Wednesday, 6 July 2016

OMG! We've Got An Allotment!

It has been weeks since I last wrote a blog post.  There are many trivial reasons why:
1.   Andy has been dieting so there is NO baking going on here. 
2.   I've been too busy taking care of domestic chores.
3.   I've been too lazy after doing domestic chores.  

But this is probably the main reason,  I've been in negotiations for the allotment behind our garden fence.  Yesterday at about 9:30 am we got the 'go ahead' and THIS is this the challenge we now face.

By my calculations, nothing much has been done to this plot since this time last year.  There were four foot tall beet plants and a row of parsnip plants that had grown to about eight foot high.  The blackberry bush had made a bid for world domination and viciously lashed out me every time I walked past it.  Undaunted, Andy and I went out and bought the most ferocious weed whacking machine we could find and by 3:30 pm we were hacking our way through the jungle.  

By 20:45 last night it looked like this:

I know, it still looks a bit rough around the edges.... and in the middle, to be honest.  But at least you can see the beds and a glimmer of the potential of this sadly neglected patch.  So... if you don't see me around much for a while it's because we got an allotment!  

Friday, 3 June 2016

Peter Rabbit's Little Adventure

To mark the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter's birth, a series of new miniature sculptures has been commissioned.  These charming creations can be found at different locations across London. If you look closely you can see there is a special twist to this tale, each character has been ever so slightly modernised. 

Peter Rabbit is going all out tourist with his selfie stick at the London Eye.

Nutkin shows his true political colours outside St. James' Park.

Jeremy Fisher can't resist dropping a line on the Westminster Bridge.

Ms. Puddle-Duck enjoys a bit of fashionable retail therapy....

Meanwhile, Mrs. Tiggie-Winkle has set up a laundry! 

Even urban gardens need tending as you can see.  Mrs. Tittlemouse finds her leaf blower to be a very handy gadget.  

CLICK HERE  to learn more about the artist, Marcus Crocker, and to watch a video about the making of these adorable creatures.  Happy 150th Birthday, Miss Potter! 

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Blossom At Last!

It seems as if I have been working in the garden for weeks on end and yet nothing much was in bloom.  Then, after a couple of warm, dry days the garden seemed to explode into flower.

So this evening I thought I'd take a few photos...

We have a bumper crop of ox eye daisies.  I've been digging up clumps to give to my friends but they seem to just keep coming. 

They ramble into the irises and through the rose bushes. 

The quince is doing well...

And this azalea is humming with bees.

As the light fades, the very first rose of the season gives out her perfume.  It makes all the waiting and weeding worthwhile.  

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Almost Wordless Wednesday - Pieris Japonica

Today the sky is grey and it has been grim and drizzly but there is a plant in my garden that glows with colour no matter what the weather,  Pieris Japonica.  

It looks great all year 'round but especially in spring when the new leaves are red as flame and the tiny 'Lily of the Valley' flowers are buzzing with bees.

Every garden should have one...or in our case... two!

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Touring Exeter Cathedral

In 1050 the seat of the bishop of Devon and Cornwall was transferred from the small town of Crediton to the city of Exeter due to the fear of sea raids.  This is how our tour guide begins telling us the history of the Exeter Cathedral. 

The original Cathedral was built in the Norman style by the nephew of William the Conqueror.  By 1258 the Norman style was considered old fashioned and the Cathedral at Salisbury inspired a 'remodeling' project to add Decorated Gothic features to Exeter's Cathedral.  Fortunately, not all of the Norman features were lost in the remodelling project.  

Our tour today featured the sturdy Norman towers.  Climbing stair after stair of narrow, spiral staircases, we finally reached the roof space to see the original 14th century beams.  Squeezing under low beams and out tiny Normal windows we finally arrive at the apex and on to the roof.

The sunshine was dazzling as we looked down onto the ancient lead roof.

The view over the city was beautiful.  We could see for miles.  Lovely as the view was, the wind was cold and blustery so we were happy to scramble back down the narrow stone stairs and into the warmth of the Cathedral. 

Our tour guide explained the architectural features like the ceiling vaulting and bosses.

We examined the tombs and effigies of the great and good.  I was particularly interested in the gown of this Elizabethan lady.

