Monday, 30 November 2009

Blog giveaway over at Gardenmama

Another fabulous giveaway, leave a comment over at Gardenmama's blog to enter.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Victorian Christmas festival

As posted previously, today we are going here

Victorian Christmas at Portsmouth Historic Dockyards (at least a full day out in itself). We have been to this a couple of times and it's got a fantastic atmosphere with snow covered streets, street performers (see here for all the characters - street vendors, "cops and robbers", Queen Victoria, Scrooge, Brunel, etc), carol singing, roasted chestnuts, Father Christmas in the traditional green suit (not the other one!) and lovely market stalls. It's lovely and you really feel transported back to Victorian times. On top of that you can walk around HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and see where the Mary Rose has been preserved (although this is closed now for a while while a better museum for it is built). Such rich maritime history with displays of all eras.

Looking forward to a great day, full of festive feelings, smells and tastes; and will share photos when we return.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Sending thanks to a lovely crafty Mama

I'm sure some of you know the lovely lady in question. A couple of weeks ago Shell had a lovely blog giveaway as she had been blogging here for a whole year. Her blog is one I enjoy visiting regularly as she is always making such lovely things. Anyway, it was my name that came out as the winner of her giveaway, which was a lovely surprise.

When asked what I would like from her lovely selection of goodies, I chose one of the key-rings - a really useful item and I've always admired these, especially the tree one. The parcel arrived on Saturday and was quite a surprise as it was much larger than a keyring, I thought. We were absolutely delighted to see it was not just the keyring, but also this lovely hessian shopping bag of felt foods for Imogen who has been rather poorly recently.

Our lovely package

These gifts brightened up a rather quiet week where we had both been laid up on the sofa with colds, chest infections and sickness. I can't tell you what huge delight Imogen has had playing shop now she is feeling much better and the keying is attached to my bunch of house keys and lovingly admired.
shopping bag and felt foods
(I love the bag)

beautiful felt tree keyring

So, a big thank you to Shell, you made our weekend. Anyone who hasn't seen her lovely craft items should take a look here at her shop -

Thank you.

Friday, 20 November 2009

What have we started ...

In yesterday's post Imogen was doing a few weaving stars, and boy did she love doing these, and she's still wanting to do them today ... lots of them! I think we have made about 20 or more maybe. When I say we, it's mainly her work, I start them off by tying the sticks together and she takes over until she's finished and I tie them for her. Still lots of things to decorate the house especially for Christmas, and a few will make it into parcels for relatives for Christmas. They are great for using up left over balls of wool too!

concentrating on her weaving

We insisted on wearing our shoes and socks and woolly hat with our pyjamas too, these were put on earlier so we were ready to go outside, not that we are going out today. Having a quiet day at home and awaiting the grandparents visiting for the weekend.
PJ's, woolly hat and shoes on!

I think we are going to move onto pom-poms this afternoon, just for a change, and they're always useful, aren't they. (A few done already - added to the weaving collection in the photo below).
collection on weaving and pompoms

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Resting, recovering and some crafting (of course)

Well, we've spent most of the last 4 days resting on the sofa following another bout of coughs and colds. Unfortunately Imogen has a chest infection so is really laid low for her. This week she has slept a lot on the sofa - something she hasn't done since she was very small.

The days are being filled with reading, DVD's, playing with lacing cards and playing with an etch-a-sketch picked up at a charity shop recently for £1. When Imogen saw this at the shop, she asked what it was and so I showed her, having had one in my younger years. I used to love my etch-a-sketch, so this brought back happy memories. I was so happy to see Imogen totally absorbed in what it did and asked her if she'd like it. A big YES was the reply, and it has been a popular item in the house since then. It has been very popular this week as we can play with it whilst resting.

surrounded by fun things

Today, we are also doing some more craft stick (lolly stick) weaving, as again this can be done whilst resting. Hoping to have a few to decorate the house over Christmas.

stick weaving

I'm not too well either, although feel better today than the last couple of days so hopefully we are all on the mend. It's been nice to just relax on the sofa, read books and do some knitting and crafting.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Gardenmama giveaway

Yet another fantastic blog giveaway over on Gardenmama's blog, a lovely time capsule. I think this is a beautiful piece of metalwork. Take a look, leave a comment and you are in with a chance receiving this lovely piece.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Mulled Wine syrup (or cordial syrup)

Following on from making to Winter berries cordial, I thought I would post the recipe I also have for mulled wine syrup that can also be used as a cordial. I can't remember where I found this recipe so can't give credit (amended to add credit as I think I have found the original recipe), although I have made changes to the original that I felt improved it. It's really flavoursome and keeps very well.

