The fairy folk residing in Meadow Sweet Grove have come up with some yuletide doings that you may enjoy each day, leading up to Christmas Day; as a means to celebrate this magical time of the year!
Hide the Silver!
Silver cutlery and dishes were once coveted and included in the home for their beauty, usefulness and of course, as a status symbol. But they also represented a practical investment.
Cutlery and dishes were a needed item, and silver was durable, long-lasting, could be traded, pawned, handed down to the next generation; and at the end of the day ... sold to be melted down and re-used. Hence the saying "Hide the silver!" when someone was expected to visit the household with whom you weren't acquainted; or had reason to be suspicious of their poor character. It is also why many buffets and china cabinets had locks. Real silver is often very heavy and is hallmarked with various numbers and symbols which are helpful in tracing their age, place of origin and value.
Affordable Silver Plate
Silver plate became popular as a cost-effective alternative to silver and made it more widely available for the common public to attain. It is physically lighter than solid silver (though can be heavy if it has an encased lead plug for weight and stability). Silver plate items range from unmarked to marked with country of origin, a declaration of lead mounts/plug and can also be hallmarked or include the company name. I am not an expert, but to the best of my knowledge the lead content is not considered dangerous as it is not exposed at all. The lead is a contained "plug" fully encased within the item (usually within copper with the silver plate over top).
I have found multiples uses for vintage silver plate other than serving food anyway. A few are shown here ... and I keep finding more inspiration with each piece I add! You can polish away the tarnish, which looks nice in the shabby chic, romantic home ... or leave the patina for the more eclectic, bohemian, dark or magically witchy home.
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan, 2022
This is a wonderfully easy and yummy meal to make for dinner inspired by a soup recipe that I have altered somewhat to turn into a casserole. It uses up left-over cooked chicken and requires few ingredients. Reduce wet ingredients for a "dryer" pasta meal or increase for a "soupy" casserole. Adjust cooking time accordingly. It's all up to you!
When I made this meal ... I realized I didn't have any carrots. Then I remembered that I still had some out on the front brick patio (mid-January!) in a suspended iron planter. I had grown some in pots, elevated, away from the slugs which had ravaged our garden this year. Anyway - they were just enough to complete this meal. These winter carrots were lovely, fragrant, crisp and sweet.
You can always scrape a meal together somehow!
Bibliography: Fix It Fast Cookbook, Better Homes and Gardens, 1979
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2021
Though we are into Fall now; the roses are still blooming here in the Grove, so I thought I would try my hand at some cheap and cheerful, homemade skin care. Here is my recipe for "Quick and Easy Rose Petal & Witch Hazel Toner":
You will need:
2 handfuls of fresh rose petals
1 covered dish
metal tea strainer and funnel
2 same size containers
1 dark glass bottle
Step 3. Measure out an equal amount of pure witch hazel to your rosewater. Pour both the witch hazel and rosewater together into a dark glass bottle, cap tightly and shake gently or rotate bottle to mix. Store in a dark, cool cupboard. Apply to skin with a cotton ball.
Rosewater is anti-inflammatory and has anti-bacterial qualities and so soothes irritated or acne-prone skin. As a natural astringent; it tones skins and tightens pores as well as reducing the appearance of wrinkles. It is also used to hydrate, revitalize and moisture all skin types as it balances the serum of the skin. Witch hazel has similar benefits as it pertains to toning, tightening and cleansing the skin.
And since the beautiful Queen Cleopatra is said to have washed her face in rosewater and indulged in milk baths heavily laced with rose petals; as part of her beauty regime ... I think that is good enough for me to incorporate some rosewater into my daily skin care routine!
Bibliography: Magical Powers of Rosewater for Glowing Skin, Read & Digest, 2020
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2020
Summer is flying by and we can already feel Fall in the air!
But last month was hot and dry and my husband decided to take advantage of the weather and finally apply varnish to an old vintage plant stand ... that he had been diligently sanding and preparing for the better part of the year!
By far the largest part of the job was painstakingly removing the white paint from all the little crevices -- and all without damaging the detailed woodwork. Lots of delicate sanding was involved but the Grumpy Old Gnome in the Grove stuck with the task.
Here's the backstory ...
While I liked the "shabby chic" look of the planter before (and being able to use it outside without guilt) - I think it looks just beautiful as a restored piece and will make a wonderful addition to our front living room!
