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Archive for the ‘Seasonal Celebrations’ Category

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Have you seen our Children’s Christmas Quiz in the School Zone under ‘What to do this Term’ on the Gardening With Children website?

It is a fun trivia quiz with a mix of religious and traditional Christmas questions and would be a perfect end of term activity either individually or as a team challenge, it is a multiple choice quiz which makes it easier and suitable for children of all ages.

Click here to go to the Christmas quiz.

Here are the answers: 1b, 2c, 3c, 4a, 5b, 6b, 7c, 8a, 9c, 10b, 11c, 12b, 13b, 14a, 15b, 16c, 17b, 18a, 19c, 20b

 

Congratulations to our September-November Competition Winners.

We had lots of correct entries for our Hedgehog Word Search Competition in the School Zone, the winner was Hempshill Hall Primary School, Nottingham who wins a Hedgehog Pack containing a Hogitat Hedgehog House, a Hedgehog Snack Bowl, a pack of Hedgehog Food and a guide to Hedgehogs.

I really enjoyed looking at all the lovely Hedgehog pictures that were entered in the Family Zone Competition, it was really hard choosing a winner but overall the winning picture was by Leah Jobson with her picture of ‘Sophie’ the hedgehog who ‘loves hugs and dislikes being alone’, Leah wins a Hedgehog pack containing an Igloo Hedgehog House, a Hedgehog Snack Bowl, a pack of Hedgehog Food and a guide to Hedgehogs.

HEDGEHOG

Well done to both of you, I hope that you will soon have a hedgehog in your Hedgehog House.

Gill

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I hope that you all had a very enjoyable Halloween and now we look forward to Bonfire Night!

Penny for the Guy

When I was young I remember knocking on the doors of neighbours with my friends and asking them if they had any old wood that they didn’t want for our bonfire and also if they had a ‘Penny for the Guy’ who was sat in our wheelbarrow wearing our old clothes and stuffed with newspaper/leaves/straw, the money went towards fireworks, thinking about it now it does seem rather cheeky although I suppose it is not too different to trick or treating which seems to have taken over.

The ‘Guy’ represents Guy Fawkes who was a member of the conspiracy who intended to blow up the Houses of Parliament on 5th November 1605, the Gunpowder plot was thwarted when he was caught the night before guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder in the cellars beneath the House of Lords.

I can’t remember the last time I saw children’s asking for a ‘penny for the guy’ it is such a shame that this tradition has died out, it is harmless fun although not for the Guy who unfortunately takes pride of place at the top of the bonfire.

Bonfire Night is all about keeping warm by the bonfire, watching fireworks, eating delicious treats and having fun here are some tasty easy to eat snacks for you to try:

popcorn

Home-made Popcorn

Ingredients

  • Popcorn Kernels/Popping Corn
  • Flavouring of your choice: Icing Sugar, Salt, Honey, Butter

What you need to do

  1. Place the popcorn kernels in one layer on the bottom of a heavy-based, deep pan with a tight fitting lid.
  2. Place on the stove on a medium heat with the lid on.
  3. Stay nearby as you need to listen to the kernels as they pop, at the beginning they will pop vigorously, when it slows down to a second or two between the pops remove from the heat.
  4. Wait a few minutes for the popcorn to cool, carefully remove the lid and place in a bowl, whilst warm sprinkle over the sugar, salt, runny honey or melted butter and stir.

Johns Red Apple plot

Spicy Apple Crisps

Ingredients

  • 2 large red skinned eating apples
  • Cinnamon and Nutmeg
  • Spray Oil

What you need to do

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C/140C Fan/Gas 3. Core and thinly slice the apples ideally with a mandolin (adults only) which will give even slices.
  2. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and spray lightly with oil.
  3. Lay the apple slices out on the tray so that they are not touching and sprinkle with the spices.
  4. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes turn over the slices and if required sprinkle again with the spices.
  5. Return to the oven for about 30 minutes, check regularly and remove any crisps that are golden brown.
  6. Allow to cool on a baking rack.

