Sunday, 29 May 2011

Beach sculpture

We're off on our staycation in a couple of weeks, to spend a long and hopefully sunny week in a beach side house in Cornwall. Inspired by a stunning piece of drift rope sculpture by Australian artist Narelle Autio that was featured in this month's Living Etc, I'm currently daydreaming about gathering stacks of multi-coloured flotsam and jetsam rope and creating a piece of functional beach sculpture. I have no doubt that this mildly ambitious plan will be thwarted by the British weather, being eight months pregnant and the need to entertain three families worth of children, but for the moment I'm kidding myself with the day dreaming.

Narelle isn't alone in her beach side flotsam crafting. I also came across these stunning driftwood horse sculptures by Heather Jansch.

Or what about this brilliant driftwood hedgehog by artist Gigi Leonard.

Realistically however, I should probably set my ambitions a little lower and go for something like these quirky pebble people. Either way, it seems a brilliant and creative way to entertain the kids and yourself on a day on the beach.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

How to make elderflower cordial

The delightful elder bush, hobbit of suburban wastelands, city streets and country hedges, comes into full bloom at this time of year. I've been a bit slow at getting my act together to get on the case with filling up our elderflower champagne and cordial stocks, but last weekend I squeezed it in before the blooms had passed their best.

The best time to pick the flowers is in the morning when the sun is out in full force and the bushes have just burst into flower, as this is when the smell and flavour is at it’s finest. Avoid any with a darker or brown colour as these can turn your cordial foul. Cut the flower-heads as close to the stems as possible using scissors, and make sure you have as little stem as possible in your harvest. Gently shake each flower-head after picking to remove any insects who might be enjoying their breakfast. This is our family recipe for elderflower cordial, one that has been tried and tested for three generations:


1.5l boiling water
1kg white granulated sugar

20 large elderflower heads in the first flush of full bloom

4 lemons
55g of citric acid (this is to preserve your cordial)

  • Take a large, scrupulously clean bowl, bucket or saucepan and stir the sugar into the boiling water until fully dissolved.
  • Leave to cool and then add the citric acid, the juice and zest of the lemons and the elderflower heads. Stir this gently and then leave to steep for 48 hours.
  • Then strain your mixture through a clean muslin cloth into a jug, and use a funnel to pour it into sterilised bottles (I always use the dishwasher to sterilise mine, just make sure you leave it to steam dry)>
  • Once bottled, seal and store. If you used the citric acid, your cordial will keep for four months in the fridge. I often make a second batch in plastic bottles for the freezer to keep myself stocked up right through to the next season.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Re-inventing old garden furniture

We've got a set of old garden table and chairs that have been merrily rusting away their days in the garden shed for the past two years. Inspired by the rainbow colour scheme featured on the shelves in my earlier post I brazenly pinched their pallette to use in the garden.I'm now notably banned by my boyfriend from painting anything else in rainbow shades for fear of permanently turning our home into a kindergarten.

Here's how I did them:
Sanded off the rust, splinters and bubbling paint before giving them a good s
crub with water and fairy liquid I then unscrewed the wooden slats, marking clearly in pencil what colour to paint each one in Once they were dry I painted all of the metal work work with red Hammerite paint, which is great as it can be used straight on rust.

I then painted the wooden slats in five different shades of gloss. I actually took in various cuttings from magazines and asked the Dulux lady to match them on her clever colour matching machine. Finally, I screwed it all back together again, bobs your uncle, our garden is now adorned with rainbow brights.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Surfing the Thames

Last weekend we had a group of surf loving friends over to enjoy the rare spring sunshine that we’re enjoying here in England. As anytime spent near water is apparently wasted unless spent balancing on a board, they decided to see if they could create enough of a boat wake to surf the Thames. So with the surfer mounted on his long board and holding onto a piece of boat rope, we managed to create enough wake in our rickety speed boat to produce a wave worthy of a ride.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Time for a spot of wild swimming

During an afternoon spent trying not to over exert myself whilst basking on our deck like the pregnant beached whale that I am, the local outdoor swimming group came along the opposite bank to brave a dip in the Thames.

Thanks in part to the late Roger Deakin's brilliant book, Waterlog, where he explores Britain from a frog's eye view, wild swimming has had something of a renaissance over the past few years. Bored of the confines of our chlorine filled municipal pools, swimmers have been inspired to liberate themselves from their regimented lanes and can be found diving into our rivers and lakes to set their swimming free. Last weekend marked the opening of the swimming season on our houseboat when several friends leaped off the deck to take a refreshing if not chilly dip in the welcoming waters of the Thames. If I wasn't six months pregnant then I would be there with them, but instead thought it best to keep the towels warm whilst they paddled off for a swim around the island. If you fancy having a pop at wild swimming, then check out the Outdoor Swimming Society's website for some safety tips and pointers for the best outdoor swimming spots.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Wedding reception games and activities

To celebrate last week’s Royal Wedding, we headed over to a street party of sorts held in the communal gardens on our island. Fellow boat dwellers rocked up with suitably royal themed food such as Coronation Chicken, Cucumber Sandwiches and Eton Mess, and it also turned out that one of our neighbours worked on the Royal Wedding dress. A claim to fame if ever I heard one. With last week’s event so neatly and successfully wrapped up, I thought I’d share some of my favourite wedding reception games.

Speech wagers
– put wager sheets on all tables, and ask guests to place bets, (monetary or not) on how long they think the Best Man and the Father of the Bride’s speech will last. Those closest on each table win the cash or are given a prize by one of the Ushers.

Swedish bouquet throwing
– there is a lovely Swedish tradition that avoids the usual bun fight that occurs when the bouquet is flung to the wannabe brides. At some point before or after dinner, the bride asks all of the guests to stand up. She then asks all children, singletons or couples that have been together for less than five years to sit down. Next the bride asks all couples who have been together less than ten years to sit down. This goes on until the last couple is standing who have been together the longest out of all gathered guests, and they are gifted the Bride’s bouquet

Table toast
– challenge each table to come up with an amusing or endearing table toast, which is then read out, to the bride and groom.

The Heads and Tails game - click on link for full details.

Sketch a guest - place a pad and pens on each table and ask that the guests each sketch the person to their left at some point during the meal. Sketches should be signed off and titled, and then collected together by the Ushers to create a novel momento of the day.