Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How much fun can you have...

with a box of shredded paper packaging?  Well, quite a lot, apparently.  First of all you can unload it and spread it around with your toy digger.

Then you can have snowball fights, without the freezing fingers. 

You can just roll around in it, and scoop it into little piles.

Then load it into your tipper truck and take it to the dump, which you have made from the cardboard box.

You could maybe take the brush through and make a start a clearing up.

Or find another more interesting game with the bargain boxes of washing powder (£2.60) that Mum couldn't resist at the Co-op  (even though it is the biological  stuff, and she didn't notice until she got home.)
Anyway - who needs toys when there are so many more interesting things to be getting on with?  Wonder what we'll do tomorrow.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Two boys and a tray of cupcakes

Expectant faces, James and Finlay patiently waiting... 

Ta Da!  Rose Cup Cakes for my daughter's birthday.

 Sadly they are finished now, but I will share the recipe, which can be found in the book Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery, by Martha Swift and Lisa Thomas.

Ingredients (makes 12 quite generous cup cakes)

110g unsalted butter at room temperature
225 g caster sugar
2 large eggs
150g self raising flour
125g plain flour
1/2 teasp rosewater, or to taste (mine was stronger )
10 ml milk at room temperature

Oven at 180 deg C/350deg F/Gas mark 4

Cream butter and sugar.  Beat in eggs one at a time.
Combine 2 flours in a separate bowl.  Mix rosewater into the milk, and test - add more if you think it needs it.
Add 1/3 flour to the creamed mix, beat well and then add1/3 milk.  Repeat until all has been added.  
(I always fold the last third in by hand,until it is just incorporated as I have found that overbeating a sponge mix means it doesn't rise well - learned that from Ina Garten, my food heroine.)

Spoon the mix into the cupcake cases and bake for around 25 minutes until they are golden brown and delicious.
Cool them,  top with rose buttercream and decorate as desired.

Rose Buttercream

115g unsalted butter at room temp
4 tablespoons milk at room temp
1 teasp vanilla extract (much as I love this, I would leave it out next time and go for the taste of straight rosewater.)
500g sifted icing sugar
1/2 teasp rosewater (again I used more, but maybe if I had left out the vanilla it might have been enough)
pink food colouring - optional (I had some raspberries in the freezer, which I defrosted and pushed through a sieve, a little bit of the juice made a lovely pink, and no Eeees)

Beat butter, milk, vanilla and half the icing sugar until smooth.  - takes a while, so use an electric mixer if you have one
Gradually add the rest of the sugar, and beat again until smooth and creamy
Add the rosewater at the very end and beat thoroughly - adding a bit more if need be.

I hope you enjoy these if you decide to give them a go.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

My Springtime baby is 30!!

Laughing chubby baby

Delightful little girl.  

Beautiful bride.

Wonderful daughter, mother, teacher and human being.  It has been a real privilege to share this world with you for the last 30 years.  I have been truly blessed.  Happy Birthday.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Another post about Spring and seed sowing

Now that the hens have been banished to their own sector for the growing season, I noticed this little chap making a tenuous return.  I haven't seen this growing for here a couple of years, although I knew it should have been.  Pulmonaria, or lungwort is a very pretty plant - white spotted leaves and pink and purple flowers. My grandparents had a huge bank of these flowering every spring, and my Gran called it Joseph's Coat.  I'm not sure if that was her own name for it, or a local one.  Anyway - I was very pleased to see it back again.

I took the tomato seedlings out to the greenhouse to pot them on. As you can see, some of them are a bit leggy. (Please ignore the plant labels in the picture - if you turn the tray around the proper names are there  - those are last year's showing on the back ) Anyhow, I potted them on into their own pots - just planted them deeper so they aren't falling over each other.  Hopefully this should encourage side roots to grow from the buried stem, so making the whole plant stronger.

So, now they look like this - except they are back in the conservatory.  All nicely labelled and misted with rescue remedy to reduce the trauma they have been through.  My friend Megg suggests using Walnut essence, as this helps them relocate.  I will remember that for next time.  Gosh - look at the mess under that staging - shame on me!  I refilled the propagator with red and yellow sweet pepper seeds - Golden Californian Wonder, and Red Bendigo, Cayenne chilli pepper, Golden Hubbard squash,  Oregano and Basil.  No stopping now!  

Monday, March 22, 2010

Book Sharing Monday - For Emma Joan.

