c October 2015 | Garden, Tea, Cakes, (Books) and Me

Feeding Garden Birds During Winter

As the colder months arrive those birds in the garden that have chosen to over winter in Britain, may need a little help. A supply of bird food and a bird bath full of water will help keep them healthy and regular visitors to the garden.

Peckish 5-1 wild bird seed
Peckish 5-1 wild bird seed 
Recently I purchased a bird feeder that sticks onto a window, allowing you can see the birds up close. It took quite a while before it was discovered, but now Mr Robin visits several times a day. It really is a pleasure to see him up close. 

Bird Seed Feeder for Window
This bird seed feeder is only visited by a Robin

In my garden:-
  • Tits in particular enjoy the fat balls, as do blackbirds. 
  • Wrens and Robins like to eat seed on the floor or on a flat surface such a bird table. Or a feeder like the one that sticks onto your window. 
  • Robins, Blackbirds and Tits all enjoy the peanut feeder too.
Feedem Wild Bird Seed
Great choice of wild bird seed from Feedem
I have recently received some wild bird seed from Feedem pet supplies, very handy having it delivered to the house. Bags of bird feed are quite heavy and me being rather petite I would never have tackled getting the bags home.

Special Johnston & Jeff Robin seed, that also contains insects should see my Mr Robin through the winter. I have also been using the Peckish 5-1 wild bird seed. Now this has the husks removed so no sprouting seeds, also the large resealable bag made it easy to dip the feeder in to fill it without making a mess. 

I will be putting some of the Peckish Colourful seed in the  wild bird feeder in the plum tree, in the hope it will attract finches.

**Bird Newsflash** 
A possible sighting of a Black Cap was seen today by my sister, this is a new bird to the garden. The new bird seed is certainly having an impact, seen feeding on the Peckish 5-1 wild bird seed.

Window bird feeder
Window bird feeder in action - hello Mr Robin

The right seed for the right birds

There is a great deal of choice when it comes to bird seeds. Think about the birds you see regularly in your garden and ensure you cater for them, and of course those you wish to attract. 

If you want to avoid bird seed that falls onto the ground from sprouting then select seed that has had the husks removed. Quite often these are labelled as 'No Mess' bird seed.

Fat Ball Bird Feeder
Fat Balls galore
Look after your seed

Store your wild bird seed in a cool, dry and dark place such as a garage or shed. Make sure it is in a container that is well sealed and away from any mice looking for a free meal!

Clean your bird feeder to prevent the spread of diseases, make sure you remove any mouldy bird food too.

You can prevent the build up of mouldy seed, by not over filling your feeder. Just put out enough for a few days and then replenish it.

I hope like me you will see many birds visit your garden over the winter months. Keep feeding them, and also ensure they have some water to bathe in.  

Disclosure: I was sent bags of Wild Bird Seed from feedem for the purposes of this article.
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Winter Flowers for Garden Planters

Winter months may be a quieter time in the garden, plants die back and the colder weather triggers a period of dormancy. There is however still an opportunity to add a splash of colour.

Garden Planters for winter
A planter of Cyclamen add winter colour to any garden
Planting up a garden planter full of colourful plants, will brighten up even the gloomiest winter's day. Some garden planters such as the garden planter I received from Dobies of Devon have a built-in drainage reservoir. Which helps prevent the plants becoming water logged particularly during heavy rain. 

Some of the best plants suitable for a planting for a winter display include:-
  • Winter Pansy's 
  • Viola 
  • Cyclamen 
  • Primroses - my favourite Winter plants these will bloom year after year if given a little care, so a worth while investment.
  • Ornamental Cabbage - not an obvious choice, but these come in lovely green /cream and purple colours. They remind me of Japan as they were everywhere when I visited some years ago. 
Ornamental cabbages
Ornamental Cabbages great for winter planters

Fill a  garden pot with a good general compost, and add your plants of choice.  If you do not have a planter with built in drainage be sure to add some broken crocks to the bottom of your container. Plants can become water logged and prone to frost during Winter. Enjoy a display of colour in the months to come.

