Monday, 31 August 2015

In a Vase on Monday - Not putting the Dormouse into the teapot

A few weeks ago, I believe someone posting In a Vase on Monday mentioned the 150th anniversary of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, so please if your read this, please 'admit' to starting me along this road.

This is an old book, a little wormy, which has my father's name written in the front and which I remember reading from when I was a little girl.  It has travelled across oceans and back again.  I love the old plates and think this is a 1930's edition.

Instead of putting the dormouse into the teapot, I am putting flowers in the sugar basin!  This is a little pewter teapot, sugar basin, and milk jug trio.  I had to rush Mr S to get it down from the loft, get it polished, and madly go into the garden in the rain to pick the blooms!

Flowers this week are Blue and White, I always used to see Alice as wearing a Blue Dress and white pinny, even in the black and white pictures, so White Centaurea,

Blue Aster frikartii Monch

White Agapanthus
and a little of my new clover

Trifolium repens Dragon's Blood

I have liked Pewter for some time now, I even prefer it to silver!  For many years I had wondered if I could use it as I thought it contained lead..but what a wonderful thing the internet is:

This what the Pewter society says:

Towards the end of the 18th century a new alloy called Britannia metal was discovered which could be used for large scale manufacture of teapots, tankards and the like through its ability to be rolled pressed and worked on wooden formers and cold stamped. Up to then pewter had been cast in expensive moulds. This change in tooling with Britannia metal gave resurgence to the industry and new centres were created in Sheffield and Birmingham.
As Britannia metal is an alloy of tin, antimony and copper there are no restrictions on its use for drinking. All pewter of modern manufacture meets the same standard.
I had thought that I may be poisoning myself if I used this, and would end up as Mad as the Hatter though his poisoning would have been from mercury.  If sometimes I am a little mad, a little skittish, it's not on account of having a tea caddy made of pewter!

Cathy has gone all red this week, so please go and visit our hostesse's  site.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Khubza Bil Ashab

Just over a year ago this bun was the third bake on The Book of Buns facebook group.  I have very nearly caught up now.  This is just about the easiest bun and tastiest of buns.  You don't knead the dough, but just mix all the ingredients together, put the bowl in the fridge overnight, then when ready to bake, just form into buns, and put straight into the oven.  After first posting this, without the recipe, I contacted the Author Jane Mason, and she has given her permission for me to post the recipe below.  So whether you have baked bread or not before, try this one.

With chopped olives, olive oil, red onions, lots of chives and parsley from the garden, and a few seeds, these are great with a nice bowl of soup, and really just on their own.  I can really understand that in Libya, where they come from they are eaten as a late night snack, with tea and lots of chatter.

This herb bread requires no kneading at all, and its the perfect finger food at parties and picnics and will be a winner in any lunchbox.  Jane's descriptions like this one at the head of each recipe gives an insight into each type of bun. ( I have added extra comments, which may help)

Day One: making the dough

The night before you would like your bread, put everything into a big mixing bowl, (it will rise overnight, so use a large bowl) and stir well.  Cover with clingfilm and pop it into the fridge.  Allow to rest until the next day.( You could do this first thing if you are baking late at night)

600g strong flour, which can be white or wholemeal or a mixture
3g instant, or 6g dry yeast, or 12g fresh yeast
12g salt or cut down to 8g if you are using olives
50g olive oil
500g water just from the tap/room temperature
any combination of diced olives, chopped spring onions, or onions red or white, crumbled feta cheese, a few handfuls of fresh herbs, pinch of paprika, zahtar or other spices.

Day two: shaping and baking

Preheat the oven to 220C , Gas 7, Take the dough out of the fridge, and gently pull in out onto a floured surface.  Divide the dough into 16 equal portions, and then with floury hands, shape into balls.  ( Handle gently, so as not to knock all the air out of them). Transfer on to 2 baking sheets, lined with baking parchment.

