Wednesday, 31 December 2008

New Year's Eve

I'm not one for a "big night out" on New Year's Eve.  There is nothing worse than being crammed into a bar with a thousand other people all having A Great Time.  

Since moving to London we have usually spent NYE with the in-laws Oop North, had friends round to us, or gone round to friends.  Last year was a brilliant night as my parents came down to London and we spent the evening having a lovely dinner, walking to St James' Park to watch the fireworks before heading back to the hotel we where we were staying for a glass of champagne before bed.

This year we are going round to some friends who are having a "90's" themed party ... it will be fun as we always have  good time with them!  I'm just a bit concerned about what to wear as the 90's are a decade that I would like to forget as I was a miserable student/goth ... ha ha ha! I bet you can't imagine it at all .... I'm not sure how I have changed so much - maybe it's all just part of growing up and realising how you want to be!

I hope you all have lovely evenings - whatever you decide to do!

Christmas Reading

I got lots of fabulous books for Christmas!

I'm looking forward to making lots of delicious cakes, making Cath Kidston style bits (with my now working sewing machine),  gardening, and relaxing with a good book about the Mitfords ... me and Mr Plum are looking forward to a thriftier 2009! 

Tuesday, 30 December 2008


Today I received two parcels ... one from Arizona and another from Florida! Very exciting! I had been waiting for these parcels ever since I put together my two packages full of home made goodies, recipes and other bits and pieces at the beginning of December.

This was my parcel from the "Yummy Recipe Swap" ....

And here is my parcel from the "Clasheen Christmas Crafty Swap"

So lovely to receive these parcels full of beautifully crafted bits and pieces ... if you haven't taken part in a swap, and fancy doing one ... I would definitely recommend it! It was great fun ... especially putting together the parcels I sent out!  I think I will look for another swap to do in the New Year!

Monday, 29 December 2008

The Puppini Sisters Christmas Show!

Last night, me and my Mum went to The Puppini Sisters Christmas Show at 
the Royal Festival Hall, on Southbank.  I've seen the Puppini's quite a few times now and never get bored of their show!  I love their music ... the 40's originals, the modern covers with a 40's twist, their clothes, shoes (especially Stephanie's fab red sparkly heels she was wearing last night!).  They did some new songs last night, so I'm hoping that they will release a new album soon! They are great live ... if they are doing a show near you ... go and see them!!

A Little Bit of Mummy Plum's Magic ...

AKA: Kitchen Transformation - Part 3!

Good afternoon!

I hope everyone has had a lovely Christmas ... mine was lovely.  Unfortunately both my parents were inflicted with the lurgy and Mr Plum has started to come down with it too ... so we had a rather laid back affair ... not too much eating (although, I won't be stepping on the scales for a day or three!), just lots of relaxing, watching TV, drinking snowballs and knitting!  I was completely spoilt by everyone ... and got lots of bits and pieces to keep me busy!

We came home yesterday and Mummy Plum had a look at my sewing machine (oh yes ... the saga continues!).  I'm not sure what she did - but I think it had something to do with Mum's being able to sort anything out!  Anyway .... my sewing machine is working!!!! HURRAH!!!!

Which means .... I have finally finished my kitchen cabinet!! Here's a pic:
It needs a bit of tweaking, but doesn't it look great?  Thanks Mum!!  

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Festive greetings to you all!  

I've spent the day cleaning, ironing and doing a few bits in the kitchen (while Mr Plum "worked from home" aka sitting in bed while working on the laptop!) in preparation for the holiday!  I probably won't get a chance to post again before Christmas, so wanted to say "Merry Christmas!!"

Mary Poppins recently wrote about what she would be wearing this Christmas ... I won't be anywhere near as glam as that (I need room for expansion throughout the day! ha ha).  So will probably be wearing my lovely pink "sparkle" PJ's
and then my new favourite Joules dress with fab green beads (Oh! the Joules sale started today ... the only thing I wanted was not available in the colour I wanted it...nevermind!)
Have a lovely Christmas everyone!!

