and more info here) which has fairly frequent new signposts as well as yellow and white stripe markers. It starts out going away from the town along the Sendero Via Augusta from Placa de la Pietat in Sant Mateu where there is parking and a signboard showing a map of the town's several walking routes. Our first historical spot was the Pont de la Coma, a small old-looking bridge over a river that actually had water in it! (rare for this part of Spain!) The short concrete pillar you can see to the right of the bridge was moulded with the words 'VIA AUGUSTA' and its wheel symbol so we guessed there was a bridge or ford here in Roman times too - although this one looks more recent.

Pont de la Coma 
Moli Vell 
We continued a while longer, enjoying the scenery and pretty easy walking. Disappointingly though, shortly after crossing a larger road the PRV201 led up through a farmyard which had fenced across the path temporarily in order to move cattle. We decided to retrace our steps to the road and make a short detour. This cut across the middle of the walk meaning we missed out hill country views, but were able to proceed in the 'wrong' direction as far as the Moli Vell. This fifteenth century Old Mill is now in ruins and you can probably just make out its two stone constructions in this photo. It's big and sits above what is now a dried up rambla. We got a good idea of how fast water still flows along here in flood times though from the numerous tumbled boulders.

After exploring around the rambla for a while we turned back towards Sant Mateu and continued the walk as though we had done the whole loop, passing a spring and just about being overtaken by a jogger running much shorter loops up and down a steep hill - in this heat! We appreciated seeing a different aspect to this area from the coastal and agricultural areas.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Cycling from Benicarlo to Vinaros

Artichoke fields 
At the end of February I blogged about our day cycling from Benicarlo along the seafront to Peniscola. Now we have done the opposite journey - starting again at Benicarlo, but this time cycling to Vinaros. We anticipated similar scenery so were pleasantly surprised that our green route mostly sent us through agricultural land a little way back from the coast. At one point, all we could see between our cami and the sea was endless artichoke plants!

Vinaros experienced its heyday in the 16th and 17th centuries when extensive fortifications and navy yards were built. Its prosperity continued for another two centuries thanks to ship building and Valencian wine trade, but the town suffered a strong decline in the early 20th century when phylloxera devastated the region's vineyards. Now Vinaros relies mostly on tourism and fishing. It's is known for its prawns and this industry is celebrated with a huge iron statue on the town outskirts by the bullring. The giant shrimp is the work of Lluiz Ferrer who lives nearby in Sant Jordi. If you visit Sant Jordi, apparently his is the madly painted house!

Giant shrimp sculpture by Lluiz Ferrer 
Do you see that gorgeous blue sky in the shrimp photo? This was taken about half past twelve and depicts the weather as it had been all morning. We kept cycling along the seafront promenade from the bullring and passed numerous cafes, restaurants and shops, most of which were open and busy. Once past this commercial area, we decided to keep cycling, crossing over a river and passing a motorhome freeloading area before we suddenly ran out of road. We could have turned into a residential area, but looking ahead across a small bay we realised that we couldn't see very far anymore! A thick sea mist was rolling in! I did take a photo, but it was so misty that the picture is just a grey square.

Vinaros seafront 
Somewhat disappointed, we headed back into Vinaros with out minds turning to lunch instead. After a brief stop for Dave to relax in a fabulous concrete seat - there are several of these along the promenade - we decided upon Cop De Mar as our lunch spot. Dave had chipirones and I had one of the best salads ever. When in Vinaros, eat Ensalata Mandragora at Cop De Mar!

Suitably refreshed, but getting a tad chilly from the encroaching mist, we did cycle round a little of Vinaros for a couple of blocks back from the seafront. It is a pretty town with decorated buildings and more sculptures in public spaces. I liked the fountain pictured below. We had to cut our meanderings short and head back to the car because we didn't fancy cycling in the thickest of the mist and it was showing no signs of dispersing. Once back inland at our campsite we had glorious sunshine again!

Monday, 13 March 2017

Top Five Etsy Finds - Daffodils

Edible Cake Toppers by CakeCandyCo 
I'm feeling distinctly springlike as I write this post and what could be more indicative of the season than great swathes of sunny yellow daffodils! I hope we return to the UK in time to see the displays this year. In the meantime though, I had took a scouting trip around Etsy and discovered in just how many inventive ways daffodil flowers can be recreated. If you're in need of unusual Mother's Day or Easter gifts, these five of my favourites might fit the bill.

