Wednesday, 23 December 2009
To start with, you need a base to hold your wreath in shape and give it structure. I have a woven wooden wreath that I bought for a few pounds at a craft store, but you could also use a floral foam ring, a shaped wire, etc. You just want a basis to work from to help hold everything together and keep it in a circle.
Then you can use whatever greenery you have available. My daughters and I went into the garden with a basket, and picked some holly, evergreen branches, rosemary, roses (including leaves, rose hips, and flowers), St. John's wort, ivy, etc. Pick a nice selection of green leaves from whatever you have growing around your home.
Then shape it around your ring. My base ring is woven twigs, so I can stick branches into it, and you can also use floral rings to push things directly into. However, you could also use twine, string, or wire to secure the foliage to the wreath. Experiment moving pieces of foliage around the ring until you find a shape that you're happy with, and add some "features": rose hips, holly berries, a twig of mistletoe, etc. If you want, you can add a nice bow out of ribbon, some cinnamon sticks, or other Christmas-y items.
When we finished the wreath and hung it on the front door, Miriam exclaimed, "Wow. The house looks all beautiful for Christmas. Good job mummy!" Then she insisted that we use the leftover greenery to decorate inside the house, so we now have beautiful leaves decorating our mantelpiece as well.
Monday, 14 December 2009
Saturday, 5 December 2009
When we decorate our garden for the winter, we try to make it look festive and remember the local wildlife. Winter is often a difficult time for birds and other wildlife because food is scarce.
We recently juiced some apples (the last of this year's apples from our trees). We were left with all of the apple pulp in the juicer, and didn't want to just throw it away. So we used it to make our own bird feeder balls. Here's how.
1. You will need apple pulp, peanuts and/or bird seeds, and string/ribbon/twine. You also need an oven.
2. Take the apple pulp (this would also work with pear or another similar fruit), and a piece of string at least 8 inches long. Form the pulp into a ball with the string running through the middle of it.
3. Push peanuts and birdseeds into the pulp--push about halfway in so that they are easily visible and accessible, but are still firmly attached to the ball. The birds will be more interested in eating the nuts and seeds than the dried fruit, so be generous in how many you add.
4. Bake the balls. I put them directly on the bottom tray of the oven while dinner was cooking. Ideally you want them to cook for about an hour (until firm) at a low heat.
5. Use the ribbon to tie the balls onto branches of trees, bushes, gates, etc.
Not only are these fun, cheap, and easy to make, they look great out, and help to feed the birds. It's really cheerful on a winter's day to look out and see birds gathered in your garden because you've provided them with a snack. If you want to make them more festive looking, use green or red string, or a Christmasy ribbon.
For more ideas on decorating your garden in wildlife-friendly ways, click here.
Monday, 16 November 2009
It was very relaxing, romantic, and rejuvenating. So here's to being spoiled sometimes. Thanks hun xxx
Saturday, 14 November 2009
At 11:00 on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, World War I officially ended and peace was declared. Remembrance Day, also known in different areas as Veteran's Day or Armistice Day, began to commemorate this establishment of peace, and to honour the sacrifice and service of the war veterans and the many men and women who lost their lives during the war. The first World War, or the Great War, was considered 'the war to end all wars.
Rememberance Muffins Recipe
(A special thank you goes out to the kind Freecycler who gave me the beautiful poppy design dishes.)
Thursday, 5 November 2009
A few days ago (on the 29th of October 2009), Brigham Young University (BYU) gave a very discrete statement. It wasn't widely spoken about or really announced. You can find the announcement hidden away on the BYU website news page, next to links to stories like Cleanliness IS next to godliness:new research shows clean smells unconsciously promote moral behaviour. The story I'm interested in is titled BYU reorganized women's study program. When you read the story, you realize that the title is misleading. BYU is not just reorganizing a program. In fact, they are discontinuing the Women's Research Institute.
The director of the program, Dr Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, is being moved to the psychology faculty. It gets worse. The women's studies minor, instead of being under the jurisdiction of the Women's Research Institute, is being allotted to the College of Home, Family, and Social Sciences. The implications of this move are seriously disturbing. As the Women's Research Institute, women's studies has it's rightful place as a serious academic area that researches the special issues pertaining to women, including the role of women in history, current issues specifically related to women, etc. This approach respects and validates the role of women both in the world now and in history, by showing that they are worthy of serious research, and by viewing them as part of the larger world as they contribute to and are affected by larger environmental, social, political, religious, and other issues.
If women's studies becomes part of the College of Home, Family, and Social Sciences--as it will in January 2010--BYU is implying that the study of women is not a serious independent pursuit and that women's studies and research is an inferior area. Within the same college as home and family, women' studies will be relegated to the position that it had before the feminist movement, and we will be back in the suffragette type position of being forced to fight for the right to be viewed outside of our familial roles. It is a subtle statement that the correct position of women is in the home and family, and it automatically creates a dichotomy seperating women in the home and family from women in the world and workplace. It implies that women's studies is not necessary as an independent study because it is included in home and family studies. In short, in one fell swoop BYU has completely negated everything that the Women's Research Institute faculty and students have worked so hard to establish since it was founded in the 1970s.