The next task is to build, or have built, a glass atrium for the top ... so that maybe we can transplant many of our little succulents into it. I know it would be perfect for growing some kitchen herbs too ... but we have far too many of those in the Grove already!!
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2019
Summer is almost over. Did I just say that? No worries - capture the essence and feeling of summer by making rose petal jam!
This jam is really easy to make. I am continually astounded by how much our small city garden gives in the Grove. Our roses have been really abundant this year and I discovered that there are many recipes with which you can use or include rose petals such as: rose petal jam or jelly, garnishments for salads, rose vinegar dressing and more!
Collect rose petals and make some jam now with this simple recipe!
You will need:
- equal parts rose petals and berry sugar
- juice of one lemon
- canning jars
... and a little pectin (if required)
Step 1: Collect the rose petals
Pick petals from your loveliest roses and choose only those free from blemish. For this recipe, I used approximately 250g / 8 ounces of petals.
Step 2: Wash rose petals, dust with sugar and chill
Rinse the rose petals with cool water, discarding any with blemish. Drain well and crush lightly in your hands with a bit of berry sugar, making sure to bruise each petal slightly. Place in bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.
Step 3: Making the jam
Pour 1/2 litre of water into a saucepan, together with 250 g berry sugar and the juice of one lemon. Bring to a boil, stirring all the time. Add the crushed rose petals, reduce heat, and continue at medium heat, stirring constantly until jam consistency and setting point is reached. Add 1/2 package of powdered pectin if necessary.
Step 4: Preparing the jam for storage
Properly sterilize your canning equipment. I usually achieve this by boiling jars, rims, seals and any utensils I will be using. Spoon the jam into jars and seal tightly. Store as appropriate for the canning method you use. Enjoy with toast, croissants or scones on a rainy day when you are dreaming of summer ...
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2018
May is such a magical month that the appearance of fairies in your garden should come as no surprise! Even the staunchest disbeliever must do a double take when ... apple, pear or cherry blossoms float and swirl though the air, fresh new leaves rustle in the wind or the sun shimmers and gleams in nooks and crannies in the garden. All these subtle happenings can be evidence of fairy activity ...
Here are 3 simple ways to attract fairies to your garden:
This is a biggie because fairies are like songbirds. They love trees as this gives them little branches to cling to, or big branches for swinging and leaves to hide behind. Not to mention that their older cousins, the Dryads, will often tell them stories at night about ancient times and places. Plant lots of perennial flowers that will magically sprout up in the Spring, year after year, without any extra work on your part - bluebells, tulips, daffodils, forget-me-nots, Jack Frost, Lily-of-the-Valley, foxgloves - your garden will be alive with colour and sweet scents that attract the birds, bees, butterflies ... and fairies!
And for some fun, blow some bubbles from a bubble wand! There is something magical about bubbles floating gently on the breeze ... and the fairies will be sure to notice.
Accept the magical world around you and welcome it into your garden. It doesn't matter how big or small it is. Whether you are charmed with a "back 40", a fantastically witch-y cottage garden, a "postage stamp" city plot or even an apartment balcony; you can always add in a little bit of nature - usually more than you think once you get started! Prepare to be amazed at how special life becomes when your home becomes a safe haven for fairies to congregate and play.
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2018 / edited 2020
The beginning of May marks the beginning of Summer in old English tradition. The year was divided into two halves -- with Summer beginning on May 1st and Winter beginning on October 31st. Of course, the weather doesn't always conform to these dates!
This year, however, the Grove has seen a lovely hot week of sunshine - after the usual amount of copious April showers of rain and hail. Hopefully, it will continue for a wonderful and warm May Day on May 1st.
The garden is certainly responding to the heat and all sorts of plants are bursting forth with leaves and blossoms. Here are just a few that my camera caught today!
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2018
Time to Go Thrifting
Many people may have made a New Year's Resolution this January 1st to "clear the clutter" and get organized. When taking those unwanted items in for donation to your local thrift store or charity stop - do make sure you check inside the store to see what's on offer.
Many people donate unwanted Christmas presents in January or donate the items that those gifts replaced. Sometimes they donate better quality items than the new replacements they received!
For example, someone might donate their "out-dated" English bone china dishes or funky 70s Japanese stoneware. For the lover of antique, retro, quality or just plain eclectic dishware -- your local thrift store becomes a treasure trove!
