31 January 2013

My Seed Stash

For the past couple of weeks or so, I have been pondering what vegetables to plant this year. It's a very pleasurable pastime. I love looking at seed catalogues and browsing on seed websites but the fact remains that I still have a whole load of seeds left over from last year. I'm always in a quandary about whether or not I should use them. I know that the seed packets have a use by date on them and some of them are use by 2013 so does that mean I can use them this year? And if I do use them, are they less likely to germinate? Is it better to use fresh packets of seeds? So many questions and so few answers. So, usually I wimp out and just buy new ones.

So. To this years planting. I have 5 raised beds. Three wooden ones which I made myself and 2 that are edged with slate slabs which are stood on their ends, which I also made. Actually, the largest slate bed was just a case of making the most of a large pile of dumped topsoil that I was too lazy to move and I basically, I just slapped the slate around it, flattened the soil out and turned it into a raised bed. It worked so well I made another one.

Anyway, here is a list of things I am hoping to plant this year.

French Beans                                  Shallots
Leeks                                             Mange Tout
Beetroot                                         Peas
Salad Leaves                                  Curly Kale
Tomatoes                                       Broccoli
Potatoes                                         Cauliflower
Cucumbers                                     Carrots
Courgettes                                      Strawberries

These are all things we eat regularly. Last year, I made the mistake of planting things that I wouldn't normally eat like chard and broad beans and I didn't eat them. To be fair, the weather was so bad down here in Cornwall last year and the slug problem so bad that I didn't get very much from the garden last year. Some leeks, some potatoes, some tomatoes, plenty of shallots and some salad leaves were really all I managed to salvage from the slugs.

Anyway, I have been collecting seeds over the last couple of weeks from my local cheap-as-chips store, Trago Mills, and this is what I have go so far. I still have quite a few left to get but I'm getting there and I will have to have good rummage through my last years seed stash to see what else I have left that I can plant. I also bought some fabulous flower seeds but that will be another post.

30 January 2013

Catnip Birdies and Lavender Bags

Today I have been making things for my daughter Meg to take to a craft fair in February. I found a really cute bird template which I am going to fill with lavender but I decided that for my prototype, I would make one filled with catnip for the cats to play with (I always make one as a prototype to see if it needs any tweaking). It turned out ok but it definitely needs a little tweaking if I'm going to do some for cats to play with. The fabric I chose is beautiful but it really isn't up to the rough and tumble of being dragged around the floor by a hoard of marauding cats! The beak wasn't pointy enough either but that was my fault because the fabric got snagged. I half stuffed it with wadding and then I added some catnip, then stuffed the rest of the bird before stitching the tail together. The problem then was that the cats could smell the catnip and really really really wanted to get at it and it was all I could do to stop them running off with it before I had stitched the tail together.

One catnip birdy  =  one crazoid cat :D

I have also started making some more lavender bags. My very favourite part of making things is choosing the fabrics and trimmings to make things with. I'm gradually building up quite a nice fabric stash but I find buying fabric in fat quarters quite expensive. I have been looking for places to source fabric by the metre but I seem to rather have expensive tastes. In fact, if there were 20 fabrics in a line and I was asked to pick my favourite, you could guarantee it would be the most expensive. Sadly, this doesn't only apply to fabric :-)

29 January 2013

More Thrifty Gardening

Today, I could wait no longer to plant something. Luckily, for Christmas, my daughter Meg bought me a fabulously cute little herb planting kit so I spent 15 minutes pottering and planting my lovely herbs. They are now sitting on my kitchen windowsill waiting to grow.

I then spent a good 30 minutes looking through my all my gardening books and dreaming of what seeds I'm going to plant this year. I haven't finalised me seed list yet so that will be another post but I did manage to find some lovely ideas in one of my books which I had no idea I had. I found it tucked away at the bottom of the bookcase and I don't even remember buying it. When I looked through it though, I can certainly see why I bought it. I am all for thrifty gardening. I love re-purposing old things, things that would probably just be thrown out. Last year, I planted some herbs in an old wicker basket that had been scratched to pieces by the cats and I planted some tomato plants on an old enamel bread bin that I found in my field. 

My garden is still very much a work in progress, although due to the awful weather last year, there hasn't really been very much progress in the last 12 months. I really want my garden to be a riot of colour and scent. I made a concious decision last year to only buy plants that are scented. I planted lavender and rosemary, delicately scented roses and lusciously scented sweet peas and my mission this year is to continue this theme but on a tiny budget. And by tiny, I mean almost nothing. I will be learning how to take cuttings  courtesy of Monty Don and Gardeners World (which, being the sad person I am, I recorded all of the episodes last year) and I already know how to take basal cuttings so I will be trying to take some of those this year and I will be growing pretty much everything else from seed so, I apologise, in advance, for all the boring pictures of seeds and plants that might pop up on my blog this year. 

