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

My Thinking Place

The lid of the seed box barely contained the multitude of packets inside and I had a familiar feeling when I peeked in… you know that feeling when you finally open the Christmas decorations box? You’ve not seen these things for a few months and yet instantly know the magic is about to begin! This time last year I didn’t even have a seed collection which just shows you how far (or obsessed) I’ve come in a year!
I’ve spent quite a lot of time over Winter looking through various seed catalogues but before ordering any more seeds I promised myself that I’d sort out the packets of seeds from last year.

Seed Sorting

1. The seed packets were spread over the table and I discarded any empty packets and those well past their expiry dates. I managed to spill some delphinium seeds so if these start to sprout up from between the tiles at least I’ll know they’re not weeds!
2. They were then sorted into vegetables and flowers and packed away by grouping them into beds. If I was properly organised I’d file them in order of sowing but in truth I like shuffling seeds like a deck of cards and rummaging through them.
3. The lid was so much easier to put on… but I’m sure this won’t be the case when the new seeds arrive!
4. Mmm…. don’t kitten’s have the sharpest little teeth?
5. I highly recommend Mark Diocono’s book “Veg Patch: River Cottage Book 4″. I used this to help me plan what veg to grow this year. The rough plan is as follows:

Kitchen Garden Plans

There are a disproportionate amount of sofas in this house… especially when you consider how much time we actually sit on them. A really nice place to relax is on the chaise longue in the garden room. Feet up, a good book, mellow music and furry friends….. purrfect (well it was until I noticed my bum print on the seat!!). The only problem with a thinking  place is that it provides opportunity to change one’s mind so the 2013 Kitchen Garden plan has already been altered!

Winter Kittens

The view out of the window (as seen from the chaise) was taken a few days ago after another day of snow but it’s all green again now and the sun was out today… it must be very confusing for the wildlife. I managed to spend a few hours in the garden today, tidying the beds and smiling to myself. Spring is nearer than ever.

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Where’s your thinking place?

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.

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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???        :-)

February Blahs

February is my least favourite month. It has the fewest days compared to other months but somehow seems to drag on and on. Even when February seems to be trotting along quite nicely… bam! an extra pesky day sneaks in. Admittedly, this extra day only occurs once every four years but (come on!!!) couldn’t it happen during Summer when an extra day would be nice?!!
Maybe my aversion to February is because I hate having to wait for Spring… I have a whole list of things I can do in March but February delights in taking it’s sweet time :-). Am I the only one to have an unexplained aversion to a month? Surely not, but I confess that I also dislike Tuesdays (but that is less logical than the February saga)!

Feb View
The snow has finally gone, and although we’re expecting more during the week, it was lovely to be able to enjoy the green fields through the Garden Room windows again. It’s great to watch the storms roll over and try and guess what time the rain will arrive.
In the Garden Room, high up in the rafters, is a little carved wooden snail called Brian who looks down on us as we pass by. He moves extremely slowly so he’s usually not a problem to catch and dust.

Brian

Whilst I was wobbling on tiptoes with a duster in hand, I happened to glance across at the windows. The sun was shining through the glass and shaming me into wanting to clean the windows but for once I wasn’t too concerned because there was, quite obviously, a leftover Christmas sign!!
Eek! The question is – do I leave it up for the rest of the year (it has taken me until February to notice it!) or take it down and hide it in the rubbish drawer?

The One That Got Away

Where Did All The Birds Go?

RSPB BirdwatchOn Sunday morning, armed with a cup of coffee and trusty binoculars, we settled down in the Garden Room to count birds for an hour as part of the RSPB Big Birdwatch survey. We usually have all sorts of feathered visitors and so we were quite disappointed at the low turn out from the birds. We had to document the maximum number of birds seen at any one time (rather than the total number of birds in the hour) and the ones that could be bothered to show up were:

Robin 1
Pheasant 1
Sparrow 6
Great Tit 2
Blue Tit 3
Woodpecker 1
Chaffinch 1
Thrush 1
Crows 4
Coal Tit 1
Blackbird 3

We expected to see quite a few birds such as wrens, gold crests, tree creepers, collared doves, long tailed tits and dunnocks but there was no sign of them (not even in the 10 minutes following the survey when they inevitably all come back out to play!). It’s not as if we expected to see a Golden Eagle or Pheonix rising from the ashes… just a little wren would have made us happy!

The RSPB forums indicate that the low number of birds have been a nationwide problem and the staff are urging people to send their results in even if they don’t seem representative. I’m not sure if the birds were scarce because of adverse weather conditions or a re-run of Downton… whatever the reason the results should be interesting!

Footprints In The Snow

Snow in Kitchen Garden

Hopefully all the plants are tucked up safely and enjoying a nice sleep. I’m trying to enjoy the snow whilst it lasts… people grumble about the snow (I realise it makes life more difficult, travelling is a big worry and it will ultimately turn to a brown, messy slush….) but there’s really magic in each snow flake, you can see it sparkle, so I enjoy it while it’s here.

