Sunday, 2 April 2017

Bottle gardening

So it is a very long time since I posted anything to my blog.  Time has passed and life has meandered and flowed and waterfalled as life does.

I have had a go at a good many creative things along the way and my latest try is bottle gardening or terrarium planting or miniature gardening! I love these little ecosystems.

It is a great pass time and very therapeutic and the results are great. I have a large bottle that has been planted for about 6 months, the plants are thriving and beautiful.  I also have 2 smaller bottles that are doing equally as well and some succulent mini gardens ( I may do a post on these in the future) .  At last I have found a way I can keep plants alive!

I thought I would do my first post in over 2 years about planting up a demijohn. So here goes:

First collect your stuff- I have learned a lot along the way and am still learning as I'm just at the beginning of this particular path in my life!


So: Small sized gravel rinsed; old funnel with the spout cut off; demijohn or any other bottle or jar; sphagnum moss; reindeer moss ; houseplant compost; activated charcoal (I use the stuff that is used in fish pond filters); old wire coat hanger; a grabber- the sort of things that are useful for picking up screws and nuts and bolts; plants ; a champagne or cremant cork; time; patience.

2. Clean your bottle inside and out as well as you can.  Then using your funnel if you wish,  to add the gravel until you have about 3 to 4 cm depth.

 This is how deep one of mine was.

3. Put in your activated charcoal, just a thin layer will be fine.  This helps to keep the environment of your mini ecosystem sweet and good.

4. Next a layer of sphagnum moss, this helps to filter the water and keep moisture in.

You just need to push this in as best you can, it does get a bit messy. Firm down when you have enough in.

5.  The compost is next, although I try to use a funnel the only good way to get this into this size neck of bottle is to just push it in with my fingers.

6. Firm down the compost after adding a little water to dampen the garden.  I use the coat hanger tool I have made.

7. Next begin to add your plants.

This is where the grabber tool comes into its own!  It helps lower the plant into the garden, move it around and hold it still while you plant it.  This is not an easy 2 minute job but that's the challenge and pleasure of this little pass time!  I got my grabber from good old Amazon.

The coat hanger tool is made from .. yep a coat hanger that I bend and straighten as I need.  I also wrap some kitchen towel around the bent end to help make a bottle cleaner when it isn't being a poker and planter. 

 Coat hanger

The plants I have started with are:
  1. Ficus Piluma- a small leaved plant that creeps and climbs.  You can get variegated or just green 
  2. Fittonia verschaffeltil- nerve plant in a variety of colours 
  3. Small leaf ivy
  4. Small palm 

I have found it difficult to get the plants I need both locally and online but have found Best4garden really good. 

I have watched a few helpful people on YouTube and really like this one at  Storm the Castle

8. Clean the inside of the bottle again as you may have flicked compost onto the inside of the bottle  as you have been planting- using the coat hanger tool.  This may take some time and several changes of paper towel but is well worth it.  Then add your cork and presto! Your own mini ecosystem.

I have also added some reindeer moss to one of the gardens as I do like it.  You will need to remove the cork occasionally in the early days as the moisture levels adjust, you don't want it to get too wet and start rotting.  Put in a light place but not in direct full sun as the plants can get damaged by the magnifying effect of the bottle.   
And that is it really, very rarely do you need to add water if the balance is right.  You may need to trim the plants as they grow and perhaps turn the bottle to ensure even growth.

Hope you have enjoyed the quick step by step and please let me know if you have any comments or tips.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Delicious chai syrup from Henny and Joe's

So I was searching for a new gin to try and stumbled upon Opihr Oriental Spiced London Dry Gin.  I loved the sound of the flavours and was even more taken by the variety of ways to drink this lovely gin. I was particularly taken with the cocktail called Cinnachai Flip, as this cocktail contains one of my most favourite flavours, chai.  

Picture from the Opihr website 

This lovely cocktail contains:
Opihr gin
Chai syrup
Whole Milk

I purchased the gin and then went on to search for the perfect chai syrup.  I soon found what I was looking for.  
A gorgeous sounding recipe of blended spices, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice, vanilla, star anise, nutmeg, fennel seed and mixed spice, free from artificial preservatives, colours and flavours. 

