Wednesday, 25 March 2015


Hi! I've not posted for the last couple of days because I went up to visit my sister in Nottingham. By golly, does she spoil us when we go there! Wonderful food as ever and because I took me eldest (Gluten Free and Vegan), my sister rose magnificently to the new challenge and cooked up some fabulous recipes for her to eat.
Jamie Oliver's, nut roast with mushrooms, tofu and spinach - delicious! 

Back home now though and thinking about all the little jobs I need to get done. So what am I actually doing? Reading everyone's blogs and writing on mine!!
I have managed to make another two containers of washing liquid this morning at least. I've also written a list and done one load of washing, so not an entirely wasted morning! 
The challenge of finding appropriate care for my Mum continues! For the uninitiated, this process is far from simple, particularly when you aren't close by! Due to her complex needs, there are only three homes in her area that are equipped to take her. One said yes, but I said no! Another one said yes, then changed their minds. The third is full with a long waiting list. The first one now has another place and I suspect that because Mum is in a hospital bed - bed blocking - she will have to move there, at least for the time being. Thank heavens that Mum isn't aware of all of this at least! It really is a case of one step forwards, three steps back. Perhaps this home will turn out to be just what Mum needs and my initial reservations (not founded on much more than instinct to be fair) will turn out to be unjustified!
We are off for our annual holiday next week. I have booked a week in a cottage in the Gower area of Wales, so I'm hoping for dry weather and some sunshine if at all possible so we can fit in lots of walks and I can play with my new camera which was my Birthday present at the weekend! There are a lot of buttons on it and all the instructions are in German! I did do my degree in German and French, but it was a VERY long time ago and it's very technical. Where we are staying is very remote, no TV, no internet, no phone! It will be a test for the teenagers amongst us, but also means that I won't be blogging at all next week - I haven't dropped off the face of the earth, just hibernating in rural Wales! I'm hoping to have some lovely photos to post the week after! Here is a link to where we are staying....its isolation looks magnificent to me :)

So, if I don't speak to you before hand, have a wonderful Easter break and I wish you all a peaceful, rewarding and gentle week ahead x 

Saturday, 21 March 2015

home made treasures - final part

And now on to the bedrooms...

Ours first..
The final piece from artist Rachel Shute, given to me the same Christmas I received my husband's song. I shed a few tears that year!

In my son's room....
He and his father are Manchester City fans, so when he moved into his own bedroom, I took his first kit and made it up into a framed piece. When I look at him now, it's hard to believe he ever fitted into it! 

My youngest daughter's room...

A découpaged box to match her vintage style room.

The frame I made her for Christmas this year

A take home gift from a friend's birthday party. A lovely idea! 

A memento of her babyhood x 

 Daughter number two's room...
The fabric covered door handles I made her this Chrismas.

The chairs I upcycled. The green for daughter number two and the pink to match my youngest daughter's room. 

My eldest daughter's bedroom is a war zone, so even if there are treasures up there, it would be difficult to see them! This is one of her pieces from GCSE Art which fortunately was just inside the hatch (she has the loft room). It's a shame I couldn't locate more of her beautiful embroidery pieces.... 

 Well that ends the tour of some of my home made treasures. They bring me joy every day and I'm looking to create many more, which I will of course blog about! Eventually I aim to have a totally individualised home full of hand crafted items and wonderful memories .
Have a fabulous weekend x 

Friday, 20 March 2015

Home made treasures (part two)

Moving on through the house....
In the bathroom we had a canvas made up from a photograph taken by either myself or one of my two eldest daughters (none of us could quite remember!). The bathroom is all very light and neutral in colour,  but the accent colours are chocolate and orange! 

This is so cheerful and because I was working in a school at the time, the Tech department made up the frame for me and printed it off for £7.50! 

In the hallway....
Illustrations of my three eldest children by the same North Devon artist - Rachel Shute - who did the mussels painting in the dining room. I used to childmind her son when he was very little. 

This was made for us by the parents of one of our students (we met whilst teaching at the same school)who was also our bridesmaid. Her mother made the cross stitch and her dad made the frame. All the pictures have meaning from our adored Golden Retriever to the ' key to learning'. The white flowers at the sides are the bryony flower.

In the upstairs cloakroom...
My husband wrote me a song and recorded it with a friend who was Head of Music at their school. It was my Christmas present and made me cry! Soppy old soul he is! 

