Monday, December 19, 2011

at last Christmas spirit turns up

The village green at Streethay came through last night with true and simple Christmas spirit ,the best kind. Despite the freezing temperature we all went out there a caroling full of good cheer. It is such a lovely tradition they have and we were pleased to join in with Terry and Yvonne to start Christmas week full of peace and goodwill. It was ****** cold though! We also went to Swinfen magic barn last week and thoroughly enjoyed their effort to bring all sorts of Christmas decorations together under one roof as the picture shows the barn was full of wonders. What fun...

Monday, October 31, 2011

plum's pumpkin fun... halloween carving this year is a spooky house and a bear. Julie next door on the plot got me a pumpkin carving kit which made it so much easier than using my old kitchen knife. Thank you very much Julie I really love it. The BIG problem this year was photographing it without flash and not getting camera shake. We tried everything and nothing worked so in the end I used the firework setting it isn't perfect but you get the picture so to speak!!!! I just love carving pumpkins so I am going to have a bigger pumpkin patch next year on the plot just so I can have lots of goes... who needs vegetables when you can have this much fun!

Monday, October 17, 2011

deaf as a post....

...yes, that was me all week last week and what an eye opener! I am used to having no voice as I suffer from hay fever and it makes everyone whisper to me. I have no idea why, empathy perhaps? Last week everyone needed to shout and whisper it all got very confusing BUT the main thing I learned was everyone also treated me as if I was as daft as a brush. Should I pass this human behaviour onto David Attenborough I wonder? Well I would except this week having had my ears syringed and I have my voice back everyone is still treating me as if I am daft, including Molly, why are they doing that I wonder?????

Saturday, October 15, 2011

fruits of autumn to me mean,,,

`…lovely things,
pumpkins for soup or pie, or something a little out of the ordinary from my friend Sarah’s orchard. Quinces to make jelly to go with cheese through the dark evenings round the fire in autumn; it will never last to winter in our house. The quince, Sarah and I think, may be the pear referred to in the age-old nursery rhyme about the King of Spain’s daughter
-had-a-little-nut-tree.htm when she had a nutmeg and a golden pear. It is a really old fruit. It looks like a pear but seems to smell of apples (a weird one, well fine with me) and can only be used cooked, but it can according to Monty (Don), be used as a sort of pot pourri and if left in a fruit basket on a table, will give off a beautiful scent for weeks. Well mine is going to be made into jelly next week all being well so I probably will never know if he is right. I am still finding those lovely little patty pan courgettes on the plot and Issie’s pumpkin (plus the one I had to buy) is ready waiting for her.

We are still eating our pears and apples and yesterday I spotted in the strawberry patch a few rogue strawberries trying to ripen. Will they make it before the weather turns? I hope so. We also have flowers self-seeded thinking it is spring namely hundreds of California poppies and Godetia. To cloche or not to cloche that is the question? I am going to make risotto with my butternut squash despite seeing Nigel make a pie with his last night, as yummy as it looked. And although not a fruit, today I am at the minute baking my first batch of autumn short breads for which I have used my autumn cookie cutters, pumpkins, apples, witches on broomsticks and black cats. Yeah!

Molly seems to like autumn fruits too...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

the case of the incredible shrinking pumpkin

I don't know how we have done it but I have to say little Issie's pumpkin, which looked so promising, growing in it's giant pot all summer, has shrunk. Yes, it is orange and ripe, yes it was watered and getting bigger when Issie visited it and I promised her she would have a big one, but to my utter dismay, I am going to have to take her the tiniest ever giant pumpkin for Halloween. Each day I went to water it as it went from green to orange it got smaller and smaller. How will I face her when at just three and a half she only knows of one pumpkin, Cinderella's and it became a coach!!! Oh what a dilemma! Her's will only make a small seat inside a coach. What a disappointment it will be. Mind you, she also expected it to go blue, don't ask why!!! I am now off to find the biggest pumpkin I can before I get to see her and no matter what it costs she will get her coach. Growing one would have been the best thing ever but there is always next year.
That phrase must be an allotmenteers by- word.

just a simple bowl of soup...

