Flowers in a vase – everything is rosey

The vase for this Monday’s meme hosted by the lovely Cathy at Rambling in the garden was an experiment with oasis. I don’t really use oasis because I’m not much of an “arranger”; I like to plonk and go so to speak. However, I saw some in a local shop and thought I’d try it out. I have been planning on cutting some roses so I can really enjoy their scented loveliness up close and I often struggle to make roses sit up straight and behave so perhaps the oasis will do the trick….

One of my favourite roses is a pale lavender colour and has the most rosey scent ever; it is aptly named ‘Heaven Scent’. I’ve only had this rose for a year but it is pickled in blooms. I managed to take some cuttings from it last year and one of the cuttings is now in bloom too.

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Isn’t it just gorgeous. I love yellow and lilac as a colour combination so chose to include another rose called ‘Casino’. This rose is a climber and is also scented and ideal as a cut flower. I chose it last winter and wanted it to grow over a trellis archway in my vege garden. Now it’s summer and it’s an absolute delight as I can enjoy it in all it’s scented, yellowy loveliness every time I walk through to the greenhouse.

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It’s a very pale lemony yellow; very subtle. For foliage I spotted a Pseudopanax Cyril Watson. Are you impressed I know the name?! I have to admit I kept the label on this one. I was attracted to the seed head which being a lime green colour really suited the lilac and yellow of the roses. The trifoliate leaf shape is also slightly unusual.

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Finally I found a little clump of flowers in a bed I’m clearing. Of course I don’t know what it is or what it’s called but it must be a bulb of some sort and it has leaves like thick blades of grass. Anyway, I thought it’d look great stuck randomly throughout the display. See, I always revert back to randomness even when using oasis!

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It’s very sweet isn’t it. Looks a lot like lavender but there is no scent at all. It’s also got a really sturdy little stem so an absolute breeze pushing into the oasis.

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It was a nice sunny day so I accessorised with props that I was planning on using after writing this post! The oasis made arranging these blooms an absolute breeze! They were so well behaved; not a twist or a turn out of place. I suppose I should also mention that I used a gravy boat for the vase! I love it’s little feet!

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Here’s a bird’s eye view…..

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….and one from the back.

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So this is my offering for this Monday’s Flowers in a Vase, as part of  Cathy’s inspiring and wonderful meme at Rambling in the garden. Pop along and have a look and perhaps be inspired to join in.

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Leftover Mincemeat Buns

I have a whole jar of mincemeat leftover from Christmas. I meant to make a post about how I made it but that didn’t quite happen. So, this post is about how to use leftover mincemeat from Christmas!

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This was a Christmas present from a very lovely friend who gardens her way to the Good Life in the UK! This is such a gorgeous book to have. It is all about catering for parties and I know I’ll dip into it time and time again. Anyway, the thrifty part of me homed in on the recipe for Mincemeat Buns.

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Here’s my mincemeat. There’s quite  a lot of it so I might be making these buns again and freezing them.

Mincemeat Buns (makes 24 and they are freezable)

150g softened butter
150g Caster Sugar
225g self raising flour
2 eggs
2 tblsp milk
100g currants
100g mincemeat
50g flaked almonds (you might not need this much, I didn’t)

Ah….softened butter. If there are two words that make my heart sink when I want to Whip Up a batch of baking quickly it’s “softened butter”. Butter takes a while to soften you see. I know there are those with microwaves that can soften in an instant but I don’t have a microwave….. However, this book has an Amazing Tip. Weigh out the butter and cut it into cubes. Fill a larger bowl with lukewarm water and sit the butter bowl into the water bowl. By the time you’ve weighed out the other ingredients it will have softened.

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Magic!

Now all you need to do is throw all the ingredients apart from the almonds into a mixer and whizz them together. Fill two bun trays with paper cases (to make 24) and spoon the mixture into the cases.

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Oops! Forgot to sprinkle the almonds on top.

