Saturday, 30 April 2011

Flower Crown

Tomorrow is Beltane or May day, so to mark the day we have made a faerie flower crown or circlet. We have made it very simply with as little fuss as possible as we have been so busy lately with the allotment.

First, we have taken a piece of ivy and tied it into a head sized circle, this was a piece pruned back from our garden, any pliable twig would do here or if you haven't done any pruning, wire could also be used.

Then the circlet or crown was decorated, now this part is personal choice and can be as simple or ornate as you choose. We have tied on some ribbons and small flowers from our garden, if real flowers are not available to you, simple ones made with tissue paper and would also look nice.

Then just add the very simple faerie crown to the little ones head, and we now have one very happy little girl, who has spent the morning playing in the garden wearing it and feeling rather special too.

Please note that because this is made with real flowers it will not last forever, if you need one that lasts longer, the crown could be made with covered wire and synthetic flowers.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

We have an allotment!

Having been on the list for an allotment for nearly three years now, you would think I would have been expecting it, but it has still come as a big surprise to finally be allocated a plot. Apparently, this plot is a half plot and has been turned down by quite a few people because it is very overgrown and it definitely  looks a bit challenging.

We have visited the allotment a few times to make sure we knew what we were letting ourselves in for, my husband is much keener than me, I have to say! After the initial shock it was decided that we would try to negotiate a little with the council... the end result was that we have a free year next year and the rest of this year greatly reduced... so we have accepted it. Let the digging begin!

As you can see from the photographs a lot of work is needed, but we have been planning the best way to go about this and still manage to plant things as we go along too. There are a few things already there hidden amongst the weeds, the vines you can see at the back and down the side are hops and we have spotted a few raspberry bushes, so that's a good place to start.

On the way to the allotment we walk past a small holding which has quite a few chickens and as we are hoping to get some chickens of our own soon, we have been stopping for a chat. They are very friendly and come up to the fence to greet the children which is nice, sometimes running from the other side of the farm. The children are becoming quite fond of them, so we have been talking about all the things that they can do for the chickens when we get our own. So now you know what we will be doing this year, it will be quite an adventure, I'm sure!

Monday, 25 April 2011

Recycling Jeans

My daughter loves denim shorts, last year we bought her some but were very disappointed with them so this year I thought I would recycle some of her jeans from the winter. They were already too short as my children are quite tall and the knees were worn through, so only fit for the bin really.... or maybe not! I had previously repaired these jeans once with this embroidered patch I made to make them last longer.

They lasted all winter with this patch and many people commented on how cute they were, but alas they are no more. First I cut off the legs at the point the knees had started to fray and get holes in.

Then folded up the bottom twice, pressed it with an iron ( yes sometimes I use it for more than craft projects) and stitched it at the seam to hold it in place.

There you go, as simple as that and it only took a few minutes and we have re-used a pair of jeans that were destined for the bin. My daughter is really happy as they were her favourite jeans because they have embroidered flowers and birds on them. As they were recycled by me, I could make them the perfect length... just right for playing in the garden as you can see below.

Definitely getting our money's worth out of this pair of jeans and why shouldn't we?... children grow so fast.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Early Rhubarb

We were lucky enough recently to be given some rhubarb, (thanks nan) so decisions had to be made as to what to make, the rhubarb in our own garden is not quite ready yet so we will have that to look forward in a few weeks. The children absolutely love making things in the kitchen so we decided to make things that interest them, like a rhubarb cordial and some ice cream, it is important to us to show the children that the things they love can be made simply at home, with a few natural ingredients and no additives.

We used 500g of chopped rhubarb in 500ml of water, simmer for 10 minutes, then leave it to infuse for about an hour.  We have made this for quite a few years now, last year we doubled the amount of ingredients as we had an obscene amount of rhubarb to use up.

After an hour sieve out the rhubarb pulp and pass the remaining liquid through a straining bag, as you can see above it is definitely worth straining to get rid of the remaining rhubarb pulp as it leaves the cordial clear and such a beautiful colour. Then return this to the saucepan with about 200g of sugar added, reheat just to dissolve the sugar. You can vary the amount of sugar used depending on the level of sweetness required but do bear in mind rhubarb is quite tart, if you are using other fruits less sugar can be used.

Then the cordial can be put into a bottle of your choice, it makes about 500ml and should keep for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator, although ours never lasts more than a couple of days as it tastes so good. Keep the sieved out rhubarb as it can still be used in pies, crumbles, ice cream (as we did) or just eaten with yoghurt.

This is a photograph of the finished rhubarb cordial, diluted with water... it tastes lovely and it is my daughters favourite colour so that is definitely a bonus. We have used the leftover rhubarb to make ice cream as we have recently bought an ice cream maker. Last year I put some recipes on here for our hand made ice cream, as we used to make it this way. We did however still use a similar recipe to our original ones.

So here it is... we used 200ml of cream, 100ml of milk about 200g of the sieved out rhubarb and 100g of  organic strawberries (mashed or chopped) for colour and sweetness and the ice cream maker did the rest! This tasted amazing, so light and refreshing and there certainly wasn't enough of it at all so I'm going to have to make some more tomorrow. If you don't have an ice cream maker, check out the link above as we used to make our ice cream by hand this way and it did still taste as good.

