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Sunday, 24 May 2009

My Day 24.05.2009

Well its been a beautiful sunny warm day and a busy day today. Have been over and spent the day with my Mum - its been a day off my own housework but have been helping my Mum. I have Cleaned all the windows on the back of her bungalow (including the conservatory) whilst OH took her to a local store (unfortunately we only have a two seater van)so I got some peace and quiet and mum got out of the house and got some compost. I think I have mentioned before that Mum and Dad used to grow a lot of plants for the allotment, and it has been strange that mum has hardly done anything this year. Mum not only came home with some compost but some plants for her front planters as well. Mum loves her gardening and we have spent the afternoon doing a lot of the bits and bobs that she cannot manage, but we have taken care of the hard bit and she is going to be planting up her planters tomorrow. It comes hard when you have always done certain things and then all of a sudden for one reason or another you are unable to accomplish what you normally can. Well it comes to us all eventually, but at least
Mum is safe and happy and she has had some company again which is all that matters to me. We had a lovely lunch of Roast Beef and all the trimmings as well.

Since I have been home have been pottering in my own gardening and watering up. All the plants seem to have come on well and a lot will need potting up tomorrow, and I also have some more seeds to set.

Am now watching Britain has got Talent.

Hope everyone has a good evening.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Elderflower Champagne

This is one of my favourite ways of using Elderflowers. This drink was first served to me at my Grandmother's home - she was very prolific with the wine making and we always had home made wine of some sort on the table with Sunday lunch. My tastes were formed early but no matter what we always ate and drank well and I think my squirreling instincts come from my Nan who was always able to provide a very good meal with next to nothing.

Please use strong beer, champagne or the old fashioned fizzy drinks bottles with the old fashioned rubber stoppers (or cider bottles).

Ingredients

2 large handfuls of freshly gathered elderflower heads
1 1/2lb white sugar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 large lemon
8 pints cold water

Strip the elderflower florets from their stalks and place in a large earthenware or china bowl (I use my Masons Cash Mixing Bowl) with the sugar and the wine vinegar. Pare the skin from a lemon very thinly and squeeze juice then add both the rind and the juice to the bowl. Pour on the water and cover with a clean cloth and leave to steep for 24 hours. Strain through scalded muslin then pour into sterilised bottles. Seal and stand for 2 to 3 weeks when it will be ready to drink.

Makes approximately 8 pints.

Store in a cool place.

Having a family wedding later in the year why not make "Champagne" now most people love the light muscat taste of this drink. Or why not make some and take to that open air event where you take a picnic with you.

Hawthorn Blossom

The Hawthorn Blossom (commonly called May) is out in full bloom and I have always found the blossoms so pretty yet never known what to do with them. I have found the following recipes - I don't know what they will turn out like but I am going to have a go. I have a bottle of brandy lurking in the cupboard so I intend to play!

Hawthorn Blossom Liqueur

Hawthorn Blossom
Brandy or Whisky
1 tablespoon sugar
Water

Pick the blossom on a dry summer day making sure there are no insects hiding by gently shaking the blossoms. Press the blossominto a large kilner type preserving jar until full. Cover with brandy or whisky, place on lid and leave for at least a couple of weeks to allow the flavour to develop before straining through muslin. Dissolve the sugar in as little as hot water as possible and mix thoroughly with the whisky or brandy. Pour into sterilised bottles when cold.

I have also found a wine recipe.

Hawthorn Blossom Wine

4 pints hawthorn blossom
3lb sugar
2 lemons
7 pings water
Grape Tannin
Yeast and Nutrient

Grate the thinly peeled rind of both lemons and extract the juice from one of them. Add both the rind and the juice to the sugar and the water and boil the mixture for 30 minutes stirring occasionally. Let the mixture cool before adding the tannin yeast and nutrient. Leave for a day before adding the flowers, cover and leave for a further week in a warm place stirring daily. Strain through fine nylon or muslin into a demijohn and then fit the air lock. Rack when the wine clears, it should then be ready for bottling some 3 to 4 months later.

Happy playing

Elderflowers

I have a self set elderflower tree in the bottom of the garden - its too high to gather the blossoms but they are just starting to bloom. I love elderflower champagne and elderflower cordial and this year I intend to make the most of this very useful plant. Always ask permission of the tree for sharing her blossoms with you. It is disrespectful not to. And never over-pick a tree - remember to leave some so that they form elderberries for autumn and give yourself and the birds a feast.

Here are the recipes I intend to use.

Elderflower vinegar

This is highly scented so use with caution.

Fresh elderflower florets
White wine vinegar.

Pick elderflowers when they are fully open and check to remove any insects. Remove the flowers from their stalks and place them in jars making sure that they are gently pressed down in the jar. Fill the jar to the top with the vinegar. Put on lid. Stand on a sunny windowsill for a couple of weeks until the vinegar is flavoured to your taste. If not strong enough add some fresh elderflowers. When to your liking put through a jelly bag to remove the florets. Bottle in sterilised bottles.

Use in the making of sauces and salad dressings.

Elderflower Wine Using Fresh flowers

1 pint flower tips
3lb sugar
1/3 pint white grape concentrate
7 pints of water
1 teaspoon grape tannin
3 lemons
Yeast and Nutrient

The flowers should be picked on a sunny day so that they are fully open. Remove from stems by trimming with a pair of scissors until you have a pint of flowers. Boil the water and pour this on to the flower florets, adding sugar, concentrate and the lemon juice at the same time. When cooled to room temperature add the tannin, yeast and nutrient. Leave covered in a warm place for 5 days before straining through a jelly bag and then decanting into a demijohn. Fit an air lock and leave to ferment out. Rack to take off sediment after wine clears and then again 6 weeks later. Bottle.

