Saturday, 22 March 2008

Kew and A

Unfortunately not from my garden, but instead from the lovely Waitrose, where I think we spent enough to feed a family of 6 for at least a fortnight. Now I remember why we never go there more than a couple of times a year. (ish).

These, however, have been planted by my own fair hands and will soon be transplanted to the allotment. Peas, sweetpeas and more peas. They tasted so lovely and sweet last year, and some of them even made it home! Not much beats standing in the sunshine shelling peas and eating them straight.

These aren't from my garden either, but instead from Kew Gardens where we braved the wind and rain on Good Friday (and sun, snow, hail and lightning storms on the way home- bizarre)

I have been tagged by the List Writer to answer the following questions..

Why I started my blog ....
It seemed like the ideal thing to start doing after meeting The List Writer on a writing course and then later hearing that she had a blog. I agreed with her that it was a way of writing SOMETHING (anything) and building up my confidence, which in theory is supposed to help me get on with finishing my novel. Quite scary to know that people all over the place could be reading (and potentially interested) in what i have to say.

How I came up with the name of my blog ...
I didn't actually gave it much thought at all (that may be obvious) but I do have a bad habit of saying 'lovely' a lot. I guess I wanted to write about things I like and love, and subjects of interest to me.

Do my friends and family know about my blog? What do they think of it?
Yes, my Mum and Dad and brother and sister in law all know about it and read it, as does my husband. I think my Grandad has been known to stop by as well. I haven't told any of my friends about it apart from The List Writer as I don't think they would get it really. I quite like the fact that this is something they don't know about anyway. My colleagues would fall to the ground howling with laughter if they knew.

I think my family like it, from the positive comments I have had anyway.

How do I write my posts ...
I do give most posts some consideration, but am guilty of basing random posts on whatever half decent photos I may have taken within the last day or two. I think photos and pictures do tend to make the post- plus, I love seeing other peoples photos.

Ever had a troll or had to delete unkind comments ...
No, but I have had the odd kooky comment from Japanese orchid sellers. Bizarre but true.

Do I check my stats? Do I care who/how many read my blog? Do I try to increase traffic?
I have no idea how to check my stats as am a complete imbecile with all things techy. I can't even do a link properly. I definitely care who reads my blog though, and appreciate people taking time out of their day to do so. I get a thrill every time I check my inbox and see a new comment, it always makes my day. Lovely (!)

What I like and dislike about blogging...
I love checking my inbox and seeing new comments (may have mentioned that...) and have really enjoyed meeting people from all over the world who share my passions and interests. These are friends I will never meet (unless I get onto 'This is Your Life' one day)but still feel comfortable enough to share secrets with. Friends that are full of advice (which is usually right) and friends that religiously check in to see if a new post has gone up. Thats dedication.
Dislikes? Not thinking of interesting enough subjects and sometimes just sitting here thinking 'now what?' I think that's called writers block....
So there you go- yet more of an insight into the madness. Speaking of which, I am off to do jury service later this week, and quite frankly am dreading it. Any words of wisdom? Has anyone else done it? Has anyone any great advice on how to get out of it?!
If I didn't have a job based on commission I would be incredibly excited about the whole experience, but truth be told my job is hard enough at the moment, without potentially taking up to two or more weeks off. I'm quite nervous that it will be a horrid case, something upsetting, as opposed to some graffiti artist or shop lifter. We shall see.

Hope you all had a lovely easter, with lots of love from myself and Myrtle...

I just don't think she will ever be eaten, she is a creature of beauty!

Monday, 17 March 2008

Happy Birthday Dad

Wishing my lovely Bloke a very Happy Birthday today (even though today is nearly over!)
Don't eat all the chocolate at once. Unless it's because Mum is threatening to.
Thankyou for all that you do for us, it is greatly appreciated.
Lots of love

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Rhubarb Rhubarb

Dad and I have been busy at the allotment this weekend, getting it ready for planting. We now have the bean canes in situ, pea nets sorted and a frame to grow Gladioli up. One surprise I wasn't expecting was that the rhubarb would be ready to cut..

I had a couple of bramley apples left from the week when I had all good intentions to make baked apples for pudding, but didn't get around to it. Largely because I couldn't be bothered- it's all we can do cook one course on a work night, let alone two. Anyway, they came in useful for...

Rhubarb and Apple Crumble
500g rhubarb, trimmed and finely chopped (destringed like celery if it is thick)
300g apple, peeled, decored and roughly diced
200g caster sugar
100ml water
1 cinnamon stick
Oat Crumble Topping
250g plain flour
100g brown sugar
100g butter (soft)
1 tsp cinnamon
100g rolled oats
To Serve
Vanilla Ice-cream, Custard or Cream (or all three in some cases...)

