St Dwynwen’s Day – 25th January

Today is St. Dwynwen’s Day – the Welsh St. Valentine’s day that comes 2 weeks earlier! The story of St Dwynwen can be found on the visitwales.com website.

We’ve never celebrated it before, but I decided we should this year when I realised we hadn’t actually missed it. As it’s a Welsh celebration, we therefore made Lovespoons.

Lovespoons are made in other countries, but Wales is particularly famed for the practice as young peasant men would carve one for the one they hoped to marry, proving to the girl’s father that they had skill and could provide for her. The part we concentrated on for our activity was the symbols.

Numerous items would be carved on to the handle of the spoon, each with their own meanings. Examples include:

  • Wheel – Steer a safe course through their lives together
  • Heart – Love & affection/ My heart is yours
  • Double Heart – Shared Feelings
  • Keyhole/ Lock – I will look after you/ Security
  • Key – Key to my heart
  • Horse Shoe – Good Luck
  • Birds – Lovebirds/ Lets go away together
  • Balls in a cage – Number of children/ Love held safe
  • Bell – Live in Harmony/ Wedding/ Christening
  • Diamond – Wealth/ Good Fortune
  • Cross – God’s Blessing
  • Flower – Blossoming Love
  • Leaves – Love evergreen
  • Twisted stem/ Celtic knot – Live & become as one/ Togetherness
  • Daffodil/ Dragon – Represent Wales

And that’s to name only a few. There were/ aren’t any hard rules and men would make up their own symbols depending on the message they wanted to convey. In this manner that’s what we did…

I found the wooden spoon that Ana plays with in her kitchen, I drew around it,

2015-01-24 21.41.49

Drawing around the wooden spoon

I found some pre-cut out shapes I had in our craft box, and some stickers to use as our Lovespoon symbols,

2015-01-24 21.43.35

Our Lovespoon symbols

and after explaining what the day was, what we were going to do, and explaining what the symbols meant I gave Ana free reign to place them where she wanted.

2015-01-25 10.24.09

Our Lovespoon in progress

2015-01-25 10.30.09

Our finished Lovespoon

Ana was adamant that the sun and birds should go in the sky, and the house and the apple on the ground (the apple was ripe and had fallen from the tree) which is very cute watching her mind work.

The symbols Ana chose:

  • Hearts – Love & affection/ My heart is yours
  • Sun – You are my sunshine
  • Butterfly – You make my heart flutter
  • Birds – Lovebirds
  • Leaf – Evergreen Love
  • Music note – You make my heart sing
  • Balloon – You make me want to party
  • Flowers – Blossoming Love
  • Bow – Tieing the knot
  • Cat – You’re purrrfect
  • House – Setting up home
  • Apple – Apple of my eye
  • Snail – Lovebug

My husband said it sounded like I’d raided a packet of love hearts for those cheesy symbols and phrases, but I just tried to relate what we had to the theme. I had other ideas like a tree (growing love), ice cream (you’re cool), commas (represents the soul in traditional Lovespoons), other insects (other ideas for lovebugs) and sticker jewels (you’re precious), but we didn’t get around to using those. I also thought we could stick them directly on the wooden spoon handle, but Ana didn’t want to do that.

The only downside I can think of is that the activity took a lot less time to complete than I expected, but there are many ways to extend it if we had tried. Other than that, a well worthwhile activity.

Happy St Dwynwen’s Day!

 

 

White Hot Chocolate Recipe

As part of this years Twelve Days of Christmas activities, we made white hot chocolate. This is the recipe.

2015-01-02 13.48.37

White Hot Chocolate Recipe

Recipe Serves: 1 or 2

INGREDIENTS
• 75g white chocolate
• 3/4cup of whole milk
• 1tsp vanilla powder

METHOD
• Break the white chocolate into small pieces and place all the ingredients into a small saucepan and stir frequently on a very low heat. Do not allow to boil.
• Once the chocolate has completely melted and the ingredients are fully combined, serve at the desired temperature.

