Tuesday, 28 February 2017

A pheasant visitor

My sister came to visit a few days ago, and when I went to answer the door she pointed out a pheasant wandering outside the neighbour's house. We live on the outskirts of town, and have many acres of fields and woodland surrounding us, but it seemed strange that he had decided to have a wander around a built up residential area. I went and got some bird food and sprinkled it on our lawn, then we went in for a cup of tea. 

A little while later I thought I would just see if he was still around, and got a shock when I opened the porch door....

He was stood there, waiting to come in! He looked very indignant about being shut out, and you could almost hear him saying, "I've been stood here for ages waiting for you."! He didn't even seem scared, and only moved away when I actually opened the front door. I put some more food out for him, and he spent quite a while out there tucking in, before jumping up on our fence and flying away. 

We enjoyed watching our unusual but friendly visitor. 


Friday, 17 February 2017

Bargain plants

You can get plenty of fantastic bargains if you shop at the supermarket at the right time of day, but I don't ever tend to look in the plant section. However I have been treating myself to a weekly bunch of £1 daffodils, and when I went over to pick one up I noticed a reduced section. How could I resist! They had some house plants in terracotta pots, and my first thought was never mind what's in them, I'll get some for Big Girl as she has a large collection of cacti and they would look great in them on her window sill. At only 19p each, how could I say no! I got four of those, and also a pot of spring bulbs (narcissi, hyacinth and primrose) for only 9p. 

There was nothing wrong with them, they were just looking a little sad and needed a good drink. I used another of my bargain buys, brought at the end of last year from the garden centre, to give them a boost. It's called Top Defence, and I think it's mainly used when transplanting plants, but it said it could be used at any time a plant was stressed and I thought these guys needed a boost. 
So after a good drink, a tonic, and a trim I think they were a bargain way to prettify the house. 

Mind you, it wasn't until I had finishing tidying them up that I looked them up online and realised I should have worn gloves. They are primula Obconica, which apparently is also known as the Poison primrose because of the effect it has on those with sensitive skin (causes irritation) on contact. Oh dear, good job I'm obviously not a sensitive soul!

The bulb pot is keeping my amaryllis company. I bought this one and potted it up last year but all I got was leaves. This year it has reappeared and finally produced some lovely blooms. Unfortunately, as you may have noticed, I have already beheaded two flowers when I shut the blinds 😩. 

An update on the sweet peas I showed you last time. Not a great success I don't think. The most successful one was the 'normal' variety, the two special ones, including a lovely blue sweet pea, only produced a few shoots out of ten seeds sown. I even pre soaked the seeds so don't know what went on there. 

As long as the weather isn't shocking we have a busy weekend ahead. We finally have a builder sorted but he is really busy, and wants to start in a few weeks - eeeekk!!!!!!!! That means we have to dismantle the old conservatory so it is ready for them to dig out the new footings for the extension. You may have spotted OH in the picture above, outside shovelling up the gravel before the builders come. If we left it it would just get mixed up with the soil when they dig out for the footings and wasted. So we are bagging it up and will hopefully find a use for it. 

Speak soon,

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Healthy new year, healthy bread

The start of a new year generally means we try to eat more healthily after the indulgences of Christmas, and one thing I decided to do was to try making bread using wholemeal spelt flour. It's not a flour I have ever tried before, and previous attempts at using wholemeal flour to make bread have ended up with a dense, heavy loaf. Surprise, surprise, I ended up again with a brown brick (if anybody can enlighten me on where I'm going wrong that would be great).

But all is not lost. I sliced a piece off and offered it to Big Girl to try. This is a child who only ever ate white bread, who wouldn't go near wholemeal, granary or anything remotely brown coloured. However since turning not only a teenager but also a vegetarian she is more open to trying new foods. And she thought it was Deeeeelicious!! She had two slices with her tea, then after eating pudding asked if she could have another slice!

I think I will persevere, after all I still have half a packet of flour to use, and maybe I will throw my tin of yeast away and get a new one. It's within date but does say not to use after four months once opened. I can't even remember when I used it last, so it must be more than that. Let's hope my next loaf is light and airy, but either way, I know someone in the house will tuck in!
I had another cake  baking session this weekend. I asked OH what be would like and he requesterd viennese whirls. Mr Kipling's viennese whirls are a favourite of his, but he does find them rather small. Let me introduce you to my whirls on steroids!...

They are that big I can only just fit them all in the cake tin! You may have noticed some of them look a little bit well done. I have a valid excuse for that. I put them in the oven then remembered I had to pick Big Girl up from riding which took a bit longer than expected, hence the 'well done' look of some of the whirls. 

I dont think I better eat too many, I dread to think how many calories are in one of those babies. Enough to feed a starving African family for a week I would imagine. I think whoever invented calories should be ashamed of themselves for stripping me of my enjoyments. I absolutely love Battenburg, and can quite easily polish of a quarter of one. Have you ever read the back of a Battenburg wrapper. Do you know how many slices they allow for in that teeny tiny cake? 12. Seriously?! Who are they feeding - the Borrowers?! So that means my quarter portion should actually feed three people 😩

The cake at the front in the photo above is an orange and chocolate cake. Its called a Jaffa drizzle loaf, and you can find the recipe here on the Good Food website. Yummy! 
The cake that was hiding behind the Jaffa cake is Davina's sugar free fruit tea bread. It is sweetened with maple syrup rather than sugar, and is a good recipe to use up all the dried fruit lurking in the cupboard - figs, dates, apricots, pears, sultanas, currants. That was another recipe using the dreaded wholemeal spelt flour but this one turned out okay (well taste wise ok, but it wouldn't win a beauty prize hence why it is hiding in the background in my photo).

On a completely different topic, did you notice the row of yoghurt pots in the background of the first cake photo? We get through a lot of yoghurt in this house, and I buy the big pots and decant into smaller reusable pots for everyone to take to work/school. So I got to thinking, what could I do with all those pots? Then I had a lightbulb moment - they make great mini propagaters! I planted sweet pea seeds as they like a nice deep pot, planting ten to a pot, popped the lid on (with a few holes poked in for ventilation) and wrote the variety on the side in marker pen.

I'm thinking I might give some pots to the children, so they can plant grow their own pumpkin and courgette seeds. I think they look prettier on the windowsill than a bunch of brown plastic pots, and I'm doing my bit for recycling 😀

Speak soon,