Pages

Thursday, 27 July 2017

YOU CANNOT MAKE A SILK PURSE OUT OF A SOW'S EAR ~ OR CAN YOU

Good Morning to you,


All 80 boxes, yes honestly, I can hardly believe it myself, 80 boxes, have been unpacked and the contents put away. Although there are some books, no, I have to be very honest with you, and tell you, lots of books, have been stored in the loft until I can get around to culling some more.  I did have a good sort out before we moved, but, it seems, that as we have downsized, the initial sort out was not enough, so the sort out must continue, but that can be done at a later date.

Meanwhile the furniture has been placed in the appropriate rooms and even the cushions have been plumped and placed on the sofas.

.... and we are feeling quite settled in our new home. I genuinely feel so happy and content. I really feel, I am where I am supposed to be.

Although I have to tell you, as settled as I am, I feel sure that much of the furniture and many ornaments will be moved, once, maybe twice, but knowing me, three or four more times, before they find their rightful place in our new home.

As settled as we are in the  house,  we do have a bit of a challenge ahead of us.  We have not inherited neatly tended lawns and beautiful borders, such as the gardens we left behind.


This is what we face.  I admit, perhaps not quite a jungle, but I would say, not far from it. You would not believe the things we discovered hidden behind the bushes.


The bushes had been allowed to overgrow without any pruning. We discovered the honeysuckle is intermingled with weeds, which in turn are intermingled with nettles and grasses.


Whilst the Buddleia has been allowed to grow to at least 20 feet high and the same wide. Far too big for the size of our garden.


At the back of the garden there is a cute gazebo, which will be staying but does require a lot of attention.  My idea is to plant roses and clematis and to allow them to scramble up the gazebo. This corner is a lovely place to sit and read as it catches the evening sun.

There is so much work to do and if we were 10 or even 5 years younger, we would have immersed ourselves into the garden to clear all the bushes and weeds away, but we realised after decorating the whole house, we really did not have the energy to clear the garden as well. It took us quite a while to reach the decision, as both of us said in words, that we wanted to crack on and get the job finished, but in truth we didn't. When we both finally had the courage to admit how we felt, we were relieved that each of us felt the same. Now we had the task of finding someone who could make a silk purse out of our sow's ear.

.... and between you and me and the gatepost, I had a secret weapon up my sleeve.


A brilliant young man called Gary, from Ace of Spades, who is based in Cramlington. He certainly was our Ace of Spades.

I came to know about Gary, one sunny, summer day last year and who knew that a year later I would need his expertise.

I was enjoying the sunshine and weeding the borders in our front garden, when I heard an electric hedge cutter.  It wasn't the noise of the hedge cutter which attracted my attention, but the wonderful laughter of the man using it. He would cut part of the hedge, then sweep away the cuttings, at which point, the owner of the house would take the opportunity to talk to him. The air would then be filled with Gary's wonderful laughter.   So when the decision was reached that we needed help, I thought this is just the man I would love to help us clear our garden.  I tracked Gary down via our old neighbour and we arranged for him to come along to look at the garden.  I was a little worried that he might feel a little phased by the amount of work which needed doing, but no, he gave us a quote and we were excited for the day to arrive, when the garden would be cleared and we could begin planning our new garden.

The first date came and went, because we had torrential rain, as did the second date. In the meantime, the garden was enjoying the rainfall and continued to grow.  After about 4 changes of date, the rain stopped and the day finally arrived when Gary felt he would be able to start work. 

As it happened it was on the first Tuesday I returned to my sewing group.

So when I left the house, the garden looked like this,


and when I returned at 1 o'clock some 3 hours later, the garden looked like this.


I could not believe how much work had been achieved.  George said he had sat and watched the lads from the conservatory and was itching to help.... as is his way.  He did offer his help, but they would not let him. They told him he was to sit down and enjoy his cup of tea.

Both the lads were absolutely amazing.  When they had finished, they took away all the garden waste to be composted. I really could not have been more pleased with what they had achieved.

Before Gary left us, I asked him a couple of questions.

Firstly did he always work so quickly? 

He said he did, but on this occasion he was spurred on, because we were forecast rain at 3.00 pm and he really wanted to complete the job, because the weather had hampered him for so long.

The second question was, did he realise he laughed a lot whilst he worked and how infectious his laugh was?  

He said he knew he laughed a lot, but he didn't realise the effect it had on people. He also said what was the point in being miserable, as he preferred to be happy.

Gary could have arrived and been disgruntled about the amount of work that was waiting for him, but he wasn't, he made the job of clearing the garden seem like a very simple, pleasurable job, when in truth it was a lot of hard work.

