Lovage

Lovage-pin

Now I have a garden again, I’m trying to get some herbs going. This lovage plant was donated by a lovely gardening friend.

Then the weather happened and I really thought I’d killed the poor plant, but here we are… looks like the birds may have had a bite or two but hopefully its hardiness will see it through…

I’ve vowed to be nicer to my plants from now on and watch out for crazy weather forecasts 🙂

About Lovage

Lovage is a hardy perennial plant and will last for many years given the right growing conditions. It will also grow anything from 3ft to 7ft (1-2m) tall, so needs to be placed at the back of a bed so as not to overshadow lower growing plants.

Lovage has a strong taste, similar to celery, and is often used as a substitute for celery salt. The seeds are ground to make salt, and the leaves are generally used for flavouring stews and soups.

The leaves can also be added to the salad bowl. Some cultures strip the bark off the plant and eat the stem raw as a vegetable, although generally the plant is used for its foliage and seed. Lovage has a high level of vitamin C.

Originally from Mediterranean areas lovage has adapted well to cooler climates. It grows well in the UK and other parts of Europe. It is associated with, and often used in place of, celery and parsley.

Medicinal uses for Lovage

Lovage has been used for many centuries in culinary and medicinal preparations and has been the main ingredient in many medicines. It was considered to be something of a wonder drug.

Lovage is known to stimulate the appetite, and aiding digestion. It was also added to baths at one time to deodorize and cleanse the skin.

Culpepper claimed that the powdered roots mulled in wine would “warm a cold stomach, helps digestion, and consumes all raw and superfluous moisture therein” (Culpeper, 1814).

In fact, lovage has been used for many ailments from sore feet to digestive complaints – google the medicinal qualities of lovage – you’ll be surprised why this ancient herb has fallen out of fashion in recent years.

Then, get some growing 🙂 A healthy plant, or maybe two, is probably all you’ll need unless you’re going into production. Start off a whole packet of seeds, re-pot when ready and spread the love!

As this is one of my favourite herbs I had to include it in one of my herb books, of course. Along with 19 others, 20 Everyday herbs is a must-have before you start your herb garden, even if you’re just growing a few herbs in pots. (Book listed here)

If you have a UK address Thompson & Morgan have beautiful grown lovage plants so you don’t have to mess about with seeds! And the great thing about this herb is that it’s perennial. Buy it once and you’ll have it growing for years. (I hope mine looks like this one day)

lovage

Lovage Levisticum officinale

Perennial herb – Aromatic lovage seed can also be harvested for adding to savoury baked dishes. This tall hardy herb makes a useful addition to  kitchen gardens. Height: 2m (79″). Spread: 1m (39″). Lovage at Thompson & Morgan UK

 
Happy Gardening!

Linda x

Bees & Flowers

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We all know that there are many many creatures on earth who are in danger of extinction. We can, of course, all do our bit, however small, to help protect our incredible diversity of nature.

Avoiding plastic as much as possible is a great start and it’s encouraging to see supermarkets getting on board and reducing their packaging materials.

By taking responsibility for the food we eat and the packaging we buy into, we are slowly but surely getting back to a more natural diet and lifestyle – with plenty of variations – and we are helping to save our beautiful world.

Even if it seems like you’re not making a difference, you are!

It’s easy to think, with millions of people in the world still pumping out carbon monoxide, processing plastics and eating non-food diets, that we can’t possibly make a difference, but we lead by example.

If you know your neighbour gets their milk delivered and you could afford to as well, you could switch to milk in glass bottles and reduce the plastic you buy, dramatically. Btw, milk definitely tastes better out of glass!

Anyway, I was going to talk about bees and flowers.

Bees are at risk at the moment and we really need to encourage these wonderful creatures to our gardens and parks. One of the problems with bees is that some of us get  freaked out by them because they have a sting. But unless you are particularly allergic to bee stings, this needn’t be an issue. Bees don’t leave their hives in the morning with the intention of finding a human to sting. I promise 🙂

My daughter bought me a gift of ‘bee bombs’ earlier in the year. In case you haven’t seen them, they are available on Amazon …

beebombsBeebombs – Native Wildflower Seedballs
Beebombs are a mix of 18 British wildflower seeds, fine, sifted soil and locally sourced clay. These seeds are native species and designated as “Perfect for Pollinators”. Beebombs just need to be scattered onto cleared ground to create a wildflower meadow.

