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The Art of Haines

Posted by Sas on October 6, 2015

Please note, this post is part of a series. Click here to read it from the beginning.

In my last post I told you about the wonderful town of Haines, AK. I couldn’t move on to the next part of my trip without showing you photos of some of the artwork I saw in Haines. The whole town feels like a piece of art, every building unique and creative. Traditional Alaskan Native carvings and sculptures mingle with handmade jewellery and decorative architecture that looks like it came straight out of a hippy commune. Needless to say, I really like Haines.

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The Art of Self and Peer Massage

Posted by Sas on October 5, 2015


As my regular readers will know, I love hunting out and experiencing new activities. I always love discovering ways to live a healthier lifestyle. So, when Alicia Kon told me about The Art of Self and Peer Massage workshop that she teaches, I had to give it a try.

I have suffered from migraines for the past 12 years. I believe there are a number of factors in my life that come together to cause them, and the loss of a family member triggered the first one. I’ve tried many different treatments and medicines over the years, some of which have worked and others have made things worse. Although conventional western medicine does cure my migraines most of the time, I find that doctors have very little interest in the cause of them and how they can be prevented. All they want to do is treat the symptoms. Learning proper massage techniques can help deal with the pain caused by migraines, headaches, back ache and other muscular and joint issues. If you can incorporate it into your routine, massage can help you to relax more and reduce stress, one of the major causes of migraines.

So, on a slightly chilly and grey Sunday afternoon in Wales, I threw a pot of tiger balm into my bag, tucked my yoga mat under my arm and headed over to Cardiff MADE to meet Alicia and the others who would be taking part in the workshop. It was the perfect venue for the course. Hidden away in the loft space, it was nice and cosy for us to practice the different techniques on each other.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the workshop. I’ve had people massage me before, but I’ve never learnt how to massage someone else properly. With Alicia’s calming voice expertly talking me through everything, though, I didn’t have anything to worry about. The workshop lasted 3 hours, although we were all so engrossed in what we were doing that it didn’t even feel like one hour had passed! We started by learning some simple techniques that pretty much anyone can use on themselves everyday. Just a few minutes in the morning can help wake your body up for the day, and if you practice the exercises before you go to bed they can help you sleep better. I don’t know about you, but these are both things I could use some help with on a daily basis.

The second part of the course was where we got to practice massage techniques on each other. Having a real life person responding to your touch is a great way to learn what you’re doing right, and their facial expressions will soon tell you what you’re doing wrong. When you are the person being massaged you gain an even better understanding of what you are doing to the body and how it feels. Alicia also taught us to adapt our technique to suit our own strengths and abilities, and also the physique and flexibility of the person you are touching. I even learnt a few things about myself – who knew that the vertebrae in my spine are so evenly spaced?!

I came out of the workshop feeling relaxed and refreshed. I feel confident enough to use the techniques that Alicia has taught me. Obviously, after just three hours I am no expert. However, Alicia is, so I asked her a few questions about The Art of Self and Peer Massage which she very kindly answered below.

Alicia will be holding another workshop on Sunday 11th October as part of Made in Roath 2016. For more information you can contact her

Alicia, can you explain what The Self and Peer Massage workshop is all about?

Self Massage is based on Do In, an ancient technique from China which is very useful to prevent health issues and to help keep yourself active and fit. Some minutes everyday does the trick! Peer Massage is based on Shiatsu (from the Japanese, shi: finger, atsu: pressure) so using our fingers, palms, knuckles, elbows  we will be massaging others – the basic and most immediate result of this action/contact is increased blood and energy circulation, it raises spirits and is a first step to better health. I will be teaching acupressure points for when you have a headache, lower back pain, etc.

Who can benefit from Self and Peer Massage?

Everybody can benefit from it, and that is my philosophy behind the workshop – I am passionate about empowering people and bringing these simple techniques back into their hands.

Is it suitable for practicing while travelling?

It is an excellent tool and knowledge to use while travelling. You can apply it to yourself and on fellow travellers you meet on the way :)

Do you need any special equipment?

