Topiary Trees

Together with my friend and my sister, I recently attended a workshop run by Driftwood & Daisies to learn how to create a beautiful floral topiary tree arrangement. The session began with a demonstration from Jo and a cuppa before we were let loose to create.

To begin, the ball of oasis was positioned on top of the pole and marked lightly into quarters vertically and then in half horizontally.  These lines were the starting point to begin inserting small sprigs of foliage and lavender.

Once all the lines were complete, the next stage was to begin to fill the areas between the lines with more foliage and to start adding some flowers.

This process was repeated, adding more flowers to fill gaps, interspersed with standing back to assess the shape and check for bald spots!

Eventually, you have to stick a fork in it and call it done!  Knowing when to stop with these kind of things is always a challenge.

The final task was to decorate the top of the pot with some moss and a small arrangement, to tie in the colours with the main ball.

Here is my finished topiary tree – I was really pleased with the result!  As well as looking lovely, it also smells amazing due to all that lavender. 

The base and pole can be reused so I’m looking forward to creating more trees later in the year. I’ll also be looking at what other workshops are available from Driftwood and Daisies as this was a very enjoyable way to spend a morning!

A Card and A Cake

As well as being a scorcher of a week in the UK this week, it has also been my Dad’s birthday.  It was sweltering in my craft room so I ended up making a quick fish-themed card, since fishing is one of my Dad’s hobbies.

To begin, I die cut DAD using some large letter dies and cut the wavy, stitched edge to make the front shorter so that more of the patterned paper would show.

For my card liner, I cut the same wavy edge and attached the offcut of patterned paper from the front of the card.  I found another offcut of the same paper so cut out the letters again to stick onto the envelope.

The final steps were some simple sentiment-stamping and gluing the card onto the patterned paper and the counters (the cut-out bits) into the letter holes.

I also made Dad a construction scene cake, inspired by one made by my friend Amanda, from Inspiring Inkin’.  (She also has an amazing chocolate buttercream recipe on the same blog post!)  Whilst I made the cake, Mr L bought a variety of chocolate goodies to create rocks and boulders, together with many, many Kit Kats for the surround.  The mini diggers are from Amazon.  Working on this was somewhat of a challenge in the 27˚C heat, I can tell you – it did taste lovely though!

Essence of Elderflower

My late Aunty Kathleen used to make wine and had won awards for her Elderflower Champagne.  Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get the recipe from her before she passed away but each year I see the elderflowers, I’m reminded of her so this year I decided to have a go at making some elderflower champagne.

Now, it should probably be called pressé as it’s not technically allowed to be called champagne since it’s not made in the Champagne region of France from the appropriate grape varieties, but since it won’t be travelling any further than from my fridge to my glass, I think I’ll run with it!

Whilst scouring Google for recipes, I also came across an elderflower liqueur recipe so added that to my picking list.  We have a Sambucus Nigra bush in our garden so I used the flowers from that for my ‘champagne’.   In the field next to our property is a large, wild elderflower bush, where I picked my flowers for the liqueur.  During my research, a couple of top tips were to use bushes that weren’t next to main roads and to pick flowers from above the leg-cocking height of a labradoodle!

I picked this recipe from www.tinandthyme.uk as it didn’t have tonnes of sugar in it.  Before I went to forage for the flowers, I made the water and sugar solution for the ‘champagne’ so it had time to cool, then I headed off out just before midday on a sunny Thursday to pick my flowers.

Once shaken to remove as many insects as possible, I snipped the flowers off the pink elderflowers and added them into the sugar and water solution, together with a couple of lemons, halved and squeezed and some apple cider vinegar and gave it all a good stir.  After covering with a tea towel, the concoction was left to soak for 24 hours.

Meanwhile, onto the liqueur. 

The recipe for this is from www.talesfromthekitchenshed.com . Again, after shaking the insects out of the flower heads, I snipped off the flowers into a sterilised mason jar and topped with some slivers of lemon zest.  Next, the jar was filled to the brim with vodka.  It was then placed in the cupboard under the stairs for 4 weeks to infuse.

Back to the champagne!  After the 24 hours was up, the liquid was strained to remove the flowers and any bugs and poured into screw cap bottles, loosely done up, and left for a couple of weeks at room temperature to allow the liquid to ferment using the natural yeasts in the flowers.  Mine took a couple of days to liven up but once they were up and running, they needed ‘burping’ a couple of times a day.  After 2 weeks, the lids were tightened and the bottles moved to the fridge for a couple of weeks to mature.  And now it’s ready to drink!

This is not alcohol-free, it’s about 2-4% apparently.

The next job was to finish the liqueur.  The liquid was strained through a cloth and then the sugar syrup added before putting into sterilised bottles and back to the cupboard under the stairs to mature for a couple if months.  I’m looking forward to this, a taste of summer, in the bottom of a glass of prosecco in the autumn!