What is truly infuriating about this decision is the lack of communication associated with it. I understand that sometimes programs will be changed and reorganized, or even cut out altogether. However, this has been done in a secret way, as though it was either something that they wanted to hide, or something that wasn't important enough to bother mentioning. (To view the news release, click here.) BYU has not communicated with students or staff, and so there are lecturers left unsure whether they will still have their job or not, or still be teaching the same courses or not, or whether conferences that they were scheduled to speak at will still occur. There are students unsure of whether their funding, which came from the WRI, will continute past January. There are students unsure about whether they can continute their studies as they have planned. And they are not getting any answers.
There are a lot of good things that I could say about BYU. For example, they have a mind-blowingly amazing library and special collection. They offer an excellent education at low prices. Yet this decision, to me, undermines their academic credibility as well as limiting the freedom of ideas and respect that is necessary for excellent scholarship. I don't think that BYU has realized yet the ramifications of this decision.
I don't know if there's anything that we can do to save the Women's Research Institute. I hope that if enough people are concerned, they will reconsider, or at least discuss their reasoning behind the decision and their plans for how to move forward with women's studies. There is a Facebook group devoted to trying to save the WRI.
Here are some thoughts by other people on the dissolution of the Women's Research Institute:
Weightier Matters of the Law
The Universe (BYU's newspaper)
Feminist Mormon Housewives
Sunday, 1 November 2009
I gathered rose hips (each variety of roses will have slightly different rose hips that vary some in size, taste, and colour---although some varieties are better than others, you can eat any of them; I used rose hips from several different types of roses that happened to be growing either in my garden or nearby) and apples (this is a good way to use up windfall apples if you have an apple tree) and made jam.
Rosehip & Apple Jam
1. Pick the rosehips. You can tell they're ripe when they turn a nice red or orange colour instead of green. As you'll cook them, you don't need to be too picky about how ripe they are--I used a range of very firm and mushier rosehips. Then you need to prepare them for use. Cut off any stalks and dried up flower bits and then wash them off. (Remove unwanted bits before washing or else the shrivelled up flower bits will cling to the rosehips and be difficult to remove)
2. In a large saucepan, cook the rosehips. Add enough water to cover them and keep them from catching on the bottom of the pan. You may need to add more water as they cook. You want the rosehips to simmer until they are all soft and pulpy and broken up. If you want to help speed up the process, you can either make cuts in the rosehips before adding them to the pan, or use a masher on them while they're cooking to help them break down. Exact cooking times will vary depending on how many you're cooking at a time, how ripe they are, etc. Generally, a colander full of rosehips will need about 6 cups of water and about half an hour.
3. When the rosehips are fully cooked, then you need to separate the good pulp from the waste (seeds, etc.). There are several ways you can do this. I cut up an old, clean pair of tights, and lined the inside of a sieve. With the sieve placed over a bowl to collect the juice, I put the pulp into it. I left it to drip, and then gathered the tights into a ball around the pulp and squeezed it to get out as much of the useful pulp and juice as possible. Keep that pulp/juice, and discard the seeds that are left behind.
4. Next I prepared the apples. I peeled and cored the apples (I kept those bits for juicing to make syrup with) and cut out any bruised or bitten bits. Then I chopped the apples into small pieces (the size you want them to be in the jam, so it's a matter of personal preference--I like them to be small enough pieces that they don't make the jam lumpy, but distinct pieces as opposed to apple sauce). Cook them with just a little water and a splash of lemon juice until they are soft.
5. Combine the rosehips and apples. You want about equal parts fruit to sugar; the easiest way to do this is to weigh it. Add the fruit and plain white granulated sugar to a large saucepan. You don't need to use special sugar or add pectin. (In fact, both apples and rosehips have high levels of pectin in them naturally, so you need to be careful not to over-set the jam).
6. Bring the fruit and sugar to the boil and--stirring regularly--boil vigorously for about twenty minutes or until set. Test for a set by pouring a little jam on a cold plate as you would for any jam.
7. While cooking the fruit, you need to have sterilized jars to put the jam in. An easy way to do this is to fill clean jars and lids with boiled water, and then pour out the water and put them in the oven on a low heat to dry.
8. Jar the jam. You can put some in the fridge to eat now, or save sealed jars for a couple of years. I particularly like rosehip and apple jam spread on wholemeal toast, and my daughters love it in peanut butter and jam sandwiches.