Pop them immediately into the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes. ( I needed a little longer, I baked them till they were browning on the bottom.  Once they are part baked, you can move them around on the baking parchment to ensure they are equally browned all round if the oven has an uneven temperature.) Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

I made 20 smaller ones, and they freeze beautifully.  The dough is quite wet, not like usual bread dough, but don't worry.  You could always make half the quantity the first time you try these.  You could add a few seeds or other cheese, I used just over one handful of herbs, but it could have taken more. I love them zapped in the oven for 5 minutes if you want a nice warm snack.

New insect in the garden is an Ancistrocerus also known as the European Potter or Mason Wasp

I was out in the garden and spied this interesting wasp.

The wide number of insects which visit the Blue Centaurea is amazing.   This is the first time I have seen this insect in the garden.  The many insects which come on this flower are particularly interested in the involucral bracts below the flower.

This Potter Wasp or Mason Wasp catches up to 20 small caterpillars and 'buries' them along with its egg, in a hole, then covers it with mud.

I have received a reply to my identification question from The Natural History Museum, and they have confirmed that  this is one of the Ancistrocerus sp., but to tell the difference between Ancistrocerus antilope and Ancistrocerus gazella is not possible from the photos alone

Within a minute other insects spied... about four all on the same bloom.

Monday, 24 August 2015

In a Vase on Monday - Lark's Heels

Cathy who is hosting this meme is displaying her lilies in a lovely vase.  You can go there are see what other people are posting, and join in yourself, with your contributions.

I wanted this week's vase to be a modest, pure and simple affair. I was going to say Nasturtiums, pure and simple.  However nothing is that every straight forward...Nasturtium is in fact watercress.  The flowers in the little vase are Tropaeolum.  However in my quest to find out more about this flower I came across an interesting site: A Digital Botanic Garden,  which gave the common name of Lark's Heel.

The little vase another attractive stone ware vase with the most beautiful 'Japanese' shape, bought from a charity shop.

There can be no special variety name, as I had 'scrumped' 5 seeds last year.  They had rattled around the car, then been planted all together in a pot, and when they germinated the plants were plonked in a bare spot.

As we sat on the Patio yesterday having our morning coffee, I watched a cabbage white butterfly lay its eggs under the leaves, which explains the holes, as the little caterpillars feast on the leaves and flowers.  Then I went closer on my hand and knees and marveled at the flowers.  When I returned to the table, Mr S said, I hope you have washed your hands.  You can guess what I had been doing!  If not you are not a gardener.

Not only do the leaves have a characteristic structure with the petiole attachment,  the nectar spur behind has an elegant curve, hence the name Lark's heel, yes I see it now!

There is is a complicated structure, and the petals look like creased chiffon.

Its such a shame that they grown so low to the ground, and I can see that they would be marvelous in a window box, or higher up on a wall. The top shelf of my conservatory shelves, is just the right place to place this vase so that I can peer into these lovely flowers.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

New Plants

I seem to be living up to my name: Stasher, at the moment.  I just could not resist these plants which Mark had brought to sell at the Leek Wootton Village Fete.  I have bought plants from him for several years, and all are very good.  He is just a local gardener who loves propagating...I love the little black plant labels which he uses, with silver pen.  I shall look out for these at the Malvern Show.  They are really so very discreet, and don't show up like a sore thumb in the garden.

New Plants

Phlomis Russeliana.  I used to grow this in my Swindon garden, and also loved the sage green leaf together with the yellow flowers.  Mark was really impressed that I knew the plant straight away just from the leaves.

Liatris Spicata, which was on my list of 'wanted plants'.  They are doing really well in one or two local front gardens so I know they will do well here.

Campanula Sarastro which I have been admiring in show gardens and in some National Trust gardens this year.

The Flower is so large and resplendent, I am sure it will shine in my garden, but I think I shall have to go on the offensive against slugs and snails with this one.

Athyrium Otophorum v  Okanum ...... just because I love ferns, this pale green with red ribbed one will be in a bit pot nearly the gazebo.

I have finally put about the fourth coat on the new table, made by my friend Steve, and it is looking just lovely in the Gazebo for the moment.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Leek Wootton Show

Every year since we moved up to the Midlands, we have visited this show in the adjoining village.  It is very small, not commercial, more like a party for the village and surrounding areas.  We particularly like it because of the wonderful fruit, vegetables, flowers including Dahlias which are really magnificent.  I also love that Mark a local gardening enthusiast has a plant stall, and I spent very nearly all my week's pocket money on four beautifully grown plants.

