Friday, 30 September 2011

A Boy and His Bear

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This is a tale of a boy and his bear. The bear was won by his mummy in a Tots100 Blog Hop and kindly sent to review by Worlds Apart toys. It started off well, Little Bird ripped the box open eager to get at the snuggly cuddly inside and he took pride of place on the sofa. Mummy had a little setting up to do to programme him as he is not just any normal Winnie the Pooh - he talks and tells you it's time for breakfast or your bedtime!

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After telling Little Bird that it might be time to go and have a wash and get dressed, my Little Bird said "No Way" in no uncertain terms and Pooh was pushed off onto the floor.

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Pooh tried to enjoy a boat ride but was quickly thrown overboard to fend for himself.

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Pooh made several attempts to play with Little Bird but they are still on frosty terms. Pooh thinks he will have better chance with the Woozles but will not give up trying. Christopher Robin my boy is not!

Mummy gets on much better with Pooh Bear as she has a bit of a Winnie the Pooh collection. However, he has a tendency to make me jump out of my skin when he goes off!

{To win your own little friend and have a look at him in action,there is a competition with Disney & Worlds Apart here.}

A bear, however hard he tries,
Grows tubby without exercise.
Our Teddy Bear is short and fat,
Which is not to be wondered at.
But do you think it worries him
To know that he is far from slim?
No, just the other way about-
He's proud of being short and stout.

A.A. Milne

Monday, 26 September 2011

Autumn Indulgence

Pumpkin Soup

Autumn indulgence for me is immersing myself in everything associated with the season. I really try and get into the spirit of things. After a relatively successful year at my allotment, I am celebrating and enjoying all my produce, particularly the 30+ pumpkins and squashes. As for ornamental gourds, well that's a whole other story, I have bag fulls of the knobbly fellas.

Today we read a lovely book called Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper and made pumpkin soup for lunch too. I apologise for the Cucurbit overload lately but it will continue!

Simmering

I used a whole Baby Bear pumpkin weighing around 1.5lb, a couple of potatoes, 1 carrot, 1 onion and crushed garlic. Then added a handful of chopped sage and around 700ml of my trusty vegetable stock. Apologies, I don't really do recipes, I tend to throw things together and hope for the best.  Once the soup had simmered for 20 minutes, I blended and added some single cream.

By the way, I thoroughly recommend the Baby Bear, an amazing harvest from a couple of plants.

Warming

I think I may be a pumpkin fanatic. I always adored Jack O'Lanterns but now I have grown them myself I am obsessed with all the potential recipes too. I only grew one carver from last year's shop bought pumpkin's saved seed so I will be buying more to decorate with although I must remember about the zillions of gourds I have!

Pumpkin Soup 2

What next.....pumpkin syrup for my coffee and pumpkin pie?  Any other ideas?
Look at my lovely radio, Marmar Bird didn't want it anymore so now it looks lovely on my little cupboard.

radio

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Autumn Days When The Pumpkins Are Rolling In...

Pumpkins

It's here, it is truly upon us. Autumn. I have been gathering in my harvest on the plot. On the window sills, catching the last few rays to cure their skin for storage, sit an array of pumpkins, squashes and gourds. Baby Bear, Acorn, Festival, Vegetable Spaghetti....all beautiful, oranges, greens, stripy, a bit warty and knobbly.
Halloween around the corner

All ready for sweet pies, curries, pasta dishes, gnocchi with sage butter, roasting with rosemary, soups, making into garlands, Autumn door wreaths or scary faces for Halloween.

Conkers

Picked up finds of Horse Chestnut, Sweet Chestnut, pine cones and berries sit on table tops (out of a Little Bird's reach!) and around vases of flowers. I always did love the nature table at school. I used to stick leaves and sycamore wings into a scrapbook or make characters out of sticks and beech nut cases as a child. I'm still that person, just lacking the time.

Pine cone

It is now noticeably darker come tea time and the mornings are damp and nippy. On rare sunny mornings, I hope it lasts and we can go out for a walk for more nature collecting for my little projects....

Rosehips

.....for I love to decorate the house for each season.

Reflected flowers

I have been gathering ideas from old magazines and Pinterest. So many great ideas but first and foremost it's an autumn door wreath so we are off to collect a few more items and get the floristry kit out of the shed, ready to wire up flowers and leaves. Hopefully I'll be able to show it to you next week.

Planting Ideas

This is a song we used to sing at Primary School and I adore the words. It's so cheery and was our absolute favourite.  Do you know it? 

