How Does Your Garden Grow?

Not with pretty bells all in a row, row, row unfortunately! Although for years and years I thought being contrary was a good thing…..

The peas are finished and the French beans are about 3/4 done.

Cobra french beans

The courgettes are getting their second wind and the cucumbers are filling out nicely. My kiwi plant I bought last year has put on plenty of foliage but there’s no sign of fruit or flowers.

Self fertile kiwi…..but surely it needs some flowers?

The blueberries have plenty of fruit (though not very sweet) and are thriving now that they are in the correct ericaceous compost (oopsie!).

Blueberries….they do so much better in the correct soil….who knew!

This is part of my second round of methi (fenugreek).

Methi, you may have seen it in your local Indian shop or market and wondered what it is

I usually cut it 2 inches from the soil and dig it in. Like peas and beans it adds nitrogen to the soil so I throw a load of seeds on bare land over winter to act as a green manure/weed suppressant and dig it in at the start of Spring There’s no need to buy the fancy, expensive stuff. I get a big bagful from the Indian shop for a couple of quid. The chillies are doing quite well but there’ll be more about them later


… I’m such a tease(!)

This year, I made my own fertiliser out of comfrey. I’d heard all sorts of horror stories about how it spreads everywhere but so far, so good. I planted two lots into neglected parts of the garden so that if it did spread it wouldn’t be a disaster. This picture is from one seed sown in spring.

Comfrey: more tea, Vicar

Bear in mind it’s had plenty of leaves removed for fertiliser making. All you do is get a bucket or watering can and fill it up with loads of torn up leaves. Top it up with water and leave it for a week. Top it up with water again. I tend to keep it covered be a use it is stinky stuff! I dilute it 1 part comfrey tea to 10-ish parts of water. Then keep topping up your bucket. Comfrey grows FAST.

One of the plants I grow because of the expense/food miles issue is Physalis or syphilis as it’s known as in our house. It’s super easy to grow, it needs plenty of heat and water but really, if you could grow tomatoes you could grow these.

Physalis/syphilis starting to fruit. When the lanterns go papery, you’re in business!


The other thing I do is cut the spent heads off the sunflowers and leave them to dry. I can plant the seed next year and the birds are grateful of the excess come winter.

Dead sunflowers, hanging upside down ūüė¶ but actually ūüôā

I choose what to grow based on the following:

  • What tastes better fresh, plucked from the plant and straight into the mouth. Peas for example and tomatoes and strawberries just warmed by the sun.
  • What is easy to grow and delicious?
  • What is difficult to find fresh in the shops?
  • What is ridiculously expensive in the shops?
  • What incurs ridiculous food miles?
  • What is only available in bog standard varieties? Eg tomatoes
  • What gives a good yield per square foot? Eg climbing beans?

Over the next few weeks many of the garden centres have seed sales so now’s the time to start thinking about next summer’s crop.

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How Does Your Garden Grow?

Organising Your Feet

The Works always seem to have lovely wooden boxes in stock. I got this one there but could not for the life of me find a link to it.

In my excitement I put the masking tape on before taking a picture of the box naked

Anyway, I thought it would be the perfect size and shape to keep the most commonly used feet handy and close to the sewing machine. At the moment, all my feet are kept in a biscuit tin in a wardrobe all the way across the room. If I want to change feet I have to….dun dun duuuun…GET UP! O the horror!

So I got out my tin of trusty black board paint and got busy painting the lid (inside and out) and the tops of the inside dividers.

I give it two layers of paint and let it dry completely before priming the surface with some plain white chalk. I labelled the sections using normal chalk but I’m pretty sure I have a chalk pencil somewhere round here which would look a lot neater but this will do for now.

*sigh* no more getting up for feet!

The best bit? It’s just the right size to slide under the extension table…..aah, simple things!

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Organising Your Feet

The Best Ever Iced Coffee or Frappuccino!



Whenever I go to India there is the most amazing Iced Coffee I get at McDs of all places. Don’t judge, it’s really delicious. When I get home I run through tubs of double cream trying to recreate that sweet, creamy flavour.

Then one day, while sipping a hot Vietnamese coffee I had a brainwave and the easiest, tastiest iced coffee was born. And best of all no fancy equiThen I discovered throwing the whole lot in the blender makes a cool, creamy, delicious drink/pudding to rival any coffee shop. And now that it’s decided to be summer here I thought I’d share the recipe with you

Serves 1  as a straightforward iced coffee, 2 for a blended drink(because youll need more ice). These are the proportions I use but feel free to change them according to your palate or the size of your glass. The glass I used was about 300ml.


