Saturday, 31 March 2007

Afternoon tea

I thought I would invite you to tea again. Four O'clock and everything stops for afternoon tea here in our household when we are at home. Today we have home made Melting Moments with Vanilla Butter Cream. Yes they are full of calories but worth it. We don't eat cake every day though, as much as I would enjoy doing so, we keep that as a treat for the weekend. Other days it is tea and biscuits. For our overseas bloggers, tea has always been a ritual here in England. In these modern times there have been changes. People drink 'on the go' and some have dropped their traditional tea for herb teas, fruit teas, coffee, carob etc. As for me, I love my afternoon cup of real tea made from loose leaves. The pot must be heated first before making the tea and the water must be boiling. There are those who think this is all too fussy but not so, the water must be boiling when it touches the leaves for it to brew properly. This is so that the oxygen is active in the water.

Another thing I enjoy 'teawise' is visiting tea rooms when out for the day or away from home. There is nothing so English as sitting chatting in a tearoom, drinking tea and eating scones (sweet biscuits for the USA folk) spread with strawberry jam and thick fresh cream. Many tea rooms these days sell pottery and craft to add to the experience. Even better when there is a house cat keeping watch over the whole experience.

I do hope you enjoyed your tea and that you will come again. Have a great weekend.

Friday, 30 March 2007

Cycling with great expectations

I have spent more time on the Internet than is healthy this last week, and no, I have not been blogging every minute of the day! I have been selling bikes on E-Bay. It felt like the more I checked the bidding then the more likely it was that I would have my reserves met. Obviously this is totally irrational, but you get the picture.
These are not the bikes I have been selling, but this is where it all started. While staying with friends on their farm in rural France, we borrowed their bikes. We had a wonderful time cycling around the local countryside where one could ride all afternoon (see picture) and meet nothing more than a farm tractor on the road.

We so loved this that when we arrived home we bought 2 new bikes (our old ones having rusted in the shed!) Something in our brains must have shut down as we did not take into account the busyness of our outer London roads. Added to this, we live on a hill so riding too and from our home was always taxing. No matter, we would take our bikes to the coast and cycle along the flat Thames Estuary promenades and riverside. We did this a few times and then my husband developed a trapped nerve in his spine. No cycling for a while. He then underwent surgery for a hernia and just as that had healed, he had to undergo a further repair, brought on by lifting our bikes onto the the car rack. Not what we envisaged. So I am afraid that was the end of our new and short lived cycling adventures.

So the upside is that, not only do we have a slightly higher bank balance, we have room in our shed which is a great compensation for Alan.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

March Colour

I have not been out of the house at all today. I have spent the day organising my computer files and backing everything up. One of those jobs that I intend to do and never get around to, thinking one more day won't matter. I should know better as I did have a total computer crash a couple of years ago. After my daughter Janie lost all of Olivers photos in a computer meltdown recently I thought I had better make it a priority. I know I should set a date once a month but I have always got more interesting things to do on my computer. Just a quick look at some March colour

And the topiary that gives some interest to the garden in the Winter and some structure in the Summer.
All these pots have been started from cuttings or plants not more than a few inches. The standard Bays began their life as 3 inch plants and it has taken me about 12 years to get them to this maturity. Worth it in the end as they cost so much in the nurseries.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

A Walk to Havering-Atte-Bower

How can I stay at home this afternoon with so much Spring in the air and the temperature hitting 64f. While Alan is busy mowing the lawn (his contribution to the gardening) I'm off for a walk. I enjoy the history and senery from my, around the world blogging friends, and from the comments I get, you all seem to enjoy the senery from my locality so here we go again. I invite you to come with me. In living on the edge of the The London Borough of Havering we are fortunate to be able to enjoy the nearness to the City but also have the countryside on our doorstep.
We will take a walk up the hill to Havering-atte-Bower. The village is a 30 minute walk from my home and all up hill but returning home is all downhill so that only takes 20 minutes.
We are now about half way up the hill.

We pass a local manor house on the way. This is now used by an International Christian Ministry.
I am being my usual nosy self here, peering through the gate into a tiny part of a lovely garden of one of the larger houses on the hill. Far grander than my street in case you are wondering!

We reach the top of the hill but before turning into the village we must not miss this beautiful Spring scene.

Here we are in the village, looking across the green. Close to this green King Harold had a hunting lodge many centuries ago and I understand the name Havering came about because the King presented the village with a ring. "Have a ring."

We look to the left and see the beautiful 11th century church (St. John's) with the beautiful May Blossom in the foreground.

Then there are the village stocks and whipping post, used a couple of centuries ago to deter vagabonds and criminals. You can see the holes that held the feet in place while the local folk came out and threw rotten eggs and whatever else came to hand that was not very nice. I wonder what would happen if we did that today?

