Next Chapter – New Blog

Life moves on; and I’ve taken courage in both hands and am now in West Sussex – out of my comfort zone in more ways than one, but loving the challenges, and joys of discovering a new life, in the country.   Here’s the address for my Sussex website and blog…

I would love to hear from you – do keep in touch.  Emma 🙂


Love to my boy.

I wrote this post six months ago.

Bless my boy.



this is where we part, My Friend,
and you’ll run on, around the bend,
gone from sight, but not from mind,
new pleasures there you’ll surely find.

   I will go on, I’ll find the strength,
life measures quality, not its length.
One long embrace before you leave,
share one last look, before I grieve.

   There are others, that much is true,
but they be they, and they aren’t you.
And I, fair, impartial, or so I thought,
will remember well all you’ve taught.

   Your place I’ll hold, you will be missed,
the fur I stroked, the nose I kissed.
And as you journey to your final rest,
take with you this: I loved you …

Copyright © Jim Willis 2002, All Rights Reserved

‘Bench Series 36’: Metal Bench!

'Bench Series 36': Metal Bench!

‘Bench Series 36’: Metal Bench!

Jude, Author of ‘Travel Words’, a wonderful blog inspired by her travel notes and diaries over the years runs a great linky called ‘Bench Series’.

Here’s my first contribution: I took this shot on a bright morning this February.

It was the first day this year when you could really feel the sun: I walked down to the Herne Hill weekend market, and South London seemed to be smiling – as though the sun had lifted the weight of winter chill.

This photo is taken from the top of the hill in Brockwell Park.  Sitting on the bench, there are wonderful views over the London Skyline.  But I thought smooth curve of the metal arm, with the bright sun brimming thorouh and bouncing off the bench rails, was a good sight too!

Check out Jude’s ‘Italian’ style metal benches in San Diego,

and other contributions too:  ‘Bench Series’: September – Metal Benches.

The End of an Era: Cuba II

Valadero: April 2015.

Valadero is the closest I’ve got to a classic ‘paradise’ holiday.

If it’s the closest I ever get, that will be just fine!

Near enough to Havana, and a perfect foil to that city’s bustle and mesmerising wonders, a trip west to what is possibly the Caribbean’s most exquisite stretch of beach resorts.  A sunny, slim peninsular edged by over 20 km of white sandy beaches and clear waters.

The first tourists visited Varadero as early as the 1500, and for centuries it was considered an elite resort for Spanish conquistadors.  Tourism there remains the greatest source of income by a long way… in a way, it’s an escape from ‘real life’ – for Cubans, too – there is a check gate to pass on the way into the resort, and Cubans have to have a reason for passing through: it’s not a residential area, and access is restricted.

For true relaxation, we choose a hotel resort with even further access restrictions: No Children!

Lovely as they undoubtedly are, not having their excitement, energy and noise meant that the atmosphere was deeply relaxed.

An ‘all inclusive’ holiday, well done, has to be the best way to relax and re-charge.

For me, it was like ‘detox’.

Everybody needs that once in a while.

Holiday Info:  We stayed at the Royalton Hicacos Resort – All inclusive luxury: Royal Hicacos Resort, Valadero, Cuba.

I booked a two destination holiday with The Holiday Place – if they haven’t got a ‘package’ you want, then you can choose which hotel you’d like to stay in, and they’ll tailor the holiday for you.

I will use them again – and hope to return to the Royalton Hicacos before too long, as well.

Cuba, Valadero, Early Morning on the beach.

Cuba, Valadero, Early Morning on the beach.

The end of an Era: Cuba I.

Havana, April 2015.

It’s been a difficult few years.  For a number of (albeit unavoidable) reasons, I haven’t been ‘away’ for years – have worked through holidays and kept my head down to a degree that, I think, it’s been difficult to raise it above that focused, target driven level.  Have honed the ability to keep going when every bit of me wants to stop.

‘Just do it’ and then it’s done… onto the next thing has become my personal, unvoiced but regularly internally rehearsed, mantra.

It may  It does sound self-indulgent, but it’s important to recognise when ‘life’ is so full that there isn’t much time for ‘living.’

So this year, determined to do something different and see another environment, I wanted to book not only a ‘holiday’, but a trip of discovery – inward and outward.  To broaden my horizons, stop for breath, and put some perspective into my thinking.

