Thursday, 29 September 2011

Ahhhh, Indian Summer.....

How wonderful.....the weather has turned back all summery, balmy, gentle.....like a last minute gift from the gods......sitting outside having lunch today in the glorious sunshine with the soft, warm wind gently wafting was just bliss....it felt like being draped lightly in a cosy blanket....just what the doctor ordered after the quite chilly last couple of weeks.....and may it last until the end of October....well, it's good for the soul to be hopeful!....to stay positive, think positive, act positive....so positive things come to us.

This year our vegetable garden hasn't been particularly productive unfortunately.....but what we didn't have in quantity, we certainly had in quality.....the most gorgeous tomatoes, not abundant, but thankfully not blighted like the last couple of years....the taste was out of this world......little green peas packed into little green pods..... just a few....and only eaten raw....far to good and sweet to cook.....and teeeny tiny sweetcorn......not quite perfectly formed, and again not abundant, as in previous years .....but the taste of just picked and quickly cooked sweetcorn is to die for.......





I know they don't look quite so small in this photo, but they are sitting on a small side plate......and they were very scrumptious for lunch......golden yellow kernels, smothered in soft, golden butter, eaten outside under the golden yellow sun.....what could be more sunshiny than that? Just don't tell my Angels I ate the very last three cobs without them......they were just so tiny, and not enough for everyone.....much easier to gobble them myself and save the arguments.....sorry Angels!

Our fruit has been a little better.....a rampant haul of hugely, thick rhubarb.....is rhubarb a vegetable of fruit?....a good crop of pleasing plums.....a few edible pears for the very first time......the tastiest strawberries I have ever eaten.....although sadly, not nearly enough of them......and more than enough sweet, juicy apples.....




And although not edible, we've had a reasonable crop of gourds.....especially considering we didn't actually plant any this year....they self-seeded themselves from our homemade compost.....from a couple of years ago!











All stand to attention!.....




The orange colours just seem to zing and glow under the autumn sunshine......I think they'll make pretty little jack-o-latterns for halloween.....





Long may our Indian summer last!!!!!

-xx-

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Happy Birthday & Happy Hooking.....

It's our friend Big Miss A's birthday today......HAPPY BIRTHDAY!......so I got my hook out on Tuesday and rustled this up for her.......




I haven't picked up my hook since the school holidays started......it was really enjoyable to feel it in my hands again, the yarn being drawn through my fingers, the calm rhythm of hooking......so peaceful and soothing.


I'm relatively new to crochet.....well, I say new.....my Nana actually taught me when I was a little girl....she taught me many things, my wonderful Nana.....I used to sit for hours at her feet, sewing buttons onto facecloths, sorting the buttons into sizes, colours, etc.....my Pop made me a finger knitting doll from an old wooden cotton reel and some nails.....then my Nana taught me to finger or french knit. Anyway, I digress .....my Nana taught me to crochet when I was little, but then knitting took over, and I completely forgot how to do it.....then in my late twenties I asked my Nana to crochet me a blanket....something to occupy her really.....I bought the yarn and had high hopes for a cuddly, cosy blanket.....by now though, I think she was really past producing something on this scale......so I asked her to teach me to crochet instead, so I could complete the blanket myself, and not waste the yarn. I picked it up quite quickly, my old memories brought back to the fore.....and I completed that lovely blanket..... unfortunately, as time has gone by, my tastes have changed, and the colours are less than appealing to me now.....but I still have the blanket, stored away.....think it's about time to bring it out into the light of day again though.


Anyway, after finishing it, life kinda took over.....I had one Angel, then another.... and before I knew it, I had four darling Angels.....a crochet hook was never held again. Until quite recently that is......I had rather a stash of balls of yarn, all odds and sods that had been used for a variety of knitting projects over the years, and I decided it was time to get rid of them....use them up.....I had this idea that if I taught myself to crochet again, I could just make some little things like crocheted flowers to use as brooches or the like, which would use up my stash....AND....give me some pretty new brooches to boot. So I took a cruise around Amazon and bought this lovely book Cute and Easy Crochet which has easy to follow tutorial pictures for beginners, and some lovely patterns, including some easy flowers. Within minutes of starting, I was up and running.....well hooking actually....it feels like I was meant to hook....the skills my Nana taught me way back when must be somehow embedded in my brain ....I was surprised how much I enjoyed twisting and twirling that little hook.....and produced several little flowers before you could say "by hook or by crook".....my poor fingers ached!