Monday, 22 December 2008

Potatoes and Onions

I finally got around to putting my seed potatoes in a tray and have put them in the greenhouse to "chit"


 I also got my onion bulbs delivered over the weekend, so those are also in a tray in the greenhouse!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Limoncello - part 3

Having left my limoncello in a cool, dark place for another 40 days and nights ... today I strained out the lemon zest, decanted into bottles and put into the freezer until we decided to have a tipple!  I did try a small glass ... it is very strong! But lovely and zesty - and, best of all, homemade!

I am planning on making limoncello martinis over Christmas ... a measure of limoncello, topped up with champagne ... mmm mmm, sounds delicious! 

Christmassy Things!

Today I have .... 

Iced my Christmas Cake - I think it looks fab! I hope it tastes as good as it looks!!

Made a batch of Rosemary Shortbread ... yum!

Written my Christmas cards ... but can't face wrapping presents!  I think I will leave that for a day, or two.

Only 4 and a 1/2 working days left before I have a week off for Christmas! Yey!!

Saturday, 13 December 2008


My seed potatoes arrived today!!

I have three sets of five tubers which need to be kept in a dark, dry place until March/April when it will be warm enough to get my three potato barrels on the go!

I have been sent three different varieties (early, middle and late cropping) ... I can't wait to get started on these!

BHS - vintage splendidness!

Picked up some Cath Kidston and Emma Bridgewater-esq loveliness from BHS and Tesco yesterday ...... 

Lovely new duvet cover 

Pretty wrapping paper

And an Emma Bridgewater style teapot from Tesco!

Friday, 12 December 2008

Today, while sitting in bed listening to Radio 2 ...

I have taken a days leave to recover from singing in two carol concerts this week and prepare for my third tomorrow!  Mr Plum has gone off to work, and I am planning what I am going to do with my day!

So many things to get done ... it's too cold to venture to the gym for a swim, so think I will write Christmas cards, ice the Christmas cake, wrap presents, pop to Plumdon to pick up some parcels ... maybe convince Mr Plum to meet me for lunch then head into town to meet a friend for champagne as it is her birthday! 

But first of all I will have some porridge!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Wonderful Rye!

We had originally planned to go to Berlin with  some friends for Mr Plum's birthday ... but due to other commitments (well, the friends being invited to a wedding oop North!) we had to postpone. I had been looking forward to getting away from London for a day or two, so put on my thinking cap and tried to find an alternative .... 

I have always wanted to visit Rye.  One of my favourite programmes "Mapp and Lucia" was filmed there (and I can't wait to go back to my parents for Christmas so that I can watch their DVD!) and it always sounds like the most enchanting place to visit.  I wasn't disappointed.

Last Friday afternoon we hopped on a train and started our journey down to Rye.  We got there at about 4pm, it was cold and dark ... but we were greeted by the prettiest  streets and Christmas lights.  We stayed at The George Hotel on the High Street, so headed there to drop off our bags before going out for a walk around town.  We wandered along the cobbled (some quite steep) streets and found a lovely pub where I tried a small glass of the local cider.  We then walked on to find a pretty little pub (re-built in the 1600's) with a roaring fire and radio 2 playing in the background.  We stopped there for tea and a drink and then headed back to the hotel.

After a lovely breakfast of poached eggs on toast, we checked out (but left our bags at the hotel) and wandered around Tilling, sorry, I mean Rye.  Our first stop was the Tourist Information Centre where I picked up a map of Tilling with all the main places from the books by E.F Benson.  The Rye Christmas festival was due to start with a procession through the town at 4.30 with drummers, pipers and ..... Father Christmas!

We pottered around for hours and hours, looking around antique shops, craft shops, kitchen shops, antique kitchen craft shops .... stopped for hot chocolate (with cream and marshmallows) and a huge piece of homemade battenburg cake (delish!), had chips for lunch, and walked around some more!  