Final instalment tomorrow! X 

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Home made treasures (Part one)

There are certain possessions dotted around my home that bring me particular pleasure because they have either been made by myself or my children or made for us by creative friends. I thought I would give you a little guided tour of my home made treasures and perhaps others could post some photos of their favourite little treasures?
I'm going to start from the back of the house in the conservatory...

Pebbles brought back from our holiday in Yorkshire, painted with acrylics.

Framed cards - the top one was from my eldest daughter last Mothers Day. I loved the colours!

This was a handmade card from my neighbour which was so beautiful it deserved to be framed!

My little seaside hanging made from driftwood collected from the beach at Staithes and recycled Galt  beads from my childhood

In my kitchen and dining room .....

I made these little magnetic découpage hearts as take-home gifts for my youngests Birthday party guests one year. This was my daughter's one. 

Painted by my eldest many many years ago! 

Painted by my youngest many years ago! 

My eldest daughter has been teaching herself cross stitch and embroidery. These are two of her earliest efforts. She's an absolute natural at it!

This Batik was made for me by a friend from my earliest teaching days. I love the colours in it!

One of our most recent acquisitions by another old friend who is a talented artist now living in the very beautiful North Devon. Again, I was drawn in by the stunning blues (my favourite colour!) 

Tomorrow, I'll continue the tour through the hall and upstairs. I'd love to see any home made, personalised gifts you have made or received. There's something so special about being able to look at an item and remember the person who made it at the same time as admiring the treasure itself!

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Life goes on

I know it's a cliché, but every loss is replaced with a new beginning. Surely that is the very cycle of life we all belong to? 

I am sad each time I look out of my windows and there is an eerie stillness at the bottom of the garden, but I also know that given time, there will be more life scratching around down there providing me with eggs and much amusement.

I am inordinately sad that my mother is slipping away from me more each day, but my brother and I are her legacy and we have done and will continue to do our best by her grandchildren, so the love and nurturing that she and dad gave us is passed on.
My father passed away 10 years ago last January and I remember very clearly looking out of my window the following day to see the first camellia bud opening. It was reassuring. Life affirming even! 
Yesterday I went into the conservatory to see all of the new growth including runner beans, newly popped up from the compost and I was reminded of life's inexorable cycle. 

Thank you so much to all of you who took the time to comment and also to those who no doubt popped by and thought of me. I am very comforted that the world is still populated by good, kind people. X 

Monday, 16 March 2015

A roller coaster ride

I haven't ever written a post like this before because I normally keep my posts fairly neutral, but yesterday was such an extraordinary day that I thought I'd share it with you. It is part of my journey after all and that was the original purpose of my blog.

My mother has been suffering from vascular dementia for some time now and due to a series of events (and yes they were unfortunate for those of you who know the books!), her health both physical and mental has deteriorated significantly and rapidly over the last 10 weeks. She is no longer able to live at home and presently is being cared for by the wonderful staff in a small Devon cottage hospital, whilst we wait for a suitable placement to become available. As it was Mother's Day yesterday, I felt I wanted to ring her and talk to her (we live over 3 hours away so visiting isn't easy). She was very drowsy, but recognised me at least. I wished her a Happy Mothers Day, but then she began to sob down the phone that her brother had died. (I knew he hadn't, but one for one terrible moment I thought perhaps it was true). Nothing I could say would reassure her, so we had to end the conversation after just a few traumatic moments.
My mother is a strong, independent-minded woman who worked most of her life. She is well educated, well travelled and interesting. She is generous and funny, challenging and infuriating too! The woman she is now, is not that woman. I have been robbed of my mother by this cruel disease. I am grieving for the loss of her whilst she is still alive and it's like a slow torture because I know that when the end comes to give her peace, I will grieve all over again at her passing.
After a difficult start, I decided to improve the day by posting my Homestart Mum a Mother's Day card from me to her. As I've said previously she's doing a fine job in difficult circumstances and I believe that people all benefit from being praised for their efforts. Hopefully she liked it.
My beautiful children cooked me a wonderful meal and had fun doing it too. I had roasted vegetable tart with home made coleslaw and potato salad, followed by chocolate chilli fondants served with ice cream and a rich chocolate sauce. The table was beautifully laid with flowers and candles and there was a lovely bottle of wine to go with the meal. It was a beautiful end to what had started out as an emotionally draining day...

