Tuesday, 21 October 2014

How to Save Sunflower Seeds

Early this year I sowed Little Leo Dwarf Sunflower seeds, into pots. I have been very impressed with this variety of sunflowers and every seed germinated. I was rewarded with a fabulous bright yellow display of flowers through the Summer. I want to ensure I have another great display next year, so it is time to save  Sunflower seeds.
Dwarf Sunflowers Little Leo variety
Dwarf Sunflowers Little Leo variety
Autumn has now arrived, the flower heads have died back and have been left to dry out in the greenhouse. I removed them from the plant around two weeks ago.  

Sunflower seeds are ready for harvesting when:-  

  • there are no petals remaining 
  • the back of the flower head will have turned brown  

My sunflower seeds have also turned black in colour, this resembles the seeds I planted earlier in the year. 
Saving sunflower seeds
Collecting Sunflower seeds
Once the sunflower seeds dry out sufficiently they should fall out easily as you rub them with your hand, be sure to have some paper underneath to capture them. I found I had quite a few seeds, more than the original 16 I had in the packet.

Whenever you save flower seeds be sure to label them, store them in a cool dry place and label them. Also do not forget to label them. That is right label them, ha! something I have forgotten to do occasionally, so be sure you do not forget.

You can also find my useful guide to saving Cornflower seeds.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Planting Hyacinths for Christmas make your own Hyacinth vase

It is time to start planting Hyacinth bulbs for flowering at Christmas. The ideal time to plant Hyacinth bulbs for a Christmas display is the end of September to early October, so I am just about in time planting mine. 

Hyacinth bulb for Christmas Flowering
Hyacinth bulb for Christmas Flowering
Last year I planted a Hyacinth bulb in a pot indoors, and whilst it started well, with it being slightly out of the way and the central heating on it resulted in it not being watered just as it was starting to flower. A flower failure.

So, this year I am going to also try something a little different, and plant some of them in water and not in soil. There are an abundance of of Hyacinth bulbs available in garden centres at the moment, with a choice of colour. I think I selected white - time will tell!
Hyacinth bulb vase
Hyacinth bulb vase
You can also buy special Hyacinth vases for growing Hyacinth bulbs in water, that have a pinched neck that the bulb sits in without it sitting in the water. As the bulbs grow you will be able to see the roots grow down into the vase. I do not have a special vase so I have decided to create my own, from a couple of small glass vases I have.

Hyacinth bulbs grown in water
Hyacinth bulbs grown in water
  • Wash your vase and beads or pebbles to ensure they are clean. 
  • Carefully fill your vase with the pebbles to around two thirds full, arranging them as required.
  • Gentling pour in some water, the top row of beads/pebbles should be dry.
  • Sit the bulb on top of the beads/pebbles.
  • Place the vase and bulb in a cool dark place for a few weeks, once you see signs of growth more to the location in the house you want to display them.
Caution - Take care when handling Hyacinth bulbs as they can irritate the skin, best to wear protective gloves if you have sensitive skin.

Planting Hyacinth bulb for xmas
Planting Hyacinth bulb for Xmas
I will let you know how they progress, and hopefully I will have the sweet smell of Hyacinths in the house come Christmas time.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Win Tickets to Cake International

It is very nearly time for the Cake International Show at NEC Birmingham held between 7 -9 November.

Cake International tickets

It's a great day out, lots of demonstrations to watch and to join in with. Plenty of exhibitors to satisfy your need for retail therapy for all things related to baking and cake decorating. I have been to the show on many previous occasions and always come away with armfuls of goodies. 

Cake International have donated 2 tickets to the Sunday 9 November show, for one of my readers to win. To be in with a chance of winning enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

This giveaway is only open to UK residents. Only valid entries using the Rafflecopter widget will be accepted. If the winner does not respond within 2 days a new winner will be selected. Giveaway closes 29 October 2014.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Much Wenlock, Shropshire and a vist to Wenlock Priory, English Heritage

Much Wenlock, Shropshire is just a short drive from where I live, a place I visit frequently.  As such it was about time I visited Wenlock Priory an English Heritage property located in Much Wenlock, these are the kind of decision I enjoy making on one of my none working days.

