Sunday, 31 August 2008

The Edge of Love

"The Edge of Love" is a film about the lives and inter-woven relationships of Dylan & Caitlin Thomas and Vera & Matthew Killick.  

The use of contemporary clips of war-time London helped evoke the period - the sets and costumes were all wonderful.  I had read that (cue deep American cinema voice) "if you liked Atonement - you will love The Edge of Love" - and I did! 

I loved the dresses and wellies that the girls wore when they were in Wales!
It was a beautiful film - although I have to admit that it left me feeling a bit downhearted.  

This is the second time that I have seen a film starring Keira Knightley where I hate to admit it, but she was actually very good.  She looked every bit the 1940's singer - and was surprised to find out that she did all her own singing!  I think that having to concentrate on her Welsh accent didn't give her a chance to do her usual poute! Thank goodness!  Some of Keira's costumes were actually based upon the real dresses worn by Vera at the time.  They are currently on show in an exhibition in Swansea.

I feel that I should know more about Dylan Thomas - having lived in West Wales for 3 years ... it turns out that Mr Plum actually lived on one of the pubs where Thomas would stay when visiting Lampeter!  Apparently the film is a good portrayal of Dylan Thomas and I left the cinema completely disliking him! 

Friday, 29 August 2008

The People's Prom – Folk Day July 2008

I belong to a local choir, and towards the end of the last term our social secretary bought in a pile of leaflets advertising the first ever BBC Folk Proms. The Folk Proms was held in Kensington Gardens and had various bands, morris dancing, maypoles, story telling and the Family Chorus.

To reserve a space on the chorus you just needed to send an email – so I did this straight away and then happily turned up at 10am on the Sunday morning ready to sing! There were about 500 people of all ages, in the chorus. We sang a selection of nautical themed folk songs, finishing with the beautiful Skye Boat Song. You can have a listen here if you want!

I'm hoping that they will have another next year – hopefully I can convince some friends to come along with me for a great day singing in the Proms!

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Green Peppers!

Picked four green peppers today! They didn't seem to be getting any bigger so thought I would pick them today rather than leave them for those pesky slugs....

Monday, 25 August 2008

The Cotswold Way Part 1 - Chipping Camden to Broadway - 6 miles

This was the first leg of The Cotswold Way – a national trail of about 100 miles stretching from Chipping Camden to Bristol.

I won't go into huge detail about the actual route of the walk – if you want to do the trail yourself, there are plenty of websites where you can download maps, routes etc. Here are some points of interest I spotted on the walk.

Dovers Hill
This was the site of many family picnics and adventures when I was younger.  This is also the venue for the Olimpick Games!

Meon Hill
Legend has it that the Devil stood on top of the hill and kicked a boulder towards Evesham Abbey. There are lots of local tales and legends about this hill.

We did the walk on the first hot and sunny day for what seems like months! This was good as it meant that the farmers could get out and finish the harvest.  

Another venue for family picnics and birthday parties. We stopped here for a lovely ploughman's, cup of tea and glass of locally produced apple juice!

Broadway itself was much prettier than I remembered – but of course as this was August Holiday - and sunny, it was full of tourists! Unfortunately (although, fortunate for my bank balance) my walking boots meant that I was not able to go inside any of the lovely shops there!

The walk took us about 3 hours, at a leisurely pace. The walk from Chipping Camden to Dovers Hill is quite steep, but the rest of the walk is quite even until the walk down hill into Broadway.

Gardening Tip Number 1 – What shall I do with my vegetables while away for a long weekend? How will I water them while Master Plum is away at a music

When going away for a long weekend you can stop worrying about plants in pots drying out by filling a plastic bottle with water and making a small hole in the top. Insert the bottle into your plant pot and the water will gradually leak out and water the plant.

I haven't actually tried this tip yet, and read it in Mummy Plum's “Country Living” magazine yesterday. I am currently away for a long weekend and wondering what has become of my peppers in the greenhouse......

Sunday, 24 August 2008

“Burning Bright” Tracy Chevalier

“London 1792.  The Kellaways move from rural Dorset to the tumult of a cramped, unforgiving city.  They are leaving behind a terrible loss, a blow that only a completely new life may soften.”

Like Chevalier's other historical novels, this is a good quick summer read.  I found the characters a bit one dimensional and didn't really warm to any of them until the end of the book and Maisie Kellaway's return to Dorset.  The principle characters are Jem Kellaway and Maggie Butterfield and the story follows their journey from innocence to experience – a theme pursued by William Blake.

The story is set in Lambeth with the newly arrived Kellaway family, who had moved there from Dorset following a family tragedy  Their neighbour is the radical William Blake, which gives Chevalier opportunity to quote from his work and hence the title of the book “Burning Bright”.  

To emphasise the origins of the Kellaways, Chevalier uses colloquialisms in their dialogue – which I found annoying – “thank'ee for the beer” and “z'long” all the way through the book. This wasn't necessary and anyone reading the book could quite easily imagine the accents without it being written down!