Charity shops often have promotions too, like any other retailer, at this time of the year, to make up for low sales - so make a note of those dates and bring your donations in on those discount days.
Some Thrifty Tips
January is also a time of year when many people are cutting back on their expenses. For some, there is more tax deducted off the pay cheque starting in January. Others overspent at Christmas, or feel the need to take a holiday somewhere warm. Whatever the reason for a light wallet in January - there are many thrifty ways to stretch your dollars.
~ Reuse food containers in your kitchen ~
Isn't it silly that we buy containers to freeze or store our food in - when we throw perfectly good containers into the recycling bin every day? Containers that are already bought and paid for. Recent news has led me to believe that many of the items we faithfully recycle are not being recycled at all - but shipped to other countries for disposal in their landfills and even oceans. This, of course, defeats the purpose of recycling which is to keep the items out of Mother Nature's belly!
Here's a number of re-uses for those many containers that make their way into your home:
The best! Use for dry beans and lentils, pasta, popcorn and rice. Sterilize the jars and lids in boiling water and freeze homemade applesauce and crushed tomatoes (make sure you leave a good inch or so at the top for expansion). Use for non-food items like: nails, screws, tacks, beads, paper clips, seed pods and any other small items that need organization.
Yogurt, margarine, sour cream, cream cheese, and those funky plastic take-away/delivery containers - anything that is packaged in an opaque plastic tub can be re-used. Use them to freeze left-overs, extra tomato sauce and chicken broth. Keep them handy to send guests home with left-overs, children to school with cut veggies, cookies and cupcakes for school parties and for numerous other non-food uses like: crayons, craft/painting supplies, pet food - just don't get the two mixed up!
Bread Bags & Cereal Boxes
Those many bread bags basically replace plastic wraps! Okay, they don't "cling", but many food items we wrap up don't need that feature. Use them to wrap cheese and to freeze extra portions of raw meat like ground beef and chicken. Cut them in half and use them to wrap sandwiches and snacks for lunches. Collect dry seed pods in the summer or fall and shake the bag. All the seeds will collect beautifully in the bottom of the bag (I learned this trick from a wonderful old Yorkshireman). Talk about thrifty! He even cut up his empty cereal boxes for a re-use as shopping lists.
~ Join a Local "Buy Nothing" or "Gifting" Group ~
If you are on Facebook, do a search for a "buy nothing" or "gifting" group in your local area. The premise is usually that everyone posts pictures of items that they are willing to give away for free. Read the rules carefully as each group is different, but usually, you are required to post a picture and short description of an item you no longer need. People express interest by commenting on the post and you pick a recipient and leave the item on your doorstep for them to collect at a pre-arranged time. You likewise comment on posts of items that others are gifting in the hopes that you will be the lucky winner. I have met some wonderful people this way and have received many amazing household items ... and helped to de-clutter my own home in the bargain!
One man's trash is another man's treasure.
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2018 / edited 2019 & 2023
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2018 / edited 2019 & 2020 & 2023
The fairies at Meadow Sweet Grove just love fruitcake ...
If you research fruit cake recipes, you will find literally dozens and dozens of versions.
Here's one that I used for the single-layer cake featured here, inspired by a recipe in
"The Victorian Kitchen Book of Cakes and Cookies", but altered to suit our taste.
Absolutely essential extras:
Brandy, cheesecloth, tinfoil and a sealed container.
Pour brandy into a small mixing bowl. Soak cheesecloth until saturated. Lift cheesecloth and gently wrap around cake, stretching to fit and turning to cover well. When completely covered, wrap in tin foil and seal in container. Repeat process, once a week, for up to 6 weeks.
We are fortunate enough to have a holly tree living with us in the Grove and he kindly provided a sprig for the Christmas Fruit Cake. The sprig of holly is non-essential but incredibly traditional and gives a wonderfully earthy feel; so nice if you can get your hands on a piece to top your cake!
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2017/edited 2019 & 2020
The Grove is certainly having its share of blustery days and lots of rain. So much wind that everything - hummingbird feeders, bead curtains, candle holders and even wind chimes have had to be taken down - or be blown down! So much rain that you can hear it literally pounding on the roof!