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There you go. Now bake at 180c for 10-15 mins. As always, I place my bun trays on baking sheets and cover with parchment paper to prevent burning. I also checked them at 10 minutes and removed the paper to brown them off.

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Mmmm…fruity rather than Christmassy so you really could make these whenever you felt like a fruity little bun.

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The almonds on the top make for a nice crunch.

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Hey! Who’s taken one?

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Littlest Figlet gives them the Thumbs Up!

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Perfect for lunchboxes too; just take one out of the freezer and it’ll be defrosted by Morning Tea Time.

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I thought they deserved to be displayed on this gorgeous cake stand. It was given to me by my lovely Crochet Guru Friend. There’s a clue there as to what I am tinkering with at the moment. I have forced my cack-handed self to try crochet again. I managed to pain-stakingly make a pair of crochet wrist warmers two winters ago. It was a struggle but I did it. I now want to make a blanket….. Watch This Space!

Flowers in a Vase – is it a bird? Is it a plane?

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The vase for this Monday’s meme hosted by the lovely Cathy at Rambling in the garden received immediate reactions from The Figs. Mr Fig said “Does it fly?” (cheeky monkey) and eldest Figlet said “It looks like a Big Hug!” It all started with a few stems of Eucomis that were on their way out or a Bit Wonky. I thought I could easily sacrifice them from the garden bed without leaving a gap. These flowers are my favourite kind of flower; architectural, interesting from bud to flower to seed head and…… a bit eccentric.

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I love the little green pineapple hat that it wears at the top of the flower (probably why they’re nicknamed Pineapple Lily). I then picked three dahlias that sprouted up amongst the sunflowers in the vege garden. Two of the stems were Very Short but I thought I could get away with it.

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Dahlias are also some of my favourite flowers for their showiness and the variety. I wasn’t sure at this point what kind of foliage to use. However, as I left the vege garden it jumped out at me. I have a big clump of Cinnamon Basil that has seeded with beautiful purple flowers. It had got quite substantial so I thought I’d try it out in a vase. Mmmmm….a nice basil-y scented vase.

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I have a wonderful white hydrangea that turns a gorgeous lime green over time. I added a few of these to lighten the overall effect.

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The last addition is my Knatia ‘Red Cherries’ that grows pretty much all year round and flowers endlessly. I even like the seed heads too.

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So there you have it. A plane……

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or a Hug in A Vase! Eldest Figlet helped me accessorise the table…..

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and very cute it turned out to be too!

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So this is my offering for this Monday’s Flowers in a Vase, as part of  Cathy’s inspiring and wonderful meme at Rambling in the garden. Pop along and have a look and perhaps be inspired to join in.

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The Magic of Calendula flowers

Just picked calendular

If you only grow one flower in your vege garden or allotment then make it Calendula Officinalis. It is garish and perhaps even a little bit tacky but it will reward you in so many ways. As well as being an excellent companion plant for your Veges (it will deter many pests that would otherwise attack your edibles) it is also a medicinal wonder drug. I want to persuade you to grow this cheerful little flower and show you how to extract it’s wholesome goodness and turn it into an indispensable medicine that you’ll reach for again and again.

So what kind of benefits can be derived from Calendula? Well, Quite A few actually. If made into a lotion or balm it can be applied to a number of skin ailments like mild burns, stings, inflammation, nappy rash, cuts and bruises, eczema, athlete’s foot and acne. It has the magic qualities of being antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and also anti-fungla. Quite a little trouper really.

It’s one of the easiest seeds to grow that I know of so a great one for children. Just sprinkle the seeds into trays of compost and cover lightly. They’ll start sending out little shoots within a week or two. Then transplant them to a sunny spot in your garden. They cope with most soil types and semi shade and will also be very happy in a little pot on a balcony or patio. Keep them well watered.  If you want to be really clever and keep a continuous supply throughout summer for harvesting then sow another batch a few weeks after your first batch and again a few weeks later. I did two sowings this year and my first lot are still merrily flowering while my later batch are about two weeks away so I should have enough.