This was Henny and Joe's beautifully presented and award winning syrup that I had to have! 

On it's arrival I soon put it to the test, making one of my most favourite hot drinks, chai latte.  I don't drink coffee and have become a bit of a lover of chai drinks.
Being naturally free from caffeine this also makes a lovely soothing bedtime drink as well as a lovely treat with weekend breakfast.

Easy to prepare, just add 2 tablespoons of the lovely syrup (which is so delectable straight off the spoon!) to a cup of milk and heat.  Use a hand whisk (little electric one is good) to produce a lovely froth, pour into your favourite cup,sprinkle with cinnamon and breathe in the fragrant spice before taking a sip of this most gorgeous, warming and luxurious  drink.  It's like settling into your favourite armchair with a good book- decadent, exotic, warming and sooo good!

Not only can you use this lovely syrup in your gin cocktails, it is also great for milkshakes, cakes and biscuits.  I plan to also try adding it to a delicious home made slow cooker rice pudding- just imagine...
oh and of course I will need to give chai ice cream a go in the very near future- watch this space!

Hmm I think it's time for a cuppa chai!


Sunday, 10 May 2015

Voss water infusion wow!

So to continue to share some of the lovely things that I was lucky enough to get from my daughters blogger event #thecitygirls at Sheffield last month, I thought I would share with you a lovely water infusion made with a lovely artisan water.

This is a cool idea to add a splash of taste to a bottle of water.  Not any water however, but the lovely artisan water called Voss.

VOSS Water: Look Deeper

Voss artisan water is from Norway and comes in a cool bottle with a wide opening which enables the addition of a variety of fruit, sweets or vegetables such as cucumber.

The taste of the water is pure and clean as it is but adding something like fruit makes a real change and gives a bottle that just looks so cool!

So here's how I did my lovely flavour.  I chopped up some  strawberries and kiwi fruit, I then added to my bowl some raspberries, blueberries and a small amount of lemon.

I poured half of the water out of the bottle into a glass and then started posting the bits of fruit I had prepared into the bottle.

This is how it looked when I had finished adding the fruit and topped up the water.  This lovely lot went into the fridge overnight to infuse.

This is the beautiful tasting fruit infused water!

The fruit that did come out when I poured it was a lovely addition to the drink.  The remainder that was left in the bottle needed helping out and was lovely with breakfast yoghurt!

Check out #thecitygirls  who are Holly and Lorna for more blogger events!

Monday, 27 April 2015

Blogger event and introduction to Kiss the Moon

So I was very lucky to be invited to a band new blogger event in Sheffield last weekend that my daughter Holly-Lucy and her blogger friend Lorna  have collaborated on to bring bloggers together through #TheCityGirls

What an amazing event it was!  Held in the vintage style setting of Bloo88 West Street, Sheffield.

There were lots of lovely brands there which will feature in a future blog post!

We were so lucky to also be given an absolutely bursting at the seams goody bag!

The first item out of my bag was a beautiful sample from Kiss the Moon
What a lovely brand name, beautiful website and amazing after dark face oil!

This is a gorgeous face oil for use at bedtime to chase away anxieties and lift the spirit encouraging beautiful sleep!

Perfect for dry skin , this is a definite favourite of mine and I look forward to my bedtime routine of splashing a few drops of the oil into my palm, rubbing my hands together to warm the oil and release the gorgeous  orange, geranium, myrrh and litsea heady scent.

£48 for 30ml of deliciousness to welcome a beautiful sleep.

The range also includes Love and Calm after dark oils with equally tempting and evocative scents I would just love to try!

Have you used this brand before?  Which scent is your favourite?


Sunday, 19 April 2015

Little Spotty Dog

So I thought it about time I shared a post about a very important person in our lives here at Pratt's Patch, Ffion our dalmatian/springer cross dog.

She brings a lot of joy and laughter to our family...

She loves the sea and is a springy little dog!

She particularly loves climbing, and posing for photos....

which makes her a great subject for practising with a new camera as I was here!

This one was taken by our son Lewis, who is a keen photographer and the brains behind a great new photography subscription service

She also thinks we have purchased a leather settee just for her!

These guys are two of her best friends and they definitely rule the roost!