  • 1 shot of espresso
  • 1 tbs of condensed milk
  • 1 tbs double cream
  • 150 ¬†ml milk
  • a handful of ice cubes
  • 15-30 ml booze (optional but recommended), kahlua, amaretto, bailey’s, frangelico all work well here. Yes, I have tried.
  • ice cream (optional)
  • squirty cream (optional)


If you are planning to blend your drink you can make it in the blender cup. If not you can make it straight into your serving cup.

  1. Make a good, strong shot of espresso.
    Get your espresso on

    If you don’t have an espresso machine, mix up 2 tsp instant coffee with 30ml of water, just off the boil and stir well until all the granules dissolve.

    Look away, coffee aficionados! This crema’s about to get wrecked
  2. Pour the condensed milk into the hot coffee and stir till dissolved.
  3. Add the milk, booze20160721_144932 (if yore using it) and ice cubes and stir gently.
  4. if you are blending, now’s the time. Whizz to your preferred consistency ¬†and pour into a glass.

    Straightforward iced coffee.
  5. if you’re going all out, add ice cream and squirty cream.

    With all the bells and whistles
  6. Enjoy, quick! It will start raining in a minute!

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The Best Ever Iced Coffee or Frappuccino!

Sew-jo, Sew-go, Sew-no! Pattydoo Susie Pouch

I was reading this blog post about when your sewing get-up-and-go gets up and goes.

Recently, I’ve been working on a pair of jeans but my ever changing waistline is making it a long, drawn out process and the very sight of them throws me in a panic.

Usually, when I find the sew-jo flagging I attempt to revive it by trying a simple make using these rules:

  1. No shopping for fabric or notions, stash busting only.
  2. Use a pattern I’ve tried before so there are no nasty surprises.
  3. It should be completed in an hour-ish, not including tea breaks.
  4. It should be pretty and/or useful.
  5. The finished item should be given to a non-sewing (and preferably non-creative) friend who will be so impressed and astounded by my sewing prowess that my sew-jo instantly returns! Luckily I have 2 such friends with birthdays now.

So the only rule I majorly broke was number 2. I couldn’t find an appropriate pattern and my imagination has joined my sew-jo on holiday (or wherever they are hiding together) so I used¬†Pattydoo’s Susie Pouch pattern. This is a lovely, straightforward and free pattern for a zippered pouch, lined, with box pleats on the front. I made the size from the pattern (the small one) then made a larger one to use as wrapping paper for a book I’m giving one of the birthday girls.

This pattern was super simple and if you hate printing off reams of paper this is the pattern for you. I printed one piece. There were no written instructions, only a short video, about 20 mins long, in German but subtitled in English, showing Pattydoo sewing it up in real time.

It really is very easy, you sew strips of fabric together 20160715_162823then fold the box pleats and tack to secure. Sew on the top strip hhthen attach the lining and zip the usual way.20160716_191850 The bottom corners are sewn and snipped to make the bag stand up. The pattern suggests some fleece to give the bag body but I used some firm interfacing I had and that worked fine!20160718_090833

Full disclosure : I love the website! There are loads of very reasonably priced patterns ( ‚ā¨3 or ‚ā¨4) but all pdfs. Most patterns have a tutorial video too. There is an English part and a German part of the website, although they are working on translating more patterns and videos into English, it’s easy enough to get round the German site if you still remember some from school or read Burda magazine a lot.

I can see a lot more of these bags in my future…..

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EDIT: ¬†So the bags were delivered to their respective recipients. The smaller one went to Mimmy, ¬†my best friend since we were very little, little kiddies. My original plan was to fill it with jewellery and/or other pretty things but I didn’t get round to that so she got an empty bag. The larger bag was wrapping paper (wrapping fabric?) for a book I thought my good friend Mez would enjoy. As it’s big enough to accommodate a reasonably large paperback, it should be the perfect size for make up, brushes etc.

Both Mimmy and Mez seemed happy with thir gifts so the whole exercise worked as planned….slowly but surely the sew-jo is returning!

