The magic of magnolias

PinkBestWishesIt makes me smile that one of the early words my granddaughter Grace could say was “Magnolias”! I think this was partly because the area of Somerset where she lives has so many gorgeous and really huge magnolia trees. Also, Grandpa is very keen on magnolias so he taught her what the tree was as she collected the petals from the ground for Granny… ahh!

Magnolias are one of the beautiful heralds of Spring, so… totally unsuited to a blog at this time of year! But the trees, once the flowers are over, are still gorgeous. I have planted so many trees during my life, I just wish I could whizz their growth along a bit to see what they’ll be like in fifty years time when I guess only little Grace will be around to see them.

All the staff clubbed together and bought a willow tree when Richard and I got married – (ten years ago) and it is just immense now – we have a stream in the garden and we planted the willow beside the water and whoops, it went ballistic! It is now about twenty feet tall, possibly more (I’m rubbish at guestimating). I also have a wonderful cherry tree in the garden that has been here at Victoria Farm for close on fifty years at least – it was quite large when I moved in over 30 years ago. Seeing the mass of blossom is my early May treat most years.

We should all plant trees in the garden… even though we may not be around to enjoy them, they’ll be there for the next generation. Meanwhile, here’s a magnolia-themed card that would be admired any time of year.

Ingredients

  • Signature dies Magnolia SD332 and Victoria Lace SD308
  • Any make of dotty embossing folder
  • Oval and scalloped oval dies
  • 6” square white card blank
  • White and pink cardstock with a scrap of brown
  • Pre-printed best wishes sentiment

Technique

  1. Cut some white card to approx 5 ½” and put through an embossing folder then layer onto pink card a little larger. Add to the main card blank with slim foam pads or glue gel.
  2. Cut out the Victoria Lace die in pink and glue onto the card at the bottom.
  3. Cut a scalloped oval in white and a slightly larger plain oval in pink. Layer these with foam pads or glue gel and then attach to the card.
  4. Cut the magnolia die in both brown and pink and add to the card as shown – I use Glossy Accents or a Quickie Glue pen to do this. Finally, add the sentiment using foam pads.
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Lace and roses

FrenchFlowersI always feel smiley when I can include some lace on a card and of course I love using flowers. This die is the Signature Dies Wild Rose and it’s fun to use.

The basic card is an 8 x 8” white card blank, then I have matted some pretty grey lace backing paper from my Volume 1 backing paper pad (good value I reckon) onto dark pink cardstock. I used the same dark pink for roses plus a lighter shade too. The matted lace paper is then attached to the card blank.

The image was cut out from the Stefania Ferri 8 x 8”pad (she is SO talente!) and attached in the centre of the card. My choice is to use double sided tape, but some people have other favourites like photo glue or glue sticks.

Now, diecut roses in a couple of shades of pink and find a nice subtle green for the leaves. The thing I love about using dies is that you can use scraps and just keep on cutting to get as many flowers as you like as opposed to having a packet that runs out on you!

The centre of the wild roses just shows on the card as a glimpse of yellow – I have achieved this by cutting a square of scrap bright yellow card and attaching to the back of the flower – hey presto yellow centre! Before you glue the flowers onto the card, mould them a little to make the petals come up and away from the edges – this gives a lovely texture.

Have fun!

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Vampires and wild garlic…!

Today we have a lovely guest blog from my foraging writer friend from Pembrokeshire, Julia Horton-Powdrill. I know I have written about wild garlic before, but its arrival every spring is always so wonderful that I don’t think there’s any harm revisiting it…

“I know everyone is probably already fed up with wild garlic otherwise known as ramsons (allium ursinum), but it is one of the most available and exciting ingredients around at the moment in Pembrokeshire – and Devon! To preserve wild garlic put 500g clean dry wild garlic leaves in a food processor with 500ml olive oil and blitz. Store in lidded jars in your fridge where it will last for ages (I have some from last year which I am still using). Every time I take some out I top up the jar with a little more olive oil. This garlic flavoured oil is useful on its own to drizzle a little emerald colour onto salads, soups, etc.

Remember that you can eat the whole plant, the bulbs, flowers, seeds and stem as well as the leaves and if any of you are suffering from vampire problems, wild garlic will keep them away! Of course if you eat lots of it there is the distinct possibility that it will keep everyone else away too….

