28/06/2015 § 6 Comments
Many, many years ago growing up in rural west Wales, my first boyfriend was the farmer’s youngest son from over the field. His mother was a real matriarch – 4 strong boys she raised – she was ambitious and scary and loved me like a daughter.
She ran the farmhouse like clockwork – and knew all that was happening on every inch of the farm. Pet lambs followed her into the huge cool kitchen, with its dark flagstone floor and black coal-fired range that blasted out heat even on the hottest summer day. Dogs were chased out of the kitchen with the broom – as were the hens. The boys devoured everything she cooked – and she was an awesome cook. Mostly it was good, straightforward food – nothing fancy, but lots of it. Beef, eggs, potatoes, veg from the garden and fruit from the hedgerows and kitchen garden. But when there were visitors or a fete at the village hall, she always produced the most amazing sponge cakes. I remember her telling me her secret – WEIGH THE EGGS!
Well, she left her kitchen and her sons some years ago when she was well into her 80’s. I think there was a little part of her that still loved me, at least that what she said when I last spoke to her, but I never got over the feeling that she never forgave me for marrying someone else and producing his amazing children instead of her own grandchildren. She was in tears one night, when we were visiting the village on holiday and my little brood had won some prizes in the local village fete – she sniffed into her hankie whilst sitting next to my mother and said “your grand-children should have been ours to share”! Oh dear. That’s life, I suppose and some things aren’t meant to be.
I remembered her today when I saw the little collection of eggs that Flora’s been laying over the past few days. I’ve had a dreadful lurgy/flu-like bug and haven’t been up to doing or cooking anything much. Truth to say – I’ve spent a few days in bed with a temperature and feeling very wobbly. Feeling a bit chirpier this morning, I decided to make a sponge and I followed Mrs P’s advice from all those years ago – I weighed the eggs!
Three eggs came in at 5 oz (I have imperial weights on my old scales still, which is fine because everything had to weigh the same) – butter, flour and sugar. A spoonful of freshly boiled water after mixing, to relax the mixture and WOW – a perfect sponge …
Oh, it was lovely – still is (I haven’t eaten all of it)! I know it won’t last long once my sons J1 and J2 descend tomorrow. Thank you Mrs P – I’ll always love you a little bit too, and that youngest son of yours, and your secret for the perfect sponge. Thanks too, to Flora for producing the most amazing eggs!
15/06/2015 § 3 Comments
In the raised bed by the patio, many years ago, I planted a climber – for colour and perfume. Last winter I really cut it back very hard, fed it regularly and I’m being rewarded with the most glorious display ever. On these still, warm June evenings the perfume is quite delicious. Every day intensely deep burnt orange buds open into full glorious blooms then fade to pale parchment before the petals fall.
For Father’s Day a good while back, the children bought my husband a Dublin Bay rose. He loved Dublin very much and every year returned to his grandfather’s home nation to take his students on a trip – so many who came to his memorial remember those trips as the highlight of their entire degree course! Dublin Bay rose is sublime, the colour indescribable – such an impossibly red, red! It clambers over the workshop verandah and I love, love, love it.
Back in the grey days of winter, I had a vision of the front of my house, covered in a pretty rambling rose and I treated myself to Albertine. I wrote about in my 400th post, and all the other landscaping works that were done, here. Today I gasped as the first bloom appeared …
I think it needs a bit of a drink and the rose had probably opened yesterday, but still it’s in bloom and I can’t wait for it to grow and grow all up and over the front of the house.
Pure Abundance is a white patio rose that delivers beautiful blooms every year and today I treated myself to yet another pretty patio rose that just needs a suitable pot to plant it in (more treats)!
I love using industrial/utilitarian pieces in the garden and at the local recycling place the other day, I spied a rusty old oil funnel and swapped it for 2 irreparable garden seats. The lawnmower bucket came home with me over 20 years ago, with a lawnmower attached! Last Spring it went onto a skip and then, when the boys weren’t looking, I got it out again. It’s been hanging around for years and I’ve never known quite what to do with it but the other afternoon, after bringing my trophy oil can home, I took a pickaxe to the side of it to create a hole (and a very large dent) and created something that makes me smile – and I’m certain in the knowledge that there’s not another one of these planters in the world!