I bought lots of bits and pieces ... new thicker knitting needles and some lovely wool, Cath Kidston notelets, crafty bits, Mapp & Lucia book (of course!), Christmas presents ..... the shops there are wonderful! Everyone is so friendly ...

We easily spent from 10am until 4pm pottering around ... after a couple of glasses of mulled wine by the fire in The Mermaid Inn, we headed off to find a good spot to watch the procession.

At 4.30 the procession arrived outside The George Hotel and after a visit from Father Christmas in a horse-drawn carriage, the Mayor turned on the lights of the Christmas tree outside the hotel and we watched the fireworks display.  

Here is a clip from "Mapp & Lucia" from Youtube .... this one has lots of Rye (which was used as the location for "Tilling")

At one time, Rye was surrounded on three sides by the sea ... and although the sea receded hundreds of years ago, the town still has a "seaside" feel to it.  I think that next time we visit we will hire a car so that we can drive out and visit the other Cinque ports and Camber Sands.

Sadly, at nearly 6pm we had to start our way back up to London (which, of course, was an absolute nightmare on the trains...).  I would like to live in Rye.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Mummy Plum's Famous Ice-Cream!

After mentioning my Violet Ice-cream yesterday, I couldn't leave it too long before posting the recipe! It's so easy, and you can flavour it with anything (lemon, ginger, strawbs, rasps....I've even made Christmas Pud ice-cream before! That was delish!).

Anyway, while on hols in France earlier this year, I had the most lovely Violet ice-cream (while at Versailles - I like to think that Marie Antoinette would have spent her days eating this wonderful ice-cream!)

Whip 1 pint of cream (whipping or double) to soft peaks

Add 10oz icing sugar (sifted) and vanilla extract, to taste (or any flavour you like!)



So simple, and no faffing around with ice-cream makers!

I added a jar of violet preserve (bought from Lakeland) and slurp of violet syrup and a drop of food colouring.  I haven't tasted it yet, but will update you in due course!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Here are some of my lovely purchases from Rye ...

There are so many gorgeous shops in Rye ... selling all my favourite kind of things!  For a morning I forgot about the fact that I am but a mere civil servant and the fact the the country is in recession (boo!) and treated myself to some Cath Kidston notelets, a star and christmas tree cookie cutter and some lovely blue wool and some thicker knitting needles!

I'm off now as I need to help Mr Plum decorate the Christmas tree (with the new bells we got from Rye ....).  I wish Sundays like this could go on forever, how inconvenient that I have to go to work tomorrow!!

Today I have been mostly ...

  • Making truffles ... creme de menthe, amaretto and tia maria (Daddy Plum's recipe)
  • Making Violet Ice-Cream (Mummy Plum's recipe)
  • Marzipanning my Christmas Cake - you remember the one I made back in September? It's been regularly fed with sloe gin ... and the odd crumb that fell into my mouth this afternoon tasted delicious!
  • Cooking a lovely Sunday lunch
Am now considering whether to bake a chocolate cake, glue the oil cloth curtains, start some knitting with my lovely new wool or watch Home Alone!

Okay ... curtains it is! (only because it is on my "one more job to do before I can have a G&T blackboard!!)  

(Recipes to follow in next couple of days!)

Monday, 1 December 2008

It's Christmastime!

One of Mr Plum's many varied talents includes tracking down random and ancient Christmas tunes and putting them on a downloading website.  He is currently working on his 2008 Christmassy playlist - and he has let me include a link to last years playlist on my blog! 

You don't need a password or anything complicated - just copy and paste the link below for some festive fun!  My favourite song is "I know what you want for Christmas".

Here is a list of all 14 Christmas songs (with Mr Plum's notes), I hope you enjoy them!  Merry Christmas!!

