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Sunday, 30 June 2013

The early bird....

The forecast was good, so the alarm was set and Perry and I nipped out early to a couple of car boot sales. We wanted some plants, he was after vegetables, I wanted some border fillers, and the boot is definitely the cheapest place to find them. We both managed to stock up, and there was a little bonus for me. As we arrived at the second sale, I immediately spotted this vegetable rack. It was being used to store some old magazines. I asked if it was for sale, and the seller said it was mine for £1, so I snapped it up. 
It didn't look like this. I spent an hour scrubbing away grease and dog hair (I didn't do a before picture as it wasn't a very edifying spectacle), but it has come up beautifully.

Home to spend the whole day in the garden, planting, weeding and tidying in the sunshine.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

A test run

We have borrowed a friend's bell tent for my party next weekend. She suggested that we might like to try and put it up before the actual event to make sure that we were okay with the workings. Today has been sunny and warm, so it seemed like the right time to give it a try. Husband and youngest son managed it in no time at all.

This is going to be the chill out tent, for people who want to escape my mainly 1980s playlist in the village hall. I have had a peek at the forecast for next weekend, and fingers crossed, it looks as if it's going to be dry! 
Today, the sun on the canvas and the smell of freshly mown grass brought memories of summer holidays flooding back. Most of my childhood holidays were spent in a tent similar to this in Snowdonia, north Wales. I now realise how hard my parents must have worked to make those holidays run smoothly. It often rained. There were very few campsite luxuries, hot showers only arrived when I was about 11! For us children it was an incredibly carefree time, we explored for quite a few miles around, played in the mountain streams for hours on end, and just ran back to camp for a hot meal. 
It is amazing how a certain smell can trigger vivid memories. This is turning out to be such a year for nostalgia.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Thrifty heaven

My fingers have been itching to make something - anything - of late, but there has been rather a lot of deadlines and computer work and very little time for anything else. But I finished a big piece of work yesterday, around mid-afternoon, and hurtled into the kitchen to make a batch of jam. I wanted to use some of the elderflowers which have exploded into bloom around us. I've never seen so much of that fuzzy creamy yellow blossom in the hedgerows. 

Amazing how something so pretty can come from such a run of the mill plant. Anyway, I spotted a recipe for elderflower and gooseberry jam in the June issue of The Simple Things. I think it is one of Alys Fowler's recipes from her latest book. And I thought, we have gooseberries and elderflowers in our garden, so there is no excuse...

I did cheat a little and used half a kilo of gooseberries that I froze last year, and half a kilo from this year. It was a really easy recipe. I just popped five elderflower heads into a muslin bag, then stewed this with the gooseberries until soft. I added 800g of sugar, let it dissolve slowly, then brought the pan to the boil and it took about 25 minutes to reach setting point (when a thin skin wrinkles the surface of the jam). What amazes me is how the gooseberries turn from this vivid green to a deep pink....

The elderflowers and gooseberries cost me nothing, the sugar was 75p, so each of my three jars worked out at just about 25p each!

In the article it recommends eating the jam on buttery croissants, but a slightly healthier version (and only slightly when you like butter as much as I do) is home made scones...

Being a rather impatient soul, I didn't top and tail my gooseberries as conscientiously as I should have done, hence the black fleck in my jam (which looks unfortunately like a fly). 
I may also use some of this jam in a cake for my party next weekend. I thought a vanilla sponge with an elderflower icing and gooseberry jam filling would taste really summery.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Dream gardens

I may sometimes wish I lived in a country with warmer and more settled climes, but when ever I see an English country garden in its summer finest, I am not sure that I could really settle anywhere else. Today was like stepping into one of those embroidered pictures from the 1930s. Open gardens in a nearby village called Tansor was a riot of colours: lupins, delphiniums, geraniums, roses scrambling over sheds and windows, neat vegetable gardens with perfect pods of peas, strawberries on thick straw beds and runner beans climbing up canes. 

Eight gardens of all shapes and sizes, from the stately home sized Tansor Court, to tiny cottage gardens crammed with colour.

Paths and plots, wildflower gardens and limestone walls.

Roses battered by the elements, tattered but beautiful.


Many of the houses overlook open countryside, or the river Nene

This is so typical of where I live, willows, reeds, riverside:

I love flowers, but also find orderly veg plots quite fascinating these days (age!). I would love to make a lino cut print of these pea pods.

All rounded off with a cream tea with homemade scones and strawberry jam in the village hall (which even had a few vintage stalls too). My companions Perry and Sue were very patient with a) a lot of photo taking and b) my urge to visit the vintage before we'd finished touring the gardens.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Kitchen on film

A few days ago, a work colleague asked my husband if she could hire our kitchen to shoot a small sequence for a corporate video that she was making for the Post Office. They needed an open family style kitchen and she'd once visited our house and thought it might be just right. "It will be very disruptive," warned my husband. "But they offered to pay for the inconvenience." My kitchen would be earning its own keep? I decided that I really liked the sound of that. So, after giving it the clean of its life, helped by my lovely mum, I was all ready for the crew to arrive yesterday morning.
Spick and span! New door mat. Backs of cupboards and fridge zapped. Linens washed and ironed. Accessories artfully arranged....

