Monday, December 22, 2014

Hand Made Gifts for 2015

This year my gift bags contain Rhubarb and Vanilla infused Vodka that I made some months ago. Assorted cordials include, Wild Nettle, Rhubarb and Blackcurrant.

These are lovely with chilled sparkling water but can also be used as syrups for desserts. The blackcurrant is particularly good with hot water for a bedtime soother.
As for last year, I have used the chalkboard look labels and very sorry to say that I have sourced the last of these bottles. I love being able to keep everything uniform in the goodie bag.

I made some "Tranquillity" room sprays for a soft calming fragrance (sometimes Christmas gets a little tense don't you find). These atomisers are about 50ml. I filled 3/4 of the way with witch hazel and added 9 drops of my blend (lavender, bergamot, ylang ylang, geranium and chamomile) and then topped with distilled water.

Last month I made a series of soy wax candles and named their different fragrances for local areas that they inspired. 

I can make jam but I bow down before Miss Kate, a true artisan of preserves, and I am so excited to share some of these creations with loved ones and colleagues. As you can tell from the labels, she sources local produce and blends the most incredible flavours. But even beyond the flavours, she works with the textures of the fruit and the moisture contents that vary from season to season and even the weather on the day plays a part in her delicious science. 
Her label name is...
My all time favourite is Blue Raja and to be honest I even just eat it off the spoon!

Kate's creations were also in keeping with a natural and black colour theme so I kept carrying that through with stamped tags and plain brown bags and silky black cord.

A little bit of this and a little bit of that.
They are not created overnight and are the product of seasonal selection and preserving. 
Made with thought and love.
I have done several posts on cordial making and you can find them all by simply typing "cordial" into the search box on the right somewhere over there.
All Kate's contact info can be read easily from the labels in the pictures above. 

You can re-read last years' gift bag post here
So what have you made for gifts this year? I'm looking already for new ideas for next year... 

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Ridiculous Amount of Fun!

We met up last weekend to decorate our gingerbread houses and had a ridiculous amount of fun!
Get your Christmas hair-do on and make some royal icing and get cracking.

You'll also need lots of lollies...
and children, 

Jars and cans provide roof support until the icing sets and sticks.
You can use a piping bag but the kids had a ball with freezer bags filled with icing and just a wee snip at one corner.

Royal Icing
1 cup plus 2 tabs icing sugar
1 egg white
1 tsp cornflour
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp lemon juice

Combine the ingredients well and store in an air tight bowl till ready to use.
NOTE: if you use icing mixture instead of icing sugar you won't need the cornflour as it contains it already.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Personalised Tree Decorations

Welcome someone new into the family with their very own place on the Christmas tree.
You've seen these hearts in the past here and here
I stamp names onto fine scraps of linen or cotton using a permanent ink.
Sewn directly on using running stitch and two strands of embroidery cotton.

This is also a nice way to remember family who have died too. They always have a place in our hearts and we especially remember them at Christmas time.

Be at peace one and all.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Gingerbread Baking

Some of the Living Better With Less group have decided to make gingerbread baking our Christmas activity this year and we met in my kitchen last Sunday for a baking session.
My friend in America who has some significant notches on the proverbial baking belt kindly shared her recipe with me. She has been making it since the 6th grade do you mind. And she allowing me to share the good stuff with you too.

I pondered making a gingerbread house a la my own house profile and thought it not interesting enough then pondered the profile of my birdhouse

But to be honest I couldn't be bothered doing the math for the components.
In the end I took the easy option and used Cindy's house cut outs.
The recipe makes ample mixture and after cutting out my house pieces I found myself rolling and rolling and cutting and pressing....

Dozens of hanging ornaments.
You can leave them plain or ice them and thread with some ribbon.
I couldn't find my icing set so made do with a snipped freezer bag.
They went like hot cakes at the market!

Gingerbread Recipe

1 cup of butter
1 cup of brown sugar 
1 cup of  molasses
7 cups of flour
2 teas baking soda
2 teas ground cinnamon
2 teas ground ginger
1 teas salt
1/2 teas ground cloves
2/3 cup water

Cream butter and sugar with a stand mixer using the paddle attachment. Add molasses and beat well. With mixer on low add 3 cups of flour and the rest of the ingredients except the water.
Still on low add the remaining 4 cups of flour and mix until crumbly and homogeneous. Slowly add the water until the mixture comes together and starts to form a ball.

