Spring is Springing!

This year because of the crappy weather and my prodigious ability to procrastinate, I was a bit late getting started with the garden. But lucky for me a few good sunny days has meant the plants in the greenhouse (read conservatory ) have caught up and are actually thriving! So I’ll show you a little of what’s going on.

Tomatoes20160426_174430

Last year we had a massive glut of Tom.  Anyone who visited wondered around eating them like they were at the PYO farm and if we went visiting we would take a few boxes full. So this year I’m scaling it right back to tried and tested varieties. First is Sungold, a cordon variety with 13g fruits and plenty of them. They are a lovely orange colour and perfect for snacking on. The next variety, the tomatoberry were all the rage a few years back but I grew them for the first time last year. Another cordon cherry tomato these are named because they look like strawberries. The last variety I’ve planted was a last minute addition so they’ve got some serous catching uo to do! You’ll see them in the other pictures.

Chillies20160426_174518

The biggest plants here are the Duchy Sweet peppers that I got on sale last year. I’ve never tried them so I’m not sure what to expect. The smaller ones are Padron peppers. I’m rather excited about these, I really hope they work out. A few years ago I ate them in a Tapas bar in Madrid and they were delicious! In the corner there you can see the third variety of tomato, the appropriately named 100s and 1000s. This is a high yielding plant!

Courgettes 

Thsee are a variety called Black Beauty, I. Grew them last year too. They were tasty and high yielding,  I got at least 8 courgettes from each plant.

Sunflowers 20160426_174648

It’s just not summer without sunflowers, is it? I’m growing the usual tall ones and a shorter, bushier variety. When the plants die I harvest the seeds to use to feed the birdies over winter….they go mad for them!

Herbs and others 20160426_174857

In three middle you can see a couple of different varieties of basil and a sweet pepper plant at the top left. The two pots at the bottom right are Physalis  (aka syphilis in my house but also cape gooseberries or inca berries).Last year I grew then in the conservatory and they went crazy! They are as easy to grow as tomatoes and if you keep them toasty and warm you’ll get a good amount of fruit….and considering the price of the berries in the shops…! There’s also some winter thyme and oregano in there

Outside….20160426_175117

At the end of last summer I bought a kiwi vine. I put it in a sheltered spot protected from frost over winter but by the start of April it looked like it was done for. But all of a sudden it’s sprung back to life!

20160426_175256

He

re I’m growing some methi, a typical Indian green leafy veg, next to it is the garlic that hid in the bed all winter!

 

 

My early peas have settled into their raised bed nicely, I just have to scare away the birds, cats and slugs.  The other picture is the comfrey that has also spung back to life. I use it as a compost accelerator and fertiliser

 

But there’s still plenty left to do!

 

 
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Spring is Springing!

My New Favourite Things #2, 3, 4 & 5

Yes, I know that’s a lot of favourite things but in my defence I love a bargain and I just had a birthday. I also realise that they’re not to do with making things really….unless you contact making me pretty (which I do!)  + So here they are, in no particular order:20160422_080251

 

Nip+Fab Hyaluronic body gel, 200ml

Studio_20160422_080919

I found this in the bargain section of my local Boots. It was marked down to £2 but when I got to the till it scanned as £1, I also used my NHS discount to bring the price down to 90p….bargain! Needless to say I went back and bought the rest of them!

So is it any good? The short answer is yes. It has a lovely gel consistency which absorbs quickly without having to rub like a maniac and best of all, it left my crocodile skin legs nice moisturised all day long. It’s so good I’d be tempted to buy it full price….not that I’d need to for another year!

Lacura Hydro-Urea Foot Cream, 10% Urea, 150ml for £1.99, Aldi

20160422_080323

This is one of those random things they sell at Aldi but not all the time so you have to keep an eye out for it. It’s rich but non greasy and doesn’t make your feet sweaty. I also use it on the dry skin on my knees and elbows.This really is a gem of a product, there is a similar branded cream that costs about £7-8 and isn’t nearly as good as this one.

 

Nature’s Gate Wintergreen gel toothpaste, 141g for £3.02

Spry Cinnamon toothpaste, 113g for £3.58

Studio_20160422_080848

OK,  so these two seem less of a bargain. I got them both from here when 8 was getting a load of other stuff. The problem I have is that I can not stand minty flavoured stuff in my mouth, especially when it’s so minty it BURNS! Here in the UK cinnamon and wintergreen flavoured anything is near impossible to find…..unless you are willing to trek to whole foods (other overpriced pretentious shops are available) and spend £10 on toothpaste or sweets. If you do know anywhere I can get this stuff at a reasonable price, please, please, pretty please let me know!

 

 

 

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My New Favourite Things #2, 3, 4 & 5

Adult Chocolate Brownies (for my birthday!)

Not that kind of adult brownies, the type that aren’t for kids. These are dense and gooey, squishy and chocolatey with a delicious flavour that kids just won’t understand. This is probably my favorite brownie recipe ever! It only takes about 5 minutes to make the batter and is all mixed up in 1 saucepan. Even if you think you can’t bake you can manage these!

