Tuesday, 29 March 2011


I made these spiral iced biscuits for a vegan friend whose birthday is today. The biscuit recipe is a simple one using Vitalite (or other vegan-friendly spread/marg), light brown sugar, golden syrup, plain flour and ground ginger. The end result is a crunchy on the outside, chewy in the middle biscuit with a ginger flavour and is yummy! I decided to add the spirals of icing just to give a bit of surface decoration. (Of course, I made a few extra so Chris and I can enjoy them over a cup of tea!)

Monday, 28 March 2011

My Granny's memoirs - Lewis Carroll

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) photo from Wikipedia

Alice and the Duchess by Tenniel from alice in wonderland.net
On a recent visit to Mum and Dad's, Mum reminded me of some memoirs that Granny had written, based on memories from 1904 - 1914. Now and again, I'll add a few into my blog posts as Granny had an interesting early life, far removed from how we all live today. I'm going to start with some shameless name dropping. In this extract, Granny is talking about her mother.

At one time in her early years, Mother lived with an aunt in Oxford where she had lessons in logic from Professor Dodgson, Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland. He asked her what was her favourite fruit and she replied, "Strawberries". "Then nothing is better than strawberries," said the Professor. Mother agreed. "And what do you like least?" "Liver", said Mother, after some thought. "But liver is better than nothing". "I suppose so", said Mother. "Well, if liver is better than nothing, and nothing is better than strawberries, then liver must be better than strawberries". All very confusing to a little girl.

It does sound like one of the conversations Alice would have with a character from Wonderland!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Even more latest reading

I have just finished this book which is about as contemporary as I'm ever likely to get, being published in July 2010. A colleague at work recommended it and I know I wouldn't have even picked it up if I had been on my own. It is a very unusual book, written from the point of view of a five year old boy, whose whole life has been confined to a twelve foot square room, with his mother. It took me a couple of chapters to get into the story and the way it was written, but it kept me gripped and I wanted to know what happened. The book deals with some horrible issues, but ones that actually do happen in real life, as news stories remind us. Ultimately, despite the subject matter, it is a positive story, showing the way humans can adapt and survive. (Photo from amazon)

Monday, 21 March 2011

Latest reading

What a surprise! After being immersed in Georgian and Victorian literature, I've suddenly decided to read mid-twentieth century literature. The reason? Well, I have never read any of Agatha Christie's books and was suddenly very curious. I saw them on the library shelf and thought I would give them a try. I really enjoyed them both, even though I knew the stories and who the murderer was. What I particularly liked was the sparse descriptions - for some reason I had imagined that there would be florid passages of adjectives. The story moves along at a great rate, the writing is easy to read but keeps you gripped, and the little clues throughout the dialogue are so subtle that I missed most of them, but luckily, Hercule Poirot was on hand to set me right! All in all, very well written, great stories and interesting characters with fiendishly intricate plots.
Perhaps I should try some Miss Marple stories now...

(Photos from Amazon)

Sunday, 20 March 2011

First Day of Spring

To celebrate the first day of Spring (at last!), I though I would put together a small montage of flowers currently enjoying the weather in my garden, both in pots and in the borders. It makes me feel full of hope for the coming seasons. When the clocks go forward next weekend, it will be even more noticeable and there will be even more time to enjoy being outside. (Clockwise from the top we have violas, narcissus 'Tete a Tete', more violas and some delicately coloured Pushkinias.)

The star of the show at the moment just has to be this beautiful hellebore (and I can't remember the variety, but will try to find out). As it has flowers that hang down, I had to gently persuade it to look up to have its photo taken and I'm pleased I did. So, here's to Spring!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Chilled out Gonga!

Chris asked me to put this photo on my blog - it does show an extremely chilled out Gonga, fast asleep under his red blanket! If only we could all be as relaxed a little more often - perhaps life would be happier. There is a lot to be said for making time to relax in and I never feel guilty for this, whether I'm relaxing by gardening, reading, or just sitting. I know some people find this hard to do (Mum and Chris immediately spring to mind) but luckily for me, it seems to come naturally!

Monday, 14 March 2011


I have finally managed to get out in the garden and do some sorting out! Hooray! I've pruned roses, clematis and miscanthus grasses, I've potted on a couple of hydrangeas and moved a rose bush that was in the wrong place. I have tidied and sorted the pots at the front door and cut down stems from perennials in the back garden. I have divided astrantia major and spread it around the borders. There are a few bare patches in the borders, but things will soon start to grow. These scillas were planted last autumn in a container and are providing a lovely splash of lapis lazuli blue at the moment, and I noticed lots of muscari (grape hyacinth) bulbs coming up which will continue the blue theme.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Tulip colour inspired felt experiment

Here is the result of my colour blending sample based on the colours of the Parrot tulip I featured in a previous blog post. I didn't make it with an end result in mind, it was just a blending experiment to see what colours I could create and how they would work together. I added silk threads onto the top layer and delineated the different blends using black wool. I am really encouraged by the piece and the next stage will be to create an abstract piece, using these shades (assuming I can create them again, of course!)

