It’s always time for tea!

This beautiful box of teatime goodies was made by Suzanne Saltwell – it is really intended to be an advent calendar, but it occurred to me that it’s always time for tea and it would make the greatest birthday present any time of year!

Many people now are drinking fruit or speciality teas instead of the usual builder’s best cuppa, myself included. I had never been a fan of ordinary tea but nowadays I am often seen with a mug of peppermint tea in hand as I wander round the garden checking on what’s doing what.

There’s a lot to be said for growing a few herbs in the garden so you can make your own fresh teas – some flowers also, I have yet to try chrysanthemum tea or any of the other more exotic ideas, but mint sprigs grabbed from the garden and dunked unceremoniously in boiling water – yummy! I also have dried mint that I harvested last year and stored. The one thing you can be sure of is that mint will flourish and spread – hence advice always to keep it in a pot even when it’s in a flower bed.

So back to the tea box, here you can see the mug, tea bags and coasters that came inside the box, it’s such a lovely idea, perhaps there are some other themes we could create? Does coffee come in little packets? Has anyone got other ideas we could fill boxes with, for advent or any time of year? Do let me know!

Here’s the link to a downloadable PDF file that Suzanne has prepared so you can work out how it is made. Have fun!

 

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James Wong – what a great writer!

James Wong – what a great writer! Just occasionally I come across a writer or a new book that really grabs me and this was the case with James.

The first book I bought was ‘How to Eat Better’ which I saw mentioned in Good Food magazine. It’s really fascinating and has masses of facts that made me exclaim out loud as I read through… possibly a little annoying for Richard! Did you know smaller (and therefore cheaper) blueberries are better for you than the big ones – green asparagus is much better for you than white? Lazy people rejoice as apparently the vac packed and cooked beetroot has as many good things going for it than boiling and peeling your own… and so the list went on.

I felt sorry for Richard listening to my reading out paragraphs aloud and so bought him (and his brother) a copy of James Wong’s ‘Grow for Flavour’ which has so many tips and tricks that help in the garden. For example – watering tomatoes with seawater gives them a much better taste – giving hard to germinate seeds like parsley a quick dose of soluble aspirin helps them along – and yes you guessed, Richard is now reading out bits to me from his book!

Finally, having been so interested in his other books I treated both myself and my sister (I love giving books) to ‘Grow your own Drugs‘ – Kate was a little worried as it had to get through the mail and therefore the Jersey Customs department but, so far it all seems to have gone swimmingly! As I have a summer cold at the moment I was very taken with the recipe intended to help colds and flu – Echinacea Ice Lollies. This contains 80ml of vodka and that alone has to cheer things up! But there are plenty of other ingredients that should ease the throat. Disappointingly, the vodka is to soak the Echinacea root and doesn’t actually make an appearance in the finished lolly – hmm, sad.

Just thought I would share these titles with you – I love books with useful hints and tips and James is certainly an author I will look out for him in future programmes – he has shared a TV series with another person I admire – Dr Michael Moseley and has covered the Chelsea Flower show with the BBC team … I will be keeping an eye out!

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Remember rosemary…

I think most of us tend to think of the herb rosemary alongside roast lamb, I know I certainly do! But there’s much more to this zingy Mediterranean herb than you might think…

Its Latin name means ‘dew of the sea’, possibly because in its natural habitat it often grows on the sea cliffs of the Mediterranean. It is a hardy evergreen shrub and, once established, will chug on happily in most gardens throughout the year. It comes in compact and trailing varieties and really is a bit of a gem.

It is a plant I love to have in my garden, not just to because it is so wonderfully pungent and fresh when picked, but because of its delicate lilac-blue flowers that appear in winter to bring cheer. Brush against it on the coldest of days and the fragrance transports you to warmer climes… The flowers are edible and give a sweeter, lighter flavour than the leaves. What could make a prettier addition to a winter salad?

Rosemary planted as a hedge outside a local school… lovely for little hands to brush against.