No, the heart of it is YOU CAN ONLY DO GOOD when your intention is loving, that’s why we will be exploring re-linking ourselves to the instinctive and healing power of touch, ours by birth right.

Sasieology is all about visiting new destinations and experiencing new activities. Which destination is on top of your bucket list and what activity would you like to try?

So many! Hawaii and Iceland are the latest 2. Surfing in Hawaii and walking in Iceland are some of the activiites I’d love to try out.

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Exploring Haines

Posted by Sas on September 29, 2015

Please note, this post is part of a series. Click here to read it from the beginning.


For the first couple of days of my trip, I had sweated what felt like half my body weight in the 102 degree Californian heat. I’d consoled myself with the thought that, as I was heading much further north, it was going to get cooler. As I stepped off the ferry in Haines, in the middle of an Alaskan heatwave, I realised that it wasn’t going to get that much cooler.

Just like all the stops we’d made along the route, the ferry port at Haines is out of town. 4 miles in this case. Viva, the owner of the only taxi in Haines, was waiting at the port. She had seven spaces. Three couples wanted to see Haines before returning to the boat. I grabbed the last spot and paid her to take me out to Bear Creek Cabins & Hostel, where I had a reservation. As we drove through downtown, Viva gave us a mini tour with commentary. If we needed a lift anywhere, she told us, just ask a local to call Viva. I got the impression that, if you needed picking up, she would just magically appear like some taxi driver sixth sense.

Bear Creek Cabins & Hostel is located 1.5 miles out of town, on the opposite side to the ferry port. 8 cabins sit around a communal outdoor area, with a shower/bathroom block and kitchen off to one side. Two of the cabins are used as dorm rooms. It’s basic, but it’s also cheap, and you have everything you need. As it turned out, no-one else checked into the female dorm the entire time I was there. I had the cheapest private room in Haines. I rented a bike from the manageress and encountered my first proper exercise in 3 days. Viva had warned me that 2 bears were roaming the area, and that I should keep an eye out. Oh great, I thought, it’s like moving to British Columbia all over again (I once spent a winter working in Whistler). I’d love to see a bear, just not when I’m on my own on a pushbike in the middle of nowhere.

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My fears of not finding any plant-based, gluten-free food were unfounded. On my first cycle into town, the very first building I came across was a health food store. Although Mountain Market is pretty much the only place in town where you can buy plant-based, gluten-free food, it stocks a pretty good selection.

Situated about 40 miles from the Canadian border (locals seem to disagree on how long the road is), Haines AK is the place to go to if you want outdoor adventure in a laid back setting. Downtown Haines isn’t very big, but there’s enough to keep you occupied for a couple of hours. It’s home to the Hammer Museum which, as the name suggests, displays a collection of 1700 hammers. If that’s not enough hammers for you, apparently the owner has 7000 more at home. Just look for the giant hammer on Main Street, you can’t miss it.


On the opposite side of the road, just down from the Hammer Museum, is the Sheldon Museum and Cultural Centre. This charming and welcoming little hub of local life houses Tlingit artefacts and crafts, as well as items from more recent Western settlers.

More Native American artwork can be viewed at Alaska Indian Arts. This has to be the most laid back museum I have ever visited. Entrance is free, and you just let yourself in and wander at will. A couple of small signs ask you to close the door behind you firmly and not touch the tools (totem poles and other art pieces are still carved here). A tiny sausage dog with a persistent cough greeted me as I arrived, but other than that no-one seemed to notice I was there.

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Alaska Indian Arts is part of Fort William H. Seward. You can pick up a self-guided walking tour leaflet for the fort at lots of places around town, and I would highly recommend it. Work began on the fort in 1903, and its primary use was to protect against the threat of attack from Canada. It was also used during both World Wars for training and recreation. When it closed after the War, Haines suddenly fell quiet. Five World War II veterans, with the support of their families, bought 85 buildings and 400 acres and began to develop the community that is still there today. It is very much a living museum, with the original buildings being used as residences, hotels and art galleries. It must be strange to have tourists constantly walking past and taking photos of your home. I’m not sure I could handle it, but the upside is you get to live in a piece of history with a view over the stunning Portage Cove.