 

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Whilst recently reading about Christmas history, I finally understood the Twelve Days of Christmas. Not the song, but the event. Traditionally Christmas started Christmas Eve when families would put their Christmas decorations up, and the celebrations would continue until the 6th January when families would then take their decorations down. Sundays are not included in this, so 24th December to 6th January includes 12 celebration days – hence the Twelve Days of Christmas.

I thought this was a much nicer idea to celebrate as long into winter as possible, as I remember as a child sometimes feeling an anti-climax after Christmas when the celebrations suddenly stop and it seems all you have to look forward to is colder and colder weather… So to combat this, like with our advent activities, I planned activities up to 6th January to keep the celebrations going. And happily this took us right up to the start of the new school term when things naturally go back to normal anyway.

Twelve Days of Christmas Activities


• 1st – December 24th – Final day of Advent Calendars
• 2nd – December 25th – Christmas Day Celebrations
• 3rd – December 26th – Make & write Thank you Cards

Hand made Thank you card

• 4th – December 27th – Make a fruit cake together (which doubles as Ana’s birthday cake)
• December 28th – SUNDAY
• 5th – December 29th – Make New Year Cards


• 6th – December 30th – Decorate Party Hats

2014-12-31 08.48.43


• 7th – December 31st – Time Capsule/ New Years Resolutions New Year Review
• 8th – January 1st – Blow up Balloons/ Party Streamers/ Party Poppers & New Year Celebrations
• 9th – January 2nd – Make a white hot chocolate

2015-01-02 13.48.37


• 10th – January 3rd – New Book
• January 4th – SUNDAY
• 11th – January 5th – Make New Year Cookies for Nursery
• 12th – January 6th – Final Present – a snowman chocolate lolly

2015-01-06 15.29.34

Christmas Baubles

The year that my husband and I got married, I thought it would be a nice tradition to add a new bauble to our Christmas tree that is symbolic in some way of the year that had just passed. In reverse order these are the baubles we have chosen so far, and why.

2015

Borage

This borage ornament is made out of polymer clay by myself. 2015 was the year that we experimented with edible flowers like chamomile, lavender and rose. Our favourite was most definitely the borage.

2014

I had a terrible time finding a bauble that represented 2014. I knew I wanted something that represented foraging because that was the year that we embraced the past time and learnt a great deal about it. And I knew I wanted to purchase rather than make one to symbolise the new job that my husband started in 2014, but I couldn’t find one that I liked! In the end we bought a plain chunky wooden one of bells and holly (holly and the fact it is made from wood symbolising foraging), and I decorated it. Finally, at the end, I was pleased with it.

2013

Polymer Clay Peas in a Pod

Polymer Clay Peas in a Pod

 

Our biggest learning curve in 2013 was growing our own veg in the garden. We made loads of mistakes (including accidentally killing our peas with salt :S ), but we also had lots of successes (like eating very tasty peas before we accidentally killed the plant), so to commemorate this I made a ‘peas in a pod’ bauble from polymer clay.

 

 

2012

Polymer Clay Rubber Duck

Polymer Clay Rubber Duck

 

For my daughters 1st birthday in 2012 I made her a rubber duck birthday cake. The rubber ducks she played with in the bath were one of her favourite things, and one of her first words. So the symbolism of that, coupled with my first ever attempt at cake decorating is why we have a duck to represent 2012.

 

 

2011

Stork carrying a new baby

Stork carrying a new baby

 

2011 was an easy year to chose a bauble as it was the year our daughter was born. We bought a stork carrying a baby to represent this, I believe from Bronners Winter Wonderland online.

 

 

 

2010

Newlyweds Christmas Tree Ornament

Newlyweds Christmas Tree Ornament

 

2010 marks the beginning of our Christmas bauble tradition and was another easy bauble to choose – a newlyweds bauble.