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Homegrown Courgette and Mint Risotto

Serves 2 hungry people!

Low fat spray
3 homegrown courgettes
1/2 onion - chopped finely
175g risotto rice
splash of white wine
1/2 litre of good vegetable stock
60g Parmesan 
handful of mint from the garden- chopped

1.  Fry the courgettes in the low fat spray for about 5 minutes until soft.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

2.  Wipe the pan and spray again with oil.  Fry the onion for 3-4 minutes until soft.  Add the rice and stir to coat it in the onion mixture.  Pour in the wine and cook for about 1-2 minutes until the liquid has evaporated.

3.  Start adding the stock a bit at a time until the stock has been incorporated.  This will take about 20 minutes to cook.  Test a grain of rice between your fingertips - it should be tender by still firm in the centre.

4.  Stir in the courgettes and mint and 3 tablespoons of the cheese, add pepper to taste.

5.  Serve with a green salad and the rest of the cheese sprinkled on top.

6.  Eat!!!

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

My first Courgette!

What a lovely surprise!

We have been away for 5 days, leaving my brother in charge of watering the veg ... I had visions of coming back to a wasteland - but no! On Saturday morning I went outside to inspect the veg and I spotted a huge courgette! I think that I could have left it a bit longer and it could have grown even bigger ... at the moment it is "supermarket size".... I can't wait to cook it!

Tomatoes are still green though .....

Tea and Cakes

I am a big fan of tea and cakes ... whether it is a cup of tea and a chocolate brownie at Mrs Brown's Tea Shop, a piece of my own chocolate cake or something a bit flashier in London - I love it all!!

My most recent afternoon tea jaunt was to The Atheneaum on Piccadilly for a friends birthday. They were serving the "Petals and Pekoe" afternoon tea - so after the sandwiches and pink champagne (I pre-ordered vegetarian sandwiches which were all fantastic!) we had lovely scones, a piece of lemon and poppy seed cake, a beautiful fairy cake with a pansy on top, marshmallows, crumpets and toasted tea cake! Washed down with lots and lots of tea.  The perfect way to spend a day....

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Not a good year for tomatoes?

According to Mr Plum's uncle - this year has not been a good year for tomatoes ... could this be why my crop is still green?

I have moved all the plants out of the greenhouse and on to the patio to encourage ripening .... I thought that maybe the potato barrel was blocking out all the sunlight.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Mr Plum the Home-Brewer

Mr Plum likes his homebrew.

The first batch of Yorkshire Bitter was lovely! It made a very nice shandy ... unfortunately we drank it far too quickly!! 

Mr Plum's second batch of home brew went slightly wrong and exploded over him last night.

While in York we visited the York Brewery ... Mr Plum got himself a "Yorkshire Terrier" home brew kit ... we also had a tasting tray of 4 Yorkshire Brewery ales ... they were very nice!  Mr Plum's best friend also gave him another Yorkshire Bitter homebrew kit - so that will keep him busy for a while!

While Mr Plum is making his home brew .. I'm looking forward to this years batch of Spicy Sloe Gin and Limoncello!   The Plum Brewery is going to be busy this autumn...

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Prize-winning pumpkin continued...

It's still growing ....... (look at the state of the lawn...Mr Plum!)

Joules - Living the Good Life

I am so excited!

While up North, Mr Plum dragged me to the York Designer Outlet to buy new himself a new suit ... while waiting for Mr Plum to pay for his suit, I wandered off to have a look at other shops.   I had already spotted people walking round with lovely looking bags 

"hmmm..." I thought "what is inside those lovely looking bags....."

I carried on walking, and around the corner I saw the most fantastic looking shop called "Joules". Have a look at the website .. the clothes are lovely (and perfect for the British summer!).  I liked the classic look to the clothes - I have bought a couple of skirts, tops (and as I am now addicted to the website - another skirt and a dress!) all in their sale! Hurrah! I feel that it is worth investing in classic clothes as even if I don't get to wear them this summer - I can always wear them next year (when I have managed to shed the "yorkshire pounds!") 

The website also has an area called "The Joules Village" ... with hints and tips for making lovely home made things .... 

It's always good to find your new favourite shop (and they sell gift vouchers, Mr Plum...Mr Plum?) 

Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms, York

Mr Plum and I recently spent 5 days in Yorkshire, house and Nanna sitting, while the in-laws were on holiday in Devon.

There are certain things that we must do while up North, these include:

1.  Visiting relatives
2.  Visiting friends
3.  Go to York and visit Bettys!!!!

York is a beautiful city - full of lovely little streets and quaint shops.  I lived there for 18 months (1999-2001) and have done lots of the tourist stuff (Jorvik, Castle Museum, the York Dungeon, Shambles etc!) .... 

Whenever we get to go back to York now, we head straight for Bettys Tea Shop! This is the most amazing place - and we never grow tired of a piece of tea loaf, stem ginger cake, pikelets, pot of tea ... 

