The meandering thoughts of a modern-day hearth witch.

Monday, 28 June 2010


Delicate as lace, the creamy elderflower is held up against the sunlight by remarkably sturdy green stalks. Sunlight is necessary for these pretty little flowers to transcend the decorative, turning them into a flavoursome staple of summertime beverages.

Taste aside, the elderflower has some interesting healing properties which make it a handy ingredient to have in your herbal repertoire. Acting particularly effectively as an anticatarrhal and expectorant, it is useful at this time of year for those of us who battle with rhinitis (hayfever) and sinusitis, as well as inflammations of the mouth and throat. 

Brewing the flowers into a tea is particularly tasty when combined with blackcurrant, which has high levels of vitamin C. Soaking cotton wool pads in the cold tea and placing over the eyes provides soothing comfort for eye strain and conjunctivitis. You can also gargle with a mouth wash infused with elderflower to aid sore throats and even use the cold tea to heal chapped skin and cold-sores (herpes simplex). 

However, perhaps the most enjoyable use of the flowers is in cordials, wines and champagnes. Here is a simple little recipe for traditional, syrupy Elderflower Cordial, from Joanna's Food...

* 25 elderflowers -  stalks removed
* 1kg sugar
2 lemons -  grated, squeezed and chopped up
* 50g citric acid (your chemist should stock this)
* 1 litre cold (previously boiled) water

Put all the ingredients into a bowl in a cool place (not a fridge) for two days. Stir occasionally and after the forty-eight hours are up, strain and pour into sterilised bottles using a funnel. As long as the bottles are kept in the fridge, the cordial should keep for months. Dilute to drink. 

Happy foraging fellow summer-lovers!

Monday, 21 June 2010

The Triumphant Light

Today marks the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. 

The point on the Wheel of the Year is directly opposite Yule; the counterbalance to the darkest of moments.

Today, sunlight is triumphant.

Whether you are lighting the Litha fires, celebrating with a family feast or, like me,  simply enjoying the enchantment of this Midsummer Night in the quiet of your own garden, I wish you a wonderful, magickal evening.

Solstice blessings one and all. 

Sunday, 20 June 2010

National Myeloma Awareness Week

This week would mark my Dad's 52nd birthday. Poignantly, it is also National Myeloma Awareness Week - a campaign week aimed at raising awareness and understanding of the type of cancer he lost his life to, just a couple of months ago. 

Myeloma is an aggressive cancer of the bone marrow arising from cells in the blood plasma. It affects multiple parts of the body and causes a great deal of pain to sufferers. As healthy plasma cells produce antibodies, people with Myeloma are at a high risk of infection due to having an immune system which is not functioning properly. 

Myeloma patients find that, as the disease progresses, their bones become weakened, painful and fragments may even begin to break away, as tumours riddle the bone marrow. Areas which are usually most affected are the spine and pelvis, skull and rib-cage. 

Complications which frequently arise in myeloma patients concern the kidneys: the blood becomes too viscous due to the abnormal plasma cells and the kidneys can become 'clogged up' as a result. Many Myeloma patients develop kidney failure - it was actually this stage that alerted the doctors to what was happening with my Dad. 

And that brings me on to the important message behind the Myeloma Awarness Campaign. For many patients - including my Dad - their cancer can go undiagnosed as doctors remain baffled by their symptoms. As Myeloma is such a rare type of cancer (around 4000 people are diagnosed in the UK each year) with such varied and unspecific symptoms, it goes largely unrecognised by GPs. When it finally is discovered, its often too late. 

There is no known cure for Myeloma but treatment can halt the progress of the disease and enable patients to regain some semblance of a 'normal' life. This chance is hugely increased if the disease is caught at an early stage, before multiple systems in the body are affected. The Myeloma UK website, with a wealth of information about Myeloma and the campaign, can be found HERE

I want to thank you for taking the time to read this far - it would be fantastic if you could pass this information along, either by linking to my blog or to the Myeloma UK website itself. And if I could ask one final thing of you, it would be this...

If you are a UK resident, please sign up to the TAKE 2 campaign. 
You will be sent a Diagnosis Pathway document which you can take to your doctor, next time you visit the surgery.

I can only imagine what a difference it could have made, if only my Dad's doctor had had one. 

Thank you. 

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The Good and the Not-So-Good

Never mind that I have students swearing at me on what feels like a daily basis at the moment...

...I have beautiful flowers in my garden. 

And never mind that I have a pile of marking which reaches higher than my waist....

....I have sunshine and a spot of grass to sit outside on. 

And never mind that I don't get to see my boy this week...

...I had a bag of 'indulgence' treats in my pigeon-hole today. 

