Friday, 23 January 2009


I don't know about you, but there are certain plants that seem to convey charm and beauty with so much ease. For me, the cyclamen is one of those plants. I love them and find them to be elegant creatures, with a delicacy that is so, so delightful. Starting with their petals hanging straight down and then slowly but surely furling them upwards until they are upright as though they are exclaiming about the joys and delights of life itself.

cyclamen, warm light, grey day

Here is my latest cyclamen, photographed today in my kitchen. It was raining at the time I took these photos and then just after midday the rain turned to snow - those big fluffy flakes of snow that always remind me of Peanut cartoons when Linus and Snoopy would try to catch the flakes on their tongues.

warm light on cyclamen

So evocative were those cartoons that I occasionally try to do the same thing myself! So much fun to be had as a 'grown up child' I think....

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Snowdrops - signs of life in the garden...

I have found a patch of snowdrops in my 'wild' garden area (or should I say, one of my wild garden areas!!!) and it's so good to see a sign of life at this time of year. But sadly, it appears that my darling little hens have decimated the other patches of snowdrops I planted a few years ago. Either that, or they have rearranged the soil levels so much that the poor snowdrops have extra work to do to reach the sunlight.


Elsewhere in the garden I am beginning to see Daffodil shoots emerging from hibernation. It will be a treat to see their sunny yellow flowers after these long, long winter days. I don't know what the weather is like where you live, but here it has been either heavy frost or snow with alternate days of deluging rain. The ground is either rock hard or a quagmire. It's that time of the year when I struggle with the English weather! I long for summer and the welcome return of warm evenings when we can sit outside and enjoy a barbeque with friends... a time of year when I love the English weather. In Australia, sunset arrives early and the sun drops down like a stone into the sea - it's over so quickly and there are none of these gloriously long evenings to savour.

And I'm starting to keep my eye out for fresh nettle shoots as I have been given a lovely Nettle Soup recipe by my friend Sarah. I'm keen to try it - the gardener's revenge on the stinging nettle!

Here's the recipe in case your nettles start to grow before mine do...

Nettle Soup - serves 6.

  • 1/2 carrier bag nettle tops/young leaves
  • 55g butter
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 litre chicken/vegetable stock
  • pinch ground nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons cooked rice
  • 2 tablespoons cream or creme fraiche
  • salt and pepper


  1. Pick over nettles, wash thoroughly. Discard any tough stalks

  2. Melt butter, sweat onions, carrot, celery and garlic until soft but not brown

  3. Add stock and pile in the nettles. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 - 10 minutes until tender.

  4. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

  5. Puree the soup in a liquidiser with the cooked rice.

  6. Return to a clean pan, stir in cream/creme fraiche and reheat but do not boil.


My marmalade venture was good fun - here's the finished result from batch 1 - batch 2 starts this weekend.

Marmalade 001

It's a lovely, clear marmalade with lots of delicious peel suspended in it. This recipe is one where the quantities can be changed to suit you - it is just 1 part oranges, 2 parts sugar and 3 parts water. Just make sure that you stick to either Imperial or Metric measurements, keep the proportions and all will be well.

Marmalade 002

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

My first Comment on my Blog!!!

Huge thanks and love to Marie of Dreaming of Wild Roses blog for my first ever comment on my blog. I could scarcely believe my eyes when I logged on today... you know one of those moments when you seem to be unable to comprehend or even believe what you are seeing! Just before the excitement hits!
Marie has the most beautiful blog and I thank you Marie for leaving your kind comment about dear little Fizz, the Moose and for your welcome to 'Blogland'. I hope that you will soon be able to find the time and space to get back to your blog, as from a purely selfish point of view, I so enjoyed reading all your posts and seeing the beautiful photos you have on it.
I will be telling Fizz about your comment too - it is quite likely that he will have a very swollen head because of it! At the very least, he will be pleased as Punch.
I promise not to bore you all with too many photos of him, but here's one more of him in Denmark whilst we were staying at the simply divine Falsled Kro on the island of Fyn.


Saturday, 17 January 2009

Fizz, THE Moose...

There is a very special 'person' in our lives. His name is Fizz - because of his sparkling personality, don't you know... Fizz came into our lives about 5 years ago (but goodness gracious please don't tell him how 'old' he is...) when we were looking for a special Christmas gift for some friends of ours... He arrived a bit early for wrapping, so we had him in our bedroom for a while.

Well, he worked his magic on us and we found ourselves totally unable to give him to our friends as originally planned.

Fizz travels most places with us - except where or when we worry that he would be damaged or harmed in any way. Many of our friends simply adore him - he is quite, quite the most amazing little moose you will ever meet and I am proud to introduce him to you all....

Here he is, Fizz the Moose... he is pictured here at our favourite hotel on Lac d'Annecy just as he is about to tuck into his meal ....


This morning the sun was shining and for a blissful change, the interior of the house was warmly lit by sunshine, rather than by candlelight or lamplight alone...

These two photos show the 'new' part of our home - this room dates back to the 1860's and it is a real bonus to be able to open those french windows wide in summer...

Wednesday, 14 January 2009


My husband makes fantastic knot keyrings and here are a few of his latest offerings, made specially for our friend, Ali.

keyrings 004

And here's the rest of them...

keyrings 005

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Lazy Day...

