Gimme Five! Deck chairs

April 18th, 2014

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selection of 5 deck chairs

HURRAH! We’ve had a few, sunny days over the past week. I’ve been working on the laptop in the garden making the most of the good weather. Alas, the fabric on our pair of vintage 1970s garden chairs has perished… or else we need to lose some of that winter weight! The seats have ripped at the seams and, seeing as neither of us is an accomplished micro-surgeon – or even a decent sewer, attempting to repair them is a non-starter!

Our old garden chairs, though lovely, were a bit too upright; there was no opportunity to ‘lounge’. A cheery deck chair or two is what’s required. Sitting upright with a laptop on your lap or moving it down a couple of notches with a glass of wine or a smoothie in hand. Bring on the summer!

  • Santa Fe Fields deckchair by Smart Deco: £65.99,
  • Chaise lounge with adjustable back & removable leg rest: £398.77, Etsy
  • Striped rocking deckchair: £70, Graham & Green
  • The Edwardian deckchair: £200, Albion Canvas Co
  • The Wideboy: £125, Southsea Deckchairs
  • Mushroom pâté

    April 17th, 2014

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    Home made mushroom pâté being decanted into jars

    A few weeks ago on Instagram, I was singing the praises of a delicious porcini mushroom pâté that I’d discovered in Lidl. We had a punnet of mushrooms that needed to be used up so I thought I might try my hand at making my own pâté.

    I flipped through a few of our cookbooks for a recipe and soon found one in a little booklet supplement that came with the Guardian weekend newspaper, many moons ago. It was a taster from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Mushrooms: River Cottage Handbook No.1.

    I altered the recipe slightly, substituting the butter and garlic for 50 grams of wild garlic butter that I whipped up the previous week. A very simple and easy to make recipe. You can use foraged wild mushrooms (so long as you’re absolutely sure they’re not a poisonous variety); dried mushrooms such as porcini, chanterelle, morel or a mixture; chestnut or just plain ol’ closed cup white mushrooms.

    Mushroom pâté

    Yield: makes 350g/12oz

    Mushroom pâté


    • 250g/9oz mushrooms
    • 30g/1oz butter
    • 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled & crushed
    • 250g/9oz cream cheese
    • sea salt & cracked black pepper to season


    1. Clean and trim the mushrooms before slicing thinly
    2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat
    3. Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook until softened stirring to stop it sticking to the bottom of the pan
    4. Cook until the liquid released by the mushrooms all but evaporates (10-15 minutes)
    5. Allow to cool before spooning into a mini-food processor and blitzing for 20-30 seconds
    6. Add the cream cheese to the food processor and blitz again until well combined
    7. Season with sea salt & cracked black pepper to taste
    8. Decant into sterilised jars and refrigerate. Once opened, consume within 7 days


    Delicious slathered over freshly-baked ciabatta!

    World Dolls Series: England

    April 16th, 2014

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    World Dolls Series, England vintage children's book | H is for Home

    So here’s England – the first of those World Dolls Series posts we mentioned last week.

    list of books in the World Dolls Series | H is for Home

    These illustrations are by C. Jones from the Birmingham School of Design.

    illustration of a pair of dolls in the World Dolls Series, England | H is for Home

    Each book has doll-like characters to show you round their country – it’s George & Elizabeth taking us on the tour of England.

    illustration of Tower Bridge from the World Dolls Series, England | H is for Home

    We start in the capital…

    illustration of horse guards and a British Bobby from the World Dolls Series, England | H is for Home

    …with some classic landmarks.

    illustration of a tube train from the World Dolls Series, England | H is for Home

    We just love the depiction of this busy underground tube station.

    illustration of a metal smelter in Sheffield from the World Dolls Series, England | H is for Home

    We then move to other, diverse areas of the country – rural landscapes, industrial towns & coastal villages.

    illustration of Yorkshire moors and mill chimneys from the World Dolls Series, England | H is for Home

    Elizabeth comes from Yorkshire and the moorland landscape is very familiar to us here in Todmorden. Lots of sheep still live here!

    illustration of a fishing boat from the World Dolls Series, England | H is for Home

    We think these little books are so charming – hope you agree! We’ll be heading to Scotland next week.

    Blooming Secrets!

    April 15th, 2014

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    red flowers being sprayed with a yellow water bottle

    It’s been a beautiful, sunny day and we’ve just spent the afternoon on our new allotment – digging, weeding, planting & pruning. It’s tough work as the site has been neglected for many months, but it’s great fun.

    view of our garden

    Having had a hot bath to ease those aching muscles we’re now relaxing at home – and are actually browsing the web doing some virtual gardening!

    garden peas

    We consider ourselves garden novices really. We have a small courtyard style garden at home & our newly acquired allotment. They’re quite different spaces. One is shady & damp – the other more open & sunny. Each has it’s own distinct challenges and indeed opportunities – and we’re always happy to get personal tips or improve our knowledge through books & websites.

    'Caribbean Cocktail' flowers

    The Blooming Secrets website is an ideal port of call.

    tomatoes, beetroot and carrots growing in the ground

    It’s best described as a personalised gardening service founded by John Toepfer and Susan Brandt – a brother & sister team who launched their site after John shared stories with his sister about the numerous questions he’d received from his neighbours asking for advice and help with their own gardens.

    selection of herbs growing in zinc containers

    You create a personal profile which is free of charge. It then recommends products based on interests, suitability, skill levels & growing conditions.

    seeds in brown envelopes and seedlings and bulbs in plant pots

    The website is easy to navigate, combining shop & blog which can offer information, advice and answer questions. The shop sells a large range of plants, seeds, tools and other accessories. Every month, there are be exclusive gardening offers to purchase.

    watering can and other garden tools with a straw hat

    The founders stated goal is to inspire people to garden and make a positive impact on our environment. This isn’t just lip service – the icing on the cake with this website is that a percentage of each purchase goes to a gardening or conservation organisation of your choice. You simply click your preferred option at checkout – blooming marvellous!


    Allotment Diary: Going to seed

    April 15th, 2014

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    Two seed catalogues

    Two seed catalogues that we’d ordered online arrived this week. A mind-boggling array of fruit, vegetable and flower seeds lay within their pages.

    Two seed catalogues open on the sweet pea pages

    But we remained single-minded and didn’t allow ourselves to go wild with the ordering. We were only after some scented sweet pea seeds for now.

    Justin digging and weeding a bed on the allotment

    Our idea was to break the allotment up into small areas and concentrate on them one at a time. Rather than to try and tackle the whole plot in one go. We chose a spot that we wanted to make into a bed to grow, you guessed it, sweet peas. We dug it over…

    Justin laying a path with salvaged bricks on the allotment

    …and Justin laid a path using some of the salvaged bricks we found strewn all over the allotment last week. I know, it looks like Justin did all the work… someone had to take the photos!

    A robin visits us on the allotment

    With all the digging going on, it wasn’t long before this cute, little robin stopped by to feast on the worms that we’d uncovered. Smart little birds, robins – get the humans to do all the hard work!

    unfinished sweet pea wig wams on the allotment

    By the end of the afternoon, the bed was dug, the border and path were laid and the first few canes of the sweet pea wig-wams had been erected. Not a bad day’s work.