July

July really went by in a flash and ended in a heatwave. It’s always such a busy month. Here is a little roundup of what we enjoyed this month.

In Cambridgeshire July is Open studio month. Every weekend in July artists open their studio’s to the public. Each one is unique there is so much variety . Its a real privileged to be able talk to so many talented local artists about their work. One studio we NEVER miss is that of local watercolour artist Susan Eddy. I have known Sue all my life and it’s a real thrill to visit her studio each year and see how her work has evolved year on year. Her studio is idilically situated at her beautiful home and her garden i pretty wonderful too as are in her chickens. A highlight for the children.

I always find the end of term emotional, it never fails to make me reflective. This year was significant as my eldest daughter left primary school and will begin at secondary school in September. She has loved her primary school from reception right through. Made a very special best friend who I think will remain a friend for life. Her 7 years at our village primary have been turbulent to say the least my daughter has had no less than 5 headteachers during this time. The changes have been many and not always for the best. However her school and some fantastic teachers along the way has given her the incredible gift of a love and passion for learning that I know will last a lifetime.

On the allotment we had a good crop of both blackcurrants and rhubarb this year. I have successfully made delicious cordials of them. The blackcurrant is particularly good for making ice lollies with but the rhubarb is my favourite with its slightly more complex flavour and subtle hints of ginger and lemon. Here are the recipies I used rhubarb cordial and blackcurrant cordial.

Last month I recommended My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell that I am reading with my daughter the budding naturalist. This month I though it would be nice to include a book review from our resident bookworm who we shall call Freckles. Here is her review of the Skylarks War by Hilary McKay.

I would recommended The Skylarks War to anyone who likes novels set in the wartime aged 9 to 100+. It’s descriptions of Cornwall in the summers between 1908 – 1913 make for perfect summer reading

I liked how the story focuses on 3 main characters not one. Clarry is a brave femanist girl who wants to be just like her older brother Peter. Peter wants to be like his cousin Rupert. Every summer they spend in carefree Cornwall with their Grandparents but everything changes when World War One breaks out and Rupert joins up.

The war changes all the characters and it seems their carefree “skylark summers” are lost for now. A beautifully written book that’s transports you into its world of excitment and fear.

I enjoyed this book Hillary Mckay’s style and beautiful descriptions of England in the early 1900’s drew me in gently to this story before it became a gripping tale of survival and the passage of time.

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Falafel stuffed peppers

It’s been a little while since I shared a recipe. I cooked this the other day and to my amazement all 3 of my children ate it. 2 of them asked for more! So after I danced myself stupid grinning madly from ear to ear I thought i’d best share this recipe.

Ingredients

  • Red peppers
  • Falafel’s
  • Grated cheese
  • 2 eggs

Method

Half and deseed the peppers and lay them in an oven dish with a little drizzle of olive oil and some seasoning. In a bowl mash the falafel, add the beaten eggs and grated cheese (I used cheddar, feta woukd be lovely for more of a tang. Lots of possibilities here) and mix to combine.

Stuff the peppers with the falafel mixture. Press the mixture into the peppers so there are no air pockets. Add some extra grated cheese if you wish.

Bake in an over 200’C (180’C fan) for 35-40mins until the peppers are soft and tender.

Enjoy!

June 2019

It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.

Maud Hart Lovelace

Oh June, be still my heart. My very favourite month. The garden looks wonderful and the roses this year are particularly floriferous after a cool spring. Here is my little round up of what has bought us joy this June.

My daughter and I have been reading Gerald Durrels book My family and other animals. We are thoroughly enjoying it! My daughter is a keen naturalist and has been from tiny so I’ve been wanting to read this with her for a long time. I’m glad I waited until now. At 9 she is enjoying it imensly. Soaking up the wonderful stories about the insects and wild animals on corfu, laughing at the chaos of the Durrell family life and is thoroughly scandalised by the occasional swear word. This gives her the sense she is reading something very grown up and naughty.

I believe that all children should be surrounded by books and animals.

Gerald Durrell

If you enjoyed the recent tv series you’ll enjoy the book even more.

Some people take part in 30 days wild during June. With our aforementioned naturalist in the house every day is wild and we are never far from wildlife in one form or another. My daughter has been keen to have a pond for a long time. Our garden is no more than a postage stamp so accommodating a pond has been challenging. we have tried various forms of container pond. The first one was a large terracotta pot painted inside with waterproof paint. It lasted quite well until one particularly cold winter when it froze several inches deep and cracked open. This meant an emergency re homing of her goldfish which miraculously survived. So last year we experimented with submerging a small plastic bucket into the ground. It worked well, survived the winter and before the summer was out we had a resident frog. Recently we found a large plastic half barrel container in a charity shop and hatched a plan for a pond epansion.