Autumn Days - Estelle White (1925 -2011)

Autumn days, when the grass is jewelled
And the silk inside a chestnut shell
Jet planes meeting in the air to be refuelled
All these things I love so well

{Chorus}
So I mustn’t forget
No, I mustn’t forget
To say a great big thank you
I mustn’t forget.

Clouds that look like familiar faces
And a winter’s moon with frosted rings
Smell of bacon as I fasten up my laces
And the song the milkman sings.

{Chorus}

Whipped-up spray that is rainbow-scattered
And a swallow curving in the sky
Shoes so comfy though they’re worn out and they’re battered
And the taste of apple pie.

{Chorus}

Scent of gardens when the rain’s been falling
And a minnow darting down a stream
Picked-up engine that’s been stuttering and stalling
And a win for my home team.

{Chorus}

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Cupcakes For Hungry Birds

Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery

Seeing as though it was National Cupcake Week I set about baking a few for a little birthday party we had for a Junior Bird earlier this week. I used my favourite book, Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery, for the vanilla cupcake and buttercream icing recipe. I'm always amazed at how different the recipes for a basic cupcake can vary but this one always works out fine for me and uses both self raising and plain flour.

Before Icing

I always have more luck with cupcakes as opposed to a full cake in a tin which seems to end up too dry or still gooey in the middle. The Great British Bake Off I am not!

Bowl

I decided on a blue buttercream and a sprinkle of magic dust.
I find getting a blue buttercream difficult as it ends up looking a bit green. I used Sugarflair Colours paste concentrate in Baby Blue but it still looked turquoise. I asked at my local cake decorators about this and they said it's the yellow butter making it look green and you need to mix for ages - they leave it in a fancy KitchenAid. Alas I do not have one and not the time to hand mix for ages.

Jazzies

I iced using a palette knife as it feels like a lot of faffing to pipe. Lazy! A few Jazzy's and my lovely Rainbow Dust edible glitter in Glacier Violet and Jewel Bronze Sand. Wonderful stuff for making even lousy icing look better. 

Blue Cupcakes

Baking is all in the fun of having a go. Nobody in my household cares how the icing is too splodgy or for the odd bit of crunchy cake as long as they taste good. Needless to say, they have all been eaten.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Dog Days

Sisterly Love

I have two dogs, both girly mutts from the local dog's home that cost just the standard donation of £60 each. They've been with me for a good few years, before Little Bird arrived. They used to sleep in my room and even at the end of the bed sometimes (don't say yuk, I'm not the only one) and snuggle on the sofa. These days they have comfy beds in the middle room and stay downstairs. Both have had showers this week after it was noted by a family visitor that they ponged! Don't you just love that wet dog smell?

Tara

Each has their own funny personality. Tara will not walk across trailing cables (as they are snakes), sees imaginary hazards that she has to skitter past like she's on roller skates, shreds any bins left out, jumps like a gazelle, tries to dig her way out of the wooden flooring when it thunders, loves car journeys and will perch over your shoulder and growls at poor Milly when she accidentally nudges her. 
She was here first. She's the boss. Her nickname is Whipper-Doodle.

Thought

Milly is exceptionally greedy, comes over to you and kindly belches after eating, hates anything coming through the letterbox and shreds it-including any hands posting it (now we have a mailbox), has spindly legs that do not match her potato croquette of a body, does break-dancing when she has an itchy back, very clumsy, shoves her nose at you until she gets a stroke, hates car journeys and guinea pig squeals the whole way, snores loudly. 
She shows a lot of cupboard love. Her nickname is Dumper Truck.

Paws

This week a delivery man ignored the mailbox and pushed a telephone directory through the door  (like I really needed one anyway!) and in her hackles up, feisty, pudding footed dash for the useless book, dragged the door curtain, pole with fixtures and fittings, plus a chunk of plaster all off the wall, landing on my head in the process. I still love her - just.

Milly

The Power of the Dog - Rudyard Kipling (1865 - 1936)

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie--
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart to a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find--it's your own affair--
But ... you've given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone--wherever it goes--for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We've sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we've kept 'em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-term loan is as bad as a long--
So why in--Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?


Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Roald Dahl Day 2011

Marvellous Medicine

It is Roald Dahl day today! It would have been his 95th birthday.
I love his books so much, especially George's Marvellous Medicine. 

riches blue

I read his books as a child with both fear and thrill with their delicious rudeness and sometimes ghastly characters. 


I was scared to look out of my window at night for years in case the BFG might be peering in.....

