Thursday 28 June 2007

A break from baking

As I'm busy baking today - mudpies for the party (chocolate fairycakes, chocolate icing and something green and, hopefully, edible on top!), I thought I'd quickly take some photos of my kitchen so you can share my view. The scales and flour barrel are on one long shelf that we had made from an old joist, rescued at the local wood recycling project. We were really pleased to be able to recycle this old wood and it was just the "chunkiness" we'd been looking for - our local project is a real treasure trove and the staff are really friendly. They cut and waxed the joists for us and delivered them the next day, can't get any better than that! We hunted around and found some old iron brackets for the shelves - perfect!

We have another shelf on the opposite wall. and on it is my collection of Cornishware and some of my old French enamel tins, I will photograph them properly one day, but I'm up against it timewise today (mudpies wait for nobody!) One of my favourite things in the kitchen is my old cocoa box that I photographed in an earlier post - I love it!

Finally here is a corner of my kitchen with some odds and ends (mainly pink!) and a butter dish in one of my favourite designs - Frolic by Beswick, I showed some photos of my Greenfingers collection here, well it was this little butter dish that started me off collecting them. I have to say it is probably my favourite - I love the couple dancing to the barrel organ and the colours are so happy (If you click on the images they should enlarge, everything seems to be strangely out of focus, which perhaps mirrors how I'm feeling today). Let's hope we'll be looking this happy mid party on Saturday! Have you seen the weekend forecast? Looks like we'll be having our own Shrek swamp in the garden so an indoor party seems to be more and more likely - oh dear! I've got lots of green muslin so if it comes to it the living room will have to be transformed into something green and musliny. We'll see ... and we all know what we mean when we say "we'll see!".

Off to check my cakes !

Monday 25 June 2007

Early one morning ...

I woke up very early on Saturday. Not sure whether it was the cats or the seagulls that did it, both seem to be conspiring to deprive us of most of our sleep this summer. Maybe it's the unsettled weather or maybe our cats are just too darned greedy demanding their breakfast at the crack of dawn. Nothing we can do about the seagulls, they're here until the autumn.
The forecast had been for rain but that was definitely sun shining through the curtains, so I crept downstairs to feed the cats. Having successfully tackled the creaky floorboards and sshhed the cats I grabbed a book and cushions for the garden bench and armed with a cup of tea decided to savour a few moments of quiet outside.
I am, I think, more of a morning person than night owl. Most evenings I'm usually dead to the world on the sofa by 10.30, but left alone for a few minutes with a cup of tea after having chosen to wake up early (chosen being the keyword here, I hate being woken up) I am happy. Sitting in the garden and listening to the silence knowing that everyone else was still fast asleep, neighbours included, felt wonderful, some sort of guilty pleasure to indulge in. I am alone a lot during the week, but nothing compares to this kind of silence!

I'd decided to reread "The Summer Book" by Tove Jansson, who wrote the Moomin stories. It's the story of a little girl who goes to stay with her elderly grandmother one summer on an island off Finland. It's beautiful and charming and above all about SUMMER! (she has also written a collection of short stories that have been published in "A Winter Book" which may be more appropriate for the weather we're having now)!

But my mind wasn't on the reading, more on trying to put into order the million and one things that were running round inside my head. I'd had a busy week and felt like I'd been chasing my tail a lot of the time. By Friday I was in the very happy and fortunate position to have orders from three stockists for my corsages. I knew that this little lot had to be finished, priced and sent off - number 1 on the list.

