Monday, 29 June 2009

Pizza in the Garden

This is our pizza oven! Actually it officially belongs to hubby as the family gave it to him for his birthday a few years ago. As you can imagine we did not use it a great deal last year, however we appear to be living off pizzas, each weekend, at the moment. It is always a great opportunity to invite friends in and this weekend was no different. As salad leaves are growing in abundance in the garden at the moment, pizza and salad is the dish of the day on most Saturdays and Sundays.

I also took this picture of our church yesterday morning. It looked so lovely and picturesque in the sunshine. Many of our good friends also attend and so it is like meeting family each Sunday. We even have a website:
Also I have said that I will send a special message to my young friend Ryan who has broken his leg, rather badly. To have the whole of your leg in a plaster cast is bad enough, but in this weather! He is being very brave and hopefully he will soon be able to start getting around in a wheelchair. So, get well soon Ryan and keep watching the blog!

Monday, 15 June 2009

It's never too late to learn

Last week, a very dear friend of mine, Sheila came for a day's visit. We go back quite a long time, having met through teaching. She is probably the most talented teacher that I know. Having recently retired she is now on quest to learn new skills that she never had time for whilst stuck in the classroom. First lesson was how to make Elderflower Cordial. (Last year I made gallons of the stuff for our daughter's wedding). Sheila got hooked on it! Off we both went to the Common and here is the result.
Recipe. (A Sophie Grigson special)
Makes about 1-2 litres
20 large heads of elderflower
1.8kg granulated sugar
75g citric acid (from chemists)
2 lemons
Preparation: Put elderflowers in large bowl. Place sugar in a pan a generous litre of water. Slowly bring to boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Pour over elderflowers and stir in citric acid. Add grated zest of lemons, then slice lemons and add to the bowl. Cover and leave for 24 hours. Strain through double muslin, pour into sterilised bottles and store in a cool dark place.
I sometimes serve it with fizzy water. Very refreshing!
The veg are now really beginning to grow. The carrots in this deep plant pot have really enjoyed themselves. Our soil is very heavy clay and so crops like carrots and parsnips need to be in much lighter soil to get any decent results. The pot next to the carrots has marigolds and peas growing in it.

Hubby has also made a number of these raised beds for the patio. They are made from decking, bought from the DIY place when greatly reduced. We always line them so that any chemicals from the tanalised timber does not infaltrate into the soil. In this bed we are growing French beans, tomatoes, marigolds and the odd chilli plant. Tikka (the chicken) will try to have a scratch among the plants if not stopped.

Hubby has also been very busy indoors. I sent him to the recylcing tip recently to get rid of some bottles and cans. He came back very excited and proceeded to tell me that he had met someone who was throwing away this pine chest of drawers. He asked if he may have it and duly brought it home. After a rub down with a piece of sandpaper, I was able to use some paint, found lurking in the workshop and managed to produce a reasonable looking piece of furniture. A great deal of sewing equipment is now residing in those drawers.
He also made the cotton reel stand as I was so fed with trying to find the correct coloured thread for corresponding sewing. A very colourful addition to my workroom!

Saturday, 30 May 2009

A Few Days Away

During half term, hubby and I went for a few days away to the delightful little Norfolk town of Holt. If you ever want to be inspired by crafts and a simple way of life, Holt has it all. As an extra special treat we stayed at Byfords ( We were made to feel really at home at this beautiful B&B. The food was great and the bedroom was out of this world. We even had our own sunken bath!

During our time in Norfolk we discovered that it was 'Open Studio' throughout the county. We would be driving along a country lane and suddenly come across a sign directing us to a studio which was open for visits. ( All free!) The studio above was a glassmakers (in an old railway carriage). Chris (the artist) was a charming man and it was not long before we were tempted to buy something. ( More in the next blog)
Each night at Byfords, as you wend your way up to bed, you find on the landing a jar of homebaked choccy-chip shortbread cookies. We were always so full after our lovely meal to eat them that evening, so we saved ours for the morning to go with the first cuppa of the day.