Just out the other side of the village and here we meet a lone horse. The others are all out at the riding school.

Not a long walk but a very pretty one at this time of year. It was nice to sit a while with my bottle of water just taking in the air.

I have been thinking the same as Nel, this blogging could become really addictive. Maybe we should start a 'blog annonymous'!!. There was an article in the newspaper today referring to bloggers as "anonymous ego trips" - maybe but still fun and for myself I have always enjoyed knowing about other people's lives and countries. No different to the old days of pen-pals, now it's electronic cyber pen-pals.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

The Deer Shedding their Winter Coats

Went for a walk today in our local park and enjoyed the Spring sunshine. Winter must truly be over as if you look carefully you can see the Reindeer shedding their Winter coats. Soon the trees will be in full leaf.

Maybe soon I will be able to get into some in depth writing on my blog. As with everyone the days just fly by. I have of late been spending more time reading and commenting on other people's blogs than writing my own. Watch this space.

Saturday, 24 March 2007

The Playmat

I made this playmat for Oliver and it has been so useful. His Mum, Janie, not only uses it at home but can take it anywhere to put on the floor for him to sit on. The back is plain yellow so that one always knows the clean side. I bought the material in Hobbycraft and lined it with a thick wadding, catching it at both ends to stop it slipping around inside. I got the idea from the daughter of a friend who made something similar for her child. She said that when the mat was put away he knew that play time was over and it was time to get ready for bed.

So here is the man himself sitting on it to play. I got to visit him this week, the first time in 5 weeks, so I could really see the difference in him.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Cards for Friends

Just made a couple of cards for 2 of my neighbours tonight so thought I would post them here before posting them through the letter boxes. The large one with the trains is for an 80 year old and the lavender one for a friend across the street.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Reviving the old Classics

There is a lot of interest these days in the classical novels in the media and on tv. With the screening of the new film "Becoming Jane", Jane being Jane Austen, even more so.

I have fallen in to that same trap myself. Having seen most of them on video or tv and read many of the books years ago, I thought I would like to read them all again some time. To this end I ordered and received the beginning of a new collection for my library. Each novel in this collection has an accampanying DVD. The films are modern adaptions. What shall I do first, read the books or watch the films? Usually I prefer to watch the film before reading the book. If I read the book first then I find the film disappointing as it is not usually possible to convey all the details of a book onto film. The only draw back to this is remembering the film setting when reading rather than relying on one's own imagination.

Two books that stand out in my mind where I was disappointed seeing the film after reading the book, were Chocolate and Captain Correlli's Mandolin. This latter one could harldy been seen as the same story. There was just so much in the book and so little in the film. As for Chocolate, the film was in many ways so unlike the book and I understand this was because of not wanting any insensitivity towards the Roman Catholic Church. The "baddie" in the book being a priest, but in the film the Mayor. So just some more to add to my list of books and films waiting to be read and watched.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

Springtime and My Own Daffodills

This part of the garden has been under water for some months so some of the bulbs have rotted but it is nice to see the ones that have survived. Our soil is pure clay so it is not easy to turn it over after such prolonged wet.
Musn't forget the hyacinths that are not all fully out yet.

And the woodland anenome around the pond
Another pretty sight at this time of year. The new leaves and flowers of the Photina (Red Robin)

In connecting with bloggers from around the world it makes one so aware of how different this time of year is for us all. Here we are in the Northern Hemisphere looking forward to Spring and Summer and our friends in the Southern Hemisphere are putting everything to bed for the Winter. Hard to imagine from each of our different perspectives.

Then there are those in the USA so much further south than us here in the UK who are envying our Spring as they are still steeped in icy cold weather and snow, like Isobel in Pennsylvania. We are so fortunate here in the UK to be surrounded by The Gulf Stream. That is what keeps us warm. We are on the same latitude as Northern Canada so without the stream we would be freezing cold. There are some scaremongers who are predicting the stream moving south as ice flows melt in the Artcic. So for all the complaints one hears about our weather we are fortunate that we never get the extremes. Our weather is so changeable because we are a very small land mass so the weather never gets chance to stabilize and we are open to the winds from the Arctic or the winds from Africa.

Before saying goodbye, thank you Annabelle for the poem. It is one of my favourites. Enjoy your Spring or Autumn wherever you are.

Sticky Apricot Flapjack Recipe

I've been asked for the flapjack recipe by some of you wonderful fellow bloggers so here we go:

4 oz. butter 5 tablespoons golden syrup 2 oz demerara or brown sugar 8 oz oats
4 oz. dried apricots, chopped 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice

Oven 180C/425F/Gas 4 Grease 8 inch square tin (I make double and use 12" x 9" tin)

Put butter and 4 tablespoons of the syrup into pan with sugar and heat gently until melted.
Stir in oats and apricots and mix well. Spoon into tin and smooth top.
Bake 25 minutes until golden.
When cooked remove from oven and while still warm mark into squares. Melt remaining syrup and add lemon juice. Pour over the flapjack and leave to cool.