Fluff up the rest of the downstairs, just in case they'd like to film anywhere else ;) A few vintage vistas maybe? Pan the camera across the car boot finds?

You can probably guess what's coming next...the scene in the film was supposed to be happening at night, so the first thing the crew did was to swathe all of our downstairs windows in thick black plastic sheeting. They then drew all the curtains and blinds, so it was really gloomy (and hot) inside. I would love to know what our neighbours thought was happening when they saw the blacked out windows and then a lot of cameras being carried into the house. Scandal in the Close!

An actress arrived, and then this chap, the star of the scene:

The story was that the actress was having a really bad day. She arrives home at night, the dishwasher has flooded, she drops her bag, a milk carton explodes all over the floor, and the cat promptly licks it all up.
So, within minutes, that pristine kitchen was awash with soapy water, spilt milk, a slightly temperamental marmalade cat, his handler and a fraught crew, wires, cables, cameras and microphones.

According to the director, the best thing about the location was....our big kitchen floor.
It was a fun day, and very interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes. All that effort for 20 seconds of footage! The actress, Christine, was partial to a bit of vintage, so at least someone appreciated my special effects :)

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Roses in the rain

Beautiful roses in my parents' garden. The smell is incredible, I wish I could convey it through the screen.
I stood in the rain and photographed them because, yes, it is raining again....

The gardens around us are overflowing with flowers. I'm going to at least one open gardens this weekend.

Dad has cut me a few roses to bring home. I've arranged them in an old bowl that I found at Newark Antiques Fair a couple of weeks ago. It is too dark to photograph them this evening. I'll try tomorrow...which, incidentally, might prove to be a rather interesting day. I'll report back soon.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Good things come to she who waits....

When our old plum tree died about five years ago, I was sad. There were great memories associated with that tree. We first moved here about 17 years ago, from a tiny terraced house in London, and it was a revelation to have a large, wild garden which backed on to open fields. In the autumn, we would pick our crop of plums and Bramley apples, and my eldest son, then a toddler, loved to feed the bullocks that clustered around the fence to watch what we were doing (and hoover up any stray windfalls). Those bullocks are long gone, and the tree subsequently died too. Rather than chop it down, I dreamed of training a white clematis over the stump, something I'd once seen in a gardening magazine. Of course, you can't hurry plants and it has taken many years for the clematis to take root and decide that it likes being beside an old plum tree. But this year, I think I can say that it is well established and we have been rewarded with a beautiful display of starry flowers.

Last night, there was a bit of golden sunshine just before dusk fell and it looked so pretty. You can see that parts of my garden are still rather wild (purely for the benefit of the bees and insects you understand!).

Gardening requires patience, something I have only recently started to appreciate. 

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Homemade rhubarb vodka

We have lots of rhubarb in our garden at the moment, so I decided to try a recipe that I found in the Daily Telegraph a few weeks ago: rhubarb vodka. 
I bought a bottle of Aldi's finest vintage...picked my rhubarb and set to work.

I chopped the rhubarb and put it in a pan with orange juice and some sugar, then simmered until the fruit was soft. I cooled it, then put it in a jar, and topped up with the vodka.

I will have to transfer to an airtight jar. It needs to be left for at least a week, shaking occasionally, before being strained and decanted into a bottle.

Best served with lots of ice. I have no idea what it will taste like, I'll let you know. And if it is good, there's plenty more in the garden (not vodka, sadly, just the rhubarb!).

Thursday, 6 June 2013

The homespun party #3 retro chairs

I had no luck finding any chairs at the car boot sale, so today I sneaked off to Newark Antiques Fair to see if I could find something suitable to use at my party (and afterwards of course). I want to have an outside chill out area, and a friend has very kindly let me borrow her bell tent (thank you Jo!). I didn't hold out much hope, because when ever I go to an antiques fair with a shopping list, I never manage to find anything on it.
But hooray for today, because I spotted these retro beauties and managed to get a very good deal. They remind me very much of my paternal grandparents, who had something very similar in their immaculately kept garden. But really, a thermos flask, a tupperware full of sandwiches and an English beach is all these chairs need as a perfect backdrop. 
I bought a few other good things today, which I'll update on soon. It was one of those last minute trips when everything went well. I have a lot of work on at the moment, so it was lovely to just escape for a couple of hours and lose myself in antiques and vintage things.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Sunday snap

I love this old slate sign that I bought from last week's car boot sale.
Now I just need the cottage....