Saturday, 8 February 2014

Keeping dry and a visit to Wisley Gardens

What a very wet and windy January we have had - and February looks like being the same.

The side and end of the garden has been under water for most of the time, although when we have had a couple of rain-free days it has drained away fairly quickly.   But the ground is very very wet, and not good to work on.  I did get out last Sunday and cut back a few shrubs, but other jobs will need to wait until the ground is less sodden.  We are so glad the Council cleared out the land drain outside our property two years ago.  Goodness knows what things would have been like had it not been done.


 The path to the garage and vegetable garden is also flooded, as is the small sitting area beside one of the greenhouses.   Water has also gone into the greenhouse, which  makes for very damp conditions inside.   I do have the door open each and every day, even if only for an hour or so, which helps to move the air around.

The hose you can see beside the wet path is from a pump which we have in our small pond.   For the past several years it has overflowed each winter when it rains and has to be pumped to keep the water level down and the fish inside.   We have decided, very reluctantly, that next summer we will have to fill in the pond and give our fish away.   It is such a shame as we love our pond and the fish, but it is becoming  a constant battle now to keep the pump on each winter to keep the fish from swimming away.

Despite the wind and rain, there are signs of spring.  These snowdrops have been out for about ten days, and there are also daffodils peeping through.  

A couple of weeks ago, on a calm and sunny day, Brian and I decided on a whim to visit Wisley Gardens. We are only about a twenty minute drive away.  Brian wanted to try out his new camera and I wanted to take pictures of trees, my project for the U3A Camera Group.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Christmas over

It's been a while, I know, since I was last here but over Christmas life just go so busy and a bit complicated.

I went to stay with a cousin for a few days following her hip replacement, which meant I had to be super efficient (!) and get everything ready for Christmas that needed to be got ready.   Cards were written, envelopes labelled and stamped and then posted, together with the gifts that needed to be posted.

Brian and I went away to a hotel for Christmas - the first time we have done this. The drive down to Bournemouth, on the south coast, was a bit scary.  The rain was so heavy and the wind was blowing the car sideways, but we got there in one piece.  The hotel was nice, and they did their very best to instil a sense of festivity, but it was not the same for me.  I enjoyed the walks along the front, and it all made a great change.   I missed the children and grandchildren, although we did make up for it the following weekend when we went for lunch with them and exchanged our gifts then.  This all made for a long Christmas.

Since New Year, I have been very busy with memberships coming in for the Society that I am membership Secretary of  (  A lot of memberships are paid by PayPal, but a lot by cheques in the post.  And now we are using Direct Debits, so that is another thing I have had to learn and administer.

Yesterday I  drove to the other side of London to visit an old school friend of mine - we have known each other since we were six years old.  She is not well now, suffers with MS and has just had a mastectomy. ut I found her cheerful and getting on with life.  She had her sewing machine out and had been altering her bedspread to fit her new bed.     She is an inspiration..

Saturday, 14 December 2013

An unexpected visit to the Theatre.

I am not now going to stay with my cousin following her hip replacement.  She had longer in hospital than anticipated, and is doing really well.   As it is so near to the weekend she has her daughter visiting.  I am going up next Tuesday to stay a couple of nights.

Brian had spotted that our local amateur theatre in Guildford - The Electric Theatre - has an intriguingly titled play on this week - The Locked Room.  Hearing I was not going to be away this week he promptly got us tickets and off we went on Friday evening. The play was very well acted and we enjoyed it immensely.

The Electric Theatre in Guildford
Photograph from the Electric Theatre website
Written by a local lady, this was her first full length play.  The story was about an ageing actress from Cornwall, and took place in the 1950's and the 1970's.  The actress had had an illegitimate baby which was adopted at birth.  Her young wardrobe lady was also from Cornwall, the same age as the illegitimate baby was, and thought that she was the actresses long lost daughter.   The story ends with the actress in a nursing home, when 'all is revealed'.  It certainly had me guessing and surprised.

Why is the theatre named 'Th Electric Theatre'?  It has been built from part of the old local Electric Company site.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Surely it's not December?

Is it really December - and the 11th already?  Where has this month gone?

The soup maker that Brian bought and I wrote about last is a huge success.   I can really recommend anyone to get one.  In go the ingredients with cold stock (or cold water and a stock cube) and 20 to 25 minutes later - voilà - hot creamy smooth soup.  If you want chunky - no problem.  Just set to the chunky setting and when finished purée until your desired consistency is reached.  Nothing could be simpler.  So far we have had the leek and potato soup, tomato and pepper, and this week broccoli and blue cheese.    We find that each recipe makes enough to last the two of use for three days.