Gary and his friend were lovely and I would highly recommend them to anyone who needs help with their garden. 

.... oh and when the bushes were cleared, look what we discovered peeking through our neighbours fence,



these beautiful raspberries.  Our new neighbour is so lovely. When we moved in to the house,  he popped around to introduce himself and to give us a lovely potted Chrysanthemum as a welcome gift,  at the same time he  told us to help ourselves to any raspberries which appeared on our side of the fence and that later in the year we would discover blackberries fruiting.

.... how lucky are we to have met such lovely people.

Take care and I will catch up with you next Thursday.

As Always















Thursday, 1 June 2017

MOVING DAY IN THE 'BRYSON' HOUSEHOLD

Good Morning to you,

Do I have some exciting news for you.


George and I are moving house.... yes and we are beyond ourselves with excitement.

I didn't mention anything before, because house buying here in England, can be a little precarious and I didn't want to jinx the process, but I am pleased to tell you, all has ran smoothly and we collect the keys to our new house tomorrow afternoon, so as you can imagine, life here has been very hectic.

We are staying in Newcastle, because it is a place we both love. The house we are moving to is smaller, which suits us just fine, because it will drastically reduce our utility costs.  The heating bill during the winter months will be greatly reduced.

.... but, the garden is much larger.  Not huge, but just big enough for George and I to handle.  The previous owners were not gardeners, so there is a lot to do, but that again, makes us so excited, because we can plan exactly what we want from the garden, rather than inheriting someone elses design.

So, I think it is time to give you a peek into what our lives look like at the moment..... are you ready? Brace yourself.


I know it looks like organised chaos.  I am closing my eyes to the fact that George has turned my beautiful leather trunk on it's side.  At times like these I have to appreciate that George and I have very different working methods. Although, I have to say, that little bit of blue tack, holding the frame to the mirror, is a pretty good idea.

As you can see, our house is full of boxes,


and more boxes.


Although I'm not sure what the canopy from the swinging chair is doing in my living room.  I think George found a space and decided that is where it would live until the furniture removers arrive.... I have a funny feeling that I will not be able to help myself.  I'll put money on it that I will move the canopy to the garage when George's back is turned.


My sewing is the one thing which is really organised as I wanted to be sure, I could lay my hands on my sewing, for those moments when I have 5 minutes to spare.... although I don't think there will be many spare moments for quite a while. 


So it's goodbye to our garden.


which we have loved 

and


nurtured for so long.

But it isn't all sadness, because we are taking with us some of the plants which we divided earlier in the year,


to come and live with us in our new garden.


Oh and do you remember the mint I planted for our mint tea, well look how it's grown. We will be taking this with us as well, because once planted in it's new terracotta pot, I will be able to make mint tea once again.

So that is my news.  I have to say I will probably be busy for the next month or so, because there is a lot of decorating to be done in the new house.

I have decided later in the year, I am going to share with you, how our new garden evolves from a bit of a field into a lovely country garden.

I will try and visit you when I can, and I promise I will catch up with the comments you have so kindly left me. They have been read, but not answered, which I know is very bad manners, but I feel sure you will understand, because you know how stressful moving can be.

.... but it is also very exciting.

Take care and I will catch up with you very soon.

As Always,





Thursday, 18 May 2017

THE BATTLE FOR THE ULTIMATE FAMILY SANDWICH ~ BRITISH SANDWICH WEEK

Good Morning to you,


I was reading in the Good Housekeeping magazine, that this week is British Sandwich Week.  By all accounts this is an annual event and it is a week long celebration of the British Sandwich.

To tell you the truth, in previous years, this event has passed me by and I'm not sure why.  So this year I've made a note on my calendar, to remind me about British Sandwich Week next year. 

I then thought it would be fun to ask my family about their favourite sandwich combinations.

Danielle's is definitely George's bacon, cheese and brown sauce sandwich.... to be honest, I had never heard of bacon and cheese until Danielle mentioned it to George. Danielle's perfect bacon sandwich has to have 3 thick slices of bacon, which incidentally, has to be bought from the local butcher, no other bacon will do, and the bacon has to be placed inside two medium slices of buttered bread.

Now, I know Natasha also loves George's bacon sandwich, but she is a purist.  She enjoys only bacon inside two slices of buttered bread.

