So on this day of love, let there be VintagePretty!
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
It has been two weeks of furious key-pressing, swearing, screaming, deciding, signing-up and creating. I am exhausted, but glad to say that VintagePretty 2.0 is ready to accept visitors!
So on this day of love, let there be VintagePretty!
Friday, February 09, 2007
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
I will try to fix you
Exciting Times Ahead
Despite the dusting of snow and the sub-zero temperatures (-3ºC ~ 27ºF), I am in a haze of excitement. I can't tell you much right now, but I'm a little hive of activity. There are Big New Things going on in the land of VintagePretty and it is all very, very exiting!
But hopefully soon I'll be able to reveal everything. VintagePretty is getting a little bit older now, more comfortable in her own shoes and so the new re-incarnated VP will also hopefully have very special "added extras" (more on that as and when it all gets going!). I've managed to do things I'd put off doing because I'm a procrastinator extraordinaire.
I'm also learning clever things like how to administer a unix server shell (doesn't that sound impressive?). It's all rather confusing and entails lots of screaming and staring for hours at small black and grey writing (and I'm now beginning to sound like a Dalek!). I'm very lucky to have a computer-programming husband. I am usually relegated to knitting and tea-making duties whilst he pulls his own hair out!
Anyway, that is all for now. I'll be back very soon with news!
Monday, February 05, 2007
A weekend in pictures
Saturdays are met with great anticipation. We try to make the most of them because I work on Sundays and so Saturdays are the only day that my husband and I get to spend together. There are certain little rituals we try very hard to adhere to, like finding our favourite tea-room and having a coffee. And doing something worthwhile. This weekend we went to our local tea-room (where the ladies know us, and only serve lovely homemade treats) then onto the National Trust house and spent a very enjoyable few hours walking, taking in the cool but bright weather and taking lots, and lots of photos.
Despite the frosty start, the frozen puddles and the thoroughly-iced garden, the walk around the estate was beautiful, deserted and bracing.
We saw beautiful skies and snowdrops, and kept our eyes skyward as we listened to birdsong, watched the whisps of clouds and saw our breath steam.
Walking further on we came to the woodland surrounding the estate and its gardens. This woodland is old and has been here for countless centuries. I couldn't help but touch the serrated bark of this old tree. Its girth was so large that it would've taken four or more people to encircle it completely. I settled for touching the bark, and watching a nuthatch wedge a nut into the bark and then hammer it until the nut was opened.
Yew trees and yew hedges remind me of the grand houses in Dorset and Somerset that we visited. Montacute house in particular is riddled with these 'green corridors'. In October they are covered with their fleshy red cones, but in February they are dotted with these little male flowers.
Though the garden wasn't completely bare, it was rather green. Few flowers to photograph, so I took my camera into the conservatory where I could better see all forms of tropical plants. Flowering cyclamens and hyacinths were in abundance, hundreds all around the room.
We found out that our begonia is actually one of the enormous 'elephant-ear' types, as they had one too! It was a healthy 5-feet and growing. I have grand plans for our own!
Once we had walked the entire length of the garden, we turned and came home. This was one of the last, perfect pictures that I took. It is the reflection in a pool as calm as ice.
We hopped back into my car and headed home (that's my husband taking the photos~ I was driving!).
We saw fields of yellow rape flowering, in February, which is very much the wrong time. They are usually May to July flowering.
With the quiet English country roads to ourselves we enjoyed chatting on the way home. The day was beautiful.
And coming back from work yesterday, what smells met me as I got in the door? Mmmm, my husband had prepared a meal, of the most sumptuous sort, for this hardworkin' gal.
Friday, February 02, 2007
The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs
At any time of the day, except for the darkest of nights, if you take a walk down to the bottom of our garden you'll find an abundance of birds and their songs. They reverberate all over the garden, from the alarm calls of an intruder from the blackbirds, to the sweetest song of the robin or the dunnock. Within the tangled branches of the hawthorn they watch me, as I sat on my perch, watching them. My finger hovering, ready to catch them in action.
Today feeling rather fragile from a headache, I took the only medicine I know - fresh air, and sat out in the garden. I sat on an old bag of compost and took my camera with me. Today was spectacularly mild, although cooler than yesterday, the sun made up for this. I was taking photos of blue tits, blackbirds, sage, brambles and then, two birds, very quickly made their way to the feeders, lo and behold, it was long-tailed tits!
You don't see those every day, and I hadn't seen them since living here, although from their chittery calls I had suspected they might be around. They allowed me to take some beautiful photos, and in the original photos you can see every little detail. And as The Be Good Tanya's sing "the littlest birds sing the prettiest songs".