Friday, 30 October 2009
Also, we've been enjoying the beautiful weather as we've been clearing out the garden some and planting new crops. Although most plants like being planted in the spring, there are some things that you can over-winter. We just planted two varieties of onion (a red variety and a white spring onion variety), cauliflower (not all varieties are suitable for planting in the autumn, but some are, so check the seed packet), and yellow radishes (I've never had yellow radishes before, so I'm excited to try this out). All of these were planted directly outside in the vegetable patch. Cross your fingers that we'll have lovely crops from them in the spring and summer.
Thursday, 22 October 2009
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
My sunflowers have finished blooming, but the heads are heavy with the seeds. I snipped off the flower heads and hung them inside to dry. During the winter I'll hang them outside on trees to make home-made bird feeders. I did this last year, too, and our garden was full of little birds all winter long.
My broccoli plants also went to seed this year. I've never tried gathering broccoli seeds before, but I gathered all the seed pods and hung them to dry inside as well. When they're all dried, I'll collect the seeds in an envelope and store them for the spring. Make sure that the seeds are completely dry so that you don't have problems with mould. We'll find out next summer how the home-harvested seeds have done, but I'm excited to try it.
Sunday, 18 October 2009
This particular pumpkin is from my garden. It's vine shrivelled up and died, so we had to pick it a bit early. It's a variety that is white when fully ripe, and never grows very big. Unfortunately, it never completely ripened, but it was still delicious.
Here's my first pumpkin recipe for this autumn.
Pumpkin is delicious in lasagna. Make lasagna as usual, but add an extra pumpkin layer, or use this to replace the cheesey layer of lasagna.
Preheat oven to 350F (180C).
Peel and core pumpkin (remember to keep and bake the seeds!). Dice the pumpkin. Put on a large baking sheet.
I liberally sprinkled it with chillies. I LOVE The English Provender Co. Very Lazy Red Chillies. They have a rich, almost sweet flavour as well as adding some warmth and spice. I spooned it over the pumpkin, including some of the liquid from the jar. I also added ground black pepper. Then use an olive oil spray to coat the pumpkin evenly, and then drizzle lightly with some good olive oil.
Bake 20 to 45 minutes depending on how ripe the pumpkin is and how big the pieces are. When it is finished, it should be cooked through and slice easily.
Mush the pumpkin. I used a hand blender, but you could also use a potato masher or food processor.
For a super super easy, but delicious pumpkin cheese lasagna layer, mix the pumpkin puree with creme fraiche (I used low fat and it still turned out delicious). Season to taste with more red chillies, salt and pepper, etc. I added a spoonful of wholegrain English mustard as well. It wasn't enough to make it taste mustardy, just to add a little edge to it.
Then use it as a lasagna layer, and cook lasagna as usual. I like mixing it with other flavours. For example, alternate pumpkin layers and traditional tomato sauce & mince layers (particularly good with grated courgette--zucchini--in it).
Thursday, 8 October 2009
The pictures are of simple examples of free scrapbooking pages. Using ink pads that we had around the house from a former craft, I took hand and foot prints of my daughters. Then I used multicoloured pens to write down information about them at this age (for example, what size clothes they wear and what their favourite toys are). I figured that these kind of details are often forgotten over time, and it makes a nice, simple page with good memories.
Sunday, 4 October 2009
So enjoy a last mouthful of summer. Go out for a nice autumn walk, and watch out for brambles (blackberry canes) along the way. Stop and pick the last few berries, enjoy the juicy pulp melting on your tongue, and feel the autumn breeze on your face. Or bring them home with you to make a last summery treat.
Thursday, 24 September 2009
Wednesday, 23 September 2009
Thursday, 17 September 2009
It started to rain, the kind of constant drizzle that turns the whole sky grey and saturates everything with damp. It was the kind of rain that most people would expect me to be having here in England, but really it reminded me of my childhood years when I lived in Oregon. Watching it form a constant wet sheet in front of the windows put me in a nostalgic kind of a mood. I watched the robins in my garden hide from the rain by our roofed bird feeder, and thought about the Portland area. I remembered my family: playing with my siblings when we were little, my youngest sister being born, living near my grandparents. I thought about my grandfather, who died this year (you can read what my uncle wrote about him here), and my grandmother, who just moved away because she couldn't manage the house by herself. I remembered their house. The garden was always damp from the constant rain, and we weren't supposed to mess up the gardening. Their closets all smelled of mothballs, and in my memories their house sounded like their grandfather clocks chiming.
Spanish style rice
Monday, 14 September 2009
about 6 scoops vanilla ice cream
sprinkling of fortified chocolate milk powder
milk--enough to be able to blend it up
1 heaped spoonful of smooth peanut butter
1 heaped spoonful of nutella
1 heaped spoonful marshmallow fluff
1/2 block tofu (silk or smooth texture works the best)
Blend it all up until smooth. We served with whipped cream and sprinkles on top. My daughter looked at it and said, "That chocolate drink is beautiful!".