So two things successfully made today that the children love very much from a very small amount of rhubarb, and great fun was had in the kitchen by all. Cordials can be made from many fruits but we tend to use far less sugar for other types of fruit but this is rhubarb!

Monday, 18 April 2011

More charity shop finds!

My very late entry for magpie Monday has had me smiling today, I have been looking for some pink transfer printed plates for absolutely ages. My daughters (and me, if I'm honest) would love to have 'proper' tea parties in a kind of romantic, bohemian/eclectic style. So we wanted a wide variety of different plates, some flowery and some like the ones below. They cost £1.00 for six plates, what a bargain!   On the back it says they are from the Constable bicentennial series.

This next item I found in a box of photograph frames, and it has my heart all a flutter, it is so romantic.... and very heavy!  It is a solid pewter frame and I'm thinking of either putting in photographs of the children or photographs of my husband and I on our wedding day and standing it on my dressing table. This also only cost £1.00.

Then I found this slightly out of season book also for £1.00 it has 200 Christmas recipes and craft ideas inside, just what we need for seasonal preparations later in the year, plenty of things for the children to try out.

Lastly today, a trivet for 50p, it needs to have a little attention paid to it but a welcome addition to the kitchen for placing hot things on and I really love the shape. So these are my finds today the first two items I'm especially excited about, can't wait to put them to good use.

to visit other magpie Monday posts click the link below.

Me and My Shadow

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Easter Egg Baskets

My youngest daughter has recently expressed an big interest in making an Easter egg basket to put chocolate eggs in, so we thought we would have a go at making one. As we are keen to re-use and recycle things we have decided to make the egg basket from an old juice carton.

As you can see in the photograph, I have cut the top off a juice carton and used a piece of stiff card for the handle, fixing it to the basket with a paper fastener at the side. The base of the basket can be made from many things like boxes or plastic milk bottles, if you require a bigger basket the juice carton can be cut length ways.

Now for the decoration... here your choice is unlimited, we have decided to liberally smear watered down PVA glue over the basket and stick little pieces of multi coloured tissue paper to it. This will hopefully cover the pictures on the juice carton, if you wanted an older theme this could be decorated with decorative scrap book paper or indeed fabric.

These are the finished baskets, the children have scrunched up little balls of tissue paper to decorate the handle, after the basket is dry you could decorate with little Easter pictures of chicks or bunnies. We have put some spare tissue paper inside the basket to rest the eggs on, but shredded paper would work well too.

Then you just fill with little chocolate eggs and you have very happy children, these little baskets are ideal for the egg hunt.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Fishy Farewell

I have had a pond in the garden for more than ten years, it started as a very small wildlife pond so that the children could see the frogs and rapidly progressed into a very large fish pond, containing many different types of fish including koi carp. I'm not sure how this happened it just did! When we moved I intended to donate the fish to someone else's pond but couldn't find anyone to take them on in time for the move, So we moved with them, that was a very stressful day and I lost my two biggest koi.

We lost another couple of our largest koi in the cold weather over winter so the pond population was much smaller and this prompted us to finally make the decision that it was time to re-home them once and for all, they should now be in their new home swimming merrily around. The photograph below is of one of the fish during transportation.

We now have a large pond to fill, in the area of the garden which has become known as the grotto mainly because it is segmented off from the rest of the garden by willows, fruit trees and overgrown ivy. It is a very Zen like peaceful area, where it is nice to relax with a cup of tea and a book. As every piece of space is well used here we are hoping to transform this area into a new home for chickens, once we have done some more research. Kind of a sad day but with a hint of looking forward to a new life stage as chicken keepers.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Enjoying the Sun

Sorry for the lack of posts recently, really must try to keep up, we have had a very busy few weeks enjoying the lovely weather and spending most of our free time outside. During the week we went to the seaside by train, and we happened to pick the most glorious day for it, apparently it was the hottest day of the year so far. 

We spent half the day on the sandy part of the beach, looking at the things that had washed ashore and intended to visit Amazonia, a reptile house, in the afternoon but unfortunately it had not opened for the season yet so we will have to visit again another time. Not wanting to waste the rest of the day we walked through the sand dunes to have a closer look at the offshore wind farm and the sand bank, which usually has seals on. 

We have been for nature walks in our local woodland and spent a few days exploring our local nature reserve, on one day it was so lovely we walked round the entire great broad. There were so many swans here that some times it got a little scary when they came charging up to you, especially with the little ones about. My daughter however, was not phased at all being surrounded by about 7 or 8 swans much taller than her! We had to throw food at them and make a hasty retreat.

On the home front we now make our own yoghurt all of the time, and we have also been experimenting with cheese production. My son has been fascinated with the whole concept of making these things ourselves and has helped out too. So far we have just used a simple recipe to make cream cheese, but my husband is hoping to increase our range so that we can also make mozzarella and ricotta too. We will be posting soon about how we make these things in more detail.

As you can see in the above photograph some of the things we have planted are coming along very well, the children have been watching the new vegetable plants as they come up very closely. We have had good results so far from the peas and beans, and due to the lovely weather some of the other things like the corn and potatoes are also starting to show. The lovely wooden row markers that you can see were made by my husband, who has been very busy and has also made raised vegetable beds, a new desk and a new book shelf for a wall I'm hoping to turn into a wall of books. If you would like to see how some of these things are made visit his blog here.