Save our Hedgehogs!

If you’re anything like us, you just LIVE for this time of year. Crisp Autumn nights are made nice and cosy with hot chocolate, sticky toffee puddings and of course a bloomin’ big bonfire that lights up the sky and warms you down to your little cotton socks.

But we’re not the only ones who love to kick up some leaves this time of year – hedgehogs come in a very close second! Right about now, they’re gorging on slugs, spiders and other creepy crawlies so they can have a nice, long snooze. Or in science-y speak, they’re about to hibernate. Unfortunately, us humans have made it pretty tricky for these balls of prickles to find the perfect bed for themselves, or do very much at all!

Right now, there are just under a million in the wild; that may sound a lot, but in the 1950’s there were 30 million of these critters running around. 30 million! There isn’t one specific cause, but loss of habitat, increased farming, busier roads and a rise in the number of badgers definitely doesn’t help.

So what can we do to help our spiky little friends? We went to Prickly Ball Farm, a farm dedicated to caring for injured or sick hedgehogs, to find out!

Build Your Bonfires Last Minute

The one time being prepared is a bad idea! Stacking all your burnable items right before you set it alight will unsure an unsuspecting hedgehog hasn’t had time to make a nice little nest in amongst the bonfire! If you really MUST be organised, make sure you give the ground underneath a gentle poke to wake them up in time!

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Keep Your Garden a Little Bit Messy

A hooray for lazy gardeners everywhere! The advice from wildlife experts is to look at your garden as a mini nature reserve – twigs, leaves and bushes are a hedgehog’s paradise. Or, if you want to give your little garden lodgers the V.I.H experience, you can make up you own hedgehog house to make sure they are completely undisturbed!

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A hedgehog oasis

Have Holes in Your Fences 

This may sound like we just want you to have a really shabby garden, but these little Tom & Jerry style holes will make sure a hedgehog can take refuge in your lovely garden! Hedgehogs travel 1-2 miles a night searching for food, shelter and mates, so the easier they can get around, the more likely they’re to survive.

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A hedgehog nightmare!

If You Find a Hedgehog…

Rejoice! You’re one of the lucky ones to have spotted one this year! It may be peckish, so offer it cat/dog meat or cat/dog biscuits, or you could also use bird seed, sunflower hearts, meal worms, unsalted peanuts, raisins and dried fruit, and only offer it water to drink!

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Donate to Your Local Hedgehog Hospital 

There’s no such thing as an NHS or private healthcare for hedgehogs unfortunately, so donating to places like Prickly Ball Farm ensure they can get the care they need if they do become ill, or lose their homes and habitat! Olbas oil for sniffly hedgehog noses, newspapers, cat food and blankets are all greatly appreciated at hedgehog hospitals up and down the country. If you do want to make a donation, you can find their info here!

We would just like to say a massive thank you to Prickly Ball Farm for letting come to visit, and in particular Danielle who is a hedgehog genius and answered all of our many  questions! The hedgehogs are lucky to have you!

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The lovely Danielle and adorable Gary

 

Easy Painted Pumpkin Ideas

It’s that time of year again where our screens are filled with gruesome ghouls, haunted houses and even the streets have a vampire or two on the prowl. With all this horror and gore coming at us from every angle, do we really need to bring it into our kitchens too? Carved pumpkins sure look impressive on Pinterest, but the amount of scraping, scooping and swearing at the shoddy carving kits you buy from the supermarket, it’s enough to put anyone on edge, even without the jump scares.

Painted pumpkins are another story altogether. With little mess, no knives and a whole world of colours at your fingertips, the possibilities are endless, and leave you with pumpkins that will jazz up any windowsill or Hallows Eve spread!

Dripping Pumpkin

Dripping Pumpkin

You will need:

  • A pumpkin
  • 1 tube of matte acrylic paint
  • 1 tube of metallic acrylic paint
  • 1 large paintbrush
  • 1 medium paintbrush
  • 1 small paintbrush

Halloween doesn’t have to be all blood and guts – give your pumpkins oodles of opulence with metallic acrylics and matte finishes. Not as scary as your typical jack o’ lantern, but this will definitely add a little extra gothic glamour to any ghoulish gathering! Use the large paintbrush to cover your pumpkin in the base colour, allow to dry either naturally or with a hairdryer, and apply another coat if necessary. Using the medium paintbrush, create the lines going down the pumpkin starting at the stalk at the top, making sure to go all the way around, and varying in length. Then using the smaller paintbrush, create the paint globs at the end of the lines for a realistic oozing effect!