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” – Henry Ford Read more:

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”
– Henry Ford

With the changes in relations between US and Cuba, there will undoubtably be huge changes which will sweep across every aspect of ‘Cuba’.  A country that has been strangely isolated; a ‘time warp’ – detached from the rest of the world, (difficult to realise just how thoroughly detached until you see the society, life, environment for yourself). Cuba is clearly on the brink of huge and irreversible evolution.  What better place to experience before those changes take hold?

The largest city in the Caribbean, with over 2.2 million residents; but no commercial adverts at all: That has more of an effect on the everyday life, street landscape, and material focus of the population than one could imagine.

No brand names – other than those on shiny US bonnet badges!

Cuban Cars - like being on a film set, but for real!

Cuban Cars – like being on a film set, but for real!

Havana’s majestic architecture reflects its Spanish roots in many ways –

Founded in the 16th Century it quickly became a flourishing, fashionable city.

Frequented by Americans escaping from prohibition and looking for a good time.  Gosh, they must have found it here!

I can only imagine Havana in its hey-day: like a film set, but on a monumental scale.

Square in Havana; step back in time.

Square in Havana; step back in time.

The glorious, weathered relics remain – like a gracious old lady living in threads of once rich clothes.  In a still imposingly grand, but gently dilapidation palace.  Surrounded by memories and tangible evidence of what once was, but gracefully and proudly getting on with life as it now is.  With a smile.

While all around is increasingly deteriorating.  Slowly crumbling.  The decay, strangely, apparently unnoticed.  Or at least unquestioned.

But with the structure and elegance of former years feeling still – almost – near enough to salvage and reinstate.

Havana’s people are amazing.  Remarkably, admirably resilient.

Living in houses without roofs, hanging their washing on lines strung between glass less windows, extraordinarily ambivalent about parts of their building gently crumbling away.

Streets lined with the most what once must have been the most stunning and luxurious buildings: beautiful plaster, grandiose proportions, now only evident in part.

Magnificent architecture, intricate metalwork, stunning marble staircases, and the remnants of beautiful tiling.

Hedonistic memories of exotic times all around.

Havana showcases a vast range of architectural styles.

Harmony is reflected in the people and the environment: despite the hardships that are so clearly part of everyday life.

Just as Havana’s surprisingly eclectic mix of people rub along happily together, so influences from Spain, America, France and Russia are evident, shoulder to shoulder, in the city’s blocks.

Similarly, buildings draw references from major architectural periods from the last half century.

No wonder, then, that part of Old Havana have been included on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.

I’m not particularly widely travelled, but Havana is, so far, the only City I’ve ever been to where the guide books are so very much better left at home (with regard to restaurants and accommodation, I’d say that was obligatory!)

At the time of our visit, about 80% of the economy was estimated to be unofficial; almost officially unofficial!

So the usually trusty brands of guide books really don’t seem to know what they’re talking about – perhaps they can’t keep up with the pace of change.

Or perhaps, more likely, they just have to recommend what officially exists… Believe me, the official restaurants are not worth visiting.  Next time, I’ll go hungry rather than return to their unwelcoming, distilled, loveless premises.  If you want to pay London prices (really!) for food that is likely to smell of rank oil, go once for the experience. The menu may look promising (as long as you don’t compare the prices with what you’re used to paying at home – more than I’d expect to pay at a restaurant of my choice in South London!).  But when it comes to what’s brought to the table, it is likely to be pretty uniform – fried food without garnish, unattractively slapped onto a simple, greasy plate, and clearly cooked without any imagination, intuition or apparent care / interest.

Contemplating the dessert menu turned out to be a rather awkward process of illumination of the dishes apparently being offered on the menu: The reluctant waiter, who had given the impression all evening that his two solitary ‘mugs’ customers were disturbing him from something far more important explained with what seemed to be increasing incredulity at our stupidity, that despite the ‘menu’, the desert choice was actually between ‘desert’ or ‘no desert’.

We had one of each.

The latter was the better choice.

When we finally plucked up the courage to venture into a privately run restaurant, it was like a revelation – perhaps actually, a revolution!

