28 June 2015

Childhood Holidays

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain outside my open bedroom window. Not the Cornish mizzle that we usually get at this time of year but big splotty, splatty drops of rain that plip-plop loudly onto the window sills and remind me instantly of when I was a child. In particular, of the lovely holidays we had every year. It's the kind of rain I associate with our holidays to Anglesey in our little Sprite Musketeer caravan, playing card games or colouring pictures in our colouring books while listening to the rain drumming onto the metal roof. It got me thinking ..... there are loads of things that remind me of those holidays. Sounds and smells mostly, that instantly transport me back there. 

Sadly I don't have any pictures of our old caravan but I found this one the internet. 

When I had my market stall, I could never figure out why the flapping of the marquee made me sleepy until I remembered that I used to fall asleep to the sound of the caravan awning flapping in the breeze, a soothing, reassuring sound, guaranteed to give you the best night sleep ever. When I worked at a holiday park near Looe, I would walk around the site doing my rounds in the morning and the smell of bacon frying would bring back such a flood of nostalgia that I instantly craved a big juicy bacon butty, cooked in the cute little frying pan on the cute little Calor gas cooker in the caravan. Even the smell of early mornings reminds me of my childhood holidays. Before all the new roads and bypasses were built, the trip from Sheffield to Anglesey took about 4-5 hours and in order to miss all the traffic, we would get up and 4am. Even now, if I have to get up early to go anywhere, it always brings back that feeling of excitement and adventure that I used associate with going on my holidays.

I still love Anglesey, it still feels like going home, a familiar place that has hardly changed at all. I would love to go and spend some time there re-discovering the places I used to go as a child. To catch that tantalising first glimpse of the sea on the journey to Wales, usually around the Colwny Bay area and to feel the thrill of finally crossing the Menai Bridge, knowing that the holiday has almost begun. To hear the seagulls that hopped on top of the caravan every morning as if to say "come on, it's time to get up" and walking to the camp shop, a tiny little building that sold pretty much everything you could need, feet wet from the morning dew slipping and sliding in my flip flops. Imperial leather soap, the Old Spice that my dad used to wear, freezing cold showers in the shower block, freshly cooked doughnuts from the cafe on Benllech beach, beach towels blowing in the breeze pegged onto the guy ropes of the awning, playing in our rubber dinghy on Lligwy beach, attached to my dad with a huge piece of rope to stop us drifting out to sea but secretly, thinking how cool it would be to be rescued by the life boat. In fact even after my parents upgraded our little touring caravan to a big static van, still on the same camp site that we always went to, I continued the tradition and took my own daughters there.

I often think that if I were to leave Cornwall, Anglesey would be somewhere I could see myself settling and who knows, maybe one day I might just do it :-)

27 June 2015

Spontaneous Urticaria and My Great Food Conundrum.

A few years ago, after a particularly delicious breakfast in a lovely little beach cafe with a friend, I ended up in casualty after having an allergic reaction to something. On the way home from the cafe, I began to itch all over and my airway started to close up and in the end I had to call an ambulance. It was scary and worrying and after the ambulance ride to hospital, being pumped full of drugs on the way and a 6 hour stay in casualty to make sure there was no adverse reactions to the drugs, I was given the all clear and was sent home. Over the next week I ended up back in hospital twice more with the same symptoms only this time with vomiting and diarrhoea thrown in for good measure. It was only after that third episode that I was sent off for tests and was diagnosed with spontaneous urticaria. This means that basically you can become allergic to anything at any time and without any warning and despite having copious amounts of blood being taken to try and find out if there was anything in particular I was allergic to, eventually I was told there was nothing else the doctor's could do and was given advice on how to manage the attacks should they happen. Over the last 4 years, since the first episode, I have had many more. They seem to come in clusters and my body seems to be particularly sensitive and prone to more episodes in the week or so after the first one. The last episode I had was after I ate a big bowl of French onion soup and using a process of elimination, onions ....... obviously ....... were flagged up as being the most likely culprit. It's safe to say I no longer eat onions :-) however, as I haven't had an episode for a quite a while now (touch wood!!) I am wondering if it's time for me to try eating them again. The problem is, the more episodes I have and the more things I cut out of my diet, the more restrictive my available food list gets which, when you have to try and live thriftily on a very tight budget, can be very limiting . As my daughter is home from uni for a few more weeks, I am thinking about re-introducing all the foods that I have not eaten for a while to see if I am still allergic to them. It's safer to do this while there is someone else in the house because when an episode happens, it is scary and there is the possibility that I will have to use my Epi-pen if the symptoms get too bad. The trouble is, it's so horrible when it happens and can take anything up to an hour to get it under control, that part of me is really not keen to put myself in that position, even if eventually, all I end up being able to eat is toast :-) 

24 June 2015

A Spot of Stitching and Madness in theF lower Bed!

