Owl in the Night

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Owl in Flight

For years now I haven’t done sketches, convinced that I could not draw sufficiently well I stuck to only drawing what I knew. Houses were the thing which came more easily to me, but recently along with stepping outside my comfort zone I felt compelled to draw an owl just after I wrote this poem. 

The owl flew past in full stealth mode,
As we walked along the road.
And just as I had time to say,
He’d landed there and spied his prey.
His wingspan wide, his body white,
He glided off into the night,
And once again since it was dark,
Upon the woods, he made his mark.
Touched by his magic then he was gone,
He never stays around too long.
A reminder that the woods are not mine,
Whilst sharing with me a moment in time,
I looked there again but he’d flown away,
Wishing that for longer he’d stay.
Oh beautiful owl with feathers so white,
No need to worry and take flight.
Perhaps returning to the farm.
Where you’re again safe from harm.
I’m glad that you felt safe to just be,
While he was walking along with me.
I hope that you found a plentiful store,
And we will see you again once more.
Followed your flight across the ridge,
Across the fields towards the bridge.

 

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Creative Abandon

The Daily Post – Messy

Like many creative people my house can get pretty messy when I am busy making or doing a project. The key to this is to return to some order again once I am done. Admittedly sometimes this can take longer than I planned.

Yesterday I took over the kitchen as is often the case this time of year and made Winter Syrup. This will form the basis for some of my handmade Christmas gifts for friends and family.

As you will see in almost every hedgerow that you pass this time of the year in the Uk there is a plentiful supply of Rosehips just waiting to be utilised. After the first frost has softened them is the best time to use them. I love foraging for fruit and berries.

For the past three years I have made a Winter Syrup of varying ingredients. It is usually because I haven’t kept the recipe in one place and I strive to improve it each year. All have been based on a Rosehip recipe and are my first resort when sore throats hit since these wonderful fruits are packed with Vitamin C.

The first I made was the best since it was Elderberry and Rosehip and was what my brother who was a chef, described as “a little bottle of Christmas”. It was lovely with cake, ice cream and in sparkling cocktails. I resolve to make this version next year and not miss out on elderberries as I did this year I was just in the wrong place when the fruit was available. But for now, here’s the recipe for this year’s if you want to make some of your own.

1kg of Ripe Rosehips with stalks and ends removed.

2 litres water

1 Lemon with peel on, halved.

2 inches of Fresh Ginger root, sliced.

1 teaspoon Ground Mixed Spice.

2 tsp Ground Turmeric.

2 tsp Ground Cinnamon.

1 tsp Cloves.

Honey.

Mix all ingredients in a large pan, with 1 litre water lightly mash the Rosehips to break up the fruit and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Use a Muslin cloth in a colander and a bowl to separate the fruit from the liquid, leave to stand to drain as much liquid as possible out. Because Rosehips have fine hairs within them which can irritate the throat you have to separate the fruit from the liquid.

Return the liquid to a clean pan and add another 1 Ltr water and 1kg Sugar. I used both Demerara and white sugar since it was what I had to hand. Add 2 tbsp honey.

Bring the liquid to boil until all sugar has melted then simmer until it has reduced to half its volume.

Bottle it into sterilised glass bottles. I got 8 small bottles from this recipe.

It makes a wonderful sore throat remedy. You will notice that there is a slight sediment in the bottles, this is due to the use of dried spices. Shake before use and once opened store in the refrigerator.

Vegan Honey – Wild Food Recipe

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I have been working on my knowledge of Wild food and foraging over the past year or so.  I began to do this partly out of curiosity and also out of necessity. I have been looking for home remedies which I am able to make on a limited budget, in my own small kitchen, from things which are growing outside my front door or close by. This is to try and help my own health along, but also because I am also trying to live more sustainably, by using the things that I have already and recycling. It has also encouraged my family to save jars for me to use, rather than recycling them via roadside collections. This enables to me to stretch both the imagination and my creativity at the same time and even when I have been out of the workplace I have turned my hand to doing something useful.

With that in mind, I stumbled upon a recipe to use up the swathe of dandelions in my garden and set about making Vegan Honey.  I am not a vegan, but I do have food allergies and intolerances and try to eat healthily.  Having found the delights of the humble dandelion last year, I decided to delve further into its uses both culinary and medicinal.

This is a Bee Free Sweet Preserve, which resembles honey and can be used in exactly the same ways.

So on a sunny afternoon, the day before the lawn was due to be cut I thought I would save the dandelions from the garden, I picked about half a colander of them. Since there have been blooms for a month now and the spring flowers are also out, I have no qualms about using them. As always, I leave some for the bees since it is one of their first foods of the year. There are plenty in the garden but they would be going to waste on this particular day.

I have also noticed the thing about Dandelions is that once you take the flowers, they produce so many more blooms the next day they are abundant.