I went to Wisley for the day last week with a friend - we had a lovely walk round the gardens.  The gardens, as usual looked lovely with the trees changing colour.

It was very windy, as you can see from the grasses blowing sideways, and it was a relief to spend quite a time in the new glasshouse.  The staff were putting up Christmas Decoration s, so some parts were 'out of bounds' .  We were very impressed with the poinsettia Christmas Trees

Because I am waiting to go up and stay with my cousin for a few days when she comes out of hospital after her hip replacement last Friday, I have been trying to get ahead with my Christmas preparations.  Not that I have many because we are going to stay at an hotel for the festivities, but we have cards to write and post, and presents to buy and wrap.  I am still trying to decide whether to put up our small artificial Christmas Tree or not.   I probably will, as it won't seem like Christmas without the tree twinkling in the window.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Tomato soup

Last weekend Brian came home with a bag of ripe tomatoes, a large bag of ripe tomatoes.  Can you make soup with them? he asked.  Well, I told him, I can, but it's a very fiddly job.  At which he got all huffy, and said, don't bother then.  So, to prove how fiddly I set to on Monday morning. First I had to blanch the tomatoes and remove the skins.  Then cut the tomatoes in half and remove the pips.  I did a couple, but was just too fiddly so left them in, but did cut the fruit into halves.

An onion was chopped and gently fried in a large pan, the tomatoes added, and all cooked together until soft. Stock was added and all cooked until soft.  Cooled slightly and then put into my new food processor and processed.  To remove the seeds I put the soup through a fine sieve (which took an age to do) and put the resulting liquid back into the pan and added  tomato purée and sugar.  I heated it all through again to make sure the sugar and tomato purée were incorporated. 

Two hours later I had finished the washing up and we had soup for six.  

Brian had to agree, it is a fiddly and time consuming task making tomato soup, but we both agreed it was very very good.

But, because of the time taken, not forgetting the fuel consumption, Brian decided we need a soup maker and set off for town to buy one - he had a store voucher, and it was on offer in a pre-Christmas sale, so it was a bargain.

We have yet to use it, since we only finished the soup today.  Hopefully I will make some tomorrow and I will let you know how I get on.  

Monday, 25 November 2013

Last Year's Christmas present

Last Christmas our eldest son and his partner gave us a gift voucher for tickets to a play at our local Yvonne Arnaud Theatre - our choice of whatever we wanted.   As we did in a previous year, we dillied and dallied, or were too busy to book anything up.   But we decided we really must use up the voucher so a month ago we booked to see September in the Rain.  Mind you driving there in really heavy rain we wondered if the name would be changed to November in the Rain.

September in the Rain is a comedy which relates the story of a Yorkshire couples marriage spanning 40 years through their annual holiday each year in Blackpool each September where it invariably rained.Just two characters in the play which took place on the front at Blackpool. It was both poignant and funny, and the two actors (Claire Sweeney and John Thompson) brought back memories of holidays at the seaside in years gone by.   Very cleverly acted. 

The above photographs by Robert Day and from the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre website

The Blue jug is just about being filled with flowers from the garden - for the last two weeks, Fuchsia Genii flowering in a sheltered spot by one of the greenhouses and a yellow Buddleia.  We have night frosts forecast, so I'm not sure there will be many more flowers.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Birthday baking

We have a lot of birthdays in the family this month. Three in Brian's brothers family and three in ours, plus my friend has a birthday today.

Granddaughter Emily starts the birthday season on the 11th, her father and our oldest son, Matthew,has a birthday on the 19th and his oldest daughter Jessica is on the 24th

To celebrate the birthdays I made a cake because I knew they would be calling  this afternoon. A carrot cake was requested by Brian.  

Going back three months to the end of August and my birthday, I was delighted to receive a new Kenwood food processor to replace the very old Braun I had owned for about twenty five years.  There was no cookery book with the processor, so I searched Amazon for a basic book.  I came across one by the well known Mary Berry, which was highly recommended. It's out of print now, and a hardback copy will set you back £190!    But there was a used paperback edition for sale at a very reasonable £3 odd, and I ordered it straight way.  It arrived within a day or so, and I have to say, it is just what I wanted. Basic simple recipes.

The carrot cake recipe came from this book.  It was a doddle to prepare in the processor, as was the topping. 

The cake was  huge success with everyone, and will certainly be one I will make again.  Sorry no picture of the cake before it was cut, but you can see there is not much left.