Then I saw a picture of some charming crocheted heart bunting in a magazine which really got me excited....I set to, searching the internet for patterns to make it....I did find the pattern I wanted here, which I haven't tried yet..... but I also came across a most delightful teeny tiny heart pattern and tutorial at Attic24....this incidentally opened my eyes to the world of blogging, of which I now hugely enjoy....both reading my favs .....and writing my own. But again, I digress....I was off.....teeny tiny hearts strung onto a ribbon of single crochet were popping up all over our house.....in the kitchen...




in the larder......using a slightly different heart pattern I found here.......





on the Miss' bedroom door.......




And of course, I couldn't leave my Lads out, so I thought little flags on a string of single crochet would be more appropriate for their bedroom door......




And strung in the bathroom too.......




Then the third issue of MollieMakes dropped through my letterflap with gorgeous teeny tiny flowers and butterflies.....so they were made with some teeny tiny hearts....and strung onto a ribbon of single crochet.....a gift for my friend S, for her new campervan.......




Which brings me back to Tuesday....enjoying the feel of a hook again, the soothing rhythm of hooking. I'd love to make a gorgeous snuggly ripply blanket like Lucy's here....but it would use just soooo much yarn....and I have rather a penchant for deliciously soft, cosy, natural yarn.....the thought of all the necessary pennies makes my eyes water......that ripply blankie will just have to wait for now....I'll have to stick with the pretty flowers like Big Miss A's, and teeny tiny bunting.



-xx-

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Thrifty Pressies.....

My friend M regularly takes a cruise around the local charity shops......sometimes she comes home with absolutely nothing......but sometimes she hits the jackpot and finds some dishy goodies......sometimes she keeps them for herself......and sometimes she shares her haul. On Friday she spotted some lovely pink plates, but left them there to mull over.....yesterday she went back to look again......if they were still there, she was going to nab them....if they weren't, it wasn't meant to be. Yippee.....they were still there! She kept a couple for herself.....and gave the rest to me......YIPPEE..... they are sooooo pretty in pink........






And what a charming little pressie......they're not really old, or antique.....probably vintage would be the correct description for them.....but I absolutely  them.....and at only £3.50 for the whole lot.....8 plates in total....I've absolutely no qualms about using them everyday. We used the soup/dessert ones last night for dessert, but Little Miss was quite disgruntled that her dessert wasn't served in one......so tonight, I did serve her dessert in a pretty pink plate....."goodie, I've got a new plate" she squealed quite delighted......well they are very girlie.

On a previous cruise round the charity shops a few weeks ago, my friend M spotted this gorgeous cheese dome......




She didn't need one for herself, so came round to collect me, so I could go see it. Luckily it was still there, and of course I thought it was just wonderful.....and at only £4.50......I simply had to have it......




All sparkly, with the light refracting off the pretty ribs and ripples.....I thought it was a real bargain which was just waiting for me to snap it up.........





I soooo  finding treasures like these to use and enjoy......and maybe they will become family heirlooms in years to come.....since all my Angels ♥ and appreciate these lovely treasures too.

-xx-

Friday, 16 September 2011

Ahhhhh.....silence......

Ahhhhh, hear that.....nothing.....silence......not a whisper......wonderful! The Angels are all off at school, and I'm in the kitchen making my breakfast......silence really can be golden! After all the hustle and bustle of getting everyone and everything ready and out the door for school, it's so peaceful to sit down for a few moments to enjoy a cup of tea and hot, buttery, jammy toast, in my own company, before I set about starting my chores for the day of making my home a clean, tidy, calm, haven of peace.......





I wish.....in my dreams it's going to be a clean, tidy, calm, haven of peace.....but, it's actually gonna take a whole lot more than just a few chores to make it so. But then, life is for living and enjoying, and sometimes we need to just embrace that, and leave the chores for another day.....live for today, nothing is worth more than this day.....the jobs will still be waiting for us tomorrow!


