Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! As I am sure you are all dutifully saving your Easter eggs for Easter Sunday (!) Good Friday is the day for tucking into hot cross buns!

They are delicious toasted and served warm with lashings of butter ­– I love the cinnamon spiciness and the fruity currants!

There are lots of superstitions surrounding hot cross buns. One is that buns baked and served on Good Friday will not spoil or become mouldy during the subsequent year –don’t think I’ll be trying that somehow! They are also supposed to have medicinal properties and if you give a piece of a hot cross bun to someone who is ill it is said to help them recover.

Sharing a hot cross bun with another is supposed to ensure friendship throughout the coming year, particularly if “Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be” is said at the time. Because of the cross on the buns, some say they should be kissed before being eaten. Not sure about that either…

Even more strangely, it’s said that if taken on a sea voyage, hot cross buns will protect against shipwreck. If hung in the kitchen, they are said to protect against fires and ensure that all breads turn out perfectly. The hanging bun is replaced each year… which is a relief I suppose!

Do you remember the childhood rhyme? It goes:

“Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!
One a penny two a penny – Hot cross buns
If you have no daughters, give them to your sons
One a penny two a penny – Hot cross buns”

Considering it’s an ancient rhyme it’s unusual to show a preference for the female of the family! So let’s embrace the Hot Cross Bun as an early example of feminism… Or better still, let’s just toast them and enjoy! Smiles, Joanna.

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Say ‘Happy Easter!’ with this lovely bunny card

If there is an Easter Bunny (how can we doubt it?) then I am sure he would be really happy curled up in a basket like this one! I think this card is a really sweet way of saying ‘Happy Easter’ to someone special – young or old.

Here, I have used a straightforward card that has an extra couple of folds to make the ‘mountain and valley’ effect at the front. The grass can be made several ways – there are lots of grassy die cuts or you could perhaps use some fringing scissors.

The chocolate card for the egg is given a lovely extra chocolately texture by embossing. You can then cut the egg shape with a template or with a die.

The dear little rabbit is from our House-Mouse Happy Hoppers range and is called ‘Special Baby’. Hehas been inked with a Memento pad and then coloured with Promarkers – Almond and Warm Grey2 for the bunny, Vanilla and Khaki for the basket and Ivory, Blossom, Tea Green and Lavender for the eggs!

It’s then assembled using double sided tape and Pinflair Glue Gel. Then all you have to do, is give it to someone special… along with a nice big chocolate Easter Egg!

I hope you all have a wonderful Easter weekend with family or friends and that the sun shines on us all!

Smiles, Joanna

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Container herb gardens

What’s not to love about growing your own herbs? They look lovely, they taste terrific, they smell super – and you will save a fortune!

Not everyone has space for a herb garden, or knees young enough to bend down to pick fragrant sprigs, so growing herbs in containers works brilliantly. Herbs are ideal subjects not only for conventional pots, but also containers of all kinds – wall pots, troughs, window boxes and anything you have handy. Containers have advantages of their own: they can be used to confine invasive herbs, such as mint, or filled with ericaceous compost for lime-hating plants.

Window boxes

Let’s start with a window box. This makes an ideal herb garden, accessible at all times and changing with the seasons if a supply of potted plants is kept in reserve. Make sure brackets are strong enough to support the weight of moist soil and use a box about 25-30cm/10-12in deep to allow a good root run for the plants.

Provide ample drainage in the same way for other containers, and then fill with a moist, soil-based potting mixture. Either plant young herbs directly into this or grow them in 10-12cm/4-5in pots, burying them just below surface level in the box and replacing them as they are exhausted.

Small herbs, especially ornamental varieties, are best but space can be made for taller kinds such as bay and rosemary, started as cuttings and grown in the box until they are too large, when you can transfer them to the garden, or to larger pots to stand alone on a balcony or patio.

Here’s my list of herbs for a sunny window box:

  • Calendula
  • Chives
  • Dill
  • Lemon thyme
  • Lemon verbena (summer)
  • Marjoram
  • Nasturtium (summer)
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Scented-leaved geraniums (summer)
  • Tarragon
  • Winter savory

There are so many recipes you can use these herbs in and, being fresh, you’ll notice a huge difference from using dried.

 

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Something really ‘hot’ for the kitchen…

Chilli Kitchen Wreath

Taking the Christmas decorations down can leave you feeling a bit flat and the house looking rather bare. I love this Chilli Kitchen Wreath – which is fun to make, really pretty and smells wonderful too!

Both the chillis and the cinnamon have natural fragrances of their own, but this can be enhanced by adding a little cinnamon oil or another suitable fragrance to the wreath once it is finished.

You will need: 

  • 3 or 4 large hydrangea heads (dry them from the garden by just hanging them somewhere warm)
  • A bunch of 10 red (Mercedes) roses – buy ready dried or buy fresh, strip the leaves and hang upside down somewhere warm
  • 10 golden/apricot (Calypso) roses – as above
  • About 15 slices of apple – see below for how to dry
  • A few sticks of cinnamon
  • A spray of red pepper berries

For the structure:

  • One willow, vine, or twig ring, about 30cm (12in) in diameter
  • 60cm (24in) tartan or checked ribbon, 5cm (2in) wide
  • 30cm (12in) of matching ribbon, 2.5cm (1in) wide
  • About 15cm (6in) of 0.71mm (22 gauge) florists’ wire
  • A hot glue gun and glue.

Form the wider ribbon into a figure of eight (see diagram below). Wrap the wire firmly around the middle, making a bow. Then, knot the narrower ribbon over the wire to hide it and making two more streamers. Glue the bow to the base of the ring. Separate the hydrangeas into florets and glue these around the ring, making sure they are fairly evenly spaced.

Glue three cinnamon sticks across the bow, attaching them one at a time. Further pieces of cinnamon could be included in the design if you wish. Then, take the apple slices and attach them in groups of 3, placing them around the ring. You can make the dried apple slices by simply slicing a fresh apple and drying the slices in a very low oven for 3 or 4 hours on a cake rack,until they are dry and leathery.

Trim the stems of the roses until they measure about 2.5–5cm (1–2in). Glue in the rose heads, again in small groups, either keeping the colours separate or mixing them together. You could use other roses, or cheaper dried flowers to reduce the cost of the project or to change the colour scheme. Finally, glue in the chilli peppers one by one, positioning them in a fairly random fashion around the ring, including some in the group of items around the bow. Finally, add the spray of pepper berries to the bow.

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