DIY bird feeding station

I’ve just been watching a dear little robin through the window, head cocked, eyes bright – that’s the robin, not me! I always start to fret about the garden birds at this time of year as it gets colder.

I don’t know if it is significant, but I have never seen so many rowan berries as there have been this year, and also lots of holly berries… does that foretell of a bad winter or a mild one? Anyway, forearmed is forewarned and I recently saw this lovely idea for winter bird feeding, so I thought I’d share it with you…

The pine cone, beloved of crafters and flower arrangers everywhere, makes an excellent natural base for a bird feeder. Its open structure is just asking to be stuffed full of titbits for our feathered friends.

  1. Begin by collecting some medium to large pine cones. Don’t worry if they are tightly closed as, once you bring them indoors, they will open. If they are bit reluctant, give them a short warm in the oven.
  1. Attach string to the top of the cone ready to hang it up.
  1. Now, the world is your oyster, or indeed your pine cone! You may want to put rubber gloves on at this point as it gets messy… Spread suet, fat or even peanut butter over the cone, making sure you get it into the gaps between the scales and cover the whole thing.
  1. Place a mix of birdseed on a tray and roll your sticky pine cone until well coated. If you go for a general bird mix, you’ll attract a variety of birds. You could make several pine cone feeding stations and roll others in specific seeds, such as niger for example and you should attract that beautiful, colourful little bird, the goldfinch.
  1. Put your bird feeders in the fridge for an hour or so to make everything set.
  1. Finally, hang your masterpiece in a secluded area of your garden close enough to a hedge or shrub to give a safe haven for the birds if need be, but not somewhere that is likely to help any passing cats get at the birds!
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Heart-warming hygge

jo4sm

I have to say, this is my idea of hygge! Hidden away in a corner of the lounge in a nice warm wooly jumper, a comfy chair and a book!

I keep seeing the word ‘hygge’ and wondering not only what it is, but also how on earth you say it!

Apparently, it is pronounced “hoo-ga” and is a Danish word that is a feeling that comes from taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, every day things more meaningful, beautiful or special. I think as crafters, we can probably all identify with that sentiment!

Hygge is usually translated into English as ‘cosiness’. But it’s much more than that, apparently, and is an entire attitude to life that helps Denmark to vie with Switzerland and Iceland to be the world’s happiest country.

With up to 17 hours of darkness per day in the depths of winter, and average temperatures hovering around zero ºC, Danes spend a great deal of time indoors and, as a result, there’s greater focus on home entertaining. The idea is to relax and feel as at-home as possible, forgetting life’s worries. Sounds jolly good!

From what I have read, hygge seems to be about being kind to yourself – indulging, having a nice time, not punishing or denying yourself anything. All very useful come January when in the UK everyone’s on diets or manically exercising or abstaining from alcohol!

Apparently, the Danes are kinder to themselves and to each other. They don’t binge then purge and there’s not much yo-yo dieting in Denmark. No wonder they’re happier than we are back in dear old Blighty!

Certainly, everyone seems to be talking about hygge in the UK even though there isn’t an English word that means the same. It sounds a little like the English word ‘hug’, for which the Oxford English Dictionary lists no origins. You could argue that the effect of hygge and a hug is similar – comforting and secure. An obsolete meaning of hug is ‘to cherish oneself, to keep or make oneself snug”, according to the OED.

Hygge comes from a Norwegian word meaning ‘wellbeing’ and it first appeared in Danish writing in the 19th Century and has since evolved into the cultural idea known in Denmark today. Some older Danes feel that hygge isn’t what it used to be, as the stress on socialising has lessened. It’s now generally considered hyggeligt to watch TV alone or watching a DVD set, perhaps while eating crisps. Oh dear, a sign of the times even for the cosy Danes then…

And so, perhaps it’s safest to say that hygge was never meant to be translated – it was meant to be felt. I shall be attempting to feel some hygge this weekend – enjoy!

 

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Sleep on it…

Humans, like all animals, need sleep to survive. For we humans, sleep is a vital indicator of overall health and well-being. I am always amazed when I read that we spend up to one-third of our lives asleep!

Most of us know that getting a good night’s sleep is important, but too few of us actually make those eight or so hours tucked up in bed a priority. To make matters worse in today’s busy world, stimulants like coffee and energy drinks, alarm clocks, and external lights—including those from electronic devices—interfere with our ‘circadian rhythm’ or natural sleep/wake cycle. And then of course… there’s our old friend stress, perfect for inducing insomnia!

Anyone who has woken up at 3am, eyes wide and mind racing, knows how difficult it is to get back to sleep or, as affects many people, getting to sleep in the first place! I know when I’ve been going through stressful times, I tend to fall into the ‘middle of the night wake up’ category, which can be utterly exhausting.

There are, however, lots of things you can do to ease your passage into a restful sleep, so here are five suggestions you might find helpful.

Music
Small children invariably fall asleep to the sound of a lullaby and adults can do the same thing too. With modern technology, falling asleep to soothing tunes or the sounds of nature (I love the sound of waves on a beach) is not difficult to organise through smart phones or even a special pillow with built-in speakers!

Essential oils
I have written a lot about essential oils over the years, and they are really not to be under estimated. Chamomile, marjoram and, of course, lavender are all known to help relaxation. Sprinkle a few drops in a bath before bed (the post-bath drop in temperature is also sleep-inducing) or onto your pillow, I find lavender especially soothing.