-xx-

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Autumn Blooms.....

After a rather chilly start, it's been one of those glorious Indian summer afternoons ......gently warm and balmy. I was taking a stroll.....of the most amiable kind....... around the garden, and was delighted to find a few late blooms still giving it their all....

Verbena Bonariensis


Geranium


Sedum


Feverfew


A lone little cornflower in the middle of the veg patch.....


Cornflower


Globe Thistle (Echinops)


Strawberry

The most deliciously flavoured strawberries I have ever tasted......they are a French variety called Mara Des Bois.....said to contain the highest flavour and aroma of all strawberry varieties......of which I'd totally agree.....and, they start fruiting in early spring, and just continue throughout the summer.....last year we still had bright red berries dripping off the hanging baskets on 31 October......


Mara Des Bois


Garlic Chive


Verbena (Bedding)

These few little flowers, still blooming their socks off, really do lift my spirits on a wonderfully warm, late summer afternoon.....it feels like even nature is trying to hold onto summer just that little bit longer.

-xx-

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Tidy up time.....

Yesterday was the first full day I've had at home since the Angels went back to school .....so it was time to start tidying....BIG time.....after everyone being home all holiday......tidying...hoovering...cleaning...and putting away......was the order of the day. I do so the feeling of getting everything all spic and span, and ship shape again, after the chaos of the holidays.


I really get the urge for this sort of spring cleaning.....well, at the start of spring ......but also now, on the cusp of autumn. It's time to wash, clean, hoover, and put away all the summery things......the light, floaty curtains, the light and bright coloured cushions, and the light cotton floor rugs.....and bring out the heavier, thicker curtains, cosier cushions, warm, thick floor rugs, fairy lights, candles, and cuddly, snuggly throws. It's so nice and comforting to ring the changes and welcome in each of the seasons.....well, the warm season, and the cold season. And having a quick scoot round my favs in blogland today, it seems I'm not the only one who feels like this, at this time of year.



However, I always try to hold onto summer for just as long as I possibly can..... and this year, the weather can't quite seem to decide on whether to give us a little extended Indian summer, or throw us headlong into autumn. When the weather turns colder and gets all blustery as it is has been, I really start to look forward to the cosying up, and hunkering down, but I still can't quite let go of the idea and hope of some more balmy Indian summer afternoons......it's such a bittersweet time for me.


So for now, I'm just sticking with the tidying and hoovering, in the hope that the weather will let us stretch the summer out just a little bit longer.....the curtains, cushions and throws can wait......hopefully......until the beginning of October.....




Although, if it stays as chilly as it is today, I might have to succumb and bring those throws out sooner!

-xx-





Monday, 12 September 2011

Thrifty Chickens.....

For dinner on Saturday night we had a most scrumptious roast chicken, and so yesterday I decided to make some chicken stock from the leftover carcass, and two others that had been stashed in the freezer for just such a day. With all three carcasses, and some lovely sweet veggies and herbs crammed into a huge pot, they were left to simmer for a couple of hours.....

Mmmmmm......gently bubbling away and filling the house with the most deliciously, deep, savoury aroma......just gotta get that scentovision working.......






A couple of hours later, the bones, veggies and herbs had given up all their glorious goodness, so I sieved the juices through muslin to produce a golden, sweet smelling, savoury liquor just waiting to be turned into something else equally delicious......





A quick browse through my tempting collection of cookery books and the perfect recipe was found in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage everyday which uses up leftover chicken, as well as needing some of that gloriously golden broth.......Chicken with couscous, honey and cinnamon.......ingredients at the ready.....




And dinner ready to serve........




Mmmmmmm was it delicious......and so very quick to put together as I already had the shredded roast chicken, and that freshly made golden broth.