I also wanted to make a new teacosy and it was good to sit and think about the colours etc for this. Bright red with a blue border maybe and a little flourish somewhere I think. Something bright and cheery - number 2 on the list.
I have had an old footstool tucked under the stairs for several months that I have earmarked for this project and spurred on by your positive comments about my own footstool that's going to be another addition to the list. Is it too big for Etsy do you think?
Just about to go in and pour myself a second cuppa when my youngest came running up the garden steps ... "Mummy. mummy we'd better hurry". "What's the matter?" "Mummy we've only got seven days till my party and you promised me the garden would look like 'Far Far Away' and Daddy's got to make me some Shrek signs and remember you promised me you both wouldn't dress up and we've got to think of some games and prizes and I want a treasure hunt and is there enough room in my bedroom for the sleepover? Come on Mummy hurry up we better have breakfast quick."
So there it is - Shrek slime, purple and gold bunting and Daddy's signs need to go on that list too. Well it was nice while it lasted.

Friday 22 June 2007

Secrets and surprises

We bought this bureau for my daughter when we moved here. Looking unloved in the corner of a junk shop I knew that once we'd painted it and cleaned it up a bit it would be perfect for her. It was an instant hit - she loves the pulldown top and hidden compartments. So here she sits toiling over her homework, writing her letters and diary and whatever else she gets up to! There was a time, not so long ago, when I would have been able to open the drawers and letters would have been shown to me, but those days are over with my eldest! A line has been drawn, an unspoken rule has been passed between the two of us, a girl needs her secrets! I'm quite happy to respect this and all the more delighted when she shares things with me, but at what age did this happen, I really can't remember ...

The desk itself has its secrets. My daughter whilst nosing around its little compartments discovered a bracelet and this photo. Previous owners perhaps of this little bureau. Don't they look a happy little bunch. Their names are written on the back - Flora, Doris, Joyce, Iris, Ken and Bella. I wonder where they all are now and what secrets they kept hidden away. I wonder what they got up to on Midsummer's Eve?

My youngest daughter was quite happy just to leave the letters for the fairies to read and happily went to bed having checked that all was in order in the garden but my oldest had invited her best friend round to celebrate. Both of them are huge "I Capture the Castle" fans (yes, I'm sorry, it's that book again) and I think are Cassandras in the making. Clothes and flowers were chosen, buttercup garlands were worn, lavender, marigold and rose petals were thrown around the garden and a fire was lit. Well a fire of sorts - M was out and my bonfire making skills are woefully bad - so in the interest of safety, bowls were filled with petals and floating candles and I was asked to leave the garden! I was told later that things had been written, wishes made and there had been dancing around the candles. They both looked very happy and went to bed with roses and buttercups under their pillows. I was struck by the innocence and beauty of all of this and touched by the fact that for all their growing up and secrecy, it was the simplicity of this that they really enjoyed. How many more years will they want to do this for I wonder?
And yes, I did ask my daughter if I was allowed to share this secret with you all!
Have a lovely weekend.

Wednesday 20 June 2007


Midsummer's Eve and the girls have been busy! Letters to Queen Mab have been written, new shoes for the ball and fans to keep them cool have been made, spare wings have been painted, cakes have been baked, honeysuckle dew prepared, wild flowers have been picked and wishes have been made. All we need now is the fairies to come!

Hope you enjoy some Midsummer magic too!

Monday 18 June 2007

Bathbombs and dressing gowns

Well that'll teach me to write a post about my favourite food ... I've been poorly! Tummy, achey, virusy, fluey bug thing. I woke up on Saturday completely wiped out, no energy just feeling cold and wobbly. Spent the day shuffling around between the sofa (the photo above is what I saw for most of the weekend) and the computer reading some of your blogs.
Nothing made me feel any warmer and decided that a nice warm, relaxing bath and an early night would do it. I threw in a bath bomb that one of my daughters had given me and found myself, somewhat disconcertingly, in a floating wildflower meadow, complete with butterflies! What do they put in them? Flora and fauna apart, the oil in the bathbomb made everything stick to me and I looked like I needed a shower by the time I got out. Pyjamas and dressing gown on, went in to clean the bath and found that petals, butterflies, unidentifiable glittery things were completely glued to the sides and spent half an hour scouring it clean. Not exactly what I'd had in mind.
Sunday morning, remembering that it was Father's Day and that the eldest was at a sleepover (why do they call them sleepovers, no one sleeps) and the youngest chomping at the bit since the crack of dawn to give Daddy a Father's Day card and me a get well card, we made M breakfast in bed. A cursory glance in the bathroom revealed that all was not over with the bath bomb! Petals covered the floorboards and bathmat too - another job for later...

