Down the garden path

We’ve just had an unbelievably hot week, or more. Everyday I have been up early watering the garden and greenhouse before taking the dogs for their walk. I am really enjoying the garden now as it is a joy to see plants I’ve grown from seed flourish and last year’s plants particularly Dahlias appear. I love the variety of colour and textures in the garden. The oriental poppies as have wild poppies been spectacular, I love watching their delicate papery petals dancing in the breeze. When they are backlit by the sun in late afternoon they look stunning.  This year we decided to buy garden furniture so we can sit with a cup of tea or a meal, watching the visiting birds swooping about, landing on a hoe or garden fork, they can be comical. Goldfinches are beautiful birds.  We are proud of our garden, it has a long way to go but it is  like an artist’s canvas turning into nature’s theatre. You can’t beat it! 

I hope you’re all having a good week. 🙂

Art studio up and running!

Gradually I am moving my artist materials and equipment into the  log cabin art studio, which is situated about half way down our large garden.  We purchased most of the vintage furniture from our local auction as I wanted a homely, eclectic feel to my studio. My husband bought me the printing press from an antique shop in Ampthill called the Emporium, for Christmas.  I have basic heating and lighting and when our home extension is built I will have everything I need.

I am really enjoying having my own space. I pop down when I like, make a cup of tea, ponder my art books, sketch, write in my studio diary or just watch the birds on the feeders, the sun going down, cloud formations, bees on the flowers or listening to the rustling of leaves, or the cockeral next door. It is just so magical!


The Aquilegia or Columbine Is a beautiful fairylike plant which just loves growing in  our garden. I love its delicate petals and the colours are faded and old fashioned. I decided to pick a few blooms for the studio to do loose watercolour painting cameos, which I will add glazes to later on, or I may just leave them looking fresh and delicate. 


The colours haven’t photographed well, however hopefully you’ll get the essence!

Progress in the cottage garden

We have been working hard to make the garden look colourful and working on the structure. 

My husband has now got his greenhouse up and running and my seedlings and tomoato plants are enjoying the warmth. Hubs has started to dig vegetable beds and raised beds for the veg growing Iin the greenhouse. It is all very experimental.

As you can see, I now have my studio where I can write, paint, do printmaking, upholstery or just enjoy quiet moments. 

It’s wonderful to spend time in the garden, working or pottering about listening to the birds bees and butterflies. 

The roses are coming out too! Unfortunately the frost has taken many young plants including three acers! Our peach tree has a fungus which is a shame, although apparently it will bear fruit. I hope so because the peaches are wonderful. 

I am currently working on various watercolours and prints which I’ll show you hopefully soon. I am so proud of hubby for managing to create this beautiful haven, he is working full time too! We are both looking forward to his retirement in tge fairly near future fingers crossed!

We have today had a little rain, but not enough to fill our waterbutts! I hope you are enjoying your gardens or green spaces around you. Happy weekend to come. 🙂

Bountiful spring borders


Last spring we only had a few shrubs in this border, so we spent ages last autumn planting various tulips, narcissi, gorgeous old fashioned wallflowers, and many more. What an ambundance of varieties and colours!



My lack of wordpress posts is because of necessary weeding, deadheading, pruning and planting whilst my husband designs new borders and features. It is wonderful to be serenaded by the birds and bees. There are quite a few butterflies about too, the yellow, tourtoiseshell and the painted lady so far.

I hope you are out in your gardens enjoying spring and if it is still cold where you live, I hope my photos cheer you up.

‘Slumber’ a moment captured in pastel

After my husband leaves home for his office, the dogs find one of our many cosy chairs and fall Iinto a deep slumber. I usually sit, enjoying the birdsong outside and reading, writing my poetry, catching up with my nature diary, or sketching. Today, instead of using a drawing pen or charcoal I picked up a dark grey hard pastel. Gently I tried to capture the essence of my border collie, the muddle of soft fur, tucked into the plump folds of the cushion and herringbone wool covered armchair. I loved the way her wispy tail curled around her. I had to work quickly because I knew she would stretch out her paw or move her head slightly. With every few deep breaths of the warm, ccomfortable dog, I gradually built up the tones and strokes to form her likeness. It is always difficult to know when the drawing is finished, but I focused on capturing the essence of  my dog deep in slumber.I hope you enjoy looking at her and relaxing.

Delicious festive easy dessert

I used to make Boodle’s  fool many year’s ago when I regularly hosted afternoon tea on Sunday afternoons. It was always ‘demolished’ by family members!

When I found an old hand written recipe book circa 1989, there was the recipe complete with turned down page! So I decided to make it but give it an Italian, modern twist.

The original fool was made I believe for Winston Churchill who frequently dined at the exclusive Boodles Club in London.

I hope you enjoy my version but if you want to make the original version, use plain sponge cake instead of Panettone and swap Amaretto for Grande Marnier. I will work on a dairy free version which will possibly be made with coconut cream.

