Shoots and Teacups

The garlic has started to peek through but if you watch very carefully  you can almost see the shoots trying to hide from the freezing blasts of wind that have now come to torment us. Last year I used the Utility Room as a greenhouse with good success… but the Utility Room is now the Kitten’s Bedroom and as much as they’d love to have soil and seedlings to play with I’ll have to be more creative with space this year.

The “Nicola” seed potatoes from Sarah Raven arrived in the week so I’ve started to chit them in an old egg tray. I smiled when I notice that one was  heart shaped  as hearts are dotted all the way around our home and it seemed a good sign for the growing year  yet to come.

Garlic and Spuds

I’m quite excited because I’ve made some really tasty bread and it was soooo easy to do that it feels like I’ve missed the point! It’s from a book called Artisan Bread In 5 Minutes which shares the secret of a no knead method of bread making. I followed the most basic recipe and I’m hoping it’s not just a bit of a fluke but it was lovely – I’ll keep baking and let you know. Do you use this method of bread making, and if so, is it successful for you? I’m going to be a bit more adventurous with the recipe next weekend.

Crusty Bread

I seem to have acquired a new obsession – vintage teacups! I’ve decided to hold a small afternoon tea party in early Summer and this has given me the perfect excuse to collect them. I’ll be going full out – home made fancies, crustless sandwiches, scones and gorgeous little cups of tea. They’ll  be bunting, flowers and lots of vintage loveliness and weather permitting we may even be able to sit outside (okay, I’ll stop it now, I’m just getting carried away!).

Teacups

Vintage Typewriter ♥

Imperial Typewriter

I love vintage things and I’ve been trying to figure out the reason why.  I know that they have a certain look, feel and smell (yes, smell!) that appeals to me but it’s not just that. It’s hard to explain but these things are a link to a past I’ve never known but one that I belong to. It’s also because I get the chance to use things that have been used and loved before – there’s something that makes me want to touch and hold these things and they seem to sing when I do! I blame it on Bagpuss the old children’s tv programme – I’ve always loved this saggy old cloth cat and will probably add him to my blog some time soon (but I need to spend a good amount of time on it to do him justice!).

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To save the house resembling a junk shop I am disciplined and only buy things that really speak to me . This beautiful vintage typewriter came into my life a couple of weeks ago and all she really needs is a new ribbon… not bad for a 70 year old girl!

Vintage Typewriter

It’s so sad to think that many of these vintage typewriters are being snapped up by jewellery makers who then cut off their keys and make charms and pendants from them. I know some of these old typewriters will be in a terrible condition, and I’m a big fan of recycling things, but there must be some perfectly good machines being destroyed. I’ve promised my husband that I won’t  set up a rescue home for unwanted typewriters – but I would seriously urge you to rehome one if you can! These old typewriters take up very little room, don’t need to be fed very often (just the occasional sheet of paper) and are generally well behaved. On the down side you will risk breaking your nails when typing but most gardeners and crafters don’t have perfectly manicured nails anyway.

Tabby Kittens

 Happy Valentine’s Day x

(We’re also half way  through February – Hooray!!)

Flippin’ ‘Eck!

Shrove Tuesday is celebrated in many ways around the world and commemorates the Eve of Lent. Over here we usually do this by eating lots of pancakes and arguing about the best toppings! I always look forward to this day as eating and arguing are a couple of things I’m good at and it helps make the February Blahs better. In the past eggs and butter were amongst the foods that were forbidden during Lent so making pancakes was the ideal way of using up these ingredients.

Pancake Day

My husband is the best pancake maker EVER so he’ll be on frying pan duty tonight when he finishes work. I asked if he wanted me to make a start but he’s quite particular about his batter :-) In my opinion the most delicious topping is a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkle of vanilla sugar whereas the Master Pancake Chef prefers honey, syrup, treacle or chocolate spread (brute).
Here’s A Great Recipe and even if you don’t make pancakes tonight then it’s worth having them at the weekend – they’re lovely for breakfast with sliced banana, for dessert with icecream or even with a savoury filling and salad!

Traditional celebrations always make me think back to childhood memories.  My good hearted parents kept making pancakes until we were all full up. Please bear in mind that this was no minor achievement as I’m the eldest of four girls so the orange quarters usually ran out before the pancakes! Even as I write these words I can hear a faint sizzle of a frying pan and taste the tangy sweetness of being a little girl again. As I close my eyes I can see us all smiling and asking for more… “more?? you’ve already had six each!” x

…. but Pancake Day is not what I’m actually saying Flipping ‘Eck to. The Pyjama Gardener blog is one year old! I can’t believe that this mile stone has been reached and I know the reason for this is down to all you guys who read the posts, comment so generously and inspire me to keep going so thank you. As a thank you I will send you all a virtual pancake, fresh from the pan – you’ll just have to let me know which topping you prefer?