Beebombs at Amazon

I planted them quite late in a fairly big tub-like pot and they came up in a couple of weeks. Since then, we’ve had the pleasure of cornflowers and daisies and best of all, of course, bees! The little creature above was quite happy to put up with my photo shoot.

If you don’t want to do the ‘bee bomb’ thing, although I really do recommend it, you could sow your own wildflower garden or have pots of bee attracting flowers on balconies, patios or just outside your front or back door. Bees are most active between March and September (UK) and growing a variety of flowers that bloom at different times during this period will keep you and the bees happy.

Have a stroll around the garden centre and perhaps ask some knowledgeable shop assistants to steer you in the bee direction! I found a fun pack of bee attracting flower seeds at Thompson & Morgan but they only deliver in the UK.

honeybeeseedsHoney Bee Collection
A blend of 19 species of nectar and pollen rich annual and perennial flowers, which are proven favourites of honey bees in our gardens.This colourful flower mix is perfect for those gardeners wishing to encourage bees into their gardens. Height: 60cm (24″). Spread: 30cm (12″). Honey Bee Collection

It’s probably a little late in the year to sow seeds (especially as Autumn seems to have arrived early) but you may be able to grab a few flowering plants from the garden centre to enjoy for the rest of the , er, ‘summer’!

So, let’s get some flowers growing! Even if you can’t get it together this year, start planning your flower garden now and you could be attracting bees as early as March next year.

Flowers are incredible creations of nature. Some of the more exotic orchids are almost impossible to believe, this fly orchid looks like a fairy leaping from her armchair!

orchid

All flowers have their own beauty, even the humble daisy is a symbol of purity and attractive to bees. And the dandelion with its hundreds of bright yellow petals definitely shouldn’t be treated like a weed – although some gardeners may disagree with me  🙂

Heres to your Bee-autiful garden!

Linda x

Fresh Tomato Soup with Cheese Croutes

tomatosoup-pinTomato Season! Although it feels a bit like Autumn in Cornwall at the moment, there are tomatoes to be eaten 🙂 When you have a great crop of tomatoes in the garden, they can be a bit overwhelming. I’ve frozen many a tub of tomato puree for a summer lift in mid-winter.

But for the here and now, a bowl of fresh tomato soup will lift your spirits and nourish your body.

I used a very simple recipe years ago – it’s actually included in the tomato growing guide (scroll down for tomatoes)

And this one is a definite must -try. Found it in my favourite book for busy people ’30 Minute Cookbook’ (I’ve put a link below if you aspire to be a 30 minute gourmet chef!)

I’m copying it. more or less word for word, because I haven’t tried this one yet and I don’t want to miss anything 🙂

So, here we go…

Fresh Tomato Soup with Cheese Croutes

(On a hot day this fresh tomato soup can be served chilled)

Ingredients
(serves 6)

1.5kg/3-3.5lbs of ripe tomatoes
400mls/14fl.oz. chicken or vegetable stock (good quality if you can)
45mls/3 tablespoons sun-dried tomato paste
30-45mls/2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
10-15mls/2-3 teaspoons caster sugar
small handful of fresh basil leaves, plus a few extra to garnish
salt and ground black pepper
toasted cheese croutes and creme fraiche to serve.

Method

1. Mark the tomatoes with a small cross at the base, plunge them into boiling water for 30 seconds, then refresh in cold water. Peel away the skins and quarter the tomatoes.

2. Put them in a large saucepan and pour over the chicken or vegetable stock. Bring just to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for about 10 minutes or until all the tomatoes are pulpy.

soup3

3. Stir in the tomato paste, vinegar, sugar and basil. Season with salt and pepper, then cook gently, stirring for 2 minutes.

4. Process the soup in a blender or food processor, then return to the pan and reheat gently.

5. Serve in heated bowls. Top each portion with one or two toasted cheese croutes and a spoonful of creme fraiche. Garnish with basil leaves.

 
My notes:

“If you don’t have a blender or food processor, finely chop the basil leaves before adding to the pan, then after step 3, stir really well and maybe use a potato masher to get a smooth soup”

“Although it doesn’t say how to make cheese croutes, I would guess thinly slicing a baguette and sprinkling on some grated cheese before lightly toasting under a grill would probably work”

Bon Appetit!