Feeling slightly better by lunch time although not well enough to join everyone for a walk, I decided to put my feet up for a while on the sofa. We have two sofas and an armchair in our living room and you would think with four people and two cats everyone would be able to have a space to sit comfortably. Well no - cats take up one chair, M and newspapers a sofa, and my girls (who I think are being sponosored to have the longest legs in Britain) squabble over the other. I always just sneak in quietly and grab a corner before the film starts. Because of this I made this footstool - thinking that it would free up some more space on the sofa, well our cats have other ideas!

Back together in the evening I joined in a game of monopoly which was fun. We always have such different game plans, my oldest daughter just wants to have as much money as possible, the youngest wants to buy anything and everything, I buy things in my favourite colours and M, well M doesn't really seem to have a plan - throws the dice and sees what happens.

Another early night, (shower not bath) and feeling on the mend this morning.

Friday 15 June 2007

You are what you eat

I have been tagged by the very funny Anna at Thimbleanna to list my five favourite restaurants. Personally, I think it's just another way of Anna finding out more of my pet hates and teasing me with them. Ever since I divulged my complete loathing of mashed potatoes, Anna has endeavoured to post as many pictures and mentions of it on her blog as possible - I will be forever haunted by the sight of mashed potato - please no more, primary school dinners were enough for anyone!

1.My favourite restaurant of all time has to be Terre a Terre in Brighton. We're not meat eaters and this restaurant is one of the best veggies in England, even friends of ours who are diehard meat eaters count it as their fav place to eat too. This is where we go for birthdays and anniversaries and today being our anniversary it's nice to give it a mention. The most amazing and wonderful ingredients combined in an exciting and original way but presented in a very cryptic menu!! Fortunately for us, until recently one of our friends worked there and would come and decipher the menu for us, I think half the time nobody knows what they've ordered! Last time we were there our friend had left and we had the double embarassment of not only having to ask a waitress to tell us what the dishes were but also having to ask her to read the menu to us as we'd both left our glasses at home! A few glasses of wine later, it didn't seem to matter! We first went to Terre a Terre when it was in its original premises and just starting out. I was heavily pregnant with my first daughter and needed food! I can still remember the fruit and bowl of delicious chocolate dipping sauce (a very Dawn French moment)!

2. I love curry. Not hot, hot curry but aromatic, spicy curry that lets you taste the ingredients. Nooris in Brighton has to be one of my fav curry restaurants. Take away is also great on a Friday or Saturday with a bottle of wine when we're too tired to cook! NB Can't stand curry or any food with peas in it - darn it Anna there's another hate! I also remember a lovely Indian restaurant in Paris we went to on our first holiday together as a couple and it was gorgeous and romantic and completely different to the place we ate the following night where M got chronic food poisoning! Very fond too of Middle Eastern food, mezze, falafel, aubergine dip etc.
3. Good old English fish and chips. Takeaway is best! Bardsley's in Brighton is best! But eating chips on the beach is a very close second!
4.Pub lunches in the Sussex countryside, Ram Inn, Sussex Ox, The Cricketers are great, anywhere with real food, good beer and, preferably a roaring fire will do!
5. M's cooking. He's a wonderful cook and makes the most fantastic bread - all kinds. Artichokes on a Saturday are a family fav, his homemade pizza on a Sunday and everyone's happy!
One of my pet hates that I'm quite happy to mention is my inability to compile any list! I hate it because the minute I think I've finished I immediately think of at least four other things that I would have liked to have added. Here's one of them, one of my favourite puddings, recipe here for Louise at Beachyscapecodcupboard.

