Six on Saturday 23rd May

Here we are on Saturday again. I seem to be punctuating my weeks in Groundhog Day fashion, and this is the only way I know what day it is! If the good R.P speakers of the BBC are reminding me to go and clap at the door, it must be Thursday. If an email from the Propagator (check out his blog for more Sixes) arrives in my inbox, more likely than not, it’s Saturday and time to find photos and luckily I keep that in my mind long enough to video call our friends on Sunday evening to take part in our weekly quiz.

Anyway, the email arrived this morning so here I am again with the latest update from our garden aka our lockdown sanctuary. This week we’ve certainly been making the most of it. We’ve managed to almost break the swingball through, probably, too vigorous whacking of the ball (and so far replacement parts seem unobtainable so we may have to improvise) and we’ve introduced lots more colour and generally made the garden an even more pleasant and fulfilling space to be in than it already was.

This week’s Six are a tad eclectic so bear with me!

The common theme of the first four points is mail order! Is it just us, or is anyone else’s garage rapidly filling up with cardboard boxes from deliveries because there’s not enough space in their recycling bin and they can’t bear the thought of sitting for hours in a queue for the tip?

1. Solar powered lights from QVC. I discovered last week that QVC have gardening hours and I promptly spent lots of money! I think it was well worth it for these lights (although I do feel it necessary to point out that, good as they are, my phone enhanced the amount of light emitted in the photo).

I really love our little bistro, and we’ve certainly made good use of it these past weeks. A couple of years ago it was an overgrown mess, but I took a week off work and transformed it and have been slowly adding to it and perfecting it ever since.

2. Battery powered lights and bunting around our patio. We have a brick built, somewhat dilapidated, garage/storage area/gardeners’ loo next to our patio area and I decided it needed a bit of zhuzhing up.

I found the lights and bunting on good old Amazon, and with Prime they were delivered less than twenty four hours later. I decided to go for battery power this time because this area doesn’t benefit from being in the sun as much as the bistro so solar power may not have worked. I’m considering painting the bricks white to lighten up the whole area, but I’m still pondering on that.

3. Lazy Flora and Blooming Direct deliveries. I received a lucky dip box from Lazy Flora this week. I got an Osteospurmum, a Dianthus, two Pelargoniums, a Verbena and something unidentified which hopefully will flower and give me a clue.

The Osteospurmum, Dianthus, Verbena and John Doe I put in the planter above, which housed a very unsuccessful courgette plant last year, and I added a Cordyline which I picked up from Homebase last week, for some height. Although I watered the lucky dip plants as soon as they arrived, and planted them the next day, they don’t look overly happy! I’m hoping they’ll pick up with some tlc.

As well as the variegated grass at the front and the Silver Dust at the back (that’s gone a bit crazy), this pot originally had a tiny fir that should’ve grown to about two feet tall and a Heuchera. The Heuchera got dug up by something and died before I noticed and the fir was looking decidedly brown and sorry for itself so I replaced them with the final two lucky dippers, the Pelargoniums, and Grass Red Baron which was delivered by Blooming Direct. It doesn’t look very red at the moment, but if it thrives it should reward me with red tipped fronds.

4. A barbecue. We’ve been debating for the past week whether to get a gas barbecue or a charcoal one (as our old one was cheap and nasty and partly broke on the day we got it!) and today we finally decided to go for a charcoal one, so I nipped up to Homebase, and this is what I came back with! I did get the barbecue as well (and a pizza stone – very much looking forward to using that).

I bought a Lupin from Homebase last week when they first reopened and hubby has since declared it his favourite flower in the garden, so when I saw the one above on the sale table, I decided to rescue it for him. The flower that’s blooming looks like it’s past its best, but the leaves are fine and there are a couple more flowers coming through. There’s definitely plenty of life left in it yet, with care. The Campanula and smaller Dahlias will fill a space in the front garden.

I absolutely couldn’t resist this Dahlia. So beautiful and vibrant! I bought it its own new terracotta pot and I’ll plant it tomorrow and most likely it’ll get added to our bistro so we can enjoy it while we’re sitting in the sunshine next week.

This Gerbera also fell into my trolley. I love orange in the garden. It really pops. This really bright orange is opposite green on the colour wheel so that’s why it stands out so much.

5. Honeysuckle. This plant will forever make me think of Pooh Bear. When Pooh is stuck in Rabbit’s door on account of his stoutness, Kanga and Roo visit him while he’s waiting to get thin again, and bring him some flowers. When Roo produces them from Kanga’s pouch, Pooh exclaims ‘Honeysuckle’ and makes to eat them, but Kanga quickly puts him straight by laughingly saying ‘Oh no Pooh, you don’t eat them, you smell them’. ‘Oh’ says Pooh.