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The Bald Eagle Foundation on the Haines Highway was ethically a tough visit for me. On the one hand, they rescue and rehabilitate injured bald eagles as well as other birds of prey, a commendable vocation. They have two bald eagles who are permanent residents and used for educational purposes (neither can be released into the wild again for their own safety, and one of them has returned to the foundation on numerous occasions), and visitors are invited to watch them being fed at 2.30pm every day. The trainers seem genuinely respectful of the birds and their wishes, and  will happily answer questions. The other side of the building, however, I found more sinister. Hundreds of stuffed animals stare at you in the foundation’s museum, and a gentleman who I presume to be the manager proudly told us how he had hunted some of the exhibits himself. As entertaining and pleasant as he is, I found it difficult to understand how you can be so passionate about preserving certain species on one hand, whilst contributing to the extinction of many more on the other. However, this is Alaska, and I just smiled politely until I could make my escape.


About 10 miles out of downtown Haines, back past the ferry port, is Chilkoot Lake. if you have access to a car, which thanks to the kindness of one of my fellow ferry passengers I did, it’s worth the drive. You can also phone Viva, or I imagine just think about wanting to visit the lake, and she will take you. We were disappointed to find there are no walking trails around the lake, but the view is spectacular. I didn’t see any, but apparently bears frequently visit the area to feed. About halfway up the river to the lake there is the curious sight of the fish counting station, where all the fish are forced to swim through a narrow gate so their numbers can be recorded. We asked a fisherman how the station works, expecting some highly technical answer. He told us that the gentleman wearing waders, sat next to the gate, had the unenviable job of counting the fish by eye and keeping a tally. If that wasn’t odd enough, he clocked off at 5pm, and I can only assume the fish are then either not allowed through the gate until he returns to work the next morning, or they are trained to somehow record their own visit if it happens to be during the night.

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Bald eagles, Native American Artefacts and hammers seem an eclectic way to mark your place on a map, but Haines manages it with a friendliness and charm I have seen in very few places.


Useful Info:

One way taxi Haines ferry port to Bear Creek Cabins: $12

3 days bike rental: $50 including tax

3 nights hostel bed Bear Creek Cabins: $66

Entrance to Sheldon Museum and Cultural Centre: $5

Entrance to Bald Eagle Foundation: $10

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Murder Mystery Treasure Trail Cardiff

Posted by Sas on September 28, 2015


My friends complain that I’m really difficult to buy gifts for, but they always get me great things. A couple of years ago, my friend Catherine bought me a murder mystery themed Treasure Trail for Cardiff. In all honesty, I filed it away somewhere vowing to get it out and actually do it one day. As the weather was so beautiful in Cardiff this weekend, and believe me that is not something  we have said often this year, I decided to go on that treasure hunt that I had been promising myself.

Treasure Trails have designed hundreds of these handy little packs for locations all over the UK. As you follow the clues to solve the puzzle you are taken on a cultural tour that pushes you to find details you wouldn’t normally notice. It’s great fun if you have kids, although admittedly I followed the trail all on my and it was just as entertaining.

The Cardiff murder mystery trail begins at the National Museum of Wales. A mummified body has been discovered in the Ancient Egyptian exhibition, and it’s been deceased for less than 2 months. My quest was to find out who carried out this crime and how the victim died. The first clue was on the foundation plaque outside the museum, and involved some maths which left me in a bit of a panic. You are allowed to request 3 answers to clues via SMS, and I had an embarrassing vision of me using all three of them on the first 3 questions. After double checking my numbers, though, I was able to figure it out and I was off.

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Clue 4 is where I came unstuck. After walking in circles around Bute Park for 30 minutes, I remembered that it had recently had a renovation, since my trail was published in fact. Maybe I shouldn’t have waited so long to solve this murder mystery.

