February 06, 2018

February, the shortest month of the year, is a time for optimism.

The air is still cold, but beneath the earth, life is renewing, and the days are slightly longer, bringing with them the promise of spring.

It’s still the time of year for hats, gloves and woolly scarves, but outside the windows, despite the frost and the odd flurry of snowflakes, birds and animals have started to tentatively return and wild flowers now bravely poke their colourful faces up above the frozen ground.

The shops are now full of valentines cards and gifts (let’s face it, that happened right after new year), as February is of course the month for celebrating love.

So grab your special someone, whoever they might be and embrace all the charms that February offers.

Birthstone

February birthdays are represented by the amethyst. This beautiful gemstone is a type of quartz, and ranges in colour from violet through to a deep, rich purple. Traditionally a favourite stone of royalty, the amethyst symbolises stability and courage.

 

Birth flowers

The special flowers for those born in February are the violet and the primrose. The delicate violet represents faithfulness and loyalty, and is given as a symbol that you can always be relied upon.

Primroses are renowned for their cheerful appearance, and come in a range of bright colours including yellow, red and purple, all with distinctive yellow star-shaped centres. They represent youth and young love.

Interesting Days

February is choc-full of notable celebration days, which seems to make it fly past quite quickly.

  1. One of the most well-known of these is Chinese New Year, which usually falls some time during the first half of February.

This year is the Chinese Year of the Pig, which represents a harmless nature and prosperity to others.

Chinese New Year is celebrated all over England, with particularly spectacular celebrations in cities with large Chinese communities such as Manchester, Liverpool and London.

  1. Imbolc is a pagan festival that falls on the 1 st of the month. It traditionally marks the start of the Spring season and celebrates Brigid, the goddess of fertility.

On this day, if you make a bed for her and leave her some food, Brigid is said to visit your home, bestowing protection and blessings.

  1. Candlemas, which falls on the 2 nd of February this year is one of the oldest feast days celebrated by the Christian church. It is also known as the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus and the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

It is said to be the day when Jesus was presented as a baby at the Temple in Jerusalem, so he could join the Jewish religion.  Christians bring candles to church to be blessed.  These candles can then be burned during the year.

  1. February 14 th is, of course, Valentine’s Day. Celebrated for 2,000 years, it all started with a Roman priest called Valentine who secretly married young lovers until he was executed by the Roman Emperor Claudius.

Today, it is known all over the world as a day for telling someone you love them. Gifts are given to partners, and cards are often sent anonymously to people we secretly admire.

  1. Finally, the 22 nd is World Thinking Day.

Birds and animals

Bird life in England becomes more varied and vocal in February, with blackbirds and chaffinches chorusing in our gardens. If you’re lucky, you may even sight a great spotted woodpecker at this time of year.

February’s animal life differs greatly by region. Residents of Cumbria and Dorset may spot an occasional red squirrel, while the Peak District and Upper Pennines are home to the mountain hare, which in February still has its distinctive white coat.  Hedgehogs also start to re-appear up and down the country.

February is also the time when insects are beginning to wake up. If the weather is relatively mild, the first bumblebees and ladybirds will make their way into your garden.

Plants and flowers

February sees wild daffodils and daisies begin to bloom, and the landscape starts to look more colourful, with primroses appearing just as the yellow winter aconites come to the end of their display.

In the garden, the rosebud cherry tree might just have started to bloom, while Violet Queen crocuses open and beautiful camellia flowers boldly blossom when little else dares to .

Things to cook

With the exception of a few rare sunny days, February will still be absolutely freezing, so at home, it’s still a month for warming soups, roasted vege and hot puddings.

Cabbages, swedes and leeks are all still in season, and if you’re lucky, you might also find forced rhubarb on the supermarket shelves.  Perfect if you’re a fan of crumbles or rhubarb fool.

Start each day with a hot breakfast to keep the cold at bay until lunch.  Porridge is a nice idea, but if you’re short on time, overnight oats quickly warmed in the microwave should do the trick.

Now might also be the time to dig your old juicer out from the back of the cupboard.

It’s still officially flu season, so a glass of fresh fruit juice first thing, will give you a welcome boost of vitamin C.

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Make the most of Chinese new year and all the delicious fresh ingredients that suddenly appear in the shops for the event.

Nutritious stir fries, spring rolls and warming noodle dishes with plenty of chicken, duck and prawns.  Something to look forward to on chilly evenings.

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February is also the ideal time to cuddle up with a delicious Valentine’s Day meal.

Breakfast in bed anyone?

You could of course cheat with a supermarket meal deal, but cooking something yourself makes your Valentines extra special.

Steak is always a firm favourite on this occasion, although sea bass is becoming increasingly popular and there’s been a noticeable increase in vegan options in the last few years.

Alternatively, you could bring the influence of Chinese New Year into your menu, with roasted duck and plum sauce, chow mein or special fried rice, none of which are particularly difficult to cook from scratch.

For me, February will always be pudding month because of course, no Valentine’s Day meal would be complete without a special dessert, chocolate or otherwise.

Chocolate, caramel, strawberries, passion fruit , meringue and cream are all on the menu, so try your hand at homemade marshmallows, melt-in-the-middle chocolate cupcakes, a strawberry cheesecake, simple pavlova, French silk pie or chocolate torte.

The list is endless!

If you’re fortunate enough to find a good recipe, you could also make your very own Chinese sponge cake (baked not steamed!), complete with fruit and fresh cream. 