But I still had plenty of stock left over and after a busy afternoon after school today, it was the perfect ingredient to pull out of the fridge with the last remaining morsels of shredded roast chicken, warmed through with some fresh herbs from the garden and thinly sliced spring onions for freshness, lemon juice for just a touch of tartness, grated carrot for some vibrancy, and lengths of angel's hair spaghetti (capelli d'angelo).....because the Angels ♥ it.....and because chicken noodle soup wouldn't be chicken noodle soup without the noodles.....although technically speaking spaghetti isn't noodles......but the Angels wouldn't hear of using noodles over angel's hair! Some freshly baked bread made earlier in the day which greeted the Angels, upon their return from school, with another temptingly wonderful aroma......no I didn't, strictly speaking, make it myself....the bread machine did....but I still like to think of it as homemade .....just perfect for dunking large, rustic chunks.......and a quick, easy, and scrumptious dinner was on the table in no time........




♥ making homemade chicken stock......the enticingly, aromatic aromas that fill the entire house all afternoon, giving out the promise of a yummy scrummy meal in the making.....the feeling of cosy, cuddly warmth.....and of a home filled with nostalgia and And it makes me feel very virtuous when I make chicken stock.....I've already fed the family with a delicious meal of roast chicken.....then I squirrel away the leftover carcasses in the freezer until I have enough......then the making of the stock......the storing.....well freezing.....away the stock for a rainy day......and then the making of some equally yummy meal at some later date from the frozen stock. Three meals from Saturday's chicken, and more stock for later......what could be more thrifty and virtuous than that?

Bon app├ętit!

-xx-

Sunday, 11 September 2011

More Baking......

Big Miss has been wanting to make some more jam tarts after her success before we went on holiday. I bought the pastry.....but forgot the jam.....and we'd gobbled all our jam on holiday....so she and the pastry had to wait patiently for more jam to be purchased. Then I bought the jam.....but Big Miss was back to school......so more patience was required.

Last night Big Miss had her friend L for a sleepover, so today I thought the right time had finally come to make those jam tarts....they could do it together..... yippees and yaaaays were chorused .....and they set to. Some half hour or so later ......the first batch had been prepared, cooked and was cooling.....and the second batch popped in the oven. But then the girls disappeared......it seemed with the fun of making now over, they clearly had more important girly business to attend to in the bedroom. It's just as well then that I was still pottering around the kitchen......or we would have had sticky, sooty, black jammy blobs......not nearly as delicious as a tin full of shiny, sticky, jammy jam tarts......




And delicious they were too! It is soooo lovely to have a tin full of homemade yumminess.

I was just reading Lucy's latest post over at Attic24 ......such a lovely blog..... where she was saying she is trying to keep her family supplied with homemade cookies instead of buying from the supermarket, and how it takes some doing with such high family demand.....I know just where she's coming from. Many years ago when I had only one, then two little Angels, I did this. But it was something I felt I had to do....my mother had, my grandmother had, my aunties had.....so I had to too.....I had some deluded idea that it was essential for mummies to do this. Unfortunately, I also felt I had to do lots of other things as well, and eventually I made myself rather ill because I was trying to do too much......annnnd I didn't enjoy any of it. So I had to take a step back, and learn that I didn't have to do everything, and it was ok to buy cookies from the supermarket sometimes.

Now though, I'm in a much better place within myself, and I'm much more relaxed about buying cookies from the supermarket.....but I do like to try to have at least one tin of homemade goodies ready to delve into for dessert......or that special treat......but now I'm a lot more laid-back if stuff happens.....as it often does in our busy lives today.....and I don't manage to have a tin full of goodies. I also think that my Angels and I appreciate homemade all the more when there isn't an abundant choice and constant supply of homemade goodies in the tins.....when I was a little girl I took all the wonderful home baking that I could help myself to for granted, and longed for supermarket bought, packet biscuits in my lunchbox. Of course, now I realise how very lucky I was, and want for my Angels to have, and enjoy homemade baking without them becoming unappreciative of the delights, superior taste and texture, and homeliness that is home baking, as I did......and with me ENJOYING the making and baking, but feeling relaxed and OK if I just don't have time now and again to always have a tin full of homemade deliciousness to devour at dessert time.

 that I have learnt I can't do everything all the time.....I  that I have learnt to enjoy the making and baking again.... that I can teach my Angels the delights of making, baking and eating homemade goodies......but I also  it when they have mastered the making and baking, and I can just enjoy the eating ......more jam tarts please! 


-xx-




Friday, 9 September 2011

Baking Banana Bread & Building Self-Confidence......

