Monday, 30 March 2009


Last week I got a call saying that I had won a 7 night luxury holiday for 4 people in a European destination....the only thing I had to do to claim my prize was to attend a 2 hour seminar in London on in fact, I was going to have to sit through a sales pitch on buying a time-share property in Europe and if I was really patient I would get the 'free' holiday (£29.50 per person booking fee, plus airport tax on top...). I chose Spain and we were all quite excited until I started reading the forum on the site that I belong to. In the end it felt wrong and we decided not to go. The kids were a bit sad, they loved the idea of luxury and holiday in one package, but we could afford to go regardles, and would not have to be at the mercy of the local sales team in Spain. Good thing we decided not to anyway as John forgot to put the clock back and we lost an hour on Sunday!!

We may not be going to Spain, but we did win £18.00 in the school raffle...that is a nice prize, the cheque was hand-delivered to the house....something real!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

The Sun

continues to shine almost daily although the wind is strong and cold. It is a bit like the spring wind in Japan. Haru no ichiban! The Vernal Equinox marks the first day of spring here, and it was lovely. John Emily and I went to a local nursery where we looked at so many lovely plants, but came away with compost and manure and two small beech trees to make a hedge...Em bought me some daikon seeds for Mother's day and we spent ages over the weekend planting seeds, planting out seedlings and filling up my garden bed with more nice things. Even Hannah put some seeds in!
David, my brother, came for the afternoon on Saturday and he and John watched cricket and rugby, culminating in the Ireland vs Wales game, which Ireland won to take the 6 Nations Grand Slam . It was pretty exciting.
Adam had his end of term gig this weekk and played with three different bands. He is very at home on stage and obviously gifted and popular with his peers. His girlfriend, Anna, has an amazing voice and they were great performing together. John was bursting with pride.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Two Years

Two years ago today we arrived at an icy Heathrow at about 7:30 in the morning and were picked up by a friend of John's and brought here to West Sussex. There was snow on the ground, but daffodils and other flowers in bloom. The house was cold and had been unlived in for some time. Karen had passed away only two months before. We walked into the town to see the Tudor buildings in the High Street and then drove to Tunbridge Wells to buy sheets and pillows. It was surreal.
Today it is warm and sunny and John is in London more busy than every nuturing the Olympics Legacy. Adam is having his first driving lesson. The girls are lovely and Bosley has been sitting in a muddy box in the garden, sunning himself. I am in the office, but my heart is out there!!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Who am I kidding? Work is for the birds...

Three days of sunshine and I so do not want to be in the office. I have been going home at lunch time to see if any new seedlings have come up, since the last time I looked before leaving for work.....!!!
Em and I potted up some veg seeds and left them in the conservatory and since then I have been fretting about the temperature and hoping for signs of life. The only thing that has shown is a chilli plant...not exactly the most needed of veg. Today I rang the seed company that I ordered strawberry plugs from to chivvy them along, only to discover they had not processed the order.....horror. The plants are now on their way. A packet of seeds has arrived from UK's famous kid's show Blue Peter, they are hoping that people will work to attract more bees to their gardens.
I have a half day off on Thursday this week and plan to go to the garden centre and to a local nursery to buy manure and compost and some more plants. Maybe even some canes to grow bortolli beans and for the raspberries.
There is no doubt, I would far rather not have to work.......

Monday, 16 March 2009

Sunshine at last

The weather has been fantastic, and it really lifts ones mood to see the sun. I worked on Saturday but was keen to get home and into the garden, but ended up not finding the time!!
John and I went to dinner at La Ferola, a Spanish restaurant and tapas bar in town to celebrate two years since our commitment ceremony!! Fabulous food, veal cutlets and a steak and very crispy white bait for entree. We didn't have desert. We walked home and watched a film with Adam and Anna.
On Sunday morning, John shut himself away to work and I got the wellies on and did some of the chores.
I turned the compost in the big new bin. Looking good, not wet and sloppy and not smelly!
The achillea in the front was getting bunched up so that was split and planted out. A new fuchsia 'Blacky' was potted up and the others all trimmed. I also put a daisy, probably an osteopermum into the front bed.
It is looking more like a garden, but there is a long way to go.