Fizzle swizzle

Which Roald Dahl book was your favourite? There are some great Roald Dahl themed party ideas here. You could also make a gruesome feast from one of the Roald Dahl recipe books - Nishnobblers anyone?


{Photo text is extract from the George's Marvellous Medicine poem}

Thursday, 8 September 2011

A Fairy Song

Afternoon walk

We went searching for the Little Folk on what maybe the last warm weekend afternoon of summer..........

Start the search

They leave traces that they've been there, a clue, a token......

Fairy trails

Look carefully around the toadstools, you may see a Pixie or a Brownie having a nap or a chat. They also like to play the flute and pipes....... badly.

Purple Tinge

They like to dance.....Elves are especially over enthusiastic suffering many a sprained ankle.

small yellow mushroom

They tend to snore loudly......so listen out. Dogs will hear this and go sniffing.

Puffball

They can be quite bad tempered, avoid their fury. Hobgoblins are vicious. Be warned!

Looking up

They are extremely houseproud and like to decorate their homes with acorns and fluff. Brownies have the best houses without a spot of leaf litter or woodlice poo to be seen. Do not get confused with troll holes, I don't think you would as they smell really awful.

Fairy House

Some are so small that they are carried on the breeze.

Dandelion clock

Many like to live in the trees, these are the Elders, they keep watch. So be good or they will fire arrows made from birch twigs at your bottom.

Shadows

They wear fancy clothes woven from leaves and gossamer. Apart from trolls who are scruffy and like to scare the fairies by running around naked for dares.

Leaf flutter

But as the day draws on into evening, some like to have a party - mainly the Imps and the Fairies who are notorious revelers.  Always take a bottle of honeysuckle and primrose cake to one of their shindigs. Often their cousins the Piskies come to visit from Cornwall - they are very good dressers and like red.

Late afternoon

Others are very sensible and settle in for the night under a fluffy eiderdown.

Delicate fluff

And some like to have a mushroom feast.

pixies

A Fairy Song - William Shakespeare

Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire!
I do wander everywhere,
Swifter than the moon's sphere;
And I serve the Fairy Queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green;
The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours;
In those freckles live their savours;
I must go seek some dewdrops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear.

{Tread carefully}

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Old Bananas

Chocolate Banana Cake

Chocolate Banana cake - perfect for after a blustery walk and for using up any old bananas.

  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 175g Muscovado sugar
  • 175g self raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 50 ml milk
  • Small bag of choc chips (approx 100g)

  • Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4 (180 Degrees C)
  • Grease a loaf tin / line with baking paper
  • Mash up the bananas and mix with the sugar in a bowl
  • Beat the egg
  • Add in the egg, flour, milk and oil. Mix well
  • Fold in all the chocolate chips
  • Pour into the loaf tin.
  • Wham in the oven for about 50 - 60 mins. Check with a prong to see if cooked in the centre. Mine was still a bit uncooked so I left it in for a total of about 70 mins.
  • Turn out onto a wire rack to cool

Enjoy whilst the wind howls and the leaves start to fall.

Fall

Monday, 5 September 2011

Forgotten Photographs

Rose Queen

I often pick up old photographs, cards and brochures off a market stall in my town. I've done this for years and for a long time I'd put the oldest of them in frames and dot them around the house as if they were part of my family tree.

These are all taken down now, some of them were quite spooky with austere expressions. It did make me laugh though when visitors thought they were great great grandparents or such like. I must scan some of the others in to show you.

During a weekend sort out I came across the above photograph and had a chuckle. Look at those glasses. Do you think it's a rose queen ceremony or maybe an Easter parade? I wonder where it is in England. I am fascinated. Any ideas?

Saturday, 3 September 2011

An Allotment Hidden Gem

Nigella Love in a Mist - Persian Jewels

I found this beauty - Nigella (Love-in-a-Mist) 'Persian Jewels' skulking by the allotment shed, in amongst the lavender. I had forgotten that I had scattered some seed earlier this year. It was a shame to leave it there almost hidden, so it came home........

Nigella in school milk bottle

Plonked in an old school milk bottle. I can remember having my milk in a bottle at school and being a milk monitor, nearly 30 years ago. Every morning, clink clink bottles, lovely paper straws and a plate of quartered apples.

Nigella mosaic

Such delicate starry detail. I will make sure I grow plenty of this flower next year. Pretty, airy blue and white flowers, although there should be pink and lilac too. I mixed it in with some cut Lavender and the smell is blissful.

Nigella & Botanic Illustration