Translation Note: Flippin’ ‘Eck is a phrase used in the North of England that is similar to Good Gracious, Oh My Goodness, Oh Dear… or any of the less polite phrases of surprise!

Craft It Forward

We all have different talents and it’s good to acknowledge these special attributes so they don’t become forgotten. My husband, for example, is an extremely practical and tenacious man which means that he can turn his hand to almost anything (…except the ironing which persistently confounds him for some reason). He also entertains me by turning his socks the right way around whilst putting his feet in them – although this has to be seen to be believed!
My talent is usually knowing what the time is (with an accuracy of less than 15 mins). I never wear a watch although I own several as many people feel sorry for me and buy them as gifts.  I’m also pretty good at matching colours without a swatch which means that I can walk into a fabric shops and just know what the perfect shade would be (this also makes it a nightmare for those who are with me- “it’s near enough” they say. “It’s nothing like” say I).
The kittens have a talent for being  effortlessly cute and cuddly as well as growing at least a centimetre a day! However, the chickens surely must have the most delicious talent  of consistently providing us with the tastiest eggs.

IMG_4538

So, you can imagine that I also have a very good idea of where my weaknesses lie. The top one (of a verrrry long list) is impatience. I have no patience for fiddling around with things like embroidery, sugar craft, jigsaws, sudoku, untangling christmas tree lights etc. It’s not that I can’t do them it’s more like I can’t be bothered to spend time doing them and there always seems to be more intresting and/or pressing to do.  So,  as much as I thoroughly enjoy reading all of the wonderful craft posts,  I know that deep down my talents lie elsewhere.

One of the blogs that I love is Gardening Nirvana and last week dear Alys was thrilled to be involved with a “Craft it Forward” project. She explained that the first five people who left a comment on her blog would receive a hand crafted gift and the only condition was the lucky five have to pay the  craft favour forward. Once the five bloggers had safely added their comments to Alys’ blog I contacted her to say what a great idea it was and then THIS happened! (the link can be found in the word THIS!). Thanks Alys x

Oh well, I like a challenge and it may just lead to a new hobby. If you would like to be involved then please hurry and comment – the rules are very simple:

  1. The first five people to comment here will receive a handmade gift from me at some point during 2013…. I apologise in advance for what the postman brings.
  2. You won’t know when, and you won’t know what, but I can assure you that it will happen…. heck, even I don’t know when or what!
  3. I will email you for your snail mail address so it will be private
  4. As one of the famous five you have to agree to do the same for five other people

There’s no time like the present – I’ve already thought about embroidery, crazy patchwork, stump work, decoupage and water colours. My Mum’s really good at crafts so I’m sure she’ll help me out and try not to laugh too much at my attempts.
Last night we went to a family dinner party and took along some champagne, a dozen organic eggs and a potted cyclamen. There’s no time like the present so I had a little go at glamming things up …. starting with the tatty recycled egg box.

IMG_4540I was pleased with how much improvement a simple decoration of flowery tissue paper, buttons and raffia made…

IMG_4535 … so the cyclamen plant was attacked next with some old brown tissue paper and more raffia…

IMG_4546… these gifts were gratefully received and it was nice to know that I had spent some extra time and thought on them. Don’t worry – you won’t get eggs or a plant in the post!!

So my main questions are

  • who wants to enter the Craft It Forward challenge?  
  • what on earth can I make???        :-)

Some of my favourite things ♥

I’ll let you into a secret (and please don’t mention this to anyone) I’m absolutely desperate to take down the Christmas decorations and give the house a really good clean! Can you believe it? I’m a cross between Mary Poppins and The Grinch! There have been little festive garlands and ornaments disappearing since yesterday and today the Christmas mugs came out of the dishwasher and were promptly wrapped in tissue paper instead of being put into the mug cupboard. My hubby wants to keep the decs up for a while longer but how on earth can I stop the House Elf from tidying up when our backs are turned? He’s a crafty little fellow (the elf, not my husband) who just loves the feeling of….. S P A C E ….. that happens when all the decorations come down. I can see his point.