After much grumpiness from Daddy about having to dig the hole the new pond looks good and we are looking forward to planting it up. I hope this encourages you all to take a walk on the wild side with a pond however small your garden.

If a pond feels a little ambitious how about capturing the esennce of June and making some strawberry and elderflower jam. Recipe by Lavender and Leeks. I used my own homemade elderflower cordial, the recipe can be found in a previous post.

We have enjoyed some spectacular open gardens in June. I am always so grateful to those who open their garden to the public and never fail to be inspired.Above is a picture from one of my favourite gardens we visited. Aren’t those pots beautiful? What inspired me about this garden was the attention to detail. Every inch of it felt nurtured and carefully considered. Nothing was left ungardened. It certainly got me thinking about my own garden at home. You can find open gardens near you through the National Open Gardens Scheme (NGS). You might just be amazed at what’s on your doorstep.

Thieves

It’s aromatherapy week, how exciting!

I thought i’d share with you my very own thieves recipe. But first a little history lesson, indulge me because I find this fascinating.

The story goes that during the 15th century when the plague was endemic throughout Europe. The traid routes through Europe and Asia were closed to try and stop the spread of this awful disease. The wealthy merchants of the time had their livelihood ruined. Four such merchants turned to a life of crime stealing from wealthy plague victims to earn their fortune. Amazingly they never contracted the highly infectious plague and became legendary. The king of the time put out a ransom for their arrest. Upon their eventual arrest he offered them a deal, their secret for their lives.

Lucky for us they took that deal and shared the secret of the spices and herbs they had once traided and now used to protect them from the plauge. The recipe was shared and Dr’s at the time used it in the beaks of their plague masks to protect themselves against infection.

In 1997, Weber State University did a study that found the Thieves essential oil blend to have a 99.96% success rate at killing airborne bacteria.

Weather of not the story is true or just legend history and now science has proven the essential oils in thieves are truly antiseptic, antibacterial and antiviral. They will stimulate the immune system benefit the circulation and respiratory systems. And help protect against disease.

Above is a traditional Thieves recipe. Since I have young children and some of these oils (most noteably eucalyptus) are not safe to use around children I researched alternative and created my own child safe thieves blend*. Which I find brilliantly effective and use (diluted) in the sick room via inhalation and as a ingredient in my homemade cleaning products (see previous posts)

You will need a small coloured glass bottle with a dropper lid or pipette to mix and store your thieves blend in. I used an old bach flower remedy bottle.

To make up my bottle which I have had almost a year now and I’ve used less than half of it you will need

  • 80 drops of clove essential oil
  • 70 drops of lemon essential oil
  • 40 drops of cinnamon essential oil
  • 30 drops of pine essential oil
  • 10 tea tree essential oil

*please do your own research about essential oils before you use them. This is a blend I have designed based on the ages of my own children and the particular circumstances in my own home. Please seek advice from a trained professional if you have any doubts.

Essential oils a simple guide.

What are essential oils? How can I use them? Are they safe? How do they differ from any other scented product?

We all know a couple of drops of lavender oils can help aid relaxation and a good nights sleep. Maybe your midwife recommended it to promote healing after you had a baby or maybe you’ve used tea tree to cure a skin condition but did you know there are 100’s of essential oils all with their own unique properties?

It’s no secret I love essential oils. I have turned to them since childhood, throughout my teens and into adulthood. As an adult I have studied and increased my learning of these potent oils, always mindful of the safety of my young family.

What are essential oils?

Essential oils have been used for thousands of years in traditional remedies to enhance health and wellbeing. Essential oils are highly concentrated plant essences each with its own unique chemistry and distinct therapeutic properties. The quickest way for the body to absorb essential oils is by inhaling their aroma which has a direct effect on the brain and allows them to be absorbed into the blood steam via the lungs. Other routes include massage and bathing.

It is the therapeutic properties of essential oils that make them radically different to other fragrance products which use synthetic compounds to create a nice smell but have no therapeutic properties.

How can I use essential oils in my day to day life?