We had found out that by the Ladies there is a mirror. During the Second World War, Canadian Airmen who were stationed outside York would visit Bettys Bar regularly - so regular in fact, that when the MOD wrote to Bettys threatening to requisition the building for the war effort - Bettys wrote back and said that there was no way the MOD could requisition the building as they were currently serving 20,000 meals a week - mostly to the airmen!  Anyway, on this mirror - the airmen have all signed their names ... a cursory glance at the mirror, and you would think that it was just graffiti ... until you look at the dates on the glass (1941).  The most poignant thing about this is that Mr Plum's Nanna was in the Land Army and based outside York ... she used to go to dances at Bettys with her Canadian Airman ......

I would recommend a visit to Bettys - don't be put off by the long queue ... it is well worth the wait! Have a look at the mirror - it is downstairs to the right of the ladies toilet!

Monday, 11 August 2008

Prize-winning pumpkin?

I am concerned about my pumpkins....

My greenhouse is jam-packed with veg (which I hope will not die while I am on holiday ... I have left my brother at home to look after it all!) ... and I have 3 pumpkins growing in a flower bed at the back of the garden.  When I planted my first pumpkin by the door to the green house I had no idea that it would grow a massive stem right across the door - obstructing the way into the greenhouse! I am also worried that this stem will keep growing ... and growing ... and will be right across the garden and making it's way through my bedroom window by the time I get back home .... hmmm.

This pumpkin has done particularly well as we planted it in a compost rich soil ... the other 2 are growing, but at a much slower rate (there was not as much compost in this part of the garden).

No veg on the plants yet ... but I am hopeful that I will get at least one lovely pumpkin ... and 3 if I am really lucky!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Yeehah! Wild West Party

Last night we had our long awaited "Wild West" themed all went brilliantly and was great fun! We had put lots of effort into turning our kitchen into a saloon bar, complete with 'Wanted' posters, cacti, and signs to the 'goldmine' and prairie!  Everyone turned up in costume and we hope they all enjoyed it!  

My brother had bought a games consul with karaoke - so that added to the evening! I do love to have a good sing!

We served up bbq food and nachos (and lots of beer!)  I made some lovely chocolate orange brownies - here's the recipe (thank you Jamie Oliver!)

Bloomin Brilliant Brownies
250g unsalted butter
200g dark choc
80g cocoa powder
65g plain flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
360g caster sugar
4 large eggs
optional: zest of 1 orange

1.  Melt the choc and butter over a pan of simmering water
2.  Mix the flour, cocoa, baking powder and sugar in  a large bowl.
3.  Mix in the melted choc and butter - beat well.
4.  Add the eggs and orange zest - beat again
5.  Pour into a baking tray and cook for about 25 mins at gas mark 4.
6.  Eat ... yum yum yum!

Friday, 8 August 2008

The Great British Beer Festival

As Mr Plum is such a fan of real ale and homebrew, we went to the Great British Beer Festival at Earls Court last night!  It was great! You paid £3 for a glass at the beginning of the evening and kept this with you all night.  You could buy your beer in pints, halves or thirds - which was good as it meant we got to try lots of different kinds of beers - without feeling too drunk!

My favourites were the pale ales ... especially the German weiss biers ... unfortunately all the fruity beers were sold out.

I think we will be joining CAMRA very soon .... when's the next beer festival?

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

The Innocent Village Fete

Me and Mr Plum went to the Innocent Fete in Regents Park on Sunday.  Having grown up in a small village where the yearly fete was one of the highlights of the social calendar, I thought that an afternoon of morris dancing, welly wanging and tea and cakes would be the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon in August.

I wasn't disappointed! It was great!  Okay ... so the rain was a bit annoying, and I tried my hardest to ignore the commercial aspect of the whole day ... I would have liked to have seen more bands but we could only just squeeze ourselves into the "Hay Barn" to watch the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (lots of people were just using the tent as shelter and were just sitting around chatting and missing the music!)

It was nice to get some lovely veggie food (not too overpriced, considering...), wander around the crafty stalls (lots of ideas ... please see future posts!), buy some plants, get ideas for living more ecologically ... oh, and have free tea and cakes at the Yorkshire Tea tent!  That was Mr Plum's favourite bit! 

I will definitely be going back next year!!

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Waiting for the harvest

Tonight, while out in my greenhouse giving the veg a good water, I thought I would start my very own blog - which I have wanted to do for ages! My interests are all things crafty ... growing veg, making stuff ... and dreaming of chickens running round the garden (for their eggs ...)

Are you sick of modern life?

Do you yearn for the days when life was simpler?

So do I .. although I was only born in the 70's! 

I finally got a garden of my own last summer...and my greenhouse earlier this year!  My crop this year includes tomatoes, courgettes, cucumbers, peppers, beetroot, pumpkins, butternut squash, rocket, spring onions, potatoes, peas and cabbages!  Keep reading to find out how they progress!