This one was a tiny plant when it went in the ground last year but it’s thrived and has produced its first flowers this year. I’ve got a trellis for it that I need to put up (also from Blooming Direct). It lives behind my raised strawberry bed, the idea being that it livens up the bare fence behind.

6. Another bee! I do like photographing bees going about their busyness (sorry!) but I often end up hovering, somewhat bee-like, for ages trying to get the perfect shot. Today, however, this bee flew over and settled on the very Lavender flower that I was taking a photo of. How very convenient and compliant of it! Maybe it was the one I saved a few weeks ago with sugar water saying thanks!

I love this Lavender – it reminds me of the Ugly Sisters from Cinderella (even though it is far from ugly!)

See what I mean?

I hope everyone’s keeping well and managing to get in lots of garden time. It really is good for the soul, especially at the moment.

Six on Saturday 16th May

Saturday again! I think! Our local Chinese takeaway has reopened, oh joy of joys, so I have more of a reason to remember when it’s Saturday now! You wouldn’t believe how good it tasted after more than two months of it being closed!

I was back at work for three days this week, but I clocked off for another three weeks yesterday. This furlough business has its pros and cons. Less pay is obviously not what anyone aims for and the uncertainty is very unsettling, however, ever the optimist (most of the time, anyway,) it also means lots more time for gardening and crocheting so I guess all I can do is make the most of it and hope for the best. Who would’ve predicted these circumstances? Just crazy!

Anyway, on to my Six for this week. I’m starting with Hosta which appears to be doing remarkably well. I’m almost one hundred percent convinced that it’ll succumb to the slimy things before long, so I thought I’d document it now! I’d actually forgotten I’d even got any Hostas. I got it from a sale table last year (or maybe even the year before) and it disappeared almost as soon as I’d planted it out so it was a lovely surprise to spot those lovely stripy leaves earlier this week.

Speaking of garden nasties brings me to my next point. Actually, I don’t know if these are nasties or not, but they don’t look very pleasant to me! Millions of baby spiders have hatched on the door handle (the outside) to my greenhouse. Should I be worried? In my head I’m going to wake up to John Goodman in a boiler suit in my garden (the film Arachnophobia for those of you who weren’t so traumatised by it to have had it burnt into your memory for ever more!) Should I move them? I suppose they’re actually quite pretty, as arachnids go. Not sure I’ve seen a yellow spider before. Maybe they mature to brown?

Moving on to a far more pleasing garden fellow. The bees seem to be huge this year. I’m sure Olive, one of our cats, made friends with one through the window yesterday, perhaps mistaking it for a fellow feline given its size!

This one wasn’t so big, but it did very compliantly sit on my Geum to have its photo taken earlier this week. I love this Geum. The flowers sit upright and wave around in the breeze and the colour really pops. It’s so bright you can see it from most places in the garden. Maybe you can see it from space? No ok, maybe that’s going a bit far!

I shared my new Camellia in last week’s Six but I felt compelled to share again this week because it has the most beautiful flower.

I don’t know if this has a specific name other than Camellia, but honestly, don’t you think it should be called Wedding Day? It’s so perfectly delicate and pure. I didn’t expect to see any flowers until next year given that our other Camellia has already dropped most of its blooms. Another lovely surprise. I can’t wait for it to get big and have dozens of these flowers. Perfection in plant form!

I’m hoping someone can confirm what my next shrub is. I’m pretty sure I didn’t plant it, although that’s always a possibility and I’ve forgotten it in the multitude of sale finds, but no, I’m sure it was in our garden when we moved in. This is the first year it’s flowered, or the first time I’ve noticed anyway, and surely I would have noticed a shock of bright pink petals before. Is it an Azalea?

I’m being a bit cheeky and including two for one in my last photo, except I can’t remember what the beautiful photo bomber is called and I can’t be bothered to search through my labels. I think it begins with S! It was one of my rare full price plants because it made me gasp it was so pretty. It had to come home with me. I should do it the courtesy of remembering its name really!

Anyway, the reason I actually took the photo was to showcase the Osteospurmum, not the beautiful mini me behind it. It’s been in bud for a good week or more, and today I looked out of the window and they’d all opened. Such a beautiful display.

Wow, that’s all Six! That was quick! If it was too brief and you’d like to see more Sixes, check out the Propagator for more.