Preheat an oven to 200C (180 if fan assisted-sorry- not sure about gas!)
Rhubarb and Apple Filling: Place the rhubarb, apple, caster sugar, water and cinnamon stick in a saucepan. Place the saucepan on the stove at a moderate heat and stir the mixture so that all the ingredients are well combined. Leave the mixture to simmer gently for 10 minutes stirring regularly until the rhubarb and apple is soft and tender but still holds it shape. Remove the filling from the stove and take out the cinnamon stick. Spoon the puree into individual or a single pie dish. Set aside while you prepare the crumble.
Oat Crumble: Place all the crumble mixture except the oats into a food processor and process it briefly so that you have a rough crumb mixture. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the oats until it is well combined. Scatter the crumble mixture all over the filling.
To Cook: Place the rhubarb crumble or crumbles into the preheated oven and cook it for 30 minutes or 20 minutes for individual ones until the crumble is crisp and golden brown. Remove the crumble from the oven and serve.

Mum and Dad came over for dinner last night as a belated Mothers Day meal. Rob cooked rack of lamb with a herb crust and roasted new potatoes with french beans for the main course. I was on pudding duty.
I really should have taken photos of the finished article,served up with a scoop of Ben and Jerrys' finest, but to be honest by that stage I really couldn't be bothered to find the camera. It tasted so good, and all the better for being homegrown. Well, the rhubarb if not the apples!
Today I have planted what seems like hundreds of bulbs in the back garden. We have a Lidl supermarket in the town where I work and this week was their gardening extravaganza! Although I am a bit wary of the weird tinned goods they sell, they do particularly well on their garden stuff. I was elbowed out of the way by little old ladies (seriously) at the bin that was selling bags of bulbs for 49p...the containers of wild flower mix were snatched from the shelves before I even got through the revolving doors. I did manage to buy a huge carrier bag full of bulbs and seeds for £7. I have gladioli for the allotment, to give it some colour, lily of the valley in the back garden as I love their scent and they look so pretty. There are yellow alliums and purple iris, and big spiky purple thistles. Well they looked good on the packet!
I have planted two seed trays up with peas, and another of sweet peas. They are now on various windowsills around the house, waiting to germinate ready to be transported down to the allotment.
May now be time to get the oven on ready for that second, smaller crumble..

Sunday, 2 March 2008

From Welly to Belly

We live a street away from the railway line and sometimes when I'm laying in bed at night and the wind is blowing in the right direction I can hear the gentle vibration of the last train on its way to London for the night. We also walk over the railway bridge on our way to the allotment.

I have been guilty of not having visited our allotment for a while. Largely due to wet weather, cold weather, feeling rubbish. Enough excuses for you?! The sun was shining beautifully this afternoon though and I was itching to go down there for a nosey around to see what was going on.
Part of the reason could have been a present bought for me by my lovely husband on our trip into Cheltenham this morning. There I was, all ready to leave Waterstones empty handed when he appeared with this treasure. I do already have Andi Clevelys' other book, 'The Allotment Book' but this is his long awaited follow up. It's full of useful info, articles on people who have allotments and what they like to grow, and original seasonal recipes. Even if you don't have an allotment but like growing vegetables in your garden I would recommend it.

We're quite lucky at out allotments in that there is a carpark (not that we use it much- we have a shed and only live around the corner, but still useful to have a carpark if you're heaving bags of compost about or transporting trays of seedlings from home). We also have water on tap ( I didn't realise that many sites don't and owners have to survive by keeping huge water butts, old baths, any large container you can think of and just being very sparing with water, or planting drought resistant varieties and mulching a lot) We still use water butts as the tap is quite a distance and we like to recycle as much as possible, but it would be a nightmare not to have a tap with such a huge plot.

The plots are full of imaginatively built sheds, greenhouses, tables and benches. I could wander around for hours just looking at everything. It's so interesting to see how people set up their plots..some are a jumble of plants plonked here there and everywhere, others are strictly uniform rows of plants, not a weed in sight (impossible! How do they do it?!) One old chap, Len, practically lives at his plot. He has a shed with a toilet, a cooker, armchair and resident dog. The allotments are his life, and fellow allotmenteers his friends. He will do anything for anybody and is always on hand with advice (but equally happy to tell you where you are going wrong!)

And this is our plot. The photo is taken from the top, and it slopes down to where the shed is at the bottom. On a clear day we have an amazing view across the town and over the Cotswolds. The crop in front are broad beans, beyond that Purple Sprouting and then Leeks. Behind where the photo is taken from are 5 massive rows of strawberries. Yum.

This is the view from the bottom looking up, as far as the blue water butts. The plot is terraced which makes life a lot easier when you realise you've left something in the shed.

Dad has been very busy in recent weeks getting the soil ready for spring planting, and it's looking great now, like a blank canvas ready to be filled. We have grand plans for lots of potatoes, cabbages, cauliflowers, courgettes, sweetcorn, carrots, parsnips, peas, runner and borlotti beans...the list is endless. I want to grow sweet peas up the side of the shed this year as well.

At home I am going to grow tomatoes cucumbers and peppers in the greenhouse, and continue to nurture the herb garden as it's looking good so far, just needs some sunshine now. Like the rest of us!