Topiary display Wenlock Priory Much Wenlock
Topiary display at Wenlock Priory, Much Wenlock

Having arrived just after one o'clock my sister and I sought out a light lunch from the aptly named Priory Tea Rooms. The decor was a little mismatched and lack an identity but boy you could not fault the food at all. I enjoyed a brie, cranberry and grape panini with a light salad - very nice indeed.

Priory Tea Room  Much Wenlock
Priory Tea Room - Much Wenlock
What amazing cake!
It was followed by a devilishly light slice of Victoria sponge, one of the nicest pieces of cake I have had in a very long time accompanied with a refreshing cup of tea. I made enquires to the owner and following a discussion it turned out the cake was gluten free! I was stunned, not by the fact that  just because it is gluten free it would be nice but that it was so, so nice. Certainly means I will be adding making a gluten free cake on my list of bakes, if you have any recipes you can recommend please do let me know.

Much Wenlock Antiques shop
An array of vintage china

Bull in a China Shop?
For me no visit to Much Wenlock would be complete without nipping into the antiques shop, just few doors up from the Priory Tea Room.  Now there are a few rules to bear in mind before entering this shop, watch where you walk, watch how you turn around and keep control of your coats, bags, hair and children. Every shelf, table and floor space is cram full of silver, china and cutlery . All of which is stack rather precariously, but this just adds to the fun. On this occasion my other sister asked for us to keep our eyes peeled for a tea strainer - yes the fascination with afternoon teas extends to all my female siblings. Success, they had the perfect one.

Onto the priory.
We now moved onto our visit to Wenlock Priory managed by  English Heritage. A Cluniac monastery dating from the 13th century, it blows my mind trying to image how things must of been like at this time in history. Which is where English Heritage play their part in helping to eduction us as visitors.

Welcomed in the entrance hut come gift shop, we paid and gathered up our audio tour. We headed to the site of the priory ruins, dodging the dead mouse lying in the footpath, it is amazing what you remember about a day out!

English Heritage Wenlock Priory Shropshire
English Heritage - Wenlock Priory

English Heritage Shropshire

Much Wenlock Priory Shropshire
Peeking through the gates to a nearby garden
We pressed number 1 to start the handheld audio unit. Whilst the audio tour was very good, I did find it did not spark my imagination - not like the Stokesay Castle tour. You should bear in mind that if you chose not to do the audio tour, you will find very little information displayed around the site.  Though I am sure their must of been a book in the gift shop.

There was an information board that showed several drawings of how the monastery would of looked back in the day, however they were both from different view points and not from the view point of the visitor standing in front of the board in relation to physical layout of the monastery remains before you. I really think that English Heritage could do better in relaying this to visitors, please take note English Heritage!

There were plenty of benches to sit and enjoy your surroundings including the interesting topiary within the grounds. Perfect if you have decided to bring a drink and a sandwich with you. As we move into the Autumn and Winter tourist season,the opening hours reduce, so be sure to check before you visit.

The site is well suited for anyone with mobility problems, there are gravel paths and they are on the flat too.

stone carving Wenlock Priory
Beautiful stone carving - Wenlock Priory

Essential information

  • Entry to the property is free if you are a member of English Heritage, otherwise your should check the admission charges on their website.
  • There is no tea room, however there is a good choice in the town, just a short easy stroll on the flat.
  • Car parking costs £1
  • Wenlock Priory is located in Much WenlockShropshire and is well signposted.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Chocolate Cake Raises Money for Macmillan

A week last Friday thousands of Macmillan Coffee Mornings were taking place, including one at my work place. Just as last year I took part and this year contributed with a rather large chocolate cake. I am pleased to say that we raised a magnificent £176 for Macmillan, all from the staff located on our floor of the building. 
Chocolate Cake for Macmillan
Chocolate Cake for Macmillann
The chocolate cake I made was a Thornton's cake - yes I know a packet mix cake, not something I would normally do when a homemade cake is so easy. Thorntons had launched a cake mix as part of their range of products and were giving away a number of packets, not one to miss a giveaway I put my name in the hat. Ta da I was one of the lucky winners.

CAkes for Macmillan
Cakes for Macmillan
The cake was made using oil as with many packet mixes, and actually made a light and very rich chocolate cake. The slices soon disappeared and the donation pot filled quickly. Others also made cakes or purchased cakes to sell, someone even made up some doggy biscuits packs to sell!

Dog biscuits for Macmillan
Apologies for the photo quality they were taken on my phone either early in the morning or in the office.