Edible Chocolate Sparklers

Ingredients

  • Bread Sticks
  • Chocolate
  • Syrup
  • Cake decorations (stars, edible glitter, hundreds and thousands)

What you need to do

  1. Melt the chocolate in the microwave and add some syrup so that the chocolate doesn’t set too quickly.
  2. Spread or brush (with a silicone brush) the chocolate on one half of the bread stick, then sprinkle with your favourite cake decorations, why not also try popping candy, nuts, desiccated coconut or even Rice Krispies or Coco Pops.
  3. Leave to set then enjoy.

firework

Don’t forget Garden Wildlife on Bonfire Night

With all the excitement of bonfire night don’t forget about the wildlife in your garden.  Make sure the bonfire isn’t set up too far in advance, as hedgehogs, small mammals and frogs/toads will be looking for somewhere to hibernate at this time of year, and may find a pile of leaves and wood enticing.  Why not provide hedgehogs/frogs/toads with an alternative home such as a Hogitat or a Frogitat. Click here to see a large selection of Wildlife Habitats.

Place fireworks away from trees and hedges where birds may be roosting, when bonfire night is over remember that now is an excellent time to start feeding your garden birds.  Click here to have a look at our bird feeders and accessories.

Safety is paramount on Bonfire Night click here for a reminder of the rules and tips for a safe and enjoyable Bonfire Night.

Gill

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A lot of children will be enjoying half term this week whilst many others will have to wait until next week, I love half term as it usually includes Halloween and Bonfire Night, every year I try out new treats and decorations here are this year’s ideas:

 

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Mummified Sausages

Ingredients

  • 8 Sausages (long and thinnish if possible)
  • A packet of ready rolled Shortcrust pastry (approx. 375g)
  • An egg (beaten)
  • Tomato puree
  • Tomato Sauce or dips of your choice

What you need to do

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/Fan 170 and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. Lay out your pastry sheet and cut it into 1cm strips.
  3. Starting at the bottom , wrap a pastry ‘bandage’ around each sausage in one direction, then repeat and wrap another strip of pastry in the other direction overlapping to look like a mummy, leave a space for the eyes, dip a cocktail stick in the tomato puree and dot on two eyes.
  4. Brush the pastry with a beaten egg and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden and the sausages are cooked through.

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Witches Fingers

Ingredients

  • A packet of ready rolled Shortcrust pastry (approx. 375g)
  • An egg (beaten)
  • Tomato puree
  • Dried grated hard cheese
  • 1 or 2 Peperami Sausages

What you need to do

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/Fan 170 and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. Lay out your pastry sheet and cut into approx. 20 pieces.
  3. Roll out each piece to the length of a finger, gently round one end and press in the tip of a knife for the fingernail, using the knife score two lots of 3 lines across the finger to resemble the knuckles.
  4. Cut the Peperami into 1.5cm slices and then cut each slice in half, dab some tomato puree at the end of the finger and press on your peperami finger nail.
  5. Place on a baking tray, brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle on the cheese.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Serve both with your favourite dips and watch them disappear

 

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Spooky Twig Spiders Webs

What you need

3 twigs of similar length and thickness (per web)

Light coloured string or wool

Plastic/rubber spiders

What you need to do

Lay your 3 twigs on the floor then tie and knot the string/wool around the middle to secure, then carefully loop the string tightly around each branch working in a circle until you reach the end of the twigs, cut and knot the string leaving a long length to hang your web up. Thread your spiders on to the web between the string or tie them on. I have hung my web on the front door.

 

spider-light

Spider Lights

What you need to do

Simply fill jam jars/glass bowls/vases or containers with shop bought ‘spiders webs’ or cotton wool (stretched and pulled), place a safe LED tea light (white or coloured) in the middle and your scary spiders in between the web and the glass, place on your windowsill or by the front door.

 

Have fun

Gill

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Last Saturday we went to our friend’s wedding, it was at a beautiful old hotel in the Forest of Bowland surrounded by glorious countryside, the weather couldn’t have been better it was calm, sunny and mild, the surrounding trees were looking at their best in stunning shades of gold, amber and red – it was perfect.

The groom is an Arboriculturalist, and trees played a part at their wedding, they were on the invitations, order of service and the menus, at the wedding breakfast each table had been named after a tree and at each place setting was a favour for each guest, it was a tree sapling beautifully presented in its own woven pouch. We were sat on the ‘Rowan’ table so received a Rowan tree, other tables included Beech, Sweet Chestnut, Hawthorn, Wild Cherry, Field Maple Oak, Crab Apple, Birch what a fantastic idea and a gift that will last a lifetime (ours, our children’s and grandchildren’s) it went down well with all the guests and everyone took their trees home.

