Tuesday, 31 January 2012

A Thousand & One Nights Arabian Rose Syrup

When I read blogs that mention food, I often find myself inadvertently cooking something similar over the following week. Some favourite foodie blogs include; Lavender & Lovage, Allotment 2 Kitchen, Simply Breakfast & The Quince Tree.

Lately, I've taken to reading cookery books before going to bed but I then find myself dreaming of food...Working in a bookshop whets the appetite for even more reading (aided & abetted by my fellow colleague LitLove who is always able to recommend a good read).

A few weeks ago, I found a copy of 'A Thousand & One Nights'. Last weekend I started to read it & promptly found myself dreaming of Arabian Nights inspired rose syrup...so I made some.

I gently heated 250ml of water & 400g of sugar in a pan over a low heat.Then I added about a tablespoon of lemon juice & simmered for 10 mins without stirring. 


Last of all I stirred in a few drops of red food colouring & 75ml of Rose Water. When it started to cool I bottled it.

The recipe was based on one from Wendyl Nissen. She suggests adding it to gin. Me, I'm dreaming up 1001 ways to use it...ice cream, sparkling wine, sparkly water, cocktails, whipped in with cream, in meringue, over strawberries, over rice pudding, mixed with elderflower cordial, ice lollies...

* measurement conversion tables can be found here

Sunday, 29 January 2012


I've been finding the Backlane Notebook Challenge quite difficult at the moment. As interesting plants appear in the garden the 'to-pick-or-not-to-pick' debate starts up in my head. Thankfully the hellebores have now sprung into life...

The Making Winter Blog hop for January is still open to ideas for cosiness & comfort. There are also lots of wonderful photos to be seen over here.

Friday, 27 January 2012

A Bowl of Comfort

I mean soup not fabric conditioner...

We had a butternut squash & another squash that's too big for a patty pan squash (if you know the name please let me know).

I peeled them, cubed them & then roasted with garlic, olive oil & lots of seasoning. (The nameless squash was just quartered & then scooped out when roasted)

Into a large pan went the roasted squash, some chopped onions, 6 sage leaves & some stock. After about 20 mins on a medium heat the smell wafting around the kitchen was divine & the mixture in the pot was ready to blitz.

I added ground nutmeg, a pot of creme fraiche & a tadge more seasoning.

Comfort in a bowl...

With added croutons (garlic & rosemary- courtesy of Silverpebble).

P.S. Having only recently tasted a spaghetti squash for the first time, I am very keen to know where to go for more...it anyone knows a supplier near Cambridge please let me know!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Thrifty Balm

During the winter months, my skin needs extra comfort. I like to use balm but am always shocked at the exorbitant price charged for it. Depending on which ingredients you use, balm can be made from as little as 50p per 50ml. Another bonus is that it only takes about 5 mins to make, 10-20 mins to cool...& the washing-up is minimal. Stored in a dry, cool environment, a 50ml pot of balm will last me about 2-3 months. Today I made 2 lots of balm; a pot of lavender balm & another pot of olive oil & rosemary balm.

Lavender Balm

First of all, I found some lidded containers to put the balm in (saved from face cream). Then I measured the volume of the container (I couldn't find my measuring jug so resorted to measuring spoons & water instead) 

Using basic measurements of 5ml oil to 1g wax, here's what I did...

To make a 50ml jar of balm 

30ml oil (sunflower, olive, almond, etc...)
6g beeswax
10 drops essential oil (if using)

Grate the wax straight into the jar/pot. Add the oil. Put the jar/pot of oil/wax in the microwave (place some kitchen absorbent paper underneath the pot in case of spillages).

Grated wax in pot, add the oil then melt...

Microwave on medium heat until all the wax has melted. (I microwaved the pot on medium heat for 1 min, then rested it for 1 min then gave it another 30 secs.)

Carefully stir the hot liquid with the end of a teaspoon. When you remove the spoon the liquid sticking to it should quickly start to set to a balm consistency.

At this stage you can add essential oil. (I like lavender, chamomile or geranium)

Leave the liquid to cool & set. If the balm is too hard, add more oil & remelt. If it's too liquid, add more grated wax & remelt.

I prefer to use the microwave as there is no need to transfer hot liquid between containers. If you don't want to use a microwave, use the double boiler method (pyrex/glass bowl over a pan of simmering water- ensure the base of the bowl does not touch the hot water, melt & then carefully transfer to container whilst still in liquid form).

A small amount of Vitamin E oil can also be added as a preservative (use the contents of one vitamin E capsule for each 20ml of oil). Sometimes, I like to add a small amount of honey to the mix before it's melted (approx half teaspoon for each 20ml of oil)

A 30g bar of beeswax costs about £2.  I often use oil from the food cupboard but you can also buy special oils such as almond, grape seed, rose hip, etc... at a health food shop (also check out pharmacies). If you don't have any essential oils try using a stronger oil such as olive oil or a flavoured oil (rosemary is very good!)