Over the last few days, I have been doing a spot of hand stitched embroidery. I'm not very good at it because I get a bit impatient but I wanted to make a new cushion for my sewing chair and it seemed like the perfect time to practice my stitches. I had seen a "make do and mend" picture a couple of years back that I really liked and that I thought would look nice with the newly discovered Laura Ashley patchwork pieces that I found in the airing cupboard a week ago. I love them, they are at least 20 years old, very gorgeous and exactly the right colours. Anyway, I used my dissolvable fabric to print out the picture so I could then sew it onto a piece of heavy-ish linen. 

I did have a couple of a problems with the stitching through the dissolvable fabric. Firstly, it seems to make the needle quite sticky which tended to make it slightly difficult to push through the fabric and secondly, because I had printed out the picture I wanted to stitch in colour and I had used the same colour floss as the picture for the stitches, it made it difficult to see where I had stitched and where I had missed. I had a totally blonde/senior moment after I rinsed the linen in cold water to get the dissolvable fabric to dissolve when he final "O" on the "make it do" bit of the stitching was missing. For one barking mad second, I actually thought I had dissolved the stitching along with the fabric until I realised I hadn't actually stitched the letter in the first place ...... DOH!!! :-)

Do you remember back in May when I sprinkled wild flower seeds all over one of my newly-cleared flower beds. You can see the post HERE. Well, It has gone from a bare patch of earth full of nothing at all that looked like this ...... 

To this, where there were a few little flower shoots but where the weeds were easily recognisable and could simply be pulled out.

To this

 A patch of earth that is completely full of who-on-earth-knows-what!!!!!

I know that some of them are flowers and some are weeds and I have pulled up the things I know for certain are weeds but I don't want to pull anything else out because I don't want to pull out any flowers. I'm guessing that I will just have to simply leave them alone until they either produce flowers or I can recognise them definitively as weeds. 

Oh well, I'm all for a spot of lazy, see-what-happens type gardening :-)

22 June 2015

More Homegrown Veg and a Couple of Cutting Miracles.

Welcome to Summer! It's chilly and it's raining ...... typical British Summer!

Anyway, here is another little post to show off my veg ..... extremely sad I know but it's just so exciting 

Some sugar snap peas this time, which I picked for my Sunday lunch yesterday. Totally delicious but next time, I will remember to remove the stringy bits from down each edge before I cook them! Not very lady-like to take the stringy bits out of your mouth during lunch but I'm afraid I really didn't have much choice. They were very icky, the stringy bits, not the sugar snap peas themselves, which were actually very sweet and totally yummy. Live and learn.

Enough for my daughter and me with plenty left on the plants for more pickings.

And now for the rose cutting miracle. A couple of weeks ago, I had to cut back one of my climbing roses because for some reason, my neighbour took it upon herself to hack the bits that were hanging over the fence at the side of my gate, to pieces. They weren't even hanging over onto her property, just the little lane where we live but because I didn't want them doing the same to the one on the other side, I decided it would be best if I gave it a trim. I'm guessing it's not the right time of year to cut back roses but I thought it was better if I did it than let them have an excuse to do it. 

Once I had removed the hanging bits, I was left with three or four thick pieces of rose stem and it seemed a shame to just throw on the compost heap. It was then that I had a bit of a brainwave and had the idea to try and use them to grow some new cuttings. I have never done anything like this before but, with a dim and distant memory of watching my Granddad do something similar, I trimmed the bottom into a point, stripped off the leaves, stuck them into a plant pot that had cucumber plants growing in it and gave them a water. I didn't hold out much hope that the cuttings would grow because, as I said, I've never done anything like that before but yesterday morning, I was watering the veg when I saw that one of the sticks has leaves on it. I'm assuming that the stick is actually growing!? It's amazing. My first every cutting. 

This is the rose that will eventually bloom on the cutting. It's so beautiful and smells glorious.