Although we only went away for 4 days, we both can honestly say that we feel as if we have had a whole weeks holiday. The only problem is that we are now suffering from sensory overload. But what a lovely problem to have!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Slipper Making

Just before Christmas I booked myself on a felt slipper making course with Gillian Harris at What fun! I met some great people and rediscovered an old skill that I had more or less forgotten. However, under Gillian's great tuition, I was able to make a pair of funky slippers. Above you can see one of the layers.
I had to bring the slippers home to finish. Here is the final product. Hubby has decided that he would like a pair of purple ones. (He does have a pair of purple Doc Martens!) Also H (my daughter) clapped eyes on them when she was visiting last weekend. I nearly lost them. The only problem is that now the weather is warming up, my feet tend to get rather warm in them.
I loved the whole experience and have booked to go on two further courses with Gill. Hatmaking and bagmaking. Also, as I now know how to make the flowers, I have some ideas of my own. Watch this space!

Monday, 11 May 2009

Painting the old chair

I am sorry to all in Blogland that I appear to have disappeared recently. Life! Mine is definitely not simple. I may have to change the name of my blog name. However, at one manic point last weekend, hubby thrust sandpaper, paintbrush and pot of paint into my hands and told me to have a break outside and do something instead of work. A very different thing for me to do. This old chair has been with for us for about 20 years and I have always been meaning to do something with it. In fact in recent weeks we have moved it into our dining room so that I kept tripping over it to remind me to do something.

I finally finished it and I am really pleased with the results. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed creating something for myself instead of making things ( curtains) for everybody else. That is what simple living is all about. I have a feeling that this is the beginning of a new adventure. Hooray!

Friday, 10 April 2009

Oat Cookies

This simple living is not turning out to be as simple as I had thought. After a manic week sewing and fitting curtains and one day where I completely crashed and could not even tell you my name, I have finally got round to updating my blog. My good friend Sal thought that I should show the recipe for my Oat Cookies. (Actually it is my Mum's recipe). It's very easy and they always go down well as a gift. Maybe instead of an Easter egg.
100g margarine
75g castor sugar
50g oats
100g Self Raising flour
3 teaspoons of boiling water
1 teaspoon of golden syrup
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence
What to do!
*Cream the margarine and sugar together.
*Add the other dry ingredients and mix well..
*Add the liquid ingredients.
*Use a heaped teaspoon of the mixture and roll into a ball. Place on a greased baking tray. Press lightly with the back of the spoon. Make sure that you leave plenty of space between each cookie.
*Cook for 15 - 20 minutes in a 140 degree oven.
Remove from oven and place immediately on a wire rack to cool.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Sausage Making

This week also found me learning a new skill. Sausage Making!. My good friend Stuart from Southborough Butchers is hoping to go to Nepal later on this year to help build a house with the charity Habitat for Humanity. He needs to raise a great deal of money so he decided to offer sausage making lessons. I was first in the queue. What a giggle. There is definitely an art to it. I now have a great deal of respect for all of those people who appeared on the Generation Game and made complete fools of themselves. It's a lot harder than it looks.

I managed to get the knack of getting the sausage meat into the skin but trying to twist the things so that they looked anything resembling sausages was a bit of a disaster. However this did not appear to affect the taste and sausages are now a staple part of our diet.

In my quest to make all pressies this year, I was having great difficulty as to what to give my Mum for Mothering Sunday. Being a very creative person herself there is not much that she has not made, or been on a course about or has already got. It was while looking through Leigh Radford's book, 'One Skein' that I came across her pattern for cupcakes. After a rummage through my wool oddments box, I found some yarn and Hey Presto! She was delighted with her gift. ( Apparently she is going to use it for her lace making- I said that she was creative.)
Also my hairdresser saw the end result and has given me an order for two!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Happy Spring Chicken

Our chicken are enjoying the first signs of spring. All of them are now laying, including this large light brown. She is five years old and her name is Tikka. I know. It does sound a bit odd, but she obviously is not too bothered. The eggs are delicious though.

It is that time of year again, when Hubby and I spend a great deal of time preparing the garden and the allotment for this season's produce. The only problem, is that we have not finished last season's. Still this cabbage and these leeks were very tasty with our Sunday lunch.
Last weekend I realised that it was the birthdays of some friends of mine. They are twins and they were ten. Having remembered my commitment to try and make as many pressies this year as possible, I decided to raid my fabric bin. An hour later. This was the end result!