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Over two hours, the trail took me on a gentle walk around the park, castle, the Millennium Stadium and city centre. After living in Cardiff for 8 years, I’m ashamed to admit just how much I haven’t noticed before. I have walked through The Hayes hundreds of times and yet never known that some of the traffic bollards I am rushing past have spy holes with beautiful silhouetted scenes inside them.


Unfortunately, I’m not the best at following directions and I did get lost/confused a few times. Maybe I should have brought a child along to help me. There was also an amusing moment when I was looking for a clue outside the Hilton hotel. At the same time, there was a crowd of rugby fans waiting for the All Blacks to leave the building. Stood there with my camera and notebook I must have looked like a serious autograph hunter. They all looked a little shocked when, once I’d found my clue, I moved on before the players had even appeared.


The murder mystery trail is a great, cheap way to spend a couple of hours. I’m definitely going to check out some of the other trails when I’m visiting other UK cities. When I was a kid, there was a popular British TV show called Treasure Hunt. Anneka Rice would fly around the UK in her helicopter, wearing a lycra jumpsuit, and help players to solve clues. I used to love following along at home, and dreamed of one day being on such an adventure. The lycra jumpsuit probably wouldn’t have been appropriate on this occasion and the helicopter would have been a little extravagant, but I got to experience a real life treasure hunt.

My biggest piece of advice would be, unlike I did, to use an up-to-date trail. I resorted to the magic of google to fill in a few gaps, but I did make it to the end. And did I solve the mystery? Well, I can’t give that away can I? You’ll have to come to Cardiff and try for yourself.

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Posted by Sas on September 27, 2015

I live in Cardiff, a city that is forever changing. Buildings appear  and disappear, roads move, traffic changes direction and giant rugby balls crash into the castle. Sometimes the changes are so frequent that developers have to put up temporary maps to guide residents through the chaos. A couple of years ago, I took a photo of the derelict building below. Industrial subjects appeal to me, and I had this strange feeling that I needed to preserve the scene with my camera. Shortly afterwards, the building was knocked down and plans for new residential units were pinned to the fence. I have returned every few months since to document the changes in the site. The new buildings are almost complete now, and this is their story so far.

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Click here to see more entries from this week’s photo challenge, Change.

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A Quick Stop in Ketchikan

Posted by Sas on September 22, 2015

Please note, this post is part of a series. Click here to read it from the beginning.


When I boarded the Alaska Marine Highway ferry in Bellingham, I had no idea that we would have a stopover in Ketchikan, our first port of call in Alaska. When the announcement came over the tannoy that we would be there for five hours, I raced off the boat, excited to have this bonus in my itinerary.

Ketchikan very much caters to the cruise ship passengers. As if the high street of stores selling jewellery, souvenirs and candy wasn’t evidence enough of this, they also got to dock right in the centre of town. We had a 40 minute walk from the ferry terminal.

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The geography of Ketchikan leads to some extreme architecture. Houses built on stilts balance above the water and the main road into town, and steep wooden staircases lead up to amazing views.

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Ketchikan airport is on a separate island, and I have never seen such a crazy transport hub. As the jets land on the runway, boat planes take off within metres of them, in turn barely missing boats that are also using the water. I held my breath watching those insane manoeuvres. It was really busy, too. The only place I have seen a higher frequency of planes is at Heathrow airport.

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Getting to visit Ketchikan was a nice surprise, and I definitely think it’s more exciting to arrive on the ferry than on a cruise ship.

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Surviving as a Plant Eater on the Alaska Marine Highway

Posted by Sas on September 15, 2015

Please note, this post is part of a series. Click here to read it from the beginning.


On my journey from San Francisco to Seattle, I had pretty much stuffed my face with amazing vegan food. I’d searched Happy Cow for the best restaurants and grocery stores to try, and visited as many of them as I could. I knew, though, that eating on the ferry would be a very different experience. I was heading to Alaska, the land of fish.

