Saturday, 28 June 2014

Elderflower Champagne

In the past I have made elderflower cordial and elderflower presse, but never champagne, so I had to give it a go, I mean what could be more delicious to enjoy on a warm summers evening than glass of bubbling homemade Elderflower Champagne? or as I prefer to call it; Elderflower Berkshire.  I made this a few weeks ago and now I have 6 bottles good to go.  Can't wait to share it with friends in the garden.  Here is how I made it:

I got 4 liters of hot water,
700g sugar,
2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar,
About 15 elderflower heads in full bloom, gathered on a sunny day,

Juiced and zested the lemons


Added the sugar to the hot water in a sterile fermenting bucket,


Added the lemon juice and zest to the bucket then topped the bucket up with enough cold water to make up 6 liters,




Added the elderflower heads and white wine vinegar,




Got a little boy to give it a stir,


Covered with a cloth then left for a couple of days.  I then checked it, it was foamy, and fizzing but if it wasn't I would have added a pinch of yeast to get it going  Left it for another four days then filtered it through a clean muslin.


Poured it into sterilised bottles and left for at least a week before drinking, frequently releasing the pressure from the carbon dioxide that is produced in the bottles by the continued fermentation process. 


DRANK IT!!  Sorry I didn't photograph that but I can assure you it was delicious, so sweet and fizzy!  Definitely worth making again, it didn't take long to make and was super cheap, just lemons and sugar really.  Give it a go before all the elderflowers have gone!

Have you even made elderflower champagne?  Was it delish?  What else have you tried?

Here is the full recipe I used courtesy of channel four and River Cottage.
Don't forget to gather the elderflower away from the road. 

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

What I have been reading - Divergent by Veronica Roth

If you liked The Hunger Games, then Divergent might be right up your street.  Based in a futuristic dystopia in which civilisation has been separated into different factions who perform specific tasks and behave in certain ways. Tris, the 16 year old main character feels like she doesn't quite fit in anywhere and so the adventure begins.  Tris is "Divergant" she doesn't fit into any of the factions and as such discovers secrets about how their society works to keep people under control and what might happen if one faction thinks they are more superior than the rest.
I found the book very gripping, an easy read, perhaps not quite challenging enough for me (probably a reflection of the fact that the books is written for teenagers) but still very entertaining, I read it easily in a couple of weeks of just snatching opportunities to read whilst having breakfast, riding as a passenger in the car and a bit at bed time.
What I loved most about this book was how it spoke to me about my life.  I am always looking for messages through the books I read that make meaning in my life, or tell me something important.  In this book I totally related to the idea of being "Divergent".  At my Church study group we have been watching a series by Cris Rogers called The Rebels Guide to the Good News and in the first session he talks about how Jesus is a rebel and how in the world today sinning has become the norm and not sinning is revolutionary. In Divergent, Tris is a rebel too, but ends up doing the right thing through her rebellion even though everyone else is doing something different.  This idea really resonated with me, I am not sure I have the full picture of it in my head yet but it is forming. There is something in there about doing the right thing in spite of ridicule or standing out in a crowd.

Divergent (Divergent Trilogy, Book 1)

Throughout the book I highlighted bits that spoke to me, they are slightly random and probably tell you more about the inner workings of my brain than te actual content of the book, but oh well!:

"It's a raven" - The image of a raven has been with me for a long time and my newest son's name means Raven.  I have been thinking about getting a tattoo of a raven for Biscuit's (not his real) name and a pine cone for Boris' (again, not his) name. So I was intrigued that one of the characters in the book has raven tattoos.

"Human reason can't excuse any evil; that is why it's so important that we don't rely on it" - I liked this sentence, it is Tris quoting her father, it reminded me of WWII and the Nazis, but is also true today and also made me think about how just because things don't have studies, research or evidence to back them doesn't mean they don't work or aren't real or true.  I think people try to use reason to prove to themselves that there is no God or spiritual world.  It reminds me that we can only really rely on God because people get things wrong.

"The best way to help someone is just to be near them" - True of a lot I have learned through my breastfeeding Peer Helper training about listening.

"We just have to let our guilt remind us to do better next time" - I am someone who often feels guilty about things.  I worry a lot about things I have said or haven't said to people and this quote just reminds me that there is no use to feeling guilty if you don't try to improve on yourself.

"I don't understand why we're such a threat to the leaders." "Every faction conditions its members to think and act a certain way. And most people do it.  For most people, it's not hard to learn, to find a pattern of thought that works and stays that way."..."But our minds move in a dozen different directions.  We can't be confined to one way of thinking, and this terrifies our leaders.  It means we can't be controlled.  And it means that no matter what they do, we will always cause trouble for them." - YES, totally agree with this in relation to our culture and being conditioned to like certain things, to behave in certain ways to not upset the status quo.  The government wants us to just sit nice and quietly in our homes watching television, going to work to benefit the economy and shopping in our free time.  The Government doesn't want free thinkers or rebels or people who think outside the box, it wants nice compliant zombies (am I being a bit extreme?).  This quote also resonates with me as a Christian in relation to good and evil. The devil also wants us to follow the common pattern of thinking and acting.

Am I the only one who tries to find meaning in books that isn't necessarily intended by the author?
What books have you read that have hidden meaning?
Oh and did you know there is a film of this book?!  I have to see it!

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Fun Things to do with Toddlers - Hammering Water Beads

Recently I have been trying to find more fun things to do with water beads, I think there is more potential out there than just picking them up out of a dish and scooping them, (as fun as that is).

 I had some water beads in the kitchen which were on the turn (read - going mouldy!) so I thought I would just let Boris destroy them, he always tries to anyway and I attempt to stop him from doing it because I feel its wasting them, but thought as he likes it so much I will give him permission to go mad with them!  So I gave him a wooden hammer and put the water beads on a reflective tray and let him go to town squishing and bashing them.

It was really good fun, I actually found it quite hilarious because of course it was nearly impossible to squash them because they kept shooting all over the place! We had water beads bouncing all over the patio, it kept Boris occupied for quite some time, he really concentrated hard on pressing the hammer onto each bead and positioning the beads ready to hammer.





Aren't the colours beautiful? Such a great tool for improving fine motor skills.
Have you any other ideas for uses of water beads?  I am thinking about freezing them, using them with water and sorting colours for starters.  I love these bouncy little thing!

Please excuse the slightly over exposed photographs, it was really hard photographing the reflective surface of the tin, the camera wanted to over compensate for the brightness so the photos were coming out really dark so had to use a bit of trial and error. 




Thursday, 12 June 2014

Breastfeeding clothes that I wish I could buy!

Finding breastfeeding clothes can be a challenge at the best of times, finding breastfeeding clothes that aren't stripey can be even more of a challenge. (What is it with breastfeeding clothes and stripes?  Who decided that nursing mums love stripes?)  Finding breastfeeding clothes which are patterned with something other than stripes and are also ethical and/or organic is near impossible.  So with this in mind I decided to put together a little selection of clothes that break the mold a little bit by being pretty, practical and ethical.  Not all these clothes are strictly "breastfeeding" clothes but they all allow easy for access.  Obviously leggings aren't essential for breastfeeding but we need something to wear under our tunics right?




Monday, 9 June 2014

Mindbomb Monday

In the 1970's the founders of Greenpeace came up with the idea of using electronic media to communicate revolutionary ideas, they came up with the tactic "mindbomb" whereby they would use simple images, delivered by the media, that would "explode in people's minds" and create a new understanding of the world.
On some Mondays I hope to share an image that might be considered a "mindbomb" that could get people thinking throughout the week ahead.  I won't include any words with the image as I hope the image alone will speak for itself.  Sometimes I will use images found online, other times it will be my own photographs and they will reflect something that has spoken to me from the past week.  It might be shocking, inspiring, confrontational or uplifting.
If you would like to join in please share your "mindbomb" in a comment.


Friday, 6 June 2014

Best Friend Scrap Book Pages

Recently my best girlfriend turned 30, the day before I turned 31.  We have been friends since before I can remember and I am so thankful to have her in my life.
For her birthday her lovely husband came up with a brilliant idea to create a "This is Your Life" style scrap book containing photos and journalling with fun and happy memories from our life.  I couldn't wait to get started, especially because I don't get to do much craft these days because I have so little free time, what I do do is usually for other people.
In an ideal world I would have had photos of us as children but they are all at my parents house so the pages contained fairly recent photos.  
I used scrap booking papers from my stash, a few flower embellishments and some tags for journalling.




Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Fun things to do with toddlers - Teddy Bear's Picnic

If you go down to the woods today you're sure of a big surprise,
If you go down to the woods today you'd better go in disguise,

For every bear that ever there was,
Will gather there for certain because,
Today's the day the teddy bears have their picnic.

Today we had a little teddy bear's picnic in the living room, inspired by my friend Vicky.  Boris was sleeping when I set up the picnic.  I put down a plastic mat (in anticipation of spills) with a blanket over the top, and laid it with Boris' toy tea set and several teddies.  I boiled the kettle and made tea (cooled down with cold water) in his tea pot, filled the jug with some watered down almond milk and put a bit of sugar in the sugar pot. I put on a CD with the Teddy Bear's Picnic song on it then woke him up with a whispered "something is happening in the living room!"
He was very excited to see the picnic set up on the living room floor, although we have pretended to make and drink tea with his tea set before he wasn't sure what to do so I made a cup of tea then he had a go pouring the tea from the tea pot through the strainer, adding milk and stirring in sugar.  Of course being a toddler he didn't make tea the "proper" way, he poured tea into the milk jug, poured all the milk into one cup, poured all the sugar into one tea cup, poured the tea from the tea pot via the top rather than the spout and slopped all the tea leaves from the strainer onto the rug.  But he seemed to enjoy it and liked making sure that all the teddies had some tea, I certainly enjoyed the magical feeling of it all and the pleasure on Boris' face. 









This was a useful activity for improving Boris' fine motor skills.  When he is a bit older this will be a great activity for learning about turn taking, sharing and table manners.
Have you ever had a teddy bears picnic with your toddler?  I will definitely be doing this again in future, maybe in the garden next time and maybe with food.

Our tea set is this one from Amazon

Monday, 2 June 2014

Mindbomb Monday

In the 1970's the founders of Greenpeace came up with the idea of using electronic media to communicate revolutionary ideas, they came up with the tactic "mindbomb" whereby they would use simple images, delivered by the media, that would "explode in people's minds" and create a new understanding of the world.
On some Mondays I hope to share an image that might be considered a "mindbomb" that could get people thinking throughout the week ahead.  I won't include any words with the image as I hope the image alone will speak for itself.  Sometimes I will use images found online, other times it will be my own photographs and they will reflect something that has spoken to me from the past week.  It might be shocking, inspiring, confrontational or uplifting.
If you would like to join in please share your "mindbomb" in a comment.