Cheep Treats

Tweet Treats

I enjoy feeding the feathered Winter visitors in the garden particularly when the ground is frozen and trees are bare. I’m really looking forward to Christmas so I decided to make some festive tree decorations that the birds will love – and if they don’t enjoy them  at least the tree looks pretty!

Fresh Cranberries
The empty ribbon spool was threaded with ribbon and covered in peanut butter. This was a messy job and despite wearing gloves I managed to get it everywhere (including my slippers)! The spool was then rolled in mixed wild bird seed, and apple was added and finally hung on the tree. I collected a few pine cones from the garden and these were also smeared in peanut butter and seeds. Unfortunately, the only variety of pine cones I have are the long ones (and I really wanted the short, round type but as every good child knows “I want doesn’t get!”)  so I’m not too pleased with the results…..
….especially as it appears that I’ve hung seed-covered dog poo in the tree!! LOL – honestly, have another look at the first picture!! You’d never see this in Country Living magazine!

Apple and CranberriesThe good news is that the novelty tree is attracting all sorts of creatures, and if you listen really carefully, they can be heard giggling at the sight :-)

Pheasants and Squirrels

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

Autumn Walk

I love this time of the year when the sun sits low in the sky and the last of the Autumn leaves fall to the ground like confetti – this makes any walk seem more like a parade (I must remember to play some brass band music on my iPod next time)! Our very favourite walk actually starts at the gate… we simply turn left and walk. When we reach the red postbox (below) it always makes me smile. When I first moved into this area I tried to post a letter and was surprised to find that I could see daylight through the slot. The front of the decommissioned postbox was retained by the owners as an attractive feature but I often wonder if they ever find any errant letters or unpaid bills fluttering around in the garden!

The circular walk is only five miles long but there are a couple of good climbs that make your legs realise that they need to get out more! It’s great to take deep breaths of fresh air and enjoy the beautiful countryside, especially knowing that there’ll be a hot cup of coffee on return.

It’s hard to believe that we started the year with an official drought due to a cold but very dry Winter last year. Ironically, there are now flood warnings in place and thousands of homes throughout the country have been flooded and emergency evacuations are occurring. The ground is so saturated that any small amount of rain makes the situation worse. We’re lucky as the house is not near a river and it’s not in the valley, yet despite this, we still need to put on our Wellies to open and close the gate. My thoughts are with those who aren’t so lucky and who will be cleaning up and paying the price of flood damage for a long time.
About half a mile down the Lane there is a tricky bend that often becomes flooded… I’ve noticed that I can guauge if this bend is passable or not by looking at our driveway… if the flood water is all the way across the gateway then the lane is not passable!

I’ll end with happier news – the kittens have settled in beautifully, they’re outgoing, used to being handled and very playful. I can add “an armful of kittens” to the list of things that make me very happy! I’m also on holiday this week from work… another thing that’s on my happy list :-)

Mouse Party!

Under the kitchen sink there is a cupboard where the dusters and cleaning products belong. It’s also where the magical ever-lasting can of furniture polish lives (even though I use the can at least twice a year it never seems to empty for some reason). Anyway, it was in this cupboard that I discovered a path of confetti made from lots of chewed scouring pads, dishwasher tablets and plastic bottles. All the evidence pointed towards a late night Mouse Party.
Now whilst most normal people are hard wired to think “dirty, smelly little vermin” I automatically conjures up Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca from the Tales of Beatrix Potter! If you don’t know the story it’s about two bad mice who wreaked havoc on a beautiful doll’s house and completely vandalised it. And they look so adorable!!!


Back to reality – I know that mice are dirty, disease carrying pests and need to be dealt with swiftly but the idea of poisons and violent traps do not sit easily with me… so as my poor, exasperated husband looked on with despair (not for the first time unfortunately) as I came up with Plan A:
1. Block as as many  holes as possible in which mice could fit through. In such an old house their seems to be more holes than skirting boards! As they can apparently squeeze through a hole the size of a pencil I’m not holding my breath with this one.
2. Remove available food sources, make sure there are no crumbs anywhere and put the rubbish in a lockable bin. There’s no combination lock yet but that’s not to say it won’t happen ;-)
3. Put up a sign in the party cupboard to tell the mice to keep out. It worked for the rabbits but I’m not sure if mice can read?? If they can read, but persist anyway, they will realise that an eviction notice has been served.
4. Peppermint oil to be sprinkled around the perimeter. The house smells like toothpaste but it’s better than the fusty smell of mouse!
5. The humane traps are waiting in the wings.
6. If the above doesn’t work then my Evil Husband (cue villainous laughter… mwaa, haa, hhaa!) will implement Plan B which I’m sure most of you sensible guys would actually use as Plan A!!!.
Don’t shout at me, I know that I need to toughen up and change the cute and fluffy pictures in my head to something a little scarier…. how about the scary Vampire Mouse below??