Eton Mess
12 meringues
2 punnets of strawberries
1 pint double cream (570ml)
1 heaped tablespoon icing sugar

Blend half the strawberries with icing sugar in a blender and sieve to make a puree. Crush the meringues into pieces, Whip the cream, but not too stiff. Chop remaining strawberries and add to meringues. Fold in the cream and drizzle over the puree. Serve immediately.

If anyone wants to be tagged feel free!
Have a wonderful weekend with lots of yummy food.

Tuesday 12 June 2007

Ring o' roses

This weekend seemed to be full of things to be ticked off lists, ferrying children to and fro, shopping, ferrying children to and fro, mammoth homework tasks, sorting out the computer, birthday invitations and, yes, ferrying children to and fro! Weather wise it was beautiful, unfortunately we were never all in the same place at once long enough to enjoy it. Two days of going round and round in circles.
However, I was able to snatch a few hours here and there over the past 3 or 4 days to make these rose corsages for my Etsy shop.
Sunday morning, the eldest had gone off to Springwatch it somewhere in the woods, my husband had gone off to the computer shop and my youngest decided, quite strangely for her, to just have a rest on the hammock (I think she was secretly psyching herself up for the big party in the afternoon, complete with real live snakes and spiders ) and read quietly .. BLISS!! Fabric, canvas and trimmings snatched hastily from the house and plonked on to the garden bench where I sat happily ragging for a while. Polka dots, ginghams, florals, lace and felt and pinking shears - perfect!!

Unfortunately no real gardening done - where does the time go? I noticed that the blackberry bushes are really growing now and we're looking forward to those later on in the year. I'd love some strawberries too, maybe next year ... Knowing just how much I love strawberries, the very talented Alison over at Foxgloves sent me some of these gorgeous strawberry pincushions last week as part of our swap. Aren't they gorgeous?

The very kind Clare over at Vintage Home ( a wonderful blog that always has the prettiest photos) sent me the lovely fabric in the background of this photo, together with some lovely ribbons to use in my corsages. Thank you too Clare, and, as you can see from the photos they have been put to good use!

Well the sun's out again and so I'm going to grab a few minutes in the garden before those girls come home!

Friday 8 June 2007

Looking out

This is the view from my kitchen window. I had planned to show you where I sit and type these posts but the flash is still not working on the camera, hence the outside shots. I often wonder when I'm reading other blogs where people are sitting and what their surroundings are like as they write their entries, wouldn't it be fun if we could see!

I met up with a friend recently who has been reading my blog and she asked if blogging had made a difference to me. I said yes it had in lots of different ways, one of them being that I tend to notice things around me more. Things that I might have taken for granted at home or in the garden I notice more now. Yes, blogging can be introspective, but conversely for me it also makes me look out more and appreciate things.

Anyway, the view from the kitchen isn't that bad. The kitchen is one of the darkest rooms in our house so it's great to have these poppies bobbing around outside the window. looking like tiny suns and greeting us every morning. The foxgloves are still blooming and beyond the flowers is our apple tree. Previous owners must have had quite a love of fruit, we also have a fig tree and lots of blackberry bushes, all are very established, thankfully!

Up in the tree, not willing to miss any photo opportunity, is one of our cats, posing as usual. Whenever we go outside the cats rush out and go mad, they get so excited, jumping up the trees or on the shed. I never know what they expect is going to happen - I throw the ball, they run after it and stop and stare at me as if I'm mad. All they ever really want is a tickle or hug.

Little has she noticed the wire bird underneath her - oh perhaps she has. ..

Beyond the apple tree is a very old and tall ash tree, that stands very majestically at the end of the garden. Even the cats can't climb it, but it offers sanctuary to the magpies!