Trees make a lovely and unusual gift they can be planted to mark a special occasion, the birth of a child, a wedding, birthday, retirement, mothers/fathers day, an anniversary, and also to remember someone by they are a powerful symbol representing eternity and life.

Growing your own trees

Now is the ideal time to grow your own trees, this year there is a bumper crop of tree seeds/fruits such as acorns, conkers, beech seeds and sycamore/maple/ash keys, most are now on the ground and ready to be collected. Choose seeds that are firm, undamaged and mould/disease free, place in a plastic back to retain their moisture before planting. Sow your seeds in trays, modules or pots depending on their size, in a mixture of 50% multi-purpose compost and 50% perlite or coarse grit, water the compost and allow to drain, sow your seeds to a depth of roughly the height of the seed, small seeds will only need covering lightly with compost, label with the variety and date.

To prevent the compost from drying out cover with an inflated plastic bags, cloche, plastic lid or sheet of clear Perspex, place on a cool windowsill, in a cold frame, greenhouse or polytunnel, keep the compost moist but not soggy. When your seedlings start to emerge remove the cover and when large enough (a good indicator is when you see roots growing through the bottom of the container) transplant into individual pots to grow on. In Spring harden them off and grow on outdoors, if they are large enough in Autumn plant out in their final growing position, this can be delayed a year or two to allow your trees to grow to a larger size, you will need to repot each year into a larger container to allow their roots to grow, container grown trees will need regular watering and feeding once a month with a liquid fertilizer.

If the weather is good this weekend get outdoors, collect and sow some tree seeds.

Gill

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red-tomato-chutney

This morning there is a faint smell of vinegar in our house, yesterday I made Red Tomato Chutney using the crops that I had grown, Tomatoes (Large fleshy beef variety that contain very little juice or seeds), Onions and Bramley Apples, I made a large batch which produced 13 jars of this wonderful chestnut brown preserve, it cannot be eaten straight away as most chutneys take time to mature and should be left for at least a month before opening, I like to leave mine a little longer and will be eating this at Christmas with the Turkey. There are so many variations of Chutneys I think it is a case of anything goes whether its fruit, vegetables or a combination of both, it’s a great way to use up the last of your crops or alternatively to make good use of a glut. The word ‘Chutney’ is derived from the Hindu word ‘chatni’ which means strongly spiced if you like lightly spiced chutney then this recipe is perfect for you.

Red Tomato Chutney

Ingredients

  • 900g/2lb Tomatoes (firm but ripe)
  • 450g/1lb Onions
  • 450g/1lb Cooking Apples (weight when peeled and cored)
  • 450ml/¾ pint Malt or Wine Vinegar (I used Malt)
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon Ground Mixed Spice
  • 350g/12oz Sugar
  • 300g/10oz Sultanas
  • Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to taste

What you need to do

  1. Skin and chop the tomatoes, peel and finely chop the onions and the apples.
  2. Put all the ingredients into the preserving pan except for the sugar, sultanas and the seasoning, simmer gently until tender.
  3. Add the sugar and stir over a low heat until dissolved then put in the sultanas and seasoning.
  4. Simmer steadily, stirring regularly until it is the consistency of a thick jam.
  5. Spoon into hot sterilized jars, add a waxed circle and tighten the lid securely.
  6. Store in a dark, cool and dry place.

Notes:

  1. I made 2.5 times the above quantities in a large stainless steel pan 17cm high x 25cm diameter, this is the maximum volume that can be made in this size of pan.
  2. Once the sultanas have been added you need to stir the mixture regularly as they sink to the bottom and can burn.
  3. If the chutney is slow to reduce down to a jam consistency, spoon off some of the watery mixture from the top of the pan and sieve out the vinegar liquid returning any pulp to the pan.

Homemade chutneys, jams and preserves make a lovely personal gift, why not plan ahead and give friends/family a home produce hamper this Christmas.

Gill

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Autumn if traditionally Fungi or Mushroom time, yet we can buy White mushrooms all year round, they may just be another item on your shopping list but take a closer look they are quite intriguing.