Lockdown Expansion

AKA baking frenzy! They were discussing one day on Loose Women (which I’m now watching daily as I’m furloughed!) the trend for women reverting to 1950s house wives during lockdown. Now, I’m certainly not doing that in all its glory – I haven’t touched the hoover any more than normal (never!) and as for ironing, well, I’m pretty sure we own one, but whether it works or not – who knows! However, I have felt an almost uncontrollable urge to bake!

This is not good for several reasons, most importantly, my waistline, but also because the rest of the world also seems to have decided to bake, so getting hold of self raising flour and caster sugar is not an easy feat! I managed to get caster sugar in our local shop but I still haven’t managed to get self raising flour.

This was my first cake of the lockdown which I made for our wedding anniversary on 16th April.

This is the king of cakes in my humble opinion. You can’t beat a simple Victoria sponge, filled with butter icing and strawberry jam and finished with a dusting of icing sugar and edible glitter. It didn’t last long!

The Victoria sponge used up all the self raising flour that I had in the house pre-lockdown so I had to be creative and make something flourless next, so I tried flapjacks. This was my first attempt at flapjacks and they tasted really good, but I think they had too much golden syrup in them so it was pretty much impossible to cut them into individual pieces. Better luck next time.

Next I realised I had plain flour in the cupboard so I searched for recipes using plain flour and stumbled upon a recipe for vintage chocolate chip cookies on the BBC Good Food website. I didn’t measure the salt and I think I probably put more in than I should have but they tasted amazing, so mental note – always put salt in cookie mix!

Ah, the classic Rice Krispie cake but made with Coco Pops instead. I still had no flour at this point, having used all the plain flour in the cookies. I did manageto get a click and collect slot from Asda, they didn’t have any flour of any kind! They did provide me with Coco Pops and marshmallows so these were the next to be made. I don’t know if these count as baking since the only cooking involves melting the butter and marshmallow. I’ve reminded myself that there are several of these left so that’s dessert sorted for later then!

I completely forgot to take a photo of this before I’d cut it! This was a lime drizzle cake made using my Aunt’s recipe and plain flour (with baking powder) that my brother-in-law managed to find for me. It should have been lemon drizzle, but I didn’t have lemons and did have a surplus of limes due to Asda giving me a pack of four in my click and collect instead of just the one I asked for. I think one of the good things to come out of the awful circumstances in which we find ourselves, is that I’m much more conscious of not wasting food. The shock of certain items not being readily available at the beginning of lockdown certainly had an impact on me, hence I didn’t want to waste the limes.

I spread the joy with this cake and dropped off slices to my best friend for her birthday and to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law (only fair as they provided the flour). Fear not, social distancing was maintained at all times (in fact I didn’t actually see any of them) and I was legitimately out and about because I was dropping off food to my Dad (who also had a slice of cake).

Oooh, this one was gooooood (even if I do say so myself!) Basically a chocolate Victoria sponge filled and topped with chocolate butter icing. The raspberries needed eating so this saved wasting them, and the giant buttons, well, that’s just good sense!

Just looking at this one is making me want to make another, but I really mustn’t, for the sake of my circumference! Honestly I’ll be able to roll down the motorway when we can finally go back to work!

This doesn’t look very pretty, does it? Again this one was to use up food that was on its way out – in this case, very ripe bananas. It was another BBC Good Food recipe, this time for chocolate and banana cake. It was supposed to use self raising flour, which, as you know, I don’t have, so I substituted plain flour and baking powder, but it doesn’t seem to have worked and it collapsed in the middle! It tastes good though so I’m counting it as a success. It’s turned out as more of a pudding than a cake, if that makes sense.

The chocolate and banana cake called for two whole eggs and two egg whites, which meant I was left with two egg yolks, so, not wanting to waste them, I searched what I could do with egg yolks and lemon curd popped up. Coincidentally I love lemon curd and I ran out a couple of weeks ago and hadn’t replaced it, so I made some. It’s currently cooling in the fridge so I can’t tell you if it’s successful or not, but I really hope so because I used the last of our butter to make it which means we have no butter for our breakfast so we’ll have to have toast and lemon curd sans butter!

I was initially going to write a post about my lockdown achievements, after we were released from lockdown, but as it’s going on rather longer than I think any of us thought, I’m racking up the accomplishments so I decided to break them down into categories and go for it! So, I hope you’ve enjoyed perusing my kitchen creations and I hope that having written about them will stop me making any more and save the groans on my bathroom scales!