Archive for December, 2012

December 20, 2012

Hanna’s Stars – A guest blog by my wife

by Ciaran Burke

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Hanna has been very busy being crafty this Christmas, she ran a workshop earlier this month on creating Christmas Wreaths, paper lanterns adorn our mantle piece and over the last few days the view from our windows is of stars, both at night and during the day. Stars of red shine bright by day light, in the evening the glow to the outside world by the warm light of the living room.

Everyone who sees them admires them, and they are asking me how to do them. Well that is for Hanna to tell, she is the crafty one in our house…

16-pointed star

Materials:

  • Coloured or white transparent paper, also called kite paper. (Coloured tissue paper doesn’t give same glowing effect.)
  • Set square
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Liquid craft glue (water soluble is always better)
  • Small brush to spread the glue

Coloured transparent paper can be ordered on Internet. It is better to get large sheets. The stars are usually more effective with one colour or 2 colours, which are near to each other. That way the geometrical pattern of the folds shows clearer. Coloured tissue paper does not work as well in more complicated stars. It doesn’t let enough light through. It is also too soft, and therefore more difficult to fold exactly.

To make stars is not complicated, but some love of accuracy and patience is needed. Some people have these naturally. We others can develop it. An excellent way to prepare yourself is to introduce the star making to a classroom full of 14-15-years olds, to convince yourself, that this is going to be something great and fun, until you believe you have the power to show that the effort is worth making not only for useful things, but for beautiful things too. After couple of hours of a struggle one is quite happy to retire and can actually enjoy the quiet and solitude of slow-going activity of tens and tens of repeating folds.

It is good to lock yourself into an inaccessible space, put some Christmas music on, and fold without thinking how many pieces are still unfolded. With this attitude the star making can really become quite an enjoyable, almost meditation-like activity…

Instructions for a simple 16 pointed star:

  1. Draw with pencil, and with the help of the set square, 16 rectangles of for example 4cm x 15cm. (different measurements give different looking stars). The more exact you do this, the happier you are later
  2. Cut carefully along the lines to get 16 pieces. Again: the more exact, the better.
  3. Rub carefully the pencil lines away. This is especially important when the star is made from a light colour.
  4. Start by folding all the pieces lengthwise in half.
  5. Then open the fold. You will have a centre line. Fold the corners in both ends against the centre line. You will have “arrowheads” in both ends of the piece.
    Fold the corner into the centre

    Fold the corner into the centre

    Second fold- corners fold to the centre line

    Second fold- corners fold to the centre line

     

  6. In one end, open the corner folds. You will have a new line running from the centre of the end of the piece to the side of the piece. Fold the corners again against this new fold, and then close the original folds, so that the new one stays inside of them. Then fold the corners once more to the centre line to get narrower arrowhead.
    Open the fold and fold the corners to the line

    Open the fold and fold the corners to the line

    Second fold is inside the first one

    Second folds are inside the first ones

    Fold the corners once more into the centre

    Fold the corners once more into the centre

     

  7. In the other end of the piece fold the corners two more times to the centre line. You will have an even narrower arrowhead in this end.
    Fold the corners the second time into the centre

    Fold the corners the second time into the centre

    Fold a third time into the centre

    Fold a third time into the centre

     

  8. Repeat this for all 16 pieces.

    Individual piece folded

    Individual piece folded

  9. When all the 16 pieces have been folded, glue them together. Use the glue only very thinly. The wider ends are joined in the middle, the narrower ends form the points of the star. It is important that the centre ends come neatly together in the middle. In this model the side of each piece runs exactly in the middle line of the piece under it.
    Centre points are placed exactly together

    Centre points are placed exactly together

    Line the edge of one with the centre of another

    Line the edge of one with the centre of another

    Glueing process

    Glueing in process

     

10. The last piece is tucked under the first one.

Tuck the last piece under the first

Tuck the last piece under the first

11. If some folds are sticking up, brush a drop of glue under them.

Once this basic model is learned, the possibilities of variation are limitless: different folds, different sizes of pieces and different numbers of the points will give new shapes and patterns. Also a smaller and a larger star can be joined together etc. Let your imagination flow, and your stars will shine!

Finished Star

Finished Star

December 3, 2012

Watch Out – There Are Scodoos About… Scodoo Watch

by Ciaran Burke

Scoodoos are ancient tree spirits. They have rarely shown themselves to humans in the past but now due to their concern about deforestation and environmental issues, they are reaching out to humans. Sightings are becoming more frequent, keep an eye out, Scoodoos are about…

Scoodoos

Scoodoo Watch PosterScoodoo sightings are still quite rare. If you see a Scoodoo about, please let us know. There is a form on our Scoodoo sightings page- Scoodoo Watch.

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December 2, 2012

Deck the halls with boughs of Holly – Christmas Wreath Workshop

by Ciaran Burke

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Not just holly! Laurel, redwood, ferns, hawthorn, spruce, cotton lavender, ivy, heather, artichokes, alder, willow, spruce and many, many more.

Getting it just right....

Getting it just right….

