Saturday 21 December 2013

The Not so Secret Santa.

OK, so last night was our Christmas works party and for the first time since I started working at the school I attended and also joined in with the Secret Santa.

Now the concept of a Secret Santa is that it's supposed to be a secret but everyone at work is really nosey and have been trying there hardest for the whole of December to find out who people had and what they had bought them. I kept mine a secret until after presents had been passed out and everything had been unwrapped...I still wasn't going to say but I got fed up with people going on about it so in the end I owned up to my present.

Our party was a little different this year as we had it at a work colleagues house and all paid some money towards a buffet. There were quiz questions dotted around the house for you to solve if you wanted to and we also had songs around the piano. It was a really nice night, the food was lovely and because you weren't sat around a table having a meal it meant you had chance to chat and mingle with more people. Impromptu magic tricks and karaoke were all part of the evening. All in all a great night.

Secret Santa all wrapped up!!
Secret Santa all wrapped up!!
 So this was my can't really tell from the photo but it was rather large...not much weight to it but very difficult to carry!!

So now to reveal my secret Santa present which was received lovingly by the recipient!!

Glass painted secret santa gift
Glass painted secret Santa gift
So above was my main present that I made for Jeni, I kind of like it and it was a totally unique present. After I was well on the way to making this I found out that Jeni had a love of stars and as I hadn't quite reached my budget I also made her this.....

A wishing star
A wishing star
 I had a look at her profile on FB and found out her star-sign and then printed off the constellation Gemini to go on this side under the writing.

Wish upon a star.
Wish upon a star.

On the pother side I put a photo of Jeni and then inside are pieces of paper so that a wish can be written and enclosed within. Then the following year Jeni will be able to open it up and see if her wish came true before writing another one!!

OK, so that was it...I got a lovely gardening journal and I have been told by a member of staff who I need to thank for thoughtful of

So not a bad night at all...maybe I will even consider going to the next Christmas party...not sure if I will ever be able to top this years secret Santa though...what have I set myself up for!!!!

Sunday 15 December 2013

Random Allotment.

Well I haven't spent any time down the allotment or doing much of anything really apart from sorting and working. Last week seemed to take forever to pass and I'm sure this one will take longer but whilst sorting through my files I found some photos which I had obviously taken to write some posts about but then never got around to it so I figured today I would share this rather random selection with you!!

wheelbarrow full of squash

Kind of self explanatory really. The squash did well!!!
grapes, grapevines

I never did get the grapes picked but I'm sure the birds will be grateful for them!!
Autumn raspberries

As always the raspberries did great!!
victoria plum or damson tree

This is supposed to be a Victoria plum tree but but it doesn't look much like one to me...any ideas on what fruit it could be?? Maybe another plum variety or damsons I am thinking.
Conference pears

Conference pears a plenty this year....I currently have some pear vodka fermenting...yum!!
Bramley apple tree

A rather random photo of the bramley apple tree. As you can see it really wants to lay down. It had had a good prune now though and has been staked in an attempt to get it to stand up a little straighter...I'm not holding out much hope though!!
Pumpkins and spaghetti squash

Pumpkins and spaghetti squash...did I ever tell you what I did with any of these??
 plum tomatoes

Finally the plum tomatoes. None of the tomatoes did really well this year so I was happy with these and made some nice tomato pasta sauce with them.

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!!

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Allotment Planner book review.

Well I promised you all a review on the allotment planner book that I won in the give-away which I mentioned here.

So I read this book through and to be honest wasn't disappointed at all though to be honest most of the time it was more of an amusing idealistic read that anything that I could put into place.

The book likes the phrase 'if rules allow'. Which is something to bare in mind if you do purchase it and what to try out the majority of the projects mentioned. Don't get me wrong, they are fantastic ideas and if I had a small holding of my own I would take on board each and every project in the book. But it does refer to itself as an 'Allotment Planner' which in my personal opinion is where lies the problem.

The majority of the book I could not do on my allotment because rules wouldn't allow and for good reasons which I wouldn't want to dispute. I think some of the projects though could be altered to make them suitable for allotment holde5rs but if the book is what the title suggests then you shouldn't have to tweak things in order to be able to use them.