As we boarded the boat, I could hear other passengers excitedly talking about how much salmon they were going to eat. I avoided these conversations. Before leaving Seattle, I’d made a dash around Wholefoods to pick up some hemp milk, protein powder and gluten-free snacks. I wasn’t going to starve.

On board the boat, there were two options for eating. I could have gone for the buffet in the restaurant, but it seemed a waste of money to spend $19 when all I would eat was rice and vegetables. The other option was the snack bar. They offered the standard American diet of burgers and pizza. And, of course, some fish. There was a vegan burger on the menu. I couldn’t eat it anyway because of the gluten, but I did wonder how vegan it was when the chef informed me that he cooked the fries in the same fryer as the chicken.

I went for the safe option. The snack bar had some pretty good fresh, raw veggies and fruit. It wasn’t exactly a gourmet meal, but teamed up with my emergency snacks (which I topped up when we stopped in Ketchikan) it was enough to keep me going  for 3 days.

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Life on the Alaska Marine Highway

Posted by Sas on September 8, 2015

Please note, this post is part of a series. Click here to read it from the beginning.


There are experiences in life that are so incredible, words and photos can never be enough to describe them. Waking up on the desk of an Alaska Marine Highway ferry, surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, I felt so privileged.

The decision to take the ferry had not been an obvious one for me. Until I’d started researching my trip, I didn’t even know the ferry existed. I’d never considered how remote many parts of Alaska are, and how the people who live there get around. All I knew was I had two weeks to get from San Francisco to Anchorage, and I wanted to see as many new destinations along the way as possible. Planning the trip wasn’t easy, but after weeks of tearing my hair out in front of my computer it slowly came together.

The Alaska Marine Highway System runs from Bellingham, WA up into Alaska. They operate ferries right the way out to the Aleutian Islands, with many stops along the way to service towns and villages where travel options are limited. The portion of the route that I opted for, from Bellingham to Haines, takes almost 3 days. The longest ferry journey I had taken previously was Rhodes to Crete in Greece. It had not been a pleasant experience. Needless to say, I was apprehensive about going on a much longer boat trip. My worries were not calmed when we arrived at the terminal in Bellingham and I discovered the ferry was no bigger than the cross-channel ferries I had travelled on between England and France as a child. We were sailing all the way on that?

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I need not have worried. Apart from two bumpy hours where we passed through open water, it was the most gentle water I have ever travelled on.

Ticket prices vary greatly depending on how you travel. I paid $419 to walk on, as basic as you can get. If you’re travelling with an RV, two cats, a dog, three kids and you want to sleep in a cabin, it can get a whole lot more expensive. I opted to sleep on the top deck of the boat, under the solarium. I didn’t want to miss anything. Some passengers chose to pitch their tents out on the deck, anchoring them down with duct tape. During the first night, the constant flapping of the tent canvases sounded loud to those of us sleeping outside. God knows what it sounded like from inside the tent. By the next day, only 3 of the tents remained standing. From what I could see, the trick was to not put your fly sheet on the tent (that’s what all the flapping was) and invest in illuminous pink duct tape (it seemed to hold better than the regular black stuff). Personally, I think pitching a tent wasn’t worth the effort. I was comfortable enough on my recliner chair. My only regret was that I didn’t pick up a sleeping mat in Seattle. Outdoor heaters kept us warm from above, but a draught crept in underneath my sleeping bag which woke me up a couple of times. On the second day, a kind fellow passenger lent me one of his spare towels to lie on and I slept soundly after that.

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On the first morning, we awoke to an announcement at 6am that there were humpback whales swimming alongside the boat. We all jumped up with binoculars and cameras, and ran to the side and a sea view that some people pay thousands of pounds for.

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I took lot of photos as the ferry wound it’s way between islands. The scenery was just breathtaking, the mountains around us getting higher and higher as we travelled further north. As well as the humpback whales (one of which jumped right next to the boat), we saw orcas, dolphins, deer and bald eagles.

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Our first stop in Alaska was Ketchikan, which I will write a separate post about later. Then, we headed up to Wrangell, the first settlement that we’d seen in hours.