Last year when I was speaking to the Show Secretary, she suggested that I entered, as it was open to people from the surrounding areas.  With a stem from my Munstead Wood rose tree, from which I had to cup three side buds, because it was 'One Rose', I won third prize.  All the other blooms were Hybrid Teas.

A bunch of Astilbe Chinensis won second prize.  My Wild Plum Jam won first prize, but I was disappointed that my courgette chutney was not even placed.  Penny who was there mentioned that my chutneys were not as sweet as some!

I did not enter my very best pair of socks which are even more complicated, but almost look as if they are machine knit.  This was just one of the pairs in my new sock stash.   I was particularly chuffed with the judge's comments, but modesty prevents me from repeating them!

Last year I sowed a few seeds from my Chilli Plant that was into its third year last Autumn, and it seemed just right to enter it now that it has grown into a sizeable plant, and here it is again with some lovely comments from the judge.  The Mother Plant was consigned to the bin as soon as this one looked like it would run.  With very little room on the only sunny windowsill during the winter one plant is more than sufficient for my needs, and I always have spare chillies to give away.

At the end of the show items are auctioned off if they are left.  As I just have one chilli plant I was not leaving that or the socks.  However I just had to buy back my own preserves as it was towards the end of the show that these items were being auctioned off, and the price was less than the price of the empty jar!  I bought some nice Dahlias as I remembered that my friend Kay's father was famous for growing these, and indeed she was almost in tears when I turned up at her door with them.  I also got a bunch for Dawn next door who had just returned from hospital after an operation.  I bid for these at the start of the Show and I was pleased to give a good price which all helps to support the local Village Hall.  I spent my winnings and more at the Auction!

I loved the various entries by Children particularly the carved vegetables, and gardens in a tray.  Of course, the tea and cake was fabulous, and it was nice that Penny turned up, and joined me at the outside tables.  It was really warm and sunny and we were lucky that we were in the shade.

Friday, 21 August 2015


Even before I bought The Book of Buns, Friday was often Bun Baking day.  This Friday, I'm going along with the choice from the Facebook Group for Mid August.  These Chorek are sweet buns and are made by the Armenians as a celebration bake at Easter.  It can come in various shapes large or small but today I have copied the snail shape in the photograph of the book.  

What I like about buns is that you can freeze most for later, and they are in effect in a time lock safe out of temptation's way.  If you want one, you have to plan for it, defrost one, and or give it a blast in the oven!  Mr S and I having been carefully managing our food intake, and we are slowly regaining our slyph like former shapes!  Mr S has taken to cycling to work once or twice a week, and this is certainly helping.

With eggs, milk, and butter these deliciously light buns are fragrant with a touch of brandy, home made vanilla essence and mahlab.  

When I was making the Cherry Preserve I added some of the cherry stone kernels, so I think if these needed a little preserve on the side, they would partner well.  By coincidence Roz, from whose garden I picked the cherries, called last night and has invited me to raid the last of the blackcurrants in her garden, so I shall take her one to have with a cup of tea while she sits on her garden bench and watches me.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Loosing Aunty Prue

I had a call minutes of each other last week from cousins Timmy and Jane telling me that Aunty Prue had died.  When I was young I came to stay in England and Aunty Prue took me in.  For eighteen months or so she was as a mother to me, and Timmy and Jane brother and sister.  Sadly I only visited a few times in recent years, but each month or so we would have a long call.  Aunt Prue had a wonderful sense of humour, and I could not put the phone down but think that all was well with the world.  She never spoke of anything which was worrying her, was there anything?  Always positive and finding fun things to talk about.

In the past years she was as active as ever.  Going out with her group of friends was one of her favourite things to do, she 'managed' the local bus drivers, and even got picked up and dropped off outside her house.  She also, like granny, loved walking, the local birds and flowers.  She kept her home spick and span, and loved her life, in the village where she grew up in.  She enjoyed her garden and her long front garden was full of summer  flowers brightening up the approach to the village.