Mulled wine syrup for 4 bottles of red wine

2 bottles water
16 tblsp raw cane sugar
1 Orange
1 lemon (make sure its unwaxed)
1 lime (make sure its unwaxed)
1” piece Root ginger peeled and grated
2” stick Cinnamon
4 cardamom pods
½ Whole nutmeg grated
large pinch Allspice
8 star anise (optional)
2 apples
4 tblsp good organic honey

Put water in a pan and add ingredients as follows:
Sugar, Cinnamon, nutmeg, root ginger, cardamom and the allspice. Add star anise if using it (some people do not like it).
Next add the grated zest of an orange, a lemon and a lime. Add the juice of the orange only.
Add one whole apple with approx 16 cloves stuck in it. Then add another apple chopped. Finally add the honey.
Bring to boil then reduce to simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the whole pieces of fruit, then bring to boil again. Your contents will reduce to about half and become syrupy.
Strain syrup and pour into sterilised bottles and seal.

Use a quarter of this amount per bottle of red wine – add to warmed but not boiled red wine and enjoy.
This is also fantastic just added to water as a cordial, or hot water for a winter warming drink. Makes a great gift as it keeps well. I always make this a bit earlier in the year (I think I made some in September this year), to allow the flavours to mature for Christmas, but it can still be made now and will taste great.

Winter berries cordial

I really love making our own cordials, knowing what goes into them and tasting the fruits (or flowers) at their best is just wonderful.

As posted in my Mixed Up Monday post, I have been making a cordial today using Sloes, Cranberries and Blackberries. With the addition of some cloves, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg, the house smelt wonderfully festive. It's still a bit too early to put festive decorations up though (isn't it!?).

This is what I did:
1 lb Sloes
Approx 4-5oz Blackberries
Approx 4-5 oz Cranberries
Juice and zest of 1 unwaxed Lemon
Cube of root Ginger sliced
1 stick of Cinnamon
10 Cloves
Freshly grated Nutmeg
Fresh Bay leaf

everything in the pot to simmer

Put all in a pan and cover with water and simmer gently until all the fruit is softened and appears cooked through (30-45 minutes).
straining the fruit

Allow to cool a little and strain, discarding the bay leaf. Whizz the berries with some of the liquid and strain again to remove seeds, etc. Measure how much liquid there is and return it to the pan. For 1 pint of liquid, add 1lb sugar and heat until all the sugar has dissolved.
Pour into sterilised bottles and store. Dilute to taste, lovely as a warm drink, and just as lovely in water or sparking water.
Bottled Cordial

Having allowed this to cool and tasted it, it is absolutely wonderful. It has such a full-bodied taste, I'm not sure how long these bottles will last. This is one of my favourite cordials I have made (Elderflower being my absolute favourite in the Summer). The best thing is, I have more of these fruits in the freezer to make more batches. Yum.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Book Sharing Monday

Wow, it's been a while, Monday's are quite busy around here lately and I don't seem to get around to posting a book sharing book. So today I'm here to share this book, as we are at home resting and recuperating (see my last post).

Today we would like to share this book:
"And the Good Brown Earth" by Kathy Henderson

This book delightfully takes you through the Seasons on the vegetable patch. The story follows Nan and Charlie and their visits to the vegetable patch throughout the year. The illustrations are also lovely, showing the changes of the Seasons.

I found the synopsis on Amazon describes the book beautifully:

"Winter, summer, rain or shine, Nan and Charlie visit and tend their vegetable patch. Sometimes they dig, sometimes they sow, and sometimes they just lie in the long green grass and sing - and all the while, the good brown earth gets on with doing what the good brown earth does best."