Today's Book Sharing Monday post is dedicated to Emma Joan and her family. Blessings and love to them.  It is The Story of the Butterfly Children, by Sibylle von Olfers.  Exquisitely illustrated and simple charming story of the little Butterfly folk, who live in a magical kingdom of beautiful gardens and how they play all day, learning about the flowers, and practice fluttering among the sweet smelling blooms.

At first they are caterpillar children, then chrysalids, and finally, on the first day of Spring, theSsun sends his Sunbeams down to give the children their wings.

Soon all the other butterflies receive their wings
and follow their friends into the air.  They are not
chrysalids any longer.  They have become beautiful
butterflies!  The sky is full of colour as peacock, 
swallowtail, tortoiseshell, red admiral and many
other butterflies dance and flutter all around. How
happy they are to see each other.

Look out for the butterfly children dancing in your garden this year.  

Visit Alex who hosts Book Sharing Monday for more tales of wonder. 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Greenhouse sowing

Lots of seeds sown under glass today.  Here are this year's St Victor leeks starting off in compost filled toilet roll inserts. I will plant them out still in the pot, which will biodegrade in the soil. A good start.

A tray of summer cabbage (Derby Day), cauliflower (Snowball), Rainbow Chard  and Perpetual Spinach.  This spinach truly is perpetual, as I have been taking seeds from the same packet for several years now and there is still enough for another couple.  I enjoyed the same variety of cabbage last year, but I am never quite ready to harvest it on Derby Day, in mid June - more likely at the end of July, but nonetheless tasty for that. Rainbow Chard is always on the list - I love those brightly coloured glowing stems and large green leaves, but I have never been terribly good with cauliflowers.  No tight white curds here, but open green florets.  This year though, a  new variety, so who knows?

All tucked up under a polythene duvet we have broad beans (Super Aquadulce), curly and flat leaved parsley, more leeks (Atlanta and Pandora), Welsh Onion, lettuce (Red Batavian and Pinokkio), Calendula, sweet peas, and purple podded peas (Ezetha's Krombek Blauwschokker - I just love to say that out loud!).   

I could really be sowing some stuff outside now, but the hen defences are not quite in place yet - look at them scrabbling about there!  For all that, we seem to be quite a bit ahead compared to last year.  James being older and more inclined to do his own thing makes a big difference, and of course John being at home too, means we can work away quite nicely.. Lots of plans are whirling around in my head - including a herb spiral - definitely, definitely this year and much more year round planning. 

And now that the longer nights have arrived, we have more time to be out there.

And more time to gaze at the moon!  Warmest of Spring blessings to you all. 

Friday, March 19, 2010

What do you get when....

...you put a red and a yellow pepper through the juicer?

A glass of sunshine!  Mmmmm.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Gardening again

So, here we are, another season (another reason) for showing lots of pictures of vegetable beds in various stages of growth.  This is the leek bed at the top, still with a fair amount of crop left - they are St Victor, a lovely blue leaved and very hardy variety.  Apparently they can be left in until May, by which time I will be ready to put in my kale and brocolli.  I do follow a crop rotation system, but it is fairly loose. The bed in the middle of the picture contains lots of shallots - a whole bed of Red Sun, in fact, and is covered in very thorny prunings of wild rose and holly to deter the neighbourhood cats.  Oh - and see that cage thing in the very top of the picture?

No, it's not the latest idea from Super Nanny, or one of the other parent and child torturers!  It did form part of the failed defences againt the hens, and will become a new defence against cabbage white butterfly, with some discreet netting applied.  That is, of course, if James lets me  - he seems to have appropriated it as a den.
Talking about defence against the red hens - notice the more subtle fencing in this picture.   A 7 foot high chicken wire fence has relaced the totally ineffective orange security net contraption that we previously had.  I am almost confident that I will be able to skip in and out of the side door in my summer sandals without trailing hen poop into the kitchen.  We'll see - methinks those ladies have other ideas, somehow!

Anyway, a quick stop for lunch outside and then back to the tools.

More fencing along the top of the veg plot this time, and we are set for another exciting roller coaster gardening year.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tomato Time Again!

Hurray!  We sowed our tomato seeds on Friday.  After a long discussion and much poring over seed catalogues and a fairly thorough post-mortem of last year's performance, the Tomato Team (which consists of James, my Dad, and me) made our decision on what to grow this year.  And the surprise result is a clean sweep for the Reds!  We felt that the White Tomasol was a complete washout, both in cropping terms and in flavour,  the Black from Tula was tasty, but wasn't juicy enough and tended to go soft very quickly, while Sungold was alright but the skins were a shade tough.  So - here is what we are growing this year - all organic
  • Burpees Delicious
  • San Marzano
  • Lylia Cerisette
  •  Moneymaker
And here they are steaming away nicely in their cosy propagator.