Or so I thought...
.....unfortunately I am very sad to say that the foxes got Rosemary and Marigold last night. They snuck in in the dark and stole them away. I am very sad as I loved my two cheeky feathered ladies. It has been pretty horrendous going down to their run this morning and not being greeted by their funny little noises. I will get some more chickens, but not quite yet. There's some grieving still to be done.

So as you can see, a real emotional roller-coaster of a day. I feel utterly exhausted this morning. Not helped by an iPad update which blocked me from accessing my blog! 40 frustrating minutes later, I finally managed to regain access. As you can imagine, my patience was a little strained this morning, so I may not have been as lady like as I can be!!

Now I'm going to take a very deep breath, put on my pinny, plug in some loud music and clean. It will be suitably therapeutic I'm sure and cheaper than counselling, alcohol or drugs!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

GF Vegan spiced pumpkin and sultana cake with cinnamon frosting

A long title for what turned out to be little (or large) mouthfuls of heaven!! I found some recipes on they internet - merged and adapted a few so here's my adapted recipe -

It's on foil because my eldest was taking a slice for her night shift. As you can see the topping is a little thin, but still very tasty. 

2 cupfuls of pumpkin puree (I used a 400g tin of pumpkin puree because I had one)
1 cupful of vegan margarine (non vegans could use butter or stork)
1 1/2 cupfuls of sugar ( any variety would do I guess. I used granulated)
4 eggs ( I used vegan egg replacer of course)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp mixed spice
2 cupfuls GF self raising flour (or normal of you're not a coeliac!)
2 tsp GF baking powder
2 cups sultanas (I guess you could leave these out, but they added extra depth)

Whisk the pumpkin and spread together, beat in the sugar and eggs. Mix thoroughly. Carefully add the dry ingredients until everything is well incorporated. Stir in the sultanas.
Pour the mixture into a greased lined cake tin. I used a deep 20cm square tin.
Pop in a pre heated oven at 180c for about an hour. Test with a skewer. I left. I've to cook for the hour then popped it back in the oven after I had turned the heat off for another 20 mins.
Once the cake is totally cooled, add the frosting...

For the frosting:-
2 cups icing sugar
A few drops vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup vegan spread (or butter etc)
A few drops almond milk (or dairy alternative or even water)

Mix all of the ingredients together and then pop in the fridge whilst the cake is baking. I didn't leave mine long enough and it was rather runny - delicious still but too runny!!

This cake is beautifully spiced, moist, filling, moreish ....... I think you get the picture :)

Friday, 13 March 2015

This week's food shop

Two strikingly lazy cats enjoying the warmth in the conservatory, waiting for mummy to bring food back from the shop! 

I spent £78 yesterday on the week's food shop, including embarrassing numbers of toilet rolls (they are still eating them!!), toiletries and cat food. Now I'm on my cash budget I take £100 with me. Stupidly every week I worry that I'm not going to have enough (I always have my card just in case) and every week it comes in well under! You'd think I'd have learnt by now roughly what it might add up to. I suppose I could use one of those scanner things as I go round, but I think I'll stick to what I'm used to for now. You could argue that it gives me a pleasant surprise every week and the lady at the till was impressed with the fact that it was a full weeks shopping for a family of six with special dietary needs to boot!

On the menu this week:-

Thai sweet potato soup
Vegetarian casserole
Apple, butternut and chick pea curry with home made naan
Jerk sweet potato curry with rice and peas
Spicy vegan potato curry

And for my GF vegan bake? ....
Spiced pumpkin and sultana cake

Typing that I realise just how much curry we eat! I do love spicy food but I might try and intersperse the curry with the slightly blander casserole and risotto to ring the changes! I've only planned six meals because Mr D and I are out one night, so the others might just prepare themselves some beans on toast. They could try cooking for themselves, but ........

Also it's Mother's Day on Sunday, so I have requested that rather than buy me anything, I'd like them all to plan, prepare and cook me a nice meal. I wait with baited breath :)

Thursday, 12 March 2015

A bit more planting

I'm struggling to get motivated this morning, so I thought that a little gentle pottering in the garden, might just set me up for the day........

I potted up my butternut squash. I thought I only had two germinate, but as I tipped out the spent compost,  I realised another one was just starting to sprout, so I've potted that on too just in case!
I have also sown cucumber, summer squash and courgette to bring on in the conservatory. The tomatoes are coming along nicely and will be ready to pot on in a week or so.

