Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Harvesting Chive Seeds or Going to Seed

Is it me, or does it seem like everything in the garden is blooming and setting seed a little too early this summer? 

I think my chives have 'bolted' so I've chopped them back and saved the dried flower heads to collect the seeds.

Of course, there aren't very many flower heads because I have a bad habit of picking the flowers and eating them as I stroll around the garden.  I must have been a rabbit in a previous life. 

With a little luck, the weather will cool down and the chives will put on another flush of growth.

Note to self:  DO NOT EAT THE FLOWERS 

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

More 'Flaars' and a Heat Wave

We are experiencing a mini-heatwave, well what we call a heatwave in Devon. The temperature may reach 27 degrees Celsius or 80 degrees Fahrenheit.  For us that is HOT!

The little black cat and I don't like the heat but the flowers love it!

So I've taken the opportunity to remove some of the older plants past their best and add a few new ones to the borders. 

All this takes place under the watchful eye of the head gardener, the Dust Bunny.

He makes sure I do everything properly.  He's most meticulous.

I've planted several peach salvias.  They should winter over ... I hope!

Now we just water and wait for them to grow.  If you are looking for the head gardener, he's napping in the shade under the big garden umbrella.  

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Simply Chocolate Muffins

I am not sure where I found this recipe.  I was obviously in a hurry when I wrote it down because it is written in a kind of recipe 'shorthand' I frequently use. 

Once you've made a few dozen muffins, cakes, or cookies you don't need all the detailed instructions so I just note the ingredients, oven temperature, and baking times. 

All that other stuff is superfluous.  I mean, you know a muffin is going to need a paper case... perhaps not one in a leopard print, but a case all the same.  

So here's the recipe in my 'cook's shorthand'.  By the way,  T=tablespoon and t= teaspoon, I think the rest is self-explanatory.  

CHOCOLATE MUFFINS  (makes 10-11)  200C/400F    15-20 minutes

Combine following in a large bowl:
250 g flour
175 g caster sugar
3 T. cocoa powder 
1 T.  baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
pinch of salt  

Mix together in a large measuring cup or jug:
1 egg
1 t. vanilla 
100 ml veg oil
250 ml milk 

Pour into dry ingredients, stir until just combined.*  Bake 15-20 mins @ 200C/400F

*This is where you spoon the batter into the cases, but you already knew that.  

I hope you enjoy them! 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Almost Wordless Wednesday - CAT-NIP!

You may remember from a previous post that the Dust Bunny had received snail mail from CELIA HART'S STUDIO ASSISTANTS .   It was a parcel containing some lovely catnip plants which the Dust Bunny loves... as you can see....

We all love a sunny morning in a garden filled with flowers...even little Dust Bunnies. 

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Impulse Shopping

I saw these lovely flowers, Diascia Daydream, at the garden centre and HAD to have them!

And these delicate peach salvia plants, I had to have a couple of those, too.

Some of the stems got bent in transit so I've made a little posy.   

Sometimes you just have to give in to that irresistible urge.  Best of all, they are both perennial plants so they will bloom in the garden for years. BARGAIN!  

Monday, 14 July 2014

Wine Corks and Roses, an Upcycling Project

I seem to have a weakness for collecting some strange things, for example, pretty glass jars and bottles.  I confess, I've been known to purchase store-bought jam for the jar. 

And corks... I can't resist snaffling an interesting cork.  I save them in one of my interesting shaped jars.  But let's be honest, there is no point in having these things if you don't use them. 

After gouging myself (for the um-teenth time) on a garden stake I got an idea.  Why not use them as cane-toppers?  

Simply cut the corks in half and carefully dig out a little hole for the cane.   Push the cork down onto the top of the cane.   Ta Dah!  No  more accidental garden impalements.  

Friday, 11 July 2014

Looking Back to See Where We Started

A few days ago we celebrated the anniversary of moving into our house in the Grove.  I can't believe we've been here for twelve years now.  

Sometimes you have to look back to see how far you've come, so I thought it would be fun to look at some photos of then and now.

This is a photo of our house the day we moved in.  I thought the green shutters made it look like a doll's house so they had to go!

There weren't too many plants worth keeping in the front garden so Andy was sawing down shrubbery on the first day, too.  Notice the stump in this photo.

Gradually, the front borders have been filled with trees and flowers.  Just this week I added two new plants. Gardens are always a work in progress.