1) Twas the Night Before the Goose got Fat - DJ Riko (Jon Kennedy vs Louis Armstrong)
A great start and a great mash-up by DJ Riko. This so happens to be Louis Armstrong's last recording – and what a great one it is. Louis Armstrong RIP.

2) Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End) – The Darkness
What a fantastically cheesy tune – this is what Christmas music is about! Whatever happened to The Darkness?

3) Santa Claus Is Coming to Town - Frank Sinatra, Cyndi Lauper
You can't have a Christmas record without a bit of Frank. Here he is in classic big band fashion with Cyndi Lauper – fantastic!

4) Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown? - Nina
This is from the James Bond film with George Lazenby – On Her Majesty's Secret Service. It was written by Hal David, orchestrated by John Barry and sung beautifully by Nina. Shame it's so bad!

5) Christmas in the Stars – Star Wars Christmas Album
Another film tie in – this time found on the net. C3P0 singing to R2 D2 and Chewbacca. This album has gained cult status because it's so tacky. Surely is – but isn't that what it's all about?

6) Twelve Days Of Christmas – John Denver & The Muppets
My wife has fond memories of this album. She played this cut to me last year and I've been hooked since! The Muppets! Fantastic!

7) Happy Christmas (War Is Over) – Neil Diamond
I love Neil Diamond – not quite sure why. Here he is killing a Lennon classic. Enjoy!

8) Merry Xmas Everybody – Slade
Let's face it, no Christmas album is complete without this Slade classic. Greatest Christmas song ever? It's right up there!

9) Saviour's Day – Cliff Richard
Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without a bit of Cliff.

10) I Know What You Want For Christmas (But I Don't Know How to Wrap It) - Kay Martin & Her Body Guards
I found this on the internet. Delightfully risque for it's time. Full of dodgy innuendo and sung by a pin-up. I reckon this might be the best track on this record!

11) Back Door Santa - B.B. King & John Popper
Sticking with the innuendo theme, here's B.B. King delivering blues in the only way B. B. King can. Fantastic stuff!

12) Peace On Earth / Little Drummer Boy – David Bowie & Bing Crosby
A Christmas classic and so bizarre. I suspect Bing Crosby was doing what his people told him and Bowie, well, Bowie probably didn't have a clue what he was doing.

13) Jingle Bells - Julie Andrews & Andre Previn
An exquisite rendition of a popular classic. Let's face it, no one is going to mess with Dame Julie – and here she seems to be teaching us all how to sing properly.

14) Oichie Chiun (Silent Night) – Enya
I heard this for the first time in the Oxford Street HMV last year. It's beautiful. It's a nice way to conclude this record.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Rosemary Shortbread

I have made this lovely rosemary shortbread every Christmas for the last couple of years and thought I would share it with my partner in one of the swaps I am doing!  This shortbread is so easy and very tasty and ideal to give as Christmas presents!

340g plain flour
¼ teaspoon salt
225g unsalted butter
140g caster sugar
2 tablespoons rosemary

1.Sift the flour with the salt

2.In a mixer, beat the sugar and butter together until smooth and creamy

3.With the mixer on it's lowest setting, add the rosemary and flour and mix until the dough comes together

4.Shape the dough into a ball and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes

5.Pre heat the oven to 180ÂșC/Gas Mark 4

6.Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of 5-7mm

7.Stamp out the biscuits with a holly shaped cutter and transfer to a lightly buttered baking tray. Prick each biscuit with a fork and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden

8.Leave the biscuits to cool for 10 minutes until firm and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely

Monday, 24 November 2008

The Wassail Song

The choir I sing with are going to be performing the "Wassail Song" - which is possibly my new favourite Christmas Carol .... here are the lyrics and a link to another choir singing it!  Rather than celebrating the nativity, this carol is about New Year festivities!  I love it!
"Wassail! Wassail! all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown;
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree;
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee.

