Homemade vanilla extract

I was very kindly sent some premium quality vanilla beans ( Here in the UK we call them vanilla pods) by my lovely Facebook friends Rick and Terri Hawkins, over in The States.

I was also kindly sent directions on how to make my very own top quality vanilla extract.

I have now made 3 litres of this wonderful ingredient!

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For anyone, that does a lot of baking/cooking, it is well worthwhile making your own extract, as not only will you have a larger quantity of this useful flavouring, far greater than the tiny shop bought version in those mini plastic bottles, but it will also be of vastly superior flavour and you can adapt the flavour by using different varieties of beans and different alcohol.

There are several varieties of vanilla beans, Tahitensis & Planifolia Blend, Indonesia, India, Tahiti, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Mexico, Bourbon and Madagascar vanilla beans. These all have their own unique flavours and will give you different results, so feel free to experiment!

The version I have made so far is based on regular vanilla beans and cheap non brand vodka.

You simply split the beans lengthwise to open up the seed filled middles.

I used 12  good-sized beans per litre of vodka and then you submerge the beans totally in the alcohol and allow it all to steep for 8 weeks.

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You can store the resulting liquid with the beans still in (as long as the beans remain totally submerged in the alcohol) and it will develop an even deeper richer flavour and colour or you can strain the liquid and then put the previously soaked beans in a glass jar full of caster sugar to make a wonderfully scented and flavoured vanilla sugar ……or simply use them in another batch of extract!

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Store the bottle in a dark cupboard to use in your own recipes or decant the extract into little decorative bottles, to give as gifts!

ImageI am thinking of experimenting with the pre-used vodka soaked beans and making a vanilla and coffee bean liqueur with them!

I aim to put the used beans into fresh vodka and then add coffee beans and sugar. Shaking regularly to dissolve the sugar ( as you would with sloe gin) .

I will leave it to mature for 3 months, strain and then test!  I will let you know how it tastes !

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Visualise the life you want…

I am a great believer in the power of positive thought.

I think if we spend too much time allowing negative thoughts to affect our lives, we then tend to lose space for all the good stuff that is waiting out there for us.

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We become so eaten up with the negative stuff that the good stuff goes unnoticed.

When I get that horrid knotted up, worried, unsettled feeling in my tummy and my sleep starts to get disturbed by negative thoughts and worries, I try to ground myself by concentrating on the NOW and on everything that I do have to be grateful for.

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I try hard not to worry about the things that ‘could’ happen. As more often than not those things never materialise. If they do, then I agree to tackle them as they happen, one problem at a time. But I give myself permission to let go of those things until they actually materialise.

I have found that there is no point worrying about things that I cannot change. Some things are out of our control. We all have things like that in our lives.  Enjoying each day to its fullest allows you to have something to feel happy about.

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Find something, anything, to be grateful for in that day. Your children, a flower, a sunset, a smile. There is always something.

ImageTake a photo of it! Put it on a gratitude board to remind you of it when things get tough…..  or maybe start a vision-board full of your hopes and dreams and fill it with images of the life you REALLY want to lead . Start believing that you WILL lead that life. Add those thoughts/images to your board. Imagine it. Visualise it. Live it. Start now.

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SMILE at least once each and every day! Share that smile with someone . You may even get a smile back.

Be silly sometimes. Don’t allow society to take away that inner child inside of you.

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I find so many people are almost prisoners in their own bodies. They worry about how people perceive them. They stop being true to themselves and spend far too much energy conforming to what they believe is acceptable and expected behaviour. People like this are often annoyed or embarrassed by other people’s urges to sing or dance or giggle at inopportune moments.

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But it is FUN to be silly now and then and to allow yourself to be the REAL you and to not worry about what others may think of you. Other people’s attitude towards you and your life are not your responsibility.  That is not your issue. That is their issue. Their responsibility. Let go of that and let them think what they want.  BE happy!  We are only here once.

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Take deep breaths whilst standing outside in nature. Take off your shoes and stand with your bare toes wiggling in the grass or soil. Shut your eyes and listen to the wind in the trees or the birds singing. Feel the ground beneath your feet.  Breathe deeply. Really deeply. Fill your lungs to their full capacity and then drop your shoulders and allow all the bad thoughts to flow out of you as you breathe out. Relax.

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Focus on all that is good in your life right now and allow yourself to enjoy those things.

..and remember whatever it is that is eating away at your happiness at the moment, these feelings won’t be with you forever.  Life moves on. Things change. You can get over this.

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Blessings xxxxx

Transitions and a cottage full of furries and not so furries.

As many of you may be aware I am growing out the remains of my hair dye and allowing my grey/silver to finally grow through. I am 45 and have been dying my hair for over a decade. It has been 9 months with no dye so far and a transitional time in many ways.  Not only are my roots growing out but I am growing as a person. I have the confidence to love myself just the way I am, dye or no dye.

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9 months no hair dye..and the grey really shows!

I am still encountering some negative comments about the way my hair looks. About the fact that I am not ‘old’ yet and should dye it a bit longer as I am too young to go grey.  But I am taking it all on the chin and smiling.

I am HAPPY with my hair just the way it is. I am happy with my life just the way it is. I am happy being me, grey hairs an’ all..and for me that is a major milestone, having spent a good chunk of my life trying hard to be something I am not and not particularly liking how I looked. Even when I worked hard at my appearance, I still spent far too much time worrying about my weight, clothes, hair, height etc . ..but I have finally let go and become confident enough to just be!

I see my grey hair as a visual sign of all the wisdom and experience I have gained over the years and I am proud to show them!  🙂

On another note, as you may know I have quite a menagerie of my own here at Riverside and I often look after dogs for friends and family when they go away on holiday or on business. I currently have a beautiful Golden Retriever, Charlie, staying here with me,  and my son’s Jack Russell pup, Max, is here most days whilst he is at work too! So this tiny cottage is currently housing 5 dogs of varying sizes, my two cats and H’s collection of invertebrates and small furry critters. Haha!… It is positively bursting at the seams…and yet all is quiet and settled and life still has a gentle peaceful feel about it..

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My eldest sons German Pointer, Chester, spends odd days here when Ben or his fiancée have to work long shifts.

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. ….and despite this influx of non-resident dogs into my own dog’s territory, they all get along just fine.

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My own dogs often come along with me when I do one of my gardening jobs and they spend the day at my parents house whilst I work, as their cottage is opposite the garden I look after. My dogs (and quite often a few extra ones too), spend the day with my parents dogs, Benji the dachshund and Lila the whippet.  All these dogs get along. There is no aggression, dominance or jealousy and I love it!

I think it is rather special that they all like one another!

Benji and Lila have stayed here at Riverside a few times and even get along with my cats which astounded my mum as Benji was not a cat lover at all!

Lola my sphynx cat  ignores visiting dogs totally. She is totally unfazed by extra woofers sniffing her and she simply donks them on the nose with her rubbery paw if they get too pushy,  and  then she goes about life as normal.

Aurora my odd eyed cat is slightly more aloof and will hide in my bedroom for one day until she has checked out the visiting dog from a distance but even she soon gets used to new animals in the cottage.  There is no cat chasing, no spitting or hissing..nothing.. xx

We could learn a lot from the way these dogs and cats accept one another’s differences I think.

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