Monday 23 January 2012

Flowers in the house

Flowers in the house for flwrjane at smallbutcharming
You'll remember that I dried the roses from my Christmas bouquet by hanging them from the creel. Now they are in a small vase above the fireplace, to be enjoyed for a while until a supply can be picked fresh from the garden.

Last year's orchid hasn't so much as blinked.

Whilst there is always something flowering in the garden, whatever the weather, this time of year does not provide large displays of colour; offerings are small and subtle, a scented branch, a bunch of snowdrops or primroses.
So my weekly shopping always includes a bunch of flowers and I take time and pleasure in studying the display and in making my choice.

You've seen these African violets before, many times. I know you have because they never seem to stop flowering. A friend came to the house the other day and said, "Are those REAL?"

They are, but artificial lighting is not very subtle!

Saturday 21 January 2012

Body matters

Yesterday was a relatively mild, dry day and I worked in the garden for the first time in weeks. There is a great deal of tidying up to be done, with old leaves and debris to be cleared away from the first new shoots.
I made an impressive bonfire but it is too damp at the moment to make any attempt to set it alight.

I stayed outside for far too long and by the time I had put the garden tools away I could barely straighten up.
A long hot soak in the bath left me feeling only a little better. February is approaching and I find it the most depressing month, cold temperatures and low light levels combine with the seasonal panic that my body is no longer up to the task of doing much. Why I never gain experience from previous years I don't know, and start with only very short sessions of gardening until my body gets back into its stride.
Anyhow, once I was snugly togged up in my pj's and slippers, I turned on the computer and had a look at Blogland.
Janet, living in California at the gardener's cottage was talking about her weight loss.  It is over a decade since Himself and I were in America. We were absolutely horrified at the size of many people and by the amount of food served as a single portion. The sandwiches that we bought on Nantucket Island were too large to be eaten at one sitting. We had them put in a doggy bag and they fed us for all the following day!
Of course Britain follows where America leads and now we have a huge number of clinically, and sadly often young, obese.
Janet is slender, especially so after six months of careful eating and exercise. Her post makes such interesting reading because she describes very clearly her reasoning and method for her personal success. (I have to say that she is impressively self-disciplined!) I note that we started out the same height, lost an inch and remain the same height - I hope that this is not an ominous sign for the state of our bones!

I have never been as concerned about food as I am at the present time, having been brought up short by extreme pain and the knowledge that some of the things that I love to eat, such as biscuits and chocolate, do me no good at all. My weight hasn't gained very much in half a century, I'm about eight pounds heavier, at 128lbs. (Similar to Janet BEFORE she lost weight!) However, everything has slumped - when your nipples start looking at your toes you know that you are past middle age! So, yes, I'm interested in food, not for how it makes me look but for how it impacts on the state of my health.

Breakfast is porridge made with goats milk, with the addition of flaked almonds and a selection of fresh and dried fruit.

Snacks and grazing are fruits, seeds and nuts

and often one meal of the day is home-made soup. 

I'm extending my repertoire with the aid of the fat free vegetarian cookbook borrowed from my neighbours, Kim and Andy. Today I've made chickpea and parsley

because there is plenty of parsley in the garden.

I tend to wander somewhat from recipes. Do you do that? This one should have been chickpea, lemon and parsley but I had some roast parsnip, squash and garlic in the fridge so I popped them in the pot and thought that adding lemon as well might be a bit much.
The resulting soup was very thick, like a pottage. I gave it a crunchy topping of toasted pumpkin seeds and pistachio nuts.

I've got plenty of parsnips to dig up in the vegetable garden, so you can see which soup I'll be making next!

(What I would REALLY like would be a well-toned body. I realise, as Janet makes clear, that exercise is essential, but since I can barely touch my toes at the moment I'll pass for now!)

Sunday 15 January 2012

Liebster blog

At the end of last year the hostess of the humble bungalow very kindly gave me a Liebster award and here I am at last getting round to responding to it.
Choosing causes me to think of why I am attracted to certain blogs and not at all to others. I am, of course, an avid follower of some that have a simply huge following, and I love beautiful photos. Steve's blog at an urban cottage and Janet's at the gardener's cottage are two examples. What they have in common with the five Leibsters below, is their ability to present themselves so that I feel as though I know them and that if they lived just round the corner we would get on really well. 
Some blogs seem to me to be very sales based or to be just showing off. Some are too worthy to interest me - and nothing but text is a turn off, I do like a picture! 
Here's my Liebster choice.

