Thursday, 31 December 2015

December garden walk

gate to the walled garden A walled garden in December, a fine sight for eyes that have seen far too many mince pies and watched too much uninspiring television. Bare bones of a garden but with several colourful surprises like roses still in bloom and hips on yellowing foliage. 

Winter vegetables - kale, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, triumphant in their plot - the three kings of the Christmas dinner plate. 
crab apples winter brassica plot in winter Arley Hall gardens, Cheshire yellow leaves against greenhouse glass kale growing To see the structure of a garden in wintertime is unthreatening; I feel like despite the grandeur of gravelled paths through arches and metal gazebos, I have more a chance now of making my own efforts in the back garden catch up by spring into summer. Yes my garden is so much smaller and will never have the espaliered fruit trees and vegetable plots in neat rows but right now we are on more even terms and I've a window of opportunity to make my own space a mini paradise that will evoke the same feelings of a horticultural haven such as this. The challenge to myself has been set and there's plenty of time to do so. pale pink rose in winter romantic garden a winter's garden glass houses Arley Hall deep pink rose blooming in winter rose hip rose boy statue winter violas winter walled garden

Mammsaurus HDYGG

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Festive Degustabox

December DegustaboxReady for Christmas we received the latest Degustabox filled with scrumptious treats for over the festive period. From cider to chocolate and some cheese and crackers, we had it all. Truly a party-time feast and plenty of Christmas film watching nibbles.

First off, I was pleased to see something for me the (more or less) non-drinker in the house, something sweet to add to my coffee. These drops are by Teisseire and are vanilla and caramel, very sweet so you don't need a lot and they flavour a plain old coffee up very nicely. It's in a little squirty bottle so nice and handy sized, you can use them in hot or cold drinks. I'd look out for these again in the supermarket. 2 x £2.79

There was also a mini Bailey's in the Degustabox parcel but that was snaffled in a blink of the eye!
Teisseire flavoured drops for drinks You can't go wrong with popcorn and neither can you with chocolate so these were well received. Butterkist Discoveries Salted Caramel, Sweet & Salted which I combined with Divine dark chocolate with raspberries. A really yummy dessert that was quick to make just by breaking up and melting the chocolate and then drizzling over the popcorn in a bowl. The sweet and salty combination was delicious. What's great about the popcorn is that it is low in calories with 60 per cent less saturated fat. Divine chocolate is a Fairtrade product, free from palm oil and suitable for vegetarians.
Divine chocolate £1-
Butterkist 2 x £2.04
chocolate popcorn Hartley's Jelly is perfect for the trifles - we are still to make one! The Strawberry Glitter Jelly will be great for my son's birthday in January, an extra sparkly treat - what a great idea! The black cherry jelly will be great for a Black Forrest trifle for a winter dinner party - add fruit and chocolate swiss roll to the base of a trifle bowl and then pour over the jelly to set. Pour over custard, then whipped cream and seasonal sprinkles. I actually think jelly is my favourite dessert ever!
2 x £1.29
glitter jelly Out came the cheese board and the dips for the following savoury snacks:
Ryvita Thins £1.89 Cheddar and Black Pepper to dip into those dip pots that are popular around Christmas or with some houmous. 
Ryvita Green & Black Olive Crackers £ 1.29, load up with all the festive cheese for a posh midnight snack.
Db's Discoveries was Tuckey's Proper Digestives £1.80, the original recipe and delicious with some mature cheddar or Red Leicester. 
crackers for cheese For a quick breakfast when we had a trip to the Nottingham Christmas Market we took belVita Soft Bakes £2.79 with us, made with wholegrains and red berries they were a great morning snack until we reached our destination. Each is in a handy foil pouch so convenient to take with us and LB enjoyed his in the car. Containing fibre and vitamins B6 I would look for these again as a quick on the move breakfast as they were not too sweet.
Belvita Soft Bakes Back to Christmas snacking, Branston Orchard Fruit Chutney £ 1.49 and Bourne & Wallis British Pickled Onions £ 1.40 (my favourite)  Out came the cheese again!!  In fact we had a bit of a ploughman's one lazy Advent afternoon and tried them out. The Branston was a bit too sweet for my liking, Bramley apples with sultanas, orange zest and spices. However, the sharp bite of the pickles married well.cheese and pickles One for Mr Bird, a Rekorderlig Dry Apple cider £1.49, chilled in the fridge I am told that this cider is a better quality that what he usually buys himself so was a nice change and perfect with his cheese and crackers. After this he actually won some Rekorderlig in a competition so he's been very lucky with his Christmas drinks. dry apple cider Just the one that I wasn't too keen on as I'm not a lover of dried fruit type snacks, Nim's Fruit Crisps 99p, made in  the UK these fruit crisps count as one of your five a day. Healthy as they are air dried rather than fried. Nim's Fruit Crisps Finally a surprise addition of some gluten free chocolate hazelnut spread from Jim Jams £2.20. Not as yet sampled what with all the other sweet foods over Christmas but one I'll use as a cake filling at some point. No added sugar and they do a range of jams too that sound very interesting. You can spoon the chocolate into hot milk for a warming low calorie winter drink.gluten free chocolate spreadHope you all had a great Christmas and if you'd like to try Degustabox too, here is a huge £6 off with the discount code BLDEG15
* I received a monthly Degustabox for the purpose of the review, as always opinions are my own honest view.