Thank you Secret Buddy!

I will sit and enjoy my wine, biscuits and magazine in the sunshine, with my flowers blooming around me and enjoy the good. 

The 'not-so-good' can wait until tomorrow. 

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

In praise of the Sun God

The vibrant sun is at its most powerful at this point in the year: our days are lengthy of light and warmth. At this time the earth is bounteous and crops are growing all around, whether in vast fields or more humble gardens.

The nasturtium seeds that I planted a mere month ago, here, are now well established and I hope to have a host of golden, orange and red hues adorning my little front wall and bowls of salads come late summer.

A mixture of salad leaf seeds that I planted in a giant tub about two weeks ago are sprouting healthily. I'm looking forward to some rocket adding a peppery taste to the mix as well.

Along one tiny little bed I can also see my spinach leaves and beetroot poking up out of the soil. I love the rich red of their stems.

And last but certainly not least, the beans have come to join the party! This is my first sprout on show today - hopefully, with a bit of guidance and support, the runner beans will climb straight up my wall.

As I have such a small plot of land at the front of my house, with nowhere to grow under cover, I have had to wait until so late in the season for the ground to be warm enough to plant straight out. But here they come, to accompany my miniature strawberry harvest, as the fruits of this year's labours.

Thank you to the great Sun God for encouraging these little wonders to grow. 

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Summer Bucket List

Inspired by the lovely Laura over at The Lola Letters and recent events in my life encouraging me to seize the day, I thought I would share with you my summer 'to-do' list.

Laura calls this her Summer Bucket List and it comprises of all the things one desires to do during the summer months, written down onto strips of paper and placed in a bucket, to be pulled out once or twice a week. I just LOVE the idea behind this - letting  whatever will be happen. 

So, when the days are long and the evenings light; when the Earth is warmed and the sun shines bright, what do you want to do with your time? I know I'll be enjoying some freedom this summer as, being a teacher, it will be my first long holiday. So, here goes...

My Summer 'Bucket' List

Spend the day in Oxford and have drinks by the river at The Trout
Visit the seaside and eat fish and chips out of newspaper
Go wild swimming
Go strawberry picking
Have an evening by the fire, toasting marshmallows
Take photographs in a rapeseed or poppy field
Share a seafood platter with B
Paint and distress my desk chair
Go for ice cream
'Midnight Margaritas'
Sew some owls just like these cuties from Alexandra at Moonstitches
Go for a picnic
Spend a whole 24 hours without technology - including watches - and just go where the wind takes us.
Have a girls' pamper day with Mum
A day trip to London to visit the art galleries with B

I'm sure I will think of many more to add to this list over the coming weeks!

How about you? What would be on your summer bucket lists?

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Tarot Tantilization

I am seeking guidance.

As someone who has spent a lot of time reading about tarot and speaking with friends who are tarot readers, but hasn't yet purchased a deck of my own, I am looking for a little help. 

Many of the more traditional decks I have seen have not wholly appealed to me. The Rider-Waite for example does not seem to capture my imagination. 

However, since reading so many of your wonderful blogs about the subject, I have discovered two decks which I find stunningly beautiful and whose images seem to make a lot of sense to me. 

The Shadowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

The Deviant Moon Tarot by Patrick Valenza

I was hoping that some of you kind people who have a bit more expertise than me could offer me some additional wisdom. Would you recommend either of these decks? What are the strengths of each? Do you have a preference between the two and, if so, can you explain why? 

If I can't make a decision soon I'll just have to buy both!

Blessings and thanks. 

Monday, 7 June 2010

A small harvest

My hanging-basket of strawberries is beginning to offer up its fruits...

 I am so excited to taste these!

In a couple of weeks, B and I are making a journey on a steam train. 
It would be just perfect to have home-grown strawbs in our picnic.

Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010


'Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished' - Lao Tzu

Once they hatch, dragonfly nymphs live for most of their lives on the bottom of rivers and ponds. This stage can last up to five years, with the nymph breathing through gills. When the larval dragonfly nymph is ready, it climbs up a reed or other water-dwelling plant and as soon as it reaches air, begins to breathe. 

The skin splits and the dragonfly emerges, stretching its wings and taking to the air, with the ability to propel itself in six directions - up, down, forwards, backwards and side to side - at speeds up to 30 miles per hour and spot movement from 40 feet away.

In the air, their wings refract and reflect light, enabling them to shine with an array of  luminescent colours. This wondrous creature symbolises the ability to see things from a different angle, embrace change and transformation and acknowledge the fact that life, like light, offers many illusions. 

Mother Nature at her most marvellous. 
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