Winter fuel for the birds …

04/02/2015 § 8 Comments

Here’s the ‘back story’ – as Kristin Nicholas of Getting-Stitched-on-the-Farm blogspot calls them …

Do you recognise this old fellow?

johnny morris

It’s Johnny Morris who presented Animal Magic for many years, on children’s’ television.  I absolutely loved this programme when I was 8 or 9 – maybe younger.  Johnny would imitate the animals and have conversations with them – doing his voice and the animals.  It was magical and something I still do quite unconsciously – imagine what the animal are saying.

I’ll always remember one programme where he made ‘Dabble Grish’ – a silly name for a mixture of just about anything that’s good for garden birds in winter.  I made some a few weeks ago and today decided to top up the flowerpots.  Curious?  Here’s how to make a hanging bird feeder from store cupboard ingredients and create your own Dabble Grish …

ingredients and supplies

a collection of ingredients and supplies

I used some just out-of-date nuts and dried fruits to add to the wild bird seed, dripping (have no idea what that was doing in the fridge), a handful of oats, a few flowerpots, some twigs and string.  I roughly chopped the whole nuts before adding them.

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snip some twigs to fit across the bottom of the flowerpots and tie a loop of string …

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thread through the hole in the flowerpot and place a bit of fat over the hole to stop the filling coming out.  I put my flowerpots into cake cases to catch any melted fat.

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Then put the ‘ingredients’ into a bowl and add the melted fat.  I add as many porridge oats as it takes to soak up the wet mixture.

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Mix it all up so all the mixture is coated in fat and will stick together as it solidifies,  then spoon into the flowerpots, pressing down firmly.

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Push a twig into each pot and firm around it.  This will help the blue tits to perch close to the food while they’re pecking at it. Then hang them up around the garden, where you can see them from a window – and wait for your garden visitors.

Dabble Grish for garden birds!

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There’s a useful list here of what you can feed garden birds.

I love to see the birds and always have a huge container of wild bird seed in the corner of the kitchen, from which I top up the bird feeders every morning.  My favourite bird feeders (apart from my flowerpots) are these …

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Such a brilliant design with suction pads that stick to the window and a little roof to keep the seed dry. You can see the birds clearly through the cut-out window in the back and the feeding tray unclips easily for cleaning.  There’s a little section for water too.  I bought two last year and the birds have loved visiting them – and I’ve enjoyed watching them feeding.

After all that ‘cooking’ I needed my own winter fuel this morning …

Porridge, with added oatmeal and a high fibre sprinkle - with a spoonful of homemade jelly!

Porridge, with added oatmeal and a high fibre fruity sprinkle – with a spoonful of homemade jelly!

It’s still really cold here, although yesterday’s dusting of snow quickly melted.  I’m just off for a good walk around the farm, with the collies.  Flora’s in the pond enjoying a splash, so I’ve reclaimed my blog for today!

My next post will be my 400th and I think I may revisit some of the most popular topics from the past 4 years.  Thank you so much to everyone who left a comment on my last post – it’s so lovely to hear from you.  Sometimes it feels a bit lonely, so do join in and have a chat.

Do you feed the garden birds?  What’s your favourite winter fuel breakfast/lunch/dinner?

Keep warm and snug …

Adaliza x

Surprise, surprise …

03/02/2015 § 14 Comments

it’s a SNOW day!

a dusting of the white stuff - there I am, just in the photo - on the right!

a dusting of the white stuff – there I am with my white bib just showing, on the verandah!

one of my garden friends - Mr Robin - up by the bird feeders

one of my garden friends – Mr Robin – up by the bird feeders

snowy front of house

snowy front of house

flower pot bug-village

flower pot bug-village

Have you had any snow?  Please leave me a comment and let me know –
Mother Duck likes reading comments too!

Flora Puddleduck x

Flora Puddleduck x

In the pink …

29/01/2015 § 3 Comments

Pretty things have been happening in the kitchen …

Sometimes patchwork has to be ordered, co-ordinated and requires lots of thought.  Sometimes it just gets thrown together and ends up looking really pretty – like the little cushion pad for the pink chair that was a project from a while ago.   There’s Misty gazing out towards the back door where Flora has been tapping at the window …

Misty's kitchen bed, under the table - in addition to her basket in the lounge and the sofa!

Misty’s kitchen bed, under the table – in addition to her basket in the lounge and the sofa!

Pink accessories have been appearing in the kitchen – life has to be pink!