I must say I am quite partial to Elderflower wine it is one of my favourites.

Elderflower Cordial

Makes about 3 pints or so

10 large elderflower heads
2lb sugar
2 lemons washed and sliced
1 oz tartaric acid
4 pints boiling water.

Place all the ingredients into a bowl. Cover and leave for 24 hours stirring every so often.

Strain the cordial through muslin and then pour into sterilised bottles, to within 1 1 1/2 inches of the top if using corks or under 1 inch if screw caps; this leaves room for expansion when the liquid is heated. seal and then sterilise by placing in a deep pan in which the bottom is padded out with thick newspaper and between the bottles. Fill to the base of the corks caps or stoppers with warm water then raise to simmering point and maintain this temperature for at least 20 minutes (if you have a thermometer maintain 77 degrees C or 170 degrees F for 30 minutes. Remove the bottles. If using corks you then need to seal the corks in wax as soon as the bottles are cold and the corks dry. The bottles can be wrapped on the exterior with brown paper to stop the loss of colour in the preserve.

To use pour in some of the syrup into a glass and dilute to taste (add more if not enough) add sparkling mineral water and ice cubes. Very refreshing. Once the bottle is open store in the fridge.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Otters and Owls

When we go on holiday down to Cornwall we always call in to the Tamar Otter Trust which is based in North Petherwin, Near Launceston, Cornwall. http://www/tamarotters.co.uk. Its a lovely place to go especially with young children and you can see the otters in their pens and being fed, if you time your visits correctly. There is also a wooded area with Muntjac Deer in and other birds of prey and also Owls and Peacocks and other wild birds and animals. It has a very good cafe and in this day and age is not that expensive to go in - they do a lot of good with the conservation and the welfare of the animals coming first every time.

Their gift shop is also very good or it has been in the past. Its some three years or so since I paid a visit, but in the past I have bought a selection of Owl Paintings and an Otter which are hand-painted on to Cornish Slate by a local Artist Elizabeth Gill. Each piece of slate has been used and painted on and imperfections in the slate have also been used to advantage. I have them on a wall in my front room at the moment. I also have two Otters painted on slices of Agate by a different artist. I thought I would share these with you as it shows that beautiful Art work can be painted on other materials other than paper, canvas or wood with good effect. And sharing this might give those gifted artists amongst us scope for trying something different. I love beautiful original artwork, I just wish I could paint like this.

Here are some photo's of my pictures.




Life of Reilly






I think I must be doing something wrong! Just look at my moggies not a care in the world, just sprawling and doing their own thing no pressure just extreme comfort.

Well they say its a cats life - next time I am coming back as a cat!

Yorkshire Pudding

This is the method that I use to make Yorkshire Pudding and I have found it to be the most reliable method so far.

Take a Mug or a Cup. All your measurements are done with this cup or mug. A cup is ideal for two of you a Mug 4 plus. Do not mix the two measurements if you use the cup stick to that throughout. Equally for the mug.

Measure out

A cup or mug full of Plain Flour
A cup or mug full of milk
A cup or mug full of eggs
A splash of malt vinegar

Tip the flour into a bowl
Add the milk
And the eggs

I then use a metal hand balloon whisk and beat until the ingredients are well incorporated.

Pre-heat oven to Gas Mark 6/7
I then put a knob of dripping or lard into a meat tray (I make the yorkshire in such a tin) Put tin in oven and melt.
Just before you take the fat out of the oven (when it is melted) add the dash of vinegar to the batter mix. It will help the mix rise in the tins.
Add batter to the tin and then leave to cook. Don't open the door whilst rising.
Cook for approximately 30 to 45 minutes or until cooked.
Serve once cooked.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Hand Knitting

I am not the world's greatest knitter but I have ago; I seem to be able to keep an even tension although I soon get bored and lose the plot. I would love to be able to do the more complicated pieces but I do seem to lose concentration and get myself into a right beggars muddle or knot and cannot always find my way out of the taffle.

What really triggered me to pick up the needles again was the fact that I was seeing all these lovely fashion scarves in the shops and yet I could not afford to buy them. The threads used were fascinating with either textures of different hues and colours. I have also found it handy to make several of these when I pick up the wool/threads at bargain prices and knit up some scarves as presents for either Christmas or birthdays. Some of the threads involved just seem to be an explosion of colour and I do like colour.

Here are some of the scarves that I have knitted and kept for myself


Patchwork Quilt Find

I found this lovely Patchwork Quilt in my local Charity shop. So much work has obviously gone into it and it is the colours of my bedroom so as far as I was concerned it was a delight of a find. I started Collecting the Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady items years ago when they first came out and over the years have managed to add to the collection. This Quilt has some of the Country Diary fabric in it which is a boon. I did write to Dorma to see if they actually did this design quilt in a Superking Size (the size of my duvet) but they had no plans to include this sizing in their range. However all is not lost I intend when I get a few minutes to add some strips of plain fabric say in pink or green like you would with a patchwork quilt and then add some broderie anglais to make the frill, then my duvet covers should match the rest of my room. Its like buying a patterned duvet cover that has no curtains. In the past My Nan has made curtains to match my duvet from buying the unfitted patterned sheets and then lining them. They looked brilliant when they were finished. So being blocked by one avenue can often lead to you creating something even more different and unique for your home. Especially if you don't accept defeat and intend to use things somehow someway.

Someone had obviously put a lot of work and effort into this slightly unusual quilt, but someone else's loss is my gain and I am more than happy to give it a home. Its surprising what you can find if you take your time and look around. I tend to find things here there and every where and sometimes I find nothing at all; but I create a little stockpile of finds sometimes things go together sometimes they are for different rooms but all the things I do find are usually part of a much larger picture and usually blend or go together in the bigger scheme of things.