Anyway, in all a good read and certainly one that I can refer to for things and also some great ideas which with a bit of adaptation will be good for the bee plot but to be honest noting of huge value to the part of my allotment where I grow my veg. If I were still a total beginner with my allotment then I think I would gain a little more use from it.

As stated on Jo and Sue's blogs 'The Book People' are selling it for just £4.99 so at that price I think it is quite a good buy but I would have been upset if I had paid r.r.p. of £14.99.

Just to remind everyone it's all persona; opinion and the book won't be wasted as it has space in each month to jot notes which is always a handy thing!!

Sunday 8 December 2013

The Blustery Day....

Well I think that may really be an understatement. The weather on Thursday was fierce across the whole of the U.K. and much damage was caused by ferocious winds which then led to tidal surges and swollen seas causing rivers to burst their banks and flood. My heart goes out to all of those that suffered damage as they I write this post. I hope all my readers and anyone else is safe and people soon get back in their own homes if they cannot be in them right now.

The strongest wind recorded last Thursday was 142 m.p.h. That's is kind of strong.

We didn't suffer to badly in my area. We are to far inland for the tidal surges to affect us and I don't live near any rivers so we didn't have to worry about the water but the winds are always a worry and although I don't think we got the strongest gusts they were very fierce. Personally we didn't suffer any wind damage though next door did loose one of their fence panels. This is much to Trojan's delight who keeps being incredibly 'nosey' into their garden but it too much of a wimp to actually venture in as they have a cat...yep, Trojan is scared of the cat!!

I popped up the allotment yesterday when I got that chance a little fearful about the greenhouse and the beehives but all was well when I checked. One pane of glass got chipped in a corner but apart from that everything else was OK. A quick ear to the hives told me that the bees were keeping themselves hidden and warm as I listened to the lovely buzzing. My allotment neighbour lost a pane of glass in his greenhouse so I gave him one of my spare and some new clips so he could get it sorted straight away.

Well this was just a quickie really to say I hope all my readers are well after the recent weather. I will be posting some pic's for you tomorrow and even a reason behind the pics but for now stay warm and safe and enjoy the rest of your weekend!!

Wednesday 4 December 2013

The garden photos.

Well I promised yesterday that I would get a couple of pictures for you so here they are.

I won't say much else after yesterdays waffling except I awoke to rain this morning so getting in the garden yesterday was a very wise move!!

The herb patch in winter
The herb patch in winter.

Weed free garden.
I knew there were slabs and earth in the garden somewhere!!

Rockery in winter.
The rockery all ready to sleep for the winter!!
So that's what I got done and now I feel much happier as I look out the back windows. Did you see Trojan sneak into the photos to say 'Hi' to you?? :-)

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Allotment 0 - Garden 10.

So this morning dawned to be a very chilly but startlingly dry day. No dampness at all on the paths or grass and this spurred me into action in the garden. OK, that's not actually true, it kind of dragged my butt into gear after adding extra woollens and some tights!!

So why did it need to be a dry day?? well I kind if had a jungle growing between the paving slabs in my very neglected back garden and it's not something you can remove and then clean up easily if it's damp so the plan to perhaps spend an hour down the allotment and then get the ironing and some cleaning done was put on hold. After all this time of year you can't let a chance of decent weather pass you by. I'm kind of glad I didn't either if you are to believe what the papers are saying with an Arctic blast hitting us by the weekend with gale force winds and 8 inches of snow...not that I believe it for a minute but it would be kind of nice to get some decent snow. Don't get me wrong, I'm not exactly a snow lover but I am dying to see Trojans reaction to the fluffy white stuff and can't wait to see him chase snowballs only for them to disappear as they touch the ground...and lets face it...what wonderful photo opportunities...talking of photo's a post for another day!!

Well that was a little off topic and bizarre! I have had this post rattling around in my head all day and I am sure it was much better than this and with a lot less distraction but now it's late so this is what you get...feel free to stop reading at any point!!