Linda x

P.S. As promised the 30 Minute Cookbook details:

30minutecookbook

 

 

Amazon direct link to The 30 Minute Cookbook

 

 

 

 

Taste of Thyme

tasteofthyme-pin

Thyme is a beautiful herb to grow. Not only is it a culinary delight, but it looks amazing in the herb garden, or draped over walls. A healthy thyme plant really is a must-have in the herb garden. It can also be grown in containers and will put up with drought conditions quite well.

Thyme has been grown in the kitchen garden for centuries and there are records of its use back in Roman times. It was considered to be an effective herb to preserve meat, and although we still use it to flavour meat, other methods of preserving have over taken the simple thyme method.

There is no shortage of myths and legends attached to the herb, including an idea that if a woman wore a sprig of thyme in her hair she would attract her true love. There are many others, a lot of them based around romance and love. Thyme has obviously been a well-loved herb throughout history!

It has been consistently grown throughout the ages as a medicinal and culinary herb and is known to soothe colds and flu symptoms. It has anti-bacterial properties and is a source of vitamins A and C as well as a few other elements the human body needs.

Thyme is one of the herbs to add early in cooking, as it releases its flavours slowly.

*Add to slow cooked stews and casseroles.
*Mix chopped thyme into stuffing mixes
*Sprinkle a few leaves in a baking tin before roasting any meat or vegetable dish.

Grow a plant or two at home and you’ll always have this wonderful herb at your fingertips – organic and super fresh 🙂

Happy Herbing!

Linda x

growingherbsathome

Some of this text was taken from my most popular digital herb book “Growing Herbs at Home”. I’ve just updated and polished the book a little and to celebrate, the price has been reduced!

Grab a copy now and start planning next year’s herb garden. Choose your favourite book store:

Amazon US Amazon UKiTunesKoboPayhipBarnes & Noble , Etsy ,

Put Your Feet Up

christmasrush

This quote always make me kind of chuckle at the craziness some of us – millions of us in fact – go through every Christmas.

And oh, it doesn’t have to be that way!

I’ve been guilty of remembering it’s Christmas on or around the 15th December -ish. In my defense I have an awful lot of birthdays in the family during the last three months of the year and I tend to prioritize those if I can.

But then comes the awful realization that gifts have to be got, wrapped and hidden. That’s a big enough job in itself without all the other Christmas paraphernalia, various pantomimes, school nativity plays, office parties… oh, I’m getting tired thinking about it all.

The year before last, I knew – as early as September – that a lot of the family were gathering together at Christmas – they are often scattered 🙂 . That gave me a definite advantage in the Christmas gift giving department. Yep, I got my needles out and started knitting. I even bought a pattern!

So, I had a lot of yarn, bits and pieces mostly but enough to make 12 pairs of cosy slippers 12 pairs of fingerless gloves and 12 neck scarves.

I bought a few metres of wide red ribbon and tied a pair of slippers, a pair of gloves and a scarf together – reasonably well matched – and got lots of oohs and aaahs throughout Christmas and the new year. 24 cosy feet make 12 happy people when its cold outside!

So, that’s my take on the Christmas rush/panic whatever you want to call it. Do a little planning now..

**make a list of people you usually buy for
**make a list of things you could possibly make, and match them up!

Knitting is just one idea. Have you other needlecraft skills? Or think outside the armchair a little and maybe take some cuttings of your plants and re-pot them as gifts.

Making gifts is a win-win all round.

**People love receiving something you’ve made yourself.
**Your creativity gets a chance to shine – that always feels good
**And by dabbling in home made stuff, you can avoid, or at least minimize, plastic packaging and cheap plastic toys.

There are hundreds of different things you could make as gifts to give others (and yourself!).

Start now, you don’t have to feel Christmassy – just think about winter/ all season gifts. Plenty of time to get Christmassy around the 15th of December 🙂

Check out the Knits U Love page for some knitting downloads for beginners. There’s a free spider pattern too, so that’s Halloween sorted!

Happy Crafting

Linda x

greatvalueyarn-ig

This looks like a handy pack to get going with if you’re making lots of little colourful things! Found it on Amazon. 12 colours, free patterns, good customer service and only just over a tenner – yay! Amazon Yarn

 

 

Chamomile

Chamomile-pin

Any of us who have dabbled in herbal teas will have heard of chamomile. But do we know any more about this wonderful herb than the brand we usually buy? Ouch!

Here are a few reasons to grow some of your own….

Two main types of chamomile are widely grown; Roman Chamomile (chamaemelum nobile) and German chamomile (Matricaria recutita). Both have similar qualities and are used in similar ways.