Keep your eyes peeled someone else's waste is your treasure.

P.S. By the way the above Quilt only cost me £15!

Home Made Pork Dripping etc

I was one of those children who was bought up with slabs of bread slathered in Pork Dripping and it was yummy. What you say eating fat on bread how gross. Now stop. The Pork Dripping I am speaking about bears no resemblance to what is sold as Pork Dripping today. It was thick with gravy and had a lot of flavour and the gravy or jelly bit was the best. When we used to come to Peterborough from Uppingham when I was a child we always used to go to the market and mum used to get a portion of the dripping. It used to be sold from big metal vats the size of a very large preserving pan. Sadly, to date I haven't been able to find anywhere that sells proper dripping like this. No doubt it is subject to some law or another.

However, all is not lost. My partner's mum shared one of her family secrets with me on how to acquire something as near as what my mum used to buy for us as children. That is when cooking a large joint of pork make sure you use a very large and deep pan for cooking it in. Now I don't use salt for making the crackling go crisp, but I use heat. I turn the oven on to Gas mark 7 for approximately the first hour of cooking and this makes a very crisp moorish crackling which is not overloaded with salt. Pork is very salty anyway so why add more. Then turn down to about Gas Mark 4/5. Then add a couple of large packs of lard and let them melt and the meat juices seep into the fat. Leave for near enough the duration of the cooking period however if there is a lot and it makes the tray unsafe drain some out periodically into a large bowl. Leave to cool and store in the fridge.








But why do I need Pork Dripping? For Roast Potatoes of course. I either use this bowl of dripping we have it on bread but mainly it is used for roasting potatoes. If I don't use Pork Dripping I use Goose fat. Both give excellent results

Ice Cream Float

As a youngster I got quite addicted to these - having been introduced to them by my first boyfriend. We used to go to the Wimpy Bar in Stamford and have these. They are very refreshing and great fun for the kids.

You can make your own vanilla ice cream for this or make your own.

1 Bottle of Fizzy Pop Pepsi, Coca Cola, Ice Cream Soda, Raspberryade, Limeade, Vimto Lemonade Ginger Beer

Ice cream

Taking a large knicker bocker glory type glass or very large tumber put two to three scoops of ice cream in the tumbler until you are about an inch from the top. Very slowly pour in the fizzy liquid of your choice. Be careful as the pop will explode and produce foam as it hits the ice cream so a steady hand is required. Provide a spoon and a straw and enjoy.

Very cooling on a hot day and because the liquid foams it can be unpredictable and decide that the glass is too small for it. So go steady but enjoy.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Tasty Dip

I love cheese and biscuits and I also like dips and relishes.

This particular dip is very tasty to have as a snack for supper or as an appetiser at a buffet.

Grate about 8 oz cheese I use a very strong cheddar like Canadian for this
Finely dice one whole onion
Combine both ingredients together
Add enough yoghurt to make a creamy mix where the mixture is stiff rather than sloppy. If you manage to put too much yoghurt in and it goes sloppy just add some more grated cheese. The combination is very forgiving. Season with black pepper and a little salt - not much salt.
Put in the fridge to chill
Serve on crispbreads or crackers.
I usually finish off with some onion relish or a little chutney or some leek relish.

Very moorish

Mum's Plants

Mum has always kept Cacti on and off since I was a small child. The most regular ones being the Christmas Cacti and whatever plant mum had it always eventually had the most beautiful display. The first proper prickly Cacti I saw properly in flower was a Cacti Plant that had belonged to my Mum's Dad, my Granddad. It flowered shortly after he passed and was absolutely gorgeous the most beautiful brilliant red flame colour. she still has that plant but it is not showing any signs of flowering this year and she was threatening to re-pot it when I went nosing round her greenhouse at the weekend. It is amazing that such treacherous plants often have beautiful flowers. Anyway she did have one of the Cacti in brilliant bloom and here are a couple of photographs of the same.



Mum and Dad used to grow a lot of plants together - as they had the allotment(which has had to be given up). It seems very strange for her not to have many plants this year; but unfortunately she cannot now manage without her stick and not able to sit to do things for very long without becoming uncomfortable.

Mum has her hanging baskets in the greenhouse (she won't put them out before the end of May in case of frosts) don't they look lovely.






I also snapped some of the plants in the garden which were in flower and in beautiful display.






Fruit and Herbal Teas

Ginger is very good for nausea, whether you drink or eat Ginger biscuits, stem ginger in syrup, crystallised Ginger, Ginger Wine, Ginger Cordial. It is also good for circulation as it helps stimulate your system very gently. I therefore indulge in this as a tea quite frequenly to help me with my arthritis.

Herbal and fruit teas are not to everybody's liking but you can make them more palatable by adding say half a teaspooon of sugar to your mug; then once you get used to drinking it like this try taking the sweetening out gradually. Honey can be used as a sweetner as well.It is also a good way of hydrating your system naturally so that you are drinking the required amount each day and not just plain water.

I have and use a proper herbal teapot but you can make this in a heatproof jug just as well.

Ginger and Lemon Tea

Take a fresh piece of root ginger about an inch piece. Crush it and pop in your jug/herbal tea pot. Slice a lemon use about 4 to 5 slices. Add to the pot. Boil the kettle and once boiled add the contents to your jug/teapot. Leave to cool a little and then serve or let go completely cold for the flavours to develop. You can always heat a mug of this up in the microwave or equally drink it cold with ice cubes. It is very refreshing and one of the more pleasant of the "Fruit and Herbal Teas". Far superior to the bought variety although some of those can be quite pleasant.