When we took on the lottie, one of the things we wanted to do was grow our own tomatoes. This hasn't always been successful as the weather and or the blighty has stopped us from getting a good crop. This year, however, as the weather was dryer we have had more success and have had more than enough so we have been making soup. Not just any old soup, but Delia Smith's recipe which Plum has added her secret ingredient to which makes a simple bowl of soup extraordinarily good. I can tell you this is the best soup ever, Mr Heinz eat your heart out. One of the reasons has been that we have used a variety of tomatoes in each batch and it has been delicious. I hope we can do it all again next year!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Internet Blues

During the last few months we have been having trouble with our Internet connection. The signal keeps dropping out and we haven’t been able to stay on line. This has been, to say the least, frustrating, so much so that I even ended up writing a blues song about it. Not yet been able to upload it to You Tube I have been going back and forth with the Virgin tech guys trying everything to keep it running.

The situation came to a head a few days ago so I called them to cancel as I was going to transfer to BT. The guy there told me I had a contract, which I was unaware of as we pay monthly, and there was a £50.00 cancellation fee. We took umbrage to this and so, we told them to fix it as they weren’t keeping to their part of the contract, so they said they would send us a new router.

The router arrived to day so, full of anticipation, we set it up and, guess what? We couldn’t get a strong enough wireless signal downstairs to stay on line. I looked up on the Internet, using the main computer as to how to solve this problem, and there was a You Tube video, which said to wrap a piece of tinfoil around the aerial. This we duly did thinking we could probably now receive transmissions from aliens, but this proved to be a fallacy as the signal was no stronger. However, Plum solved the problem by moving the router to a different place, which may have been the problem all along. Only time will tell!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Retirement, What retirement?

When she wrote her last blog, Plum didn't tell you that, due to my back problem, I have had to give up my position as Senior Stock Replenishment Executive (shelf stacker) at my local superstore. I shan’t miss having to get up at 5.45 every day especially in the Winter! However, now that I am 'retired' you may ask how do I fill my time every day? Good question, except that no one knows the answer. It is a peculiar thing that when you have lots of time to do everything, nothing seems to get done because there is always tomorrow. To be fair, I have been somewhat incapacitated for a few months but now I am back on track.

I have been helping Plum clear the lottie for the Winter which was most satisfying as all I could do for the growing season was to watch her struggle to keep the whole thing going. I am proud that, despite everything, she managed to win Joint First again this year. If we do it again next year it will be embarrassing!

I have also now acquired other duties now that I don’t go to work such as doing the shopping while Plum ‘mucks out’ on Mondays. I am also supposed to be learning to cook, and I have Monty Don's cookbook to hand, but so far, I haven’t actually done any. The idea is that we split the household chores so we have more time to spend on our other pursuits such as quilting and music.

I have also joined the committee of our allotment association and we have been cat sitting for our neighbours for the last two weeks

Last Friday we went on a jolly to the Peak District to the highest bookshop in England at Brierlow Bar nr Buxton and then cut through the Peak valleys to Bakewell. The sky was cloudless and the day was as warm as any we had in the Summer, fabulous!

We went to Elford Village Hall to see visiting folk singer Slaid Cleves fro Austin Texas on 23rd September and last weekend we cleared the little pear tree and went to Terry’s for a BBQ and tonight we are off to Sarah’s for tea so you see there is always plenty to do when you have ‘retired’

seems like old times

I haven’t blogged all Summer, in fact not since Spring. We have been a little preoccupied with Bri’s back. He had two bulging discs and couldn’t lie, walk or do much of anything except do Richard III impressions. He had a wrong diagnosis for the first eight weeks from a NHS physio who said he wouldn’t ever get any better because of his age and there wasn’t any difference between an X-ray and a MRI scan. What hope do we all have I wonder? Well, let me tell you, she was wrong, wrong, wrong. We went to a fantastic chiropractor called John Lang, who lots of our neighbours had recommended and after just a couple of goes Bri was on the way to standing up straight and in far less pain. Meanwhile we had our beloved Lottie to do. So I had to step up and get dirty (not unusual for me though). Doing both our parts was tough and when I thought I was failing, help came from our friends, Pam and Paul from up North and they put the weeds in their place and helped me get some sense back on the plot. Terry, our good ole brother came and although he got stung from the wasp nest, managed to help us plan the guttering for the shed and clear the bags of rubbish we couldn’t compost. Lesley and Angela came for a picnic down the shed and planted flowers but I am proud to say I managed the rest of the summer better than I expected and came Joint First for Best Small Plot. Bri is almost back to normal as John Lang is a miracle worker thank goodness.