But to be honest, it is the simplest things that are the most endearing, like this ancient cat flap cut into the door for the first Cathedral cat.  (see the circular hole at the bottom of the door)

Most cathedrals have at least one cat. Historically they were kept to control the rat and mouse population but the cats have always been more than just 'mousers'.   

This carving is in memory of One Eyed Tom, the Cathedral cat. Tom lost his eye in an unfortunate encounter with an owl.  They were both in pursuit of the same rat.  It seems being partially sighted didn't keep Tom from performing his duties earning the affection and gratitude of clergy and parishioners alike. 

The Cathedral is filled with fascinating stories and sculptures all too numerous to mention here.   CLICK HERE to learn more about how you can take a tour of Exeter Cathedral and experience this magnificent medieval masterpiece.  

Friday, 29 April 2016

Toby's Garden Festival 2016

I have always wanted to go to the Chelsea Flower Show but have yet to manage it.  Fortunately, we have a rather special local gardening event, Toby's Garden Festival!  The venue is the glorious grounds of Powderham Castle, the 600 year old home of the Earl of Devon.

Held in the grounds of the castle, this is one of the most beautiful venues you can imagine.  Just walking through the gates conjures up images of knights on horseback. 

The market stalls set up in the courtyard are like a scene from a medieval fair...well, except for all the mobile phones, digital cameras, and modern wheelie trolleys. 

Enough of all that romantic stuff, lets get down to the gardening bit.  There are vendors selling every kind of plant imaginable from cottage garden plants to alpines.

If you love Heurcheras as much as I do, 'Heucheraholics' will surely have a plant just for you.

Perhaps something succulent is more your thing.  

If your borders are full to bursting, you can always squeeze in a slender plant stake.  These rusty flowers were fabulous.

There were lots of charming ornaments to add a bit of art to your garden from life size driftwood horses to these delicately carved doves.

When you've shopped 'till you are about to drop, you can go to the Speaker's Marquee where famous gardening folk like Christine Walkden will
 tell you how to 'Make the Most of Your Garden'.  

Then it's time for a spot of tea and a slice of cake, or maybe something a bit more substantial from the many fabulous food stalls.  Be sure to take a minute and just enjoy the view!

Toby's Garden Festival continues tomorrow from 10 am to 5 pm.  Do pop in for a visit if you can.  

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Mini-Yorkshire Puddings

Here in Great Britain, Sundays are traditionally roast dinner days.  When it comes to roast dinners, Andy is as English as you can get.  He LOVES them. They say the French nicknamed the British 'Les Rosbifs' because they are so obsessed with roast beef dinners.  The traditional menu includes a beef roast, crispy roasted potatoes, Yorkshire Puddings, gravy and roasted veg. 

 I have to admit I find roasting beef a bit daunting but they say the more you do it the easier it gets so I put on my brave face and my apron and started by making Mini Yorkshire Puddings.  

You may think it a bit strange starting the with the Yorkies but it's only logical. Oven space is limited and with all that meat and veg roasting it's easier to make the Yorkshire Puddings first then warm them up just before serving.  This recipe is perfect for a small family like ours.  It makes six little puddings, just the right shape for holding a tiny lake of gravy.  Here is how to do it:


70 grams plain flour
2 eggs
100 ml milk
salt and pepper to taste
vegetable oil - I use canola oil 

You will also need a six hole muffin tin

Start by turning the oven up to 220C/ 425F.  Pour a little oil into the bottom of each muffin cup.  Place the muffin tin into the oven to get the oil REALLY hot.

In a lipped mixing bowl or large jug, mix the flour, salt and pepper together. Add the eggs and a little of the milk and whisk together to make a smooth batter. Pour in the rest of the milk and beat until there are no lumps. 

Take the hot muffin tin out of the oven and carefully pour the batter into the hot oil filling the cups half full.  You should hear a sizzle as the batter hits the hot oil.  

Return the muffin tin to the oven and bake for about 20 minutes.  DO NOT open the oven door to peek!  Not even a little... I mean it!  After 20 minutes, the Yorkshire Puddings should be puffed up and golden brown. 

Remove the Yorkshire Puddings from the muffin tin and place them on a wire rack until you are almost ready to serve dinner.  To warm them up, place the puddings  on a baking sheet and reheat them in the oven for five minutes or until they are piping hot.  Serve with your roast, all the trimmings and a bucket of gravy.