Geometric Pumpkin

Geometric Pumpkin

You will need:

  • A pumpkin
  • Acrylic paint in at least 3-4 different colours and varying finishes
  • Washi or masking tape
  • 3-4 medium paint brushes, or just 1 if you’re happy to clean between colour switches

This style is perfect for those who LIVE for the satisfaction of slowly peeling off pieces of tape to reveal a glorious design of your own creation. We chose a geometric pattern commonly found in Ikea, but you can create whatever style you like! Simply use washi or masking tape to create your design, fill in the gaps using acrylic paint and a medium paint brush, and make sure to layer up so the colours POP! It usually takes between 30-45 minutes for the layer to dry, or around 4-5 with a hair dryer, so make sure the layers aren’t too thick. It may be difficult but be restrained when pulling off the tape, and peel off slowly; acrylic paint tends to lift and tear away if ripped away too quickly!

Stencilled Pumpkin

Stencil Pumpkin

You will need:

  • A pumpkin
  • White card
  • A pencil or pen
  • A pair of scissors or craft scalpel
  • Some sewing or drawing pins
  • 2 tubes of acrylic paint
  • 1 large paintbrush
  • 1 medium paintbrush

This requires a little extra effort, but the results are terror-ific! Apply your base colour first, using 1 or 2 layers if you need to, and while it dries create your stencil using the card and scissors or scalpel, making sure to consider the size of the pumpkin before you draw out your design. We found it best to then use sewing pins to stick the stencil on to the pumpkin before filling it in with your contrasting paint, as tape or blue tack would peel away your base layer! Maybe you’re gifted in calligraphy and you don’t need stencils to tie your creativity down, but for us mere mortals stencils are a necessity for creating a truly polished looking pumpkin!

 

Adorable Plumpkin

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You will need:

  • 1 plumpkin
  • Acrylic paint in at least 3-4 different colours and varying finishes
  • 3-4 small paint brushes, or just 1 if you’re happy to clean between colour switches

 With these adorable balls of spookiness, you can really do whatever design you would like and they will always come out great because…well…look at it! You won’t find these gems in with the carving pumpkins; instead you’ll be more likely to find them in with the cooking pumpkins in the vegetable section. If you can’t find any of these, look out for little squashes in the vegetable section too, as they will work just as well!

 

Banana Oat Pancakes

Bored of your regular smashed avocado on toast? Fancy kicking your pancake game up a notch? Using no flour and no sugar, these banana oat pancakes are a barely naughty alternative to your regular Sunday brunch!

For 1 person you will need:

• 1 banana

• 1 egg

• 65g of rolled oats

• ½ a teaspoon of baking powder

• A pinch of salt

• A pinch of cinnamon (depending on your cinnamon taste levels)

• Whatever you would like to serve! We used maple syrup, fresh raspberries and cherries, and a sprinkling of Cinnamon Swirl Popcorn.

Method:

• Use either a blender or tonnes of elbow grease to mush up the banana and egg, and then use your remaining strength to mix in the oats, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

• It can be as smooth as you like it – we used a blender so it was silky smooth, but I’m sure it would be just as nice with a few chunks of banana inside!

• Let the batter have a little time out for 10-20 minutes so it can thicken.

• Heat a frying pan over a medium heat, and plop in a blob of coconut oil (or any oil you prefer).

• Fry generous spoonful’s of batter on both sides until golden brown, and good enough to wolf down in one bite.

• Serve with a drizzle of maple syrup and lashing of popcorn and fruit!

Easy peasey lemon squeezy!

Marshmallow Popcorn Balls

Makes | 8-10 popcorn balls (depending on if you’d like them bite-sized, or if “gob-smacker” is more your style) 

Prep | 10 minutes 

Cooking time | 10 minutes

Ready in | 30 minutes 

Over Easter we showed you some of our beautifully sculpted and oh so easy to make popcorn balls! They could not be simpler to recreate, and you can let your imagination run wild with any littles extras you’d like to top them with.