I couldn't resist pictures of some of the herbs, they are all beautiful with their silvery foliage. Especially the sage (click the link ~ sage is an amazing healing plant!) and lavender.
The bramble is a majestic, if a slightly pesky plant. It never fails to scratch me whenever I go near it, but the fruit it bears in Autumn are so yummy I can't remove it from my garden even if I wanted to.
I also made a loaf which came out perfectly (modest!). Oh how I am enjoying bread making, it is not a chore when you have a recipe that works wonderfully every single time! Perfection.
Yesterday - The night side of the moon
I opened the blinds in the kitchen, whilst it was still dark, to wave to my husband leaving for work, when I saw the moon. But it looked different, and as I watched it disappeared behind some clouds, and changed colour as it did so. Eerie and beautiful.
It reminded me of a harvest moon seen in September or October, where the moon is very low on the horizon and appears a reddish hue. Beautiful but eerie indeed!
Thursday, February 01, 2007
An hour a day
That is my new 'resolution', my challenge, to do an hours actual gardening a day, weather permitting, and if it's wet and cold, I'll do an hour's indoor planning instead. I feel more alive now than I have done for ages, and it's so good (I won't mention the strained muscles and rushes of blood to the head!).
I love these mild days, for the first time in what seems like an age the heating hasn't been on at all (barring an hour in the morning) and yesterday I flung the windows open to embrace the warm wind and hung washing out on the line (yes, it was January ~ and I've done the same today!). Although this warm weather has its downsides, today I saw a honeybee trying to find a home, awoken by the impossibly warm weather, it has no sources of food bar the few wallflowers that have started to flower.
As I dug the ground, and went through the now-feral soil for bits of brick (a habitual problem, and those bits of brick are sharp), I found wonderous worms and 5-inch long nails in the soil, snail shells and a growing avocado stone (anyone would think we're in Tahiti rather than Northumberland!).
And when I found wonderous worms, I hid them quickly, lest the robin should eat all of my garden helpers! I am in an ethical minefield when it comes to this prey/predator dilemma, but I take the prey's side and hide them, and if the robin finds the worm, then it's not my fault (equalling clear conscience!)! Our robins are friendly and sit on the fence watching, or doing as one did yesterday and hopping into our compost bin (I'd left the lid off) and eating some of the many bugs habitating in there!
I got the bed we'd dug over on Saturday levelled and then covered it with some tarpaulin we found in the garden - weighed down with an old fence panel! The dog enjoyed herself no end as you can see by the pink ball, one of her favourite toys. She loves the freedom of running up and down the garden, something she never tires of (and chasing cats, I don't mind that).
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Bread and butter
Today, dear readers, I found my own mecca. I found culinary peace, zen and pefection. I have attained baking enlightenment. And it came in the form of bread rolls.
Not just any bread rolls, but homemade, perfect, fluffy, wholesome bread rolls. Gone are the usual rock-hard bullets which taste good but are all stodge, and in their place are these light, soft, perfectly-risen rolls, and I will confess it now: I've eaten 3. The recipe was from an All Colour Library book simply entitled "Baking". It was a charity-shop find, and has all of these wonderfully retro 70's ingredients and recipes, yet has some very nice staples in there as well. None of my other recipe books seemed to have a simple, good bread recipe, yet this one came up trumps. It is actually a recipe for milk bread, and uses milk instead of water. I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I have never eaten a bread roll this nice in my life. Ever.
I think it's the best remuneration possible for 4 hours spent in the kitchen this morning, cooking, cleaning, baking and enjoying yummy smells. Whoever said baking was a chore must've not been doing it right, how can making gorgeous yummies ever be a chore?
I've been experimenting with ingredients alot recently, and have changed my views about the use of moderately-priced ingredients in place of particularly expensive ones. At least in cakes, I've tried switching self-raising and plain flours from shop-bought generic to Doves Farm Organic (available from many supermarkets and whole-food shops) and the difference was surprising. Using the self-raising for the first time I could instantly see that the madeira cake I had made had a different texture and different "mouthfeel" (oh no! Another Heston moment!) which now has me vowing that I will not go back to generic brands over The Good Stuff.
And the stilly thing is, the organic flour isn't expensive, it comes from England (whereas cheaper stuff could feasibly come from anywhere) and makes better produce. For heaven's sake, please heed my words and get decent things from now on, ok? Recipes for both the cake and the rolls will be up very soon, but excuse me for now, I must go and give in to temptation!