This book is a favourite in our house as we love to celebrate the changes in the Seasons and as a family we visit our vegetable patch all year round, and often in all weathers. Hope you enjoy this book too.

Take a look at Canadian Home Learning for more book sharing or to join in.

Mixed day Monday

Well today will be a bit of a mixed day. Imogen's cold/cough seemed to be getting better then yesterday afternoon and throughout the night and this morning she has been sick - just not keeping anything down, even water. Poor wee thing is cuddled up on the sofa with pillows and blanket.

So in between reading to her and having cuddles I thought I'd update the blog a little and do some tidying, sorting, knitting and make a new batch of cordial. Oh and come to a decision on what to make for the GP site season swap.

The cordial is inspired by the large amount of Sloes we gathered recently. Some is being made into Sloe Gin, more is in the freezer to enable sloe gin or other things to be made in the New Year when there are non to pick. So I wanted to make a cordial with autumn/winter tones to it. Having looked at a couple of recipes I've kind of come up with my own using Sloes, blackberries and cranberries (both frozen previously) and adding ginger, cinnamon and maybe some other bits - I'm thinking a few cloves and/or nutmeg. Will have to have a think on the flavours. So far the fruit is washed and ready to simmer with the flavourings, so must go and decide what to add.

Oh and it's Monday and I never seem to find the time lately to do book sharing Monday, so will post back with one soon.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Wet and Windy

Well the wet and windy weather has unfortunately changed our plans, we were going to go to a Christmas Market that I blogged about a few days ago

"The first such event is this weekend at
Weald and Downland Open Air Museum- for a Christmas market.
This place is such a joy to visit anyway, but with the
added excitement of Christmas and a reduced entry fee, who could resist."

Far to windy and wet to make the journey. So instead we popped out to the library and out for a pub lunch, and back home for relaxing on the sofa watching DVD's. Pumpkin and Chickpea curry for tea.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Autumn Season Corner

I've just realised that with all the busy-ness and illness over the last couple of months, that I haven't got a photo of the Autumn Season Corner, so here I am to put that right.
Autumn Season Corner

I was hoping to make an Autumn Acorn fairy, a bit like the one I made for feathers for the GPseason swap, but I just haven't got around to finishing mine.

Acorn flower girl

Nevermind, it will be finished for next Autumn, there are more pressing crafts to do at the moment, and I'll make sure I have a Winter season doll made for our corner instead. Autumn is a great time for finding things and making things for the season corner, lots of nature bits to find. There is always space for a pumpkin too.

Today, amongst other things, Imogen did these lovely crayon leaf rubbings that I shall put on the wall by the season corner too.

crayon leaf rubbings

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Feeling Christmassy

With all the making of gifts, of foods and the wonderful organic free range bronze turkey is on order from our local organic farm ... I can't help feeling all warm inside and Christmassy. I really enjoy the run up to Christmas time.

I don't join in in the mad Christmas present buying race, preferring to make gifts and those that are bought are purchased away from the madding crowds, and preferably before December is upon us. Instead I like to seek outings to farmers markets and Christmas markets with plenty of homemade goodies to look at, even if I buy nothing. There are a few such events not far away from us again this year that we shall try to go to (weather pending for some of them).

The first such event is this weekend at Weald and Downland Open Air Museum - for a Christmas market. This place is such a joy to visit anyway, but with the added excitement of Christmas and a reduced entry fee, who could resist.

Closer to Christmas, our local open farm is also hosting a Christmas market, so we hope to go there to; to see the animals, partake in some crafts and have a great family day out.

We then have the Victorian Christmas at Portsmouth Historic Dockyards (at least a full day out in itself). We have been to this a couple of times and it's got a fantastic atmosphere with snow covered streets, street performers (see here for all the characters - street vendors, "cops and robbers", Queen Victoria, Scrooge, Brunel, etc), carol singing, roasted chestnuts, Father Christmas in the traditional green suit (not the other one!) and lovely market stalls. It's lovely and you really feel transported back to Victorian times. On top of that you can walk around HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and see where the Mary Rose has been preserved (although this is closed now for a while while a better museum for it is built). Such rich maritime history with displays of all eras.