And my second triumph, 

I saw on a gardening programme that when you nip out the little offshoots on tomato plants that grow between the stem and one of the little branches, if you plant them in soil, they will grow into new tomato plants. I'm all for free plants but I was very sceptical. Anyway, after I nipped the four biggest offshoots from my plants, once again I stuck them into some soil at the edge of one the pots and hey presto, they grew too. They were looking a bit dry when I took the photo because it was before I watered them but they perked up again once they had a good soaking. They're about 2 weeks old now and it's almost time to pot them on :-)

It's nothing short of a miracle. Sadly, I have no idea what variety the offshoot plants are because I just randomly stuck them into the soil and crossed my fingers. Maybe next time I will remember to label the new little plants. 

21 June 2015

Fabric Key Fob.

Lately, I have been looking at things to make so that I can start a new little online business and the other day I came across some cute little fabric key fob thingies. I think they are awesome and very practical so I had a look on the internet to try and find the clasp things so I could have a go at making some. They were a bit difficult to track down, mostly because if you put keyfob thingy into the browser, it thinks you've gone mad and comes up with lots of weird and wonderful stuff :-)

This is what they look like. Little clamp-like things with two teeth that stick into the fabric.

I eventually managed to track some down from a wonderful lady on Etsy and when they arrived yesterday, I was itching to get on with making one, as a prototype, to see how sturdy they are. They're easy to make, just a strip of thin wadding sandwiched between two pieces of fabric and a key fob thingy ..... sorry, I still don't know what they are called. I just searched for key fob hardware and picked the one that closest resembled the ones I saw on the ones on the internet. 

There are loads of tutorials out there on the internet and they're super easy to make ...... it only took about 10 minutes to put together. I did manage to destroy one of the little key fob things though, because when I had put it together, I tugged on it and yanked on it and pulled it around for a while to see if it was secure. It wasn't completely secure to start with because the teeth weren't sunk deeply enough into the fabric so I wrapped the clasp in some fleece and hit it with a hammer a couple of times to close the clasp further. Unfortunately, I managed to squash one of the little teeth things .... several times in fact because although I managed to flip the little point back into an upright position so I could try again, when I flipped it back up the third time I managed to break it off completely! Oooppps :-)

Anyway, this is my prototype key fob. I think they're lovely. What do you think??
Does anyone have any tips for closing the little key fob clasps securely?
And does anyone know what they are actually called :-)

19 June 2015

My First Veg

Just a quick post. Yesterday I harvested my very first veg. I can't tell you how thrilled I was. I know it doesn't sound like much but I am beyond excited. I also have a small confession. In the past, when I have grown vegetables, I have mostly given them away to neighbours and friends. Mad I know but there you have it. This year, I intend to eat everything I produce. Yesterday's harvest was some spinach. I could have picked more but I didn't want to use it all but I did pick enough to make something nice to eat.

So, for supper last night I made chicken cooked with white wine, garlic, a tablespoon of green pesto, a tablespoon of creme fraiche, my home grown, freshly picked spinach all topped with a sprinkling of cheese and some toasted pine nuts. It was absolutely delicious. 

I'm also getting ready to pick some sugarsnap peas I have loads of them on the plants and I'm thinking they would be great for Sunday lunch.

And I have some little teeny tiny courgettes on my courgette plants. Soooooo cute :-)

And I tell you ..... getting these photos in the brilliant sunshine, without my glasses, was no mean feat! I couldn't see a thing and it was basically just a case of stick my iPad into the plants, click the button and hope for the best :-) !!

13 June 2015


The weather has been awful the last couple of days and although we haven't had the storms that were forecast, it has rained and rained and rained some more. I had been hoping to get out into the garden to do some weeding after my trip to Sheffield but I had to content myself with looking on the internet for garden ideas. I love cottage gardens, I love the overblown loveliness of borders that are heaving with deliciously smelling roses, lavender, sweet peas, aquilegia, and basically, anything that my Granddad used to have in his garden. It takes me back to my childhood in an instant. There is one cottage garden flower, though, that I just can't stand. I don't even know why. Whenever I see them growing in my field I pull them up and chuck them in the compost bin. My friend Bridget says this is sacrilegious, especially for someone who professes to be desperate for a cottage garden. She thinks I should be digging them up and planting them in my garden but I just can't bring myself to do it because I absolutely can't stand them ....... Foxgloves. I don't even like the new varieties that are different colours. 