There are sweet peas clambering up a trellis by the greenhouse, irises in the front garden and foxgloves everywhere …
Did you spot the happy duck in the photo above?
Flora sends you all her love (from the pond) …
Enjoy your garden and the sunshine
04/06/2015 § 6 Comments
I can’t believe I haven’t joined the National Trust before. I guess there are many and varied reasons given the difficulties we’ve faced over the past few years but I’m savouring the delights of wandering through beautiful grounds and grand country homes – it’s real therapy. Here are a few of my snaps from last weekend’s visit to Hinton Ampner, here in Hampshire …
I popped in to visit, as I was passing that way en route home from yet another village fete …
I’d enjoyed a scone with cream & jam and a lovely cup of tea, did some people watching – always fascinating, scoured the bric-a-brac stall with some success and came away with so many plants and a heavy manger to plant them in! Have I already said “I love summer fetes” … well, I truly do. This weekend I have something of a dilemma – there are 2 fetes at the same time, in different villages, some miles apart but quite close to Winchester. I think I’ll have to toss a coin to decide which one to visit. AND … there’s another one on Sunday – it must be THE weekend for summer fetes!
Yesterday, with my NT pass still burning a hole in my pocket, I met up with a friend and we visited Mottisfont. This is a grand house with a long and detailed history that is documented in many displays from the 12th Century as a Priory, through private ownership and family home, to country weekend retreat during the 1930’s. We toured the rooms, including the Whistler room then tiptoed upstairs to the maids’ quarters where to my delight, I found a patchwork quilt!
The roses in the walled gardens have taken a bit of a battering in recent high winds, but they’re still breathtaking – quite literally …
Such a lovely place to visit. We walked right around the grounds, up to the fisherman’s hut and back around the meadow by the shepherd’s hut. Next time I’ll take some photos in the stable block, which is one of my favourite parts of the whole estate.
It’s been a beautiful day here and I’ve just returned from a long walk around the farm, with the collies. There’s a pink sky, promising sunshine tomorrow so I’d best finish doing a bit of quilting so that I can enjoy the afternoon sunshine tomorrow, whilst stitching around the binding edges. Simple pleasures!
Have fun …
30/05/2015 § 2 Comments
Where are we now?
Late Spring? Early Summer?
I’ll let you decide, as we take a wander around the garden …
The foxgloves’ trumpet petals are speckled and loud with the hum of bees, in the afternoon sunshine. There’s a new alpine garden planted, next to the baker’s tray table and zinc planter where the succulents are happily spreading their cobwebby cups. I’ve discovered solar lanterns and the whole patio glows with soft lights once dusk descents at about 9 pm each evening.
My grandfather’s lily is in full bloom, with lots more shooting buds ready to unfurl. I wrote about it here, last year. The landscape gardener who came way back in January said it would bloom early as it’s not drowned out by overgrown shrubs – he was right! What a difference in the garden, from those bleak winter days.
I treated myself, at the village fete a couple of weeks ago, to a crystal rose bowl – it’s heavy and beautifully cut. Today I snipped the first Dublin Bay blooms and the first orange rose from the climber by the patio and added a few more bits from the garden to make a posy. I enjoyed the heavenly scent whilst I ate my dinner on the patio in the cool, still evening then brought it indoors to enjoy some more!
I took this photo by accident, as I was switching on my little camera, this afternoon. I rather like it! I joined the National Trust yesterday, and have already visited 2 local properties. Yesterday, a friend and I dodged the showers in the Rose Garden at Mottisfont and today … well, I had a solitary and rather wonderful wander which I’ll share with you next time. It’s Saturday and there was a summer fete involved too!
What has your weekend brought? Some sunshine, I hope …
~ ~ ~ please leave a comment, I love to hear from you ~ ~ ~
27/05/2015 § 6 Comments
At the weekend a mini convoy travelled west to Devon, for the River Cottage Spring Fair at RCHQ just outside Lyme Regis. My estate car was packed to the rafters with my stand and stock, my friend followed with the dogs and our supplies – plus a few cushions that I couldn’t fit in! I wasn’t sure what to expect but I had no need to worry – it was brilliant!