Natural Beauty Products




I was bought a lovely present for my birthday by my good friend Roza who has introduced me to Mad About Nature handmade soaps and beauty products all made out of natural products; a journey which initially began as a result of her daughter and other members of her family suffering from eczema. I suffer quite badly from psoriasis periodically; I have had it since I was a child and it comes and goes sometimes it is quite bad another time not so. I am really pleased with the products that Roza has bought me they are so gentle and smell so lovely. I was bought a citrus orange natural soap bar a warming spicy citrus Bath and Body Essence one that can be used as a body oil on the skin or a few drops of oil put in your bath water and a bath of Relaxing Bath Milk which contains oats, dead sea salts, soap, goats milk and natural lemon/orange oils.

They have a website which is www.madaboutnature.co.uk and their prices seem quite reasonable for such luxury items

Please see photos below of the items that I was bought they are so gentle on my skin. I really love these products.

And there are recipes around to have a go at doing simple things yourself. And notably if you look at her website she offers training workshops.

Treasure with Memories

"Dolly's Tea Set

As a little girl I used to beg my mum to let me play with "Dolly's Tea Set" which used to sit in the cupboard under the sideboard on the shelf. It was cream and gold and I could never understand why she would not let me play with this "tea set" in fact in retrospect I can never remember my mum using it so it must be "Dolly's Tea Set". I used to get ever so frustrated about the fact that she would never let me play with it.

It was only when I got much older that I realised what in fact I had been calling the service "Dolly's Tea Set" was in fact a Coffee Set,consisting of Coffee pot, cream jug, sugar bowl, 6 coffee cups and 6 saucers.

Today my mum gave me "Dolly's Tea Set" and permission for me to "play with it" I attach some photo's for you to share.






The other item is a treasured cake stand. Not an expensive one but it has many memories of my early birthdays as Mum always used to make a cake and serve it up on this stand. It is hand decorated with a beautiful midnight blue border with blossoms painted on; the centre is yellow and it has butterflies scattered all over. Unusually it is not a porcelain or pottery stem but a metal one. I hope you agree with me that it is indeed pretty.


Sunday, 17 May 2009

My Day 17.05.09

Well I slept well didn't want to get up this morning. Got stuck into a film last night "The Kingdom of Heaven". It is one of the best films I have seen in a long time so if you ever get the chance to watch it please take it.Needless to say because I was late to bed - well I just did not want to get up.

But was out of the house by 9.30 a.m. and back to Mum's. I provided the joint, mum the veggies and we had a super roast lamb dinner which was very tasty. Have also managed to restore mum's home to some semblance of normality and safe for her to wander about it. I was worried with all the bits and pieces she had everywhere that she would end up doing herself a mischief. However she can now take her time in re-arranging her ornaments etc how she wants them. Have had another lovely day with her precious time.

Now I have to get my own house in order and I would like to get some needlework done towards the latter part of the week. Ah well here it goes.

xx

Lemon Barley Water

This is an extremely soothing drink to have especially when you have a bit of an upset tum.

10oz Pearl or Pot Barley
2 1/2 pints water
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2oz sugar

Put the Pearl or Pot Barley into a saucepan with the water. Bring up to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes or so.

Turn off the heat and take pan off the plate or ring it has been cooking on. Stir in the lemon zest and sugar and leave until completely cold. Leave in the pan until completely cool.

Strain through a fine sieve then stir in the lemon juice and serve chilled.

Yet again this drink is very refreshing and can be made all year round.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

My Day 16.05.2009

My oh my what a busy day I have had today. I was dead to the world and could have slept on but I had promised to go and help mum so it was up early.

OH has decorated a room for my mum and had to empty room out before he could start. He has finished the room off today for her and I went along to try and get the house back into some sort of order for her as she is not too clever on her pins at the moment as she is suffering from a bad back condition.

We turned her mattress this morning and made her bed up with fresh bedlinen - it always makes you feel good is the freshness of clean linen.

We are getting her dining room back to some sense of normality and so that she does not trip over and hurt herself but Mum decided it was too good an opportunity to miss and to get rid of any rubbish or bits that she did not want anymore. Needless to say I mum has given me some lovely pieces "treasure" with many memories, which I will post about separately. I have taken some photographs but unfortunately at the time of going to press I could not locate the card reader to post the pictures.

OH has also sorted out the guttering which was full and I have done as little bit of gardening on the patio weeds were starting to sprout so I have been on my hands and kees cutting them out for her.

The rest of the afternoon we have been washing drying and then re-stocking the cupboards and getting the rest of the house back to some sort of normality. We have been chatting as well and it has been a good day. It has been lovely to spend some quality time with Mum and helping her.

I am on holiday this week I should have gone to France for the week but unfortunately due to the unemployed situation my OH finds himself in this particular holiday has had to be cancelled. He had already paid for another fishing holiday before he lost his job last year and that is in June in a couple of weeks time. So I intend to have another session of clearing bits and bobs and getting them sorted out whilst I am on holiday and do a bit more to get this reading room sorted out as well as all the usual bits and bobs to do.

I could really do with some time away its a good three years since I have been away on holiday but it is not to be at the moment. Maybe something will happen to alleviate that situation some way down the line. I can but hope. Ideally I could do with a week down in Cornwall, near the sea, near the moors in beautiful countryside where I feel I belong. I can breathe down there. It is so peaceful and pure balm for the soul.

Am back to Mum's tomorrow and taking a Leg of Lamb to cook there and then we will have dinner altogether which should be nice (Mum's providing the veggies). And we have more work to do but we will stay until it is all cleared tomorrow. It worries her when the house is all topsy turvy and it worries me in that she could fall and hurt herself, which I do not want

Oh well tomorrow is another day - lets see what happiness it brings.