So I asked what Stephen's favourite sandwich was.... and it seems Natasha has a double favourite.  When in England, she loves her dad's bacon sandwich, but the one sandwich, both Stephen and Natasha dreamt of, when they lived in India, was,


a sandwich made of sliced granary bread, good quality ham, mature Cheddar cheese, iceberg lettuce, mayonnaise and grainy mustard.... oh but I'm not sure if the bread was buttered.

It's interesting the things our taste buds miss when we live in another country.  I remember when we had a family holiday in Goa, I loved all the spicy Goan food, but towards the end of the holiday, my taste buds wanted something plain.... in actual fact they were screaming out for something plain to eat and you'll never guess what I asked for one evening.... french fries, yes honestly, french fries.... nothing else and once eaten my taste buds were satisfied. So I do understand Natasha and Stephen's craving for this sandwich, because during their stay in India, these ingredients were unavailable to them.

So in honour of British Sandwich Week, I thought I would share with you Natasha and Stephen's favourite sandwich.

There are no amounts, instead, I have added photographs so you can see the ingredients I have used.

HOW TO MAKE
THE
ULTIMATE FAMILY SANDWICH
OR IS IT?


Start by slicing your loaf of bread


I used 2 slices for George.


Spread each slice of bread with butter, then
spread the grainy mustard.

If I was making this sandwich for Phyllis, I would have made sure that the butter and mustard reached the edges of the bread.... as this is the way she likes her sandwiches. She cannot abide dry bread.

Then,


slather with as much or as little mayonnaise as you like. Maybe you prefer less slathering. 


Add 2 square slices of mature Cheddar Cheese.


2 slices of ham


Slice the iceberg lettuce into strips
and
add salt if required
and place on top of the ham.


Place the 2nd slice of bread, which has been spread with grainy mustard and mayonnaise


on top of the lettuce. I find the mayonnaise helps to keep the lettuce in the sandwich. Although once
bitten into, the lettuce does escape.

Cut the sandwich in half.... and I have to tell you that you will need a serviette for this sandwich, because as you can see, it is a very full sandwich.

I wonder if this sandwich will pass muster with Stephen, as I know, he makes a very good sandwich.

I know it did with George, so I am wondering if this sandwich will replace his previous favourite, 'A George Size Sandwich', which I have added to my featured post this week.

I did ask him, but he was very non-committal because he was enjoying Stephen's sandwich.  He just smiled.... I think he was wondering what other sandwich fillings might be coming his way.

Personally, I am very boring, as my favourite sandwich is a toasted Cheddar cheese sandwich. Not very exciting, but lovely all the same. Oh but I do love a little mango chutney served with my toasted sandwich.

I was reading about the origin of the sandwich and it seems John Montague the 4th Earl of Sandwich asked for cold beef to be placed between slices of toast, as he did not want to leave the card table and interrupt his card game.

Isn't it strange how these things happen. I feel sure the Earl of Sandwich would be amazed to know that his slices of toast and beef became known as a sandwich.... and all because he didn't want to leave the card table.... amazing.

Take care and I will see you next Thursday.

As Always,






Thursday, 11 May 2017

SCONES MADE WITH MAPLE SUGAR

Good Morning to you,


As I have grown older, I have noticed subtle changes in the way I look.

I did know that I would change as I aged, but I had not expected it to happen so soon.... well it feels too soon for me.

The other day I glanced in the mirror and I noticed something a little different. Now don't laugh when I tell you.... my nose is changing shape. Yes honestly, it really is. Just a slight change, there is nothing bulbous or unsightly about it, I certainly don't look like Schnozzle Durante.  There is just a slight change in the shape, which no one, other than me, has noticed.

I then visited the dentist.  My teeth, which  once were straight as a die, were beginning to become a little crooked. I wouldn't mind, but  I wore top and bottom braces in the 1960's which were really uncomfortable, but I persevered, or should I say, Phyllis made me persevere and the braces did the trick. So when did the crookedness happen and more to the point, why have I only just noticed.... and another thing, when did the tiny gaps start to appear in my front upper teeth.  There are gaps where no gaps have ever been before.... not huge gaps, but enough for me to notice. When I questioned my dentist, he said, sorry Daphne, yes he knows me that well, I'm afraid its all to do with your age. 

.... that was slightly disappointing.

On Tuesday I was talking to my friend and we were discussing shoes.  I mentioned that I used to wear a size 5, but nowadays I wear a size 6.  I thought it was down to the manufacturing, that companies were scrimping on materials, but she informed me no, it was because I was getting older and my arches were falling.

My word, that was enough, nose, teeth and feet. Surely that was it with the changes.

But no, there is more.