I used those brilliant table covers that look like granny square crochet that I bought a few weeks ago. I’d even hooked up some yarny cushions and stitched lots of freehand embroidered cushions featuring hens, retro caravans and of course … Flora Puddleduck! All those quilts that I’d worked so hard to complete last year, for the Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market came along and I was really pleased with how it looked.
On Saturday, the weather was amazing – hot, hot sunshine in the afternoon and the Sunday morning sunrise was awesome.
Sunday was cooler and a bit misty on occasions, but everyone who’d bought a ticket came along and enjoyed the demos, stalls and delights. People had travelled right across the UK to attend – indeed some people had travelled right across the world to be there. It was amazing to meet such a great crowd at such a tremendous event. There’s another fair in August, so keep a look out for tickets.
We fitted in a bit of jaunting on Monday, a welcome day to recover from the fair and visit the Donkey Sanctuary (sadly I’d left my camera behind, so this is a DS photo). What an amazing place to visit – I’ve never seen so many donkeys and they’re all such characters. I’d love to rehome a couple in the future – if and when I finally end up in a cottage with a paddock attached!
We had a lovely day touring around the beautiful countryside, little villages and Lyme Regis was quite magical in the evening light …
Were you there at RC? What did you think of it?
It’s done me good to be away and do a 2-day event – my first and hopefully not my last! After last October, I did wonder whether I’d want to pick up my patchwork again, let alone get out there and organise everything for an event. It was a challenge and I loved every minute!
What did you get up to at the weekend? I’ve arrived home to find the first roses in bloom, the foxgloves have grown about a foot and the runner beans have 2 leaves each! This morning I made another little alpine/succulent garden that I’ll show you next time – prepare for a wander around the garden, with me and Flora!
~ ~ ~ please leave a comment ~ ~ ~
16/05/2015 § 4 Comments
to spend a late Spring afternoon …
If I said “Say the first things that come into your head when I say … English Village Fete. What would you say?”
village green or manor house lawns
oodles of sunshine
stalls – plants, bric-a-brac, toys, bottle stall, raffle
lots of laughter
games for the children – coconut shy, bowling, face painting
tea stall with homemade cakes
What about teas served in the stable block with a huge choice of delicious homemade cakes and cookies, wheelbarrows full of goodies being raffled, amazing bric-a-brac and acres of orderly gardens to wander through and admire?
Here you have one of the best from a local village in Hampshire …
This is the third village fete I’ve been to this year. The first two were really disappointing, despite some valiant locals turning out and rallying support. Today’s village fete more than made up for it – the entire village had turned out and judging from the car park, many had travelled to visit. The cake stall was groaning with freshly baked cakes, people were turning up with cakes almost still warm from the oven! I found a Le Creuset kettle, a little china horse, a marble clock and a cast iron blini pan on the bric-a-brac stall and wished I hadn’t so much to carry as I wandered up through the gates at the top of the lawn, into the biggest walled garden ever! Espalier fruit trees trained up the walls, ornamental hedges, orderly rows of bean poles, rhubarb larger then I’ve ever seen – oh it was glorious. After exploring in wonder, I discovered the avenue leading up to a clock tower and then wound my way back through the wild garden full of bluebells to the sanctity of the tea stall, in the stable block. Never have I enjoyed a good strong cuppa and lemon drizzle cake so much! Then a final wander around to buy some raffle tickets and home again with my treasures to sit on the patio and enjoy another large cuppa with boiling water straight from my new kettle!
Do you enjoy village fetes? They’re right up there at the top of the things I love most about living in England.
Enjoy the rest of the weekend.
10/05/2015 § 7 Comments
April’s arrived in May, with a blast of heavy showers, high winds and chilly evenings. Just a month ago, it was incredibly sunny and warm – I was even sewing in the garden! I’m not complaining – the garden was so dry and I feared for my newly sown grass. Here are some catch-up photos of the garden, wonderful wisteria, Dorset cottage gems and last week’s mooch around the glorious bluebell woods here in Hampshire …
and yesterday, in Alton’s Makers’ Market …
Back soon …