Anyway back to the garden. So I got all of the weeds out of the garden and slabs and gave it all a good dig over. I then tackled the rockery which resembled a dead forest and then sorted out taming the herb patch for winter. This also meant I could finally get to the tomato plants which had long since died and 3 hours later after continual support and company from Trojan I was done!!

Trojan was a star by the way, staying of the earth as I dug and just bringing me his ball every now and again for a throw. Such a gem. :-)

After a walk with Trojan I then came home and gave the lawns a quick haircut as even though it's December they don't seem to get the fact that they are supposed to stop growing...oh that's right...this was the point where in my head earlier I was going to write the Arctic blast bit...duh...oh well, it's done now!!

Cutting the lawns also helped clear up the leaf debris so all in all everything is looking a lot better and I will feel much happier next time I am washing the dishes whilst gazing out the kitchen window...the garden may be bare...but it's tidy!!

I didn't have chance to get the front done (except for the lawns) before I had to get ready for work but maybe tomorrow and if not I can pray we get that snow to hide it all for the weekend!!

So I think that is all the waffle I have in me for now. 

I will try and get some photos for you tomorrow...won't that be!!

Good night all.

Monday 2 December 2013

I'm a Winner.. :-)

Well I don't usually have much luck in raffles and give-aways and such so imagine my delight when I was announced a winner on a recent book review/give-away By Sue over at G.L.A.

The book I received was actually reviewed on tow of the blogs I follow and I entered not only on Sue's blog but also on Jo's. They are both great blogs and if you aren't familiar with either of them then I encourage you to go over and take a look as they are both great blogs which are well written and fun to read.

So this is my prize.....

The allotment planner give-away Winner
The Allotment Planner
The two reviews that were given by Sue and Jo were very different which was what made me really enter for the book as I was certainly intrigued by there different views!!

I haven't had a chance to look through it yet but when I do I think I will give you a little review of my own too...nothing wring with being through and getting plenty of opinions when looking for books either for yourself or for a gift. I will make sure I get the review up in the next week so that anyone looking for extra Christmas presents would have a chance to purchase the book if they wanted too!!

Below I have linked to both Jo's and Sue's book reviews so you can go and see what they had to say about the book and also check out their blogs with ease.

Jo's allotment planner review.
Sue's allotment planner review.

Happy Monday!!

Sunday 1 December 2013

Houdini The Hedgehog.....

Nothing about the allotment today as I have been very lazy over it of late and a real wimp about the cold so I haven't done any work of late although I may go and do a bit today as the weather is quite mild and there is  little wind so it would be a good opportunity to get a little more clearing done though I can't see me getting much if any digging done.

But I digress from the reason for my post. I think I should just change my title to 'The Hedgehog Rescuer' Yes you guessed it, I found another hedgehog although I can't solely take the credit for this one as it was actually Trojan who found it in the street and nearly had a heart attack when it moved...bless him!!

Anyway, I was concerned because of the time of year so scooped it up and got in touch with the R.S.P.C.A. According to them it was a little underweight and so they asked if I could keep it until they could come and pick it up...not a problem I said. I made him a lovely little home in the cat box with a towel and newspaper and gave him some cat food and water. All sorted...Did have a little issue with our cat Alfie who although will NEVER get in the box when he needs to visit the vets was adamant he was going to curl up with the hedgehog. After finely shutting him in the house securely I got the hedgehog settled in his little secure home where he would be safe until the R.S.P.C.A. could pick him up!!

This is my cat carrier...nice and secure!!
This is my cat carrier...nice and secure!!

So above is a cat carrier identical to the one I have...all clasps were secured and a nice little safe and cosy home was made...or so I thought!!!

This is where Houdini gets his name. The R.S.P.C.A. came this morning after giving me a ring to make sure it was convenient and turned up ready with their transportation box to take 'Houdini' to the wildlife hospital. We unfastened All the clasps and started moving the paper out the way...then we moved the food bowl...then we carefully moved the towel...and checked...and checked guessed hedgehog!!

Now how he got out of the box we have no idea...the door wasn't chewed or anything and the box was sat on top of my chest freezer out the way of Alfie...the only thing we could do was search...and search we did in all the nooks and crannies and in the shoes and corners but found nothing. I had a little panic moment wondering if he could have got out the cat flap...we really weren't sure but then I thought of something else!!!