Two weeks ago, I sowed some basil, pepper and chilli seeds which haven't germinated yet. I might give them one more week and then I'll try again.

The sweet peas and coriander are coming along nicely and hopefully the runner beans will pop their heads up soon too.

 I was starting to gather too many seeds for my original container, so I hunted around in the shed for something else to store them in for now. I rather like my repurposed wine gift box! On it's side, it makes an excellent container for now. I'll find a tin with a lid to store them in the dark at the end of the season, but this helps me keep them all in one place.
It would be wonderful to have a greenhouse, rather than fill my conservatory with seedlings, but I don't have space for one, so needs must!!
I might plant the onion and shallot sets today, put in my new rhubarb crown and bag up my final three potato bags and then I shall feel as if things are moving along a pace :)
This weather is truly a gift isn't it?

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

I don't just pootle - honest!

Sue over on Frugal in Suffolk often writes about what she has done that week. I find it very interesting getting a glimpse of other people's daily routines, so I thought I'd tell you what I do most weeks. It also seemed important that you don't think I spend my whole life pootling about baking cakes and reading articles!!
I start every day, once I'm washed and dressed, with cleaning out the chickens, having a little chat with them and a quick 'tour' of the garden to see what's coming into life. I then feed the cats before settling down to some breakfast for me - usually eggs and a second cup of tea (hubby brings me my first upstairs when he leaves for work at 7am. At some point in this routine, I have to check that the three school age children are up and getting ready - alarm clocks seem to be a foreign concept to them, although only a matter of  8 months ago, I would have left for work by half 7 and they managed then?!!!
Once they've all gone, I make all the beds, tidy up rooms, load the dishwasher, often put in a load of washing (about 8 to 10 washes a week whilst all six of us are at home!). I sweep the floors downstairs every day too as they are all hard floors. 
I tend to clean the house thoroughly once a week generally on a Monday. I also do several loads of washing and often the ironing on Monday too, so the rest of the week is more flexible. I do the food shop at the end of the week - Thursday or Friday and I try to visit my friend every Friday too for a cuppa and a catch up. 
In between whiles, I do some crafting, although less at the moment as I seem to have lost my mojo a bit....
Once a week I go out on my Homestart visit for a couple of hours too.
Depending on my eldest daughter's shift patterns, we might go out - yesterday we went to the local garden centre to get some more seeds and last week, to Wisley. If I'm on my own, I might go for a walk or take some time out to meditate. I presently have to phone the hospital/nursing home every day as my mother's health has taken a rapid and dramatic turn for the worse - there's going to be a huge amount to sort out there before long and I'm dreading it, but I keep telling myself that I'm better placed to deal with it now that I would have been before I gave up work!

The garden so far.....

I'm also gardening. Little by little, I am bringing 'project garden' to fruition. It might take me a while, but I can space it out over the next few months, so I don't want to rush at it, after all, it's supposed to be relaxing and enjoyable.
Of course, I also bake once a week and cook freshly prepared meals every evening. I read, both books and blogs and I love to listen to music of all kinds whilst I'm working.

My eldest daughter and I had spiralised courgette 'pasta' with a tomato sauce for lunch - delicious and super healthy! 

Now that's made me feel more productive!!  Many of you have husbands who are either working part time or retired now, so it's heartening to read about your shared tasks! It can seem quite daunting when it seems to be me doing the lions share of all the home chores, but when we enter the next stage of our life plan things will be different .... Well I truly hope so!!! 

Tuesday, 10 March 2015


A really short post today as this article says it all. I was signposted to this by a comment on the Down to Earth blog. It really sums up how I feel about the benefits of slowness and taking time out to just be.....I'll let you read it for yourselves preferably with a cuppa, perhaps a home made biscuit and no time constraints.......... X

Monday, 9 March 2015

Project garden!

I have been dreaming of creating a potager in the back garden similar to Alys Fowler's back garden full of vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers. In years gone by, I have grown vegetables with some success in amongst the  flower beds, so with a smallish plot to work with, this seems like the most sensible option. A few years ago, we spent some real money on the garden after we'd had the conservatory put up and it certainly looked lovely initially, but after one year where the garden sat under several inches of water for several weeks, the huge oak trees at the bottom of the garden casting too much shade and two naughty free range chickens, scratching up everything they could, the garden has suffered rather!!