Having moved away, been a WRAF, worked for the famous Chocolate Company Rowntrees in York,  where Tim was born, then lived in Manchester  where Jane were born, she returned to her home village.

I remember Aunty Prue telling me stories of how she was the best chocolate catcher:  throwing up chocolates and catching them with her mouth. Rowntrees used to send her to boxing and wrestling matches, with ring side seats so that during the intervals the television cameras would focus on her with her box of chocolates in her lap, and have free advertising.  Back in her village she worked as a Dinner Lady at the Primary School, so was known and loved by all the children in the village.  She even had 'her own walnut tree' near the school, where she foraged for nuts each autumn.  After that she worked at a hard job assembling windows and doors in the large local manufacturers Howarth's alongside 'the men', until retirement.  Aunty Prue knew a lot about the history of the family and the Village, and even came out with a great book for Mr S about the railways in the New Holland.

Aunty Prue really cherished her collections of china:  pride and joy being her Royal Albert Old Country Roses China.  She had cups and saucers, plates, tea pot, jugs, plates etc which she had built up over very many years.  So it is in her memory that I post these roses which I picked the day she passed away.  Just incidentally they are almost the same as on the China.

Another collection was that of ceramic and glass hens the ones which split in half.  I think they were popular for keeping eggs in.  Over the years Aunty Prue had been offered perhaps one or two a year as special prizes at the Village Shows, so the collection was being reduced.  A few years back she offered one to me, and I chose a lovely small one which is on my window sill and in which I keep a bulb of garlic, so each time I stand at the kitchen sink, I have a memory of my Aunty Prue.

Like very many people, I am so sad that I no longer have this lovely lady in my life.  She was looked after wonderfully during her last few weeks by Jane and Timmy, and hospital and nurses.  Thanks to a stent was able return home and as it turned out, for just a few days, and was able to drink and eat just a little.  She passed away in her own home on her own terms, no drugs, no painkillers.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Hydrangea Vanille Fraise and other garden plants mid August

 Down towards the end of the garden, I have a large tall pot, in which I planted this hygrangea about four years ago.  Each spring I cut it back to about 20cm, then up come these long stems with lovely white flowers.  Once they open, they gradually change colour with both white and pink on the same plant.  When Cathy and the golfer visited I could not clearly remember which one this was.  At the weekend, I was going through my seed box, and in the bottom I came across the original plant label.  This is Hydrangea Vanille Fraise.  It stands up well to rain, and I have also dried heads before too, for a winter posy.

The Astilbe Chinensis Pumila is really doing well, and all three patches are ready to be 'downsized' this autumn.  These perform well in sun and part shade, and except when first planted, they are not watered.

The Centaurea have bounced back after their cut back and providing plenty of pollen for the bumbles bees

and even Rosa Open Arms does the same

Newly planted this year, in the area where the Victoria Plum tree used to grow,  is Rudbekia fulgida sullivantii 'Goldstrum' .  It contrasts with the Aster frikartii 'Monch',  also new this year.  

Monday, 17 August 2015

In a Vase on Monday - New Vase and New Flower

A few weeks ago, I spied a vase on this meme with little holes around the top, and like a 'worm' this had lodged in my brain.  Perhaps this is why this little vase caught my eye in a local charity shop.  It is small and short, with a lovely glaze, and cost me less than a cup of coffee!

A stroll down the garden and there on my Helenium Sahins Early Flowerer was this lovely little shield bug.  I've looked it up and found its name:  Hairy or Sloe Shield Bug, Dolycoris baccarum.  It loved this bloom and spent most of the day perhaps feeding from the stamens which open on each of the small inflorescences, slowly until the whole dome is covered with orangeness after several days.

The shield bug colours reminded me of my new little vase, so I snipped off the first few blooms from the plant which I only planted in July, then a few leaves of a geranium growing near by, and some dark sword shaped leaves from Ophiopogan Planicapus Niger, more commonly known and far easier to say, spell, and remember:  Black Mondo Grass.  There are many more blooms for any bees, or shield bugs flying into the garden.