Also over the summer, Henry and Ferret left for a new home up the road, over a roundabout, up a hill a bit to a bigger house and we missed looking after them everyday a lot. However, Henry decided he would come back and visit us as soon as his three months of being locked in had passed and today, six months later, Ferret turned up and took up residence in his always spot in our back bedroom as if he hadn’t been away. Tom (his daddy) is fetching him and Henry after work. Molly was really surprised and we think pleased to see them again. She has been lonely, after all, her life had been spent seeing them everyday. While we have been home so much I have started and finished a scrap quilt which is now on our bed. We also won Joint First place for Shed Dressing. We did the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. Yvonne hand painted tree trunks and we made leaves from crepe paper. I made Alice and the Mad Hatter with pillows off the bed, Issie’s blonde play wig , a blue dress for Alice and Top Hat for the Mad Hatter and a very large white rabbit borrowed from Yvonne’s school. We had lots of fun and it only cost us 50p.

This weekend we harvested apples from the plot which were plentiful but not as plentiful as my dear little pear tree who gave us 400lbs of pears. Yes, I am not exaggerating, 400lbs. We have shared them with all our neighbours, relatives and friends and I am making Italian Country Pear Cake a lot. I did go out in the dark and give it a big hug and a thank you when no one was looking in case they thought me crazy but what else could I do? It was a wonderful harvest from such a little tree.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

good enough to eat

It's that time of year when all that preparation and sowing and planting in April and May, comes to fruition. We have already had a bumper harvest of strawberries most of which we have turned into jam which we are eating with home made scones and clotted cream.....yummy!
Lots of our other veggies are now ready. Broad beans have been double podded and either frozen or added to risotto, beetroot is being cooked and used in salads not to mention lollo rosso and cos lettuce. The peas are coming along as well as runner beans, tomatoes, leeks, potatoes (early and mains) together with courgettes. On that subject I must take issue with Monty Don (yes, I know all you ladies only watch Gardeners World because he is the presenter) but he suggested that courgettes could be grown at the bottom of the bean wigwams. This is just not practical as it is very difficult to harvest them, or indeed to see if they are ready at all as the beans foliage gets in the way. Think again Monty! The corn is not quite as high as an elephants eye, but it is getting there. Today we picked our first raspberries which are being used for a new recipe fresh raspberry and lemon squares which is coming out of the oven as I write. We have goosegogs for crumbles, cobblers and fools in fact enough for all year. However, after saying all that, Plum's favourite are the sweet peas which represent the smell of Summer even though you can't eat 'em!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I might as well give up being a dick!

Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather as they used to say. I had to check my eyes twice when I went down to the plot on Sunday, for there on our little bench, was the tiniest cowboy just sitting there. No, I'm not seeing the little people, well yes, I suppose I am. I know he wasn't there on Friday he just moved in just like the creature who made the hole. There must be something inviting about our plot things just keep on turning up to our delight or not if they leave bones behind. Well all I can say is, 'howdy pardner', wherever you came from, you can join Pip. Now Pip is our newest member and he is there to keep an eye on the apples and plums. Why the name Pip? Yes you guessed we have great expectations in the fruit patch and Pip seemed just right for someone who will stand under an apple tree. At the rate we are gathering the ' odd folk' word must be getting around that there will be a party on our plot. I wonder who will turn up next? The Ladies Number One and a Half Detective is running out of clues so I give up...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Them Bones, them bones?

I am now opening The Number One and a Half Ladies Detective Agency because at the weekend that naughty tortoise we usually look after did a runner and we all had to get out there and look for him. You can imagine everybody looking under the bushes and running around as there was a reward of one hundred pounds mentioned by his desperate owner. Someone in the family had let the tortoise out to play unsupervised for half an hour and of course after being in for such a long winter, the sun being high in the sky, what was a poor tortie to do? Well he did.. he legged it round the corner of the house to the nearest bus stop and if he hadn't been found just in the nick of time I reckon he would have just caught the 604 to Birmingham. Of course the name of the tortie is Speedo. The owner claimed the £100.
I have decided to be a dick because of this adventure
coupled with the mystery we have going on down the plot....
A few weeks ago a tunnelled hole, not too large, appeared next to the spinach and onions. We gently covered it over hoping it was just an odd incident but to our dismay it got longer and a bit wider, too small for Mr. Fox, too big for the White Rabbit. We know it doesn't like spinach because that is still intact. What the hell? We are now logging clues daily. Not heavy enough to leave indented footprints. Obviously and thank goodness, not vegetarian as we have lettuce just coming up. Yesterday gave us another clue, macabre though, there were bones at the mouth of the tunnel, Yuk! We have been looking up various habitats for wild things and are non plussed unless it could be not your regular visitor, maybe a polecat or a mink, the hole is too big for a rat, mole, ferret or weasel. Hope the bones don't get any bigger or we may get worried, real worried!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Home is where the heart is...