By the way, another option that came up in Plan A and Plan B was getting a cat. Up until a couple of years ago we’d always had cats and never seemed to have a mouse problem. Our  little cat died a couple of years ago and neither of us wanted to rush out and get another one as it was all too sad. The exciting news is that we’re both finally ready to have a couple of cats again (I’m currently doing my happy dance!).
I’m just a little concerned that the kittens will be cornered by a Vampire Mouse that dwells behind the kitchen sink!! Maybe I need to scrub that image too…………

The Hungry Slug

As the garden is slowly being put to bed for the Winter, like a naughty child it’s decided that it’s not quite bedtime yet! There are new flowers appearing on the hydrangeas, green buds in the hedgerow and even asparagus spears are too impatient to wait for Spring! The sunshine has been lovely today, and although it’s been frosty, there was much activity. However everything stopped, albeit briefly, at 11 o’clock for Remembrance Day.

I don’t think there will be many flowers left next weekend as the mornings are really frosty now. That’s probably why a mouse has decided to come indoors and leave presents everywhere…. but more of that later ;-)

Bump in the Night….

Cedric was bought a couple of years ago with the intention of having him in the Kitchen Garden to scare off unwelcome visitors. I thought that he’d look good against the brick walls  and  he also suited my Victorian tastes – I love anything Gothic! The Kitchen Garden was no where near completion so I sat him in the Garden Room at the rear of the house to oversee the work. He looked good and got lots of compliments but I noticed that our luck immediately changed and life just became more difficult than it should be…. maybe he was scaring off the good luck elements in our home? I moved him into the shed and our luck noticeably  improved. My husband says it’s my over active imagination but I feel that Cedric’s definitely an outdoor fellow! Last week I finally put him into the Kitchen Garden and he looks very much at home… but I will be listening carefully for the sound of stoney wings flapping against the night sky tonight….

I’ve had my share of spooky experiences and things that go bump in the night…. so I’ll curl up in front of the fire, look at my smiling pumpkin and keep safely inside.

A house is never still in darkness to those who listen intently; there is a whispering in distant chambers, an unearthly hand presses the snib of the window, the latch rises.  Ghosts were created when the first man awoke in the night.  ~J.M. Barrie

The Gift of Time

There never seems to be enough hours in the day and I’m constantly thinking  of all the things I could do “… if only I had more time”.  Well, last night saw the end of British Summer Time and the clocks were turned back an hour. There is the opportunity today to use this extra hour to do something that I usually don’t get time to do. My preferred options are:
1. Read the first chapter of a good book in daylight!
2. Bake a cake to take to work
3. Start a new hobby
4. Do absolutely nothing!

Let me have a cup of tea and think about it. What about you?

Catching Mist…

There is something comforting about misty mornings. I have a lots of fond childhood memories that involve me trying to catch the mist and take it indoors…. unsurprisingly, I never managed to do this but I always admired the spiders who could catch mist and frost  in their webs.
You may have noticed Cedric in the photo (above right). I’ve put him to work in the Kitchen Garden after he’s now spent a good period of time in the shed. I’ll be letting you know a little more about him soon….

Misty Cobwebs

I love to see the garden when it’s all wrapped up with silvery threads and a sense of inevitability, in fact, Miss Haversham would feel very much at home. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have tea with a famous literary character? I’d have to get the best china out for Miss Haversham, and although she would probably not be polite company, I would have to try and stop myself discussing our mutual  aversion to dusting!

When the mist clears

All of this is soon forgotten, as the mist clears, the cobwebs seemingly vanish and I turn my thoughts to the glamorous task of cleaning out the chicken house!

Pumpkin Display

 ….well, “pumpkin display” may be a little far fetched  as I  just plonked them on a table! I hang my head in shame in front of all the fabulous bloggers out there who have actually created displays. I will simply call this Phase One….

Autumn display in Garden Room

 I’ve always wanted to have a go at growing pumpkins but, unfortunately, this year there wasn’t enough room, time or knowledge! There hasn’t been very much sunshine either so I’ll put these on my gardening wishlist for next year and ask for more sunbeams.
I have an oak cabinet in the Garden Room that is used for storing gift bags, wrapping paper and ribbons – obviously everything that is needed in the event of an emergency:-)

Pumpkins

 I’m not sure how these will be carved yet but just having them around has made me happier. The honour of  carving goes to my long suffering husband who thinks that pumpkin innards are the design of the devil. I usually draw the spooky face and he spends an hour patirntly carving (and retching)… true love comes in many forms! And if it all goes horribly wrong it will be soup again for tea :-)
For some proper pumpkin inspiration head over to Gardening Nirvana  where Alys has some fun ideas and is on official countdown to Halloween x