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couldn't resist the little birdies on these storage jars - too pretty to be kept in the cupboard

couldn’t resist the little birdies on these storage jars – too pretty to be kept in the cupboard

playing with white clay and hoping for snow

playing with white clay and hoping for snow

and in the garden …

an alpine garden has been planted up in an old Belfast sink

an alpine garden has been planted up in an old Belfast sink

an alpine garden has been planted up in an old belfast sink

some broken pots, a basket handle and a shell give it some interest – it needs to rain to wash the edges clean though

and Flora, relieved of blogging duties for the day, is taking shelter from the biting wind and frequent showers on the verandah of the toolshed …

well-fed puddleduck!

well-fed puddleduck!

Keep warm and toasty in the winter’s chill.

Adaliza x

Busy Sunday …

11/01/2015 § 1 Comment

Mother Duck has been busy all day today.  She popped down to open up my little duck-house this morning then later on this afternoon, I was cuddled (not all that willingly) and fed a little treat of mealworms sprinkled on my water bowl (I gobbled those up very willingly), and then she was off again with a can of spray paint in her paws.  Or is it just Belle and Misty who have paws?  I get a bit confused about these things sometimes!

Here’s what she’s been up to today …

Another brass lamp that's been given the spray paint treatment

30 year old brass lamp that’s been spray painted to match the new kitchen table lamp

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Now there are 2 cherry red lamps in the kitchen – yay!

 

A lantern full of silver birch logs, beads and fairy lights

A lantern full of silver birch logs, moss, beads and fairy lights – spot the little bunny?

Here it is all lit up and sparkly …

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And Mother Duck has also been playing with some beads …

mini hama bead house

mini hama bead house  –  you’d never believe how long this took – pure crafty therapy

And her vintage sewing needle case and thimble have also made an appearance ....

And her vintage sewing needle case and thimble have also made an appearance ….

but I’m not sure what she’s been sewing yet.  Belle said she spent an hour or so doing some patchwork upstairs in her sewing studio so watch this space.

Belle and Misty have been really tired this afternoon since they returned from a long walk up at St Catherine’s Hill, near Winchester.  Misty said it was a really steep walk up to the top and Belle says she had to pull Mother Duck all the way up!  Apparently the views from up there are awesome and then Mother Duck and son J1 walked back to Winchester where the collies were treated to some nibbles from their brunch at Maison Blanc in the High Street.  Lucky collies!

Awesome view of Winchester from St Catherine's Hill

Awesome view of Winchester from St Catherine’s Hill

It’s definitely been a busy day up at the house and now that it’s just getting dark, I’m all tucked up in my duck-house, with my evening meal of chopped grapes, mealworms and chicken feed – yum, yum!

Quackers for now …

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Flora Puddleduck x

Quick and easy buffet

15/04/2014 § 2 Comments

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Shopping list (from Aldi):

  • unsmoked gammon joint (small)
  • pasty vegetables: 2 leeks, 6 new potatoes, 1 sweet potato, 1 large carrot 
  • 1 pack smoked mackerel fillets
  • cucumber (though you’ll only use about 1″ thinly sliced)
  • 1 tub low fat cream cheese
  • large knob of butter
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 packs bruschetta (tomato & garlic varieties)
  • 1 tub pate – whatever you fancy
  • 1 tub olives
  • pack cocktail tomatoes
  • 1 packet of wholemeal bread rolls
  • 1 pack pastrami beef
  • spring onions and iceberg or other lettuce/watercress
  • 1 bag tortilla chips
  • 1 bar chocolate (I prefer milk)
  • 1 tub double cream
  • 1 pack raspberries
  • icing sugar – you’ll only use about 2 oz
  • fairy cakes ingredients: soft margarine, eggs, SR flour, caster sugar, icing sugar
  • treats – we had chocolate buttons & bunnies, mini eggs, mini marzipan eggs and a couple of packets of fav biscuits (I love pink wafers)!

Shopping list from AN Other supermarket:

  • 2 packs Jus Rol shortcrust pastry in a block (not pre-rolled)
    I’ve tried supermarket own brand pastry and found it’s greasy and generally ugh. Although slightly more expensive, Jus Rol is the best I’ve used.  I keep a couple of blocks in the freezer, ready for emergency pasty-making!

I’ve listed fairy cake and pasty vegetables as you’ll probably have some of them already, as I did when I investigated the back of the larder and veg rack!  Cocktail sticks are also fun though I forgot them and we used our fingers!

