Thoughts about the New Year

Well here we are 2013 is upon us… heavens, how fast did the last year go…? Answer, at the same speed as every other year, we just need to know how to make each year count and every month matter.

My first and only resolution this year is not to waste time, wish my life away or be able to say this time next year, well goodness me where did that year go? I want to do something that will make 2013 a year I remember fondly, a year where I feel I have made a difference to my life and, if I am lucky, to someone else’s life too.

Daydreams are just that, happy thoughts that while away precious time, how often do we follow through and really do all (or even some) of the things we dream about? I have a list of places I would dearly like to visit and trips I want to take before age gets the better of me and I find that I either haven’t got the strength to make the trip or the oomph to make me go out of my comfort zone. So far I have ticked Alaska off my ‘to do’ list but I still have Egypt (I’d love to see the pyramids) and the Northern Lights waiting for the budget and the time! I also daydream too much about getting a novel published and this is the year I want to see something happening… so watch this space!

So I am pushing to one side all my normal resolutions like, dieting, being more organised, making the garden look prettier, making a patchwork quilt, doing more scrapbooking and a dozen more that fail every year and just focusing on that one concept… make 2013 matter!

So, come on, tell us what resolutions you’ll be making…!

A happy and peaceful New Year to you all!

Joanna

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Now, it’s time to relax!

Happy Christmas! I hope you are having a lovely day and that Santa has brought you everything you wished for!

By the end of Christmas day or Boxing day, when the relatives have gone and the tidying up is complete, I think most of us will be longing for some rest and relaxation and I can’t think of anything that fits the bill better than a relaxing bath.

There are many real and apocryphal tales of famous ladies bathing in assorted substances. Cleopatra in her asses milk, for example, while others choose champagne and water from famous spas. All of these indicate one thing – that baths of any kind are good for the spirit! However, I think bathing in asses milk is right out (unless you have a pet ass of course) but milk baths can work just as well with a limited amount of milk and not necessarily from a donkey!

Here is a selection of my favourite soaks for you to try, so lie back and relax… and prepare yourself for the New Year celebrations that are just around the corner!

Smiles, Joanna

Cleopatra’s Milk Bath

1.5 cups of powdered milk or 1 litre/2 pint of fresh milk

This will help relax and soften your skin.

While the bath is running add the powdered milk under the fast-running tap. Fresh milk is also nice in a bath but the convenience of powdered milk is that you can keep it in the bathroom with a scoop or cup, ready for the moment when you feel the need of an Egyptian-style bath!

Lavender bath

A simple recipe for a wonderful, aromatic and relaxing bath is to add 6-8 drops of lavender essential oil under the fast-running hot tap as you fill your bath.

Salt Bath

This could not be easier. Salt baths help to relieve tired and aching muscles and make your skin feel wonderful. Run a warm bath and pour 1-2 cups of sea salt under the fast-running tap. Then enjoy!

Floral Soda Bath

Baking soda can be used on its own to make a bath cooling and reviving, especially if you have been ill. However, it is much more enjoyable as a floral bath. This isn’t an ‘immediate’ bath time treat, but is well worth the wait…

Fill a large glass jar (approximately 750ml or 1.5 pint) with bicarbonate of soda to just short of the top. Then, add a teaspoon of jasmine, ylang-ylang or neroli essential oil. Shake the jar well and leave on the side for a week or two, shaking it every time you pass.

Use about a half to one cup for a wonderfully aromatic bath.

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Sweet Chilli Jam

I’m very fond of cold meats – which is fortunate as there’s always lots left over at Christmas time – and I love adding pickle or a preserve to my plate. This preserve not only tastes wonderful, it looks lovely too! A rich glossy chilli red, you can have no doubt that it is going to pack a punch. Men generally seem to like spicier, hotter things and I think this is always a good preserve to have in the fridge ready to add a dash of heat to a simple lunch or supper, or to just dollop on the side of your plate to add some delicious warmth!

You will need:

 

  • 8 large red peppers, deseeded and chopped
  • 10 red chillies halved
  • 50g fresh root ginger pealed
  • 8 garlic cloves peeled
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
  • Put all these ingredients in a food processor and whizz until nearly smooth, then put in a large pan along with
  • 750g sugar
  • 250ml red wine vinegar

 

Bring it all to the boil and simmer for about 1-2 hrs, stirring occasionally. It is ready when the mixture is volcanic. Put into warm sterilised Jars and seal. Keep for up to 3 months and, once opened, keep in the fridge.

Makes about 8 small jars.

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Home made patchwork pine cones and baubles

I love the idea of having family treasures that come out every year and make a real tradition out of Christmas. My mother has been making these pretty decorations for many years and we all have special collections of examples she has made for us.

It’s easy to use different scraps of fabric for a colourful patchwork effect or you can plan a colour scheme and buy a small amount of fabric for your project. All you need are some polystyrene balls, your fabric and lots of little pins!

I like the idea of choosing a specific colour scheme or theme and making one for each of the family every year. You could write the date on in gold pen to make it a special piece that can go on the tree each year.

Making your own Christmas decorations is a rewarding way to spend some time as you can enjoy them hanging all through the festive period and then tuck them away safely to enjoy next year.

All the ingredients can be bought from Pinflair, who are colleagues of mine on TV – and very reasonably priced they are too!

There are lots of places on the internet that have great tutorials showing you how to make these ornaments so here are some links for easy access – have fun!

Fabric pine cone

Pine cone ornament

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Feeding our feathered friends in winter

The arrival of ‘proper’ winter weather has seen the usual flurry of wild bird activity in our garden. I see robins fluffed up like pompoms and black birds looking huge – thank goodness they have such great insulation in their feathers. But it’s important we look after our garden birds throughout the winter months, especially now as so many of them are under threat.

Garden birds need extra nourishment to keep them warm, just as we do and, as I know you are all so keen on cooking and ‘making’, I thought you’d love to have a go at making your own winter bird feeders!

All you need is vegetable suet, or lard, bird seed mix and empty yogurt pots.

Mix one part suet to two parts seed, transfer to a saucepan and gently heat until the fat melts.

Next, make a small hole in the bottom of each pot and thread some twine through to tie the feeder to a tree branch. Pour the mixture into the pots – do this on a tray or baking sheet so if any fat leaks through the hole it won’t damage anything. Set overnight in the fridge, then simply remove the pot and hang up outside.

Don’t forget their water in winter. I keep a stock of old plastic post and cartons from packaging that I fill with water and weight down with a stone to ensure they always have fresh unfrozen water.

Finally, hygiene is very important – when a large number of birds are attracted into an area to feed, the danger of disease increases. Prevention is always better than a cure, and is the best thing you can do to help the birds.

The RSPB has lots of useful information about bird feeding and advice on how to keep everything clean. Click here to find out what they suggest

http://www.rspb.org.uk/advice/helpingbirds/feeding/hygiene.aspx

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