This basic balm recipe can be used to create;
  • lip balm
  • rich hand/nail cream (especially good after building/ gardening type activities)
  • deeply moisturising face balm
  • night balm (lavender or chamomile essential oil)
  • foot cream
  • balm for dry skin (steep calendular petals in oil for a few weeks, strain then add to wax)
  • vapour rub for colds/coughs (add Olbas oil or eucalyptus essential oil)
  • anti-bug rub (add lemongrass or citronella essential oil)
Olive Oil & Rosemary Balm
For more ideas on how to bring cosiness & comfort to the winter months, visit the January Making Winter Blog Hop over at Silverpebble...

Saturday, 21 January 2012

The January Making Winter Blog Hop

Cyclamen, Astelia & Euphorbia

The next blog hop for the Making Winter Project will be taking place over at Silverpebble, starting this Monday 23rd January 2012. Emma has declared that January & February are by far the worst & most miserable months of winter so we've decided that cosiness & comfort are what we'll be aiming for in the next blog hop...

Here's a quick recap of the last 2 months...

We started off in November (click on picture to view Blog Hop)

Then we got a bit festive in December (click on picture to view Blog Hop)

Meanwhile, over on the Flickr group page, there has been lots of photo sharing...

I'm really looking forward to enjoying the creativity of the, cosiness & comfort themed, Making Winter blog hop!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Another bunch...

I'm still keeping up with Backlane Notebook's challenge but it is quite difficult at the moment. I'd been hoping that the hellebores would be ready but they're not quite there yet...

So instead I have dried allium heads from the summer & some pussy willow that I was given last year. The hellebores will just have to wait until next week.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Page Turning

I've made a pledge to read the printed word & added the button to my side bar. It was not a difficult pledge to make because there is a certain something about books that never fails to draw me in (especially when, having watched the video clip, you realize what they get up to at night!)

When I was a child, an elderly relation told me that disappearing in to a book was like entering another world. That feeling of wonder has never left me. The enjoyment levels are raised even higher when a previous reader has scribbled notes in the margins or left tantalizing glimpses of their life behind (postcards, tickets, letters, sketches, bookmarks, pressed flowers, money...)

I am no Luddite; I understand why kindles are so popular. If I was constantly on the move or going on a very long holiday or studying literature or living in the middle of nowhere, a kindle would be wonderful.

But, on the whole, the lure of the kindle seems to have passed me by. It's the page turning of an actual book that kindles my flame.

Friday, 13 January 2012


Ok, so I make it sound as if I'm living in the dark ages in some unheated garret or something. But no, I just have terrible circulation & have always suffered from chilblains.

I follow the medical advice to keep my feet at an even temperature & to wear natural fibres but I still manage to get the dreaded chilblains.

Here's what helps me to alleviate the burning itchiness of my poor swollen toes...

A mustard foot bath- luke warm water & mustard powder

Coat the toes in the hottest mustard available & elevate the feet. The burning sensation goes within about 10 mins but you do look (& smell) a bit strange...

Before going to bed massage the toes with a teaspoon of oil with 2 drops of ginger essential oil & 2 drops of black pepper essential oil (Tiger balm, 'Snowfire' or Olbas oil also does the trick)

On the bright side, I never get chilblains on my fingers...

Does anyone know of any other remedies?

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Freezer 3D Puzzle

In the process of trying to cram as many Christmas leftovers in to the freezer as possible I realised that I had to empty everything & start repacking from scratch.

I do try to label everything but there is still that horrible moment when I'm examining an item desperately wracking my brain as to what it is & when I froze it & what am I going to use it for?

Despite that, I still like freezing things. As well as the usual frozen items & my limoncello & copious amounts of fruit & vegetables frozen during gluts, I also freeze;

  • Lemon rind, orange rind, lime rind
  • chopped herbs (basil chopped & frozen with olive oil in ice cube trays)
  • egg whites in ice cube trays (1 egg white per cube)
  • whipped cream (in handy sized dollops)
  • breadcrumbs
  • crumble topping/scone mix (I always make too much & then end up freezing it)
  • milk
  • grated ginger, frozen in teaspoon sized dollops
  • chilli
  • garlic & herb dough for pizza making (I always make twice as much as I need)
  • small pots of white sauce/cheese sauce (Mr TH dislikes both but I'll often crave it)
  • pesto in an ice cube tray so that I can use a teaspoon at a time
  • pure wool clothing (kills moth eggs & a full freezer is more efficient & I'm still entertained by the expression on Mr TH's face when he first realised that I froze my woollies)
  • Christmas mincemeat (I made far too much as usual)
  • brandy butter in teaspoon sized dollops
  • leftover fruit juice frozen in lolly molds
  • dregs of wine in ice cube trays (to use in cooking)
  • butter cut into thirds (I'm the only one who eats it)
  • grated cheese (I never seem to be able to finish a whole piece so end up grating & freezing it)
  • quinces drained from the quince brandy & damsons from the damson gin (to be used in cooking/sauces for ice cream)
  • a well sewn & sealed wheat bag for when a cold pack is needed (I stopped using the 'bag of peas' when I ended up with a trouser leg full of frozen peas after I broke a toe- it's a long & sorry tale of woe!)

