Lockdown Gardening

Apart from sewing during lockdown we have been keeping the garden looking good for when we can have visitors! Here’s a small selection of  the best bits.

 

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Gorgeous tulips
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Hosts
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Peony
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Peony
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Arum Lily
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Helping!

Lockdown Sewing

I haven’t much felt like writing during lockdown. However, I have been sewing a lot!

Here’s a selection of what I have been making – not many words just pictures 😃

 

 

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Cielo dress – Closet Case Patterns
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Suki Robe -Helens Closet
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Suki Robe – Helens Closet
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Simplicity

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Free Range Pants – Sew House Seven
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Face masks for friends and family
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Zadie Jumpsuit – Paper Theory Patterns

 

Spring Gardening 2020 – Tues 24th March -Thurs 26th March

I planted more seeds. As I don’t have a heated greenhouse, I have to bring indoors the ones that need warmth. I only have a few places where there is heat underneath – i.e – a radiator – so I usually stagger the sowing. Once the first ones have germinated I can move them to other window sills and then finally to the greenhouse. Then I can sow some more!

I have now sown :

Stocks – a lovely fragrant bedding plant. Zinnia – a brightly coloured mix. These have to be planted in individual cells as they don’t like to be moved. They are also devoured by slugs, so I sometimes I have lost the lot!

Lobelia – these are white ones and the seeds are very very small and they take a long while to germinate so you need to be patient. However, once they get going, they are great and produce lots of lovely white flowers.
Purple Sprouting Broccoli – I have grown these in cells.

Tuesday March 24th

Oh dear 1st day of Coronavirus lockdown – I took solace I the garden and the sunshine to take my mind off it.

Today the seeds arrived from my brother – so kind – basil, butternut squash chilli and yellow courgette?

I sowed chillis and basil and put them on the windowsill in one of the spare bedrooms. It’s very sunny and above a radiator so it should be ok.

I also moved the blue and white agapanthus back out into the garden from the greenhouse, where they have been overwintering. I watered all the pots as it’s been unusually dry.

Some herbs survived the mild winter, so I have got oregano,parsley and chives already.

Flat leaf and curly parsely, chives and oregano
Blue Agapanthus

Weds 25th March – I sowed some veg crops straight into the ground. Beetroots, spring onions, radishes. I have left spaces to sow another line of each in a fortnight.

Thurs 26th March – I weeded the path of the woodland garden. I was really pleased to see that the Erythronium Pagoda bulbs have started to bloom. There’s not much else to do here at the moment.

The woodland path was dotted with Spanish bluebells which I don’t want!
Erythronium Pagoda


I tried to get as much done in the garden whilst the weather is good, as it is forecast to get cooler and cloudier, so time to move indoors and get back to the sewing!

Spring Garden 2020

Well, it’s the beginning of a new year in the garden. Who knows quite what this one will be like? Today I am starting to keep a log of what I do.

Day 1 – Cleared out all the dead foliage in the bedsand cut down some Rosa Ragusa which was taking over.

Gave the pond a quick clean of weed. I had given it a thorough clear out in the Autumn, so it wasn’t too bad.

Mark cut the grass, it’s looks very green and healthy and no sign of the leather jackets like last year.

I looked at what seeds I had – vegetables, herbs and flowers. I need to think what else I need and then order them. My lovely brother has some of the seeds I need and is going to put them in the post to me. I tried in vain to order from two plant websites last night and resorted to Amazon.

Day 2 – Planted some seeds – tomato, spinach, lettuce,coriander, lemongrass, pea shoots. I left the spinach, lettuce and coriander in the greenhouse and bought the tomato and lemongrass in as they need warmth. I decided not to grow too many tomato plants this year as if they go I can’t bear to throw them away.

Mark went to B&Q to buy some compost and horticultural grit so we have it when we need it, in case these types of shops are closed in the near future.

My New Favourite Gluten Free Loaf

Oh this is very good. Recommended to me by my son, it is now my gluten free loaf to go to. It’s a recipe from Dan Lepard.

It’s made with rice flour, potato starch and a new addition for me in bread recipes – cornflour.

It actually has the softness of ordinary bread and I can actually make a sandwich with it, rather than just having it as toast, like most gluten free breads.

Apart from the texture, the flavour is malty. Another thing about this loaf is the brilliant way the crust is created. After 30 minutes you carefully pour olive oil over the top of the loaf which then forms a great crust. So simple yet sooo effective. This is so good for people who are gluten free. The crunch is one of those things I miss the most.

Anyway, just try it. It gets the thumbs up from non gluten free eaters too!