Before photos...

It's ripe for a new plan - having created a more permanent chicken run, I can turn my hand to creating space in the flower beds, three small raised vegetable beds and lots of pots to grow a good range of vegetables this year. We already have two apple trees, a pear tree and loganberries trained along one fence. I'd like to add, two blueberry bushes in pots and a head of rhubarb (I had planted one, but it rotted off in the flood) and some autumn raspberry canes. I'd quite like to try some strawberry plants, but I don't seem to be very successful. I had looked at growing them in a gutter, screwed to the fence??? 
I've planted potatoes in bags and plan to add another three bags in the next week. In the conservatory, I have tiny seedlings of butternut squash, chillies, Romano peppers, runner beans, basil and coriander, along with some sweet peas. 
I have garlic in the garden already and will add shallots and onions soon too, along with some broad beans in the borders.
I'd also like to grow sugar snaps, mangetout, courgettes, outdoor cucumber, pattypan squash, radishes, salad leaves, pea shoots and rocket, spinach, sprouting broccoli
I already have mint, chives, Rosemary and sage in the garden, but need to replace my thyme and oregano plants. I'm also going to try some dill as I love it with potato salad.
I know it's a little ambitious, but I shall give it a go and let you all know my progress!
I'll need to clear some more space in the flower borders by ditching a few of my less loved plants and then set up supports for the beans, peas and Raspberry canes. My pots are all full of spring bulbs at the moment, but as soon as they're over, I'll turf out the bulbs and heel them in somewhere at the back of a border to plant again next year.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Pea and potato croquettes - GF and vegan and an attempt at vegan icecream

I'm always searching for new and interesting recipes to cook to add variety to our diet which is ostensibly based on vegetables and pulses!
I came across this one on a website (I think it may have been the government one about eating well??)

Pea and potato croquettes

I roasted 7 smallish potatoes in the oven when I was cooking a cake last week. Once cool enough to handle, I scooped out the flesh into a bowl and mixed in a large cup full of frozen peas, 1 tbsp GF plain flour and 1 tbsp curry powder. I mashed it all together until well combined, then popped the mixture in the fridge to firm up a little.
After about 1 hour, I made breadcrumbs from 2 slices of GF bread and tipped them into a shallow bowl. I shaped the mixture into 12 'sausage' shapes and rolled them around in the breadcrumbs to coat. I then laid them back on the plate and put them back in the fridge whilst I made the sauce.
I chopped an onion and a clove of garlic, which I fried off in a little oil. To this I added 1 tbsp curry powder and some chilli flakes. Then I tipped in a tin of chopped tomatoes along with half a tin of water (thereby swilling out the tomato can). I then added 1 tbsp tomato purée and 1 tsp sugar. I let the tomato mixture simmer on the stove for about 20 mins until thickened and the flavours had developed. In the last 3 minutes of cooking time, I added another good cupful of frozen peas.
To cook the croquettes, I heated 1 tbsp olive oil in a large non stick frying pan on a high heat. The croquettes were added, the heat turned down a little, and turned gently until all the sides were crispy and nicely browned.
The croquettes were served on top of the tomato sauce with a simple side salad.
It made a very economical and tasty meal for six and one which I will certainly use again. I imagine the croquettes and sauce could be made and frozen separately so you could make double quantities.

I also tried to make a vegan ice cream last week. I put a tin of peaches, strained and a tin of coconut milk in a blender with about half a cup of soy yoghurt and a few drops if vanilla essence. This was blended until smooth, then tipped into a suitable container and popped in the deep freeze.
The flavour is nice, but the texture is more like a sorbet. Nevertheless, served with a few raspberries from the deep freeze and a sprinkling of vegan dark chocolate, it makes quite a nice dessert!

Have a wonderful weekend everyone. Hopefully we'll all have some sunshine to enjoy!

Friday, 6 March 2015

Wisley RHS

The sun was shining yesterday and my eldest had a day off, so we hopped in the car for a little jaunt to Wisley Gardens. It was absolutely gorgeous out there. I only had my phone to take photos with so they're not brilliant, but I think they capture a touch of the beauty to be found around the grounds.

Squashes in one of the greenhouses in the kitchen garden

A rather striking combination of miniature deep purple iris and crocuses

I liked the contrast between the almost white bark of the birch and the salix

The bark on this prunus was amazing and felt like silk. It doesn't look real!