Preparing the buffet (morning) all this took me about an hour:

  1. Put ham on to boil gently for an hour or so. I usually soak the ham first, but there’s no need if time if short.  When cooked, fish out the gammon joint and KEEP THE LIQUID in the saucepan.
  2. Put a selection of veg through slicing attachment in food processor or slice by hand so they all cook quickly.  I added a sprinkle of herbs too.  Let them boil in the ham liquid until cooked, then strain and leave on one side to cool.
  3. Take shortcrust pastry out of fridge to reach room temperature.
  4. Bake fairy cakes – I used a 6 oz/4 egg mixture, but everyone has their favourite recipe so I’ll leave the detail to you.  I made 18 cakes but only 16 got to be decorated (BOYS!) I’ll say no more!!!  Set cooked cakes aside to cool.
  5. Chop up the ham into smaller pieces (keep a bit aside to slice for your lunch – it’s delicious) then using blade attachment in food processor, give it a blast.  Or chop up into smallish pieces by hand.  I like my ham looking like breadcrumbs.  Set aside till later.
  6. Mackerel pate:  remove skin and obvious bones. Pop roughly flaked fillets into food processor with blade and whizz.  Add half tub cream cheese, 1 tsp mustard and a tbsp of double cream.  Add butter and whizz until smooth.  Pop pate into a bowl, squeeze in juice of half lemon, generous grinding of black pepper and mix. Taste and adjust seasoning.  Cover with cling film and pop into fridge.
  7. Cake icings:  
    chocolate ganache – melt 200 g chocolate and 200 ml double cream GENTLY over low heat, stirring as you go.  When chocolate has melted, whisk thoroughly and pop into basin, covered with cling film for at least 2 hrs (it will set even though it looks runny)
    cream cheese icing – whisk remaining half tub cream cheese, drop of double cream and squeeze of lemon with as much icing sugar as you need to make a soft icing (this will also stiffen up a bit in the fridge).  Cover and pop into fridge.

Finishing the buffet – start about an hour before:

Preheat oven 200 degrees

  1. make pasties:  combine strained veg and ham in a large bowl and mash up a bit. Adjust seasoning if necessary but it’ll probably be salty enough. Roll out pastry on floured worktop, cut around a small plate then wet the edge of each circle. Pop a dollop of veg/ham mixture into centre then stick together and crimp. Brush with a beaten egg, pop onto non-stick baking tray and cook for about 20 mins (until they smell delicious and look golden brown).  Place on cooling rack until you’re ready to stack them up onto a plate.
  2. decorate fairy cakes:  spread half the cakes with chocolate ganache and half with cream cheese icing.  Decorate each with a few raspberries and some chocolate buttons. Pop back into fridge until you’re ready to dust them with icing sugar and place on cake stand.
  3. make rolls using pastrami beef, spring onions, lettuce & watercress – you can find all sorts of other ideas online but we like ours quite plain.  Cut each roll in half and stack them up.  Cover in cling film until ready to eat.
  4. pop tortilla chips, olives and mini eggs etc into pretty dishes.

Dressing the table – takes about 10 mins:

  1. plates, napkins, cocktail sticks for olives
  2. stack fairy cakes onto stand and add a few chocolate treats inbetween
  3. spread bought-in pate or mackerel pate onto bruschettas and decorate with half slice of cucumber and a halved olive
  4. stack up mini pasties and decorate plate with some watercress or cocktail tomatoes

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Feed dog then put dog in charge of ‘defence of kitchen’ (against lightning strikes by hungry boys).  If dog is already full of food then there’s less chance she’ll pinch anything!  Brush hair (mine, not dog), adjust lipstick, remove pinny, change t-shirt and you’re ready to party!

If you’re a good planner, then you could make pasties and cakes well ahead and freeze them.  I only decided to do a ‘buffet’ at about 10 am and then went shopping!  So I’ve written this post so that I can remember roughly what I did and in what order, even though I made it up as I went along!  It all worked out fine, there was plenty for 6 of us.  I made 15 mini pasties and they were all devoured!

I guess it would make a good picnic too if you took the pate in tubs and spread it onto bruschettas as and when – yeah – I feel an Easter picnic coming on!

Enjoy the holiday weekend.

Adaliza x

 

Songbirds and oranges …

03/02/2013 § 18 Comments

a strange combination?

Oranges first then …

Baked oranges

Baked oranges

Satisfying processes

Satisfying chopping

Swish the pith!

Squish the pith!

Boiling cauldron

Boiling cauldron

Ten bottles of marmalade!

Ten bottles of marmalade!