However, I realise that there are people out there who actually do like them so I have seriously been thinking about digging them up, popping them into plant pots and taking them to the car boot sale and selling them for 50p. I have hundreds in my field. It won't cost me anything but a bit of soil and I might just make a bit of money. 

I might even bite the bullet and plant a few in my garden.

Then  again, maybe not. 

12 June 2015

Chicken Soup for the Sick, Toffee Chocolate Crispy Bars and a Car

When I got back from Sheffield on Tuesday afternoon, my daughter, who had been house/animal sitting, seemed to be coming down a cold and by Wednesday, was feeling a bit under the weather. So, as soon as the animals were fed and watered, I nipped out to the shop to grab some chicken to make a big pot of my comfortingly nourishing cure-all chicken soup. It's quick to prepare, uses whatever vegetables you have in the fridge and tastes absolutely delicious. It's full of flavour and you can almost feel it making you better. Because, once again, my finances are a disaster due to the purchase of a car (I will get to that later), I chose chicken thighs for the soup. Not only is the meat better value but it has much more flavour and it gives the soup an amazing depth of flavour. Into my soup pot went 2 Chicken thighs, 3 carrots, 2 small sweet potatoes, some shredded savoy cabbage, a leek and 2 chicken stock cubes. Normally, I would use home made chicken stock from the freezer but I've run out and will have to get boiling and making some more. Add water and cook on a gentle simmer for about an hour until all the flavours have cooked together to make a big pot of deliciousness. Then simply take out the chicken thighs and remove the meat from the bones and pop it back into the soup and hey-presto ..... instant comfort and at a total cost of £1.85 for a whole pot of lovliness. 

I then whipped up something sweet. Sometimes you just need something sweet when you're feeling under the weather and along with my shortbread recipe, my toffee chocolate crispy bars are my go-to recipes. They're quick, simple, cheap to make and totally yummy. I have posted about these before on my blog but basically, it's just Mars bars, or a cheaper equivalent ... actually, I use the Aldi equivalent which are much cheaper and work just as well as the more expensive ones.  I use a whole packet of 6 but they are only 59p per packet they are perfect for this. Some rice crispies or, again, an equivalent cheaper brand. The ones I use are 69p per box, again from Aldi and they are perfect for this recipe. Melt the chocolate bars with a knob of butter, stir in some rice crispies, press into a tin and chill until set. Then melt some cooking chocolate and spread over the top, chill again until the chocolate is set and enjoy. Cost - about 90p to make. 

It's weird, this is my 230th post and it's getting to the stage where I'm having to check if I have posted things like recipes before. Possibly because I lead a very boring, ordinary life. I'm either going to have to go and do some exciting things to blog about .... difficult without money but not impossible or I'm going to have to check each post to make sure that I'm not repeating myself. I must be getting old :-)

Finally, I managed to sort out my lack of transport situation. After 2 weeks without a car I managed to get a cheap little run-around from a lady who lives in the village not far from me. It's not pretty or glamorous or smart or trendy but it works, it has a full MOT on it and ..... fingers crossed ....... it will get me to the shops and back for a while.

 Unfortunately though, it wiped out all my meagre savings so I'm back to square one again.

Hey ho...... nothing new there :-)

10 June 2015


Well, I'm back home in Cornwall after a very long 7 hour journey yesterday. The train was delayed by someone in a lorry running into a bridge that we were supposed to go either over or under, I forget which, and we had a bit of a wait to see if it was safe. It was, but it unfortunately meant that I missed my connection in Plymouth and had almost an hours wait for the next one. The animals were all thrilled to see me and Metro hasn't left my side since I walked through the door in case I sneak off and leave him again. My youngest daughter, who has been house/animal sitting, was pleased to see me too because she was getting a bit stir crazy having been stuck in our little valley for 5 days. She doesn't drive so it's either a taxi ride to town or stay put and although I had left her plenty of cash for taxi rides, she had elected to have a lazy few days to recuperate after finishing her first year of uni. Apparently though, 5 days in the quiet countryside is more than enough to get over a busy year of uni in London and she couldn't wait to get out of the house :-)

Metro looking at me as if to say ..... "No, I'm not moving, if I move you might disappear again"  :-)

My garden is looking a bit overgrown after 5 days away. The grass is really long so I'm going to have to tackle that this week and the path through my field to the llama field is now non-existent so that will need strimming and covering with the bark chippings that I was given my a neighbour who had some trees chopped down. On the plus side though, my veg are doing really well. Today, I will be able to chop and eat some spinach. I can't wait. It's gone mad in the 5 days I have been away and it needs to be cut and eaten. I also have a courgette flower on one of my plants and I have some pea pods on my sugar-snap peas ....... it's so exciting. Can you tell that I'm relatively new to growing veg :-) ??
Sugar-snap pea pods

Sugar-snap peas

French beans recovering nicely from a rather bad start.


