Sunday, 24 April 2016

Mr Men and a shed revamp

The car boot season has finally rolled around again, and we are enjoying our weekly Saturday morning rummage. Little Boy is into Mr Men at the moment, and we grabbed a bargain this weekend amongst a box of toys - Mr Men and Little Miss soft toys! Even more exciting was when he discovered that some of them make a noise when you shake them - couldn't ask for more, especially as they only cost 5p each!!!!

Great fun was had matching up the right toy with the corresponding book. Shame we couldn't get anymore. I looked on Ebay for some - you can get a whole set for about £40 - think I'll give it a miss (excuse the pun, get it - 'Miss'!)

He even took them all outside, sat on his blanket and read them all to himself whilst I did a bit of weeding. He loves his new swing set and we are chuffed to bits with it too. We acquired it from a couple who had it in their garden for their grandkids but no longer need it. They were asking the grand sum of £20! It's in such good condition, and the swings are strong enough even for adults (yes, we've all had a go on it 😀).

I treated myself too, well at only 5p how could I not? I got an Orinoco Womble, who now keeps me company in the kitchen. I checked them out on eBay too, and found one for £5, so I think I did well! I guess I'm showing my age, liking Wombles. Unlike some characters who have made a reappearance (Noddy, the Clangers to name a few), the Wombles are no more. I do have a few old Womble books, that Big Girl and I read together. 

A few weeks ago I went to a great garden centre with OH's mum and sister. It's not a conventional one, the majority of the plants are small plug plants in trays. So you need to be the sort of person who likes the effort of splitting and potting on, plus have the room to store them all until it's warm enough to put them outside. The upside of all this effort is you get great quality plants at a really low price. This is some of what I came home with. Might not look too much, but that tray in the top left is lobelia and has sixty cells in it (each with about three plants in, but these are too tiny to split) - all for only £3.50!! Others I got included 16 trailing geraniums for £3.50 and 16 strawberry plants for £3.

Remember when I showed you the garden last week and you had a glimpse of the conservatory piled full of boxes? Well I had a sort out and it is now my temporary greenhouse, with a comfy space for potting on. I had a good idea to stack one table on top of another so I could increase the shelving. Luckily the one on top has quite long legs, so the underneath plants still get plenty of light...

There's a LOT of plants and I had to make use of every available space, including packing boxes...

I was quickly running out of room, wondering where the heck I was going to put the final few trays, when I had a lightbulb moment - I used the upturned spare dining chairs stacked in the corner as tiered shelving!

The garden this year should be fit to bursting with a riot of colourful blooms! So with all that colour I decided the shed needed a makeover.  The photo below was taken on a soggy, cold Christmas Eve (sorry it's pants quality as it was raining and getting dark). We had to work through the rain to get it up in time, as our house contents were arriving just after Christmas and we needed a shed to store any overflow boxes. So this is the 'before' photo of the shed  in its boring brown shade...

Now it looks much more handsome. OH says it looks like a seaside beach hut, I think that's a compliment! I love being in the kitchen now, as I can stand and look at it out of the window 😀. I got a bargain on the paint; its Ronseal 'Willow' and it just so happened that when I decided I liked that colour B&Q had that make on special - £20 a tin or two for only £24. I needed just over a tin to do it, so I'm going to paint the bench the same colour. I can just picture it now, with a homemade crochet throw draped over it and some squishy cushions!

I was pleased with the colour of the shed but thought it needed pimping up just a bit more. I had some bunting that I'd had up on the verandah in New Zealand that had got a bit faded in the sun. It was too nice to throw away, but just a bit too faded to have up in the house. The finishing touch was to add my new bug box on the front. Overall I'm pleased as punch with it. So to make the garden even more glorious I just have a few plants to put in....


Sunday, 17 April 2016

Little Boy makes muffins

Little Boy is going through that phase that all children tend to go through at some point, of not eating many veggies. So I found a great recipe to hide them in - Banana Veggie Bran Muffins. I started making them, when he wandered into the kitchen and asked if he could help. So on went his apron, out came the stool and he got stuck into making his culinary creation...

Here is the recipe in case you'd like to give them a go. Even if you don't have any children to get the better of by disguising their food, they are yum to eat. They went down well at our house, he was very proud of his cakes, and ate two for lunch!

Banana veggie bran muffins

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 large very ripe bananas
1 small-medium courgette, shredded
2 medium carrots, shredded
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 cup wheat bran
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F, Gas Mark 5

With a food processor or hand blender, mix butter and sugar until smooth. Add banana, courgette, carrot and eggs, mix thoroughly until bananas are well mashed into mixture. 

Add remaining ingredients, and mix until just combined (over mixing will make them chewy)

Spoon batter into muffin cases, 2/3 to 3/4 full. 

Bake for 15-18 minutes, cool in tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling

Makes 1 dozen muffins

Update on the tadpoles, they are doing great, still munching on lettuce with a bit of spinach too. Once they get legs, they get liver (yuk, rather them than me!). They are actually a bit bigger than this now, i just realised I haven't got an up to date photo and it's too dark to take one now. 

On the house front, OH has been putting a new loft hatch in. The one that was in the house when we moved in was in a silly place, in the bathroom. The ladder came down in front of the sink, which made it very hard to get up the ladder when you were laden with boxes...

So he has put one in the hall, with a much bigger opening and comfy wooden steps (much better than those horrible thin metal ones)

Problem is, we still can't put all our stuff up there yet until the electrics are done up there. I'm really trying not to think about all the work that needs doing; ceilings ripped down, bathrooms replaced etc. Been there done that before and I know what chaos and mess it creates. Problem is we have two children to accommodate now at the same time. I just have to imagine how lovely it will be when it's all done!