Roll dough out on parchment paper. Cut pieces out and remove the scraps. Transfer the paper with pieces to a cool baking sheet. Bake in a moderate oven for about 10 mins. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

"Message In A Bauble"

I have been very busy crafting and creating these past couple of weeks in readiness for a special pop-up hand made market. Nothing new has come into the house and it's all been stash busting and it feels sooo good. With a grandchild regularly visiting I need to seriously downsize to make way for his paraphernalia. who would have thought I would have all this baby stuff again (all you experienced grandparents are sagely nodding your heads now).

Take some vintage sheet music with seldom expressed sentiments nowadays and a bucket of broken necklaces and faux pearls....

Some glass baubles and soft floaty feathers to carry your sentiments....

A beautiful personal gift for a friendship so kind and thoughtful that has sustained one through the year.

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Tisane For Cold & Cough

This is about as flash as I can be this week.
When I feel the hint of sickness lurking near my respiratory tract I take a dose of elderberry tincture straight away and knock it on the head. Now we are in spring and my supplies are all gone after sharing with lots of family in need this year and I am watching the flowers covetously planning a bigger bottle up for the still room.

I did find this calico bag of dried berries that I had stashed having never got around to tincturing them. The stem and seeds are emetic so it is important to remove them; adding vomiting and diarrhoea to your woes would be disastrous. Take the dried berries into your palm and clap your other palm over the top and move them gently together in circles. The stems will quickly and easily separate and if you do this action holding your palms vertically the stems will even fall away so you don't even have to winnow. 

I steep the elder berries in a tea pot with a stainless steel strainer (non reactive to food acids and alkaline) and give them a light press and stir after they have re-hydrated. The fine mesh holds back the seeds. I also add sage and thyme fresh picked from the garden but you can also use them from dried form. Both of these herbs are known to aid coughs, sore throats and irritated and inflamed linings. They also have anti-septic and anti-viral properties. 

It really is well worth planting beyond the basil and parsley and reading and extending your knowledge of herbs. I do stress the thorough reading and researching too, just because something is natural doesn't mean it can be treated casually. There is powerful medicine in plants and it is well to know their effects especially if you are on medication or have pre-existing disease.

I wish you good health.

Friday, November 14, 2014

4 Steps To Blissful Gliding Drawers

Do you have old wooden drawers that stick and you shove and pull and silently curse every other time?
Well this simple maintenance tip will rid you of one little stressor of every day life.

It will work for most drawers unless they are too far worn or just poorly made in the first place. This maintenance should ideally be done at least once a year but it's one of those bottom of the list type of jobs, once you have done it though you'll wonder why you procrastinated for so long.

Step 1
It's always good to have a yearly assessment of your garments or a junk drawer clean out.
Pull everything out and be ruthless with "stay" and "go" piles. The first major no-no for good drawer health is over stuffing causing it to not close properly and catch on drawers above. Weigh it up! A drawer carry too much weight is going to really grind as it slides back and forth. Don't be tempted to just keep stuffing, because that is precisely what you'll do - Stuff it!

Step 2
I do one drawer at a time as many drawers are custom worn to their own space and if you remove them all at once it can be a bit time consuming trying to work out which drawer fits back where.
Take the drawer out and give it a good wipe over, inside and out. A plain damp cloth is fine.
Now is the perfect time replace the lining if you use any. A sheet of shelf paper, old wrapping paper or contact works fine.

Step 3
Fit a nozzle/small brush head to your vacuum cleaner pipe and reach into the drawer carcass and suck all the time worn wood dust from the crevices and runners. All this accumulated wood dust is also compounding the gliding problems and wearing down your drawers.
You may also notice some cobwebs waaayyy back there and the vacuum makes these easy to reach too. A very light mist into the interior of clove bud oil and water will deter spiders and soft insects and kill any mould spores (see this post for more info and mixing ratio)

Step 4
Now here is the real biggie in this process.
Apply bees wax
Take a small piece and run it backwards and forwards on all the running parts. As you rub the friction heat will also help it to meld to the wood. This fine layer of wax is key to your drawers gliding like a swan on water!
I get my beeswax from a local honey supplier and use it in my salve making but you can get it from craft stores also.

And that's it. 
A drawer left to wear down over time develops gaps and hangs and causes frustration. You have enough to deal with without having to fight your drawers every day in every room. 

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