Take a sprig of laurel, no ordinary laurel, Otto Luyken’s low growing one. Add a spray of a bronze  leaved conifer wearing its winter clothes, darkened from summer green, Microbiota decussata from Vladivostok. A spruce shoot or two from the felled trees from behind the house and a plump bunch of creamy green flower buds from the fragrant spring flowering Skimmia x confusa ‘Kew Green’. Tied with tender care and lovingly crafted into a Christmas wreath. Take a break, sip some hot glögi, a Finnish Christmas punch, have a nibble on a mince pie or Tunisian orange cake and back to work. Creativity filled the air, mingling with the warm chatter and yummy smell of home baked cakes. Just the way a Christmas Wreath workshop should be.

A finished wreath

A finished wreath

This was the first workshop to take place in our newly built classroom. Over the last two weeks my Dad and myself have been busy hammering and sawing. The wooden building had been installed, it was our job to insulate the structure, wire it for electricity and finish off the inside with tounged and grooved wood panelling. We had a deadline to meet. 1st of December and Hanna’s Christmas wreath workshop.  We finished on time, ahead of time, last Thursday we had our first class, the RHS Level 2 course took place there, and on Friday a Christmas tree was added, decorated with lights and Hanna’s advent wreath was placed on the table. We were ready.

Sequoia sempervirens 'Adpressa'

Sequoia sempervirens ‘Adpressa’

The workshop was about making Christmas wreaths, using plant material from the garden and hedgerow, there were also cakes and Christmas punch, glögi a Finnish spiced grape drink. Homemade mince pies started the day with tea and coffee, later there was cranberry and orange tart, Tunisian orange cake and Finnish style Christmas pastries filled with delicious prune jam. Our classroom was filled with happiness, a vibrant buzz and by the end of the day everybody had created a beautiful Christmas wreath to bring home with them. Thank you to all the wreath makers for making this a memorable 1st of December and bringing good cheer to our classroom.

Links to recipes for cakes and glögi

Cakes for the workshop

Cakes for the workshop

 

In the gallery below are photos from our christmas wreath workshop and also some photos of some of the plants that were used in the making of the wreaths.

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 2, 2012

Glögi – a Finnish Christmas drink recipe

by Ciaran Burke

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Glögi is a Christmas drink based on grape juice and flavoured with spices, served hot with raisins and almonds. it does not contain alcohol but if a Finn wants to perk it up with extra with booze they will add red wine and vodka! In our Christmas wreath workshop we had this delicious hot drink, without the booze!

Here is a link to the Christmas Wreath Workshop

Glögi – Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 litre red grape juice (we used home made grape cordial)
  • A few strips of organic orange peel
  • 1 Cinnamon stick
  • 6-8 whole cloves
  • 4 cardamon pods
  • 4-6 whole all spice corns (or 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice)

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Method:

  1. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and bring to boil
  2. Leave to simmer on a low heat with lid on for 10 minutes
  3. Leave to cool
  4. When cooled sieve to remove the spices
  5. Re-heat and drink, or dilute with hot water to taste
  6. Serve with a teaspoonful of raisins and a few skinned whole almonds in each cup

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You can use other juices instead of red grape. Try using white grape, apple, cranberry or elderberry.

December 2, 2012

Joulutortut (Finnish Christmas Tarts) – Recipe

by Ciaran Burke
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Joulutortut (Finnish Christmas tarts)This is a traditional Advent and Christmas bake. When prepared the pastry needs to stand overnight before rolling. Here is Hanna’s recipe for these delicious pastries. This is one of the lovely cakes that we enjoyed during our Christmas Wreath Workshop on 1st December in The Garden School.
Here is a link to the Christmas Wreath Workshop
Pastry
Ingredients:

  • 200g butter
  • 200ml whip cream
  • about 2cups (European cup=250ml) flour (I use white spelt, but mostly people use wheat of course)
  • 1/2tsp. baking powder

Method:

  1. For the pastry: mix by hand the room temperature butter with 1,5 cup of flours and baking powder until even.
  2. Whip the cream thick and add into the flour mix. Fold together.
  3. Sieve in the rest of the flour. Mix and form the pastry into a ball.
  4. Wrap with baking paper and leave overnight in the fridge.

Filling:

Ingredients:

  • about 200g stoneless prunes
  • piece of cinnamon stick
  • some orange grind slices
  • 2-3tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 egg for brushing

Method:

  1. To prepare the filling, put the prunes into a pot with some water and the sugar and spices. Cook until soft, and the water has boiled away.
  2. Take out the cinnamon stick and orange grind slices.
  3. Mix smooth with mixer.

Baking the pastries

  1. Take the cooled pastry from the fridge and roll it with some flour on the table to the thickness of ¼ of an inch or so. Fold back together with three or four folds and roll flat again. Repeat this three or four times.
  2. Then roll the pastry as square as possible again to the thickness of ¼ of an inch or little less. Cut with pastry cutter (or pizza cutter of knife) into even squares about 4X4inches.
  3. Cut all the corners open in diagonal to the centre IMG_0451
  4. Put about 1tsp. of the filling into the middle of each square. Fold every right half of the corner up to the centre onto the top of the filling. (It should look like a 4-armed star). The folded corners hold better together if you keep tipping your fingers into the water while folding, so that the pastry is always moist where it comes together.

Place the stars onto a buttered and floured baking tray, and brush well with slightly whisked egg. Bake for 10-15min. in 200°C. Before serving sprinkle with icing sugar.

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