Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Day 16 - Giveaway Day

Wednesday 16th January

There were a few flurries of the white stuff and I got very excited and then it stopped. Next time it tries to snow I am going to pretend I haven't noticed and maybe it will snow for longer. The problem with living on an island off the west coast of Scotland is that we usually get rain before it turns to snow as it hits the mainland. For a girl who loves snow this is a problem. Looking at the forecast we might be lucky on Friday. I will, of course, keep you updated.

Today I am having a little celebration as my page views soared over the 700 mark and I thought it would be good form to say thank you. In that spirit I am going to share some of my favourite things to do with herbs in the hope that you might try them. I am also giving something away but more of that later.

Feedback so far to my blog has strongly indicated that more and more of you want to 'grow your own' and I am thrilled about that. In an age when we might be eating horses and not even know growing your own has a real place in our lives. I always advise people to start simple, that way they are most likely to have success. Green salad leaves, tomatoes and courgettes are easy and very rewarding. Even if you are really short of space you can probably fit in a herb window box somewhere. Grow some chives in your box as you an grow these all year round. Cut them back hard 4 times a year and they will reward you with strong growth and flavour. Let me share with you a newly discovered recipe that can use your chives and is just a delight.

Chive and lemon pesto
40g pine nuts
generous bunch of your very own chives finely chopped
60g parmesan cheese, finely grated
grated zest of a lemon
4-6 tablespoons of olive oil plus some extra
salt and pepper to season

Cook the pine nuts in a frying pan until they are golden and them remove. Place in a pestle and mortar and grind down. Combine with the remainder of the ingredients and taste. Spoon the cold pesto into an airtight jar and cover with extra olive oil. Place in fridge where it will stay fresh fo 2-3 days. Really simple and a great start in the grow your own campaign.

Back to your herb box. Add in th following depending on space. Bay (perfect for stews) Lemon grass (perfect for stir frys), Mint (perfect for tea and new potatoes), Rosemmary (perfect for lamb), Sage (perfect for pork) and Thyme (perfect for everything). I have another use for all these herbs that you might want to try. It does require an open fire though. In the autumn you will want to trim your herb box to ensure good growth the following years. Take a bundle of mixed cuttings and tie with natural string and hang upside down out of direct sunlight. Once dry you have the best fragrant firelighters you could wish for. The smell off this little bundle is one of lives greatest pleasures. For those of you that can fit in more than a simple herb box you can add lavender and bergamot to your bundle. They need a bit more space to grow. One final tip for the herb box. Mint can take over very quickly so plant your mint in its pot and that will slow it down a bit.

I rarely buy presents and not because I am tight! I prefer to make gifts as I think this is far more personal. For those of you who take on a whole herb bed you will have a lot more cuttings come autumn. Make lots of bundles and place several in a decorate gift basket and give as a housewarming present - just check they have an open fire first. If they don't make up a jar of chive and lemon pesto and decorate the jar with ribbon and give that instead.

I do hope you might give one or other of these ideas a go.

I confess I have not ventured outside today because it is bitter cold and I was sulking at the lack of snow. The morning was filled with school which is finding its own pace again after the break for the holidays. Max and George did a fun exercise with their dad when they had to scale up an outline of a character from the Simpsons. The joy of home school is that we can select activities that we know will excite the children. I remember doing the same exercise with a rhombus at school - how completely boring! Harry and I were into the different types of training which involved us measuring our resting pulse rate. As a general rule the slower your resting pulse rate the fitter you are. Mine was an OK 73 but Harry's was an impressive 65. I will be blogging about our island spa facilities in due course but me thinks I need to visit it more often!

At the end of the morning session Max and George went off with my mother and her partner, Hamish, to play badminton. They place once every couple of weeks and my mum is amazing at almost 75 and one heart attack behind her. The boys also take on the local youth at badminton club on a Thursday evening at the village hall. Good for them! One of the criticisms of home school is the perceived lack of socialisation. My children clearly forgot to read that text book because they have no problems mixing with others. In fact, of all the home schooled children I know none of them have any social dificulties. Interesting....

I have had a challenging couple of hours in th studio with a kitten who likes nothing better than jumping on my work. In the picture of the test cards some of the distressing techniques were unintentional but now she has shown a talent for it I must get her to try it on silk. She is sleeping now so peace is restored.

Finally to the give away. I have a goodie bag of products from our winter collection to give away. All you have to do is tell me the name of the old school friend I mentioned in yesterday's blog. Just type it into the comments box below and the first person to do so will get the goodie bag 'with love from Arran'. I will contact you for your postal address. Good luck!

This blog appears to have a life all of its own and for that I am grateful. Over the next weeks and months I am going to introduce you to some island residents and I hope that you will get to know them well. Think radio 4 'The Archers' and swap in 'The islanders' and you are on the right track. Perhaps less of the wild affairs though! As we speak I have all sorts of people doing guest blogs and these inputs will give some colour and texture to this daily offering.

When I gave up my high flying career to become poor but satisfied the first thing I noticed was if I wanted a cup of coffee I could just go and put the kettle on. I have always truly appreciated that fact. Time for a coffee. xx
Pic is of the standing stones on the island. One of my favourite walks. Come with me sometime?