The back garden was even more Spartan but that was a plus as far as I am concerned.  It isn't often you get to make a garden from scratch.

I've even managed to squeeze in a few fruit trees and strawberry plants.

The time has flown by and I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be.  

We've been so fortunate to have a house that has become our HOME.  

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Blue and White in the Garden

Sometimes less is more.   Having a small garden,  I often find I try to shoehorn too many different plants into a small space.  The results are busy and bitty and generally not very nice.  

Now, I don't claim to know anything about garden design, but I've learned a little trick.... KEEP IT SIMPLE!

I like to restrict my container plantings to one or two colours and use easy to grow annuals like pelargoniums and lobelias.  They are inexpensive, reliable, and will bloom well into the autumn if you take care of them.

As a matter of fact, these white perlagoniums survived the winter in the garden!  

I also keep a few perennial flowers in large pots, like this Shasta Daisy. These are great to pop into any 'holes' that appear in the borders.  

We seem to be going through a white phase in the garden and I love it...

It is as if all the flowers are dressed in their old fashioned summer dresses, like those Victorian ladies who always wore white.

It's a classic summer combination, white with a touch of blue! 

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Strawberry Shortcakes and Vanilla Sugar

Our tiny strawberry patch is now in full production.  Each day I collect a good handful or two of berries.  The ugly berries go into jam, the pretty ones get eaten right away.

I like to slice the berries, toss them with a big spoonful of vanilla sugar*, and eat them with cream or yogurt.  

Today we have scones left over from yesterday's afternoon tea.   There's only one thing to do....

Eat strawberry shortcake!  

*To make vanilla sugar:

Split a vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds.  Stir the seeds into a cup or two of fine sugar.  Pour the vanilla scented sugar into an airtight container, add the 'bean' pieces and seal the container.  After a few days the sugar will be ready to use in coffee, for baking, or over fresh strawberries.  

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Scones from the River Cottage Handbook No. 3

The quest for the perfect scone continues.  This time I am baking scones using the River Cottage Handbook No. 3 - Bread.

Andy says this is his favourite scone recipe, so far.  I am not surprised since the dough is enriched with egg and double cream.  

Of course, I like the addition of pure vanilla extract.  

As you can see, I have a few wonky scones but they are still delicious, especially when eaten warm with a big spoonful of Pam the Jam's strawberry preserves.

Now is the perfect time to make strawberry jam.  You can find Pam's recipe for Strawberry Preserves by CLICKING HERE!  This afternoon I am having a real River Cottage tea...scrummy!

300 grams plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
75 grams butter - room temperature
50 grams caster sugar
1 medium egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
120 ml double cream

Heat oven to 200C/400F.   Line baking sheet with baking paper.

Place dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir to combine.  Add the butter and rub into the flour mixture until it looks like fine bread crumbs.

In another bowl or jug, mix together the egg, vanilla, and cream.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredient bowl and mix to form a soft dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and gently knead for about 10 seconds, just to bring everything together.  Pat the dough out to about an inch thickness and cut into 8 scones.

Place scones on baking tray, brush with milk and bake for about 15 minutes. Scones should be golden brown.  Cool slightly before serving. 

Thursday, 3 July 2014


A few weeks ago I planted a few seeds in a big flower pot, watered them, waited, and today I have ...

Sweet, tender, beautiful PEAS!

Eaten freshly picked and warm from the garden, they taste nothing like the peas from the freezer.  It's hard to believe these are the same vegetable you get in those horrid cans. 

There's only one problem.  I can't stop eating them as I pick them.  I should have planted more peas! 

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Emergency Cake - Mix in the Tin Chocolate Cake

I try to resist cake.  I try to limit my cake consumption, then I snap and have to have a piece of cake NOW!  I need an EMERGENCY cake.

Today was one of those days... I needed cake and quickly.  I've had this 'mix in the tin' recipe for a very long time.  

They say this recipe was developed during the War, when there were no eggs and butter was very limited. 

But it's a very modern sort of recipe, too, perfect for busy people who don't have lots of time to devote to baking cakes. 

The most difficult thing about making this cake was cleaning up afterwards. Could be I am just a messy cook.

Click HERE FOR THE KING ARTHUR FLOUR'S ORIGINAL CAKE-PAN CAKE RECIPE.   Please excuse me, I REALLY need to eat a piece of this cake!