Bed socks rule
If cold feet are keeping you awake—especially during the winter—warm them up with a soft pair of socks. The extra layer under the covers can help improve circulation in your extremities, which can help you fall asleep more quickly.

A good book!
I don’t know if my novels send people to sleep (probably!!) but reading, or listening to an audiobook is a great way to help you nod off.

Country air
Well actually, it can be country air or sea air for me, but the important thing is clean air and a bracing walk! I can guarantee it will make me feel tired in a really lovely wooly way… if you know what I mean!

 

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Putting the ‘festive’ back into Christmas shopping!

In my opinion, Christmas shopping – whether you are battling a busy high street, overwhelmed in a mall or sitting hunched over your keyboard shopping online at 3 in the morning – none of it is as festive and fun as it should be! So why not take the stress out of your festive shopping with a visit to a Christmas market?

I’m going to start with a fairly local one in the very pretty town of Tavistock on the far side of Dartmoor.

Tavistock Dickensian Christmas – 25th November 2016

The Dickensian evening includes the switching on of the Christmas lights, and an opportunity to start your Christmas shopping and enjoy the festive atmosphere. Be transported back to the ‘olde world’ with shop owners and staff wearing Dickensian dress, stalls selling roasted chestnuts and even steam engines adding to the atmosphere. You can find out more here.

Blenheim Palace Living Crafts for Christmas fair 17th – 20th November

On a rather grander scale… stock up on stocking fillers at the Living Crafts for Christmas fair in this stunning Oxfordshire stately home, where you’ll find more than 150 selected designer-makers, including artists, milliners and jewellers. Indulge in some hot chestnuts or a hot chocolate, then choose handcrafted decorations to adorn your home. Magical! Click here for more information.

Bath Christmas Market – 24th – 11th December

I love Bath any time of year, but this magical Christmas market makes it extra special. There will be more than 170 traditional wooden chalets lining the streets of the centre of beautiful Bath, transforming Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths into a wintry wonderland. Along with stalls from craftspeople from all over the South West, there is also the chance to go ice skating, ride on a carousel or enjoy a glass of mulled wine in the Après Ski Bar.

Find out more here.

Edinburgh Christmas Markets 19th November – 7th January 2017

If you really, really enjoy Christmas markets, then Edinburgh is the place to go as this lovely city has TWO markets, one Scottish and one European and they run through into January! The Scottish Market in St Andrew Square showcases food and drink from the country, including seafood and sausages, chocolate and cakes, plus handcrafted items. The popular European Market has been running for 20 years and is held in East Princes Street Gardens, offering traditional toys and gifts.

Click here for more information.

And finally… another Dickensian market. The trouble is the Victorians and Mr Dickens, did Christmas so well that, for many of us, it has become the ideal Christmas!

Ulverston, Cumbria Dickensian Christmas Festival – 26th & 27th November

Ulverston puts on a tremendous show every year marking the start of the Christmas season and bringing a little Christmas magic to both young and old. The historic market town is full of fantastic shops, great pubs, cafes and cobbled streets. The Dickensian Festival boasts a huge variety of free entertainment, free events for children, fabulous Christmas market stalls with lots of unique gifts and festive food, costume competitions, horse-drawn carriages, music and dancing. If you really want to get into the spirit of the festival, why not come in costume and take part in the grand parade around the town?

Find out more here.

Photo credits, top to bottom:
tavistockbid.co.uk, nmctours.co.uk, www.bathchristmasmarket.co.uk, Visit Scotland, OxfamBirdsEye.

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A different twist on a quiche

I know ‘Real men don’t eat quiche’ is a well known saying, but I found several men really enjoyed this quiche over the weekend. Technically, I made it for me as it is Slimming World friendly, but with the addition of some Charlotte potatoes from the garden and a lovely salad – tomatoes, radishes, lettuce also from the garden – everyone seemed to really enjoy it. As autumn draws in, I shall miss the warm weather and the free salads sitting outside just waiting to be picked!

The joy of this recipe is that it is endlessly flexible – have a look in the fridge and see what you have left – onions work well, courgettes, spring onions, bacon, prawns, the list goes on and on!

crustlessquicheCrustless quiche – serves 4-6

  • 150g chopped mushrooms
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2/3 tomatoes
  • 3 thick slices of ham
  • Small tin of sweet corn drained
  • 100 ml milk
  • 3+ tablespoons grated cheddar cheese
  • Chives or parsley and salt/pepper
  1. Stir fry the mushrooms in a non-stick pan – use a tiny amount of oil or butter if you like. The reason for cooking these first is to get rid of the grey liquid that can seep out of mushrooms while they cook – so fry them until they are well cooked and then drain thoroughly.
  2. In a large bowl mix together the chopped ham, mushrooms, corn, seasonings and herbs. Once mixed turn into a fluted flan dish as pictured or a cake tin or skillet or whatever cooking pan you want. Slice the tomatoes fairly thinly and arrange on the top of the quiche in a circle
  3. Now mix the eggs well with the milk and cheese. Pour over the other ingredients.
  4. Put into a medium hot oven about 200°C and cook for 25 minutes.

This can be served hot or cold depending on your preference.

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