Prep 40 min
Rest 1 hr 30 min
Cook 45 min
Makes 1 x 900g loaf

150g potato starch
150g cornflour
50g rice flour
15g psyllium husk powder
50g linseeds
50g pumpkin seeds
50g sunflower seeds
7g sachet fast-action yeast
60g egg white (from two 60g eggs)
5g salt
10g dark muscovado sugar
30g molasses or black treacle
20g cider vinegar
Extra seeds, to finish
Olive or other oil, for baking

Line the inside of a large loaf tin with nonstick paper – this is important because gluten-free loaves can stick to the metal. In a large bowl, measure and mix together the potato starch, cornflour, rice flour, psyllium husk and seeds.

In another large bowl, stir 350g warm water with the yeast until dissolved. Whisk in the egg white and salt until frothy, then mix in the sugar, molasses and vinegar evenly.

Beat the dry ingredients with the liquid mixture very well for 15-20 seconds, then leave the soupy liquid for 10 minutes while the psyllium and linseed absorb water and start to thicken it slightly.

Pour the mixture into the tin, sprinkle with extra seeds, cover loosely and leave to rise somewhere warm for about 90 minutes, or until almost doubled in size: gluten-free loaves don’t really get oven-spring much beyond the height of the rise before baking.

Heat the oven to 240C (220C fan)/gas 9. Spray the top of the loaf lightly with water, then bake for 30 minutes, until just starting to colour on top: the crust will look chalky and dry, but that’s OK. Open the oven door, carefully drizzle oil evenly and lightly over the top of the loaf, then close the door, reduce the heat to 220C (200C fan)/gas 7 and bake for another 15 minutes. This will “baste” the crust and give it a rich, golden colour.

Remove from the oven, lift the loaf carefully from the tin as hot oil may have collected in the base, then leave on a wire rack until cold before slicing.

Linda’s 60th Birthday Treat

Oh Lovely Linda, you keep my body and mind relaxed!

One of my many gifts to myself is to have a monthly full body massage. I believe that it has helped me to keep well over the years. Driving, a stressful job and using a keyboard all day meant that I was usually tense and my muscles tight and sometimes horribly knotted. Having a massage relieves the tensions and relaxes the muscles but is also a very nice way to while away and hour or so, thinking of nothing in particular.

When we  moved to our current house in 2005, I needed to find a new masseuse. Linda came to the rescue. I discovered her through a local magazine and have been going to her ever since.

Along the way we became good friends – we’ve listened to each others moans and groans and laughed and talked a lot too. We have a rule that we can talk up to the point she is massaging my face and then it’s just the soothing music in the background.

Linda has joined the ranks of the over 60’s now so I wanted to give her a special birthday gift. She kindly took me for a spa day and afternoon tea treat for my 60th and I wanted to give her something special for hers.   I asked her if she would like me to make her a handmade piece of clothing. She could, of course, choose the fabric and the pattern and I would make it up.

We trawled through my pattern box to find a pattern that Linda liked. She chose a dress pattern I had used before but wanted a few changes. She wanted the shape altered from an A line to a straight sided shift dress.

So off we went to Milton Keynes to choose the fabric, have lunch and have a nice day together.

After lots of discussion and looking, Linda chose some lovely teal print, cotton fabric. Unfortunately, the John Lewis at Milton Keynes didn’t have enough to make the dress, but store gave me details of the stores which had more fabric. I contacted Reading and they sent me what I needed, freepost!

As I was making changes to the pattern, I thought it best to make a toile first for a practice run. I used some cream curtain fabric, from my fabric stash, for this. After a few changes we were happy with the fit and I so I cut out the dress in the lovely fabric. Once it was cut out I quickly made the dress up and waited for Linda to return from holiday. It fitted in all the right places,  but just needed the sides taken in a little more, the pockets attached and the hem taken up.

I was very happy with the finished article.

I think she likes it too!

 

 

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10 things we learnt in Spain

After spending 2 months in Estepona it’s time to reflect on what we learnt in our time there. We had a very relaxing time but it also gave us time to do things we wouldn’t necessarily do at home, like thinking instead of doing 🙂

So here’s some of the things we learnt :

1. We can speak a bit more Spanish 

We continued to learn Spanish by completing 10 minutes a day of the free Duolingo online course everyday. We also used what we knew when shopping, ordering food and meeting people. We learnt more words from shops, signs, listening to people etc

2.Barking dogs get on your nerves

The sound of barking dogs is commonplace in Estepona. It seems that everybody has a dog or five.  They appear to be more guard dogs than pets. Every time you walk by the gated houses, they appear menacingly at the fences or gates. Most nights there was a cacophony of barking dogs at some stage, during the night. It was more than a bit annoying. The locals tell me that you get used to it. It doesn’t seem to bother them.

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3.Red peppers are so delicious

A bit obvious this one but red peppers are cheap and delicious in Spain. Oiled and grilled, skins removed, they turn into a sweet and delicious thing. I will be growing some this year and using them a lot more in my cooking.

4.You need never buy Oranges, Lemons or Avocados in Estepona

Everyone seems to grow them and they always have too many, so they give them away!