Fortuitously I found a recipe for Dandelion Honey, which got me thinking.  I do like to adapt recipes though it helps me figure out what works and what doesn’t in them. It’s all trial and error, but sometimes it goes well. So as I did not have all the ingredients to hand, I searched online for other recipes that I might adapt.  I also searched the freezer, where I had stored some apples.

Thankfully my friends and family are getting used to my concoctions these days and either wrinkle their noses up when I describe things, or alternatively agree to give them a go. Some have even come back for more, asking me to make them again.  I must be doing something right.

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If you would like to make your own “Honey” You will need time on your hands and patience. It is time consuming, but the taste is very pleasing and you will have your own little taste of sunshine for your morning breakfast, or afternoon tea if you prefer.

Here’s the equipment you’ll need:

A Large Pan, Knife, Wooden Spoon, Muslin Cloth to strain, Jug and Scales to measure, Sterilised Jars. I used 9 small jars.

Ingredients:

Dandelions – ½ Colander collected is equal to around 4 cups petals once split.

2 Cooking Apples

1 Lemon

Water 2.5 Pints or 5 Cups.

Sugar  Approximately 1.2Kg

Method:

Collect Dandelions on a Sunny Day from a place which is free from insecticide.

Rinse them in cold water, this gives any bugs a chance to escape.

Water the plants with the excess water, thus releasing the bugs to freedom again.

 

Remove all the petals and separate them from all the green stems and flower base. You need to keep the petals for your honey. Warning – This is very fiddly and time consuming, you may actually lose the will to live!

Once you have petals, I ended up with about 4 cups of them.

Wash and Peel the Apples and slice them.

Wash and Cut the lemon into quarters.

Add 2.5 pints or 5 cups of water,

Bring to the boil and then continue to fast boil for 30 minutes.

Allow to steep overnight in the pan. If you do not want a really lemony taste, then at this point I would remove the lemon pieces and crush to retain the juice in the mix since it helps the setting process. But since you are adding sugar, the end result is sweet.

The next day, measure the liquid and weigh it, heat in a pan adding the same weight in sugar.

I ended up with around 2 pints of juice at this point which weighed just about 1150kgs.

Boil until it reaches setting point, to test this take a spoonful, pour it onto a plate, leave it a few minutes and if it has a crinkle to it, or does not run, then pour into sterilised jars and seal.

It can take up to 2 days for the mixture to set apparently, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed at this point. But since I like Runny honey anyway, I’m generally pleased with the result and it has a pleasing Honey colour to it. Not real honey, but with all the goodness that Dandelions and Lemons can provide, I bet it will still soothe a sore throat and who would know?

 

Barcelona – Street Art and Pretty Things Part 3

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Well, There’s a promise!

I was struck by the humour I found on my travels to Barcelona wandering about, it surprised me at almost every corner.  I wonder if the coffee really was that good, unfortunately it was a passing moment and I didn’t get the opportunity to try it. But the blogger in me is always on the look out for a good coffee house.  This one is situated opposite the very beautiful Palau de la Música Catalana and I made a mental note to revisit it one day.

Barcelona – Street Art and Pretty Things Part 1

On a recent trip to Barcelona, other than being blown away by architectural details, which is an absolute weakness of mine. Although I found it slightly disappointing that some had been covered in graffiti, I have resigned myself to the fact that graffiti is an art form of it’s own too and I have to appreciate it for that. I couldn’t help but notice that the “street art” was pretty good too. Always something to see at every corner, you just have to look.

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All In a Day’s Work? Actually No, It took a while longer.

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This is my first post here for some time.  It wasn’t that I had forgotten about this or decided that it would no longer be.  Since I had decided that I would continue to write, but for the past few months I have concentrated on writing elsewhere.  Now before I apologise for neglecting my website for so long. I do have my reasons. Of course I do, for what would life be without reasons?

Without making excuses.  Last year was tough on so many levels and I needed to take the time to recover from everything that was thrown in my direction.  Health and Wellness and everything in between suffered along with my confidence. I know many people who really went through it and Thankfully some of them came out the other side continuing to fight. I think that everyone when faced with difficulties tries to take stock of their life and circumstances.  So I guess I needed a break from what had previously been normal, thinking time to try and prioritize what I would be doing in the future.   I still don’t have all the answers but all progress however slow it may be, is progress after all.

It would be very simple to say that I have not written and that was for personal reasons but that would simply not be true.  Over the past six months and throughout the last year, I have written something almost every day.  Although my writing doesn’t always rock the world, I was on a mission having made myself and a friend the promise that I would do something creative again for me, just one small thing.  I had time out from work, although unscheduled it was necessary and so I used this to begin my book of poetry and later self-publish it.  I had a handful of poems at the time, but then they came to me and once I began, it was like turning on the tap. By July I had over 100 poems and decided to select around 60 of them for the book. Having edited several times and then given it to a few trusted people to read I published in November. Meanwhile I have been working on my other blog, regularly posting there.  I started to write that one in February 2016 and have a small but somehow dedicated followings. It was somehow easier to write under a pseudonym about what was going on and where life was taking me along with observations and photographs along the way during these past few months. That is the place where I can express myself better, with experience we continue to grow and this is the person I am becoming as well as the person I have been. It is not a hiding place for my alter ego, but this side of my personality was almost unknown to me 12 months ago, buried in the past. I have found that it gives me the platform to be honest, more daring and open than I have been previously.