Xmas Decorations

We visited Chatsworth House in October and bought the metal reindeer (above) to add to our Christmas display. We’ve fallen in love with him so he may escape being put into a box and be kept out all year. As much as I have the urge to pack Christmas away early every year I have a strange habit of also keeping something out on display. I have fairy lights over the fireplace all year (too pretty to take down), a purple berry wreath on the kitchen door (the door looks sad without it), a large star made out of twigs in the garden room (I love stars as much as hearts!) and quite possibly a metal reindeer on the bureau in the hall :-)
However, I will miss all the greenery in the house the – the tree smells wonderful and I’m looking forward to making an Easter wreath already.

Christmas 2012

It’s been such a nice Christmas and I feel relaxed, refreshed and looking forward to the New Year. The housework has slipped, the garden has been sorely neglected (although the weather is even too soggy for wellies) and there has been way too much drinking and eating naughty food… simply wonderful!

Christmas Presents

Some of my favourite things are (1) a lovely cotton Owl bag to help with the grocery shopping – the design on this is great and I’d love to have this as a cushion… maybe I’ll have a go at making one next year! (2) I love books more than anything else and usually have three on the go at once so these stocking fillers will keep me quiet for a while. (3) My husband bought me the sparkly heart shaped necklace ♥ (4) This is actually a paper pot maker for my seedlings so I can make my own little pots. (5) A new diary always makes me smile… it’s completely empty at the moment and yet is so full of possibilities. Roll on 2013!

Happy New Year

Wishing you all a very happy New Year and fortunate 2013 x

The Eve of Christmas Eve

I have always loved the magic of Christmas and look forward to the traditions that we undertake each year such as choosing and collecting the tree, untangling the fairy lights and making the cake. Each year also brings the opportunity to start new traditions such as making gingerbread houses and producing homemade gifts such as candles or soap but I always seem to have more pressing things to do…. so I’ve asked Father Christmas for a little more free time in 2013 :-)

Source - Pinterest

Source – Pinterest

Isn’t it funny, I realised that I had finally grown up one Christmas when the things I wished for were not things at all… I wished for good health, peace of mind, happiness, security and a loving family and friends. A cliche it may be but it’s oh so true. I used to have a job that required me to work all sorts of shifts including on Christmas Day and I used to be so envious of people who could be at home. I am really lucky that my work is now Monday to Friday  and I don’t have to work main holidays so I can be at home – I will never take this for granted.

Garlic Planted

I really wanted to plant the garlic on Friday but due to the persistent rain (and the fact that the end of the world was predicted so it would have been a waste of time) the planting was postponed until today. It was soooo good to get back into the garden! I feel like I’ve been very neglectful of it lately as the rain has stopped play for weeks. As the gate creaked closed behind me I could almost hear it squeak “there you are”.

Source - pinterest

Source – pinterest

So as the final ribbon is carefully wrapped around the presents and the stockings are waiting to be filled I’m going to put on my christmas pyjamas and get the party started! Christmas Eve is so exciting around here that we even have an Eve of Christmas Eve celebration! I’ve always loved the anticipation of Christmas as much as the day itself (if not more) and I still go to bed hoping to hear sleigh bells overhead….

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas – let’s share a virtual glass of cold champagne and toast the spirit of Christmas! x x x

Mrs Beeton Would Not Approve

The Christmas cake is finally decorated and although I made the cake  myself I decided against home made marzipan and Royal icing. Time is precious and there have been too many  other things to do so I used ready-made varieties instead (at least this way knives won’t be damaged cutting through the cake this year!).

Iced Christmas Cake

The tradition of eating dried fruit and spices go back to the middle ages where it was custom for a cake to be baked for 12th night celebrations. But due to too much Pagan merriment this celebration was banned during Puritan times although fruit puddings remained popular at Christmas. We can thank Queen Victoria for the cake’s revival (as well as many other christmas traditions) and the popularity of the fruit cake recipe by Mrs Beeton.
I had visions of me dropping the cake out of the tin and it breaking into a hundred pieces. You see, I’m clumsy. Not just “oops a daisy, steady on!” clumsy but the whole “Ronald MacDonald feet, custard pie in the mush!” clumsy!! I regularly trip over fresh air, accidently drop most things that I shouldn’t and if the situation arose I could NEVER be trusted to cut the correct wire on a ticking bomb!

Christmas Cake 1

1. Amazingly the cake survived… probably due to the alcohol fumes allowing it levitate out of the tin!
2. Apricot jam was warmed and spread over the cake to allow the marzipan to stick.
3. The marzipan was thinly rolled out and lifted onto the cake. This layer was then gently moistened with boiling water and a thin layer of fondant icing was added.