Here's to our horse, and to his right ear,
God send our master a happy New Year:
A happy New Year as e'er he did see,
With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

So here is to Cherry and to his right cheek
Pray God send our master a good piece of beef
And a good piece of beef that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee.

Here's to our mare, and to her right eye,
God send our mistress a good Christmas pie;
A good Christmas pie as e'er I did see,
With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

So here is to Broad Mary and to her broad horn
May God send our master a good crop of corn
And a good crop of corn that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee.

And here is to Fillpail and to her left ear
Pray God send our master a happy New Year
And a happy New Year as e'er he did see
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee.

Here's to our cow, and to her long tail,
God send our master us never may fail
Of a cup of good beer: I pray you draw near,
And our jolly wassail it's then you shall hear.

Come butler, come fill us a bowl of the best
Then we hope that your soul in heaven may rest
But if you do draw us a bowl of the small
Then down shall go butler, bowl and all.

Be here any maids? I suppose here be some;
Sure they will not let young men stand on the cold stone!
Sing hey O, maids! come trole back the pin,
And the fairest maid in the house let us all in.

Then here's to the maid in the lily white smock
Who tripped to the door and slipped back the lock
Who tripped to the door and pulled back the pin
For to let these jolly wassailers in".

Thursday, 20 November 2008

A Splendid Afternoon in London

It has turned into a bit of a tradition.  Every November/December, me & a friend take a half day off work and do something "Splendid" past years we have had cocktails at Claridges, afternoon tea at The Ritz, very posh martini's at "Duke's Bar" .... this year we went to "The Last Debutantes" exhibition at Kensington Palace followed by tea & cake at Fortnum & Mason's and followed by cheese and champagne at the Plum Brewery!

We had a lovely day! I would like to think that if I had turned 17 in 1958, I would have been presented to the Queen, had a wonderful blue dress (as recommended in Tatler) and had a diary FULL of social engagements.  Mr Plum would have been a dashing "Debs Delight" waiting to meet me at some cocktail party, informal luncheon or at home!  

Fortnum & Mason's was decked out in all its Christmas finery ... we had a lovely pot of tea and piece of Victoria Sponge cake ... then headed home (via the M&S 20 % off day!) to consume lovely champagne and cheese.  A lovely day ... unfortunately it is Thursday and tomorrow I have to get up and go to work .... but the "other" me will be out and about in town, going to exhibitions and taking tea in splendid places .....

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Oh So French!

While on holiday in France earlier this year, I found a lovely little shop selling vintage style French goods... we bought a lovely milk bottle and some pretty napkins.  What a shock then, to walk into "Oh So French" in Cowbridge on Saturday, and find an identical shop.  Have a look at their website - they stock lots of lovely bits and pieces .... 

Monday, 17 November 2008

Kitchen Project - Cabinet Transformation: Part 2

I thought this was going to be easy-peasy!

Anyway ... cabinet is now painted (and re-painted by Mr Plum to a much more professional standard!) 

Lovely Cath Kidston "Chicken" oilcloth has been purchased!

Sewing machine has been brought out of 
hibernation ....

But (arghhhhh!) I have had a nightmare trying to thread the machine - thankfully that has been sorted out now.  Then I tried to sew the oilcloth and the needle was skimming over the material and getting all tangled ..... hmmm

I'm hoping that by discovering an ancient blog which hasn't updated in a while may have solved my problems and I can get on with finishing the cabinet.

Thanks, in advance, Sew, Mama, Sew!   Fingers crossed and the third part of this saga will be the finished product!

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Lovely Cupcakes!

I have a friend who is a pastry chef ... here are some of her cupcakes ... yum! I love this photo so much, I couldn't resist putting it on here!

I am stocking up with muffin cases and pretty decorations for my cupcakes ... which I will be making very soon!

Friday, 14 November 2008

M4 Playlist

After a particularly bad and busy day at work, me and Mr Plum headed off to Wales for the weekend on the National Express bus ... to visit some dear friends who have escaped London!