Disclosure: I was sent a garden container from Dobies for the purpose of review.
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Christmas Sewing Work in Progress

Christmas maybe a few months away, but my interest has already turned to a little Christmas crafting. Although I am quite sure many crafters will have planned and commenced their Christmas makes many months earlier. My current work in progress is creating a set of felt coasters, nothing too tricky, a little blanket stitching to decorate the edges and attach a piece of festive reindeer fabric to the centre of each. I will confess that my blanket stitch requires some improvement, particularly when stitching around a corner. 

Christmas Felt Coasters
Felt and Christmas Fabric

Christmas Felt Coasters
Christmas Felt Coasters
Now for a special crafting giveaway, for all of you who enjoy; sewing, crafting, art, drawing and Christmas Crafting. There are three wonderful shows celebrating crafting at the NEC in Birmingham during 6-8th November 2015, and I have 3 pairs of tickets to giveaway, 1 pair for 3 lucky winners, valid for any day!

It really is a great day out, some of the highlights this year include:-

  • A giant knitted Christmas tree
  • Create and Craft TV this year will have a special pavilion, with workshops and demonstrations where you can watch your favourite presenters.
  • Free Workshops through out the day including, card making, paper crafts, jewellery making and beading, stamping.
  • A range of suppliers to quench your need for shopping for sewing, cross stitch, yarn and art supplies.
  • Christmas Gift Wrapping, buy your Christmas gifts and get them wrapped perfectly at the show.
  • Woman's Weekly Workshops - a chance to try crocheting, create a tote bag or even a cushion cover.
  • There will be festive food, drink and live music to get you in the Christmas mood.

How to enter

To be in with a chance of winning enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. For extra entries complete the additional tasks. If you can not see the Rafflecopter widget below, you may need to refresh your page using F5. For more information on how to enter you can watch this Rafflecopter video or visit fellow blogger Super Lucky for a simple guide on using Rafflecopter. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway 

This giveaway is only open to UK residents, aged 18 years or older. Only valid entries using the Rafflecopter widget will be accepted. Closing date 30 October 2015.

Look out for my exclusive Instagram Giveaway for an extra chance to win tickets to the Crafts for Christmas and The Stitching Sewing & Hobbycrafts show, see the link on the right hand side of my blog.

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Cake International Show Tickets Giveaway - Closed

Who would like to visit the fantastic Cake International Show at the NEC, Birmingham during 6-8th November 2015. I have 4 pairs of tickets to giveaway for 4 lucky winners, valid for any day!

It really is a great day out, some of the highlights this year include:- 
  • A spectacular stand out cake on display, previous years have featured a spectacular Neytiri Avatar cake - this year look out for the Jurassic Cake by Rose Macefield and Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty by Emma Jayne.
  • Do not worry if you have been unable to get booked on one of the many demonstration classes at the show, many of the exhibitors stalls allow you to get hands on. Such as: 
    •  the Chocolate Tree workshops. Children's and adults drop in workshops. Have fun designing your own Belgian chocolate dinosaurs, hearts, cupcakes etc. Then, take them away to eat! This is a drop in workshop throughout the day so no need to book, just pay £3.50 per item.
    • The British Sugarcraft Guild, have many experts available to help you try out new sugar paste techniques, some thing I have taken part in during many visits to Cake International.
  • There is a phenomenal number of cakes entered into the international cake decorating competitions. You will be enthralled and in awe at the standard on display, be sure to take your camera.
  • There is a huge range 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. 

To be in with a chance of winning enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. For extra entries complete the additional tasks. If you can not see the Rafflecopter widget below, you may need to refresh your page using F5.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway is only open to UK residents, aged 18 years or older. Only valid entries using the Rafflecopter widget will be accepted.
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Glass Ketchup Bottle Creates Perfect Flower Posy Vase

Sometimes the simplest and functional of items can be reused to create something pretty. Take one old glass ketchup bottle, give it a good rinse out and you are left with the perfect posy vase. For the last two months flowers from my garden have been displayed in my ketchup vase. There has been pretty much a constant supply of Zinnia Flowers in an array of colours. Although the Aster flowers have been rather disappointing, almost as much as the Sweet Peas this year.

Old Ketchup Bottle to Flower Posy Vase

This little posy vase is currently in my sewing room adding more colour to the room, and looking delightful with the sun shining on the petals. 