So it took me a while to come back here.  Several of my own professional goals were not achieved last year and although I am continue to work on that, at the moment I am taking small steps and moving in new directions. Some things have been on the back burner, they may get moved to the hotplate in time, but when I am ready to do so. I have really good people around who were there for me when I needed them and who continue to push me forward but in different ways to before.

I hope that you will stay with me as I try to develop my writing here too since I am now going to try to split my writing between both blogs, whilst I continue working on my second book of poetry.

Daily Prompt – Successful

Image: 5demayo at Morguefile.com

On Becoming Creative Again.

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Discover Feature on Creative Habits I came across this post called “Writers and Artists on Creative Habits, Accepting Self-Doubt and the Rewards of Perserverance” the other day and found a little inspiration there.

I felt that I had something to add to this but I didn’t want to just comment upon it.  You see like most, I have struggled with my own levels of creativity over the years, and especially within the last couple of years, due to an accident and it hitting me kind of hard, it disappeared completely.  I missed my creativity so much, I wanted it back, hell I even craved it’s return so that I would feel some kind of normal again, so this is about creativity in general, in whatever form it takes for you.

I have always been one to collect things, I get that from several members of my family, along with making do and mending things, recycling etc etc.

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A couple of years ago, I decided to make soap, I was trying to get away from the traditional presents for friends and family, since no-one knew what they wanted for Christmas and it might be fun to make it a home made one. Oh Kirstie Allsop, you have alot to answer for….

I looked at soap recipes, I used to buy wonderfully scented soap on trips to france, it was Marseilles Soap in gorgeous colours and the smell would carry all over the house.  You had to store it in the back of the linen cupboard though, since you’d be able to taste it otherwise. But I thought, that must be an interesting thing to do. I purchased some silicone cake moulds, to give my soaps interesting shapes, since I was going to give them away as Christmas presents and gathered all the items required to make it.  Nothing and I mean, nothing prepared me for the colossal mess that I was going to make or the time that it would take to clear up afterwards and I must admit to getting carried away with the scents.  I made about 6 different scented batches, despite following the recipe there seemed to be so much more of the mixture than I anticipated, so I spent a merry afternoon, trying to find other ingredients in the kitchen, which I could include, in case someone didn’t like the scent of one, there was another.  Of course I had to include manly scents.  All in all, I enjoyed making it…. But would advise against silicone moulds in future.  I ended up with trays of the stuff too and about 36 cup cake sized soaps, which once they had cured were quite presentable.

Back to the recycling for a moment.  I went on a wonderful Christmas holiday to Scotland and beach combing, since it was winter time and stormy there was so much washed up along the beach and I came back excited with my hoard of shells, stones, seaweed etc, in the sure knowledge that I would make something wonderful with it, when I got the chance. They are all washed and cleaned in readiness and have been stored away since our return… here is my stash ready and waiting to be turned into artwork.

I have yet to achieve that particular goal, meanwhile it is in bags and a box in my kitchen cupboard and every time I do the hoovering, I get it out put it to one side and the dog starts eyeing up the sticks with a smile.   He knows that if I do not get around to making something, then he will end up with the slightly salted sticks from the beach and is ever hopeful it will be soon.

In winter months, I buy wool and ribbons and think about making wonderful things, or re purposing tired objects to give them a new lease of life.  This last year, whilst I stocked up on those essential ribbons to wrap Christmas presents with I did not get around to doing the crafting, I still have more than enough ribbons to last me for a while.  I did not get the motivation to actually do anything with them. I have good intentions, but will I actually get on with it?

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I used to make things.  for instance I have a box of beads from when I was a teenager and I used to make jewellery, also some of the items I made are in there.  Once in a while I think about doing that again, however it is one of my Mother’s hobbies to make jewellery now and she does it rather well.  I am lucky to have a very creative Mother who has presented me with some wonderful creations of hers with crystals and stones which I love to wear.  I made clothes too, knitted things and drew pictures (mainly houses).  I was quite artistic, I also made cards and planned interiors.

Last Christmas I had a creative streak once again and made decorations.  This came about since we were given a tree whilst we were on holiday and there was absolutely no-where locally where we could buy any.  It pushed me and I had to think up novel ways in which to decorate the holiday home and tree with whatever I had brought on holiday, or could find around us.  I ended up with some lovely natural decorations, it got the creative juices going and I was quite pleased with the results.

Since then I have begun writing again, my creativity has taken a new route, but it is firmly back in my life, providing inspiration in whatever small way as and when it can.  So in whatever small way you can, be creative, don’t give up on it, persevere whenever you can and you too will reap its rewards.  You might also have some rather exclusive gifts to give away to your friends as well.