Tuesday, 24 June 2008

The loveliness continues...

This has to be the easiest laziest bread recipe in the world. Although in all honesty it does taste a bit more like tea bread than 'normal' bread. It's from Nigella Express, her Lazy Loaf. Rob made it at the weekend and it's yummy.
200g sugar free muesli
325g wholewheat flour
7g sachet of yeast
2 tsp Maldon salt or 1 tsp table salt
250ml low fat milk
250ml water

Put all the ingredients into a bowl and stir. Transfer to a greased loaf tin and transfer to a cold oven turning the heat onto 110/gas 1/4 for 45 mins, this will allow the dough to prove.
When the 45 mins are up, turn the heat up to 180/gas 4 and bake for an hour. By this time the bread will be cooked through and when you tap on the bottom of the loaf it should sound hollow. If it doesn't sound hollow pop it back into the oven for a few mins without it's tin.
Smother in butter and home made blackberry jam...which leads me to...

Blackberry Jam

2 lbs blackberries
2 lbs sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Put a saucer in the freezer!

Pour blackberries into deep heavy based pan. Put on a low heat on the hob and stir gently every now and then until the fruit starts to go mushy and soft.
Pour in the sugar and stir gently, then stir in the lemon juice. Continue to stir until the sugar has dissolved. Then bring to the boil and boil rapidly. Stir every couple of minutes to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Continue to keep it on a rolling boil (all small people and animals to be locked elsewhere!) and then take saucer out of the freezer. Let a bit of jam drop onto the saucer (not too much, don't waste it!) it has reached 'setting point' when you can push it with your finger and it goes a bit crinkly, if that makes sense. If it doesn't crinkle then keep boiling and do the saucer test again a few minutes later.

When it's ready pour into sterlised jars, very carefully and put on sterilised lids. I sterilise mine by putting them through the dishwasher and filling with boiling water afterwards.

It tastes seriously good. This pair of jars is making its way to Oxford on Thursday for two small people who have become fans.

Alison from Vintage Amethyst sent me this fabulous rosebud heart after my name was pulled out in her prize draw giveaway a couple of days ago. If you haven't checked out her blog and FABULOUS shop you must, right now!! Her address is in the side bar-over there, see?

Thankyou Alison, you are very generous and sweet. If I could post you a jar of jam I would. However I fear for the postman.

My cucumbers are coming along well in the back garden-this is them first thing this morning. I think we will be able to keep the street in cucumbers for weeks to come.

The first rose on our beautifully scented bush by the back door. It smells beautiful. I think it has been in our garden from when the house was built. It's huge and every summer we have an abundance of these deep red blooms.

Home grown radishes. I grew these in pots. Highly recommended if you want to grow your own at home and only have a tiny garden or window box-these take about 4 weeks to grow, so are particularly good if you or your children are impatient!

I went to the allotment this morning and picked some more strawberries with Dad. The strawberry patch smells beautiful. They are now covered by huge cages that Dad made, covered in chicken wire to keep the birds away. We are having a bumper crop this year, due to the weather conditions. We're really pleased with how they've done.

We also met our old friend Len up there this morning, complete with baseball cap and roll up ciggie. He spends all day every day up there. I may have mentioned before that he owns several allotments all together in one corner of the site and has been a fixture up there for years, as have several other old boys. I love watching them sitting together putting the world to rights, or swapping tips on how to grow the perfect cabbage. Len is particularly good at 'suggesting' when something isn't being done quite right. He has told me 4 times now how to grow the perfect parsnip, having seen us sow them a few weeks ago. We did it wrong, by all accounts and I don't think he will be happy until he sees a trench dug a foot or so deep. Then he may stop bringing it up!
He can talk for England. I sometimes struggle to understand him and start to get tired of saying 'Pardon?' (he doesn't like that, starts to shout as if Im deaf-although he thinks I talk too quietly so is always saying 'Eh?' when I mutter something.) So instead I sometimes smile politely and nod. Seems to work.

He gave me a couple of lettuces this morning and a big bunch of spring onions. His allotments and vegetables are PERFECT. Seriously, there is not a weed in sight. He has built sheds, greenhouses, fruit cages, even a toilet on his plots. It's like a home from home.