Their scientific name is Agaricus bisporus they can be white or brown, when immature and white they may be known as ‘common mushroom’, ‘cultivated mushroom’, ‘button mushroom’ or ‘white mushroom’, when immature and brown they may be known as ‘chestnut mushroom’, ‘brown cap mushroom’, ‘Italian brown’ or ‘brown cap mushroom’, when they are mature and the cap flatter they are known as ‘Portobello mushrooms’, they are one of the most widely eaten types of mushroom in the world.

Mushrooms, often wrongly grouped with vegetables, are very healthy, they are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol free and very low in sodium yet they contain important nutrients such as Vitamin B (niacin, riboflavin), selenium, potassium and Vitamin D.

There are three main parts to the mushroom:

  1. The Cap or Pileus, which can grow to 5-10 centimetres in diameter, when it starts to grow it is like a small ball as it gets bigger it flattens out.
  2. Underneath the cap are the gills which are initially pink, they then turn red-brown and finally a dark brown this is where the spores are.
  3. The cylindrical stalk or stripe can grow up to 6cm tall and 1-2cm wide and has a ring around it.

Mushrooms grow from microscopic spores, each mushroom can have 16 million spores, although they are microscopic there is a way that you can see them with the naked eye by making a Mushroom Print.

What you will need

  • Some mature (flat) mushrooms
  • White paper
  • Cups/Glasses
  • Newspaper

What you need to do

  1. Place the white paper on top of the newspaper making sure that the newspaper is flat, (the brown colour of the mushrooms can go through the white paper and stain the surface underneath).
  2. Remove the stalk of the mushroom carefully and place the cap with the gills down on the white paper.
  3. Place a cup or glass over the cap to stop any air currents and leave for about 24 hours.
  4. Remove the cup/glass and carefully lift off the mushroom you should have a ‘print’ made from the spores, the print should look the same as the underside of the mushroom.

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Why not discover mushrooms today?

Have fun

Gill

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Sweetheart Strawberry

It’s Wimbledon fortnight and that usually means that Strawberries are ready for picking, the ones in my Strawberry Pot are ripe, delicious and big. This April I started afresh and planted it up with new one year plants which I bought online, it is recommended that you should replace Strawberry plants every three years as after this they will produce considerably less fruit and are more susceptible to disease, re-plant in new ground or if in containers in new compost.

Strawberries can be planted in the ground, raised beds or in containers (Strawberry tables, Strawberry bags/pots) which raise them off the ground and make them less accessible to pests such as slugs, snails and birds who always seem to find the ripe ones before you do, to further protect your delicious crops cover them with fleece or netting (make sure that it has a fine mesh and leave a big enough gap between the fruit and the net so that the birds cannot push their beaks through) or apply Copper slug and snail tape around the bottom of your container this will give out a small electrical charge which deters the slugs/snails from crossing.

Strawberry plants reproduce by sending out ‘runners’ in Summer, if your plants are young it is recommended that you remove these as they will weaken the plants but if your plants are ready for replacing you can propagate new plants by pinning down the runners where the leaves are growing into the soil or into pots, when they have rooted they can be cut from the parent plant and planted up in late Autumn or Spring.

Here is a delicious treat to enjoy whilst you are watching the tennis;

Strawberry Tarts

Ingredients

  • 55g (2oz) Caster Sugar
  • 225g (8oz) Strawberries washed, hulled and cut in half
  • A pack of ready-made Shortcrust Pastry
  • Lemon Curd
  • Icing Sugar to dust

What you need to do

  1. Roll out the pastry thinly, cut out 12 x 5cm discs and put into a lightly buttered and floured bun tray.
  2. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of each disc and some baking beans and bake for 12-15 minutes in a preheated oven 180C/350F/Gas 4, removing the beans and parchment paper for the last 4 minutes to lightly brown, remove and leave to cool.
  3. Heat the Caster Sugar in a pan until caramel has formed, add the berries and coat in the caramel.
  4. Put a teaspoon of Lemon Curd in the bottom of each pastry case then top with a Strawberry half.
  5. Dust with the Icing Sugar.

You may have enough pastry to make a double batch, 12 are not going to last long!

Enjoy

Gill

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