Wild Garlic has been used to treat asthma and other respiratory disorders and during the Middle Ages the herb was instrumental in treating cholera and in preventing the plague. Fresh juice from the small bulbs was also an important wound dressing and they were chewed to aid breathing and to treat digestion and intestinal gas.

This altogether stinky plant has regained popularity and it is always wonderful to see the bright green leaves coming through to herald the onset of spring. As the season wears on these plants, which favour damp and woody areas, produce beautiful white star-like flowers and can often carpet a woodland floor along with the bluebell. Together they make a wonderful sight although the smell of garlic overpowers everything else!”

Here’s a lovely veggie recipe for you to try – a delicious aubergine dip. Happy foraging!

Julia

BABA GHANOUSH WITH WILD GARLIC

Ingredients

  • 1 aubergine
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2-3 tablespoons wild garlic preserved in olive oil

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200ºC/Gas mark 6. Lightly grease a baking tray.
  2. Cut aubergine in half and place cut-side down on oiled baking sheet. Roast it for approximately 30 minutes or until soft.
  3. Cool slightly then scoop out flesh into food processor along with other ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Chill in fridge before serving.
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Brilliant barbecuing!

As I sit here shivering in an unseasonably cold April, I find myself hoping that May will be a glorious month – it very often is in this part of the world. I am hoping that by the second, if not the first, May Bank Holiday, we might be in a position to start thinking about a barbecue on the patio…

I have got numerous books of recipes for barbecues but so often, a successful barbecues is about HOW you cook the food and not so much what it is! We have all been subjected to charred sausages that are still raw in the middle and chicken so tough you can’t even cut it… so to avoid these mishaps, here are a few top tips:

If you are using wooden skewers always soak them well in water before use… otherwise, not surprisingly, they tend to catch fire!

Don’t forget you can marinade vegetables too!Use marinades on your meat. This not only helps with flavour and helps keeps the meat moist, it also protects food on the grill from the intense and temperatures of the barbecue grill.

If you have forgotten to marinade meat overnight, or it’s a bit of an impromptu event, you can speed things up by popping the meat or fish in a plastic bag with the marinade, seal and give it a good massage for a few minutes then place in the coldest part of the fridge for around 30 minutes.

Vegetarians often get a raw deal (no pun intended) when it comes to barbecues, but don’t forget vegetables, even fruit, can also be marinated and cook well on the grill.

One of the biggest failures for the barbecue chef is everything sticking to the grill and burgers and fish falling apart and disappearing through the bars into oblivion. Make sure that the grill-bars are well oiled and turn meat or poultry once to sear and then once more to cook through. Do not keep fiddling with it and turning food as this removes it from the heat and delays cooking.

Oh dear. Absolutely NOT what you want to see!Do not try and grill too quickly as, we have all experienced at some time… this will result in food burnt on the outside and undercooked in the middle.

Burnt food on the barbecue is a real ‘no no’ and has been proven to be a bit of a health hazard. However, do ensure that all food, particularly poultry, sausages and burgers are cooked through… or that is a health hazard too!

Remember to remove food at the end of the grilling process and leave to cool or rest for a few minutes before serving. The meat will be more tender and any metal skewers won’t be burning hot!

 

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Vintage Lily of the Valley Card

It fascinates me how you can twist the look of a card just by changing the colour. If this design had been made in vibrant greens and say electric blue or neon orange it would have looked horribly contemporary. I just love the soft gently vintage look, I find it so restful and professional looking. Probably no sane reason for that, just personal taste but hey ho! Not long till the real lily of the valley appear in my garden – yay!

Ingredients:

Steps:

  1. Print out two co-ordinating backing papers from the CD. Cut a piece of leaf design paper to measure 14.5cm square and fix to the card blank.
  2. Cut a strip of the second paper to measure 14.5cm by 5.5cm and mat onto Kraft card. Fix on the left side of the card as shown.
  3. Cut a strip of cream card 3.5cm by 14.5cm and glue over the backing paper panel.
  4. Die cut the border in Kraft card and glue over the cream strip.
  5. Die cut an oval from cream card and mat onto a scalloped edge oval. Fix on the right hand side of the card.
  6. Die cut the lily of the valley several times from cream card and colour the stems and leaves with the green pen. Use glue gel to create a 3D arrangement of flowers.
  7. Finish by adding the sentiment.
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