I'm not actually that wild about spring onions, but will throw them in something or other. It is good allotment etiquette to take things when offered, otherwise you don't get offered again!

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Happy Birthday to You!!

Happy Birthday to my elderly brother...(sorry, I didn't have any photos of just you-at least none that wouldn't cause embarrasment) Hope you have a lovely day, even though you're at work in sunny Canada. It was lovely to speak to you last night, and I can't wait for you guys to come back to the UK . Miss you loads. Lots of love xxx
p.s-walking stick is in the post...

Monday, 16 June 2008

Camping it up

We have just come back from a fabulous weekend of camping in Wales. This is the first weekend we have packed up the tent this year (along with everything else we own, by the look of our car) and headed off. We are slowly working our way through the Cool Camping Guide, and being so close to Wales it took less than a couple of hours to reach our destination...Pencelli Castle in Brecon.

When the sun is shining and everyone else seems to be at work or school, there is nothing that appeals more than pitching a tent in an almost empty field....

Especially when the view from the field looks like this.....

Or this....

When all you have to worry about is if your drink is cold enough and your book is long enough. They even made the clouds fluffy for us.

There were a few friendly residents though... so we weren't totally alone.

But they were quiet and didn't interrupt the sense of calm.

We did get up once or twice. We even managed a trip to Talybont Reservoir. It was absolutely beautiful. We were totally surrounded by trees and mountains, and the water was so calm.

Back at base for champagne and cider, a barbecue and more rest and relaxation. And a photo of my husband pretending to be in the shower scene of 'Psycho' by the looks of it...

The picnic benches were dotted about all around the edge of the field so we dragged one over for our own personal use. Ideal for reading newspapers and admiring the view.

If anyone is considering camping and has never done it- DO IT! It's cheap and relaxing, there are no time constraints and no one thinks twice of you staggering across a field in your pj's to have a shower, if you so desire. Children are safe and out in the fresh air, socialising with other kids. You can live in the same pair of jeans for days on end. You can play house and make your tent all cosy with flowery duvets. You can have a marmite sandwich whenever you fancy it (you can't do that in a hotel!) Ahhh, yes, many reasons to give it a go, I think.

Have I convinced anyone?!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Envelope stuffers need not apply...

One advantage of temping part time, as I have been for the last week or so, has been the time I have had free in the mornings to spend in both the garden and the allotment. The weather has meant there has been plenty of time to potter about, do some much needed weeding, and chat to fellow allotmenteers, as well as the best bit- harvesting!!
Thankyou for all of your wise words and advice on the temping side of things. I have been incredibly bored, but it has been very interesting 'working' (ie.stuffing envelopes and answering the phone) for another company and seeing how differently things are done. It has been rather nice to be anonymous. No one has particularly cared who I am, where I live, what I'm like, and in a way I have quite liked that. It's given me a chance to do lots of thinking about what I do or don't want to do in the future. I have had the confidence knocked out of me a bit over the last few weeks but probably didn't notice it much when I was working for the same place I have done for years..it was the prospect of being 'the new girl' in a new company that scared me a bit. When we were kids we moved quite a bit and I hated being the new girl at school. My first day of temping felt a bit like that. I think I realised quite quickly though, that unlike school, if I didn't like the job I could walk away. I wouldn't actually do that, it't not my style at all, but I think the knowledge that I could helped.
I have to say that nobody has been mean to me or made me feel unwelcome. Equally I haven't made any lifelong friends, but then I didn't expect to. It's just been nice and quiet, boring at times, but easy. I certainly haven't done anything to earn my pennies. Apart from filling several million envelopes.
Anyway, back to the gardening!

The garden itself is starting to look good. Bulbs I had forgotten about have emerged, and everything is looking lush and healthy.

This is the yellow rose that Rob bought for me soon after we got together, after telling him that yellow roses were my favourites. It has grown massively from the small pot it first came in and is at the bottom of the garden, amongst the bamboo.
I have never grown radishes before but these have done brilliantly. I can't say I am a huge fan of them particularly but they are such a fabulous colour and I am sure they will taste great.
I have just been pulling leaves from these lettuces as and when we want them. They have flourished, and are so quick and easy to grow

At the back are my Kohl Rabi, ready to be transported to the allotment, along with summer squash next to them. At the front some little gem lettuces, along with some free lettuce seeds from Gardeners World magazine a while ago.

It looks a bit rubbish at the moment but this is my flowerbed! There are several types of seed thrown in here, Marigolds, Cornflowers, Asters...they are all coming through now after much snail culling!
Another rose bought for me, this time by a friend when I first bought this house- a 'garden warming' present. It doesn't smell particularly but is very pretty..ignore the fence if you will!

There is a new girl at the allotments who has taken on a plot about half a dozen along from me. It's great to have another female on our side of the allotments (although all of the men I have come across are very pleasant as well!) but girls appreciate flowers and pink sheds and funky wellies. Boys do not. My new friend has made beautiful wigwams of sweetpeas with a wide entrance for her children to hide in and use as a den. It will look so fabulous once the flowers are flourishing.

The other good thing is that we have been able to swap produce. Today I had an enormous bunch of sweet williams given to me, and returned the favour with a bag of broad beans. Hurray! Broad beans are coming out of our ears at the moment, so to be honest I was quite glad to get rid of some of them (sorry Dad) and the flowers are beautiful. I have another big vase of them on the windowsill.
Todays broad beans...shelled and ready for the pan...

Loose leaf spinach..really tasty and grows madly.

These are the outdoor cucumbers I have been growing in the back garden. Complete with very expensive irrigation system!

Tomatoes in the greenhouse.

Lastly I want to thank Catherine for the very fabulous box of birthday goodies she sent in the post.

It was so kind Catherine, thankyou, and fabulously wrapped as well, I might add!! Thankyou for such a lovely present.x
I am now off to scan the job pages to see what might tempt me!

Friday, 6 June 2008


I have been tagged, hurray! by Driftwood..

What were you doing 10 years ago?

Well I had just turned 20 and was working as a nanny for a family with three children, a girl and two boys, aged 7,4 and a few weeks old. I also looked after two more children as well on Thursdays and Fridays. My working day was from 8am until 6pm, how the heck did I manage that? In the school holidays I had 5 of the terrors! The 7 year old hated me on sight, so I remember trying to bribe her with her favourite meal (tuna lasagne, yuck). I was not the greatest of cooks and used to ring my lovely Mum at work and ask her how to cook certain things, and how long to cook them for, like jacket potatoes. It went like this,

Ring Ring

"Hello Anna!" (It got to the stage where she knew it would be so didn't bother waiting to check)

'Errm, how long do you cook a jacket potato for?"

"Well how big is it?"

'Errm, not that big...' (very helpful)

I was living at home still, just about, I think, but about to move into my first rented flat with my friend and a smelly boy who took the third room to help us pay the rent. We always knew if he was home by whether the smell of his socks was in the air or not..

We spent all of our spare time and money in the pub around the corner, and staggering out of the nightclub two doors down. Our flat resembled a greenhouse, great big windows from floor to ceiling, and was above a parade of shops. I remember lying in the bath with cold water dripping on me from the skylight above. It was roasting hot in there in the summer and freezing in the winter. My female friend and I used to huddle up in bed together on Sunday mornings with a pot of tea and watch telly, snuggled under the covers (usually with a hangover) to keep warm.

5 Things on my to do list today

Well today is nearly over! But...

* Find the recipe in the huge pile of torn out recipes in the kitchen for marinading the seabass I have just bought for dinner.
* Pack a weekend bag for our trip to London tomorrow to see the Flugtag in Hyde Park. (blog to follow)
* Wander around the garden with a chilled glass of sauvignon blanc and see how my seedlings are doing
* Change out of office clothes into something a tad scruffier and more comfortable
* Get the wet washing out of the machine from this morning

Snacks I enjoy

* Marmite on toast..mmmm
* Chocolate raisins
* Chunky kitkats ( but only from the fridge)
* Sunflower seeds (shelled)
* Raw broad beans from the allotment (so sweet and lovely, but only when they're tiny)