The back of the chest freezer has an open cavity where all the elements are and sure enough that is where we found Houdini looking very smug and lively!!

So we had to pull all of the freezer out and then lift it to get a hold of him but eventually got him into the box safely. Even now we still don't know how he managed it and the guy from the R.S.P.C.A. did say he hoped the cardboard carrier would hold him until they got to the wildlife hospital!!

Of course with everything pulled out in the conservatory I figured I may as well scrub the floors..not really my plan for a Sunday morning but it will save me a job tomorrow!!

So there you have my exciting Sunday morning...and all before 9am!!!
It's 1st December today and lots of people are talking about decorating...we won't be doing that for a while...I wonder what Trojan will think to the tree??

I realise today how little I have posted this year but I am hoping to be more on top of things next year and get up to speed again with a little more regularity not just of writing my blog but keeping up to speed with what everyone else is doing too!!

There are a couple more things for me to share with you this week though so expect me back soon.

Well hope you all enjoy your Sunday!!

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Pumpkin Pie Recipe

So as usual I grw pumpkins this year and I though I would have a go at making pumpkin pie this year.

It's not anything I have ever made before and I didn't have a recipe for it myself but saw one on Catherine s blog at 'Living The Gourmet' here.

I just put a link in for the recipe and feel no need to write it out myself. If you have never been over to Catherine s blog before it is well worth a look, She submits some wonderful recipes and I have tried many from her and her daughter Tammy who often puts recipes on too.

Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin Pie
So above is my finished pumpkin pie. As I had nver made this before I stuck exactly to the recipe knowing that I may make some changes once I had tried it, I usually do!!

The pie cooked well and looked lovely in presentation and it was a nice taste and texture but personally for me I found it a little bland. It is all down to personal taste I know so if you decide to give it a try I urge you to stick with the original recipe first as everyone's tastes are different. My Dad thought it was great!!

I think when I may it again I will try adding some ginger to it and probably do a straight pastry base as I found the one used a little sweet for my tastes.

Enjoy your day!!

Monday 18 November 2013

Tiramisu Recipe

So my Nephew has been cooking again and he really is quite good. This took a couple of attempts to get right but the first got eaten just the same!!

He is even learning to make less dishes and mess as he cooks...probably due to the fact that I make him clean

Tiramisu Recipe
Tiramisu Recipe   
 Please click on the photo above to enlarge the text.

home made Tiramisu
Not quite sure why but blogger insists on turning the above photo round, so either enjoy it this one or just tilt your head 180 degrees clockwise. Either way it looks pretty much the same and tasted great!!!

Sunday 17 November 2013

The race is on......On a cold and frosty morning!!

So as we have reached the middle of November the days are getting incredibly short and very cold and damp. The beautiful colour of autumn are quickly disappearing as the trees go to sleep ready for the upcoming winter and the race is on to get the plot looking something like ready for winter!!!

Some cucumbers found whilst clearing up.

Looking a little less like a field.
Looking a little less like a field.

The cuttings from the autumn raspberries.
The cuttings from the autumn raspberries.

This one resembled a paddock.
This one resembled a paddock.

Will the cauli's ever get a flower??
Will the cauli's ever get a flower??

Sprouting purple and white broccoli.
Sprouting purple and white broccoli.

Carrots, beetroot, turnips, swede
Carrots, beetroot, turnips, swede.

A sunny but frosty morning!!
A sunny but frosty morning!!

White Grapes?? What to do with the??
Grapes?? What to do with them??

A few red grapes.
A few red grapes.
Red cabbage with some good heads.
Red cabbage with some good heads.

So as you can see from the photos above there is still quite a bit to be done. I have yet to start winter digging and will hopefully be getting stuck into that over the next week or so. I have wayward raspberry canes to dig up and transfer to the bee plot and still quite a lot of root veg to come out which I will be doing something with again over the next few weeks.

I have no idea what to do with the grapes so please feel free to give suggestions but at the same time bare in mind that the family don't like why did I plant grapes?? Well the vines do look pretty!!