.... yesterday, it was a lovely sunny day, so I decided to pin my hair up.  You see I have decided to grow my hair a little longer.  The bob is still there, but the layers are longer.... I fancied a change for the summer. Whilst pinning up my hair, I caught sight of my ears. Was there something a little different about my ear lobes.  On closer inspection I have to say yes, there was, my ear lobes are certainly a little larger than they used to be. Again they are not huge, I think I need to put this into perspective. We are not talking about ears as large as Jar Jar Binks from The Phantom Menace. They are not flapping about in the wind. No there is just a tiny difference. 

So what is happening to me.

Am I going to morph into someone else the older I get.  Will the person I see when I look in the mirror be so different in years to come.  In that case, will I recognise myself.   More to the point will George, Natasha and Danielle recognise me.  Now that could be a problem.

I am only joking with you. This is all tongue in cheek. As you know the ageing process is not something which happens over night, it is a gradual process. So the changes on a day to day basis are slight and hardly noticeably. 

So what is my solution to these changes.

Will I become upset and hate my nose.... not at all. My nose is part of who I am.

Will I stop smiling because my teeth are not perfectly aligned.... oh no not me. I love smiling.

Will I worry about falling arches.... definitely not, I will continue to wear beautiful size 6 shoes.

Will I stop wearing earrings because my ear lobes are slightly larger?  Absolutely not. I adore earrings.


.... and do you know why I am not worried? 

Because I am a Phenomenal Woman.

PHENOMENAL WOMAN
DR MAYA ANGELOU

Many people wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model size.
When I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips,
I'm a woman,
Phenomenally.

.... and that is enough for me.

I love to hear the beautiful voice of  Dr Maya Angelou reading Phenomenal Woman. When I read or hear this poem, it reminds me to be proud of who I am, that with all the changes that come with age, I am still a phenomenal woman.

So what phenomenal bake are we making today.


These fabulous scones made with the maple sugar and maple cream I received from our friend Bea.

I love scones and there was a scone recipe card included in the parcel. The original scone recipe was developed by Chris Wickham, the owner of Glen Mountain Market, in New York. I had thought to make Chris' scones, but decided to use my own recipe with the addition of an egg and the maple sugar, instead of normal granulated sugar.... and the scones are scrumptious.

So it's on with the pinnie and time to organise the ingredients.

INGREDIENTS 
YOU WILL NEED
TO MAKE
SCONES WITH MAPLE SUGAR

460g (1 lb) plain flour
pinch of salt
2 oval teaspoons of baking powder
115g (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
115g  (4 oz) maple sugar
1 egg
1/2 pint butter milk
1 tablespoon of milk

FILLING

250g blueberries
284 double cream
small jar of maple cream

YOU WILL NEED

1 x 12 case muffin tin
12 paper muffin cases

Pre-heat the oven to 160C

HOW TO 
MAKE
SCONES WITH MAPLE SUGAR


Place the muffin cases into the muffin tin.


Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a medium
sized bowl.

Cube the butter and add to the bowl.

Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture
resembles fine breadcrumbs.


Add the maple sugar and mix well.

Beat the egg and mix with the buttermilk.

Add the egg and buttermilk to the bowl.

Gently mix the ingredients to create a soft dough.

I sometimes find that at this point
I need to add a little extra milk to loosen the mixture. For some reason, not always, but  on this occasion it was needed.

Add the milk.

Continue to bring the mixture together.



Using a tablespoon, place a tablespoon of scone mixture into each muffin case.

Place in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes.
Check after 20 minutes.


Remove from the oven when the scones are slightly golden in colour and thoroughly baked.


Place the maple scones on a cooling rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Remove the muffin cases and cut the scones in half.


Spread a generous layer of pure maple cream  on each half.
Whip the double cream and add
 a teaspoon of whipped double cream to the bottom portion of the scone.  
Place 3 or 4 blueberries on top of the cream
and
replace the lid


Place another teaspoon of whipped cream on top and for decoration arrange a blueberry in the centre of the cream.

I loved the flavour of the maple sugar and the maple cream, oh my word it was lovely. 

The tartness of the blueberries cut through the sweetness of the maple cream and I have to say, these little scones are definitely a hit in my house and will be made again and again and again.

For my English friends who cannot buy maple sugar and maple cream, I would suggest trying light brown sugar instead of the maple sugar and if you can buy some maple syrup then whip a tablespoon or so into the cream.... I feel sure it will be lovely.

Actually, I am going to try this when I run out of cream and maple sugar.... but for now, we are enjoying our lovely treat.

