Hello… *crackle*…Testing, Testing… *crackle crackle*

Apparently, I have a blog stalker. Yes… little old me has my very own stalker, who trawls around the stuff I put on the internet, in case there is anything alarming in there to report!  Who Knew?!

*big shout out to stalker*


And on with the post…

Last weekend we went to Warsaw. Cold, but very beautiful, and somewhere I’d definitely return to. The history of the place was remarkable… there was an uprising during the Second World War, and the Polish people fought back against the Nazis. Long story short, the Nazis won and Hitler razed the place to the ground, with 85% of the city reduced to rubble. After the war ended, the Poles rebuilt their city, using old photographs and paintings as a blueprint.

I love that bit… it’s the ultimate ‘up yours’ gesture.

On my next visit, the Gestapo HQ is definitely on the list – it sounds amazing – and there’s also an exhibition that you go round blindfolded – to ‘see’ things as a blind person would. That sounds fab too. But for now, here are some pictures of the old town, including gratuitous shots of hot wine in the market place.


Old Town, Warsaw

Old Town, Warsaw

The biggest Christmas tree I have EVER seen in my life!

Old Town, Warsaw

Old Town, Warsaw



Trevor Tree

We’ve always had an artificial Christmas tree. Every year we haul it down from the loft, wrestle it out of its box and bedeck the living daylights out of it.

Christmas tree

Christmas tree

Some years it’s a bit on the wonk, but overall it’s done us proud.

A couple of weeks ago, looking at our tree, I murmered aloud, “Do you know what? I quite fancy having a real one next year”.

To this, the youngest almost spat out his tea in disgust. Eyes narrowing, he turned to me and growled, “A REAL TREE? Are you mad?”

“Not at all – I think it would look lovely…”

“Think about it, Mum”, he continued. “You’d really cut down a tree that’s been happily growing, just to stick it in our house for a couple of weeks?”

Aside from the fact that the youngest has turned into a bit of an environmental menace lately, I actually couldn’t argue with that point. As a gardener, I KNOW how long stuff takes to grow. Would I go out and chop stuff in its prime down? I don’t think so…

So onto Plan B. Our local supermarket is selling teeny tiny Christmas trees in pots. We’re off to get one of those bad boys later, and will name it Trevor the Tree. Trevor will live out on the patio, and each year – hopefully a tad taller than the last – we’ll bring him in from the cold and pimp him up with baubles.

I’m pretty sure he’ll become part of the family in no time at all 🙂

Blackberry vodka – the update

You may remember, way back in September

(oooh… almost sounds like the beginning of a cheesy Christmas song!)

No… I didn’t give you my heart or anything sloppy like that… I steeped blackberries in sugar and vodka – which, incidentally was A LOT more exciting!

Well, this week was the time to finish off the vodka and sample my concoction. The timing wasn’t specific – the whole thing’s taken around three months from start to finish.

What to do…

  1. Screw tops off bottles
  2. Sniff contents and have cheeky swig
  3. Empty bottles completely of blackberry and vodka
  4. Sample a blackberry
  5. Bample a couple more sackbarries
  6. Aim funnel onto cop of clean tottle
  7. Vest todka again
  8. Parefully core bodka into vottle
  9. Eat bum more slackberries
  10. Vaste todka again
  11. Squint to focus, crew sap on blottle
  12. One bore mackleberry for luck
  13. Have a lie down

What could be easier? I will definitely be using the original quantities again, because let me tell you – it’s blooming delumptious!

I’ve also kept the blackberries, as they are so infused with vodka-ey goodness,  it would be criminal to dump them. I may well transform them into a boozy jelly or upside-down cake.

As for the blackberry vodka? I’m just hoping it lasts until Christmas!


One glass

Carrots for Christmas

A couple of weeks ago I was having a good old chat with a fellow gardener, when he leaned across conspiratively, and asked:

“Have you planted your Christmas carrots yet?”

Slightly bemused but keen to know more, my interest was well and truly piqued… surely it was way too late to be putting carrots in: mine have all just been whipped OUT of the garden!  He went on to explain that carrot seeds sown in a deep pot in the greenhouse now,  had a good chance of being ready in time for the Christmas table.

Carrot seedlings

Carrot seedlings

I’ll have a go at most things garden related, so off I went down to the greenhouse, filled my deepest pot with compost, and duly sowed a thin layer of seeds on the top. And do you know what? They’ve only gone and germinated. They’re still very tiny, but plenty have popped up already. When they’re a wee bit bigger, I’ll thin them out to give them a bit more room to grow. As our greenhouse isn’t heated, it’ll certainly be interesting to see when they are ready to eat.

Elsewhere in the greenhouse, the caterpillar damage seems to be coming to a halt, and I’m now harvesting masses of red chillies. We can’t possibly eat the amount we have, so I’m drying some out. After threading some chillies onto a length of cotton, I’ve hung them up to dry in the utility room. In about three weeks or so they should be completely dried out, at which point I’ll whiz them up in the mini chopper. This will give us a good supply of chilli flakes to use throughout the year.

Tomatoes ripening

Tomatoes ripening

The tomatoes are also coming in thick and fast. To help them ripen, we’ve snipped off a lot of the lower leaves so the light and air can get around the fruits. My lot aren’t actually all that keen on tomatoes, so I’ve had to be a touch creative with using them up. Lots have gone into soups, and at the weekend I even made my own pizza base topping: I added peeled, chopped tomatoes to a pan with a squeeze each of tomato puree and garlic puree, brought it all to the boil and simmered the mixture to reduce it down. Delicious.

In other news, we have exciting developments from Cluckingham Palace.
After a good six months of Maud not laying anything, she now appears to be having a mid-life crisis. She thinks she is ‘hip with the young chicks’ and is laying like a trooper. Which makes for a lot of eggs: and a lot of cakes and quiches.

We can’t complain though – after all the sweat and toil we’ve put into the plot, it’s great to have so much produce to show for it.

This article appeared in The Hinckley Times on 19 September 2013

The Hinckley Times 19 September 2013

The Hinckley Times 19 September 2013

Runner beans made easy

Don’t tell him, but I think I’ve found the ideal Christmas present for my father in law. He’s a bit strapped for space in his garden, but LOVES runner beans.

So – we got him….

a reusable runner bean bag. He’ll be able to grow beans to his heart’s content, and move them around the garden to catch the best of the rays.


They will be handy to screen that unsightly corner behind the shed, or he can shuffle them to outside the conservatory – he’ll be picking beans whilst reading the paper!


If the beans get really tall, the bathroom’s just above, so he’ll be able to take a shower and pinch out the tips simultaneously.  The bag’s reusable, so it will make an appearance year after year, and I’ve even saved some bean seeds from this year’s crop to get him started.


What a tip, top, versatile present – and kind to the planet too!


I want one 🙂