Thursday, 25 December 2014

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Raspberry Gin

Home made raspberry gin - the perfect winter tipple

In October of last year, you may have read my post here on my first attempt at making raspberry gin with the abundance of raspberries we had from the garden. Well, due to one reason or another, I didn't manage to get it bottled up before Christmas and then with further delays, it still didn't get bottled up so I decided to leave it for several more months as I'd read that the longer you leave it, the better it gets.  

I was little worried that perhaps it might "go off" as the raspberries did look a bit odd inside the jars but once filtered a quick sip told me there was definitely nothing to worry about as the high concentration of alcohol prevented anything nasty from growing in it!

To get it from the jar to the bottle, I used some small coffee filter papers to drain the liquid into a clean glass measuring jug (which filters out any bits) and then poured directly from the jug into a kilner preserving bottle.

So, its taken 14 months to produce but wow is it good!  I now have some brilliant raspberry liqueur for flavouring fizzy wines, adding to mixers (such as tonic water) and giving a kick to deserts (works really well drizzled onto icecream!).

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Have A Cool Yule

Today is the winter solstice for those of us in the northern hemisphere.  The point where, due to the earth's position in relation to the sun, we experience our shortest day and longest night.  Said by some to be the first day of winter, which may sound a little disappointing for those who are thinking we are well into winter by now.  But its a good thing, as it means that today we reach a turning point as the days start to get longer again as we welcome back more of the sun's warmth and light into our northern hemisphere.

For our ancestors many years ago, this was a special time for taking a winter's rest, gathering around the fire, storytelling, and sharing food, wine and ale. Many of our Christmas traditions today are based on traditions from long ago when people's lives were driven by nature rather than technology.  If you'd like to know more, here's an item from the BBC Religions Service website.

Winter Solstice

Snow on evergreen tree
The Pagan celebration of Winter Solstice (also known as Yule) is one of the oldest winter celebrations in the world.
Ancient people were hunters and spent most of their time outdoors. The seasons and weather played a very important part in their lives. Because of this many ancient people had a great reverence for, and even worshipped the sun. The Norsemen of Northern Europe saw the sun as a wheel that changed the seasons. It was from the word for this wheel, houl, that the word yule is thought to have come. At mid-winter the Norsemen lit bonfires, told stories and drank sweet ale.
The ancient Romans also held a festival to celebrate the rebirth of the year. Saturnalia ran for seven days from the 17th of December. It was a time when the ordinary rules were turned upside down. Men dressed as women and masters dressed as servants. The festival also involved decorating houses with greenery, lighting candles, holding processions and giving presents.
The Winter Solstice falls on the shortest day of the year (21st December) and was celebrated in Britain long before the arrival of Christianity. The Druids (Celtic priests) would cut the mistletoe that grew on the oak tree and give it as a blessing. Oaks were seen as sacred and the winter fruit of the mistletoe was a symbol of life in the dark winter months.
It was also the Druids who began the tradition of the yule log. The Celts thought that the sun stood still for twelve days in the middle of winter and during this time a log was lit to conquer the darkness, banish evil spirits and bring luck for the coming year.
Many of these customs are still followed today. They have been incorporated into the Christian and secular celebrations of Christmas.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Feeling Happy in Brighton - Part Two

So I continued my walk along the seafront and gazed in awe at the wonderful sunset.

One of the clouds had such a spectacular shape, it looked like a volcanic island in the distance and had a dramatic effect with the sun shining into the top of it.

There were no pinks in this winter sky, just lots of amazing golds.

And when the sunset was almost done and I turned away from the beach to head towards the car, I was hit by the message on the side of this "in your face" brightly coloured, butterfly and flower covered, hippy minibus - 
Let the sun shine in (lyrics from the song Aquarius from the musical Hair).  

Its said that if we just keep our awareness about us, life will present us with little messages along the way which have meaning to ourselves at that particular moment, and there was no way I was going to be able to walk past this without getting the message and it made me smile.

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Once I reached home, I turned our hallway into a Christmas grotto, inspired by the lights I'd seen in town.

Actually, for me, fairy lights are not just for Christmas - I love 'em and have 2 lots in the garden and 3 lots in the house (kitchen, bedroom and lounge) that I use all year round.