 

 

 

Originally we were going to have just one bauble for each year on our tree, and no others. The tree might have looked bare, but I quite liked the idea. As it happens it never quite worked out that way as my mum has both made and bought us quite a few, and Ana and myself also make quite a few each year as part of our Christmas activities. This is a collection of some of these.

Christmas 2014 in pictures

2014 Christmas A to Z list

For Christmas 2014, this is a list of our daily Christmas activities to count down to the big day.

2014 CHRISTMAS A-Z ACTIVITIES


• Day 1 – A ‚ Advent Calendar – we have three advent calendars this year. A paper one a wooden one (in which the letters for all these activities can be found), and a LEGO one. Day before lit first advent candle.
• Day 2 – B ‚ Baubles – put baubles on Christmas tree; made baubles from a wooden bauble craft kit; sticker baubles on a drawn tree.
• Day 3 – C ‚ Christmas Cracker – opened cracker; painted picture of a cracker; made crackers from our Toucan box.
• Day 4 – D ‚ Decorations – put felt Christmas tree up; put Christmas bunting up; made paper chains; hung up Christmas cards.
• Day 5 – E ‚ Evergreen Tree – foam Christmas tree from craft kit; lolly stick Christmas tree and star.
• Day 6 – F ‚ Food & Feasts – chocolate for breakfast; made fudge as gifts; cheese and crackers for lunch; talk and sing about Christmas food; colour in a Christmas pudding; crack nuts; colour in family Christmas feast picture.
• Day 7 – G ‚ Generosity – Giving not receiving ‚ Charity – wrap presents together; make gift tags; glitter present picture. Lit Advent Candle.
• Day 8 – H & I ‚ Holly and Ivy – forage for Holly and Ivy; sing Holly and Ivy song; glitter holly pictures.
• Day 9 – J ‚ Jesus – Nativity set out of cardboard; read Nativity story.
• Day 10 – K ‚ Kiss (Mistletoe) – hang up the mistletoe; colour in mistletoe picture; mistletoe jigsaw.
• Day 11 – L ‚ Lights (Candles on the tree) – made beeswax candles as gifts.
• Day 12 – M ‚ Music – made bell bracelets/ anklets; attempted to learn carols on the piano.
• Day 13 – N ‚ Nadolig Llawen – the Welsh phrase for Merry Christmas – learnt Christmas words in Welsh.
• Day 14 – O ‚ Oranges – made Pomander. Lit Advent Candle.
• Day 15 – P ‚ Pantomimes – read new book ‘Dick Whittington’ (the pantomime on in our local theatre).
• Day 16 – Q ‚ Quiet Night (Peace) – made paper doves.
• Day 17 – R ‚ Robin Red Breast – made a foam Robin from craft kit; cardboard Robin from scrap paper.
• Day 18 – S ‚ Stocking – decorated paper stockings with variety of supplies such as sequins, glitter and tissue paper; stocking matching game.
• Day 19 – T ‚ Twelve Days of Christmas – read the book and sing the song.
• Day 20 – U ‚ ‚ÄòUs‚Äô (Family and Love) – visiting family day.
• Day 21 – V ‚ Victorian Christmas (Dickens) – opened cracker; made Christmas cards; santa hat gift toppers, attended carol service. Lit Advent Candle.
• Day 22 – W ‚ Winter Wonderland (Snow etc.) – made a Christmas village out of wooden toys; snowman and penguin from foam craft kit; paper snowman cut and stick; winter wonderland magnets.
• Day 23 – X ‚ Xmas (Santa, Rudolph etc.) – Mrs Clause fancy dress costume; lolly stick reindeer, new ‘Reindeer that saved Christmas’ book.
• Day 24 – Y ‚ Yule Log – mini chocolate yule log from Thorntons.
• Day 25 – Z ‚ Zero days left until Christmas – Christmas Day!

Growing Our Own November 2014

I didn’t expect to still be writing about gardening in November, when the frost is outside and we’re fully into our winter coats, gloves, hats and scarves!

The main reason I am is this – our Butternut Squash plant.