In the lead up to Christmas, Winchester has a Christmas market event with ice skating rink in the grounds of Winchester Cathedral. Yet another opportunity to see small traders with lots of handmade wares. On the opening day there is a lantern parade too which will be great to see.

Looking forward to these and any other events to pop along to, and enjoying all the making and baking. How are your Christmas/Yule plans going?

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

On the needles this week ... playmat and hat

Knitting more pieces for the play mat/farm mat for Imogen for Christmas. Here is the pile so far.

play mat pieces pile

I actually laid it all out last night (except a couple of pieces my Mom has knitted for me that I will get next week), and it was really coming together. I've had fun knitting different pieces in so many different wools so there are such varying textures. I've even done one piece in loop knit which I'd not done before. Laying it out gave me more ideas about it's final look too, so that was good.

I have also finished knitting this hat for Imogen, which I think I will give to her for Christmas. She's not short of hats but I loved the pattern so wanted to knit it. I used a really chunky wool on 10mm needles so it took no time at all. I'm going to knit a scarf in the same wool to go with it.

Woolly hat for Imogen

More things in the "to do" project folder, but we're getting there.

In the kitchen this week ...

I have been busy in the kitchen this week. Cooking a yummy pumpkin and chickpea curry to warm us up on the colder days we've had.

Pumpkin and Chickpea Curry

Having picked more sloes, there is more Sloe Gin in the making.
Sloes on the bushes

Sloe Gin

I have finally got around to using up a large Marrow that we've had stored to make more "Glutney" chutney (thanks HFW for the recipe again! - a great recipe for chutney that we always use).

Sloe Gin and Chutney

Friday, 6 November 2009

Homemade Christmas list

Okay, so I'm a little late in posting the list of things I am attempting to make for gifts for Christmas, but better late than never.

Already made (so they mature well) or in the making are:
Chutney (done)
Sloe Gin (done)
Sloe Cordial
Cranberry Gin
Winter Syrup (for adding to wine (mulled wine syrup)
or just having with water - hot or cold, yum)
Other edibles:
Turkish Delight for my Dad

Cards (with Imogen - painting and sticking things, and using some stamps with thinner paints)

Cinnamon Apple sauce decorations
Dried orange decorations
Cinnamon stick decorations
Knitted tree decorations
(partly done)
Knitted other decorations (partly done)
Knitted and fabric wreath
Crocheted tree decorations (possibly, will help improve my skills,
but will leave until next year if it slows me down)

Knitted farm mat including fences and trees (partly done)
Fabric barn to go with knitted farm mat
Knitted Elmer (completed)
Hat and scarf for Imogen
(hat done)
Other hats and scarves
Wrist warmers
Play silks

Ribbon wands
Pencil roll
Knitted toys (small), gnomes, fruit, cupcakes etc
(partly done)
Waldorf Doll (possibly, more likely in the New Year)
Small Waldorf style dolls
Lavender bags lavender pillow

I'm not sure if I've missed something, probably (feels like I have because I keep seeing new things I want to try), so having this will help and I can come back to it to see if anything needs adding (or removing), and check on my progress. It seems like a lot, although some of them are just thoughts at the moment and may not come to fruition.

Right, off to check my notebook in case I've missed something.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

The November vegetable plot

Winter is always a good time to reflect on the previous years ups and downs, to review what worked and what didn't, and to plan the year ahead. Alex likes the Winter time on the allotment as it is a time where he feels he is ahead of the weeds, and the wildness of the plot. There has been huge progress on our allotment plot this year but there is still work to be done on the top half - removing unwanted trees, shrubs and brambles.

Things continue to grow, producing lovely green leaves and beautiful purple sprouting broccoli, beetroots are still to be pulled up too.

still picking Spinach and Chard

wonderful purple sprouting broccoli

beetroots to come

Then there is the promise of new things to come. Garlic and onions are planted, as are Broad beans and hardy Peas, ready for earlier harvests than those that will be sown in Spring. New seedlings are appearing in the greenhouse, ready to plant out to continue the supply of lovely leafy vegetables - Spinach, Cabbage, Cavalo Nero, Chard, Turnip Greens, Oriental Greens and Cooking Radishes are all poking their seedling heads out of the soil. Where there is soil not in use for food, green manure is growing, fertilizing and protecting this lovely brown earth.

seedlings for Winter vegetables

I love to plant from seed, to watch things grow from a tiny seed, delicately planted in some moist compost, and nurtured into a seedling, then a small plant and then planted on to produce something wonderful and organic to eat. It's also a great time to look at the life cycle of plants with Imogen. We collect seeds from many plants and dry them and store them ready to plant again, so the whole process is something she knows very well, and loves to be involved in.

