Wednesday, 30 December 2015

THE DOG WALKERS' TREE





There's a lovely tradition near where we live, where each Christmas local dog walkers' decorate a tree on the common. The dog walkers' tree as it's known sits on Rodborough Common above Stroud and for years has been decorated with tinsel and baubles each Christmas. The lovely thing is that it's not just decorations on the tree but memories and pictures of dogs who enjoyed their daily walks here. Underneath the tree there is a big plastic tub where people leave donations of pet food for the local animal shelter. It's quite a sight to see on the common but somehow very beautiful and a fitting way to remember mans' best friend.

After our visit to the tree we walked (although a certain someone was carried!) across the common to Winstones Ice Cream that, despite the gale outside, was bursting with walkers enjoying an ice cream break. I loved their seasonal Christmas Pudding flavour ice cream and may have indulged along with the boys, well it is Christmas after all!

Monday, 28 December 2015

BLOWING THE COBWEBS AWAY


The Boxing Day walk with friends is now an annual tradition in our village, and after a few days cooped up at home is always much needed to blow the cobwebs away. Getting us all up and dressed is always a battle but it's worth the effort and we stuff our pockets with Roses and Quality Street chocolates for bribery and motivation.  


The village 'gin off' is a new tradition, each family picks sloes in August/September to make into Sloe Gin for our Boxing Day walk. An impartial friend or relative gets allocated the task of being judge! We came a respectable third this year, so will have to try harder next year!


We take flasks of hot chocolate, I use this amazing Jamie Oliver recipe without the cinnamon, it's like drinking melted chocolate. My friend Kate had the genius idea of adding a little of her slow gin to this molten mixture and it made it the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted, I'm certainly making it like that again! The children had our homemade snowman marshmallows in theirs.


With all the rain we're having we certainly enjoyed the mud but have been watching the flood situation in Lancashire on the news in disbelief, it looks an awful situation, I do hope none of you have been affected? Keep safe and dry x

Sunday, 27 December 2015

A PUDDING THAT'S THE BOMBE!



The boys made this really simple Christmas pudding the other day to take to our friends house. They cut slices of swiss roll (bought not made I'm afraid!) and lined a bowl with them, then we popped the bowl (with a smaller bowl placed inside to press the sponge down) into the freezer for a little while. Once frozen we scooped vanilla ice cream inside and gently pressed down to fill the middle, then adding another layer of swiss roll on the top to seal. Then popped it back in the freezer until ready to serve. We took it out of the freezer 20 mins before serving and garnished with chocolate holly leaves (we painted the leaves and then pealed them up once set) and cranberries. I think it would make a great tortoise birthday cake, don't you? 

Saturday, 26 December 2015

CHRISTMAS SCENES


This year's advent calendar was based upon Cath's brilliant idea, using model railway figures to decorate 24 little boxes full of chocolate treats and fun things to do.


We wrapped presents with pom pom snowflakes and polar bears,


and received some excellent presents.


I hope you had the most wonderful Christmas x

MELTING SNOWMAN MARSHMALLOWS




One of my favourite Christmas crafts this year has been these melting snowman marshmallows. They are so easy to make and have really made everyone smile who has seen them. We made them with a cocktail stick dipped in melted chocolate and carefully dotted on a marshmallow for the eyes and mouth, we chopped up dried apricot into tiny triangles for the carrot nose. You then add them to hot chocolate and watch them melt in! We also put them in little cardboard boxes to give as gifts too.

Friday, 18 December 2015

FRIDAY FIELD NOTES


The older I get the more in love I fall with a car called Morris. Isn't he beautiful? I'm sure Miss. Marple drove one quite similar and one day hopefully I will too!

This weekend we'll be making and decorating a gingerbread house, one of our favourite family traditions.

I fancy trying this recipe too.

I've been super organised with present buying so I don't fall victim to any last minute panic buying, so I'll try and wrap all the gifts this weekend and pop them under the tree.