The fact that I had had a bad day (why do I have to go to work anyway?), was sitting by the heater on a packed bus with a really loud woman behind me on the phone and we seemed to be stuck in traffic for hours, inspired this playlist:

From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea - The Cure
Truth Rest Your Head - Gene
Time - Marion
To You I Bestow - Mundy
Always: Your Way - My Vitriol
Today - Smashing Pumpkins
How Soon Is Now? - The Smiths
My Dark Star - Suede
Tear In Your Hand - Tori Amos
Comes As No Surprise - Mansun
Dirty Davey - The Levellers
Lipgloss - Pulp
Every You and Every Me - Placebo
Play Dead - Bjork
The Only Living Boy in New Cross - Carter USM
Round Here - Counting Crows
Life On Mars? - David Bowie
Only Happy When It Rains - Garbage
A Girl Like You - Edwin Collins
Life Forever - Oasis
Single Girl - Lush
Great Things - Echobelly

These are lots of my favourite songs and mainly stuff that I listened too non-stop while at University in Wales ... it got me through a boring bus journey!

Sunday, 9 November 2008


Whilst browsing through lots of different crafty type blogs, I have often stumbled across "swaps". These can be homemade goods, recipes, buttons ... the list is endless! I have often been tempted to join in - but more often than not, I have missed the deadline or the swaps are "closed" ... 

Today I have joined two swaps! (This may have been a bit ambitious, but heh? I think I am harking back to my days as an avid penpal!) ....

My first is a "Yummy Recipe Swap" - I need to send
* 1 handmade decorated recipe card
* 1 handmade, sewn, felted, crocheted, or knitted food or handmade or any crafted kitchen item or 1 book , cookbook , fiction, non-fiction [related to theme] [Christmas]
* 1 ingredient from the recipe

My second is a "Christmas Swap" - for this one, I need to send
Either a handmade Christmas ornament or a handmade Christmas gift, a seasonal recipe and a little extra surprise

I'll let you know how I get on!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

The Hurly Burly Show!

Imagine this .... 

A friend says to me "some girls from work are going to see the Hurly Burly Show - do you want to come?"
I say "who are the Hurly Burly Girls?"
My friend says "oh, they are a Burlesque Cabaret group ..."
I say "oh - strippers, then?"
My friend says " yes, but it's all very tasteful..."

So, on Thursday night I went to the Hurly Burly Show at the Leicester Square Theatre ... I didn't really know what to expect.  I had watched a clip of the HB girls on the Alan Titchmarsh show ... so assumed that it wouldn't be that shocking .... 

We turned up at the theatre after a few champagne cocktails and a lovely curry ... and were surrounded by London's 40's/Burlesque scene ... girls with fantastic hair do's, full 40's outfits, hats, men in drag .... all this on a Thursday night! How exciting!  

We collected our free drink and took our seats ... Mr Dusty Limits (the compere) took the stage ... very camp and very funny .... "Please welcome to the stage Miss Polly Rae and her Hurly Burly Girls!!!!" .... the audience went mad (incidentally there were more women in the audience - including the fabulous Marcella Puppini of the Puppini Sisters!) .... 

The girls came on all corseted and did a brilliant dance routine, with Polly Rae singing ... it was great!  In fact the first half of the show was excellent....fab costumes, music (Glen Miller's "In The Mood", Benny Goodman's "Sing Sing Sing" [the soundtrack to Victoria Plum's life] ... comedy .... the odd glove, scarf and skirt being removed ... 

The second half was much more risque with more items of clothing being removed ... more tassels, bosoms and bottoms .... the artiness of the first half was lost, with the emphasis being on lots of shimmying their tasselled bosoms! 
I don't think I would rush back to an evening like this!  Although, it was fun to go to a cabaret night like this ... Miss Polly Rae spoke on the Alan Titchmarsh show about the HB Girls being about female empowerment ... but in the end, the girls were just stripping ... would there be a need for strippers if men weren't prepared to pay for them? I'm not sure how empowering it is, really ......... 