Sunday, 3 April 2016

Discovering the garden

Today I thought I'd show you around the garden. Mind you, it wasn't until I started thinking about this post that I realised I haven't even shown you the house yet! I'll do that soon too. I know from reading other blogs that regular posts throughout the year give you something to look back on and remember what's looking good when. I'd love to go in guns blazing and put in everything I want right now (kids play area, pond, small raised veg garden etc) but it's always a good idea to hold fire for a while and see whats growing there already. Plus ideas you had may change over time (that's already happened inside the house, plans we've had that have been scrapped or altered). 

The house was on the market for a long time, and the photo below may give you a big clue as to why (the big thing on the floor is the new shed roof)...

Yes, that's a railway line, running right along the back of the garden! It doesn't bother me at all, as we had a railway running alongside our house when I was growing up, and like anything, you get used to things eventually. Some days I stand and think 'I haven't heard a train yet' but I must have as there is one about every 15-20 minutes either way. It was a novelty for the children when we moved in, especially Little Boy - wow, his very own train at the bottom of the garden! They both still stand there waving if they are outside when one shoots past. A plus point is no houses overlooking us. Those ones you can see beyond are quite a way away, as there is the railway and then a large field beyond. 
If you've been reading my blog from the beginning you will know that it is way different from what we had in New Zealand (see this blog post for photos if you need reminding) but one of Big Girl's requests was an area of grass big enough to do her gymnastics. Well it seems to have passed the test. The photo below was taken on a freezing cold day in winter. I looked out of the window and saw her doing cartwheels in a crop top and shorts - mad!

There are quite a few established shrubs. I'm not into shrubs, but I think I know what some of them are. There is a rhododendron and an azalea (I think, please correct me if I'm wrong)...

The conservatory is a bit of an eyesore, looks more like a greenhouse stuck on the back of the house. We don't have a loft at the moment (OH is doing DIY man things up there) so at present the conservatory is a dumping ground for attic things and unpacked removal boxes). When we are sorted and have some money saved we are hoping to knock that one down and replace it with a bigger and better one. Actually somebody suggested having a proper roof on it rather than glass so I guess that makes it a sun room. That sounds a better idea, as it wouldn't get baking hot like a conventional conservatory does. 
The green pot outside is a raspberry plant we have just bought. I don't want to plant anything in the garden until we have decided what's going where. We have rather a long wait for a bowl of fruit though - I read the label and it said planting to fruiting is two years 😩

This little corner bed has a penstemon, a ceanothus and quite a few bulbs which I think are grape hyacinths with a few daffodils. 

Further on along that side bed there is a wooden bench, left by the previous owners. I imagine it will be quite pleasant sat there on a summers day, with the rose on one side and what I believe is an apple tree on the other. I'd like to replace it with one of those arbour seats but it wouldn't fit without cutting back the tree. 

In the middle of the lawn is a circular bed. A bit strange I think as it takes over the lawn, and it will definitely have to go. There's too much kiddie playing space being used up there. When I buy a house I prefer either a blank canvas, or a garden that's so overgrown it needs ripping out. I always feel a bit guilty changing a garden when there's actually nothing wrong with, it's just not to my taste. It seems a waste digging up established plants just so I can put something else there. This is where Freecycle comes in, and I hope I can rehome at least a few plants. 

By the shed there is a rather large tree stump. I imagine it would be a lot of effort to dig it out, so I need ideas for that one. Maybe a bird table on top, or grow something up it. At present, the kids use it to stand on to wave at passing trains!

So there you have it - pleasant enough to live with for now, but plenty of potential to shape it to how we want it. Hope you enjoyed your mini garden tour!


this blog post

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Muddy puddle secrets

I've always lived in this town (apart from of course six years on the other side of the world) but don't really know the area we have moved to now. Our road is a horseshoe shape, and the house is at the bottom of the 'u'. You turn into the road from one end, so we have never really explored the other half.
So we decided to go for a walk the other day and see what we could find. There was a short alley which opened out onto a playing field, adjacent to the railway line. I knew there was some more fields on the other side of the line, and to cross it there was a pedestrian crossing. 
It just so happened that a train was coming just as we arrived at the small gate. Big Girl and Little Boy thought it was wow amazing that you could stand right by the gate and almost reach out and touch the train as it hurtled past. Even more awesome was that the train driver waved at them 😃
We all had wellies on as it had been raining the day before, and good job we did as there were lots of puddles in amongst the grass. I hadn't realised that such a vast expanse of open land lay just a stones throw from our house. It must be dog walkers' paradise as the fields just go on and on, we could have walked for ages. Big Girl found a rather large puddle and we left her to it and walked on to find some smaller ones, as Little Boy's wellies are only short. After a short while she came running over excitedly to tell us that there were tadpoles in it, and could we take some home and grow pet frogs! When I said yes she could, there was lots of fussing and worrying over how to get them home. 
I suggested finding some rubbish, an empty can or bottle, or even a carrier bag, as there is always rubbish lying around everywhere isn't there. Well would you believe it, there wasn't any. After much searching we eventually found a solitary brown glass bottle hidden in the undergrowth, and she took it over to the stream to give it a rinse. 
And so this is what came home with us....

The bottle was emptied into one of my vases, but we couldn't leave them in there as she had collected rather a lot and the vase was only small. So we piled into the car and took a trip up town to get a small plastic fish tank. Thank goodness for Wilkos, as it only cost me £6 from there (well a bit more than that, as a few dahlia bulbs may have fallen into my trolley too. At only 75p a bag how could I refuse!). 

So this is what we have now, around 150 tadpoles, swimming around happily in their new 'des res', munching boiled lettuce on our kitchen table! Well it gives us a topic of conversation whilst we are eating our dinner 😀

Speak soon