I use essential oils every day – research has found people who use essential oils regularly have a stronger immune system than those who don’t, amazing hey! I use oils in a diffuser to scent my home and help my mood, in my cleaning products to fight germs, in my beauty products (shower gel, deodorant, face cream, soap etc) and for first aid where appropriate. They are wonderfully versatile and powerful when used correctly

Are they safe?

I am VERY big on safety so I want to be really clear on this do your homework before you start using any oil. ALWAYS dilute your oils well they are extremly concentrated and powerful! As a general rule as a beginner start with a 1% dilution of essential oil to carrier oil (good news your precious essential oils will last a LONG time).

NEVER EVER ingest oils. This sadly is a new craze promoted by some unscrupulous essential oil companies every independent aromatherapy governing body in the UK is very clear ingesting oils is not recommended.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, using oils around young children or pets please do your own research about the safety of the essential oils you are using.

Finally make sure the oils you are using are the real deal and not synthetic – they should list the Latin plant name as the primary ingredient. Buy from a reputable company. I like to buy organic where possible because to me it makes no sense to have pesticides mixing with your essential oils.

So there we have it. That’s my quick guide to essential oils. I hope you can see why I think they are so amazing and why I enjoy using them.

I wanted to finish with a quick overview of the essential oils I use most often in my natural cleaning products as I have shared quite a few recipies on this blog lately.

Lemon

A great degreaser and natural antiseptic with an uplifting and invogorating fragrance that helps promote clear thinking. I use it a lot in the kitchen

Pine

Pine is antiseptic, purifies the air and repels insects and has energising properties.

Clove

Used during World War 2 to disinfect hospitals! Clove has a warm and scent and soothing effect on the mind.

Bergamot

Antiseptic, cooling and soothing. Also an effective de-odorizer that repels insects.

DIY magnetic poster rails

Lovely contemporary posters are easy to find and cheap to buy. I picked up two botanical illustrations that were being sold as wrapping paper at Cambridge Botanical Garden but present indicative has a brilliant range. I wanted to keep them light and hang them using poster rails rather than framing them. Posters rails I discovered are not cheap. I didn’t want to be paying over £30 to hang my £3 posters. So I made my own and you can too. This project cost me £11.06 and was a very easy afternoon project.

I bought 2 lengths of decorative edging/dowel at my local hardware shop. It’s cheap as chips at less than £2 for a 2.4 meter lengrh. For each poster you wish to hang you will need 4 lengths of wood the width of your poster. My posters were 50cm wide. I cut the wood into 55cm lengths so there was a little over hang at either end. 1 length of wood was enough to hang 1 poster.

I chose to stain my wood with some varnish I had left over from another project to match the console table the posters are going to hang above. Painting or varnishing the wood is optional.

I didn’t paint my nails for this photo I’m just the kind of person who is stupid enough to paint her nails and then go varnish some wood.

Once varnished or painted cut the wood to the length you want and sand the ends so they are smooth and even.

Stick magnetic tape (you’ll need tape with both polarities so it sticks to itself) cut to the same length as your poster is wide to the inside of each piece of wood. On one of the rails attach some fine string, cord or braid so you can hang your posters. You should have 4 equal lengths that look like this.

Sandwhich your poster between the 2 rails ensuring the rail with the string is at the top of your poster. Hang using a picture hook then Stand back and admire your handy work. You could Sandwhich 2 posters between the rails so you can flip the rail over and have different art work whenever you fancy a change.

April favourites

April was not as warm as it sometimes is but neither was it wet. Easter was gloriously hot and sunny but after that the sunshine seemed to allude us.

Every moment we could spare we spent at the allotment and our efforts were rewarded with the first crop of rhubarb. We have weeded and mulched the whole plot. Planted summer fruiting raspberries and a second blue berry bush.

At home we have sown sweetcorn, zinnias, white cosmos, dhalia’s. Pumpkins, carrots, sunflowers, courgettes, a cucumber and tomatoes and will transplant them out at the allotment when they are bigger and the water is finally switched on down there.

We visited Sir Issac Newton’s birth place at Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire. The children enjoyed the excellent science centre very much and I was inspired by the display of snakes head fritillary that had been naturalised under the tree’s in the famous apple orchard. In the autumn I think i will get some bulbs and do the same under our walnut tree.

Every April this beautiful rambling rose flowers against the old houses at the top of the High Street in our village. It puts on quite a display. Rosa Banksia Lutea is a prolific rambler with very little scent that only flowers once but it puts on such a show when it does flower. Every year it stops me in my tracks. I am delighted to say I have successfully managed to take a cutting from it which is now 2 years old and growing healthily.