Saturday, 17 March 2007

Tea time again

It's time for Saturday afternoon tea again. Come and join me. Today we are having Sticky Apricot Flapjacks. Just pure oats, dried apricots, butter, dark-brown sugar and syrup. Pure indulgence.

When a Thing is Blue it's Blue

This poem was written by a friend of mine, Brian Coatney who lives in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Brian writes from his heart and experience.

And when a thing is blue it's blue-
Picasso blue. Thinking there is something you
can do may only make things worse.
So why fight back, obsess-rehearse
the details of a plan you think
would extricate you from the brink
of mental hell or soon collapse?
What if you draw back to rest?-
not fight or defend when pressed,
but sit and wait, not lunge to try.
Let the angry impulse die
without a word or deed, and wait
until the words of Spirit state
a view you hadn't seen perhaps.
The dire and aweful feelings, not
in guilt resisted, save a lot
of useless torment. Take the pain,
and wait to see; do not disdain
in you the working of Christ's death.
Soon enough, His holy breath
will rescue you from evil traps.
The very second He decrees,
you'll find release-one that frees
you from concern. Out will go
the pride attached to any blow
you've taken. Inside, though you die,
you'll see the eagle's freedom fly
and not a single promise lapse.

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Wild Daffodills

Have spent the last 3 days getting the garden ready for the summer. Pruning, tidying,weeding, cutting the grass and renewing some of the herbs in the herb garden. In the midst of it I took time out to go and admire some wild dafodills. We went to Warley Place just 15 minutes drive from home. The above picture shows the centre of Warley Village, Nr. Brentwood in Essex.
Warley Place is now a nature reserve run by The Essex Wildlife Trust. It was formerly the home of Miss Ellen Willmott who died in 1934. She was a keen horticulturist. The grounds are an example of what happens when a garden is neglected and nature takes over. Decades of the multiplication of the daffodill bulbs. (The trust is now in the process of managing the woodland areas.)

Although our walk takes us through the woods and fields and conservatory ruins with many interesting things, it is the daffodills that we are feasting on today.

Oh! How beautiful, everywhere one looks there are daffodills

We are on our way out now back into the village, past the walled garden and admiring the Magnolia and Camelia which as you can see are pretty ancient.

Maybe we will come again in the Summer and see the changing scenery.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

My Christmas present from Oliver

This was my Christmas present from my Grandson Oliver. (Could not post it at Christmas as I had not started blogging then). He did get some help from his Mother and she did the writing and the spots!!! I don't know how many times she had to paint his feet before he would stay still.

This is where I keep it on the sideboard.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Braised Salmon with Mustard and Gruyere Herb Crust

Braised Salmon with Mustard and Gruyere Herb Crust, served with Sauteed Spinach and Roasted Vine Tomatoes on a bed of creamed potato. This was the main course that I served to friends on Saturday. It is very tasty and so easy and is always appreciated. The recipe was introduced to me by my daughter Janie. The recipe can be found at

Our first course was home-made Leek, Carrot and Potatoe Soup with onion and garlic. Our dessert, Baked Lemon Squares with Hot Lemon Sauce and of course ice-cream.

Monday, 12 March 2007

A Trip around Two-Tree Island

Yesterday, Sunday was a most glorious and sunny March day. On the spare of the moment we decided to visit our favourite local walking spot - Two Tree Island in the Thames Estuary just off Leigh-on-Sea. Our friends who live at the top of the cliff were away for the weekend so having a key, we again took advantage of their kind offer of their home.

We arrive at Leigh and admire the daffodills

Now it is time to come with me on a walk around the island. I hope you enjoy it. It was warm and sunny with only a slight breeze.

The bridge onto the island

Over the bridge and looking back

Looking back to our friends home at the top of the cliff

We are well into our walk now and looking out over the Thames and the tide is out. See the lone daffodills in the foreground. In these marshes one can hear the Godwits calling.

The ducks and Moorhens love this bit and I love the isolation

We are looking back now as we get ready to walk the other half of the island. This previous bit is very much a nature reserve and the next part of the walk is a wildfowl sanctuary.

Sense the quietness and emptyness. The tide is still out but the seagulls are awaiting it's return so they can feast on the tiny fish that come in with the tide.

Looking out towards Benfleet Creek from the Hide. Trust me there are many birds wading around and chirping away.

Looking out towards the ruins of Hadleigh Castle

A way of the island on foot providing the tide is out

We have finished our walk now. Could have shown you many more pictures but this was just a taste. We walked again on the mainland at the end of the day and snapped some beautiful skies.

Don't we have an awesome Creator. These 3 photographs were taken in the same place all within 30 minutes.