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.

3 ingredient wood polish

I am really pleased with this wood polish I made. For surfaces other than wood I use the lemon enzyme cleaner I shared in the previous post but for wood this polish is really nourishing. The nicest part is that you can scent it however you like with essential oils of your choice, I use my own theives blend.

Like most of my cleaning products it’s wonderfully simple just 3 ingredients.

200ml Olive oil

200ml White vinegar

15 drops essential oil

Add to a glass spray bottle (I store all my cleaning products in glass because essential oils can degrade plastic) and shake gentle to mix.

To use spray on the surface you wish to clean, leave for a few seconds and polish with a soft cloth.

Natural cleaning

In 2018 we made the switch to more natural cosmetics and really felt happy about banishing some pretty nasty chemicals from our home. 2019 has seen us made the switch to natural cleaning products and the difference it has made is quite startling. The main benefit for me personally is in my skin, particularly on my hands. Usually by this point in the year my hands are extremly dry, cracked and painful. Since switching our cleaning products to natural alternatives they are soft, not irritated and not cracked. It’s so lovely!

My reason for switching to more natural products is two fold. The first is for environmental reasons. The second reason is for health. I am increasingly concerned about the ingredients used in cosmetics and cleaning products that have been linked to cancer and blamed for interfering with the endocrine system in humans and animals. We have all been healthier since we made the switch.

Today I thought i’d share the first thing I made, a multipurpose cleaner I use on the tub, tiles, sink, stove, pots and pans. It can be used to pre treat laundry stains and on carpet stains too. I am very pleased with it.

Multi-purpose cleaner

115 ml castile soap

105 grams bicarbonate of soda

5-10 drops of essential oils

Mix the ingredients to a smooth paste and store in a glass jar. Clean surfaces with the paste using a soft cloth (I like eco egg re-usable bamboo towels). For stain removal apply the paste and spray with hydrogen peroxide before laundering.

Depending on where I am using this cleaner I vary which essential oils I use. I like lemon for the kitchen for its fresh scent and antibacterial properties. For the bathrooms I use organic defence by Neal’s Yard Remedies. It’s a blend of lemongrass, niaouli and thyme and has antibacterial and anti-viral properties as well as supporting the bodies immune system and purifing the air. It has been specially blended with cleaning in mind.

DIY shower jellies

I have two daughters and they LOVE a certain shop full of multicoloured bath bombs, shower jellies and candy flavoured lotions – you know the one I mean.

I can see the appeal, I really can and there are MUCH worse cosmetics out there but there are still ingredients in their products that i’m not happy about my girls using. Ingredients that have been linked to fertility issues and cancer. In reading a lot of their ingredients lists it occured to me I could make these products quite easily at home and so without further waffle from me I give you DIY shower jellies.

Ingredients

240ml water

120ml Neal’s Yard Create hair and body wash (£6.50 for 250ml)

1 sachet Gelatine or Aggar if you prefer a vegan option

Essential oils of your choice (again I choose Neal’s Yard for their quality)

Food colouring (optional)

Silicone moulds/clean plastic container/jam jar

In a ban Marie begin to warm your water when it is just starting to bubble add the create wash and stir.

Add a few drops of your chosen essential oils (I recommend you do a little research about these super oils, their properties and dilution guides this book is extremely helpful).

Stir well and then add a tiny amount of food colouring – don’t use too much or you’ll colour yourself in the shower. The soap will cloud slightly this is normal.

Stir well whilst continuing to warm gently.

When your ingredients are well mixed and heated but not boiling remove from the heat, pour into a measuring jug and sprinkle in the gelatine (follow the instructions the pack).

Mix well and pour into your chosen moulds.

Allow to cool to room temperature and then put in fridge to fully set.

Turn out of the moulds and store in a jam jar or similar container. You may want to avoid keeping your jellies in a warm room such a the bathroom in case they melt before you want them to. Enjoy!