My husband started his new Danish for Beginners course last night and I was also at college, submitting to my first practical exam for my Facial Therapy course... he enjoyed the first night, meeting new people and finding out why they are interested in studying Danish... he's interested because we have friends over there, have visited quite a few times and have done a bit of sailing in Danish waters. We love it, love the people, the beautiful countryside and coastal areas, the wonderful seafood, the fishing, clear waters...
I managed to get through the exam and was pleased with the result.
But perhaps with the excitement and a late meal at about 10 pm when we returned home, neither of us slept well. So today has been a rather haphazard sort of day.
But the wood fire is lit now and when I was outside just a moment ago, getting the hens back into their run, I could smell the wood smoke and see it curling up from the chimney - time for tea and a slice of home made fruit cake! I'm looking forward to a night in front of the fire, curled up on the sofa and reading a good book.


Sunday, 11 January 2009

Sunshine thoughts and good friends

I've been sitting here, reading a few blogs and one of them was from Sydney; another from central New South Wales. I realised that I am missing friends and missing warmth and sunshine. So, looking at some old-ish images from holidays past this one caught my eye. It reminded me of a very special time when we stayed at a lovely hotel in Talloires, France. Our very dear friend Andy was also visiting the area as he was following the Tour de France - he's a mad keen cyclist... possibly with the emphasis on 'mad'...

He came to visit us at the hotel and we had a magical afternoon sitting by the lake, chatting and catching up on all the news.

Of course this has nothing to do with anything really - just me, reminiscing...


When we were first thinking about getting some rescue hens via the Battery Hen Welfare Trust we were told that we should expect them to be in pretty bad shape. It was to be expected that they would be terrified, very weak and probably with few feathers (if any). It is not unusual for the hens to be 'oven ready' - that is with no feathers at all due to the overcrowding and having to fight for their food and drink, as well as being so stressed.

We were told that the girls would be unlikely to come out of the coop for some days and that when they did, they might not be able to walk very far or even able to stand for long periods of time. We were lucky. And I guess that by comparison to many others, so were our girls. Clearly they were not in top show condition and had pale faces, combs and what feathers they did have were in pretty tatty condition. They were indeed terrified but they came out of the coop almost immediately. And within about an hour, were already starting to scratch and peck at the grass. (The picture above shows them on their first afternoon with us).

My husband had made a tiny little run for them as we were also told that they would be terrified of wide open spaces and so a small run to start with was 'a good idea'. We soon realised that our girls were made of much stronger stuff and within a couple of days had moved them to an interim run - our old tennis court! And within two weeks, when they were pretty settled and had established their pecking order (not a pretty sight!), we started to give them more and more access to our entire garden.

We had also been told that we should not expect too much from them with regard to egg production. After all, they had had the stuffing beaten out of them every day and would be pretty much 'spent' as far as egg production was concerned. Not our girls! We usually run at 90 - 100% production which means that there is a surplus of eggs. I believe that this is because they are given free range (unless we are away from the house when they are locked in their run) access to fresh grass, lots of good food, plenty of fresh air, clean bedding and water every day, and Mother (me) gives them a cooked meal every day of vegetable peelings and rice/pasta.

Their eggs are delicious and are highly sought after by locals who buy from us. So much for being 'spent'. I wish I could explain to you the sheer joy and delight these little creatures give me - simply knowing that they have had some sunshine on their backs is reward enough. Bless them.

Here is their new home and run which we built especially for them. It is warm and secure with shade from the apple trees and the fencing is strong and dug deep into the ground as well - designed to keep Mr and Mrs Foxy out. You can see some of them here on their 'moving in day' having inspected their new 'palais de poulets' for the first time - the palais is a converted child's play ranch and is perfect for them. Standing room inside for humans and warm, airy and secure for the girls!

In case you're wondering, yes, they do have their own names and personalities to match. I was warned before getting them that they would enchant and captivate me. So I warn you too if you're thinking about it...

Saturday, 10 January 2009


And here they are, legging it...



Our 10 rescue ex-batts are insatiably curious and always eager to get to the other side of the fence where the grass is always greener and far more tasty than in their pen. Here they are, eager for me to let them out so that they can go exploring...

Frost in the morning

It's quite beautiful outside today and I love the hoar frost on the trees - a shame that there is no sun to highlight it but it hardly matters when the world is fringed white and silent.


Our local farm shop has the new season organic Seville oranges in stock and I am going to make the first batch of my favourite marmalade. I use my Granny's recipe - very simple and although it looks like it's a bit of a hassle, in fact it is really easy. One of the things that I particularly like about the recipe is that it is spread over 3 or 4 days and so I can do a bit now and then...

  • Seville oranges
  • Sugar (you can use sugar with added pectin if you like a firmer set)
  • Water

Day 1: Weigh, wash and cut into 1/4's then slice thinly, removing all blemishes and pips (save the pips, wrap in muslin). Soak the fruit and muslin wrapped pips in water overnight.

Day 2: Bring the water with the fruit in it to boil and simmer until the fruit is very soft. Leave overnight.

Day 3: Add sugar, bring to the boil very gently. Dissolve sugar completely. Once dissolved, boil rapidly until set is reached. Bottle in warm, sterile jars. Cool completely and seal the next day with wax discs.

And it is a great base recipe for other citrus fruits - I use it for my grapefruit, lemon and lime marmalades too.