Take care

xx

Cheats Sweet Mousse

This is a recipe from my childhood that my mum used to make. It is quite simple and one that children can make easily in the kitchen, obviously under strict supervision.

You require:

1 Jelly Mix flavoured either in the jelly squares or granular mix
Tin of Condensed milk or small container of cream

How to

Make up the jelly as the packet requirements adding boiling water as required to whatever jelly mix you have chosen. Stir to make sure all is dissolved. Set in the fridge for a couple of hours. Check to see it is ok it should be set. Add half a large tin of evap milk and then beat up with an electric hand mixer or a hand whisk. The jelly mix will now go a creamy colour, Mix through thoroughly and put back in the fridge to set. Leave for another couple of hours at least when the mix should have re-set. Serve with fruit of your choice. Enjoy

Friday, 15 May 2009

My Mums Sweet Scones

I love this scone recipe of my mum's as it is quite versatile and they are delicious spread with butter.

Ingredients

8oz S.R. Flour
Pinch of Salt
2oz Margarine
1/4 pint of milk
1oz of sugar

Sift the flour into a bowl through a sieve add the salt. I use Stork block Margarine chilled and cut it into tiny chunks. I then rub into the flour until like fine breadcrumbs. I then add the sugar and mix in well. I then add the milk keeping a small amount back in an egg cup for glazing the top of the scones. Mix until all the crumbs are incorporated into the mix. Clump together and then roll out leaving the rolled out thickness quite deep. Cut out into rings or leave as is and put onto a greased baking tray glaze and then cook for 10 to 15 minutes at 425 degrees F. If you leave it as a large bap cake when this is cool you can then cut into slices and spread with butter. Its just the presentation that is different.

Home Made Mayonnaise

I am quite lazy as when I make this home made Mayonnaise I measure all my ingredients into a lb jar and then use a stick blender to amalgamate.

Ingredients

One egg
Pinch Mustard
8 fl oz Oil sunflower or vegetable

Whizz all the ingredients together in the jar put on a jam jar lid and store in the fridge. Use as required. It needs to be kept chilled at all times. Try and use up within 4 days maximum as this is volatile due to the use of fresh egg.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Home Made Old Fashioned Lemonade

I am quite partial to fruit teas and these days I only very rarely indulge in coffee, as it does not always agree with me. Every so often however I really get fed up with what I am drinking and this is when I make a batch of home made old fashioned lemonade - it is really refreshing and can be made at any time of year. It is best served chilled.

Ingredients

6 lemons
2lbs sugar
3 pints of boiling water.

Method

Scrub lemons, wipe dry then thinly pare the rind off the lemons using a potato peeler. Make sure not to have too much pith on as this can make the drink extremely bitter; tartness is one thing bitterness another.

Cut the lemons into small wedges and put into a large saucepan with the rind, the sugar and the boiling water.

Boil for 15 minutes then allow to stand until completely cool.

Strain the lemonade. I then decant into stoppered bottles and chill and store in the fridge until ready to serve. When that batch is used up make another. You can in effect make this all year round.

Home Made Chinese Five Spice Powder

I have been browsing through my old handwritten recipe book and have come across a recipe I used to make a lot of at one time. I can't remember where it comes from but needless to say I have had it for quite a few years as I have lived in my current home for 20 years.

Its very good on chicken, or wherever you would normally use five spice and this home made version of the five spice really smells lovely and is very pungent and aromatic.

I usually make a batch up and then keep it in a small jar in my cupboard.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
1 tablespoon of star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon of whole cloves
1 tablespoon of fennel seeds

Method

Grind individual spiuces separately in a coffee grinder or if you want to be more traditional a pestle and mortar. Once ground to your satisfaction combine all the spices together and store in small jars or pots.

You won't regret making this and a little goes a long way.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Preparations

I am a planner and a plotter and often if I have a little money left over will start purchasing the odd item here or there that I am going to need later on when trying out new crafts new skills or different types of cooking. I have little stockpiles for all sorts of things and it tends to go easy on the pocket doing things this way on. I also take advantage of multi buys or bogoffs on certain products as well.

This kind of practical thrift seems to have worked well in the long run as it means that when times are hard you still have enough stuff to get by during the mean times. I locate recipes for making anything and everything - when you don't have many pennies it works out cheaper to make your own things that is why I have reintroduced a baking day once a week and every so often have freezer days as well. I also take advantage of the cheaper food stores like Aldi and Lidl - they have a lot of good items that do not cost the earth so it pays to go shopping there first to see what they have and then if there are still items you require from elsewhere at least the basics are not going to cost you the earth.

I also use this method for purchasing fresh fruit and vegetables for making jams and chutneys and bottling produce as well. Keeping things like home made passata in the pantry can be the basis for a tomato soup, a pasta sauce or home bottled cherry tomatoes are lovely done with balsamic vinegar and served on toast or served with a hone fry. I don't buy frozen chips - I buy a sack of potatoes and do my own. I have some Mung Beans and intend to try growing these myself so that we can have a home made Chinese meal once a week. I make my own yoghurt. And if you can pick up a load of cream at a reduced price you could make your own butter. Add some chopped fresh herbs and you have a flavoured butter that can be stored in the freezer and then added to accentuate your meal. Every little thing you make the effort with pays dividends somewhere down the line for you and your family.

So for everything that you want to have a go at the plotting and the planning are very important too the completed item is the icing on the cake.

Apricot Ice Cream

Apricot Ice cream

I love ice cream and this one can be made without buying in ingredients especially = well in my household that's the case. OH uses Soya Milk, I always keep dried Apricots in for baking, wine making etc. Always have oranges in and really it is making best use of what you have around. I am lucky enough to have a freestanding table top ice cream machine which makes extra fabulous ice cream.