I am leaving the cauliflower in for now...there is always hope...and if nothing happens I will just eat the greens off them!! I still have curly Klae in which I will pick over the winter.

I never did get my garlic and broad beans in...Do you think it's too late to put them now or will they be OK?? Grateful for advice and worldly knowledge!!

Oh and sorry about the toatl randomness of the page set up, blogger didn't want to play nice this morning and I just can't be bothered to argue with it today!!!

Have a good weekend!!!!!

Tuesday 12 November 2013

A little bit done........

Well I did manage to get down the allotment Sunday afternoon and start clearing up. I was only there an hour before I had filled the green wheelie bin which should give you some hints as to how bad it photo's....still far too ashamed!!

Yesterday the weather was far too gross to go out in but today is brighter and I will be popping down later to put in a couple of gooseberry bushes that have been given to me for the bee plot by Krys and Andy so thank you both!!

But none of the is the real reason I am posting is the real reason....

german shepherd/collie cross. Trojan. R.S.P.C.A. rescue dog.
Yes he is the star again...and not just at home every single minute...but tonight on the T.V. Trojan's  rescue will be shown so he will be seen with all his brothers and sisters. The show will be on at 7:30pm, 12/11/13 on channel 5. I know many of my readers aren't from the U.K. so I don't know whether you will be able to view it but I wanted to share this with you as you have all shown great interest in Trojan since I first mentioned him and I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you all for letting me waffle on about him on my blog even though it is nothing garden related!!!

Maybe I will see you all tomorrow with something that is garden related...or maybe a few recipes. We'll see!!

Sunday 10 November 2013

Bee plot progress in pictures.....

Well we all remember how the bee plot looked and then repeatedly looked but I thought I would give you a little reminder....

The bee plot before
The bee plot before....

But now work has started in earnest and next year we are hoping things will emerge into a different is what we have accomplished so far over the last two weekends.....

The hives
The hives can be seen.

So here you can see the hives are fully visible and just to the front of them are planted blackcurrant bushes. The fence to the left will have more varieties of currant bushes and to the right will be the bug hotel, brambles, rhubarb patch and various types of mint.
Juliette, my partner in crime.
Juliette, my partner in crime.

 This is Juliette who has been helping me get sorted out, most of the fruit will be hers for the picking when it comes so we all win. Also carrying out a project with someone is so much less daunting!! (Not really sure what happened to this pick, pretty funky hey?!?!)
Plenty of lavender
Plenty of lavender in between the ornaments.

Garden ornaments have been brought up to add some colour and character to the plot, also we figured these ones would stop us strimming down the lavender whilst it gets established!
Blackcurrants and farm animals.
Blackcurrants and farm animals.

More ornaments to add colour and character between the currant things take off and get bigger they may get moved around but here they will stay for now!!
Bug hotel, rhubarb, brambles.
Bug hotel, rhubarb, brambles.

Not sure why this one is blurry...maybe shivering with cold!

New fruit trees planted.
New fruit trees planted.

Here you may be able to make out the twigs of the new fruit trees.  We have planted, apples (cookers and eaters), pear, plum, sherry and walnut.

Bush debris after cutting back to find a fruit tree.
Lots of debris from a mammoth pruning.

We also had to tackle a tree, this wasn't actually on my plot but on the boundary and there was what appeared to be a HUGE thorny bush going way out of control. On closer inspection in the centre of the mess I could see what might resemble a tree so further investigation was needed.
A damson/plum tree??
A damson/plum tree??

Juliette had to leave but Krys was down the allotment and she offered to give me a hand and by the end of it this is what we had uncovered. Hopefully next year it will have the chance to flourish and we will really be able to find out what fruit it bears.

So that is where we are at so far. There is still much to be done and there are still some things that we intend to introduce to the bee plot but I will tell you more about them as we get them done.There is still a lot of clearing to be done on my allotment plot too but I suppose the only good thing about this time of year is that even the weeds sloe down a little. The weather has turned cold now and we are having frosts so early mornings aren't the best any more. Might try for an early morning next weekend though...after all there is plenty of debris to be burnt so a warm fire may be just beside me!!