Ingredients

  • 75g of butter
  • 75g bag of Portlebay Popcorn
  • 120g of mini marshmallows (plus extra for nibbling)
  • Food colouring of your choice, and any extras you desire

Method

  1. Melt the butter gently in a large saucepan under a medium heat, and then add the mini marshmallows.
  2. Keep stirring marshmallows as they mix with the butter, until they’ve fully mixed together. If you think the mixture is still too oily, add a few more marshmallows to the mix (provided you haven’t gobbled them up already).
  3. Take the mixture off the heat, and pour into a mixing bowl. Now’s the time to get creative! Add your favourite food colouring, dried fruit, chopped buts, rainbow drops, whatever! The world is your oyster…but not seafood, pretty sure that would be horrible.
  4. Once that is mixed together, bundle in your popcorn and make sure to coat every last kernel with your glorious concoction. The mixture should be slightly hardening by now, so this is an excellent time to start working on your Michelle Obama arms.
  5. Once it is fully coated, use some of the butter to rub on your hands, and start moulding into balls.
  6. Place on to greaseproof paper, and chill in the fridge for 30 mins. Once they are keeping their shape, they are ready to enjoy!

 

 

 

Get Healthy the Fun Way!

By this time in January, you’re either powering through your New Years resolutions like a determined stallion, your fridge is full of courgetti spaghetti, or you’ve decided you’re actually pretty awesome, so no need for #NewYearNewMe. To be frank, you can be healthier at any point in the year, but it does make things easier when yoga mats and gym memberships are on sale.

For those who’d like a little fitness inspiration, we’ve been trying out a mix of healthy snacks and quirky exercise classes to see the lighter side of being a healthy bean in 2017! Exercise never has to be a seasonable thing, so expect our active investigations throughout the year 😊

 

The first activity this year to tick off our list: Trampoline Aerobics at Super Tramp Parks! 

Apart from the most obvious benefit of bouncing up and down like a giddy toddler (or maybe that’s just me?), trampolining is also an extremely low impact sport for your joints, especially when compared to jogging or tennis! Repeated classes can also lead to stronger bones, a faster metabolism, and a pretty good bum if your fitness instructors make you do enough lunges.

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I look entirely too happy to be doing a lunge

I unfortunately didn’t finish the class, as I was busy Snap Chatting and Instagramming a lot of it…and that was the biggest mistake of my week.

If you work through all the exercises, the bouncing from one trampoline to the other and the 50 or so sit-ups, you’ll end the class with a nice relaxing series of yoga style moves to gently work through, demonstrated here:

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Notice the missing redhead? 

Without this essential part of the work out, you will be guaranteed to be aching for DAYS. Literally DAYS. For complete transparency, we attended this class on Monday evening, it is now Friday, and only today have I felt comfortable enough to crouch down and stand up again without the aid of a chair or nearest person to grab on to. The cool down part of any exercise class or activity should never really be missed, but with classes that don’t feel too intense on the surface, it’s probably even more import to do them. Lesson = Learnt.

This is not your standard trampoline jaunt; this will leave you feeling like you just bounced up a mountain, and lunged all the way down again, but you feel all the better for it. If you’re looking to brush away those Christmas cobwebs, or you want an exercise class that feels more like fun than work, or you just want to see what Buster the Boxer was so excited about, this is definitely the class for you.

The Blindfold Run with the RLSB

Back in August 2016, we were asked by one of the brilliant team at the Royal London Society for Blind People to supply some of our popcorn for their “Blindfold Run” goodie bags. We are not ashamed to say a fair amount of Googling went into finding out just how one runs blindfolded, without falling into streams of traffic, bashing into innocent bystanders, and generally just surviving the journey.

But it really is simpler than you think. How do we know? Because we did it!

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At the start, feeling pretty good…

Those up to the challenge to take part in this extraordinary experience are tethered together in pairs, with one runner being blindfolded and the other being the trusted navigator. Halfway through the 5k or 10k course, you then change roles, so each person gets the experience of being guided blindly through the route.

The aim here is not to simulate sight loss, or imply that the experience will be the  same for everyone, but simply to get people thinking about sight loss, and be part of something completely unique!

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…nearing the end, feeling less so good

Imagine being in a pitch-black room; it could be your bedroom, sitting room, or just a place you are familiar with and feel comfortable in…but you’re in complete darkness. Sure you can feel your way around it, you can still smell the familiar scents of a place you would call home, but without being able to see, it would still be a touch intimidating.

Now imagine leaving that room, still in darkness, and running through unfamiliar territory. You have no idea  about your surroundings. Is that person you can hear close enough to touch or are they further away? Every tiny bump or slight turn is new and scary as you have no idea how to gauge it. It sounds ridiculous, but you forget how to turn your body left and right, whether you’re jogging too fast or too slow, and it feels like the world is coming in on you, even though it’s exactly the same as before…I blame that last point on running into some low hanging branches.