A Des Res or three, that is what we have put in our mini woodland bit of the plot. Bri bought me three birdhouses for Valentine's Day and I have been waiting to get down there to put them up. Today was that day and I saw a robin giving them the eye while we were working. Julie has the most incredible bird feeding station on the next plot to us so between us they have a home and a local supermarket. I can't wait until our little apple and plum trees blossom, they will look a picture. Most of all though I hope some robin, bluetit or the like will move in. The blue bells amongst the strawberries are up and getting ready at the base of the trees and I know the lupins and iris and foxgloves will follow. Wow spring is a coming!!!! Watch this space...
P.S Thanks Julie for the tea and the sunflower seeds for the birds.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Passsion for Perfection

There aren't many things that bug me, but bread making bugs me. But I want to get it right, I want it perfect. When I don't I quit and say never again. A few weeks ago I tried Larraine Pascale's method and used my dough hook - she owes me a food mixer, it burnt out the motor. Her dough was too hard, or was it ? my mixer was forty years old and I have to say almost family but it's gone now along with my aspirations of being a baker. Until, that is, Michel Roux persuaded me to have another go at it and so I'm off again this time by hand. I am writing this while it is proving and before the next knocking back. There, I'm mastering the language, if only the art of the perfect loaf was as easy... well I shall add my sun dried tomatoes to one half of the dough and keep the other half plain for jam and hope. Hope that this will be the one in my dreams, the perfect loaf, if not I won't give up, I can't!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Impossible... dream that for just five minutes you could, say, start a new quilt, read a bit, listen to music is an impossible dream in our house it seems. Molly and her gang keep up a procession of wants and needs and chair stealing. On cold grey days the lot of them think our house is a playground cum doss house. While I just love them to feel ‘at home’, this week has been more of a nightmare, however, I am still dreaming of those five wonderful uninterrupted minutes. I have plans afoot. I plan to use all my scrap materials and make a quilt that costs nothing. Well virtually nothing, as I have already dashed out for border materials and cotton to help it along, but nothing is ever free. It will at least give me more space to stash new fat quarters which will inevitably come back with me from the next Quilt Fair of which I am also dreaming of. I can see in my minds eye, the wild flowers in the hedgerows along the lanes bathed in sunshine on the way to the Three Counties Showground in May. Oooh, I’ve just had my five minutes and it’s gone, here comes Molly followed by Henry and I expect Ferret is around the corner, damn I missed my turn!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Year Baby

I sowed a seed Christmas week when we had Butternut squash risotto I just couldn't wait until May, guess what, it germinated alongside my money plant cutting as happy as Larry, which is what I have called it. What to do next, will it grow on the windowsill until May or am I expecting too much? I do hope it will grow into a strong and healthy plant it is just the right variety of squash we love to roast ohhh nooo it's my New Year Baby, I don't think I could eat it now it's got a name. I can most definitely eat my soda bread though. I made it this morning no fuss hardly any time taken, it is Nigel Slater's recipe for a Lazy Loaf I hope it tastes good with our veggie soup that I made with all the veg that needed using up while they were still fresh., mmmmm.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Well Wishers

Bri and I would like to wish everyone who has been poorly over Christmas, which is almost everyone, a speedy recovery and of course to everyone of us, A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR xxx

I Want to Know...

...just like Davy in Ann of Green Gables I have a 'I want to know' mentality. In this instance I just had to find out why my granny and my great granny and probably my great, great granny always had a piece of pork pie for breakfast on Christmas morning. I just got this snippet of family gossip from my Auntie Mary when doing more research on the family tree and she gave me a jar of the very old family recipe, (no not whisky) but a jar of wonderful piccalilli, which I had with my slice of Christmas morning pork pie. One has to do their bit, don't you know when it comes to keeping up tradition.
Well, I have found out that it is eaten because no one had time to cook a breakfast on Christmas morning. In Melton Mowbray they had pork pie in medieval times because there was no turkey. In Nottingham, D.H. Lawrence had it for his breakfast. It all seems a tradition coming from Staffordshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, or in my case, Shropshire. Well now I know!!. If there is anyone out there that knows more please tell me...