Things I would do if I were a billionaire

* Shout some expletives
* Open my cafe/ bookshop/ florists
* Buy a little cottage on the beach in St Ives, Cornwall
* And a helicopter to take me and my family there (to save that long drive, although I guess I could get my chauffeur to do it)
* Help my family and friends out with whatever they needed
* Give to charity

Places I have lived

* Ickenham, Middlesex
* Wokingham
* Tewkesbury
* Perth, Scotland
* Wisbech, Cambridgeshire
* Evesham, Worcestershire

People I want to know more about
* Nancy at Philosophyoflists
* Domonique at Shabby Chic
* Alison at Vintage Amethyst
* Catherine at Mollycupcakes
* Gill at Moss Stitch

and I shall leave you with fowl pictures from the weekend gone...

We went to visit the Domestic Wildfowl Trust which is about ten minutes away. I have never been there before and it was AMAZING. There were less than half a dozen of us wandering around the most enormous place filled with as many different breeds of chickens, ducks, geese peacocks...you name it. They also had baby bunnies..

They were the cutest things I have ever seen. Ever. I had to go back and have another peek at them before we went home.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Yet more presents...!

I am a very lucky girl in many ways, and the last couple of weeks have proved that there are lots of very lovely people out there, and I am priveliged to know a lot of them and call them friends.
In my last post I mentioned a friend who had emailed me suggestions for my 'ten year plan' which many of you commented on. (hands off, it's mine!) I used to work for J a few years ago, we started in the same office more or less at the same time and had to get to know the area together to enable us to try and be successful. (no comment!) so we used to tootle off in J's company car around the Cotswolds, 'getting to know the area' getting lost, meeting odd locals and having a giggle. Our secretary, W, said we scared the locals, which was nice. Apparently they weren't used to 'glamorous women in suits' and that we were 'intimidating the way we strutted around the town'. One word I would not use to describe myself is glamorous, especially when I was probably wearing a suit at the time from Marks and Spencers (hardly Gucci). W used to have myself and J in hysterics with her stories and observations. If ever there was a crisis or tragedy W would be involved in some way.

Anyway, as well as starting together we also left together. Various reasons were had by us both, but we have stayed in touch since, although more so recently. After my post about the lovely Featherdown Farm and my rave reviews to J that she must go there I received this in the post from her...

J knew how much I had loved the red enamel ware at the farm and went out and bought this (and she HATES shopping! heehee) I am so very touched, it will be travelling to the allotment, to campsites throughout the summer and actually to my coffee table as well. Thankyou so much, J. And I loved the Cath Kidston wrapping paper as well..x

Remember my lovely birthday teapot?

What does every teapot worth its tea leaves need?

Lovely T from Driftwood sent this, to keep my teapot warm. It is BEAUTIFUL. The fabric is just what I would have chosen, and it has been much admired by visitors. T, you should be selling these in the shops!

Kim of Raggedroses fame is aware of my quilt envy from her trips to car boots sales, charity shops etc. and took pity on me! She sent me this exquisite cushion which arrived just before we went to Featherdown. I am, as always, in awe of the skills that you people out there have! I wish I could sew, although I expect I would end up spending a fortune on fabric.

I have had so many wonderful comments and emails letters and cards from lovely people offering their support over the last few weeks and I appreciate it so very much.

I would be lying if I said I was feeling 100% and I think it will take a while yet before I start to feel 'normal' and not feel a gut wrenching pain whenever I see a pregnant lady or a newborn baby, but I guess that's normal. I'm trying though, and that's all that matters.

As some of you know I have just been made redundant (it never rains...) and am no longer an Estate Agent (hurray! no longer will people spit at me in the street-joke) I did actually really enjoy my job but over the last few months it has been really hard work, and maybe it's not meant to be. I am hoping the second half of this year will be better than the first, and that I will find a fabulous new career that will have me jumping out of bed in the mornings with a smile on my face (miracles can happen!) In the meantime I am starting as an office temp tomorrow, which should be interesting. Any words of wisdom for office temps? I have visions of either being ignored or given loads of rubbish work to do! Hopefully I'm proven wrong though.