What a sweet luxury it was to take your blindfold off and see the world, and how lucky we are that we can do that.

The Blindfold Run is understandably the RLSB’s most popular fundraising event, and has raise dover 70k since it’s launch in 2014. All funds that are raised from the amazing participants goes towards goes towards helping blind children and young people living in the capital, with the belief that every single child can build the confidence and skills to fulfil their potential, even in a world that is sometime’s all about the visual.

If you would like to find out more about the brilliant work the RLSB does for those in need, or to check out the run and sign up for next year, check out their website here!: www.rlsb.org.uk

The Bake is on!: Week 3

As soon as Autumn tumbles around it seems all of our internal tummy clocks start craving the gentle warmth of cinnamon; whether it be sprinkled over hot chocolate or dusted over pancakes, nothing quite beats the humble cinnamon cookie.

We had Lucy Rocks Paleo’s glorious popcorn and granola cheesecake last week, but for week 3 we’re heading back to biscuits, or more importantly cinnamon swirl and blush granola cookies (yay!).

For this recipe you’ll need to get yours paws on:

  • 225g of soft salted butter
  • 250g of demerara sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 300g of self raising flour 
  • 1/2 tsp on baking powder 
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon 
  • 75g of Portlebay Cinnamon Swirl popcorn 
  • 40g of Lucy Rocks Paleo Blush Granola 
  • Chocolate or toffee sauce (or both) for decorating

Start off by preheating your oven to 180 °C, and lining a baking tin with baking paper. If you don’t have any, lining it with butter and flour works just as well.

Next, you’ve got to beat the butter and sugar together with an electric whisk; once it’s combined, whisk in the egg as well. This isn’t going to be you’re smoother-than-smooth cake batter; it looks a bit like sugary quinoa, so not the best for whisk licking based on personal experience…

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From quinoa…

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…to edible pop-pourri!

Next, tip the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, Cinnamon Swirl Popcorn and Blush Granola in the bowl, and get your guns out because I would NOT recommend mixing this with an electric whisk. Popcorn and granola will fly everywhere, and you’ll end up with more of a popcorn dust than a popcorn crunch; that isn’t personal experience, but pure bakers intuition… and common sense.

Once that’s all combined and you have a stiff mixture of cookie dough, start rolling the dough into golfball sized balls, and put out on to your beautifully lined tray from earlier. Make sure there is a bit of a gap in between them, as they do tend to spread. Leave them there for 12-13 minutes, or until they’re golden brown; if they’re still a little bit soft on top not to worry, they will harden as they cool.

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From balls of dough…

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…too fully fledged cookies!

And they you have it! Decorate them as you like them; we drizzled ours with toffee and chocolate sauce, because we just couldn’t decide between them, and serve with a tall glass of milk or a nice cup of tea. The perfect little Autumn treat!

As with last week, show us your bakes on Facebook or Twitter, using our recipe or your favourite, and win some lovely samples from us and Lucy Rocks Paleo!

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The Bake is On!: Week 1

To celebrate the glorious return of one the best loved baking programmes on the British television, we’ve teamed up with the lovely people at Lucy Rocks Paleo to bring you a baking competition you can do without stepping inside that fabled Bake Off tent.

You can try out our recipes, or make up your own, they just have to be delicious I’m afraid. How difficult can that be when you’re smothering everything in chocolate?

Week 1 kicks off with a classic tray bake (just without the bake): Rocky Road! You may remember we featured our Popcorn Rocky Roads online a while ago, well now they’re back with the delicious addition of Lucy Rocks Paleo Golden Granola.

If you’d like to try out the recipe yourself, you will need:

  • 1 smallish, deep baking tray, greased and lined 
  • 75g of Cappuccino Portlebay Popcorn (although other flavours will work just as well) 
  • 200g of Golden Granola from Lucy Rocks Paleo
  • 50g of Mini Marshmallows 
  • 300g of Dark Chocolate (or whatever chocolate is your favourite)
  • 50g of Salted Butter 
  • A dash of whatever you would like to decorate your masterpiece with 

For you Rocky Road purists out there, I’m sure you’ll be crying out “Where’s the raisins?! Where’s the cherries?! What is this sham of a Rocky Road recipe about!”. Do not fear cake lovers, as Golden Granola has all of these elements and more! With mulberries, goldenberries, coconut chips and tonnes of other healthy bits and bobs, it’s a wonderful alternative to give your bakes that extra crunch!   lucy-rocks-ingredients-better

Get ready for a picture heavy post, with tonnes of craving inducing images of melted chocolate, because that’s going to feature a lot! First of all, melt the chocolate and the butter together in a heat proof bowl, over a shallow pan of simmering water. Make sure the water doesn’t touch the bowl, and the chocolate doesn’t get too hot! Chocolate cement is great for tiling a ginger bread house, but not for much else.