Posy of Zinnia Verbena and Aster Flowers
A burst of colour and new life to this old ketchup bottle

Cut Flowers Zinnia and Verbena and Aster
Verbena, Aster and Zinnia Flowers catching the light
The Zinnia and Verbena Bonarienis flowers were making their first appearance in the garden this year, both sown from seeds.   The Verbena is a perennial and will reappear next year, and hopefully will have spread seed too. The Zinnia are annuals so will soon be killed off by the frost, my plan is to leave a few of the flowers to go to seed and collect seeds for sowing next year.

Perfect Cut flowers for a posy
The tiny flowers of the Verbena and bright colours of the Zinnia

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Closed Flash Giveaway to Win Pretty Cupcake Wrappers

I have a quick giveaway running on my Instagram account at the moment to win some pretty Cupcake Wrappers. These are the perfect way to add a touch of class to the simplest of cupcakes and perfect for an Afternoon Tea.  Just wrap them around your cupcake, a great way to hide a plain white cake case.  

Giveaway closes Monday 12 October, visit me on Instagram to enter and good luck!

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Halloween Chocolate Cake Toppers with Choco Writers

I love getting creative with chocolate, but it can be a little messy and a little tricky not to overheat the chocolate. Choco Writers is a clever product that saves time and the guess work of melting chocolate. No more messy worktops, bowls or spatulas when getting creative with Choco Writers.  
Halloween cake decorating ideas
Halloween chocolate decorations using Choco Writers

What is Choco Writers?
A sealed tube containing solid milk, dark or white chocolate that melts once heated with hot water. Create endless chocolate decorations and designs by using the tube like a pen. 

How to Use it? 
Immerse the tube with the lid on into a container of hot water (I used a tall glass). Wait 2-3 minutes. Remove the tube and dry it with a cloth, remove the lid and with a pair of scissor snip off the sealed end. 

Having prepared your sheet of baking/parchment paper create your chocolate design, you can either use your creative flair or draw a design on the back of the parchment paper and trace over it with the Choco Writer. 

Leave your decorations to set. I placed my parchment paper onto a tray to make it easy to move out of harms way. Put the lid back on your tube and store in the cupboard until it is time to decorate cakes again. 

They really do add that professional personal touch to a even a simple cupcake. Time to get Creative.

Halloween Cake Decorating Ideas
Halloween cake decorating ideas

Creating your Halloween Chocolate Toppers

Do you like my Halloween themed decorations? Not too scary for you! Here is an easy way to create your own, Download my Printable Halloween Template which includes 5 different designs. Once printed place under your baking/parchment paper then using your Choco Writer trace over my design - easy! Whilst they are setting why not make some Chocolate Crispies to put them on. You will also find other themed templates on the Choco Writers website.

Chocolate decoration Cake template
click the picture to download the template

Halloween Themed Chocolate Crispies

by September-27-2015

A simple scary chocolate Halloween treat, decorate with your own Halloween chocolate creations.
  • 88gr Puffed Rice Cereal
  • 200gr Dark Chocolate
  • Choco Writer for decoration
Line a baking tray, I used one that measures 19cms x 29cms and is 2 cms deep. Break up the chocolate into pieces and place into a heatproof bowl. Sit over a pan of barely simmering water and allow the chocolate to melt, stirring occasionally. Pour the chocolate into a bowl with the puffed rice. Mix well so that the chocolate coats all of the puffed rice. Pour onto the baking sheet and gently push the chocolate puffed rice into the corners ensuring you have a flat level surface. Leave to cool and set. Once cooled carefully cut into squares.Using a your Choco Writer a a few blobs of melted onto the top of your cake and place or slide off the baking paper your Chocolate Halloween design. 

Alternative: For a sweeter treat use white chocolate along with some small marshmallows added to the puffed rice.

Prep time:
Cooling time:  

Choco Writers cake decorations
Get creative with Choco Writers
Disclosure: I was sent a set of Choco Writers for the purposes of this review. You can buy Choco Writers from Asda, Sainsbury's,  Morrisons and Lakeland from around £1.50.
Halloween Chocolate Crispy Cake Recipe Printable

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