Very satisfying indeed.  10 Seville oranges, turned into 10 bottles of Dark Ginger Marmalade.  I love making marmalade and have a method that’s evolved over many years …

1     wash the fruit then cut in half and roughly into segments

2     barely cover with water in a deep baking dish, add a sprinkle of cloves, a couple of cinnamon sticks, some root ginger cut into slices and a couple of bay leaves.  (I adore the flavour and smell of bay).

3     stick it in the oven for a couple of hours on a medium heat and then allow to cool down a bit so it doesn’t burn your fingers

4     get stuck in – with your fingers – remove the juicy bits from the orange skin.  Put the skin to one side.  Put the liquid and juicy mush through a sieve.  Pick out the bay leaves, a couple of slices of ginger and the cinnamon and pop them into the preserving pan with the liquid.

5     slide a sharp knife along the underside of the skin segments, to remove any remaining pith, then slice orange skin into slivers.  Add to liquid.

6     measure (or guess, in my case), how many pints of liquid you now have and add 1 lb sugar to every pint.  Dissolve the sugar slowly over a medium heat, stirring gently

7     add some glace ginger if you like it and my secret ingredient, to make the marmalade good and dark – 2 tsp black treacle

8     boil it up until it reaches ‘jam’ on the sugar thermometer, remove bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and large pieces of root ginger

9     sterilise jars & lids in the oven, on 100 degrees, then using a wide necked funnel and jug, bottle it up – fill jars right up to the top

10   place a waxed circle on top and seal tightly while still hot

11   write your labels and pop them into the cupboard to set

Voila – Dark Ginger Marmalade – that’s the oranges done!

Now for the Songbird …

Songbird is the name of a new quilt.  Inspired by Scandinavian colours and style – simple, modern & functional …

Taupe, reds, sagey greens and snowy white

Taupe, reds, sagey greens and snowy white

My first quilt of 2013

My first quilt of 2013

A new pen

A new pen

Quilted hearts

Quilted hearts

This isn’t a ta’dah moment as there’s a long way to go with this massive king-sized quilt.  I bought just a scant half metre of the patterned fabric in Sherborne a couple of weeks ago.  I could hardly wait to get started.  It’s such an unusual and subtle pattern despite the strong colours.  It needed vibrance and contrast but I didn’t want to detract from it, so settled for a narrow palette of reds & white and there’s a touch of sage at the sides, but you’ll have to wait to see the full reveal.

I’ve been busy practising free-motion quilting too and have progressed from my happy stippling pattern to a simple heart and pebbles.  I bought my first fabric pen yesterday in Bath, and have tested it – it sponges off easily, leaving no trace.

Bath was marvellous in the winter sun – lunch with our lovely boys and the quickest buzz around my favourite shops.  A new cloche hat from the antiques market too!

Have a lovely week – I’ll be wanting to quilt, in every moment that I’m doing everything else!

What’s everyone been up to over at Handmade Monday?  Do pop over to see.

Adaliza x

 

 

 

A great way to start the day …

30/01/2013 § 3 Comments

I’m obsessed with double oven bread-making!

Ever since my first double-oven loaf came out of the oven, and that magical smell of home-made bread filled my home, it’s got me.  I look at loaves in the supermarket, I turn away and scurry to the flour aisle to see what yeasty combinations spring to mind.

Last night, instead of rolling the risen dough in flour, I used oats – plain old porridge oats.  My dough was quite sticky, so I did a thick sprinkling and then worked them into the dough to give it more body.  When it was in the cast iron pot, ready for the oven, I sprinkled more oats on top with a lightning twist of herb salt too.  Here’s the result …

Oat-rolled loaf

Oat-rolled loaf

We enjoyed a meat and root-vegetable casserole with hunks of this loaf for supper last night.

I’m managing to fit bread-making in around work – early in the morning while the kettle is boiling, I quickly mix up the dough.  Then I cover it and leave it close to a radiator while I’m in work.  About half an hour before I get home, Himself puts a cast iron fish kettle (or a casserole for a round loaf) into the oven and when I get home, I quickly work the dough (no kneading required) roll it up into malted flour – or oats – and pop it into the oven.

Within the hour my nose tells me it’s almost done and ready for the lid to be removed, and a little browning to happen – and it is magical, that smell of bread baking – it fills the whole house and there we have another loaf.  Sometimes it remains untouched until the following morning, but more often we’ll have a slice or two with our supper instead of potatoes.

I’m tending to use all white bread flour for the original mix these days, and then rolling the dough in something more exotic – malted flour, rye for a crispier crust, oats or whole grains.  I’m thinking what else I can use.

And, I’ve started another quilt – Scandinavian inspired colours – all I want to do is bake and quilt!

Adaliza

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