Stop Press!!!  This morning when we lifted the lid pf the propagator we found a tiny green shoot peeking through (see small red arrow) .  It is a San Marzano - later on a Lylia Cerissett appreared too!  I just love the excitement and buzz of watching seeds grow. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Just a song at twighlight.

Every evening we are entertained by this maestro.  His sweet tenor voice resounds in the garden until darkness has fallen.  He trills his beautiful song long after the other birds have quietened down, occassionaly interrupting his tune to chime a sharp warning 'chink chink' if he senses danger.
By that time, most of our garden birds are roosting in this tall juniper, or in the overgrown privet hedges that surround the top part of the garden, and apart from Mr Blackbird, only quiet chirpings and murmurings can be heard as they settle down after their busy day.
And they are very busy right now - collecting all sorts of bits and pieces for their nests - flying around, diving into hedges and undergrowth all over the place, stopping off now and then for a quick snack.  There is a definite air of purposefulness.  Our garden is a bit wild and messy, so there are always lots of debris lying around that the birds can use.
Today I gave James a haircut - not too drastic, just a wee trim.  What better use for those soft blond curls than to nestle some little baby birds in?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Spring Nature Table

Just a quick post to show our newly revamped nature table in its Spring colours. Even though we still have some vestiges of snow lying around, there is a definite scent of spring in the air.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A snuggly day.

James was feeling a bit poorly today - he woke up in the night and informed me he had a cold.  I had thought yesterday he was 'hanging' for something, as we say here abouts.  Anyway, such a day called for some quiet down time,
 and burning of tea tree and eucalyptus oil,
lots of chammomile tea with honey and lemon to drink,
some gentle remedies,
and lots of snuggles on the couch with his favourite blanket and all the teddies - oh, and Mum too, when she put her camera down!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Holding on as much as we can.

We visited Gran in hospital today.  She was looking very relaxed and settled.  The hairdresser had been in, and the nursing assistant had given her a manicure.  She had participated in a chair exercise session that morning, and had watched a film after lunch.  She seems to be far less agitated in this setting, much as I thought she would.  She's  not sure why she is there, and yet she thinks this is where she has always been.  She knows this wee boy's smile though.
Thanks you for all your supportive and gentle messages about Mum. I have a half drafted post in my head somewhere about my thoughts and feelings regarding this.  It may come out fully fledged one day - who knows?  For now, though, we are just holding on as much as we can. 

Monday, March 1, 2010

Book Sharing - Life without school

I just have to share this book with you today.  I know this Mama has also chosen it as her book of the week, but I make no apology for doing likewise -  Life without School: the quiet revolution, by Veronika Sophia Robinson, Eliza Serena Robinson, Bethany A Robinson, Paul Robinson is a beautiful and inspiring story of an unschooled family's life. It gently takes us through their story, telling us their thoughts, hopes, dreams and the reality of their daily lives.  It never preaches or tries to make shrill, clever arguments for their way of life, yet it certainly gives plenty food for thought (as well as delicious recipes)  We are welcomed into their home, beside the cosy wood fire,  and soon slip into their rhythm..  A magical book, and though I didn't want it to end, I nevertheless read it almost non-stop - even while stir frying vegetables for Saturday night dinner!   Here is a sample.
Life without school is a scrapbook of my family's memories: snapshots of our life.  If you can imagine this book as a patchwork quilt full of different ideas and images, in no particular order, yet all sewn together, you'll get a picture of our unschooling life.
It's 8pm on a deep dark and snowy December evening in 2008.  I'm perched just inches from the wood fire, writing up notes for this book.  Bethany is knitting a Christmas gift beneath the light of the lamp, a cat snoozing upon her lap.  Eliza, deep in thought, is writing a story about a home-educated girl; and Paul is reading.  On the piano rests a piece of music called Tingalaya that Eliza composed earlier in the day in honour of a Sun Goddess she'd created during her story writing.
Such a scene couldn't be further removed from what most people consider to be education, and yet, here, by the hearth of our home, lies the heart of our family's journey of home education.

I just wanted to be there, and I was so glad to be part of it for a short while.

Book sharing monday is graciously hosted by Alex at Canadian Home Learning.
Life without school is available from Starflower Press 
Veronika and Paul Robinson edit The Mother Magazine


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