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Cupcake Magic!

I have a new recipe book to try out ... it's called "Cupcake Magic" and is written by Kate Shirazi, the owner of Cakeadoodledo.  The cupcakes look divine ... I will be making some this weekend!

Which Jane Austen Heroine Are You?

I am Elinor Dashwood!

Take the Quiz here!

With thanks to Greedy Nan!

Sunday, 2 November 2008


In anticipation of the Spring (!) I have just ordered my seeds for next year - how exciting!  I have spent ages looking through Alan Titchmarsh's "The Kitchen Gardener" (a birthday present from Mr Plum) and "The Greenhouse Expert" and have chosen the following to be planted next year:

Tomatoes (4 different varieties!)

Petty Pan Squash

No Daddy Long Legs This Year? Hurray!

I'm just sitting in my bedroom with the window open and the light on ... and all of a sudden I thought "eek - better close the window or I will be inundated with Daddy Long Legs (ewwwww!)" ... and then I thought "but it's November, surely it's far too late and cold for the little blighters now, isn't it?"  And then I realised that I haven't been tormented by any Daddy Long Legs at all this year ... they used to be a constant pain during the autumn months ... Mr Plum thinks that this is a pointless post and doesn't make sense, but I was just thinking .........

Lovely Lavender!

This morning I finally got around to picking the remaining flowers on my lavender plant.  I have managed to get a good sized bunch, which is now hanging in my kitchen to dry, before I make scented sachets for my drawers!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Plum's On Tour - Paris

We recently went to Paris with my wonderful family for the weekend, to celebrate Mummy Plum's was lovely! The weekend was taken up with sight-seeing and eating - what more could you want?

One of the highlights was a trip to Mariage Freres a beautiful tea shop just off the Rue du Rivoli. Mariage Freres are the creators of the delicious Marco Polo jelly - served in Claridges with their afternoon tea.  We could have spent hours in the shop looking at the teas, jellies, chocolates .... it was lovely and old worldy!  We were very restrained and got some Marco Polo jelly and tea and some special Christmas tea and jelly ... which will be saved until Christmas of course!  

Have a look at the Mariage Freres website ... it has a very interesting "history of tea" and apparently the French drink on average, 100 cups a year ... I get through that amount a week!!

Don't think we can wait to taste the Marco Polo jelly, I'm off to bake some scones!!!

Friday, 31 October 2008

The Wheel of the Year - Hallowe'en or Samhain

As the wheel of the Year turns and the days of Autumn are upon us, the greatest feast of the Pagan Calander, Samhain or New Year’s draws ever closer. Once the apex of social events - the great feast that would warm in memory throughout the bitter winter, the last chance to see the family, including one’s ancestors, before the dark days fell upon the land – this solemn and spiritual event has become perhaps the trashiest modern festival around. The pollution and corruption of this feast by both Christianity and Commercialism is breathtaking in its scope. Whereas other pagan feasts were adopted and adapted, Oestara becoming Easter, Yule evolving into Christmas, “Halloween” not only hi-jacks the deepest held beliefs and practices of our Pagan ancestors, but manages to insult the very culture it has purloined. Not content with parodying elements of ancient ritual such as the Dead Feast, or divination, (monkey nuts and throwing an apple-peel over one’s shoulder in modern parlance), mainstream churches have ensured many people think the origins of Halloween lie in a form of devil worship. Rather annoying for a culture that didn’t believe in a Devil, but certainly telling us more about Christianity and other orthodoxies than about our pagan past!

Its true name is Samhain: it is the feast of the Dead in the Celtic Calendar. On this night the veils between the worlds are lowered and not only can a dedicated person seek advice from the Other-worlds but the dead ancestors can reach out to the living.

