Monday 27 February 2012

Flowers in the house

Flowers in the house for Jane at SmallbutCharming.
Dried roses in a mug,
a few shop bought flowers and some greenery from the garden
and the orchid minus one flower - only one! I've moved it out of of the dining room and direct sunshine and hope that it will be better suited in its new position.

Saturday 25 February 2012


Yesterday we traveled to the village of Lacock, in Wiltshire, to meet up with friends. We were students together but for many years have lived in different parts of the country, so on the infrequent occasions that we get together it is non-stop talking! The village is deserving of far better photographs than are on offer here and I'll return and give it proper attention when some good weather comes.

There are many quirky old buildings. The village is unspoilt by any modern development and it is popular as a film location. It has been used for a number of Jane Austen productions, including 'Pride and Prejudice"  and also for Harry Potter and various other films.
The picture below shows a crew from the BBC recording an episode for the television series of 'Cranford'.

We had a long pub lunch
did a little sauntering about the streets, admiring the decorative houses,

before sitting down for a lot more chatting and a cup of tea!

Of course the advantage of visiting on a dull winter day was that the streets were quiet, there was no problem being seated to eat and parking was easy - can't promise any of that when I return in the summer!

Monday 20 February 2012

Flowers outside and in.

There are signs of approaching spring all about the garden but I can't, as yet, feel too much enthusiasm for being outside. 
There is plenty of work to be done and everything looks so scruffy at this time of year.

Blossom has been marked by bad weather

and birds have attacked the crocus flowers.

Moss swamps the mounds of thyme

and bare branches on the trellis look unkempt.

My citrus trees, all under glass, are struggling. I've taken the fruit from the lemon tree and pruned hard back. I would hate to loose it as it was a present from my father. It has been providing us with fruit for many years.

It's nicer to be inside.
In the sitting room a little pot of 'tete a tete' is a cheerful sight. (It came free with bags of compost from my local garden centre.)

I love white flowers.

In the dining room the walls create a good foil for strong, vibrantly-coloured flowers.

Last week Heidi, one half of the Young and Fit, our fabulous holiday companions, popped over to see us. She came with this beautiful bouquet,

and every day

it becomes

even more


Flowers are so uplifting. Thank you, Heidi!

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Sunday 12 February 2012

Weekend walks

On Saturday morning we woke to a fine day, the biting wind had gone and also the last of the snow. There was sunshine and a clear blue sky. Time to lace up our boots and enjoy a long walk.
We walked along an upper ridge path to catch every bit of the sunshine, (I didn't take my camera.) The ground was still frozen, so walking was clean and easy, each step giving a satisfyingly crisp crunch underfoot.

We were out with friends in the evening so Sunday had a leisurely start. It was a grey morning, a perfect excuse to sit by the fire and read the papers. But after lunch the sun shone. We have had so little sun this winter that we can't afford to waste it, so we put on our outdoor clothes and went for a walk through the woods.

 There was the whirring sound of a chain saw being wielded up ahead of us and the pathway had been widened with use as a quad bike and trailer moved up and down the track carrying the felled wood to the stables.

There are certainly plenty of trees down and lots of dead wood to collect.

The shooting season is over but the feeding containers are still dotted about. In the middle distance the old trees have been cleared and replaced with new saplings, carefully sleeve wrapped to protect them from deer and squirrels.

The sun was setting by the time we reached the lake
and ducks were strolling about on the retreating ice.

The temperature was dropping and it was good to be heading for home.

Friday 10 February 2012

Low fat food

I'm still rattling about complete with my gallstones. So much for the NHS priority admission within the month - the month has come and gone! So I am playing safe and trying to adapt my eating patterns to a low fat intake. But it's win some, lose some on the recipe front.
I thought that this recipe for carrot and sweet potato fishcakes sounded good.
100g cooked, flaked white fish
50g carrot
50g sweet potato
2 teaspoons of Wasabi sauce
1 teaspoon chopped herbs.

Cook and mash the veg. Combine all the ingredients. Shape into two fishcakes. Roll lightly in polenta and sesame seeds. Place on a greased tray and bake for 20 minutes or so.

Looks nice, doesn't it? disappointing because I could barely taste the fish. Next time I'll make it with smoked haddock and hope that it will be more successful.

I was much happier with this alternative recipe for crumble.

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon xylitol
50g oats
1 tablespoon each of flaked almonds, pistachio nuts, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds and ground almonds.

Fry the oats in the melted oil and xylitol for a few minutes until they colour. Add all the remaining ingredients. Spoon over your cooked fruit.

This recipe for oaty crisps is from the Fat-Free Vegetarian cookbook.
6 oz oats
3 oz sugar (I halved this)
1 beaten egg
4 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 tablespoons malt extract.

Mix all together and leave to stand for 15 minutes. Place 18 teaspoonfuls on baking trays, flatten with a fork and cook for 10 to 15 minutes.

I use these jumbo oats as they are soft and delicious
(and I'm susceptible to a nice bit of packaging, having worked as an illustrator for advertising and packaging.)

As usual I didn't quite stick to the recipe. I halved the amount of sugar and added chopped pieces of crystalized ginger.

The resulting biscuits looked nothing like the photograph in the book!

Mine were very mis-shapen and the malt extract seemed to have sunk to the base of the biscuit.

No panic, they still tasted good!

In searching for low fat menus I am being introduced to products that are quite new to me. Coconut oil is a very happy discovery, delicious in stir fries as well as in baking. Malt extract is well known to me although I haven't tasted it for many years. I was given a teaspoon of 'Virol' and a teaspoon of cod liver oil every morning throughout my childhood!
It's best not to think about the air miles involved in my new purchases, goods from Sri Lanka, Fiji and different parts of the world. At least I can balance things a little by stepping no further than my garden or the storage shed for winter vegetables.

If you have any tasty low fat recipes I would love to have them.