Garden Snow Collage

I love to see different footprints in the snow and I try to follow where the rabbits and foxes have been. It’s interesting to try and work out  who the little footprints belong too… although with my over active imagination I imagine following prints around the back of the shed and unexpectedly coming face to face with a Yeti!

Winter views

There’s not too many outside jobs to be done at the moment so I started to put together a wish list of  plants for the kitchen garden this year. I’m a huge fan of Sarah Raven so I’m starting with her catalogues as she has a great range of products and her customer service is brilliant. After what seemed an endless task of chores today I finally sat down with a cup of apple & ginger tea and started to paw over the catalogues… but more of that next time!

seed catalogues

This weekend is the RSPB Big Birdwatch so I’ll be spending an hour tomorrow counting our feathered friends (chickens not included) to see how they’re fending. I’ve never done this in the snow before and I’m hoping it will make the process easier! The results are sent into the RSPB and the information gained throughout the UK provides a useful snapshot of which species are in decline or booming!

SnowChicks

I’m sure Bella and Milo will want to join us in the garden room for a spot of birdwatching too but I somehow think that their furry minds may not be on conservation!

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Wonderful White Stuff

The snow is lovely but the wildlife is certainly suffering a bit. The birds seem to strip the feeders as fast as we can fill them up and it’s a job to stop the drinking water from freezing. I’m giving them left over scraps and fruit cake so they’ve now invited their mates over too!
Goosey sadly died in the week. This was not unexpected as she’d not been herself for quite a few days, looked tired and frail. We gave her some extra vitamins and checked her over but at six years old she’d had a good life.  She looked like she had died peacefully in her sleep and I’m so relieved that she didn’t have to put up with the snow! The other chickens seemed a bit quieter than usual – I’m not sure if chickens feel loss but it wouldn’t surprise me as Goosey was their boss for a long time and it must have seemed strange to them. We built a little SnowChicken in the enclosure… Goosey would have pecked those little sunflowers seed eyes out in a jiffy!

snowchicken

We spent some time today in the chicken enclosure and cleared some paths for them to make it easier to walk around. They don’t seem too bothered about the snow although I’m worried about them getting hypothermia. The only one who doesn’t venture very far is Bluebell, one of the new girls, who has decided to have her first moult and looks perished… I’m tempted to knit her a little jacket but I know that she wouldn’t want to be seen in it unless she had the shoes to match!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about Bella and Milo so here’s a bit of a catch up. They’ve both really made themselves at home and it feels as though they’ve been a part of our lives forever. They get on really well together and if they’re separated for any reason start mewling until they find one another. I can’t believe that they’re four months old already.

BellaCat

They both seem to have a mild obsession with water – dripping taps, water bowls, rain on the window panes. Milo especially loves to flick the water out of his bowl and even stands with his paws in it! They don’t bother with the sink in the kitchen but they love to sit in the utility room sink and poddle little wet footprints everywhere!

MiloCatI’m not sure why Milo looks a little cross-eyed in the photo above… he’s not normally!

Baby, it’s cold out there!

Well, it’s finally starting to feel like January around here and after a very wet and mild December we have snow forecast for overnight. It somehow feels wrong not to have frost and chilly winds this time of year and I do like the excuse to wear thick woolly tights and scarves! I’ve recently moved the plant pots to a more sheltered area and the bay tree and fig have been protected as much as I can. There are loads of cobwebs everywhere and even Cedric looks like he’s got whiskers (it makes him look a bit friendlier!). I’ve tried not to be too tidy so that the wildlife can benefit… but it’s messing with my mojo a bit.

Frosty Garden

The chickens are always cause me extra concern this time of year – trust me, if I could scoop them all up and build a giant nest in the house for them I would. My husband constantly reminds me that they have their own little quilts made from feathers but I still fret. We’ve now insulated the hen house and added extra bedding – it doesn’t look pretty but it will hopefully do the job. Goosey, one of the old girls, has slowed down and looks tired so we’ve given her some extra vitamins and do an additional check each night to make sure she’s okay. The other chickens are being really good with her – they’re probably scared that she’ll get better and back to business of being the boss!

Frosty Doodles

I usually like to try something new each year with hope that it will turn into a hobby and so in November I enrolled onto a watercolour lettering class with Val Webb. If you haven’t already had the pleasure of seeing any of Val’s artwork then I strongly recommend her website especially if you like faeries, nature and all things whimsical (Alys – you’ll just love it!).
My paintings still need a lot of work but I really don’t mind as I’ve found the whole process of water colouring SOOOooo relaxing that the end result of a more chilled out me is always worth while. Her instructions are clear and practical and I’m really looking forward to practicing some more.
I helped my sister and family move house last weekend and I gave her the painting below in place of a New Home card.

Home watercolour

Must go – although I have so much to write since I last blogged. Work and homelife have been really busy since new year so this is the first time I’ve had chance to post in 2013 and I’ve missed it! I’ve also missed following my favourite blogs so I’ll make sure to spend a little time each night after work in Blogland catching up with them all. I hope to include the kittens in a post very soon X