I decided to gather up all the eiderdowns and air them on the washing line. It's got too warm at night now to have them permanently on the beds, my youngest daughter is constantly moaning about being too hot and not being able to sleep, so the eiderdowns will be bundled up once aired and put on top of wardrobes. Having dropped them on top of the bench, I thought I'd take a photo and rearrange them to show you. Well, halfway through, the cats had better ideas and it wasn't long before they were divebombing each other from under the quilts, jumping out from under the bench and then finally pulling them off completely, Time to give up on that one.

By now the cats had worked themselves up into a frenzy and it was full blown war! I guess that's what sisters do in this house!
Last week after all the rain, the grass was quite tall and the cats spent most afternoons pouncing on each other. Now I know cats are clever but why do they always assume they can't be seen? They do it in the house too, slink about on the prowl, totally convinced that you can't see them sneaking up to the half finished bowl of cereal left on the table!
Back in the garden I noticed something that I'd been waiting to happen for a year. Nothing last year and then, like buses, not one, not two but three come along at the same time ...

Beautiful dusty pink oriental poppies.

Enjoy your weekend.

Monday 4 June 2007

Back in the pink

This rose is the first to flower in our new home. We planted it last year and have been waiting patiently ever since. It opened on Saturday, glad I think to feel the sun shining again. Every summer in our previous home we would pick the first rose of the summer and give it to my oldest daughter to press. We had done this every year since she was a little toddler and I was hoping that the tradition would continue. Well, the intrepid explorer returned from her Italian adventures on Sunday and the rose was there waiting for her! Pretty, pink and blooming.

The rest of the garden is coming into its pink phase too and I'm loving it. We now have some pink foxgloves, the geraniums are in flower and the lavatera that we planted to brighten up a corner under the fig tree has just begun to bloom too.
Sunday was spent lazing around the garden listening to my daughter's holiday tales - well that was the plan. The reality was that for three hours she lay asleep on the grass, waking only for food and drink. Italy - the land of art, culture and wonderful food and what did we get? Tales of running around in bikinis during thunderstorms, awful hotel food, rude shaped pasta and 24 hour coach trips. Today, however, when she'd caught up on sleep and eaten the contents of the fridge, she did tell me that yes, Verona, Venice and Lake Garda were every bit as beautiful as she'd imagined! It's good to have her back.

On Saturday I was able to get on with making some more things, having had a very quiet time craft-wise over half-term. My youngest and I had had a lovely few days together, despite the rotten weather and it was a real treat being able to spend time with her. Perhaps all her girliness rubbed off on me as the first thing I made was this pink and lilac girl's bag. It's got a little pink butterfly on it too, now I wouldn't mind a few of them flying round my garden!

I had some fabric left over from the bag and decided to make these two pompoms. I think I'll put them in my Etsy shop before my girls grab them!

Friday 1 June 2007

Some puddings ARE good for you

I'm in love! Look at this bag, isn't it GORGEOUS! (if you click on the photo you'll get an even better view of it) I knew it was on its way but when I saw it land on the doormat yesterday I couldn't wait to rip the package apart (wonder where my children get it from).
Plump Pudding was one of the first blogs I read and Samantha gave me so much encouragement, that if it wasn't for her I wouldn't be doing this now and having all the fun that blogging offers us. So thank you, Samantha, thanks for the lovely, beautiful bag and all the words of support!
I know that many of you would have already visited Plump Pudding's site (she is on nearly everyone's favourite list) but if you haven't, go and have a look. Go now, I don't mind if you don't even finish reading this! Her website and Etsy shop are full of the loveliest and well made things, so it's worth the visit. Samantha is also one of the most generous and entertaining people I've never met so you'll enjoy her posts too.
If you're near the Plump Pudding domain on 9th June, you're in for a treat. Samantha is planning to have an Open House and has been beavering away every spare minute to make it as special a day as possible, wish I could go!
Thanks again Samantha for all the support and encouragement you've offered us (oh yes, and THE BAG) and where would I be without the emails we've shared over the past few months!