Samhain marks several things. As with all Celtic pagan feasts it marks a point on the wheel of the year, in this case the end of the year, and beginning of the New Year. This date, obviously, was a great occasion in Celtic society. In this sense alone, one would the progress of the year; the death of the world which will (they all devoutly hoped) be reborn in Spring. This view of the world was enshrined in sagas and in folktales, in stories about the mother god giving birth to the son, who dies and then is reborn (concept carried on in many cultures and for many generations! ) or in the two lovers who are separated by foul means, by death or magic.

Samhain was the period of the year when the livestock which would not make it through the winter was marked out and slaughtered, to be feasted on and to be dried out as provision for the long dark months ahead. This, coupled with the sense of the world going underground for the winter, led to this feast being a feast uniquely concerned with death and the spirit world. At this time, the veils between the world of living and dead were felt to be very flimsy and our ancestors instinctively realized that the spirits, and ancestors, were close at hand.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Limoncello - Part 2

As 40 days have passed (well, just over 40!), it's time for part two of the recipe!  I have boiled up 625ml water and 500g caster sugar and am leaving it to cool to room temperature.  Once the sugar syrup has cooled I will add it to the jar of vodka and lemon zest and put back in a cool, dark place for another 40 days ... 

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Kitchen Project - Cabinet Transformation! Part 1

We have been busy in the kitchen today - making a start on finishing the little bits of decorating we have left to do ... the little bits we started back in January ... oh yes, 10 months ago!!

Mr Plum was busy putting edging on the work top, finishing laying the floor, putting a nifty piece of wood on the step into the bathroom (a bit difficult to describe on here - but looks great!) and putting a new light in.  I made a start on transforming the "cube", and painting shelves and window sills. 

We are nearly there - our aim is to get it completely finished by Christmas! 

My main project today was "cube" - Mr Plum's pride and joy - but far too '80's for my liking - and it no longer fits into our lovely kitchen.  

Here is the cube - before it got the Plum treatment!  

I have painted the cube with a nice white gloss to match the other bits of furniture in the kitchen.  I had planned to use a "grainer" tool on it - but that didn't work!

My next job will be to make little curtains for the open shelves on the cube.  I have been looking on the Cath Kidston website for inspiration and have found some nice pieces of oil cloth with pretty vintage patterns.  I have sent off for samples - here is my favourite:
but it really depends on how much I will need as typically it is quite pricey

The Good Reads Website

While sitting in bed, gearing myself up to paint the cabinet in the kitchen...I came across a website called "Good Reads".  I have added a link to my blog with recently read books, and the book I am currently reading (a bit trashy ... more of a beach holiday read - but I am trying not to rush through my Maisie D books!).  I think I am turning into an internet geek, so I had better get on with the painting! 

"Pardonable Lies" by Jacqueline Winspear

This is the third book in the Maisie Dobbs series, and again, is an absolute page turner!  Maisie is asked to investigate two cases which take her back to the battle fields of France, threats to her life and unscrupulous mystics.  I wish they would make these books into a tv series or film - I think that we are in need of a sassy 1930's female detective on our screens!!

Saturday, 18 October 2008

To heat or not to heat? That is the question....

As it starts to get cooler (definitely time for hat and scarf!) I am having to think about heating my greenhouse.  Having had a look at the Grow Fruit and Veg forum - I'm not sure whether it will be cost effective for me to heat the greenhouse (I'm also worried about it melting or catching fire overnight...) over the winter.  I have got a few seedlings in there at the moment, but am not planning to fill it up with lots of plants until the Spring ... when (hopefully!) that big yellow disc in the sky that the old folk talk about makes a reappearance! 

Fellow greenhouse owners are spending on average £12 a week on paraffin to heat their greenhouse - which (much as I hate to admit it) is more than I would spend each week on fruit and veg from the supermarket .....

I think that my pennies would be better spent on decent staging for the greenhouse, ready for the invasion of the seed propagators next year!