Anyway, the book I found, Planted Junk by Adam Caplin, has some fabulous ideas to turn household junk into beautiful, shabby chic planters. All the following pictures are from the book. I think there are some fabulous ideas and I get the feeling some of these will be popping up in my garden.

I love the idea of using old enamel teapots and coffee pots and I really love the gorgeous colours.

These catering sized tins are perfect for planting flowers of herbs in. Cafes are more than happy to give away their large empty cans. 
It saves them recycling them because businesses have to pay to have their recycling taken away. 

I used the wooden crates that I got free from my local greengrocers to plant salad leaves and shallots last year. You can read the post HERE

And this is an ingenious way to utilise old breeze block type things (sorry, I have no idea what these things are actually called lol)

And lastly, another one, like the wellies from the last post, that appeals to the child in me :-)

27 January 2013

Ingenious Thrifty Planters

I realise that spring is quite a way off, a good couple of months really before the weather starts to improve and I can get into my garden and start planting things but that doesn't stop the urge to get planting. I don't have a greenhouse, lack of funds means that it's not really an option at the moment but I do have several unoccupied windowsills that I can fill up with seed trays. The trouble is, I never seem to have enough room so, last night, in a moment of sheer frustration at my lack of outdoor greenhouse pottering space, I was trawling the internet to find some alternative ways of starting off, and indeed growing my seeds and plants. Some can be used both indoors and out and some are for outdoor use but they are all ingenious.


This old shoe organisers can be used indoors in a sunny spot to start seeds off and then hung outdoors when the weather is warmer. It would be perfect for growing strawberries in or maybe a different herb in each compartment. Even cut and come again salad leaves, a single portion in each pocket. What a fabulous idea and one I am definitely going to be trying it this year. It has the added bonus of making it more difficult for the pesky slugs .... always a bonus in my book.

This next idea means that even if you have a tiny outdoor space you can grow some salad and maybe some strawberries, not to mention the possibility of covering the whole thing with beautiful flowers. You can get pallets from almost anywhere. Large shops often need to get rid of them and generally won't charge you or maybe charge you a pound or two. You could also paint the pallet with some outdoor paint before you plant it. Cuprinol do some fabulous colours, I painted one of my outdoor benches last year in a gorgeous pale pink colour called "Sweet Pea". There are lots of different outdoor paint companies out there now with some amazing colours so let your imagination run riot.

You can find instructions on how to make this fabulous planter here

I found this next one on the Grow Your Own magazine website. 


A friend of mine made something similar to this by simply threading the milk cartons onto a piece of wood, but putting them one facing front and one facing the back because otherwise it kind of tipped forward as it didn't have the wooden slot supports and she suspended it from the top of her polytunnel with some string tied around each end and tied over the pole that runs along the edge. She has filled it with seedlings and is saving milk carton to make some more.

This  next one I found uses lengths of old drainpipe. I love this idea of growing them in drainpipes along a wall it looks really fabulous. It is, again, something which would be ideal both for a small garden but also, for starting off thing like peas, which apparently don't like to have their roots disturbed when they are planted out. Once they are big enough to plant out, you can just simply slide the whole lot into a trench that you have dug without disturbing them. 


And one final one that I simply couldn't resist.

http://www.globalcool.org/lifestyle/recycling-ideas-lightbulb-planters-cork chairs/attachment/599256_10151048592405185_279137666_n

26 January 2013

Cowgirl Cookies

While looking on the internet before Christmas, for ideas to make as gifts, I came across a fabulous cookie mix in a jar called Cowgirl Cookies. As I had already ordered a box of Kilner jars, I thought making some of these would be a great idea. Sadly, I forgot to take a picture of the cookie ingredients in the jar before I gave it to my daughter but this is what they look like on the website. Mine were almost identical except I used white chocolate chips instead of milk  chocolate because Morrisons had run out of milk chocolate ones and the jars were tied with velvet ribbon. 

Picture courtesy of http://www.bakerella.com/mix-things-up

It's really easy to do although the first jar of ingredients I made got all mixed together because I didn't follow the layering order on the recipe. I used a wooden spoon to kind of press each set of  ingredients into the jar. Also, I missed out the pecans, firstly, because I didn't have any and secondly as my daughter isn't keen on them. The recipe didn't seem to suffer without them at all and cookies were delicious.

This is the order to layer your ingredients.

First: flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt
Second: oats
Third: m&ms
Fourth: chocolate chips
Fifth: brown sugar
Sixth: white sugar
Seventh: chopped pecans

You will have to really pack them firmly or they won't all fit.

Here's the recipe. You can also find it on the fabulous  Bakerella website here

Cowgirl Cookies

1 1/3 cup plain flour, spooned into measuring cup & leveled
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cooking oats
3/4 cup m&ms
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 – 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Put the contents of the jar into a big bowl, then add 

1 slightly beaten egg
1/2 cup butter (melted slightly in the microwave)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients using spoon to work it all together. You may even need to use your hands to get everything incorporated.

Roll into balls, place on a baking sheet and press slightly to flatten. Make sure they are well spaced because they do spread.

Bake for about 10 minutes in a preheated 350 degree F oven (Gas Mark 4 or 180 degrees C) .
I got 20 cookies out of the mixture but mine were quite large. 

They were absolutely lovely.

25 January 2013

Bath 1 - Dog 0

For the last two or three days, I have been walking round the house sniffing everything in sight because I could smell a rather unpleasant smell and I couldn't pinpoint quite where it was coming from. Having done the usual checks for dead mice decomposing in hidden crevices (living in the country, it's a constant battle to keep them out and involves a lot of stuffing of wire wool into any possible way in to stop the little buggers!), I washed all my sofa cushion covers, I cleaned the carpet and I even washed the curtains and still I got a whiff of something icky every so often. It was driving me insane. 

It was when I was playing tug of war with one of my dogs, Indie, that I realised the horrible smell was coming from him! He has a habit, when he's in the garden, of getting into mischief and I can only assume that he found something disgusting to play either in or with! Now I know I have a lot of animals but I certainly won't tolerate my house smelling horrible, animals or not. So, there was only one thing for it. It was time to wrestle the dog into the bath. 

Now it's not that he doesn't like the water, he actually loves it but he is less thrilled about the getting in and out the bath itself because he doesn't jump! This means that my daughter and I have to physically lift a large, fully grown Alaskan Malamute into the bath. Believe me that is no mean feat. He weighs about the same as a baby elephant!! Once he is in the bath, however, you can clearly see the obvious delight on his face as he gets pampered and lathered with puppy shampoo. He really looks like he's smiling :-)

I now have the aroma of eau de wet dog wafting up at me, from a large damp dog snoring on my feet. Still, at least he's clean.

24 January 2013

Henderson's Relish - A Taste of My Northern Roots.

Although I live in Cornwall now, I was actually born and brought up in Sheffield. I have lived in quite a few places in the UK but about 13ish years ago (I can't even remember exactly how long ago!), I finally settled here in Cornwall. Now, those of you who live in the Yorkshire area will probably have heard of Henderson's Relish. It's a delicious sauce type thing that's a bit like Worcestershire sauce but soooo much nicer and has been made in Sheffield, initially by a Mr Henry Henderson, since the latter part of the 19th century. It's one of the things I miss about Sheffield because you can't buy it down here in Cornwall. Whenever I get the chance, I stock up but the last time I was in Sheffield, I didn't get around to getting any so when a friend who lives in Sheffield found several spare bottles in her cupboard that she had bought "just-in-case" and offered to send some of them my way I jumped at the chance.

It arrived this morning ........

It has a spicy deliciousness that enhances things like chilli or spaghetti bolognese, it helps to make a fabulously tasty gravy in a steak and kidney pie and it's equally fabulous splashed on a full fried breakfast....... drool ...... I can't wait to get cooking.

Here are some lovely pictures of Sheffield.

23 January 2013

Lunch at The Cliff Top Cafe

Today, my daughter Katie and I went off for a drive to Freathy, to the Cliff Top Cafe to grab a bite to eat. I was feeling a bit fed up because yesterday they cancelled the rug making course that I had  booked for today. I suppose it was a sensible decision because the weather yesterday wasn't very nice and the roads were very icy, so they have moved it to the 6th of February. The weather today, however, wasn't bad. The ice has melted and the temperature is above freezing so it was nice to get out of the house for a while.

I have been to this cafe before but not for many many years and I was reminded of it when someone left a lovely comment on one of my earlier posts. It's hardly changed a bit. Katie had a lovely jacket potato with cheese and beans and I had butternut squash and chickpea patties with pitta bread and salad. It was delicious and extremely filling.

Every time I go to Freathy, I have total house envy. I love the little wooden houses on the cliffs and there is a wonderfully eclectic little community there, living in the cutest little houses with the most breathtaking views. I could absolutely see myself living there.

And imagine waking up to this.

22 January 2013

Owl Cushion

Over the past week or so, I have been trying to get my creative mojo back and while on the internet looking for inspiration, I found a cute little owl cushion on this blog so, decided that I would have a go at making one for myself. (There is a pattern link on the blog but in case you can't find it, it's here.) I printed out my pattern pieces and cut them out and I had almost finished stitching the eyes and beak and things onto the front piece of fabric when I realised that I was missing a piece, the kind of chest bib thingy. When I looked under my sewing table, I discovered one of my cats sitting on the missing piece of fabric and very reluctant to part with it so I left her to it and made the cushion without it. 

It's just a prototype but I think it turned out quite nicely. I stuffed this one with some hypoallergenic stuffing but I think I might make some smaller ones and fill them with lavender. I'm also going to stuff the feet with a little padding. It says to stuff them in the pattern but I didn't think they needed it but I think they would look better with s little padding.

The pictures aren't great, they're a bit dark and don't really do the lovely fabric justice because by the time I had finished sewing, it was 9pm and I was squinting so much I could barely see to thread the needle on the sewing machine. I must find out where I can get a daylight bulb from. 

21 January 2013

Neanderthal Baby ..... Science or Shades of Jurassic Park!!

I have mentioned in the past that I love reading the daily newspapers, not only for current affairs and environmental issues, but for all the unusual and quirky stories that appear and I read everything, from the Daily Mail to The Guardian (although I draw the line at The Sun!) Yesterday, while skimming through the Daily Mail, I came across this startling headline ..... Wanted: 'Adventurous woman' to give birth to Neanderthal man'. Thoroughly intrigued, I clicked on the headline so I could read the article. Now I have to point out, when I read stories in newspapers that are, shall we say, less than scrupulous about the factual content of their articles, I make sure that I find the original source of the article before I say anything ..... basically, it stops me looking like a total idiot if the story turns out to be less than accurate. 

In this case, it turns out the article is, indeed, very much factual. Homo neanderthalensis was the first extinct human species to have its DNA mapped from fragments of DNA taken from three Neanderthal fossil bones, each from different individuals. The fossils came from Vindija Cave in Croatia, and are around 44,000 years old. This means scientists can now compare the Neanderthal DNA with the genome of living humans to try to figure out how the modern human species (Homo sapiens) is genetically unique. Professor George Church of Harvard Medical School, who helped start the Human Genome Project that mapped human DNA, believes he can go one step further and reconstruct Neanderthal DNA and resurrect the species which became extinct 33,000 years ago.  All he needs is a willing human surrogate.

Professor Church's comments may come as a bit of a surprise to many geneticists, who believe that cloning humans is unethical and is, in fact, illegal in many countries, including Britain. He is quoted as saying “We can clone all kinds of mammals, so it’s very likely that we could clone a human. Why shouldn’t we be able to do so?” He went on to say “Neanderthals might think differently than we do. We know that they had a larger cranial size. They could even be more intelligent than us'.

Wow is all I can say to this. Did these people learn nothing from Jurassic Park? Do we really want hoards of Neanderthals rampaging around the planet? And what about the ethical issues of creating a cloned Neanderthal and then studying it, like a mouse in a laboratory ..... that's a whole new can of worms that I don't even want to think about. Now, I appreciate that it's going to be decades before anything like this is remotely possible (Prof Church says about 20 years) but in the immortal words of Dr Ian Malcom (Jurassic Park for those of you out there who aren't nerds) "Scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should". I would be very interested to hear your opinions on this.

                                                     Professor George Church.

19 January 2013

Weekly Charity Shop Hunt

This morning I did my usual weekly trawl of the charity shops. I was looking for a blanket for one of my dogs, Levi. He has this naughty habit of shredding his blanket when he gets over excited and  he drags it around the floor. Over a period of a few months it usually ends up ripped and tatty and I end up having to throw it away. I have tried everything I can think of to stop him doing this, even seeking the advice of the dog trainer whose puppy training classes we took the dogs to but nothing has worked. He's 7 now and I have resigned myself to the fact that every few months I will have to get him a new blanket. I don't actually mind this too much because I have found that washing dog blankets clogs up the washing machine and I would rather buy new blankets that a new washer! 

I love hunting for bargains and quirky things in charity shops and I have supported charity shops for years, even before they became trendy. I buy most of my books there and then when I have read them, I re-donate them so they can be re-sold and raise more money for the charity and I always donate any clothes that I don't need. There are quite a few charity shops in the town near where I live and they are usually a great place to find a bargain but I have noticed recently that the prices are getting rather steep. I appreciate that the charities have to raise money and that they have overheads for the shops and the electricity and such that they have to cover but £10 for a plain old bog standard summer dress I think is rather steep. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that someone would pay it but for me, it would be too much. 

Anyway, today, I managed to pick up a lovely pink 100% Wool Whitney blanket for Levi for £2 so he will be snuggly and cosy, well until he shreds it again and I also picked up another 2 copies of The knit and Stitch Magazine at 99p per issue. It has 2 balls of wool free in each magazine so I got 4 lovely balls of wool for £1.98. Bargain. The new issue is already out, costing £2.50, but the newsagent still had some of the old issue still on the shelves.

I also wanted to share a picture of the lovely salt and pepper grinders I bought from a charity shop before Christmas and didn't get around to photographing. They look like Cornishware but I'm not sure because I couldn't find any marks on them but even if they aren't I think they are lovely and I'm glad I spotted them. They will look lovely on my dresser when I have re-vamped it and painted it. 

18 January 2013

Where's My Snow??

I have been sitting here over the last couple of days, excitedly watching the news as the amounts of snow forecast for the next day or so goes up and up and up ..... 30 inches was the lastest figure on the news last night ........ and I have just checked out the met office website to see how much I will be getting and guess what ...... not a single flake is forecast for where I live! There is snow a few miles either side but for some reason, it won't be falling on me. I am so disappointed!! I love the snow. I miss the winters when I was a child when you could be guaranteed some decent sledging weather each winter and at least a day or two off school because the teachers couldn't get there because of the snow. 

All my friends think I'm mad. Some moan that it costs them too much money because they have their own businesses and when it snows, people don't go out so business is slow and some complain it's inconvenient because traffic stops and roads come to a standstill and I appreciate their problems but I can't help it. I still love it when it snows. Everything is so quiet when it snows. It's eerily still and there is this amazing quality to the light and ..... there is nothing quite so fabulous as plonking a footprint in a drift of newly fallen snow :-)

16 January 2013

A Little Gentle Sewing

I mentioned that lately my creativity has disappeared and that no matter how much I sat and stared at the lovely fabrics I bought just after Christmas, I couldn't think of anything to make so, yesterday afternoon, I thought that I should just make something simple. 

I recently ordered some lovely woven labels, which arrived yesterday morning and last year, I bought some fabulous dried lavender but got slightly carried away and ordered a kilo. I had no idea what a kilo of lavender would look like ....... well let me just say ...... it's a lot! 

So I decided to put it to good use and make some lavender bags and some cute little lavender chicks, with the help of Yoda, one of my cats. 

I stitched some cute little daisies with stems and leaves and added one of my new tags. I love the tags, so cute :-)

11 January 2013

HMS Pickle

I mentioned earlier today that I had discovered a plaque on the garden wall of a house about half a mile from where I live and that when I went to take a photograph the camera battery was dead so I rushed home, charged the battery and nipped back to take a couple of pictures.

Now, I have lived in my house for 9 years and I walk up and down the lane with my dogs on a regular basis and I have never seen this plaque before. This means that either I walk around with my eyes closed or the plaque is new ... I have a suspicion that it's the former! I was intrigued. I dashed off home to investigate who this man was.

It turns out that Lapenotiere was commander of HMS Pickle (such a cool name for a ship) which was part of Nelson’s fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. HMS Pickle was a 10-gun Royal Navy cutter and the smallest ship at the Battle of Trafalgar. Since a single broadside shot from any of the ships would have sunk her instantly, she spent most of the time staying out of the way, carrying messages, and later picking up survivors from the French ship Achille, which had caught fire and exploded.

HMS Pickle
Following the death of Nelson it was Lapenotiere who was entrusted with the task of taking Lord Collingwood’s dispatches, with news of the victory at Trafalgar and the death of Nelson, back to Britain. (Collingwood was Nelson's second in command and took charge when Nelson died). The Pickle sailed directly to Falmouth, from where, Lapenotiere continued on his way to London via a relay of horses. It took him 36 hours to ride the 263 miles to deliver the dispatches to the Admiralty in Whitehall.  He arrived at the Admiralty at midnight on 5th of November. His reward for the momentous news was his promotion to commander and a gift of £500.


In 2005, the route that he took, from Falmouth to London, was designated as The Trafalgar Way and is now marked by a series of 21 bronze plaques, similar to the one above, marking places where he changed horses and places where he stopped. 

The plaque on the house denotes the place he lived until his death in 1834. 

To this day the Navy's Petty Officers have an annual Pickle Night dinner

WOW! And to think, all this history was just a stones throw away from my front door.

Websites information was taken from: