Monday, 19 March 2018

Vernal Equinox 2018

Tomorrow is officially the first day of spring, the day when you expect to see  daffodils blooming in the hedge rows and lambs gamboling in the fields.  But sometimes the first day of spring looks more like this.

It started as an icing sugar dusting of snow...

After a few hours of constant snowfall the garden was covered in a deep blanket of white.

Snow has magical properties, it transforms the most simple things into magical structures, like this contorted hazel tree.

Even the little bird house looks cosier.

Beautiful as this final display of winter weather may be, there are some folk who really don't enjoy it that much...

Especially when the snow comes up to your knees and elbows. 

Never mind, tomorrow is the first day of spring, surely the daffodils will be out and the snow will be gone.  

It says so on the calendar. 

Monday, 5 March 2018

Cheese Straws

My husband, Andy, rarely makes requests for treats so when he asked me to bake cheese straws I had to comply.  They are very easy to make, take hardly any time to put together, and are made from ingredients you probably already have in stock.

Line a baking tray with baking paper.  Heat the oven to 200C/400F


50 grams self-raising flour
pinch of cayenne pepper
25 grams butter
100 grams grated cheddar cheese
1 or 2 teaspoons milk - if needed

Place all the ingredients into a mixing bowl EXCEPT the milk.  You may find the dough comes together without using any milk. 

Rub together until you have a mixture that looks like breadcrumbs.  Now knead this until it makes a stiff dough.  If you can't get the dough to come together add a drop or two of milk and knead again. 

Place the dough between two pieces of cling film and roll it out until it is pretty thin.   Cut into 'straws' and place the straws onto the prepared baking tray.  Leave some space between them so they have room to spread out. 

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.  Place the cheese straws on a wire rack to cool.  

I used Cheddar cheese but Red Leicester would be lovely, too.  

Thursday, 1 March 2018


We live in Devon down on the south coast.  The weather down here is always a bit nicer than almost anywhere else in Great Britain.  But once every few years something most unusual happens... IT SNOWS!

The last time we had any real accumulation of snow was in 2010 and this little chap was just a kitten.  

I think he kind of remembers what snow is.  He thinks he'd like to go out and play in it but.....

It does make a mess of his fur and he really doesn't like that too much. 

In the end he decided it was best just to come back indoors and watch it through the French windows.  

The snow is still falling heavily and is supposed to continue for quite some time. 

At this rate, I don't think we will be able to find Peter Rabbit in the morning.  

Monday, 5 February 2018

Chocolate Cake and Brown Sugar Buttercream

Every once in a while you just need a piece of cake; not a three layer, feed an army, cream filled gateau, but a nice little snack cake.   One single layer of soft chocolate cake with a bit of sweet buttercream is the order of the day.  

Here's a recipe for one of those 'We need cake' days:


1 cup flour
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine salt

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  In a small bowl mix together the following ingredients:

1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon vinegar (optional)

Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix until combined.  Then add-

1/2 cup hot coffee or very hot water

Mix for about two minutes and pour the batter into a greased square pan dusted with flour.  Bake at 350F/ 175C for about 30 minutes.   Leave the cake in the baking tin and let it cool completely before spreading it with frosting.

Brown Sugar Buttercream

1/4 cup butter or baking margarine
3 Tablespoon of soft brown sugar
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the brown sugar and butter into a mixing bowl.  Beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Gradually add the icing sugar, beating well between each addition.  Finally, add the vanilla extract and beat until the frosting is light and all the sugar has dissolved.  Spread over the cooled cake.

Now put the kettle on, make yourself a cup of your favourite hot tipple, coffee or tea will do.  Cut the cake into generous slabs and ENJOY! 

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

The Year of the Deer

I love decorating for Christmas.  I have boxes and boxes of ornaments which have been collected over the years.  Most of the decorations have been purchased at the end of the holiday season which makes them very affordable sometimes even CHEAP!

For example, these sparkly, silver snowflakes were purchased for less than .50 per box of 8.  It took 72 snowflakes and 50 icicles to decorate our big tree this year. 

I like to decorate using a basic theme.  This year was the year of the deer. 

I bought a small herd of them in the 2016 post Christmas sales for practically peanuts.

They came in three sizes so there is a deer to fit almost any space.

I even found this lovely Santa's sleigh and reindeer bunting made of felt in the bargain bin. 

Of course, you have to have some festive garland... 

And Grumpy Bear comes out every Christmas no matter what the theme may be.

I like to add little Christmas trees to different nooks and crannies.

And the little black cat makes a cosy addition to any decor. 

This year we found this lovely little four foot tree for our master bedroom.  It sits perfectly on the butler's table in the corner and will be used every year from now on. 

The absolute buy of the season are these BIG wooden snowflakes, at 29 pence for two from the posh supermarket, Waitrose.   You can be sure they will come in handy for next year's decorating. 

Sadly, Christmas has been packed away for another year but I am already making plans for 2018.  I hope you had a beautiful Christmas and wish you all the best for the New Year!  

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Homegrown Catnip

Every spring I plant a few catnip seeds so that this little chap can have a fresh supply of his favourite treat.  When autumn comes around, I harvest the seed and lots of tender leaves to dry for his winter stash of catnip. 

I've tried cutting long stems of catnip and hanging them up to dry but honestly, it just doesn't work for me.  I find the best way to prepare the leaves for storage is to pick them on a warm sunny day and zap them in the microwave until the leaves are dry and crunchy.

Place dry, freshly picked catnip leaves between two pieces of paper towel, making sure the leaves are in a single layer. They will not dehydrate properly if you have them in a deep mound.  Set the microwave to HIGH and zap them for 30 to 40 seconds.  The catnip leaves will come out dry and slightly crisp.  Let them cool properly and store in an airtight container.  There is no better treat for a little cat on a cold winter's day than a few crisp catnip leaves.  

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Watercolours by Rachel

Almost every day a local Devon artist call Rachel Toll posts a watercolour painting on Twitter.  This was today's painting.  I think the wild flowers are exquisite and I wanted to share it with you.  

Click HERE if you would like to see more of Rachel's wonderful paintings.