In total we’ve had 5 fully grown squash from the plant, which I’m pleased with. At least 3 were lost when a new fence was put up in the garden, and there is one left in the garden which is still too green to bring in.

For weeks (if not months) I’ve been boring everyone I know by telling them my confusion regarding what I’m meant to be doing with the squash in terms of when they are ready to be harvested. I’d read they need between 90 and 110 days to mature, but I also knew they needed to be ‘cured’ in the sun once they are, and that the frost will ruin them. Some say that a light frost will be fine and they leave them out until after the first frost, others say any frost at all will ruin them. I couldn’t see how any of mine could be ready in time under these circumstances as they only germinate when the soil is warm enough and that wasn’t until mid to late spring.

To cut a long story short I tried to forget about them, only checking occasionally for signs for ripeness. I was looking for –

  • the colour change – nice tan colour with no green lines. Though I wasn’t sure how tan was enough…
  • a hollow sound when tapped (I think to indicate the hollowed out seed part of the fruit was ready)
  • the finger nail test – poke the skin of the squash with your finger nail and it should resist an imprint
  • a brown and withered vine connected to the squash. When this happens you can be certain that the squash has no more growing to do. (One blog I read said that the squash will rot with the vine if you do that, though I read many more that said the contrary).

I knew our area of the world expected a first frost around mid November, so I kept an eye on the met office website. When the temperature reached 5 degrees Celcius, I read it was time to bring them in.

We had an unexpected mild frost one night so I got out of bed and brought in the two squash which had been ripening the longest. That’s dedication for you, though I desperately wanted at least one squash for all our hard work. I decided to ‘cure’ them on the window sill instead of outside (because it was cold and wet) and that seemed to work.

Then on the 23rd November we had our first all night frost, so I brought in all the remaining squash that fitted the criteria mentioned above. As I already mentioned, one was too green still so I covered it with a sheet overnight which is apparently a method used to protect them. The next day we had indeed had a frost, the plant had clearly been affected, but the squash was still fine. Today however we have more or less a whole day of frost so I’m not going to try and save that one.

We have eaten two of the squash already (the one that had ripened the longest and one which had been damaged so needed using quickly) in a sort of vegetable lasagne recipe.

Squash LasagneVery exciting to be eating them at long last!

Now there are 3 left. Having rinsed them from the garden and leaving them on the window sill I have no idea how long they will last. Probably not until next spring as we have nowhere suitable to store them, other than the kitchen. But I shall keep you updated.

In other news from the garden, our chives have all been trimmed and chopped and are now being stored in the freezer to use as needed. The rest of the plant is still in the garden.

trimmed chives for the winter

The Brussel Sprout plant is looking more alive than it has all summer! Lovely flowers growing, though they are falling off unpollinated because the pollinating bees don’t like winter. I’m just leaving them to see what happens as Brussel Sprouts apparently improve with frost.

And we have two new surprises in our compost trench. I do believe we have an onion and a potato plant growing from our food scraps! I don’t know if they will survive the winter, but they’re not ready to eat yet so I have no choice but to leave them. I know a compost trench is in no way as efficient as a compost bin, but it is much more exciting with our surprise plants we keep getting. 🙂

Surprise Potato Plant?

 

Pumpkin Costume

My daughter’s nursery is having a ‘Pumpkin Party’ on the first day back after half term. They ask that they dress up in a pumpkin costume or in orange. We had neither! I couldn’t even find any orange clothes in the shops, so I set about making Ana a costume.

Pumpkins

The look we’re going for…

 

I found some orange fabric 2 by 2 metres, and I already had some yellow ribbon from a Toucan Box activity. 2014-10-27 13.42.14

I cut lots and lots of strips (not as equally or tidily as I would have liked – though thankfully that was ok for this project)2014-10-27 13.42.30

And wrapped them around the ribbon with a slip knot.2014-10-27 13.42.23

Until it was long enough to go around Ana’s waist.