Is there anything else I could be freezing?

Monday, 9 January 2012

From Where I Stand...

Inspired by Domesticali's feet, I'm determined to join in her new feat (sorry couldn't resist that one- I really must learn to toe the line...I'll let you know when I've got it nailed...ENOUGH!)

Here are my feet yesterday, en route to support me as I cleared out the garden shed. Something as uninspiring as tidying out the shed has to be built up to gradually. I find that a tour of the garden to see what's happening usually helps!

& here they are again, a few hours later, having washed away that certain 'eau de shed' feeling...

There's also a From Where I Stand flickr pool group to join...

Sunday, 8 January 2012

From Skip to Garden

I like skips. I like skips so much that each time we pass one I have to stop & have a good look inside, just in case...I have been like this ever since I was a child. I blame my Dad (I learned by example).

Skips have provided me with some very useful containers for the garden...

An old metal wine cooler
The hopper from a downpipe

My latest hopper...adapted to go on the wall...but not quite there yet...

& decorative items too (Mr TH is less sure)

Air bricks

Imagine how thrilled I was to discover that somebody at RHS Hyde Hall likes rescuing 'rubbish' too...

I'm not too sure about the boots but they do make me smile!

I'm tempted to copy the pipe idea, especially if I can find some of those brown glazed earthenware drainage pipes.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

A Virtual Bunch of Flowers

Yes, you read the title correctly...

Today, brandishing my secateurs, I went in search of the latest bunch of flowers for Backlane Notebook's challenge.

I decided that the hellebore flowers weren't yet big enough...

& there was only one snowdrop...

So I would go for the grey, green Euphorbia Wulfenii

intermingled with some dazzling red Cornus.

In my mind I had cut the Euphorbia stems shorter than the Cornus. They would look suitably dramatic & theatrical in this glass...

The secateurs were poised ready for the first cut but I just couldn't bring myself to do it...

Therefore, I'm presenting a virtual bunch of flowers this week (safe in the knowledge that I can enjoy looking out at the uncut Euphorbia & Cornus for the next few months to come)

Friday, 6 January 2012

Calling all Hibernophyles!

The festive Making Winter blog hop seems a long time ago now. Thank you to everybody who joined in & brought some hygge to the season! If you want a reminder of all those who took part please pop over to Silverpebble or look at the photos.

Now that Christmas is officially over...

All the leftover food has been consumed (or frozen)

We took the tree down last night & it is now waiting, forlornly, by the dustbins, ready to be taken to the Christmas tree recycling point.

I collected all the Christmas cards together & upcycled them ready for next year. This involved watching a film on TV, drinking wine, drawing around the glass of wine & doing lots of cutting out & sticking...(That's my kind of multi-tasking!)

50 cards ready for next year, cost including envelopes, £2.99

The upcoming months are going to be a real challenge for me as a hibernophyle to convince Emma, the hibernophobe, of the wonders of winter. I know that she regards these months as the very worst in the year! So for the January blog hop we're going to be thinking about cosiness & comfort...

The next Making Winter blog hop will be hosted by Silverpebble, starting on Monday 23rd January 2012.

P.S. Hibernophobe comes up as Hobnob on spellchecker...& hygge is hugger...


Thursday, 5 January 2012

Lemon Curd

2012 has well & truly started. I have defiantly refused to make any resolutions but thought up a list of 'wishful intentions' to go in my side bar instead.

The best thing about making lists is crossing things off the list...I've often intended to make Lemon Curd but never quite got round to it. Having added it to the list, I immediately set about making it!

Lemon Curd is a favourite of mine, especially when it's very sharp & extra lemony. The only way to achieve this is to make it myself...

I followed a Nigel Slater recipe.

The other lemon rolled out of shot...

I put the juice & rind of 4 lemons, 100g unsalted butter & 200g sugar in to a bowl over a pan of simmering water. (I only had 175g of sugar so did without the remaining 25g)

Don't forget to add the juice...

I stirred until all the butter had melted & then added a beaten egg mix (3 eggs & the yolk of another egg) to the bowl.

I continued my stirring until the mixture had thickened to a custard consistency (Nigel claimed it would only be 10 mins, my lemon curd took 20 mins...)

Then I let it cool for a mins before transferring to sterilised jars.

The total cost was £1 per jar

I will eat it on the crust of newly baked bread or warm crumpets or stirred in with yoghurt or just straight from the jar...

It was very easy & as well as tasting delicious it also filled the house with a wonderful aroma. Next time I might experiment with oranges or limes instead...
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