Now you may have been surprised that I used muffin cases.  I love the traditional way of cutting the scones, but I was feeling a little lazy and did not want to have a lot of washing up to do, as I had a lot of sewing to catch up on, so I decided to use the cases as a trial. The bases are slightly smaller than the top, but when the scones are filled, you really do not notice the difference. 

There was also a difference in oven temperature and the scones took half an hour to cook instead of the normal 10-15 minutes.

All in all, I was thrilled with how these maple sugar scones turned out.  I have to say they were a triumph.

Take good care of yourself and I will catch up with you next Thursday.

As Always,








Thursday, 4 May 2017

HOW TO ARRANGE A VASE OF LILACS

Good Morning to you,


During the past few days, surprisingly, my lilac bush has burst into bud. I say surprisingly, because after all the Arctic weather we experienced, I really thought the buds would be delayed for a few more weeks.

Although the lilac bush is not very big at the moment, I am being patient, because  I know when it reaches its full height, it will be covered with a mass of beautifully scented lilacs.  

Gardening, for me, is about patience. It is not a task to be rushed. For with patience, the garden will reward us with so much beauty.

.... and lilacs are a case in point.

Bob, George's father had passed away a number of years before we moved to Newcastle and now that we were settled, George wanted to plant a tree or shrub, in our garden, which would remind him of his father.

We could not make up our minds, which sort to buy. We couldn't decide if we should buy a brightly coloured plant, which would match Bob's personality or a lilac bush, a plant we knew he loved. We were still undecided, that is, until one sunny afternoon, I was sitting with Sadie in her garden and I noticed Bob's lilac bush was sprouting little shoots at the base of the large trunk. The decision was made. I mentioned to Sadie what I wanted to do and I asked her if I could remove some of the shoots to pot on. She said of course, because it was nice to know that Bob's lilac bush would live on in our garden.  I removed quite a few shoots, because I wasn't sure how well they would transplant. When I returned home, I told George what I wanted to do and he was pleased with my idea.

A couple of the shoots did not survive, but quite a few did and so 2 bushes were planted into our garden and another 2 were left in pots to grow. One each for Natasha and Danielle.

These past couple of years the lilacs have begun to reward us with some flowers and yesterday, whilst I was watering the Pulmonaria,  I noticed the lilac buds had started to open and so I decided to cut some stems to bring into the house.


.... and this was fortuitous, because, remember last week when I left you, I said I was going to show you a little tip I had learnt from a flower arranger many years ago.... well, instead of buying some flowers, I decided to use the lilac blooms from my garden.

Sometimes I really love formal arrangements, 


just like the one I showed you last week... but when spring turns into summer, I prefer a blousy display of flowers.... it matches my style of gardening.  George says this is because, during winter time, it is cold, and I feel contained, hence the formal style, but once the sun starts to shine, I start to open and this shows in my blousy arrangements of flowers.... I love that description.

.... and I think you will be surprised to learn, my flower arranging tip.

.... but first of all,


decide on the vase you want to use.  In my case, I decided to use this lovely pottery vase.  Usually it stands alone, without flowers, but today I thought it would be the perfect shape to use with the lilacs.

Once you have chosen your vase, half fill it with water and mix in some liquid feed.


Cut your flowers to size.


Now this is my secret weapon.  Scotch tape. Does that surprise you?


Place one strip of scotch tape, vertically, down the centre of the vase and allow the tape to overhang by 1 inch on both sides.

Cut the tape and press the tape securely into the sides of the vase.

Repeat on both sides.  In my case I needed 3 strips of tape.

Then repeat the process, but place the tape horizontally.  As you can see in my case I only needed 2 strips.


What you are trying to replicate is,





the grid pattern of the frog insert of a rose bowl.


Place your first cut stem into the centre space.

Then you can add the rest of your flowers.  I usually add my first stem centrally, then smaller stems, 1 to each side and 1  to the front and back.
 Then I infill with greenery.



By placing the scotch tape 1 inch over the sides of the vase, 
this gives the grid strength
 to support the flowers.

There are just a couple of little points, I would like to mention.

Firstly, I have used a creamy coloured scotch tape, but that was so you could see what I was doing. Normally I would use a clear scotch tape.

Secondly, try to make the grid as tight as possible. As the shape of my vase was a little uneven, I was unable to keep the grid tight.... but the grid was still able to support the lilacs.

.... and just one other thing before I leave you.  

Lilacs were not only a favourite of Bob's,  they were also my father's favourite flower.

So when the lilacs are in flower, I have memories of both my father and my father-in-law. How perfect is that.

Take care and I will catch up with you next Thursday.



As Always





Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...