2014-10-30 12.48.23

I finished the ends of the ribbon with 4 Autumnal coloured wooden beads and finished with a knot.2014-10-30 12.47.12

The skirt is complete!2014-10-30 12.47.38

I made a pumpkin badge out of felt. I cut orange for the front and black for the back, eyes, and mouth. I sewed badge pins on the back and back stitched detail on the front such as lines to look more like an actual pumpkin. 2014-10-30 12.46.15

Pinned it to an orange T-shirt (which I finally found after much searching in the boy’s clothes section of BHS).2014-10-30 12.46.28 And finished off with a green juggling scarf as a headband.2014-10-30 12.48.42

And Hey Presto! A little Pumpkin girl 🙂

IMG_1521

And the best part is that the T-shirt is not ruined, because the pumpkin is only a badge, and the skirt can be used for another costume. Maybe a bee??

Autumn 2014

Autumn is my favourite season and I’ve decided we don’t pay it enough attention. It’s really important to me to live with and for the seasons – it brings variety to life and you truely appreciate the joys of nature given freely to us. The best things in life are free!

As a result I’m posting here a gallery of some autumn delights, and our autumn crafts and decorations.

 

What I have learnt from our Second Year of Growing our own Fruit & Veg

In 2014 we bought seeds to grow sunflowers, brussel sprouts, butternut squash, peas, salad leaves, tomatoes, spring onions, radishes, potatoes, chives and carrots. We also made a compost trench at the end of last year, and I planted a sprouting apple pip just as an experiment.

Sunflowers

2014-09-24 13.54.29

We planted our Sunflowers far too late, because my first two attempts failed. The problem mostly being replanting. Next year I shall make sure to replant them when they are young and protect them with a cloche and perhaps some egg shells. I will also make sure to support them with a bamboo stick and string.

Brussel Sprouts

2014-10-26 09.57.27

These are our Brussel Sprouts. There are about three plants looking similar to this one, and about similar in size. The most successful seems to be the one in a pot on top of the soil surrounded by egg shells. Successful in the sense that it is the least eaten, but it’s also the smaller of the three. Next year I shall be sure to protect these poor little plants from the naughty slugs, snails and caterpillars whose eggs I also noticed on one or two of my plants. I’m leaving them to do their thing as their are tiny little sprouts on one of them.

2014-10-26 09.56.592014-10-26 09.57.22

Who knows??

Butternut Squash

2014-10-26 09.57.48

After last years surprise squash I was determined to grow some this year. I planted a few seeds straight into the soil far too early when the soil was not warm enough and nothing came of them until the weather heated up. These were then very quickly eaten by those naughty slugs and snails. I managed to protect one sprouting seed with a cloche and the plant we ended up with is a result of that. Last year, as the plants came with no help from me, I thought they wouldn’t need any assistance this year either. But they germinated when it was warm and were protected by the mulch of the compost heap the seeds were thrown into. The slugs had lots of other goodies to gobble up on the way to my seedlings. So next year plant when soil is warm and protect them!

My other problem this year is harvesting and curing them. Knowing when to harvest them has been a headache to me. Some say to leave them on the vine until the vine itself goes brown and dies. But I read somewhere else that the squash will rot with the vine if you do that?? The first two squash that developed are nice and tanned, but now I’m confused about curing them. Can they cure when ripe but still on the vine? Do I need to leave them out in the sun? Bring them in in the rain and cold and night?? So far I have just left them and tomorow plan to harvest one. Apparently they turn sweeter if you cure and leave them?? Who knows? I don’t even know if all six will ripen before mid November when we are due our first frost when they must all be harvested by? Questions, Questions…

Peas

2014-07-04 11.11.42

I thought I’d learnt from last years mistake here. I put less seeds in the pot and made sure not to kill them with salt, however the same thing happened. The peas came out lovely, then suddenly they shriveled up and went brown exactly the same as last year before all the peas had matured. I can only guess that the pot is to blame and it was too small even for the amount I planted? I have more seeds left for next year so I am wondering if I should perhaps plant them in the ground instead.