Monday, 23 February 2009

We recently took some Year eleven's (from Hubby's school) on a retreat. The centre was at a place called Kintbury in Berkshire. I have been quite a few times with various groups. The people are lovely and the grounds around the centre are just fantastic. I can truly say that I come away feeling totally refreshed everytime I visit (even when I am kept awake by very rowdy teenagers!)
I have decided that this year I am going to make all presents. A little bit of a task, I know, but I am sure that it will work out a great deal less expensive. This is the first effort. It was for my Mum's birthday. I was quite pleased because the wood, fabric and padding were all off-cuts. I only had to invest in the ribbon and pins. She was delighted as she had seen this fabric some time ago when I was making curtains for a client. This piece was destined for the bin and I retrieved it.
Also as we are starting Lent this week, Hubby and I were trying to decide what positive action we could try and follow for the forty days. We are going to repeat last year's effort. We are giving up supermarkets. We found before that we did not spend much more money that normal. It will be interesting to see if the same happens this year with financial situation. However in order to ensure that we keep to our goal I am going to be posting regular updates on my blog to keep everybody informed. Watch this space!

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Having seen the forecast for this weekend, hubby and I decided to batten down the hatches and get the wood-burning stove going. Ours has an oven in the top, so I cobbled together a lmb hotpot (more hotpot than lamb - but very tasty) and put it in the little oven. After an hour of burning just little waste sticks found in the garden we had a very yummy meal. Also we did not have to use any electricity to cook it. Simple and cheap!

I have managed today, with hubby, to clear all the logs that we have been given and have been cluttering up the patio. The log store is well and truly stuffed. Half of it is for next winter. They have to be seasoned, I am told. I seem to be learning a great deal. I then spent some time wielding an axe to chop up some kindling. What fun! Actually we have quite a few friends who seems to be chopping down trees and don't want the wood. It's all free. I just spend quite a bit of time collecting it. Still I am developing some impressive muscles.

This is a pair of curtains that I made recently for a client. I just loved the fabric. They look so bright and cheery on a winter' day ( or any day for that matter!). I only wish I had another room in my house so that I could use the fabric.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

It has been a week full of surprises. Having finally set up this blog, I am finding that there is so much I want to tell everyone about simple living. As this week saw freezing temperatures, I decided that pots of warming, homemade soup had to be the answer. As I was waiting for my Riverford box on Thursday ( we have one in the winter when our vegetable supply is a little depleated or as I discovered, the leeks were frozen solid in the ground), I had to be very inventive. Still I had one onion and four slightly dubious looking carrots. Once everything had been peeled and chopped I browned them off in a tablespoon of olive oil. I then added a can of drained butter beans. (Very good for protein. As an alternative you can always use one large potato, peeled and cubed.) To all of this I added 750mls of stock made with a stockcube. Covered the pan and brought to the boil. In fact I used my pressure cooker. Once hissing I let it carry on for 10 minutes. After that I used one of those whizzy, blender things. What a lovely soup. It kept me going at lunchtimes for three days! And was very yummy! Also much cheaper to make than buying one of those boxed soups which do not seem to last very long.
Actually the pressure cooker is also a brilliant item. You use far less power, probably about half in fact and when you cook veggies in them they appear to retain their taste and colour. Happy simple cooking.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Finally I have got around to start writing a blog. I have been meaning to do this for ages but the start of a New Year has forced me to get writing. After a lovely Christmas spent with daughter + new husband, son ( who managed to write off our car 3 days before Christmas), mother-in-law (who has more energy at eighty than I will ever have) and hubby, who has spent the last 3 weeks with the lurgy, it is now time to put down what makes me tick.
The seed catalogues have arrived, although I still have a many packets left over from last year. First rule of simple living. Do not spend money on things that you already have. The seed packets all have 'use by' dates on them and as far as I have found out, the only ones that do not keep are parsnips. Hopefully as I get this blog going lots of photos will appear of veggies growing in our garden.