This ice cream can be made with or without an ice-cream maker.

6oz dried un-sulphered if possible apricots
1 pint unsweetened soya milk
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 tsp grated orange rind

Soak Apricots in half the soya milk for three hours
Cook for 10 to 15 minutes until softened. Cool slightly.
Whizz up in a blender with the remaining soya milk adding it a little at a time to give a smooth texture
Stir in 1 tablespoon orange juice and 1 teaspoon grated rind
Put into an ice cream maker or a plastic tub in the freezer
Beat it several times as it is freezing (only needed if not using an ice cream machine)
Stand at room temperature to soften slightly before serving. Which also helps release the flavour.

Extremely yummy - enjoy

Monday, 11 May 2009

Feeling Good

It may be as simple as buying something small like a pair of new ear-rings or trying out a different hair do or a particular style of clothing that you have not done before, but as long as its main effect makes you feel good and positive about yourself then that is all that matters.

We all vary in our needs and some people are needier than others. However, Sometimes we just have to down tools and indulge ourselves to rejuvenate our tired bones and minds and literally vote with our feet!

We all do different things, but in this day and age many women have to juggle several things at once and sometimes there is no let up, and we tend to put others and our families first before our own intrinsic needs. This often results in a grumpy tired you who feels less than worthless (not in all cases but in some). You are not being selfish just to have a little time for yourself and if the family don't help and support you in achieving this take drastic action and book an appointment - that appointment is non-negotiable in other words it is not for you to put aside because one of the other members of the family needs to do something. That appointment is for you and is nothing to do with them. This is just for you it is just YOU Time - its the one period for you to relax and not be at the beck and call of the family. Remember looking after yourself is just as important as looking after the family because if you go down the family goes down and that could cause major problems. Explain it to the family as good management and self preservation.

Well what do I do with that me time. Well there is lots that you can do but variety is important as it helps broaden your horizens and gives you something different to talk about. If you hold tension in your back and it ends up causing a stiff neck/back Aromatherapy would be a good option as it would give you a massage to take the tension out of your muscles and bones, the oils would make you feel good and it will add a sense of calmness to your overall demeanour - time to recharge.

Or you could go swimming or maybe throw the family out and hog the television and put on chick flicks or old movies and have a chance to do what you feel like doing. Whatever you choose it should be something that you need or want to do. Remember just because you are a mum, wife, sister, aunt etc. doesn't mean that you are not a person in your own right and that you have dreams and things that you want and need to do.

Or it may be read a good book for a couple of hours undisturbed, or listen to that piece of classical music and losing yourself in it or just listening to more modern tracks.

Or try belly dancing, it really is a very lovely dance technique and is extremely good exercise - it really does get you fit - you would be very surprised just how many people take part in this kind of exercise and how relaxing and addictive it is. I took part for over a year - until something else I was involved with took precedence but I also belonged to the exhibitition group as well that you used to go to local venues to demonstrate and local shows.

Remember life is not a rehearsal it is our life to live and it is better not to have regrets but to have lived life to the full. No one's perfect and people make mistakes but that is positive - not negative as we only learn from making mistakes.

The frequency of these you times is down to you but I would suggest a minimum of once a month - you never know you may find you enjoy this You time and up it to a couple of times a month. Go on recharge and renew it is allowed and it is positively good for you.

Mint

I love the refreshing taste of Mint and grow this in my garden, but you can do more things with it than just do mint sauce to accompany the Roast Lamb.

The new shoots are coming through and even if you don't grow your own this herb is readily available on Markets in large bunches or from Asian food shops.

I therefore thought I would share some of the recipes that I use for this very versatile herb. But there is more than one variety and they all have their uses.

Here are just a few varieties:

Buddlehia Mint
Ginger Mint
Pepper Mint
Eau De Cologne Mint
Pennyroyal
Spear Mint
Apple Mint
Pineapple Mint
Chocolate Mint

How about matching a particular mint to a particular dish.

I still think that simple ways are often the best way to use ingredients and one of my favourite ways to use a couple of small sprigs of mint is to lift the flavour of peas. I usually cook my peas and then about 10 minutes before the end of cooking I add the sprigs of mint to give the maximum amount of flavour. I remove the mint before draining, then add a knob of butter and run the peas around the small amount of butter which glazes them and accentuates the flavour. Yummy.

Preserved Mint Sauce

Approx half a pint fresh mint leaves
1/2pint vinegar
6oz Demerara sugar

Chop the mint finely and put into a measuring jug to obtain the right amount put the vinegar and the sugar into a pan and heat slowly dissolving the sugar. Keep on a rolling boil for 2 mins and then stir in the mint. Leave until cold. Decant into small glass jars with vinegar proof lids.

I make a keeping Mint Sauce every year which consists of finely chopped mint which is stored under vinegar for use in the winter months (not a lot of vinegar) just to top up so all the mint is covered, sealed and then stored on the Pantry shelf.

I then reconstitute it with a couple of teaspoons of the preserved mint, with some hot water, sugar or top up with further vinegar/or wine it really is lovely with Garlic Roasted Lamb.

Mint Vinegar

Mint Vinegar with white spirit vinegar or white wine vinegar. The chosen mint is just literally macerated in the vinegar i.e. I put the mint into my bottle or jar then pour on the vinegar (your container must be absolutely spotless I use sterilising tablets and boiling water). Seal and store on the pantry shelf. I usually leave about a month before using.

Morroccan Mint Tea

Morroccan Mint Tea is traditionally sipped sweet and hot but it can also be served chilled and is very refreshing.