Salad Leaves

2014-05-29 15.40.16

These were very unsucessful. We had Spinach Beet, Rocket, a mixed pack of seeds, and I don’t even remember what the leaves above were? Many bolted and went straight to seed because the soil was too dry (even in wet weather, the rain wasn’t hitting the window box), the spinach beet just didn’t do well possibly due to the pot being too small (?), and the mixed salad (apart from the basil which I recognised), I put straight on the compost heap because I din’t want to accidentally eat a weed thinking it was a salad leaf I didn’t know?

I think in future I’d prefer to grow salad leaves on a window ledge inside the house, and leaves I recognise and know what they should look like! And I’ll make sure they get the right amount of water so they don’t bolt.

Tomato

2014-10-26 10.02.32

I expected nothing from the tomato seeds I planted after last years fail, but they’ve surprised and delighted me! We’ve had dozens and dozens of lovely fresh tomatoes. It’s late October and they’re still growing! I’ve learnt that they really do taste better straight from the plant, even more so than if you put them on the window sill to ripen, or leave them on the side until your ready to use them. The only thing I did differently this year is support the plant with a stick, and make sure I pruned the side shoots. Ana enjoyed sprayed the shoots with a mist of water to encourage them to set, and we fed them with organic feed about once a week at the end of summer. Really impressed with our tomatoes this year!

Spring Onions

2014-07-04 11.14.49

I shall definitely be growing these again. No trouble! Pests don’t seem to like the onion smell and they grow quickly. Some we left until they were the size of a small onion :S and they add such a punch of needed flavour in a plain salad. Loved them!

Radishes

2014-05-09 14.19.12

Another great surprise. Apart from the slugs who liked to nibble on them, these radishes were really tasty. And I didn’t think I liked radishes!

Potato

2014-09-07 11.05.39

We didn’t seem to get any big potatoes this year. I grew the same kind (Rooster) but they only grew to salad potato size.I don’t know why this was. My mum had the same problem, and she planted hers straight into the ground. Maybe we will try a different variety next year.

Chives

2014-10-26 09.55.57

I replanted our chives twice, but other than that I more or less forgot about them. It was only the other day that I cut some for Ana and she loved them and asked for more! We made the mistake of planting ALL the seeds at once. That wasn’t my intention but Ana was helping. I don’t know how they do over winter or if you’re meant to harvest them before frost? I might leave them and see what happens. We only recently tried them because I didn’t know if they had to be left to a grow to a certain size first? Or when they are meant to flower? Can you eat them once they’ve flowered? Apparently you can eat the root too like a mini spring onion. We’re yet to try that. The individual roos are probably tiny anyway because so many seeds were planted at once.

Carrots

2014-07-27 11.28.45

We planted less this year and the carrots seemed to thank us for that. They grew a little bigger. Ana certainly delighted in picking these and she liked them fresh from the soil (after being rinsed).

Compost Trench

Last year we started a compost trench, though I’m not sure if I wrote about it. We don’t have a compost box, but I didn’t want that to stop us. We dug a trench, piled in our grass clippings and veg peelings and anything else we thought compostable, and it worked a treat! Our plants seemed to love the soil. Next year I hope not to buy any additional compost, but we’ll have to see. I’ll also have to keep composting over winter for that to work. At the moment we’re waiting to harvest our squash, then we’ll dig up the earth and make a new trench.

Apple Pip

2014-10-26 09.57.39

The sprouting apple pip from the apple in the fridge was this years surprise. I had no idea growing fruit was so complicated with grafting and family groups etc. The pip came from a delicious apple, but there is no guarantee what kind of apple will be produced from the pip. It’s a semi self fertilising variety, though that’s if it produces any fruit at all, which we wont know for a good few years. Again, a fun experiment and a great learning curve on the way! I’m leaving the baby plant in the garden over winter, but I’ve wrapped it in plastic wrap and a cloche, hopefully to keep it from severe frost. Only time will tell.

Posted in Uncategorised | 1 Reply