Ingredients 

  • 150g butter
  • 3 tbs black treacle
  • 220g caster sugar (or 200g caster sugar and 20g muscovado sugar)
  • 90g plain flour
  • 70g cocoa powder

50g dark chocolate (anything over 60% will do)

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 50g chocolate chips (I use dark)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 17cm square tin
  2. Melt the butter, treacle and sugar and mix until combined.20160418_141412 Turn off the heat.
  3. put the chocolate in and stir it till it melts.
  4. Whisk the eggs in one by one followed by the vanilla extract.20160418_142323
  5. sieve the flour and cocoa in and fold in in gently. 20160418_142440It might look a bit grainy but don’t worry about that. Stir in the choccy chips.
  6. Pour into the tin and bake for 15-20 mins.20160418_142637 It should look dry on top and just set in the centre.
  7. allow to cool in the tin then cut into squares as big or small as you like.

    20160419_081924
    See how gooey they are?

 

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Adult Chocolate Brownies (for my birthday!)

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Everyone loves lemon drizzle cake and it has the massive advantage of being really easy to make with the usual store cupboard ingredients and if you can make a regular sponge cake you can manage this. The main advantage is, because if the drizzle element even if you dry out your sponge it’s no disaster! So here’s how it’s done

Ingredients 

  • 150g soft butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • The zest of 1.5 lemons
  • 3 large eggs
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • 150g self raising flour

for the drizzle

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 90g caster or granulated sugar

A lined 1lb loaf tin, mind was 10cm by 16cm

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cream the butter and sugar till its fluffy, light and white. Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest.20160410_133208
  2. one by one whisk in the eggs.
  3. gently fold in half the flour followed by the lemon juice then the rest of the flour.
  4. tip the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the top.20160410_134507 Bake for 30-35 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
  5. take the cake out of the oven and put it on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes or so.
  6. meanwhile mix the sugar and lemon juice, don’t worry if the sugar doesn’t dissolve.
  7. Arm yourself with a skewer or over pokey device and poke holes all over the cake. 20160410_144508Gently pour and brush the drizzle over the cake.  Leave to cool in the tin.
  8. Remove the paper, slice and serve 20160412_192352

The error I made was not waiting long enough before adding the drizzle. If you do it properly you get a lovely sugary crust on top of the cake. If you prefer a more icing type of drizzle, top your cake with a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar mixed with enough lemon juice to make the required consistency.

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Lemon Drizzle Cake

Simple Beaded Neckalace

Yesterday, I went out for dinner to celebrate a friends birthday. I was wearing a new purple dress so I didn’t have any matching jewellery so I decided to make a quick necklace just out of stuff I had on hand.

I used 

  • Square crystal beads
  • pearl beads (similar size)
  • crimp beads 2mm
  • lobster claw clasp
  • 2 jump rings
  • All the usual tools20160410_155239

First I cut a piece of tiger tail about twice as long as I wanted my necklace to be, plus a few cm to be safe. That was approx 1m. I threaded on a jump ring and folded the tiger tail so the ring was hanging in the middle. I put a crimp beadover the two tiger tail ends and squashed it shut.20160410_155808 Then i threaded one of each bead onto each tail then slid a crimp bead over both tails, then squashed the crimp bead.

I continued adding beads and crimps this way until my necklace wass slightly shorten than I wanted. After I added the last pair of beads I added 2 crimp beads.20160410_170054 I threaded the lobster claw clasp through both tiger tail ends. I then threaded the tiger tail back through the 2 crimp beads and gave them a good hard squish. 20160410_170235I cut of the excess a close to the crimp as possible. It would have been a bit quicker and easier if I had some crimp covers knocking about but this was meant to be stash busting!

This was a super quick make, it was wrapped up in 10 minutes before going out. There’s no fiddly or difficult techniques and barely any measuring. You can eyeball everything!

Cost: the square beads were £2.50 for a 19cm strand from totallybeads.com I used about a third of the strand. Everything else was from my stash

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Simple Beaded Neckalace

Simple Sew #024, The Kate Jersey Top

This was a free pattern with issue 24 of Love Sewing Magazine. This pattern was inspired by Kate Middleton apparently. I made it because it is similar to a grey top I got from M&S which is on heavy rotation in my wardrobe. Anyway, the pattern is for a top or dress in size 8-20 and is for beginners. Like the Threadcount pattern, the pattern envelope doesn’t give a sizing table, just finished dress measurements and the measurements are in inches.

After my success with the other top I thought this one would be a breeze. The fabric I used is a lovely, soft lightweight cotton knit. Gorgeous to wear, not so gorgeous to sew! I cut and prepared the pieces without incident but as soon as I moved them the edges started rolling up and no amount of starching and pressing would stop them. As a result some of the seams aren’t as accurate as I would like.

The pattern itself was fine but it had notches for almost all of the seam lines which I’ve never seen before. It seemed a bit unnecessary since the seam allowance was 1.5cm throughout. The instructions were straightforward but there was no mention of understitching the facings which I found odd as it’s a beginner pattern but I did it anyway. The only changes I made were to increase the length by a few centimetres and lengthen the ties.

Time:  This took about 3 hours because of all the messing around with the curly fabric edges. I could probably have it done in 2 hours with an easier fabric.

Cost: £1.50/m from a shop in Southall. I used just under a metre.

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Simple Sew #024, The Kate Jersey Top