Makes approximately 1 pint

1 scant tablespoon of loose green tea
2 packed generous tablespoon of Moroccan Mint leaves or other mint as available.
Sugar or honey to taste

Bring 1 pint water to the boil. Warm a tea pot. Put the Green Tea and Mint leaves in the pot. Pour on the boiling water. Stir in the sugar or honey to taste if you wish. Leave to infuse for 3 to 5 minutes, strain and serve, preferably in tall glassed or fine china cups.

If serving iced, strain through a muslin lined sieve (or coffee filter paper) after 5 minutes leave until cold and then chill.

Chocolate Mint Mousse Serves 2

4oz plain dark chocolate (if you don't like dark use either milk or white)
2 eggs separated
1 teaspoon of instant coffee
1 teaspoon of fresh chopped mint (recipe says either Morroccan, Spearmint or Curly)
Whipped Cream for Decoration
4 whole mint leaves

Method

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of boiling water (don't let the water boil and splash into the chocolate (alternatively use a double boiler or a microwave). When smooth and liquid remove from the heat and give it a stir. Beat the egg yolks and add the chocolate whilst it is still hot (this will cook the yolks slightly). Add the Coffee and the chopped mint.

Leave the mixture to cool for about 15 minutes. Beat the egg whites until stiff (but not too stiff) and fold them into the cooling chocolate mix. Spoon into containters. When you are ready to serve put a blob of whipped cream in the middle and garnish with the whole leaves.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Gooseberries

Q. What's Green and Hairy and Goes up and Down in a lift.
A. A Gooseberry stuck in an elevator!

I always keep a few gooseberries in the freezer as every now and then I make a Gooseberry Crumble or Sponge for my OH and any over their sell by date in the freezer I turn into Gooseberry Jam which is a favourite or an Elderflower and Gooseberry Jelly or a Gooseberry and Elderflower Curd or a chutney or two. To have the fruit in its raw state in the freezer is an advantage as you can use it in a variety of ways and if it is out of date you can still turn it into something practical and useful without throwing it away and wasting it. If you have several batches of various fruits mix and match those that go to together and turn into a mixed fruit jam. It all helps pad the kitchen larder out and is equally scrummy in a Victoria Sandwich with some cream, in the bottom of a pastry tart with fresh fruit on the top or on lashings of thick buttery toast. It all helps keep the wolf from the door and anything you produce yourself is worth the effort. You may only take small steps at a time but they are your steps in developing and practice makes purrfect!

Some of my earliest memories are scrumping these ripe hairy green fruit from my Nan's Gooseberry bushes. The sweeter the fruit the yellower the green of the Goosegog and some of them are even a pinky red. Its funny but as a child I always preferred the raw fruit to that of it cooked, but as an adult I now appreciate both. I like Gooseberry Wine as well, my Nan always used to make this and it always had a sparkle we used to call it poor man's champagne, but at the moment I do not have access to my own bushes. I am hoping to rectify that shortly, but if you find yourself in a similar predicament there are always Pick Your Own Farms or look out for the reduced section in your supermarket sometimes there are bargains to be had.

Gooseberry Fool

1 1/4 lb gooseberries topped and taile
4 x 15ml (4 tablespoons of Water)
50g (2 oz sugar)
300 ml (1/2 pint double cream, whipped

Put the gooseberries in a pan with the water and sugar bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes or until the gooseberries are tender.

Mash the gooseberries with a fork and allow to cool.

Fold in all but 2 x 15 ml (2 tablespoons) of the cream

Pour in the combined mixture into a large bowl or individual glasses levelling the tops pipe any extra or reserved cream in rosettes to decorate. Serve chille



























d.

2009.05.09 My Day

How wonderful not to be in the office today, although physically it has been a short week it has felt as though it was a full one. But at least at the weekends I can escape - I have my freedom I have been like the Butterfly hovering here doing this pricking out my seedlings - there are a lot of them as most of them have struck but they are going to come in useful for all sorts of things. My seedlings have now gravitated to the cold frame and I am going to need some garden prepared soon to transplant them into. I have an area behind the old wonky shed [ blow on it and it will collapse] (just like a Dandelion Clock does when you gently blow on it).

I therefore decided to take my life into my own hands and I have started to dig and reclaim my jungle and I have been digging behind the shed. Overhead is the Cherry tree and the blossom has set and the cherries are starting to form and swell They are green at the moment and the dead blossom has gone that marvellous rusty colour with the remnants still clinging to the branches.. The ground area had been covered in ivy and latterly bindweed, so there was no end of twitch to dig out. The area had been used as a general dumping ground so we have had one or two finds; but it is coming along very slowly and of course I have been out in the fresh air all day, which is an absolute bonus after being cooped up in an air conditioned office all week with no opening windows. I have also sieved and raked the top of the soil to get rid of any extra rubbish.

My back is killing me now so I need to take a break. Hopefully if the weather is good tomorrow I will be able to continue on then. I am only about half way done, but at least when it is done I should be able to transplant my marrow, courgettes yellow and green, pumpkins, pattypan squash etc.

Once we have this area reclaimed I anticipate having a go at reclaiming the Green house. Although I have tomato and pepper seed set and growing the local veg shop had three tomato plants for £1 each and Sweet Peppers at 50p a pot so have bought 6 tomatoes and 6 peppers. They are in the growing frames at the moment but as soon as I can declutter the greenhouse and get the plants in situ this should free up the growing frames and the cold frames somewhat for other bits I intend to do. My summer cabbage seeds have struck and also need pricking out - will possibly get that done tomorrow with a bit of luck. Still have so much more to set.

My Alpine Strawberry seeds and Rhubarb seeds have also taken as have my cucumber and gherkin plants. I love strawberries especially miniature ones. I would like to get hold of a couple of Tayberry Plants as well to grow up the fence and I quite like the idea of a couple of Figs as well. I just love fresh figs.