But we did have warning - a couple of beautiful sunny days absolutely full of the sounds and sight of crows, hummingbirds, chickadees, juncos, bushtits, flickers, blue jays and robins, robins, robins ... all looking for food. Now that the wind and rain is here, only the crows have remained steady visitors - hunched on the telephone wires, awaiting a hand-out and then back off to relative dry in the cedar trees.
The combination of bright sun and swaying branches create dancing shadows everywhere. The rustling of leaves in the wind produces a magical song. Clouds move quickly and cause dramatic changes of sudden dark and then sudden light. And the rain pounds relentlessly on the poor plants. And amazingly, the ethereal and fleeting appearance of a gorgeous rainbow! Well, with all this funky weather going on, coupled with cold mornings, there can be no doubt that Fall has a firm foothold and winter is definitely on the way.
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2017 Pounding rain! Make sure to turn your sound up!
This week we took a break from restoring our vintage dollie because the apples were in desperate need of rescuing. It's been a hard year for our apple trees. Too much heat and too many bugs! Many of the apples fell off during the summer, others were cored through by bugs, and still others rotted right on the branches! But, all said and done, we were amazed to get quite a few pecks of perfect "eaters", at least a bushel full of "bakers", a number left behind on the tree for hopeful ripening and still many more left over for cider! Ah, the cider....
There's going to be cider?? Well, our trees kinda look like this so .... No, don't cry! We'll try!
Meadow Sweet Groves claims no rights or ownership to the above YouTube videos.
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2017
But the fairies, who live in a separate realm, don't worry about these little things and intuitively know with whom they are sharing their garden space. For this reason, we have let the many folk names for flowers prevail in the Grove.
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2017/edited 2021 (gif courtesy of animatedimages.org)
What an incredible Summer Solstice we are having here at Meadow Sweet Grove! Bright, beautiful sun, strong warm breezes - perfect for drying laundry and . . . the magical appearance of a fairy ring in the garden! This is a really grand compliment as fairy rings (rings of mushrooms) only appear in places that the fairies themselves have chosen as a desirable place for their evening revels and dancing. In fact, the little toadstools are evidence that a merry dance has already taken place. For wherever the fairies dance; the mushrooms are said to appear.
The fairy ring marks a special, distinct space from the human world. It is often seen as a gateway to fairyland or another dimension where the fairies will keep you for a year and a day. We can't usually see what (or who) is inside the fairy circle ... when we look in from the outside. And if a fey beckons us to join in the dance - do we dare go in?
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2017 / edited 2021
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2017 / edited 2022
Meadow Sweet Grove has experienced a record downfall of rain this Spring. Most of the fairies are probably sitting by their little stoves and looking out longingly at their gardens. When they do go out, I imagine they dart for cover, hiding under handy toadstools along the way. Still, May is the perfect month to search for fairies that might be starting to play in the garden after those long winter months.
An absolute abundance of froggies! Well, it has been raining an awful lot ...
And even Robin Goodfellow, or Puck - as some know him - was found amongst the new growth and greenery, where he is always the happiest ...
Finally, a gnome atop his new wishing well home (dry as a bone) and a fairy, trapped under ice all winter, has been returned to the Grove.
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2017 / edited 2021
April showers did indeed bring May flowers to the Grove. Not quite as stunning as last year's spring but as promised by Margaret Elizabeth Sangster, "Never yet was a springtime, when the buds forgot to bloom."
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2017 / edited 2021
St. Patrick's Day is on its way in Meadow Sweet Grove and the fairies are celebrating! There's lots of singing, dancing, green mead and shamrock sugar cookies to go around. Of course, the hunt is also on to find those lucky four-leaf clovers before the mortals stumble across them. We have a special incentive to do so - it is said if you find a four-leaf clover, you will be gifted with the power to see fairies ....
Combine dry ingredients. Cream the butter and sugar together in a separate bowl. Beat the egg, milk and vanilla into the wet ingredients. Sift and add dry mixture a bit at a time and mix well. Shape dough into a ball, cover bowl and chill until firm.
Meanwhile, grease or line cookie sheets. Preheat oven to 375°. Roll out chilled dough to about 1/8 inch thickness. Cut with shamrock or clover shaped cookie cutters and place on cookie sheets.
Bake for about 7 minutes until edges are a very light brown.
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2017 / edited 2020 & 2021 & 2022
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2016
© Meadow Sweet Grove / V. Buchanan, 2016 edited 2021
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