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This is what chocolate and butter looks like in a bowl

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Just keep on stirring…

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…until it’s glossy and smooth

Right now you’re going to be fighting back urges to plonk yourself on the sofa and tuck into that bowl of chocolate heaven with a teaspoon and a sense of reckless abandon. Hold yourself together! The next bit is a piece of cake…sorry. 

All your tiny marshmallows (bar a few for decoration), Portlebay Popcorn and Lucy Rocks Golden Granola need to be mixed in with a lot of added elbow grease, to make sure every grain and popcorn piece is thoroughly coated in your butter and chocolate mixture. If you can’t quite get everything covered, melt a little bit more chocolate in the microwave to cover those last few patches. It should look a little something like this:

It will get messy, but where’s the fun in keeping everything tidy, eh? Once it’s all mixed together and coated as much as you can get it, you need to start piling the mixture into the baking tray, making sure to get it into as many nooks and crannies that you can. A little like this:

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You can decorate yours in any way your chocolate loving heart desires; we’ve used sugar sprinkles you can find in any supermarket or baking shop, and of course more mini marshmallows.

Place in the fridge to chill for a couple of hours until the chocolate is firm and holds it’s shape, or put it in the freezer for about an hour if you just can’t wait to tuck in! At the end of it all, you will end up with some beautiful popcorn-y granola-ry goodness.

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And there you have it! A simple treat to try at home, and loved by all.

Share your own fantastical tray bakes on The Portlebay Popcorn or the Lucy Rocks Paleo Facebook, for your chance to win some scrumptious popcorn and granola!

Everyday We’re Popping

The lovely thing about making your own popcorn is, well, just that. We pop it, ship it and run everything from under the same roof, which is really rather special. We have a whole host of Popcorn Flavoursmiths working away, filling our little packets of sunshine as we like to call them, and making the whole office smell delicious.

The journey from kernel to popcorn is a short one, as anyone who has made popcorn at home before would know, but there are no massive microwaves here at Portlebay Popcorn. Instead, we use bloomin’ big saucepans to heat up a mix of rapeseed oil and raw cane sugar, to give all our popcorn kernels that glorious crunch.

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A whizz with a wooden spoon

It all starts with this guy, our chief popper and commander. Those saucepans are not to be trusted to pop away without supervision, and Marek is the guy to do it. From here, it’s a race against time to get our popcorn packed away; luckily we’ve mastered popping to bagging, so there’s no popcorn losing crunch and gaining that horrible polystyrene squeakiness. That’s OK for packing tellies, no good popcorn!

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All beards must be bagged, luckily Angus doesn’t mind too much

On to the flavour maker! I’m afraid this stage is pretty hush-hush, so just imagine magical popcorn fairies, delicately dusting each and every popcorn puff with our Original Crispy Bacon & Maple Syrup flavour. All that natural goodness is whisked together, and then it’s on to the bagging!

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An overlooked, but integral part of the operation

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From here we do all sorts of technical tests to make sure our popcorn is the best we know it can be.

Anthony there is doing very important things, checking the bagging temperature, pressure, speed and all other kinds other technical buzzwords.

Why do you think Lucas is laughing so much? Because he has it on Easy Street, Professional Taster indeed.

In all seriousness we do need to do regular checks to measure the levels on salt, sugar, crunch and general tastiness. Lucas is the lucky duck that gets his own tasting booth to measure all of these delicious elements!

 

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And here is the finished product! Our signature and original flavour Crispy Bacon & Maple Syrup. This is just a tiny part of the popcorn mountain we eventually end up with, but each bag is just as delicious as the last.

This is just a taster of what we do to make sure our packets of sunshine are full of that yumminess you know and love. If you’re a blogger, vlogger or a fellow popcorn fanatic, and would like to get up close and personal with our crew of poppers and our delicious produce, get in touch! We’d love to have you 🙂

Get in touch with Lucy at lucy@portlebaypopcorn.com, or call us on 01752 231 713 if you’d like a guided tour!