Saturday 31 December 2011

Going, going....

The year will soon be over, but the flowers bought for Christmas are still going strong, buds are opening and, together with the Christmas tree, bringing much-needed colour to counteract the dull, wet weather out of doors.

Some of the roses are  a lovely dusky grey-pink, just the colour that I keep trying to grow in the garden, with little success. 
It is also difficult to capture this colour on my camera, natural light is so low at this time of year that the camera tries to compensate and artificial light also distorts.
We are crossing the road to bring in the New Year with our neighbours. There will be great company, food, drink and dancing.
I'v polished my dancing shoes (and I'll be taking my camera!)

Saturday 24 December 2011

Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve is when we decorate the house. The tree is brought in from a corner of the garden and the boxes of ornaments carried down from the attic.  It is not the most elegant of trees, a bit bald looking in places. We have had this one for a good five years or more and by the time we have laden it with years of assorted finery  its imperfections will not be noticed.
It is always a red and green theme. The red ornaments are mostly apples and hearts.

The hearts have been handmade
 and given to me over the years as small Christmas gifts..

A window-cill is cleared to make room for the nativity,

and we are ready!


Friday 23 December 2011

A present from the neighbours

Mmm, delicious - a brace of pheasant. They were shot last weekend but I've skinned them today (see my January posting 'pheasant' for the quickest and most simple way) and put the breast and leg meat in the freezer ready to make a tasty casserole in the New Year. I normally hang them for a little longer so that the flavour can develop, but the weather is quite mild and also from tomorrow the kitchen will be full of Christmas activity. 
The Christmas tree is to decorate but I've mislaid the fairy. I hope you are all far better organized than I am!

Thursday 15 December 2011

Low-fat mincemeat


225g soft dark brown sugar
200 ml apple juice
900g cooking apples, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp powdered cinnamon
225g currants
225g raisins
50g slivered almonds
grated rind and juice of a lemon.

Melt the sugar in the apple juice. When completely dissolved add everything else, bring to the boil and then simmer for half an hour until you have a soft mash.
Bottle while hot into sterilised jars. Fills about five jars. 

I like to add a splash of brandy or cointreau to each jar for a little extra flavour.

Because this recipe doesn't contain the usual suet it is not a long keeper but will be fine for a couple of months in a cool, dark place.
(The doctor phoned today and apparently I'm all but rattling with gall stones. Unless someone can give me a fat-free pastry recipe for pastry there will be no mince pies for me!)

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Flowers in the house

Fierce weather has brought down some lovely branches at the edge of the woods. Just the job for making a rather lopsided Christmas wreath.

Here is my marsh orchid for flwrjane at smallbutcharming. It is as white as the hailstones that are hammering against the window pane.

Pull down the blind!

I've rescued a few bedraggled flowers from the garden. A couple of 'Iceberg' roses that were covered in ice sit in a vase with seeded parsley, some sage and bay leaves. Another small  vase contains colourful fuchsias.

The curtains are drawn and the wood burner lit. 
Keep warm.

Thursday 8 December 2011


Earlier occupants of our home planted  a group of three silver birch trees in a corner of the garden. They grew and, fighting for space, started to lean, so, some years ago, we had one removed and reduced the height of the others. The remaining two have re-grown prodigiously and it is time to say goodbye to another and to shorten the survivor.
While we are about it we shall have the fir trees that border the road cut back a little.

The smaller birch tree branches and the cuttings from the fir trees are all chipped. It's useful stuff and at some time in the future I'll be spreading it down as a mulch.
We've also got quite a good supply of birch logs to cut and store.

Ah, that's better, we can see daylight!

Saturday 19 November 2011


Yesterday morning promised another lovely day. Good, there were jobs to be done outside.

Just beyond our garden there is a phone box. It is very handy for giving directions to the house. "Come down the hill, and when you see a phone box on your right, you are by our drive."
But with the advent of mobile phones these boxes are no longer used. The telephone was taken out some while ago and there were fears that the box itself would be  dismantled and taken away.

As telephone boxes become redundant communities are being given the choice as to whether they want them removed from the streets, and if not, whether they are prepared to purchase and maintain them.
Novel use is being made of these iconic structures. A nearby village uses theirs as a book exchange.
The telephone box is not the first thing in our hamlet to have become redundant. A number of years ago I painted this watercolour. It depicts, as well as the telephone box, a toad crossing street sign. Each spring hundreds of toads would cross the road on their way to spawn in the lake. Householders would come out at night with torches and buckets to scoop them up and deposit them safely by the lakeside. In spite of this the road would still be splattered with casualties. Over the years the numbers of toads reduced to a trickle and a few years ago the council removed the sign from the lamp post. 
I took the painting to the printers and had some blank cards made. The title, printed on the back was, 'Toad crossing'. When I collected the cards from the printers he asked, "where is the toad?" He had been looking on the road in vain, searching for a toad!

There was enough interest shown in our community for the council to purchase the kiosk. (For a pound!) It is a K series, as designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in the 1930's. I think that many of them are now listed buildings. There is a National Kiosk Collection in Bromsgrove, Worcs.
A neighbour gave our kiosk a thorough clean and then Himself got to work scraping down.

Then it was time for the undercoat. How strange the phone box looked, minus its post office red.

A first coat of red paint. Ah, that's more like it!

We shall have to decide just what use we are going to make of it. There are various suggestions, including the housing of a defibrillator, but no final decisions as yet.

Thursday 17 November 2011

A perfect day

The great thing about owning a dog is that they get you out for a daily walk whatever the weather. Yesterday was one of those low light level days, with a heavy, moisture laden mist. I saw three sets of village dog walkers disappearing before me into the hammer horror mist. In the woods the weather had silenced any noise other than the occasional drip from the overhanging branches and the noise of my boots kicking through the leaves. It was beautiful in its own way, but what a contrast today is!

A clear, bright day that lights up the autumn colours. We walk beside the lake towards the woods

keeping to the fields to enjoy being in the sunshine.

The wild apple trees are still hanging on to their small, green fruit

but back at home the apple season is definitely over, only one or two brave souls still hang from the branches.

Sunday 13 November 2011


And scarlet by each ragged fen
Long scattered ranks of poppies lay.
As though the blood of the dead men
had not been wholly washed away.

Excerpt  'From Albert to Bapaume' by Alec Waugh.

I've been wearing a very bright poppy on my jacket this week. We bought it from a young soldier in Barbados. Compared to our British versions it is a very colourful affair.

We bought very little on holiday, just our quota of Mount Gay rum, (that's the Christmas rum sauce sorted) some of my favourite vanilla essence and a bottle of pepper sauce for our younger daughter.

The only thing that Himself wanted was an outrageous shirt. We had a good hunt on each of the islands and Barbados finally delivered the goods. Three very lively Bajan women took on the responsibility of making the right choice. They insisted that he try on the goods and sat in a row passing judgement as he wore various shirts. 
"Wrong colour, man, makes you look washed out." (WASHED OUT! You should have seen his suntan!)
This shirt met with their approval, so, of course, it had to be bought. 

Don't ask me when and where he plans to wear it.

It's good to be home. The garden is bedraggled with few flowers to pick so I've bought roses to put in the sitting and dining rooms.

It's been a beautiful, mild day and I've been sweeping up copious amounts of horse-chestnut leaves. It's a delight to be outside when the weather is like this.