I have also done loads of washing and got it dried on the line. There is nothing like the fresh smell of clean air dried washing. Most of the washing dried wonderfully so I have hung it straight up on to coathangers to save on the ironing. I am getting tight in my old age - trying to save the electric bill and the pennies.

I have also watered up - the ground is so dry at the moment. I think I may have to invest in another water butt and stand, in which case I would have a feed barrel. When I used to keep veggies years ago we were told by an old boy that one good way of getting nutrients to your plants was to go sheep dag hunting. Then put the sheep dags into a hessian bag tie it and then immerse it in your water trough or barrel. You then used a small quantity from the barrell to every watering can of water. The feed water we have always done by watering can. I have to say that this did work very well. (Sheep in preference to anything else as it is not as strong or as harsh as cowpats).

Around here we seem to have been lucky no frosts whilst we have had blossom on the trees so I am hoping for a lot of hedgerow fruits this year like sloes and elderberries and blackberries and rosehips. I have lots of lovely recipes to try out and last year I didn't get sloes or hardly any elderberries. Sloe Gin is something I like to try and make every year as well as Rumptopf.

The elderflower will shortly be ready so must sort out some recipes to do then - its something I want to take advantage of this year.

My flowers have all taken as well the Morning Glory really has got a bolt on and My Hollyhocks and Delphinium, French Lavender, Aubretia have also taken, and the Nasturtiums.

My hands are now hurting from all the exertions in the garden and are a little itchy.

I think will have to get some Marigold salve on them to soothe them.

However I am hoping and looking forward to going shopping in my own garden for fresh produce, and to be able to preserve it in whatever way I can for the winter months.

Herbs for Pets

I have been browsing through some books that I haven't looked at recently and I found this so I thought I would share with you - I don't know whether it works or not but I intend to try it as they are natural methods of control and I always welcome these. However cats and dogs like humans also have sensitivies so be careful with useage. Was taken from Fragrant Herbal by Lesley Bremness.

For Dogs and Cats

Lavender

Pennyroyal (don't use if your animal is pregnant)

Rose Geranium

These ssential oils repel fleas. Tuck herbs or sachets into pet baskets.

Flea collars
An indoor flea collar: can be made by filling a tube of cotton fabric with Pennyroyal leaves (your pet may reject the strong smell) or Lavender flowers and 2 drops Rose Geranium oil
An outdoor flea collar: mix 1 teaspoon cider vinegard with 3 drops Lavender and 1 drop Rose Geranium or Cedarwoood Essential oil. Place mixture in a polythene bag with a shop bought soft collar, shake seal and let infuse for 24 hours before fitting the collar.

To treat a flea infestation
To a bowl of warm water add essential oils of Lavender, Cedarwood or Pine - 4 drops for large dogs, 2 drops fro small dogs or cats. Dip a cloth or comb in the water then groom the animal gently both with and against the animals fur. Wipe over with a clean wet cloth. Avoid larger quantities of oil because pets will ingest this when grooming. Adding 1 to 2 garlic capsules (depending on the pets size) to the daily diet will make the blood unpalatable to fleas.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Catch Up

Sorry haven't been around much this week have had quite a lot to do in a very short space of time and I am still playing catch up. Last weekend I wasn't in - on Saturday was at Stansted for the day at the Arthur Findlay Collete in Stansted - commonly referred to as "Spooks Hall" by the locals. Sunday was out for a meal and at my mums as it was my birthday. Monday was playing catch up at home.Tuesday back at work and we have been extremely busy there. Tuesday night out to my friends to try and sort out what we are going to do with the Psychic and Spiratualist Fellowship whilst she is incapacitated - its business as usual and we are going to keep it going between us. Then I gave healing to my friend, her husband and to another of my friends.

Today has been our Departmental Strategy day which has been very positive in many respects but extremely tiring. It would be nice to see these sets of strategies come through. Tonight have been to the Psychic & Spiratualist Fellowship monthly meeting. We have had a guest Speaker called Sharon Harvey who is absolutely brilliant. If you ever get chance to see this lady she really is a hoot very bubbly and very good with her readings. I start the kitchen off and the other members as they arrive take over from me - I then go and do some healing before the meeting starts. We then have part 1 of the meeting and during tea break I am administering Reiki to those that need it. We then have part 2 of the meeting. Tonight has been different though because I have had to bring all the paraphernalia that we use in the kitchen back home with me. (My friend normally stores this) so I have had a reality moment To put it mildly I am absolutely shattered and I still haven't touched anything in the house etc. Hopefully I will get back to normal during the next couple of days or so. As the saying goes normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. Promise

Take care everyone and thank you for all your good wishes and support.

Healing corner

Please if you have a loved one, a friend or someone close who needs the strength of communal prayer please leave their name and something of their pain in order that we may all wish them well and give them the strength of healing power and prayer.

With the healing violet light of St Germain

June - my mother whose back keeps going and causing her so much pain and trouble in getting about which is very frustrating to her.

Belated Birthday surprise







For my day job I work full time as a legal secretary - which trade I have followed for the past 24 years. So it was a really nice surprise when I returned to work this morning to find my desk all decorated up to the nines with banners, a badge and bunting and two helium balloons tied to my chair (have had the feeling that I was going to lift off all day). Wasn't expecting anything but the girls had really gone to town, had a collection and bought a bottle of bubbly, cards, a big 50 badge, the two helium balloons the cards, a bunch of flowers and a pamper pack pressie. I did really well. But for me the best bit was the surprise. Thank you girls.

Meet the Moggies

  • Merlin (approx 18 months)
  • Squeak (approx 2 years)
  • Poppy (approx 16 years)
  • Tyson (approx 17 years)
  • Tinky (official name Clover approx 18 years)