Janet’s Orange, Lemon and Amaretto fool

ingredients

50g or a few pieces of traditional panettone broken up, enough

for 6 small glass dessert dishes.

2-3 tablespoons of Amaretto or almond liqueur

Rind and juice of 2 oranges and 2 small lemons

85grams of caster sugar

10fl ounces of double cream

Method

Place the Panettone in a bowl and add Ameretto gently to just moisten the cake a little.

Distribute the Panettone between 6 small dessert dishes.

Grate the lemon rind and orange rind. Juice the fruit into a jug.

Add rind to the juice leaving a few pieces of the rind to decorate the tops of the desserts.

Add caster sugar to the juice and dissolve it.

Whip the double cream until it is stiff, then gently add the rind  and juice liquid until it is mixed well.

Spoon the creamy mixture into the dishes and decorate with pieces of rind.

Refridgerate for 3-4 hours or overnight. Enjoy!

Butternut Squash & Chestnut soup


I managed to pick a bag full of windfall Sweet chestnuts a couple of week’s ago. I roasted them and peeled them and after eating a few, because they were so delicious, I put half in the fridge and froze the rest.

I was contemplating cooking Chestnut risotto, however hubs isn’t keen so instead I made this wonderful hearty, autumnal soup. You could use rosemary instead of sage, spice it up with a pinch of paprika or use an onion instead of a leek.

I’m gluten and dairy intolerant so I didn’t add a swirl of sour cream, but you could and a sage leaf or sprig of rosemary.

I hope you enjoy trying out this recipe. If you can’t get fresh chestnuts I think you can by them in a pouch from the deli or supermarket.

Bespoke Oak front door…at last!

We had this beautiful solid Oak front door made for us well over a year ago. However one reason or another, our door sat at the joiners waiting for our carpenter to come and fit it. At least I had plenty of time to choose door furniture to compliment the style of the door.

The door furniture is handmade antiqued brass and is very solid! I am looking forward to decorating the front door with a festive wreath this year. Hopefully next spring I’ll design an Oak garden gate to match!

 

 

A winter armchair emerges

I’ve spent most of midsummer in the garden, temporarily abandoning rhe armchair I’ve been reupholstering. Over the last two weeks I’ve returned to Maria’s workshop to complete my project. Sometimes it’s good to give a project a rest, so you can come back with new enthusiasm and new ideas. As you can see by the picture,  the outside arms have been almost completed apart from a little bit of sewing where you can see the pins on the photo bottom left. I have also fitted the front of the seat in the beautiful ‘Moon’ wool check. One of the trickiest pieces of work was to sew the button pleats with a curved needle; my fingers became really sore and it was difficult sewing tiny stitches so that they were invisable. All done now! The next task was to fit the webbing on the seat. This is tricky because the webbing must be tightly fixed because it supports the seat and your bottom! See photo top left.

I am loving my winter armchair, it will look lovely next to John’s armchair. Next time I will be completing the fitting of the arms and making the seat. I’m getting there! And there maybe time to reupholster my footstool before Xmas.


I’m thinking about reupholstering this comfy footstool in the same ‘Abraham Moon’  check fabric. It should take half a day and will look fab in front of the new winter armchair.

Gluten Free Apple and Almond cake

cake was easy to make and tasts delicious particularly if you serve it warm from the oven. Hubby described it as being light and very tasty! I used sweet apples from my trees and a cooking apple from our tree. I liked mixing the flavours and textures. Be careful when cooking the chopped apples not to let them go to mush as you need a bit of texture. Also I think the timing of this recipe is not exact. I find Frangipane type recipes are a little experimental. 

Ingredients:

3 medium sized eating apples

1 cooking apple

1 large lemon juice only

200g caster sugar and 100g soft brown sugar, or 300g pure golden caster sugar

8 medium eggs

325g ground almonds

1/2 teaspoon almond essence

50g flaked almonds to place on top.

Oven preheated to 180c

Bake for 40 mins then pop Iin a skewer to check if it’s cooked through. If not try checking after an extra 15mins. You may need to put foil over your cake after 30 mins.

You will need to lightly grease and line a 25cm loose bottom round tin.

Method:

1. Core, peel and chop up apples into small chunks.

2. Place apples Iin a pan with a tablespoon of water, half the lemon juice and two tablespoons of sugar.

3. Bring to the boil on a low heat and simmer covered for a few minutes until you can lightly mash the apples with a fork. Cool.

4. Put the apple puree, eggs, ground almonds, almond essence, caster sugar and the remaining lemon juice into a large bowl and blend with a hand blender.

5. Put the mixture into the prepared tin and decorate the mixture with almond slices. Place the tin on a baking tray and bake in the oven.

6. Wait until the cake has cooled and warm to touch before easing out of the tin and putting on cooling tray. Try awarm slice now with a cup of tea.