For the bored, locked-down and lonely

Activity: Make bird feeder cupcakes to support local wildlife

In the cold months of the year, our local birds need plenty of help to stay toasty and healthy until spring rolls around. Bird feeder balls from mainstream shops often contain cheap or questionable ingredients like palm oil. Much better to make your own and treat your local chirpy friends to some really delicious, energy-dense winter sustenance!

Keep your birds happy with these bird food cupcakes!

What you will need:

A cupcake tin

A microwave proof bowl or large saucepan

Cupcake cases

Vegetable suet, lard or coconut oil

Wild bird seed

You can also add: crushed eggshells, currants, raisins, sunflower hearts, unsalted peanuts, uncooked oats

Do not add: salted seeds or nuts, dried rice or beans that could swell once ingested, bacon rinds, cooked oatmeal (clogs birds beaks), desiccated coconut, avocado, crisps, chocolate, stale, mouldy or dried bread, polyunsaturated fats like margarine.

Birds need good quality fats in their diet. Fats that are solid at room temperature are the best. Coconut fat is high in saturated fats and would be suitable for making vegetarian cupcakes for wild birds.

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Activity: Make delicious teas

Since we’re all spending a lot of time with our kettles these days, we deserve to enjoy the full spectrum of wonderful hot beverages the world has to offer. Here are some ideas for tea blends you can make as a single cup or mix in large batches (following the same proportions) to have a stash of warming ‘artisanal’ brews for whenever the need arises. A jar of homemade tea mixture is also a great gift!

Refreshing floral tea

For people who think tea can’t be refreshing – this tea will prove otherwise. The flower petals give a really uplifting fragrance to the cup. Combine 1 tablespoon (2 parts) Chinese black tea with 1 scant teaspoon (just under 1 part) dried flower petals – such as rose, cornflower or lavender – and pour freshly boiled water over. Add milk if you like!

illustration for floral tea

Fragrant jasmine blend

This simple tea blend has the perfumy crispness of Earl Grey but is a little less conventional. Combine 1 tablespoon (2 parts) black tea with 1 teaspoon (1 part) jasmine tea and pour freshly boiled water over. A splash of milk works here too!

illustration for jasmine blend

Toasty redbush brew

This is such a warming, nutty cup of comfort. And since it’s caffeine-free it makes a perfect evening bevvy. Mix 1 tablespoon (2 parts) redbush tea with a teabag of ginger tea or a teaspoon (1 part) of looseleaf ginger tea in an infuser – for a large batch, it is best to use looseleaf redbush and looseleaf ginger tea so you can mix up a whole jar. Brew with a slice of lemon and a trickle of honey to taste.

illustration for redbush brew

Spicy chai

NOTE: This recipe is hard to make in smaller quantities than this, so these quantities make enough for about 5 servings.

Whip up a blend of 5 tablespoons black tea, 1 teaspoon of cloves, 1 crumbled cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon of cardamom pods and half a teaspoon of peppercorns. You’ll need one tablespoon of this mixture per cup. You can either pour boiling water over the mixture or simmer it in a pan of water to infuse (the second method is more traditional!). Add milk and sugar to taste.

illustration for chai tea

Happy belly tea

Feeling a bit overstuffed? Got stomachache? Queasy? This tea is soothing to the guts but also tastes darn delicious. Combine 1 tablespoon (2 parts) fennel seeds to 1 teaspoon (1 part) cardamom pods (gently bashed with a pestle and mortar) or a handful of fresh mint leaves. Infuse with boiling water and add honey to taste.

illustration for belly tea

Tangy citrus tea

This tea goes great with pan-asian food and tastes super fresh! Rather than mixing up a dry batch, you can pack tablespoons of the mixture into the indentations of an ice cube tray and freeze it – then just pour boiling water over one block of tea blend whenever you like!

Combine 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh ginger, 2 chopped lime slices and 1 inch of chopped lemongrass in an infuser (or one ice cube tray compartment). Infuse in boiling water and add honey to taste!

illustration for citrus tea

Fruity iced tea

Maybe you’ve drank enough hot beverages for an entire lifetime and are ready for something different. Make a carafe of this tasty fruity iced tea and keep it in the fridge for an ‘artisanal’ alternative to sodas and other sugary bottled drinks.

Brew up 2 tablespoons of rosehip tea, a handful of fresh orange slices and a generous drizzle of honey in hot water. Allow the infusion to cool and then strain out the solids and pop it in the fridge – it will keep for a couple of days.

illustration for iced tea