Finish everything off with a few good cocktail recipes.

 

Things to make

If you have the time, homemade Valentine’s gifts are really very special.

If you’re a crafty sort, you could make a wreath or garland out of fresh flowers, or if you’re not that way inclined, just arrange and wrap them nicely.   

You could even have a go at etching or painting something personal onto a glass vase. Etching cream and glass paints are readily available on Amazon and in most good art stores.

You could cook up a batch of homemade chocolates or truffles.  Have a go at making some sumptuous raw chocolate from scratch with a kit!

Homemade rose-scented bath bombs, body scrubs, body oils and moisturising body butters with coconut oil and shea butter are a lot easier than you think, or how about creating a piece of personalised wall art. 

Grab a picture frame and create your own masterpiece using photographs, handprints, a map or coordinates of where you met.

Even a handmade card can say so much more than a generic shop-bought version.

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If you’re looking for something to make that’s not Valentines related, take a second to think about your garden.

Although there isn’t much life around just yet, we’ll soon see birds arrive back from warmer climates and hedgehogs will also soon start to emerge from hibernation.

They’ll all be looking for somewhere to live, so February is a great time to start thinking about making bird and hedgehog homes.

Saturday the 2 nd of February is also World Hedgehog Day, so if you know hedgehogs sometimes lurk around your garden, it might be a good idea to think about a shelter.

And don’t forget to feed them!

There’s not a lot of food to be found in February, so a DIY bird feeder would be a welcome addition to your garden.  Putting some food down for any roaming hedgehogs  is also a good idea, as long as you don’t get any visiting rats.

The RSPCA suggest leaving out a little tinned dog or cat food in a shallow bowl (make sure it doesn’t contain fish).  They also warn against ever leaving out milk, as it can make hedgehogs very poorly.

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February can still be rather wet and grey, so if you want to breathe a little life into your home, try planting snowdrops in little glass jars, to place along your windowsills.

You could also make a few mason jar candles to brighten things up a little.  Scent with vanilla for a lovely, comforting home-baking smell every time you light them.

 

Things to do

Whilst a lot of us will be kept entertained making pancakes and organising things for Valentine’s Day, there are also a few other things happening if you’re stuck for something to do.

Monday the 11 th of February marks the beginning of Snowdrop Walks week.

Snowdrops start appearing everywhere from the beginning of February.  Simply search Google for Snowdrop Walks 2019 and you’ll find a huge number of beautiful places to visit.

Many of the snowdrop walks can be found at either National Trust or English Heritage sites, which are always worth a visit and provide a little respite from the chilly weather.

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February is also an ideal month to visit your local museums and galleries. They won’t be crowded with tourists, so you can take your time wandering around and discovering something new.

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February in the UK is the month when we are most likely to see snow, so if you’re lucky enough to get a snow-day, then take the opportunity to get outside. 

Throw some snowballs, make some snow people and if there’s enough of the white stuff, make a sled and enjoy it while it lasts.

If you don’t fancy that, then just cuddle up inside with a woolly blanket and enjoy the warmth.

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February is still a little early to plant anything in the garden.  

The ground is usually far too cold and it really is best to wait a little longer, but if you’re getting desperate, make sure you buy a cloche or some other kind of cover to protect your plants from the frost and other elements.

The first fruit and vege to consider sewing are carrots, peas, spinach, beans, peaches and apricots.

If you like to garden, but don’t want to brave the cold, consider planting a few windowsill herbs instead.

Basil and oregano seeds are fine when sewn in February and the seeds tend to do well when started off indoors. 

Pop the seeds into small pots a few inches deep and put these inside small plastic bags to germinate.

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Friday the 8 th is Kite Flying Day which could be pretty entertaining as long as the rain holds  off.  

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Then there’s Random Acts of Kindness Day on the 17 th

This started off in the US, but has since spread around the world, encouraging people and organisations to think about ways to be kind.   

Do something yourself, or have a look around locally to see if there are any more organised events. Random acts of kindness can be anything, from donating an item to a food bank, to phoning an old friend, to making an effort to give someone a compliment.

Remember.  It’s also important to be kind to yourself every now and then.

Places to Go:

The weather in February is still cold, but this doesn’t mean there is nowhere to go in England.

Celebrate Chinese New Year in style this year and head to Manchester between Tuesday the 5 th and Sunday the 10 th.

The city centre will play host to the biggest Chinese New Year celebration in Europe with 4 whole days packed with Fireworks, a funfair, various displays, plenty of Chinese food and loads of family friendly activities.

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If you’re into all things to do with cars, then the London Car show will be held at Excel, London for 4 days between the 14 th – 17 th of the month.

See hundreds of classic cars, all under one roof at the UK’s best classic car event. 

You’ll even get the chance to see many vintage cars being driven up and down an indoor runway right in the centre of the venue, so you can really see them in action.

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Looking for something romantic?  If you’re looking for a Valentine’s Day trip ideas, a lot of couples choose to celebrate with a romantic city break. Historical cities such as York and Chester are extremely popular at this time of year.

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While we’re on the subject of York, if you’re looking for an event that’s both entertaining, and educational, head into the city sometime between Wednesday the 20 th and Wednesday the 27 th for the historic Jorvik Viking festival.

York once had a rich Viking heritage and it now holds the largest Viking festival in Europe every year during February.

Experience historic re-enactments; try your hand at Viking crafts; enjoy a city tour and even take part in a Viking banquet.


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