1.Bozena at the textile cuisine gives an insight into her creative process by showing and sharing her ideas and work in progress.

2.Bertie of what ho hidcote  is a trainee gardener at the wonderful National Trust garden of Hidcote, created by the American Lawrence Johnston. He provides a glorious peep behind the scenes with his breathtaking photos.

3. Bonnie of living life by the seat of my pants really needs to move house and come and live next door to me. Then we could swap books, go shopping, talk....

4. Cro of Magnon's Meanderings  is an artist who has lived in France for many years and shares his happy life with us through the pages of his blog. It is full of warmth and good humour, and the beauty of his surroundings, the sunshine and his swimming pool make me green with envy!

5. Gary of a day in the life is another gardener. He goes out and about with his camera so that we can share many lovely outings and has also written very movingly about his family background.

I can't add the elegant Dash from the French sampler to my list because she has far too many followers. Like Cro, she is from England, (a Yorkshire woman, no less!) but living in France. Her images are always extremely beautiful. And, like Steve, above, she is always off camera - one day I hope to glimpse her! She makes France look quite the most desirable place to be.

Friday 13 January 2012

Hanging on

Most of my Christmas bouquet is in the compost heap but a few of the rose heads that I could not bear to throw out hang from the creel in the kitchen. I've strung them on a string so that they will stand straight on their stalks once they are thoroughly dry.
In the evening they have to share space with the washing!

(And I'm still hanging on to my gall bladder - but not for much longer. It's going to be whipped out soon!)

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Roses in January

It's a dull old day, but when I looked out of the landing window this morning I saw a tree bravely, or foolishly, covered in pink blossom.

In the garden three bedraggled roses were in bloom. There are signs of an early spring everywhere, small clumps of primroses and other growth that will be hard hit if February turns out to be it's usual cruel month.
I've picked the roses and put them on my kitchen table where I can enjoy them in the warmth.

Friday 6 January 2012

Back in the attic.

Christmas and New Year festivities are over and the decorations have been boxed up and returned to the attic.

The house looks rather bare and undressed and certainly lacking in colour minus the red berries and sparkling lights.

I decorate the mantelpiece with a few dried rose heads from an old bouquet.

Thank goodness for Janet's New Years Day flowers, her anenomes  have opened into a most welcome burst of colour.

Now I must get down to the seasonal task of removing feathers from the pheasants and duck that are waiting in the greenhouse!

The duck was a present. I never buy duck meat, I think that they are beautiful birds and am sad that they are shot for sport. However, since the deed was done, I am perfectly happy to make a good meal of the meat. The feathers are perfect, soft downy breast and glamorous wings. I'm left with such a small, pimply-looking character when it is stripped of all its glory! 

I have a number of good recipes. Which one to use? The duck breast with rosti is from the Good Housekeeping Aga book.

The recipe for terrine of duck comes from Mrs Beeton's game cookery book.

This book was an Easter present to my parents. My father could make a great game pie, hence the nature of the present and the message on the flyleaf!

Sunday 1 January 2012


There are no street lights in our village and last night we dodged our way around the rain puddles with the aid of torchlight on the way to our neighbours New Year's Eve party.

(A typical winter position in British households in winter is leaning with your bum against an Aga!)

The food was delicious - I tried hard not to look at the desserts!

Waiting for the clock to strike midnight.


Round about two in the morning I was back home putting a good splash of brandy on the pheasant joints for our first of January lunch. With the addition of thyme and parsley, juniper berries and garlic the meat was left to marinade until a more respectable time in the morning.

A meal of locally shot birds and home-grown vegetables and herbs make a good start 2012!

We have celebrated the start of many New Years with our friends Janet and Steve, always happy times, the best company, and here comes Janet, bringing flowers.

Maisie is partied out. 

We loll in the sitting room in the warmth of the wood burning stove,

and feel a little bit partied out ourselves! 
(Do you like the Christmas socks?)

Wishing you all a happy, healthy year to come.