On Sunday we went for lunch to the fabulous Dim Sum restaurant in the Wing Yip complex in Croydon with friends, Chris and Judy. Good food, great company. Then followed a quick trip to Furniture Village to see Jane, John's sister and back home for the usual Sunday night round of chores and jobs to get us started for the week.

The weather is still great today and may continue to be so this week.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

RHS Wisley

John and I went to Wisley on Sunday, an RHS garden, and it was brilliant. Every thing that grows has a label, so if you see something that appeals, you can find out what it is. They were having a 'Grow Your Own' weekend and we wanted to see if we could learn anything. The veg growing talks were not until later in the day and we planned to stay for only a while, but still got a lot out of it. I realised that I do really want to study more and may actually go into it, so more about that later.

Since then, I have planted some carrot, lettuce and cucumber seeds and have got scabiosa, achillea and chilli seedlings coming up in the conservatory. I planted garlic and rhubarb in the veg patch too!

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Recession, coffins and smelling the roses

Recession is the mood and while it is true that job security has gone for many, people can't borrow money, interest rates on savings are barely existent and shops and pubs are closing in every town in England, it makes me feel fairly angry that there is only negative press. Papers only sell when the headlines scream bad news, no one wants to read good news. We all love to know that we are better off than someone else and few of us want to feel that others might be doing well when we are struggling. Lovely lot we all are.

Recession busting guides have become trendy and it takes me back to the 90s in Japan when there was a huge trend on being 'ketchy' (miserly). Books, magazines and TV shows were all about how to shop, cook, eat and live cheaply. Some channels even ran competitions to see how little people could spend in a month.

People recycled and as a nation, you have to hand it to them for innovative ideas, there were books on how to make storage containers, kids furniture, book cases, you name it from old milk cartons, bread bags, vegetable boxes, anything,

I was caught up in it all. I scrimped and saved and made do and it did us no harm, but when I saw homes featured on the box with all their reused milk cartons, it made me depressed. The best ever, was the elderly couple who made his and hers coffins from used cartons. His is green ones (skimmed-milk) and hers in red....(full cream milk). They were propped up against the living room wall in their modest (cluttered) home, ready for the day in which they would carry the makers out!!

When things went belly up here, it was no hardship to adjust and we have all done well. But I get tired of the 'we have to make do because we have so little' feeling. I much prefer the 'enjoy what we have and anything left over is deserved' outlook.

For Lent this year, my plan is to live within my means, show some self restraint and conserve energy while working to prepare the seeds/seedlings for the vegetable plot.

No coffees from the shop, packed lunch every day, planned shopping trips, and most important, to THINK about the choices we are making. To ENJOY the days.

Recession is good if it makes us slow down and contemplate how we live, it gives us time to smell the roses...

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Soda Bread

This is Irish bread, made without yeast and it is delicious.

Try this recipe if you like. Em and I made some last night and it is great.

250gm plain flour

10gm salt

15gm bicarbonate of soda

250gm wholemeal flour

150gm jumbo oat flakes (we used oatmeal)

2tbsp clear honey

2tbsp black treacle

500 ml buttermilk (we used semi skimmed with a good squeeze of lemon juice in it)

Preheat oven to 200C or gas mark 6. Line a baking sheet with cooking paper. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and then mix in the honey, treacle and buttermilk, working everything together lightly with your hands, until you have a loose, wet dough. (IT WAS VERY WET AND LOOSE AND HARD TO HANDLE, SO WE MIXED WITH A SPOON)

With floured hands shape the dough into a round and lift on to the lined baking sheet. With a knife mark a cross in the top.

Put into the oven and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the base. Transfer to a wire rack, drape a damp cloth over the top and leave to cool.