First to catch my eye were these edible cake toppers at CakeCandyCo in West Kilbride. This particular Easter assortment includes 1 pink bunny rabbit, 1 yellow chick, 9 white daisies, 3 pink daisies, 6 yellow daffodils and 6 green leaves. Other packs solely contain daffodils and all the cake toppers are handmade from sugar paste (suitable for vegetarians and gluten free). The perfect adornment for homemade cupcakes!

The Easter Cake Decoration Pack is for sale at £8.99 plus shipping.

Daffodil Brooch by ElliesThingsShop 
Ellen Moore is the creative inspiration behind ElliesThingsShop in Dereham and I love what she makes by recycling drinks cans. Ellen says, "I love to upcycle materials that other people would throw away to create new beautiful things. The first things I made from cans were flat pieces of wall art, and I decided to make my art wearable and functional by branching out with some 3D brooches."
This little Daffodil Brooch measures just 6cm across and is wonderfully detailed. As well as a Spring gift, it would also be ideal as a 10th anniversary gift - the 10th is symbolised by tin! "The petals are cut from a yellow can. The trumpet is orange and I have added green leaves. I have cut and sculpted each piece to give the flower some depth. The stamens are resistors. The pieces are sewn together and I have backed it with yellow felt and a large brooch pin. The pin has a safety catch making it harder to lose."

The Daffodil Brooch is for sale at £20 plus shipping.

Daffodil Bouquet Necklace
by CarolSmalleyDesigns
For a bold and long-lasting statement necklace you need look no further than the beautiful craftwork of Carol Smalley at CarolSmalleyDesigns in Newcastle-under-Lyme. Carol has been making jewellery for many years and loves creating every piece. She is often inspired while walking her two gorgeous rescue dogs in country parks and woodland, using this time to take in the wonders of mother nature.
I love the intricacies of this Daffodil Bouquet Necklace which Carol crafted by hand. The lovely spring bouquet itself is 10cm tall and features variously sized lucite flowers in orange, yellow and white, together with faceted crystal rondelles and chartreuse coloured copper wire. Carol then handmade the jump rings and connected them to make the 45cm chain. Its clasp is also handmade.

The Daffodil Bouquet Necklace is for sale at £25 plus shipping.

Leather Daffodil Brooch by PresentPerfectStudio 
Another Daffodil Brooch which would make an ideal anniversary gift is this leather example - the 3rd anniversary is symbolised by leather. Created by Svetlana Faulkner at PresentPerfectStudio in Stamford, this stylised daffodil brooch has its own charm and character. It was expertly crafted using thin genuine leather in warm hues and is sure to brighten its recipient's day. Just pin this hand made piece of spring to your trench coat and enjoy! The daffodils have been hand made completely from scratch using real genuine leather in complementary colours. The daffodil brooch is not waterproof, can not be washed, dry cleaned, ironed or creased, but just requires handling with love and care. It measures about 11 cm across and it is finished with a secure brooch pin.

The Leather Daffodil Brooch is for sale at £120 plus shipping.

Felt Daffodil Bouquet by CharlieLaurieDesigns 
As a particular fan of textile arts, I couldn't complete this post without including this vibrant felt flower arrangement by Charlotte Laurie at CharlieLaurieDesigns of London. It's perfect for a spring wedding! The bouquet is made using yellow and green organic felts with yellow buttons and Charlotte says "it's just like a real life daffodil only it lasts a lot longer!" Each flower is 85mm in diameter and each arrangement contains six flowers and six leaves. Each arrangement is a one off made to order and other sizes and colours can be arranged on request.

The Felt Daffodil Bouquet is for sale at £34.99 plus shipping.

I hope you enjoyed this daffodil-themed post and, at the very least, you are now feeling in a Springtime mood too! This st does contain affiliate links so, should you be tempted to click through and make a purchase, I would receive a small percentage. Alternatively, if you are now inspired to sell your own creations, open yourself an Etsy shop through This Link Here and we'll both get 40 free listings!