Monday, 28 December 2015

December bits and pieces

bird feeder I'm mostly all over Christmas now, it creeps up and then in a tinsel and wrapping filled frenzied flurry it's gone and you're several pounds . Yet I still have a whole host of Christmas type blogs to fit in, places we have been, things we have seen and there have been some glorious sights from the cloisters of Chester Cathedral filled with Christmas trees to buying goodies from a lovely deli in Shrewsbury. 

I bought a bird food ball from the Dutch stall at the Christmas market. Bundles of different seed and millet for my garden friends. 
Dutch stall at the Christmas market
Whist in Ludlow, the parish church was hosting a Christmas fair where we browsed the second hand stalls, drank coffee laced with brandy and admired the various crafts. I bought myself a little tile decoration for the kitchen as I thought it was very cute. kitchen prayer In the local charity shops I found more Christmas books to add to the collection - 
Mrs Scrooge by the poet Carol Ann Duffy and a homely tale The Christmas Wren, both for just over a pound. We love to add to the collection of snowy stories and magic of the season. 
Mrs Scrooge Mulled wine and mulled cider sachets by Schwartz  have kept us going over Christmas. The smell of allspice, orange peel, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg filling the house was divine. mulled cider mulled cider Schwartz Two new green men from Ludlow Medieval Fayre to watch the front of the house. green men The Christmas Wren A quick look on eBay discovered this wonderful St Lucia plate as I had the most Christmassy evening at the Nordic Church in Liverpool for St Lucy's DaySt Lucia plate Continuing with the Scandinavian feel I found a discounted Yule goat in Ikea. So pleased with this find after learning all about the Julbock from joining in with Folklore Thursday on Twitter. Yule goat A Santa plate from Home Bargains, £2.50 and I adore it. Surprising what you can pick up from that shop. Soon it will be time to tidy all the festive season away and have some simple understated decoration during January to match the frugality of the month. Maybe I'll keep some fairy lights up through the winter, just a few bits of twinkle until springtime.Santa plate

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

A night at the movies

We love watching films although we don't always get the chance but recently we were able to get together for an evening to watch Jurassic World courtesy of Gracewell care homes. With buckets of pop corn and some retro sweets we all tucked in and watched, sometimes I hid behind a cushion as those dinosaurs are pretty scary!

Films are a great way of bringing the generations together. Over the years, particularly around Christmas time my family have watched a classic film or a cartoon feature together - Chicken Run was always popular or a Miracle on 34th Street. With my Nana and my parents, fire blazing and content after a big meal, I have many happy memories of winter time movie nights.

Gracewell are a care home provider who believe that every resident and their family have individual needs. Movie nights are regular at Gracewell care homes and families are encouraged to also attend. 

We all had a cosy time with our DVD and treats, I'm hoping we can do more of this over the Christmas holiday, it's nice now my son will sit down and watch something for a while as he struggled with sitting still even for a minute so now it's fantastic that he will join in.

*Collaborative post

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Home safety during Christmas

Over Christmas things get really busy and chaotic but do consider the safety of your home. One area that I'm really keen on is making sure that candles are not left unattended as with so much going on it can be overlooked and I remember leaving the house once to be panicking later when I remembered I'd left a votive merrily burning away on the side! 

Fairy lights are another potential hazard with overloading of sockets and faulty wires, I always turn them off at bedtime and when we leave the house. With lots of paper around make sure that lights are not creating a fire hazard and be careful when the Christmas tree starts to dry out as they are more at risk of fires starting. Check smoke alarms are working and replace batteries.
Fairy lights Shutterstock

Another risk to your home over Christmas is from burglars. All the presents under the tree, an empty house whilst you are out visiting family, at parties or short breaks away.
Cooperative Insurance have some interesting facts about how burglar friendly your home is, compiled after speaking with a charity that supports people with criminal convictions. 25 former burglars gave their knowledge on what makes a home a target for break ins and what deters them too.

The most effective deterrents are security lights that come on when they detect any movement and CCTV cameras. 15% of ex burglars also reported that a dog barking would put them off trying to break into a house, we have two and they keep our home well protected.

Ineffective deterrents are leaving the lights on when you leave the house, that's fooling nobody! A classic mistake are the timer lights that come on at a certain time. The infographic guide mentioned above is well worth checking out for more information on home security that will work. 

Hoping you all have a Happy Christmas and don't get any unwelcome visitors....and I don't just mean burglars ;) 
Christmas home Shutterstock

*Collaborative post*

Saturday, 19 December 2015

The mysterious winter evening

winter festival Out into the night we went where we found creatures prowling and swirly fudge laden stalls. Dragon snapped their jaws open and skeletons played the drums.

Eyes wide open, better not blink for you will miss the unicorn and her dancing angel partner. Devils bowed before us and men breathed fire with an almighty whoosh.

More sweeties and a huge sugar rush and by lamp light we encountered an explosion of Father Christmases. Winter in Cheshire at its best.
Chester Town Hall dragon and Santa in wonder stag and angel Christmas market wooden cabin little wooden churches Chester winter watch king and banner fudge lamp light Chester Winter Watch sweet shop Hundreds of Santas

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall