Monday, 11 June 2012

New Auriculas Arrive

For the first time I bought some auriuclas on me to get the long bank holiday in the way, but the seller knew the problem and loved his plants and we agreed to wait for them to be posted on the Wednesday.  They arrived the following morning, beautifully wrapped. 

Labels showing the new varieties:  Golden Wedding, Bilbo Baggins, Taffeta, and Simply Red, were packed with each of the well grown plants, each having a very good root system.  They are all potted up and in the gazebo, sheltered from all the rain but with plenty of ventilation!  When I had some plants bought from the Malvern show, they all died off, so I'm crossing my fingers with these.

I've split up all my other auriculas and potted up some small plants ready to sell at the Gardening Club and to other friends too.  By the way all the proceeds go to the clubs where I sell them. 

I had planted up some succulents and also put my echeveria outside, but I think I shall bring these under cover away from all the rain......

Belgian Brioche Craquelin

Another fabulous recipe from The hairy Bikers' big book of Baking...

Friday was a day of rain...we are having so many of them this year.  The best thing to beat the rain blues is a spot of baking.  This is the first time I've baked brioches, and this recipe with the twist of something sugary in the middle was really appealing.  I had been hesitating about baking brioches before as I do not have the fluted brioche tins, and did not feel that I could justify the cost about £26.00 for 12 tins!!!

It takes quite some effort and time to work with the sticky dough and gradually add the butter, I used goat's butter, and goat's milk and its best to avoid answering the phone and the front door too! 

After the dough had risen I soaked the sugar cubes in orange juice.  Next time I would use more orange peel and just a little liqueur to flavour the cubes as I over soaked the cubes trying to get in as much flavour as possible, and this was a little too damp and leaked out of three of the brioches.

I decided to use some 'muffin' tins, and also some dariole tins. The ones in the dariole tins stuck on the bottom, so would need to use some parchment paper to avoid this. I've scaled down the recipe for next time to 3 eggs, so that the six large and six smaller muffins tins will be just right.  The picture above is taken just before they had their last prove under their polythene tent. 

The smell whilst kneading the dough right through to baking was heavenly.  My friend Penny arrived just about when the brioche went into the oven, she had called earlier when my hands were covered with dough.  We sat down and enjoyed coffee chatting with the background noise of rain in the conservatory. 

They are delicious warm and Penny did not hesitate when offered one to taste.  We warmed up four gently for breakfast the next morning.  The crusts are buttery and flaky and the centres soft and delicious.  Four came out of the freezer for Sunday Breakfast, and warmed up very well.  Four more left for another special breakfast!

Monday, 4 June 2012


This fabulously marked streptocarpus bloom, is one on new houseplant received a month or so back as a present from a friend.  When I first received it there was no bloom so I did not know what to expect.  Thank you so much Kevin.

Stoneleigh Abbey visit

Its Jubilee weekend. We spent yesterday afternoon watching the Queen watching the Thames River Pageant.  At least she did not have to listen and watch the lamentable coverage by the BBC.  My hat goes off to Her Majesty, still doing the job well....and standing for all that time too.  Also my thanks go to all the crowds there to support and give thanks to her and to Prince Philip.

After a day yesterday when it seemed to rain non stop, and which filled my nearly empty water butt, the sun has come out today.  Even though we have been here nearly five years, we have never been to look around Stoneleigh Abbey.  So this morning we decided to get cracking and get out and make the most of the day.

On the start of the visit you go through the Medieval Gatehouse.  There are long attractive borders of herbaceous plants and old roses. 

We arrived at Stoneleigh in time for the first tour of the day.  The rooms we saw were magnificent, with some of the original furniture.  The plasterwork is impressive too.  Jane Austen would have recognised much of what we saw.  I'll certainly go again for the Jane Austen tour. 

Afterwards we had a nice lunch in the orangery, followed by a walk round the gardens, through which the River Avon runs.

The Summer house in which Victoria and Albert must have certainly sat was a shady corner, lined with bark and roots.

The restored stables were open, and that has just reminded me of the short clips I saw last night of the special horse show put on for the Queen at Windsor Castle.  After the party tonight, I hope Her Majesty has a bit of a quiet time...

Refurbished Garden Wind Chimes

About this time of the year, you can really tell what needs a touch of paint in the garden.  After the frosts of winter and the strange hot and cold, dry and wet weather we have had this spring, some of the paint work needed touching up.  After a spell dry weather, I felt it was time to give my lovely blue bench a couple of coats, as well as some touching up of the cream paint on the gazebo.

A week or so previous to that, the Garden Wind Chimes had really collapsed with its wooden ring from which the tubes hang, broken beyond repair.  During the winter the thread to one of the tubes had perished, and the tube had embedded itself into the soft foliage below.   Mr S and I were in a dilemma.  We have had these chimes for over 15 years, they are large, and have a lovely deep tone.  In the meantime I painted the clapper and wind watcher blue to match the benches.  I think I shall still need to apply some oil, as there are some deep cracks on these too.

We trailed the internet for replacements, and also ideas of how to repair them.  In the US there seem to be many sites with spare parts, but not here in the UK.  Well at least we did not find any.  We racked our brains,  we thought maybe a 'slate plate', but Mr S wondered whether he would be able to drill the holes without shattering the stone.  In the meantime I had bought some wire thread from the local bead shop.  Then I woke up one morning with the idea of using a steel 'snowflake' trivet from which to hang the bells, and for thread, we used some kite twine.  Mr S did a grand job, and now the chimes are back up....