Growing our own – Summer 2015

Summer is not my favourite season because I am in no way a fan of heat. But I do love our kitchen garden 🙂

My 2015 experiment was to grow edible flowers. I started simply and chose to grow Lavender, Chamomile and Borage; none of which had I grown before.

The chamomile is beautiful and exactly what I wanted. We finally made some fresh chamomile tea from the fresh flowers, and now I need to read up how to dry the flowers so they can be stored over the winter. I also found chamomile growing of its own accord on one of my walks. Such a beautiful and practical flower.

UPDATE 14.7.15: As with all foraging I have since discovered Pineappleweed and Scentless Mayweed look remarkably similar to chamomile and each other. So the wild chamomile I discovered on one of my walks may not actually be chamomile. I’ve still got a lot to learn when it comes to foraging!

The borage also grew exactly as I had hoped, once I decided to cover the baby leaves with some grass cuttings so that the slugs, snails and other bugs stopped munching on them. Apparently you can eat the young leaves, though I did not try them as I did not know this at the time. I have however eaten the flowers which I am excited to say do taste a little like cucumber. They definitely make a meal look much prettier and more colourful.

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The Lavender on the other hand isn’t doing so great, but at least it is growing… slowly…

We also have peas growing beautifully.

The flowers that grow before the peas (not to be confused with sweet pea flowers which are toxic) are also apparently edible, along with radish flowers and basil flowers – all of which are in our garden! I haven’t looked in to the best way to harvest and eat those yet though.

The radishes bolted quicker than I was expecting and I have since discovered that after the edible flowers, radishes produce edible seed pods that taste a bit like snap peas! What an amazing plant to be edible in so many forms.

Sunflower petals, and of course the seeds are also edible, but we are still waiting for those to open.

And last but not least, chive flowers are also edible,

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As it happened, we only got one chive flower from ours, so we left it to turn white so that we could save the seeds for next year instead. Hopefully we’ll get more flowers next time?

And this is the best of the rest-

Above you will see spring onions; runner beans that came as an activity in our toucan box; potatoes (planted in bags as well as numerous plants from our compost trench); our baby apple trees; salad leaves; baby tomatoes; carrots; a poppy plant that planted itself in our compost trench as well as another intriguing little plant that looks a bit like a bulb of some sort which has looked the same for months now. No idea what it is but it can be seen in the photos above next to the compost trench potato plants. We’ll wait and see…

So I’m really enjoying eating our garden produce. Now we are turning our attention to harvesting seeds.

UPDATE 14.7.15: Turns out the intriguing little plant in our compost trench is an onion plant that has gone to seed! Makes perfect sense as we are always throwing onion peelings in the compost. Onion flowers are actually also edible, so we have another edible flower! Wonderful 🙂

Spring Gardening 2015

It’s that time of the year again when we get out our seeds and eagerly wait for a perfect day to plant them. I’ve really been looking forward to it this year. During Easter holidays, after all the Easter crafts and excitement, last week seemed the perfect opportunity.

First of all, we had some leftover bonuses from last year. Our Apple tree we some how managed to plant from seed survived the winter…2015-04-05 16.47.04

These aren’t highly visible but below are some plants growing from plant cuttings in our compost heap, the main one being an onion. I replanted them to see what would happen.2015-04-05 16.47.19 We dug a new trench for our compost heap. 2015-04-05 16.47.29

And this is our brussel sprout plant in the pot that we left all winter. It suddenly shot up at the beginning of Spring and has since produced oodles of flowers. Who knows we may get sprouts after all… I had long expected this plant to have just died off, but the roots must have escaped the plant pot and firmly established themselves in the soil below. Because of this we haven’t planted and new brussel sprouts this year.2015-04-09 14.42.57

And our chives are doing amazingly well! We cut them right back and froze the chives we had when it started to get really cold, and they’re just going from strength to strength.

ChivesOur neighbour very kindly donated these seeds to us that he has collected from Gardening magazines, so we are going to plant these for a bit of variety outside of veg.2015-04-06 08.55.28 For a change we were organised and made some name labels for our plants as every other year I’ve completely forgotten what we planted where until they started to grow. We used plain lolly sticks and felt tip pens. It was a quick but fun activity.2015-04-09 09.44.10 So what did we plant?

This year we planted Charlotte potatoes in individual potato bags. We had 5 that came in a set.2015-04-09 14.42.29 My boots had broken so we planted carrots in them.2015-04-09 14.42.43
We planted asparagus, butternut squash, pumpkin seeds, and tomato seeds under cloches in individual pots. One of our cloches blew away in the wind so we used plastic bags as make shift cloches as well.2015-04-09 14.43.03 As our Salad leaves failed miserably last year as they bolted we planted them in a bigger pot with more sun and more water. They were the first plant to germinate so hopefully we’ll get some salad this year.2015-04-09 14.43.47

And we planted our peas in the ground this year instead of in pots that are obviously too small. Fingers crossed.

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Indoors we planted some basil. The plant to the right is the remains of a supermarket bought one which never last as long as ones you grow yourself, but with a little care some of them bounced back and we’re still harvesting from it.2015-04-09 14.44.33 We also used up our cress seeds on cotton wool, though considering they are one of the easiest things to grow, ours aren’t doing so well… 2015-04-09 14.44.37 Over Easter Ana’s nursery asked that we plant something and take it in to make the nursery look nice, so we planted Cornflower seeds. I was very excited when they germinated before Easter holidays were up, and almost sad to give them away! We’ll probably plant some more in our garden.
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Keep you updated soon on these and other things we have planted.

Easter 2015

We had a fortnight’s worth of activities planned for this Easter.

Easter Activities

• March 23rd – Decorate – Make Easter Bunting and an Easter Wreath
• March 24th – Make Easter Cards
• March 25th – Make Spring Flowers
• March 26th – Baby Chick Crafts
• March 27th – Make an Easter Bonnet
• March 28th – Make Baby Lambs
• March 29th – Palm Sunday – Make a Palm Cross
• March 30th – Egg and Nest activities
• March 31st – Bunny Activities
• April 1st – April Fool’s Day
• April 2nd – Maundy Thursday – Make Easter Cookies to give away.
• April 3rd – Good Friday – Read the Easter Story and Hot Cross Buns
• April 4th – Easter Egg Hunt
• April 5th – Easter Sunday – Special Easter Meal and Easter Eggs can be Eaten
• April 6th – Easter Monday – New Book

Here are some of the pictures from Easter and Mother’s Day:

Shortbread Recipe

This year I finally did something for Comic Relief and baked some cupcakes and made some shortbread.

The cupcakes I made are Vanilla with Vanilla frosting and different coloured sprinkles on top. I would have done more of a Red theme for ‘Red Nose Day’, but as I was on a tight budget they were made as they were.

Red Nose Day Cupcakes minus any red of noses...

But this post is about shortbread not cupcakes. I found the recipe online from the BBC website and they’re surprisingly easy to make. I halved the amounts the BBC gave. Here goes.

Shortbread Recipe

Recipe Makes: 12

INGREDIENTS
• 65g butter
• 27g brown caster sugar
• 90g plain flour

METHOD
• Heat the oven to 190C.
• Beat the butter and sugar together until smooth.
• Stir in the flour to a smooth paste.
• Turn on to a work surface and gently roll out until the paste is 1cm thick.
• Cut into rounds or fingers and place onto a baking tray.
• Sprinkle with caster sugar and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
• Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until pale golden-brown.
• Cool on a wire rack before enjoying.

I completely forgot to take a photo of these but there is a photo on the BBC website link above.

In total with these two bakes, with the help of my wonderful family we raised £25 for Comic Relief.

Valentines Day Pictures 2015

Moroccan Hummus

Hummus

Moroccan Hummus

Recipe Serves: 4

INGREDIENTS
• 400g cooked chickpeas
• 1 chopped onion
• rapeseed oil
• 1 Tbsp tahini
• 1 Tbsp water
• 1 Tbsp lemon juice
• 1 tsp chilli flakes
• 1 tsp salt
• 1 tsp of each corriander, cumin, ginger, paprika, cinnamon, turmeric
• 2 garlic cloves
• 1 Tbsp honey

METHOD
• Place all the ingredients together in a blender and blend well untill smooth.
• Serve with carrots, celery sticks, cucumber, pepper sticks, bread sticks, naan or tortillas.

 

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Valentines Day Activities

As we have previously done for Christmas, and New Years, this year I have planned countdown activities for Valentines Day, as I had originally hoped to do last year. As I have said before, I find it much more enjoyable celebrating and learning about a tradition than I do crafting with no meaning behind it, so drawing out a celebration in this way allows us to enjoy it longer. These are my ideas for Valentines Day 2015.

Valentine Activities

• February 1st – Sunday – No activities
• February 2nd – Explain Valentines day. Red and pink glitter and paint craft
• February 3rd – Falling stars decoration
• February 4th – Junk modelling – Love bug
• February 5th – Make paper roses
• February 6th – Cupid activities – colour in/ make wings and bow and arrow
• February 7th – Heart wreath craft
• February 8th – Sunday – Light Candle (link to candle lit meal)
• February 9th – Book of things Ana loves (talk about different kinds of love)
• February 10th – Love birds
• February 11th – Love Potions (bicarbonate of soda and white wine vinegar/ red smoothie recipe)
• February 12th – Make Valentines Day cards
• February 13th – Make heart chocolates/ cookies
• February 14th – Hidden wax message & gift for Ana

Click HERE to see the pictures.

As with the Twelve Days of Christmas and Lent, I am giving ourselves Sundays off. It’s always good to have a day of rest. Ana needs to learn to entertain herself too.

D.I.Y. Peppa Pig Frame (from the Peppa Pig Magazine)

We love Peppa Pig in this house, and we love the Peppa Pig magazine too. For £1.99 we get hours of entertainment: educational activities, stories, stickers, crafts, recipes and further ideas to try at home. And it gives me a break from planning activities because they are already planned for me. Sometimes they are seasonal as well which is even better.

In the first issue of this year (it’s released fortnightly) there was an idea to make your own Peppa Pig frame from paper scraps and old magazines, so we gave it a go.

You will need:

  • old magazines
  • sticky tape (we used double sided)
  • PVA glue
  • Cardboard

Method:

  • Cut out a frame in cardboard (19cm by 24cm).
  • Using old magazine pages roll them up diagonally and secure down the whole length with sticky tape, trying to make all the tubes the same thickness.
  • Glue a photo into the middle of the cardboard, cut the rolled up paper tubes to size glue them around the photo.

This is our finished result:

Peppa Pig Frame

I like it! A fun inexpensive craft that brightens up a dull corner of the room. I thought I might try it with rolled up pieces of fabric, or similar, and make a more permanent and functional frame? Just an idea.

 

Finished Scarf

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The scarf I started in 2009 and finished in 2015

I have to write a post about this scarf I started some time in 2009, and finished yesterday! That’s 6 years in the making. I stopped and started it often, moved three times, got married and had a baby all in the time it took me to complete it. It is far, far from perfect, and will probably shrink when I give it a quick rinse in the wash, but it’s quite an accomplishment for me because I don’t think I have ever completed any knitting project ever. It has inspired me to try something else, to finally learn the purl stitch, and always persevere! 🙂