As well as the ferry, one cruise ship a week stops in Wrangell. As we pulled up to the dock, a young boy set up a table next to the ferry terminal. He was selling gems and rocks that he and his sister had found in a local quarry. For a couple of hours work a week, he could pay his way through school. We wondered if, when the cruise ship passengers arrived, the price for the souvenirs went up and the story of how they mined the stones got more elaborate.

From Wrangell, we headed north through Wrangell Narrows, a 22 mile channel with 46 turns. At some points, the channel is only 300ft wide and 19ft deep (hence the small ferry!). It has two local nicknames – ‘Pinball Alley’ (because of the turns) and ‘Christmas Tree Lane’ (because of all the red and green navigational lights). It was 10pm by the time we reached our next stop, Petersburg, but it was still very light outside. We watched bald eagles playing on the beach and sitting in trees, surveying their empire and looking back at us. As at every stop we made, pet owners went down to the car deck to retrieve their pets and take them for a quick walk. I felt sorry for the animals having to stay down there for 3 days with only the occasional teasing taste of the outdoors.

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By this point, I had made a lot of new friends on the boat. Some were heading to Alaska to find work, or returning home. Others, like me, were simply vacationing or travelling. We all swapped stories about our hometowns and our travels. When people found out I’m British, they had lots of questions about various subjects. I had countless conversations about politics, religion, geography and sport. It was exhausting but a lot of fun. I had feared I would get bored on the ferry for so long, but the time flew by.

At 8 am on the third day of our journey we pulled into Juneau, the only state capital in America that cannot be reached by land. Most of the people I had travelled with for the past three days left the boat there, and I was sad to see them go.

When I had booked my ticket, there was some confusion over the route the boat would take. I heard other people complaining of the same thing, so it’s advisable to double check at the terminal before you board. I’d been sold a ticket where I would have to change boats at Juneau. As I boarded the boat in Bellingham, though, I was told the same boat would take me up to Haines. It was a bonus not to change boats, but I was a little nervous that I might end up in Sitka or somewhere further north.

A whole new group of people joined us at Juneau, and gave the boat a new feel. It was more like a day cruise now, with only four hours to Haines and the remaining passengers going the short distance to the end of the line at Skagway. By this point, most of the mountains surrounding us were topped with snow, although the sun still beat down on us and kept us warm.

Taking the Alaska Marine Highway ferry is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I just wish I could have stayed on longer.

Useful Info:

Amtrak Seattle to Bellingham, WA: $24

AMHS walk-on ticket Bellingham, WA to Haines, AK: $419

Single use of locker on AMHS ferry: 50 cents

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The Quirks of Seattle

Posted by Sas on September 1, 2015

Please note, this post is part of a series. Click here to read it from the beginning.

Seattle is a cool city. It’s as simple as that. If you’re at all arty, musical or a bit different, you’ll fit right in. When you scratch just under the surface, though, you realise that this creative and chilled out culture is by no means an accident. Local businesses, both big and small, and residents work hard to ensure that Seattle maintains its quirks. This city is proud to be different, and that’s why I like it.

One thing you’ll notice as you travel around Seattle is the massive amount of artwork everywhere. And I mean everywhere. It’s outside offices, in parks, on the sides of buildings. Styles and mediums differ greatly, too. It looks like no-one puts much thought into what goes where, although again I have a sneaky suspicion that this is purposely planned. The reason for the huge numbers of work becomes clear when you learn that, within Seattle, it’s compulsory for all businesses to use a percentage of their profits to support artists. It makes for an eclectic mish mash of pieces, but in Seattle that works fine.

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It Must Be Courgette Season Again!

Posted by Sas on August 31, 2015


We had a bumper crop of courgettes at Plasnewydd Community Garden this weekend:


After what felt like weeks of eating only courgettes last summer, I didn’t think I could come up with a new recipe involving them. However, using some vegan pesto, mushrooms, olives and gnocchi, ta daaaaaa…


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