While I was busy trying to solve my "sheet of steel" situation, and come to grips with using an angle grinder, my Big Lad decided to use up some "past their best" bananas and make a double batch of yummy scrummy banana bread......




which we ate still warm, after our dinner that Big Lad had also prepared by himself.

I think it's brill that Big Lad.....and Big Miss too.....are now able to do things like this.....not only is it a huge help to me......especially when I get caught up in an unexpected and long-winded job......but it's also great for their own independence and self-confidence.

Learning to bake and make dinner......things I believe are important life skills......seem to be far less important today......with such a huge range of ready made everything out there now.......than when I was a child. I think this is really rather sad, and also somewhat limiting to our children......not giving them the opportunity to learn a broad range of skills to help them develop into well-rounded, well-grounded, independent adults......skills that were once considered necessary to know before leaving home. Skills like being able to prepare a simple but delicious meal for oneself......or friends and family......are such a fundamental part of being able to care for and nurture oneself.....or friends and family.....it's a very real and tangible way of showing LOVE. Sorry, I'll get off my soap box now.

It's wonderful to see my Angels' self confidence grow as they work out what works best for them, learn new skills, and master new recipes.......it gives them such a sense of achievement.....and as a mother, it's a very tangible way of seeing them grow and develop......which brings a real glow to my .

So it was -warming to see Big Miss, the day before we went to Norfolk, make some lovely jam tarts, and my absolute camping must-have......chocolate brownies......so we would have plenty of treats to keep us going while on holiday. She'd never made either of these before, and did this almost entirely on her own because I was busy packing. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts to sloooooow down and record these special achievements, we were in such a hurry to pack and be off, it completely slipped my mind to take some piccies of Big Miss's scrumptious baking......sorry, will definitely remember next time!

But it's not just Big Lad and Big Miss who have been baking......Little Lad and Little Miss made some chocolate refrigerator biscuit squares.....with just a little help and guidance......




and Little Miss helped me make some banana bread at the beginning of the holidays......




We seem to make quite a lot of banana bread......it's such a quick, easy and delicious way to use up bananas that have been left to ripen slightly.......but then somehow manage to ripen too much.

It's been wonderful to watch how much my Angels have become more independent and self-confident during the holidays, and I really believe some of this can be attributed to their baking endeavours. Little Miss can now even make her own sandwich for lunch......a skill which has well-pleased her......and probably everyone else, since she was always asking one or other of us to help her, usually at the most awkward of times. It certainly makes me think that learning good old fashioned life skills like baking really can help to build self-confidence and independence......and if you can master those attributes at a young age, you're on the right road to becoming a well-rounded, well-grounded adult......and if I can help my Angels to achieve that, then I'll know I've done the best I could for them.

-xx-



Monday, 5 September 2011

Sheet of Steel......

Oh my goodness.....somehow I have a knack of creating more work for myself than is necessary.......during the last week of the holidays, Big Lad spruced up the shed with a few coats of Black Ash stain.......it looked lovely, with the added bonus of it disappearing into the shadows of the trees around it.....so I decided it would be nice to plant a couple of clematis plants I had languishing around in pots, in front of the shed, with the black background to set off the green foliage and pretty flowers when they bloom.

I was all set for a couple of hours of work.......to make a little edge with some bricks......dig a couple of holes.......plant said plants.......bob's your uncle ......job done. I wish. As soon as I started to dig the first hole, thud......I'd hit something.......I tried again......and again.......and again. No joy.....it seemed no hole was going to be dug here. What on earth was this? So I started to excavate and traced the line of a very large and very unexpected sheet of steel. My friend M thinks it is probably a piece of the old wartime bunker people had at the bottom of their gardens......buried.....instead of having it removed from the property. Unfortunately, I couldn't just pick it up, or pull it out because it seemed to protrude from some paving slabs that I am unable to lift or move.....




So.....here I was, with a rather large sheet of steel, right where I wanted to plant my clematis......what should I do......how would I get this out? I poked ......prodded......pulled.......excavated dirt.....bent it up with great difficulty ......bent it down again, with even more difficulty.....smashed holes in it with a huge pick axe, to hopefully give me some purchase to move it.....excavated some more dirt.....Big Lad came to help.....still nothing......it just wouldn't budge ......decided to riddle it with enough holes from the pick axe until a piece broke off......well, it might be easier if it wasn't so heavy.....so removing half would make it lighter......surely?