Fresh or dried leaves can be used to flavour meat, soups and many other dishes, while sprigs steeped in olive oil give it a distinctive flavour. It’s becoming more common to see recipes for fish using rosemary and, given where it grows in the Mediterranean, that’s really no surprise. I think it works really well.

It is also surprisingly good in some sweet recipes – add a teaspoon of dried rosemary to an ice cream mix before making it. It’s particularly good with peach, strawberry, and lemon flavours. Or, why not try making this simple syrup and add it to summer drinks:

Rosemary syrup

  • 250ml of water
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 2 good sprigs of rosemary
  1. Put all the ingredients into a pan, heat gently until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes.
  3. Leave it to cool and then pour it into a jar, rosemary sprigs and all, and store in the fridge. Simply add a splash of rosemary syrup to cold drinks, such as orange juice, lemonade… or even a gin and tonic!

Tea made by infusing chopped leaves in boiling water helps digestion, so it’s no surprise to learn that rosemary belongs to the same family as mint, also a great choice for aiding digestion.

In the Middle Ages, rosemary was associated with wedding ceremonies. The bride would wear a rosemary headdress, while the groom and wedding guests would wear a sprig of rosemary. I went to a wedding last year where the corsages included rosemary, they looked (and smelled) wonderful!

Rosemary has a reputation for improving memory and has been used as a symbol of remembrance during war commemorations and funerals. Mourners would throw it into graves as a symbol of remembrance for the dead. And in case we were left in any doubt, even The Bard mentions it. In Hamlet, Ophelia says, “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.”

 

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Get well again soon!

Oh dear – January the month of coughs and sneezes and all things cold related – I thought I ought to have a get well soon card as the theme for today. If any of you have a nasty old cold then get well soon, but also if you have a friend or family member that’s suffering – send them a get well wish to speed things along!

There are so many things people recommend for coughs and colds and we all have our favourite tips and tricks. The main thing I was always told was drink lots and lots (not alcoholic!) – my choice is often just plain water but I often make up a jug with lots of slices of cucumber in it, a slice or two of lime or lemon or even satsumas. This, after it has been in the fridge for a while, is wonderfully refreshing and fractionally less boring than plain water!

Another favourite of mine are all the new flavoured green teas – have you tried Twinings salted caramel or fudge melts flavoured green tea? No calories to worry about and I am really keen on it at the moment (drinking a fudge melts one as I type). There are loads of fruity and flavoured teas on the market these days, hot and refreshing and, no doubt cool, and refreshing if I were to make up a jug and put in the fridge this summer.

Anyway I am going off track! I added this card as today’s blog as I wondered if it might inspire you to send a card to a neighbour, friend or relative that’s under the weather for whatever reason – you can rely on House-Mouse to cheer someone up!

Ingredients

Instructions

This is a nice straightforward card, so doesn’t take long to make – trim some raspberry card slightly larger than the main image and another piece to just less than the 8″ square main card. Then cut some aqua card slightly smaller again than the main raspberry.

Run the aqua through your die cutter to get the lovely arch edge to it. If you feel unsure, then do this first by cutting say a piece 8″ x 8″ and then trimming once you have added the edge so that it’s smaller than the raspberry card.

Now using double sided tape (or your choice of glue) add the raspberry to the card blank. Then layer on the aqua. Cut out the main topper and layer onto the smaller piece of raspberry card and attach.

Then simply decorate each of the top corners with a plaster (made me smile as I was doing that!). Now hand deliver or pop in the post.

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Lisa Audit artwork

happyanniversaryroseIf you haven’t had a look at our Lisa Audit Cardmaking pads yet… you should! Her work is so pretty, contemporary and useful for, oh, so many cards. They are lovely.

The nice thing about our paper pads is that everything you need to get you started on a card is there and then you can add embellishments or backing papers as you desire.

With this card, several Signatures dies have been used – our rose tea set and our Harriet Lace Edger down the right-hand side.

To complement the teapot there’s a fun little tea bag and string bow, and the bunting in the top right is one of our Signature shapes.

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