Sunday 3 November 2013

Coffee cakes, cookies and what's been occuring....

So in my last post I told you all about the kids cooking and I thought I would share with you there finished products.

James made coffee cupcakes with a coffee cream and banana icing...

Coffee cakes in the oven
Coffee cakes in the oven
Coffee cupckes with a coffee cream and banana icing centre.
The finished product.

The finished cakes were very nice. James is a lover of coffee so put a lot in the the flavouring but it worked really well. Also as is the usual James cooking style he didn't read the recipe correctly so we had A LOT of banana icing left over...but I guess we all learn by our mistakes!!

Sian made cookies...a lot less mess and a lot less pots!!

Cookies expanding nicely in the oven.
Cookies expanding nicely in the oven.
Lovely home-made cookies
Lovely home-made cookies
The finished cookies were wonderful, just the right amount of 'gooeyness' which for me takes it from being a biscuit and turn it into a cookies. Sian thought that for her mixture there wasn't enough egg so added an extra one and also used both milk and white chocolate chips.

I would share the recipes with you but both of the kids have these fancy phones and got there recipes off the internet so I don't even know what they were!!

As fo other things...the horrific storm we were to get last weekend seemed to have bypassed my little neck of the woods for which I ma very grateful but I still haven't got much done on the plot as although we didn't get the winds boy did we get some rain.

I did get down the allotment yesterday though for about 5 hours but the focus was on the bee plot with my friend Juliette, her daughter also came and helped out. (Jez, if you're reading this you would be amazed with the transformation and very proud of me!!!!) I don't have an after photo at the moment but I will get one up before the end of the week. Planning for the bee plot has started in earnest now. Six trees went in, six black-currant bushes, 10 lavender plants, a gooseberry and another berry bush though I can't remember what it is. We also strimmed the whole area down , did some tidying up and have started to put together a bug hotel in the top corner...more about that and a few pics later in the week!!

Last night the winds howled fiercely round the house and fireworks were going off at the back of us which seriously spooked Trojan and so it was about 2am when we managed to get him settled...tired?? Me??? maybe just a little!!!

Winds have eased today so I plan on getting some much needed tidying done in the did the seasons change so quick?!?!?!

Just before I go I want to say a HUGE 'Thanks' to's amazing how less overwhelming something seems when there is someone doing things with you!!

Wednesday 23 October 2013

It's a work in progress.....

Well the whole plot started out looking like this not so long ago.....

weeds in the veg garden
Don't the flowers look pretty?!?!?!

weeds in the veg garden
There are veggies in there..honest

weeds in the veg garden
Pretty sure this one is just weeds!!!!
 It doesn't look quite so bad now...some of it looks like this.....

Weed removal in progress
eradicate the weeds!!!!

eradicate the weeds
Weed removal in progress!!!

But since a week and a half ago progress seems to have come to a stand still. Why??? Well it's all down to weather and health. I was hoping to get so much done this week as I have had the week off work and yet I have ended up taking antibiotics instead...not the best way to spend your week off but I guess that's just life. The weather has been terrible too which in a way is a godsend as it has meant I have stayed in getting better instead of going to the allotment which I probably would have done if we hadn't had the driving rain!!

So how do you keep yourself sane when you have a week off and feel pretty crappy and the rain falls constantly and the grey skies sit on the roof tops??? Me, I did this....

Let the kids loose in the kitchen....

Basically to bake whatever they wanted.....

of course I was trying to cook dinner at the same time....

So the kitchen looked like a riot had hit it, but at the end of it all they did help clear up and we had delicious things to eat...but most of all,

It kept them happy and made them feel less depressed about the weather outside!!

So that is what's been happening on my week off....not the way I had planned to spend it but better than nothing at all and I really do like spending time with the kids so that was  a bonus. I am still keeping my fingers crossed that by the weekend I will feel well enough to get a bit done before I start back to work next week but I'm certainly not going to push it and make myself worse!!

All the cooking came out well and I will post about what they made and of course what I have made recently over the next few days...after all it's not like I'm going to get that much done down the allotment to post about!!

Hope you are all keeping well.