This week Cathy has gone all Vintage, and what a lovely quilt as well. So do go and see her arrangement this week, as well as peeping at what others have come up.

Monday, 10 August 2015

In a Vase on Monday - Cathy came to visit

A big rush this weekend was on the cards, to tidy up the garden, and get things looking ship shape and Bristol fashion, ready for the big visit from Mrs In a Vase on Monday herself, and Mr IAVOM of course.  Cathy was in fine voice and a delight to be in on a shared visit to Kenilworth Castle.  Please do go and visit her contribution this week: all cool and green, this one hits the high note alright!

However on Friday, after the big birthday bash for the 125th Birthday Party of our Local Kenilworth Horticultural Society, someone had left bags of wild plums.  Most of the weekend was taken up making preserves!

Here is my contribution, cut after the visit was over, and some of these blooms Cathy noticed on her trip down the garden.  I cut one of each from the left hand side of the garden..but two of the graceful Lysimachia Clethroides, also known as Gooseneck Loosestrife

I did not think that I had that much in flower, but this proves that a snip here and a snip there and suddenly there are 13 different plant materials to choose from

Dahlia. Pink from a cutting bought at the gardening club
Lysimachia clethroides, Gooseneck Loosestrife
White Phlox Paniculata
Blue Agapanthus
Geranium Rozanne

Seed heads of Knautia Macedonia Thunder and Lightning

Anaphalis Margaritacea also known as Pearl Everlasting

Leaf and flower spike of Astilbe Chinensis Pumila
Achillea Millefolium Lilac Beauty
Sanguisorba burnet Tanna
Stachys Monieri Saharan Pink

Phuopsis Stylosa, which is coming into a second flower flush after a good chop back.

Monday, 3 August 2015

In a Vase on Monday - Pressed into Service

Another idiom helped me decide the theme for this week's In a Vase on Monday.  I thought of my little pressed glass jugs.  I would press them into service to act as vases.  I bought both jugs just on the whim because I love their shape. The smaller of the pressed glass jugs has a thistle logo imprinted on the bottom.  I bought it whilst on holiday in Alnwick, and was told by the shop owner that there were many small pressed glass manufacturers in Scotland and also in Northern England.  (I'm notgiving any Scientific names this week.)

Then as we had a Sunday Walk across the fields, I saw that the Hazelnuts were beginning to fatten up, but sadly the squirrels will have them all soon.  I broke a little stem of them and started thinking of all the young country girls who were 'pressed into service' probably walking from cottages to work in big houses as servants.  It followed that I began to think what their names would have been.

Would there have been a Hazel?  Then I thought of other girls names based on plants and flowers, so apart from Hazel from the hedgerow, from my garden, I have Heather, Poppy some gone to seed and some Welsh, Nigella, Holly, Rosemary, Daisy, Rose, Ivy, Myrtle, Fern, and Marjoram.

My little Grand daughter assured me that Marjoram was a girl's name, when she gave me this lovely little dressed mouse,  when she was just three and a half.  She liked it so much, she also had one, but hers was called Rosemary.  I think Marjolaine is more used as a French name, but since she was at French playgroup, maybe that is where she heard this as a girl's name.  She said she called them these names because we both liked gardening so much!

This is the first time I have used my new 'toy'.  My leaf and thorn stripper.  A few weeks ago I had a couple of thorns lodged under my skin, and I knew there was the right tool somewhere, not to remove the thorns from my finger, but to remove the thorns from the rose stems.  I asked a couple of florists locally if they sold them, and hunted in local shops, but to no avail.  Within a few days of ordering off Amazon, this was posted through my door.

It is really great for preparing the flowers, so from now on, when I hand over a posy of flowers to friends, which have roses in, I won't need to say: 'be careful of the thorns'.

Unlike my garden which is a little sparse at the moment, Cathy's garden has yielded an extravagant abundance.  So for a good contrast why not go and see something very different.

If you would like to comment, why not suggest flowers which are currently in your garden, which have girl's names.