Records show that the Egyptians worshiped chamomile and used it in medicinal aids as well as cosmetic preparations. It has been used for centuries all over Europe and was distributed further a-field during the 16th century.

Its daisy like flowers make it an attractive addition to a herb garden and, as the plant is perennial, it will grace your garden for many years.

Chamomile often grows around the edge of gardens and can be found in the wild. It re-seeds itself readily but is easily controlled.

It’s often left to grow between paving slabs and alongside pathways. When walked on, the plant releases a pleasant scent.

Chamomile can grow up to a metre in height but generally it will grow as a shrub around 2-3 feet (60-90cm) high. It makes a good edging plant especially around a lawn or grassed area.

While only the flowers are used in the home, the whole herb is used in commercial beer making. Chamomile tea is widely drunk and can be bought in most supermarkets or health shops.

 

Medicinal uses for Chamomile

Chamomile has mild sedative properties and has, for many years, been made into a soothing and calming tea. It can also aid digestion and alleviate symptoms of the common cold.

Chamomile is used in cosmetic preparations including hair lighteners and shampoos.

It has been found useful for reducing joint inflammation such as arthritis and also easing menstrual cramps.

…………………………………………..

*Text from 20 Occasional Herbs; a step by step guide to growing 20 fabulous herbs at home. Listed here: Herbs & Healing

I need to get some more chamomile started 🙂

Happy Gardening!

Linda x

Rainy Day Zombies Begone!

rainydayzombiebegone-pin

What is happening with the weather? Global warming seems to be the answer to any weather questions that come up, and maybe that is the answer. But it doesn’t really help on a day to day basis, when you’re trying to have a reasonable summer and it’s pouring with rain all the time.

Especially if you have children at home and they are all turning into zombies in front of their various devices. Bring them back!

Reality may not be ideal at this moment, but there’s something to be said for the Power of Now (great book btw) and enjoying the moment. The little darlings may assure you they are having fun and anything you suggest will be totally boring, but we know better! So, time to kick your slippers off, find a few basic items and have a fun day without maxing out the credit card…. You’ll probably have to exercise a little authority as well, but in a fun way 🙂

All the creative stuff like baking cupcakes, crafting greetings cards, moulding salt-dough animals etc; is great and always rewarding and educational, but sometimes you don’t feel like finding all the aprons, table covers and gluepots. So let’s simply play.

colored-pencils

First find a few bits and pieces like:
-a regular pack of cards – yep, they’re still around and very affordable if you can’t find any in the house.

-6 numbered dice and a few counters (these could be home-made)

-plain paper – invest in a pack of printing paper – grab it when it’s on special offer if you can’t steal any from your home office.

-selection of pencils, pens, felt tips maybe or crayons

-the kid in you…. and you’re pretty much ready to go.

With these simple items, you can play hundreds of games and variations – and maybe make up a few yourself. There’s a whole month of rainy day games in Indoor Family Games listed on the good life page. Quick download and get playing!
But how do you drag them from their screens in the first place? That part is easier than it sounds. The best way to get your kids’ attention is to appear to be having more fun than they are! Simple ay?

The way you do this will depend on their ages, their mood and various other components, but you will know what these issues are. Change the dynamic by getting a little dynamic yourself.

dancing

Go for something different if you can. If the kids are used to seeing you dance like a crazy person to some cheesy 1980s music, they will just ignore you.

But if they’re not used to seeing you do this awful terrible thing, they will definitely react in some way.

Be aware of the general mood and flip it on its head. You can do this. You’re the grown up, and about to have a fun day behaving like a kid!

Find traditional games you can play for all ages. Google is only a click away after all – yes of course devices have their uses, we’re just trying to de-zombiefy a few individuals here.

**In a fairly kid-proof room, you could rig up a net and play balloon tennis to get some movement going on.
**Or, get some co-ordination skills in action and place a clean bin or large bowls in the centre of the room as targets and throw rolled up newspaper or soft balls.

Pick your moment. Have a few ideas stashed and bring them out at a moment that feels right for you. If you’re at home with the children a lot, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen next if you don’t step in right now.

So, whatever the weather and whatever the current mood is, get your fun on and enjoy playing with the kids today. You’ll nourish your body, mind and spirit and some of it may even rub off on the next generation.

Have fun!