Christmas Cake 2

4. Goodness knows where picture 4 went LOL (Mrs Beeton probably had something to do with it as I can hear her spinning her grave as I type!). Such a shame as No.4 was amazing ;-) and showed the excess icing and marzipan being trimmed off the cake.
5. A cookie cutter star was used to punch out the decorations.
6. The stars were stuck onto the cake with a little more boiling water.
7. A ribbon was tied around the cake and the whole thing was put onto the lid of a cake tin with the actual tin used as the lid. I reminded my husband not to turn it around the other way in his quest to look for biscuits!

You’re welcome to pop round for a cup of tea (or something stronger) and a slice of cake. In fact I insist that you go home with some… and here is the first glimpse of the magic at Christmas. No matter how many slices of Christmas cake are cut, the cake seems to last forever!

What’s in a name?

There are certain years when I go mad with the decorations and every spare surface in the house is festooned with sparkly delights. Other years I am quite restrained and understated in my approach… and I never have a plan before I begin. I obviously channel Dolly Parton in my more colourful years (oooh, and I do love a bit of Dolly) but this year was more subdued like Grace Kelly so most of the bling has gone back to the attic.

Noel

The Christmas tree and hearth are pretty traditional but the rest of the house is decorated with muted gold and silver.

Wreath

The Garden Room has neutral furnishings so it’s easy to decorate it with any colour scheme possible. This year it’s simply twinkle lights and a seasonal display on the sideboard. The tree is situated at the other end of the room and I’ll post some more photos of that next weekend.

Garden Room

The kittens are doing really well and are so cute. There are little paw prints everywhere… and I don’t mind a bit! I’ve registered them with a vet and have booked them in for their vaccinations next week. We’ve finally decided to KEEP the names that they were given at birth – mainly because we couldn’t agree on any other names (what’s wrong with Arthur??).

Milo

So, finally (drum roll please….) the brown tabby boy is called Milo which means soldier.

Bella

… and the beautiful little grey tabby girl is appropriately called Bella.

They play really well together and curl up entwined, all paws and whiskers, to go to sleep. So this really is the start of another happy chapter but there is one thing that I need to get off my chest. My little sister visited last weekend and fussed over the kittens. She thought the names were great and said that they really suited them…. especially as they were obviously named after two of The Tweenies! Aaarrggghhh!!! LOL!

We love you anyway Milo & Bella x x

Tweenies

Christmas is coming!

TreesThe first weekend of December is usually when we fetch Christmas tree from the local farm shop… and we also would probably win the award for fastest chosen tree! We seem to have a talent for quickly spotting and buying a good tree within a minute and leaving the other customers to argue over the type of tree to buy! It’s all part of our Christmas traditions now…

When we arrive home the cheesy christmas music is turned on and I eagerly look forward to unwrapping the decorations and smiling at the happy memories that emerge with each one. There’s no colour scheme or fancy theme for the tree but simply the familiar act of pinning little tokens of happiness to the branches that  remind us of Christmas Past.

Christmas Decorations

For some reason this year has been especially busy and the Christmas cake, which is usually made shortly after Halloween, just hasn’t been made so I decided to try a different recipe. I wanted something simple and quick to make and found a great  Christmas Cake Recipe on the BBC Good Food website. As much as I love all-things-Delia I felt like a bit of a change in 2012 and I hope that the final proof will be in the pudding :-)

Christmas Cake Ingredients

The fruit, butter, sugar, zest, spices and roasted macadamia nuts were slowly heated in a large pan on the stove until combined. The flour was then sifted and gently mixed into the batter until no further trace of flour could be seen. The trickiest part of this process was lining the cake tin!

Cake mixture

As the cake slowly baked the house filled with the delicious smell of Christmas…

Christmas Cake

It’s going to be an extra special christmas this year as we have two special furry friends to share it with. They make us smile each day and are so adorable! This morning they were curled up in the egg basket… and had even removed the inner tray to make it more comfortable. Luckily the eggs are no longer stored in the utility room!

Kittens in egg basket

Smitten

We’re now sharing our home with two beautiful 10wk old kittens. One is a grey tabby girl and the other is a brown tabby boy… and we’re completely in love already.

Their names are yet to be decided but I’m sure this will be easier once we get to know them a better (I’m secretly hoping it will be Mouser and Cuddle Cat LOL!!). It’s been an especially happy day today because it’s also my gorgeous husband’s birthday.

Many Happy Returns Bear! I’m sorry I haven’t had chance to make you a cake. I love you x