Friends that are sadly no longer with us but taught her a lot and put up with so much!

This is the cutie who grew into the girl we now love and enjoy!!

The beginning
of a lifetimes horrible habit!

In the beginning.....

Hope you have enjoyed the photos
Do you have a pet who has a special place in your life?


Sunday, 12 April 2015

Gordon Ramsey's Bakewell Tart

We all love bakewell tart here at Prattspatch so when I saw Gordon Ramsey's recipe I just had to make it.  This is taken from his book Cooking for Friends .
This makes a very moist, yummy and gotta have more tart!  Best made when there are lots of visitors!

Of course the faithful Kenwood chef makes making it so much easier and more fun! 

First up is the sweet flan pastry case which is lovely and easily made in the chef.

Getting ready to bake blind.

Useful baking beans 

Then is the lovely almond topping which always makes more than the flan can hold so I tend to freeze the left over to make small pies with at a later date.  It does freeze well.

It always turns out to be a very rustic but professional look! 

Very tasty served up with homemade vanilla ice cream!

Little individual bakewell tarts.  

I use homemade  strawberry or raspberry jam to spread over the pastry case before adding the lovely layer of almond topping. 

Friday, 10 April 2015

New Kenwood Chef and Red Velvet Cake

So I was very lucky to be able to buy a new Kenwood Chef recently. I decided to go for John Lewis as the price was good, delivery excellent and after service with a good reputation.

A massive box with all the accessories arrived: 
Food processor with 6 cutting discs and a chopping blade- this has revolutionised my pastry making and coleslaw preparation!
K beater for cakes, pasta and general beating
Stainless steel whisk for whisking from 1 lone egg to 12!  
The creaming beater is great for cake making
The ThermoResist  glass blender- makes easy work of soup blending as well as smoothie making.
The dough hook for great bread making

It was so exciting to unpack each item and find out where it went and what it did! 

Instructions with each accessory helps the novice through the learning curve!

Kenwood also include a quick start cook book with some great starter recipes.  I decided to try the red velvet cake included in the book as I have always wanted to give it a go.

So I used a fluted savarin mold. I then piled lovely raspberries in the centre and added a few cute white chocolate stars.

This is a delicious, moist cake that is a great change from Victoria sponge or carrot cake.

I changed the recipe slightly from the one in the book.
For the cake:
120g butter
300g butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbspn cocoa powder
240ml of butter milk
Red food colouring (I used a small quantity of a red food colour paste)

For the icing:
600g of icing sugar
100g of butter
250g cream cheese 
2 tsp vanilla extract

Method using the Kenwood:
1. Put butter and sugar into the bowl and using the creaming beater mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla extract and mix on medium speed until combined.

2. Remove creaming beater and attach K beater, add flour, baking powder and cocoa a bit at a time, mixing on a slow speed between each addition until fluffy and well combined (it is handy to use the splash guard here to prevent dry ingredients from flying everywhere!)

3. Measure out butter milk into a jug and mix with the right amount of red colouring to give you your desired shade. Add this mix to the cake mixture in the bowl a little at a time on medium speed until you have a smooth deep red mixture.

4. Pour your mixture into your fluted savarin mold or into 2 cake tins and bake for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted into the sponge comes out clean.  Remove from the oven at this point and leave to cool.  Turn onto a cooling rack to completely cool when you are able to safely handle the cake tin.

1. Add butter, cream cheese and vanilla extract to the bowl and using the creaming beater, beat until smooth and well combined.  Gradually add the icing sugar (again the splash guard may be useful here), mix until you have a creamy icing.  Scrape the mixture into a smaller bowl, cover and place in the fridge for 30 mins.

2. Cut the cake through the middle  lengthwise and spread the bottom half with some of the creamy icing.  Place the top half back on to the creamy covered base and then cover the top with the rest of the mixture.  If you are using 2 cake tin method there is no need to cut the cake in half, just spread the top of one cake with the icing and place the other cake on top and smother the icing over the top of this. 

Rough icing is best with this cake so go for it and rough it up!!  

Finally pile fresh fruit in the centre or on top and serve and enjoy!

Have you made red velvet cake?  Is your recipe  the same?

Do you have a Kenwood or other kitchen machine?

Happy Cooking!