Linda x

Spicy Pretzels

spicypretzels-pin

 

(Found in the book ‘Cookies Galore’)

These look fun – haven’t tried them yet but it reads fairly easy, just the twisting into shapes could be tricky.

If I can get a reasonable batch together, I’ll take a picture and replace the professional version here 🙂

 

 

Ingredients

(Makes 30)

200g plain flour
Half a teaspoon of baking powder
pinch of salt
6 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon of curry paste
50mls boiling water
Beaten egg to glaze

 
Method:

1. Pre-heat oven to 180C / Gas mark 4. Lightly grease two baking sheets.

2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl and blend in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

3. Stir the curry paste into the boiling water, then add to the flour mixture and mix to form a soft dough.

4. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth.

5. Divide into 30 pieces and roll each piece into a strand about 20cm long. Twist into a pretzel shape by making a round, then twist the ends around each other to form a curved letter B. Press into position to secure and place on the prepared baking sheets.

6. Brush the pretzels with beaten egg. Bake until golden – about 18-20 minutes. carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool.

The pretzels can be stored in an airtight container for one to two weeks. Although I can’t imagine them lasting that long in my house 🙂

Bon Apetit!
Linda x

 

 

Lavender

Lavender-pin

Lavender is probably one of the most well-known herbs and is grown practically all over the world. It’s been used for centuries as a medicinal herb and at some point in history it was used to flavour food because it was believed to help calm the stomach.

Lavender has antiseptic qualities, and has been used in medicines and ointments since Roman times. The ancient Egyptians used it in embalming fluids and placed lavender in the tombs of royalty. And the ancient Greeks used it to treat insect bites, stomach disorders and kidney problems.

Lavender water was believed to cure fainting, nausea and dizziness for many generations. It’s also a favourite ingredient in detergents, air fresheners and pot pourri mixtures used in the home and work place. Lavender clears the head and freshens the environment.

Lavender flowers produce oil which is used in many preparations: perfumes and similar products. They are also useful nectar producing plants which in turn yield high quality honey.

Storing

Lavender rarely needs storing, but the flowers are only available until late summer or autumn, depending on the variety.

Pick flowers and dry them in the sun or a home dryer. Don’t dry too quickly. The flowers can be stored in a glass jar. Use in recipes, pot pourri mixtures and drawer fresheners.

Lavender based products make marvelous gifts.

Medicinal uses for Lavender

The medicinal uses for lavender would require another book to list them all. A sachet filled with dried lavender flowers and placed under the pillow will ensure a good night’s sleep.

Lavender tea is helpful in alleviating stress headaches and migraines, as well as indigestion and colic.

To your herbal delight!

Linda x

20EverydayHerbs

 

 

Text taken from ’20 Everyday Herbs’ listed here

 

 

 

Circle of Fun

circleoffun-pin

I remember playing this game with my kids, but before I go any further I’d like to apologize for the non-PC title of the game. Back then we didn’t really think of racism or political-correctness and certainly no thoughts or feelings of racism came into the mix.

Anyway, titles aside – this game is more like crazy whispers and can be played all around the house. Whisper something to one of your children and they will love to run off and find someone else to whisper it to. Can get a bit confusing but that’s really the nature of the game.

Crazy + confused = fun and laughter.

I copied this straight from ‘Indoor Family Games’.

Chinese whispers

Why this game is called ‘Chinese’ whispers I have no idea. I guess that those of us who played in the West many years ago considered Chinese to be a language that made no sense at all to us. This game can certainly end up making no sense!

Position as many players as possible in a circle, or around a playing area. All players should be sitting. One person is chosen to start the game by thinking of a sentence of at least four or five words. This sentence is whispered to the next player.

The sentence must not be heard by anyone else and should only be repeated once.

If the player doesn’t hear correctly, they will have to decide what they ‘thought’ they heard and then whisper that sentence to the next player.

When all players have heard the whisper, the last player in the circle says out loud what he or she thinks they heard. Then the player who started the whisper has to say what they originally whispered. The starting phrase can be very different from the finishing one!

The more players there are will produce more variations on the original sentence.

Variation:

This game can be played outside and players don’t have to sit in a circle. As long as everyone gets a turn in the right order, players can be scattered all over the house and garden.

Enjoy!

Linda x

P.S. Indoor Family Games is available from various bookstores and is a handy digital download.

IndoorFamilyGames

 

 

Pop over to the Good Life page and choose your favourite online store.