Harvesting is so easy and you can’t harvest too often. They will send out more buds the more you harvest (just like sweet peas) so get picking. Pick once all the morning dew has dried out and snip just above a leaf node.

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Make sure you select the most perfect, pristine flowers.

Perfect Specimin

Here’s a good specimen….

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…..this one is a little past it. To dry the petals I like to dry the whole flower head.

Close up Calendular

Lay them out on a piece of muslin and turn every day or so.

Muslin Close up Muslin

They are a very sticky flower and you want a dry crisp flower so drying takes a little while. You’ll know they’re ready when you can pull away the petals with ease. Any resistance means they’re Not Quite Ready.

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See how crispy they get? Then fill up a clean jar with the petals.

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Now we can make a Calendula infused oil. Making an infused oil is so easy but you do need to have  a little patience (as Gary Barlow was right to point out). Take a clean, sterilised jar and fill three quarters full with dried calendula petals. Then fill the jar to the top with olive or sunflower oil. Make sure the petals are completely covered with the oil to prevent them from going mouldy.

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Looks very pretty doesn’t it.

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Label the jar with the date and leave it in a sunny spot for 3-4 weeks to work it’s magic. Give it a little smile and a gentle shake when you pass by. I’m going to leave mine for 4 weeks to extract every last drop of goodness. You can find recipes that say you can heat the oil with the petals very gently for a few hours to create an infused oil. However, I prefer to wait. Speeding things up can be a bit spooky for my liking; a bit like microwaves really (double spooky). Just be patient and you will be rewarded with a beautiful ingredient. I’ll show you how to make a balm for general ouchies and one for putting on itchy bites (as we call them over here) or general insect bites.

Row of Calendular

If you have courgettes coming out of your ears…..

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….then do I have a cake for you! I’ve already said how I find harvesting the first courgette from my vege garden one of the most exciting things ever and this year I am determined not to ruin it by getting Bogged Down with a surplus of these little green delights. I’m making a new category about Making The Most of Courgettes! It’ll hopefully be a one stop shop, an answer to the Mayday call of vege gardeners all over the world when their courgettes start to Run Their Lives. So, here is Courgette Recipe #1 which I stumbled upon in a really fabulous recipe book from the Library called A Good Harvest – Recipes from the gardens of Rural Women New Zealand.

Recipe Book

It’s full to bursting with great tried and tested recipes that have been handed down the generations. These are little gems – if they’ve stood the test of time then they must be good.  Everything from Nana’s Cucumber Pickle to Mrs Duckworth’s Tree Tomato Chutney, Jolly Fruit to Silverbeet ChowChow; it’s all in here. But the one for this post is called Zucchini (Courgette) Loaves and it is very wholesome, toothsome and “I want some more-some”. I took one of the loaves round to a Real Life Rural Woman friend of mine and after scoffing a few slices she wanted the recipe! So here it is Mrs Egg (and pass it on to your friends who dropped in for tea and enjoyed a slice and asked for the recipe too!!)

Zucchini Loaves by Margaret Pittaway, National Councillor, Southland and Otago

3 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
3 beaten eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup oil (I used sunflower)
1 cup of chopped dates
1 cup chopped walnuts (I used pumpkin seeds instead)
2 cups grated zucchini
2 cups sugar

Preheat oven to 160-170c.
Sift dry ingredients into a bowl and then mix all ingredients together. Divide mixture between two lined loaf tins and bake for 1 – 1 1/2 hours or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

This makes a very sticky, claggy mixture a bit like wallpaper paste (!) for want of a better description so don’t be put off!

Unbaked

Here they are before being baked. I always check my cakes before the suggested cooking time because my oven is a bit of a fiery monster. I also always cover my baking with a sheet of baking paper (this can be re-used indefinitely for other baking).

Cake and Tea

Ah….lovely. Who’d have thought a little green vegetable could be magic-ed into a tasty cake!

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You could always use raisins, currants, sultanas and other nuts. I forgot to mention I put a tablespoon of chia seeds in the mix too. Happy Baking and God Bless the courgette!

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