Courgette flower

Heading Home

After a lovely few days in Sheffield with my eldest daughter, her husband and of course my gorgeous little grandson, I'm on a train heading back to reality in Cornwall. I also got to spend a couple of days with my lovely mum, helping her to sort out her garden and trying to make it a bit more accessible for her. I tried my hand at a spot of topiary and came to the conclusion that I shouldn't give up my day job and I turned a mound of earth into a cute little rockery using a pile of bricks that I found hidden under a hedge. Now my mum can plant a whole pile of flowers and work her magic on the little bed. I love my mums garden. Her borders are so lovely and this visit, I came bacxk with a huge bag of aquilegia seeds so hopefully my flower beds will be looking equally spectacular very soon. 

Of course while I was there, I got to snuggle my little grandson lots. He is so cute and sweet and he's an incredibly good natured little baby and I got to do some fab nanny babysitting duties. I also got to wander round some lovely shops and re-visit some lovely places. I was born and brought up in Sheffield and I lived there until I was 18 and city living is admittedly very nice. Lovely shops, a thriving social scene, restaurants, cafes and an amazing transport system which means you don't have to wait several hours for a bus. In reality though, I know it's not something I would want to go back to. I loved it when I was younger but now I'm not so young, I wouldn't trade the countryside for anything, even if there are no buses, streetlights, restaurants or decent shops. It's something I get asked a lot by people I know who live in the city. Do I miss the city and would I ever go back? Yes I miss it sometimes and I especially wish my family lived closer but I'm not sure I could actually go back to living in a city full time. I love to visit but it's always lovely to get back home. A former friend, upon hearing about the lack of buses, shops, streetlights etc, expessed the opinion that she thought I was utterly barking to live in the country, in fact her exact words were that I "live like the Amish!" ....... hence the reason she is a former friend :-)

So, tomorrow, after a good night's sleep in my own bed with my pooch snoring like a warthog on the bottom of my bed, I will drag my youngest daughter out of bed ..... hopefully sometime before lunchtime and we will go for a walk on the beach, take our shoes off and dip our toes into the freezing cold water. Maybe have some fish and chips sitting on the rocks on the beach and just make the most of the lovely weather we have been having. 

4 June 2015

A Little Trip

Today sees me winging my way North to Sheffield for a few days to finally visit my new grandson. The animals and house are sorted thanks to my daughter who is back from uni for the summer and an assortment of neighbours who will keep an eye out to make sure she is ok and help out if needed. I am typing this on the train on a cute little keyboard that attaches to my iPad and connects via bluetooth. It's small, compact and does the job although it might take me a bit longer to write the posts as I seem to be making a whole pile of spelling mistakes because I'm used to a bigger keyboard and things on this miniscule one are in different places. I love train journeys, even though the journey is a long one and although the last 3 times I have been to Sheffield haven't been very happy occasions, I am hoping this time will be different.

I have brought along a little bit of stitching to do on the train if I get bored with people watching, a few hexies and some fabric to stitch all neatly packed into a little quilted liberty bag that I made, my first ever attempt at putting in a zip. I have to say I am quite chuffed with myself. It was easier than I thought it would be. 

I have no idea what this blog post will look like on a normal computer it might look totally weird ...... if it does, I appologise but for the next few days it's the best I can do. As it is I'm having to post in two different formats because one of them won't allow me to add photos from my iPad so I am writing in  one app and posting photos in another ...... heaven knows what it will end up looking like. 

Before I left, I sorted out the house, gave it a good spring clean and cleaned the carpets. The cats, understandably, don't like the carpet cleaner, it's very noisy and all of them dissappear the second I turn it on. All except one of them. Her name is Porridge. She is a sweetie pie who loves to be cuddled but she is also a fiesty little thing at times and when the carpet cleaner is around, she is determined not to let it scare her. As the other cats dissappear to the four corner of the house, Pooka ..... that's her nickname ...... stands her ground :-)   

Cat versus Machine ....... in this case cat won and I had to go around her because she refused ro budge :-)