We also need to chop our wood ready for Christmas and fill the kindling basket too.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend x

Thursday, 17 December 2015

CHRISTMAS GIFTS FOR TEACHERS


We always make gifts for teachers each Christmas and I was delighted to find inspiration for homemade gifts in the December Simple Things magazine. There was the most simple lemon and rosemary body scrub recipe that was really easy for the boys to make. They blended sea salt, olive oil, lemon juice and zest and chopped rosemary and carefully spooned the mixture into jam jars. Perfect for their teachers, classroom assistants and playgroup staff to say thank you for putting up with them all year! 

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

A SIMPLE CHRISTMAS


We love Christmas; the traditions, family rituals and magic. Each year I try and keep things simple and shield us from getting swept up in the commercialism that surrounds Christmas. Despite being fairly organised the closer we get to Christmas the more stressed I feel, at a time of year that should be about family, reflection and calm. Tomorrow I have a mountain of tasks to finish at work AND we have teachers gifts to make and Christmas cards to write, I will be drinking lots of tea and eating biscuits to keep me sane.

Monday, 7 December 2015

BEEF & ALE STEW


This is my absolutely favourite stew recipe, perfect for a wild windy wintery day. I make it in huge batches with award winning red poll rare breed beef from Ruscombe Farm in Stroud and put it in flasks for walks. Here's my recipe,

Ingredients:

olive oil
plain flour seasoned with salt & pepper
750g stewing beef - cubed
3 onions chopped
100g streaky bacon chopped
6 carrots
3 parsnips
100g button mushrooms
1 garlic clove
1 tin of chopped tomatoes 
tomato puree
2 bay leaves
1 bottle of Guinness
1 beef stock cube

Method:

1. toss the cubed beef into the seasoned flour and add to a frying pan with the oil - browning off the meat and putting to one side.

2. add a glug of oil, the chopped onion and garlic to a large stewing pot with the bacon and cook until the onions become translucent.

3. stir in the carrots, parsnips, mushrooms and add the tin of tomatoes and Guinness, table spoon of puree, bay leaves and stock cube made up in 75ml of water.

4. cover and cook in oven on a low heat for 3-4 hours until the meat is really tender, you may want to check it once in a while and add more water if needed.

5. I add dumplings half an hour before serving too!

Thursday, 3 December 2015

CHRISTMAS BIRD SEED WREATH


A few weeks ago I was delighted to do a bit of behind the scenes 'prop-styling' for BBC Countryfile's Christmas Special. Don't worry it's not a new venture, I was busy with my day job for Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and helping my colleague Rosie, who was being filmed with our President Ellie Harrison.

We were making a bird seed wreath, a great alternative Christmas wreath that you can hang in your garden for the birds, you can get a free guide on the Wildlife Watch website, but here's how we made our Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust one!

You will need

twigs, willow or hazel to make a hoop
pine cones
lard
holly/mistletoe/yew/greenery from the garden
floristry wire or string
bird seed
dried aprocots
sultanas
grated cheese/breadcrumbs

Method

Twist the willow into a hoop and use the wire to secure if needed. If you use it soon after cutting it will be bendy enough to twist around itself and weave the ends in.

Attach the floristry wire around the pinecones, leaving enough to tie them on to the hoop.

Mix the lard, bird seed, sultanas and grated cheese/breadcrumbs together into a pliable mix and squash into the pine cones and attach them to the hoop.

Thread the apricots and sultanas onto a piece of wire into 'flowers' and attach to the hoop.

Finally add some greenery, even holly and mistletoe if you have it in your garden, to offer the blue tits, great tits and the finches some cover whilst they feed. You will also notice thrushes and blackbirds will pick up the bits that are dropped to the ground too.

Finally tie a piece of string to the hoop and hang in your garden to enjoy!

The BBC Countryfile Christmas special is due to air on Sunday 20th December, we'll be watching our wreath being made and it being given as a present.

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