Sew-jo, Sew-go, Sew-no! Pattydoo Susie Pouch

Mum’s Birthday, part 2: coffee walnut cake

So onto the interesting part, cake.

Every year, whoever is tasked with baking the birthday cake (me usually) ends up in a massive discussion about the cake. Mum always wants…..Victoria sponge! ¬†Even with real cream and strawberries, it is the dullest of dull cakes. The cake to cream ratio is all wrong. To me, this is an everyday tea time sort of cake not a “yippee it’s my birthday!” kind of cake. So after the usual drama, we decided on this:

I made a regular 3 egg vanilla sponge cake and divided it up between 6 mini flan tins. Conveniently enough, there was enough batter left over for 2 fairy cakes. I cooked these in a 180¬į oven for about 15 minutes until a skewer came out clean and left them to cool completely covered by a damp tea towel (My mum can not abide a dry cake!). I whipped up 200ml of double cream with a heaped teaspoon of caster sugar and the seeds from a vanilla pod. The cream was dolloped onto the unmolded sponges and decorated with sliced strawberries and a little kiwi, for colour.

Cake 2

On Sunday we were expecting some visitors for tea and mum also wanted some cake to take to work today so I made a coffee and walnut cake. Usually I don’t go for cakes with butter cream icing but this icing was lovely and light, not at all what I remember from childhood cakes and nothing like the fluorescent cupcake icing you get on shop bought cakes. The recipe was¬†This Mary Berry/Lakeland¬†one with a few minor adjustments. The original recipe is an all in one cake but those never work out well for me so I stuck to the traditional method. Here’s how:


  • 225g softened butter
  • 220g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp coffee extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 270g self raising flour
  • 2 tbs double cream/milk
  • 75g chopped walnuts


  • 75g softened butter
  • 220g sifted icing sugar
  • 2 tsp double cream/milk
  • 1 tsp coffee extract
  • 75-100 walnut halves


  1. Preheat the oven to 180¬į fan. If you have a 12″√ó9″ tin grease and line it. I don’t so I used a square 9″ tin and a 9″ long loaf tin for the excess.
  2. Beat the butter, sugar and extracts until they are pale and fluffy and there are no lumpy sugary bits.
  3. Add the eggs one by one beating well after each addition. If it looks like it might split, add a tablespoon of flour and continue.
  4. Sift in the rest of the flour and add the cream and walnuts. Using a spatula or metal spoon, fold until just combined. Plop it into the tin and smooth the top.20160710_092006
  5. Bake for 35-45 min if you used a traybake pan. Mine took about 30 mins. Cool on a wire rack
  6. To make the icing, put all the ingredients(except the walnut halves) in a bowl and stir gently. Once the icing sugar is incorporated, whisk until light and fluffy.
  7. Spread on the cooled cake and decorate with walnut halves.
Serve with whipped cream. In fact, serve everything with whipped cream!

If you are a mad icing fan, I would suggest doubling the icing recipe. This amount gives you enough for a thin layer on top. But so far this is one of my favourite coffee walnut cakes!

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Mum’s Birthday, part 2: coffee walnut cake

Make your own pattern weights

If you like rotary cutting, tracing patterns, can’t use pins on your fabric, etc etc, you’ll know how vital pattern weights are. Usually I just reach for the closest heavy objects, books, scissors, cup of coffee (you can guess how that one ended). So I nipped into John Lewis to see what they¬†had. Of course I left empty handed and decided to make my own instead. This is how to do it:

  • Rummage around in the garage. Look for something weighty and flat bottomed. ¬†Failing that go to a DIY shop and see what they have there. Washers are popular and inexpensive (and can be painted up to look like biscuits). I found some square and rectangular washer type things.
    Expect the man in the shop to look at you funny as you attempt to explain what you’re looking for

    On their own they weren’t particularly heavy but remember, you can stack them to get the weight you want.

  • once you get home give them a good wash to get rid of any greasy bits or labels and allow to air dry.
  • stack them up and decide on how heavy you want them. At this point you can glue them together if you like.
  • I cover mine in Washi tape.
    Around the edges first

    I start by sticking a strip of tape around the edge to keep them together and then cover the remaining sections with more tape

    Fill in the rest
  • I use different tape for different weights. The lighter ones are best for tracing patterns onto paper and the heavier ones are best for cutting out fabric.

    Left- 82g; Middle- 152g; Right- 69g





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Make your own pattern weights