At Christmas though, I'm particularly fond of my colour-changing LED angel (or are they fairy?) lights.  Mr Cocopopia is usually home first and switches them on so that I can be welcomed by them as I approach the house!  They must appeal to my inner child...

And then it was time to put on my favourite winter reindeer dog PJ's and chill out, feeling completely recharged and rejuvenated after my Happy Brighton Day!  

Lesson learned = must take more time out on a regular basis

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Feeling Happy in Brighton - Part One

After a couple of tough weeks at work and a week-end of exploding ovens, wind damaged drainpipes and power cuts, I was feeling slightly frazzled and also a little down in the dumps so thank goodness I had this Monday off work.  I decided to have a day free of self-imposed pressures, a day free of "oh, I must do this" and "oh, I must do that". Nope, today was all about me taking a little time out and living in the moment and reconnecting with the simple things in life.

Today was a glorious December day (sunny, calm and reasonably mild) and I headed off into Brighton, parking the car in Hove (where I found a free parking spot) and then took the 40 minute walk along the seafront into Brighton.  It was so calm and peaceful, just dog-walkers, mums with pushchairs, a lady feeding the seagulls on the beach (really, do they need to be fed?) and elderly gentlemen (yes, there was more than one of them!) using the balustrades along the seafront to do leg stretching exercises a ballerina would be proud of.  It was so calm and warm, there was even a guy on the beach performing yoga rituals. It seemed that everyone down at the beach was enjoying living in the moment (the sea does have that effect) and I was feeling my spirits lifting already.

When I reached Brighton, I decided to wander along the Lanes and also visit some of my favourite "happy" shops, such as Cath Kidston for a fix of colour and  Lush for a fix of the most wonderful smells.

Cath Kidston - very girly but never afraid to use plenty of colour

Lush for an assault on the senses - colour and smell

I couldn't resist buying some smellies whilst I was in Lush but I'll be writing about them in a future post once I've test-driven them, so more about those soon.  But I also emerged from Lush covered in glitter - must have been dusted by a sparkle fairy whilst I was in there!

By mid afternoon I decided it was time to start heading back to the car and as it was almost 3.00pm and I was getting hungry with a long walk ahead of me, I got some chips to eat on the go as I walked back along the seafront.

chips by the seafront - but not many left by the time I took the photo

The sun was already starting to get low on the horizon by the time I reached the West Pier.  So sad to see the last remains, following fires and severe storm damage, but refusing to give in and still hanging on to the bitter end.

But I mustn't get too melancholy here as this post is intended to be about happiness - I'll be back soon with Part Two of my Brighton Happy Day (which starts to get even more Christmassy once I get home).

Friday, 5 December 2014

Visiting the Sculpture Park - Part Two

I love colour and was particularly drawn to the work of Ruth Moilliet who is inspired by nature and works mainly in metal and glass.  I thought her "Bud" of mirror-polished stainless steel and anodized aluminium was brilliant

Bud - Ruth Moilliet

But I have to say that, in my humble opinion, the best piece out of all the exhibits was the Modulus TTS and I am very proud to say it is the work of my husband Ade Grant - Sculptor and Maker

Modulus TTS - Ade Grant

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Visiting the Sculpture Park - Part One

Beauty and the Beast by Quentin Clemence

At the week-end we took a trip out to Churt in Farnham, Surrey to visit the amazing Sculpture Park .  On the front of their brochure it claims to be "the most atmospheric sculpture park in Britain." And on their website they say "the world's largest all-year sculpture exhibition". 

There are more than 600 sculptures showcased within 10 acres of arboretum and wildlife inhabited water gardens.  It was great winding our way around the paths on the various trails marked out within the park - we never knew what we would come across next.

Ballerina by Quentin Clemence

There were several works by Quentin Clemence which we really liked - working in copper, his figures are very distinctive, beautiful, mesmerising and with a sense of magical storytelling to them - in fact I found them to be quite enchanting.  It is no surprise to discover he has previously worked as a puppeteer as his unique figuritive style is very much reflected in his work.

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There was a huge variety of work on display - something for everyone in fact

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I Beg Your Pardon - Wilfred Pritchard

Another very distinctive artist was Wilfred Pritchard who works in bronze to produce quirky and witty pieces with skeletons as their focal point. Even their facial expressions seem to reflect the actions being taken at the time.

Homage to Matisse (The Dance) - Wilfred Pritchard

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