So this is the work going on in our garden and allotment over the next few months, with planning next Springs adventures being done in the warmth and comfort of our home. Nothing stays still, there is always something changing and growing.

These are some of the things still coming home with us at the moment, although the tomatoes are finishing now (except the lovely plum one in the greenhouse).
San Marzano tomatoes and a chilli

And always, somewhere, the wildlife is getting a meal too

snail munching on a beetroot leaf
provided by Imogen

November in the garden

mossy brick

I was inspired to write this post whilst tending to the seedlings in the greenhouse. I took a look around the garden and photographed the following for their lovely autumnal colours, the lovely white flowers of the Primrose, the deep red of the Sedum and the confused palm with a flower spike in November. November? This usually flowers in late Summer, but never as late as November.
lovely autumnal colours on the London Pride

the deep red of the Sedum

much loved white Primroses - my first mothers day gift

and my confused palm tree, almost flowering in November

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Christmas gift making

I'm now finalising what I'm going to try and make for gifts for Christmas, and I'm getting that warm feeling inside of the forthcoming festivities. There have been a couple of projects on the go for a while, and then others getting added when inspiration strikes. But the list has still been in my head, or on scraps of paper, or a bookmarked website until now ... and this afternoon it is all going down on paper, and then into a project folder. Organised or what? If you knew me, you'd know that is unlike me. I like to keep things, but organisation isn't my forté. But I figured if it's in a folder I can see what I am trying to achieve.

I really must stop looking at other websites though, as I keep seeing things and thinking how lovely it would be to make it and the list in my head gets longer. Of course when you see something on a crafty blog, it can lead you to another idea, then another, and another! So I must try to resist the temptation to add more projects - so no more temptation please. We'll see what happens. Anyway, by tomorrow I hope to have a little list on here somewhere of what I'm attempting and progress. I don't think it's as bad as I think really, and some things I'm planning/have started are decorations.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Lovely Blog silky giveaway

Another great giveaway over at Gardenmama's lovely blog - some silky goodness. Check it out here

Monday, 2 November 2009

Samhain, Halloween, weekend fun and Sloes

beautiful Sloes

A busy weekend, we went to the local farm and had a great day out meeting all the animals again. I didn't have my camera but I think we have all the photo's we need from the farm from previous visits. Imogen made a Halloween decorated glass which she had fun doing - rolling it in glitter and sticking things to it. Last week we painted lots of pumpkin carvings and some bats too. On Friday we went to the local library for an activity in which she made a spider, a bat, a haunted house mobile and a leafy autumn picture. So lots of crafting going on at the moment.

My cooker isn't working properly at the moment so no baking, just the main oven but still able to make a lovely Pumpkin and Chickpea curry tonight for our tea on the hob - yum. Somebody is coming to fix it on Wednesday so back to normal soon, at least it was an excuse to have a takeaway on Saturday night.

We've been learning about Samhain this week too as I don't really go in for all the commercial-ness (is that a word?) of Halloween, trick or treating or loading up on sugar! Imogen isn't interested in sweets, except chocolate, so that's good, but was interested in the history of Samhain. We also looked at the history of "All Hallows" and Halloween (without the sugar), etc. I won't go into detail, that can be found in so many other places much better than I could explain all the history. We read about Halloween from a recent charity shop purchase - Barefoot Books "A calendar of Festivals" for 50p.

We also picked a large bag of Sloes at the weekend to get some more Sloe gin on the go, we have sourced more so may well be picking more later this week and freezing some for use later. They have been washed and I've popped them in the freezer (no frosts here for the foreseeable future) for now, will get them out in a day or two to start this batch of gin off.

Sloes to be washed and frozen