Nope, not on your nelly......it just didn't want to come out.....all it did was leave a very jagged....very rusty......and very dangerous edge. What to do now? Big Lad said I needed to cut it out......but I just didn't have anything that could cut through a sheet of steel......and it was time for dinner......it had taken me nearly all afternoon.......and I was no nearer to planting my plants.....but now I had something far too dangerous to just cover back over with dirt and plant the poor old clematis elsewhere.

Time to call a friend.....or a Dad even. My Dad is brilliant......he always knows what to do.....only thing for it, he said.....you'll need to buy an angle grinder ......WHAAAAT......a BIG scary...extremely dangerous.......power tool? Yep, that's what you need, he said.

Bright and early the next morning......an angle grinder duly purchased..... instructions read......kitted out in goggles and leather gloves......I took to that there sheet of steel.......




Sparks flying.....Little Lad.....who was standing well, well away......said we wouldn't need to buy fireworks anymore, Mummy can just provide entertainment with her new toy.....




One way or other, I WAS going to plant my clematis in front of the shed.......


One way or another, I WAS going to have it out......and I did......I'd done it......by 12pm that there sheet of steel was history.....




I backfilled all the earth I'd excavated.......relaid all the bricks I'd disturbed ......finished my little brick edging.....dug two holes......and......planted my dear old clematis plants......






They've always done pretty well in their pots, despite not really being looked after......hopefully they'll like their new position......and reward and delight me for all my hard work with the most glorious flowers next spring and summer.

And the new toy in question.......one lean.....mean......cutting machine........




Somehow it just doesn't really look much sitting there all docile and innocuous .......but this is one very seriously dangerous and potentially gruesome piece of machinery.

And so, after all that, instead of the job taking me a couple of hours......it actually ended up taking a couple of days......like I said, I have a knack for creating more work than is necessary. It would have been so much easier to have just covered the steel back over as soon as I hit it, and decided to plant my clematis elsewhere, rather than taking up two precious days which I could have spent with my darling Angels before they headed back to school for another year .......but that would have meant letting the sheet of steel defeat me.......my clematis would not be looking lovely against the black of the shed.......I wouldn't have learnt a brand new skill......my Angels wouldn't have seen their mother succeed instead of giving up.......and I wouldn't have gained a huge boost of self confidence. So it wasn't two precious days wasted......rather, they were two days that were different from what I had planned or expected......with a different set of positive outcomes.

I am so chuffed and proud of what I've achieved.....quite an amazing feat for me, I must say.......there has been a time in my life when I would never.....ever..... have considered taking up a power tool of any kind......but those days are well gone now......this is the new lean...well not so lean.......mean.....me.....not to be held back by any sheet of steel......when needs must.......and.....where there's a woman.....ooops I mean, will.....there's a way.

-xx-

Sunday, 4 September 2011

My Dad.....

I've been thinking about my Dad......it's a special day for him today.....but sadly, I couldn't be with him.

My Dad is wonderful, amazing and admirable.......he's always there for me whenever I need him.......he's wise about the ways of life.......he's always got an ear to listen, even if he's really busy.......he always knows what to do......when he gets to see my Angels, he's a fantastic Grandpa........even when he doesn't, he gets them fabulous presents.......he's generous.....he likes making mischief........he's knowledgable about all sorts of things...and lots of useless information too.......he's strong ......he's always willing to help me however he can.....he gives really good advice ...and the occasional cheeky quip too........he always knows how best to help me out of whatever jam I've managed to get myself into....he loves me...and I love him...... he's the best Dad ever.

Today he told me he was proud of me.......that meant sooooo much to me.......the world, in fact.

Sadly, I don't get to see him very often, but we talk on the phone regularly...... this isn't ideal.....but that's just how it is.......I miss his cuddles...and his kiss goodnight........I don't know what I would do without my Dad.






This one's for you Dad......

thank you for EVERYTHING.......

All my , always & forever......

-xx-