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5. Almonds are expensive! 

I use a lot of almonds in my cooking. I use them to make granola, bread and almond butter. I assumed, that as almonds are grown in Spain they would be cheaper. However, they are more expensive in Spain than in the UK. They do sell some delious salted and roasted almonds in Lidl (Spain) which we ate a lot of and bought some home too.

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6.  Motoring is a pleasure in Spain 

There are very rarely road jams or road works in Spain. Tolls roads are a pleasure to drive on. Fuel is at least 15p a litre cheaper than the UK. Ok, so they drive on the opposite side, but I got over that.

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7. Family time is important 

Spanish families like to spend time and relax with each other, especially at the weekends. All the shops close on a Sunday so friends and family gather together. Some of them go to their Fincas in the mountains and others meet for lunch near the beach. It was a real pleasure to see. I am sure the sunshine helps!

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8.There are some really delicious Spanish cheeses 

We tried a few from this list. The choice is a bit overwhelming though so it’s a work in progress job!

http://i-live-spain.com/gastronomy_from_spain/spanish-cheese/

 

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9.We can salsa 💃🏻

So continuing on the theme, of learning something new to keep your brain stimulated, we went to Salsa lessons every Wednesday evening at a pub in La Puerta de Duquesa. I’m not sure we have mastered it – but it was fun trying.

10. Mark loves Sherry! 

I knew this already but I am including it anyway! The sweet Spanish matured sherry  is  like liquid raisins. Mark had a tipple most nights.

Superfood Gluten Free Bread

 

As I don’t eat gluten, I am always on the look out for new bread recipes to try. Many of the GF recipes are made with white rice flour and tend to taste very bland and have no fibre content. I don’t eat sandwiches much any more but eat bread as toast, to get a bit of a crunch. Using seeds and nuts helps with the crunch as they crisp up when toasted. 

This recipe by Ella Woodward from “Deliciously Ella’ is full of wholesome ingredients. It requires no kneading, no tin and just a bit of effort for a great loaf.

I usually make it and have a few slices warm, keep a couple of slices out for the next day to toast and freeze the rest in slice portions, ready for a toasty breakfast. 

When I fancy a change from granola, I know there is some good and wholesome bread. It takes a while to toast but when its ready, I slather in butter and peanut butter (I  know…) or marmite or jam if I feel like it. 

Please have a go, you will be surprised at just how nice it is. 

When we arrived in Spain, I knocked this loaf up. I hadn’t got any almonds so used pecans and macadamias instead and it worked just as well. 

The ingredients you might not have in your cupboards are psyllium husk powder and chia seeds.These are the ingredients that bind it together. Both of these ingredients, can be bought on Ebay and health food shops. Chia seeds are now available in most supermarkets. 

Please let me know how you get on. 

Ingredients for 1 loaf

200g almonds

260g pumpkin seeds

200g brown rice flour

85g sunflower seeds

3 tablespoons psyllium husk powder 

3 tablespoons mixed herbs

2 tablespoons chia seeds

600ml cold water 

Salt and Pepper 

Method

Blend the almonds and half the pumpkin seeds in a processor until a flour forms 

Add the ‘flour’ to all the other dry ingredients in a large bowl

Add the cold water and mix together

Leave for 1 hour

Pre heat oven to 200 c

Turn the dough onto a greased baking tray

Shape into a loaf shape with your hands – don’t make it higher than 5-7 cm tall

Bake for 45- 50 mins until it turns golden brown and you can pull a clean knife out of the middle. 

Let it cool on a wire rack. 

Our Spanish Adventure

1f011c47-611e-434c-b4b3-161722a9d40aOh it’s great to escape the British greys skies in winter for the blue skies of Spain. Even when it’s cold here the sun shines and the air is dry. Eating salads instead of soup, sitting outside the cafes for coffee instead of moaning about the weather at home.  You just can’t beat it!

We love space, so when we come to Spain we hire a large villa. The one we are in this year, in Estepona, is HUGE. It can sleep 14! It’s got loads of space inside and out and has the most brilliant kitchen with everything I need to cook. However, I did bring my Magimix though because I could!

The supermarkets here are so good. The variety of fresh fruit, veg, meat, cheese, fresh fish and seafood is immense. A lot of the fish is caught locally. I am going to make it my mission to try some of the fish I have never heard of before.

Today we stocked up and also bought fresh prawns and merluza (hake) which is filleted for you. They even give you the fish heads to make stock. Avocados and tomatoes are plentiful, ripe and full of flavour. There are large bunches of fresh herbs such as parsley and mint at a fraction of the cost at home.

The garden here has oranges, lemons which we can pick and use and there is even an avocado tree with fruits on.

Although we are planning to do lots of walking, we will also be doing lots of cooking with all the local produce. I am planning Tapas Thursdays to replace Curry Friday’s for a while.

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