Tuesday, 8 March 2011


Having a walk around the garden, I couldn't help noticing the furry magnolia buds which were framed beautifully against the brilliant blue sky. It was a cold morning, but with the sun out, you could almost be fooled into thinking it was Spring...almost.

The magnolia buds are a positive sign because although they are tightly wrapped against the cold at the moment, they hold the promise of unfurling into the beautiful scented flowers in a month or so. I love to see the garden gradually starting to wake up.

Monday, 7 March 2011

My Life in Books

I have been watching a few episodes in the short BBC2 series 'My Life in Books', http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00z0ltv where people in the public eye have been asked to choose five books - one children's book, one 'guilty pleasure', and three others. They also have to say what their choices say about them. There have been some interesting combinations of people interviewed, such as Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen and Sister Wendy Beckett (my favourite of the programmes I saw, actually). This got me thinking, what would I choose? I must say that this was one of the most difficult choices as I have so many favourite books. If it had been top 100, or even top 50, it would have been much easier. No Dickens, no Cold Comfort Farm, no The Moonstone, no Wives and Daughters, no A Traveller in Time and only one Jane Austen - but I am reasonably pleased with my final choice. Here they are:

Children's book: The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M Boston

I first read this when I was about eight or nine and I loved it. I still read it every year, around Christmas. It is the story of Tolly, who comes to stay with his Great Granny at Green Knowe, and discovers that the house has other occupants from previous generations. There is a curse on a large yew tree in the garden and he has a very exciting time sorting everything out!

Persuasion by Jane Austen

This is my favourite of Jane Austen's novels. It has a wonderfully autumnal feel and tells the story of Anne Elliott, an unmarried middle daughter who previously fell in love with Frederick Wentworth, only to be persuaded that he had no prospects, so she declined his proposal. Several years later, he returns, a Captain in the Navy with lots of money, and Anne (who has remained in love with him) realises that her chance of happiness may have gone forever. The story is beautifully written, with wonderful characters, and I really empathised with Anne throughout.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

This book kept me absolutely engrossed and I often re-read it, despite knowing what happens. It is a convoluted story told by different characters and contains blackmail, mistaken identities, love, murder, and one of the most evil (but charming) villains ever to appear in print, Count Fosco. The heroine, Marian, is an amazing woman who is described as ugly which immediately grabbed my interest, as an ugly heroine is extremely unusual. She is wonderfully clever and a match for Fosco. The ending is satisfactory, with everything explained, but it is not altogether happy.

The Morville Hours by Katherine Swift

Beautiful prose, written over fourteen years and based around the forming of a garden is how this book can be described, but it is so much more. The author writes about geography, geology, astronomy, astrology, county lore, gardening, country people, the seasons, her own family history and at the heart of the book is her creation of a garden. It is a book that you need to read slowly, without distractions, to savour each bit of it. I have read it twice now and will continue to read it for the rest of my life, I think.

Guilty Pleasure: The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

This is a children's book really, but it is one I still enjoy reading. It has a 13 year old heroine called Maria, who goes to stay with her cousin, Sir Benjamin Merryweather. Gradually she realises that she has got to sort out some very ancient history and if she doesn't, she will have to leave the valley and never return. It has magical and supernatural elements and Maria is a strong-willed and determined young lady. Does she sort everything out? You'll have to read the book!

What do my choices say about me? I think they show that I am a romantic person who likes a satisfactory ending - not always happy, because life isn't like that, but with all the ends tied up. I also love stories I can escape into and leave the world behind. There is also a bit of a supernatural element to some of the books I have chosen, which really surprised me, as I have a really vivid imagination and don't like horror films or ghost stories usually. I found this a really interesting thing to do - what are your five favourites?

Tuesday, 1 March 2011


I did say that flapjack might be the next baking project so here it is! It always amazes me that it is such a simple recipe with only four ingredients and tastes so yumptious (another of my very descriptive but not necessarily technically correct words, combining scrumptious and yummy). You need 4 level tablespoons of Golden Syrup melted with 4 oz margarine in a saucepan. To this you add 3 oz granulated sugar and 8 oz porridge oats, put into a greased square tin and cook for around 30 minutes on Gas 3.

I have managed to over cook these sometimes and they go too hard and crunchy. I have also found (through experience) that you must cut them up while still warm otherwise they harden too quickly and it is then difficult to cut them into shapes.
What a lovely treat!