Stark comparison to the unmotivated staff serving whatever they could find in the largely empty ration stores and cooked by ‘chefs’ who have clearly lost the joy of cooking and ability to taste; so worn down by rations and sub standard ingredients.  

In unofficial, privately run cafes and restaurants kind, attentive staff welcome you as though a personal guest, into a a well cared for, warm atmosphere.  Small and intimate rather than cavernous, silent and cold.  They offer simple but appealing menus – a range of fresh dishes that were actually in stock.  Simple, tasty, fresh cooking.  Jamie Oliver would have approved!

Starkly contrasting to the ‘official’ establishments’ uniform smell, taste and greasy coating of over-used vegetable oil.  Their bland dishes accompanied by ‘black beans’ which tasted as though they’d come out of a tin that would have been so much better left unopened. 

Why had it taken so much courage for us to venture away from the guide-book recommendations – pop up restaurants, unofficial eateries in Cubans homes and family hosted paladares are what all the blogs about Cuba are buzzing about – for the sake of your taste buds, your pockets, and to get a genuine feel of ‘Cuban hospitality’, chuck the guides, go with the flow and do it the Cuban’s way!

When I got home, I bumped into a neighbour.  He was chatting about the foul rain there had been in London – admitted that ever since his cellar had flooded (briefly) some five years or so ago, he was anxious every time he opened the cellar door and went down the steps gingerly, still imagining that he could smell that characteristic ‘damp’ in the air.  At a time when ‘Mindfulness’ is all the rage as a means of reducing stress and gaining balance in our lives, those hardy, happy Cubans have something to teach us about living in the moment, and making the most of what we do have. Simply.  No fancy titles or theories.  They ‘Just Do It!’

Holiday info:

We stayed at the Hotel Telegrafo right in the centre of Havana – on the main square, on the corner of Parque Central.  Although in the oldest part of the city, this isn’t an area covered by the Unesco patrimony – but a great position, nonetheless.

Built in 1860, the Telegrafo was completely reconstructed in 1911, and then opened as one of the most modern, high profile hotels in the city.  It has a glorious history; raising it’s profile by apparently having been one of the earliest hotels of the region to supply telephones to each room, and dining tables.  As a result, it was (in it’s time!) considered one of the most desirable hotels in Cuba, and hosted high profile politicians & businessmen.

The Telegrafo now still has a definite art deco feel to the interior and furnishings.

In fact, one could (if being honest, but not very kind!), say that the interior hasn’t changed much since then… kept clean, but not appearing to have been updated.  Or, with regard to bathrooms, maintained beyond the essential.

But we chose the Telegrafo for just that – a dive straight into real Havana.  And we got it, in every way 🙂

So I wouldn’t return to the Telegrafo, but I would recommend it as a very well positioned, authentic hotel for a short stay.

It is great value for what it is.

But you’ll probably need a proper breakfast after 2 or 3 days, so that’s the maximum stay I would suggest.

And remember why you chose it!

“Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it.”  Irving Berlin.

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday ±4: Happy, Frosty New Year.

Out with the old.  Make space for the New…

“Stop looking at the past and all the things you can’t change.  They’re done and over with.

Now is the time for you to look to the future, grasp it by the hand, and decide where you want to go.”  

‘Chasing Nikki’, Lacey Weatherford:


“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
― Albert Einstein


Linking with Wordless Wednesday – click on sidebar image.

Czech Mate: Prague.

Four days,

Three nights,

Two totally exhausted girls,

One memorable time (for all the right reasons!)


Nestled in a natural fording place on the Vltava River, a tributary of the Elbe, Prague is a City like no other. Intertwining, deeply cobbled streets flanked by monstrous buildings whose bold architecture stands testament to the pride, conflict, and passion that Prague has witnessed through the centuries.

Not a trace of the action-packed, budget conscious, backpacking trips that Daughter number 2 is used to – this one was designed for Ease, Rest and Relaxation.

Having to balance my budget to some extent, I chose a top hotel that was situated outside the main town – in Phara 5 (5th District; just a short distance from the City centre).

After an efficient check in, and a reassuring introduction to our room, we ventured out and over the Vltava, keeping intentionally to the outskirts of the main City.

Crossing the first bridge we came to, we were drawn to an interestingly ramshackle collection of stalls on the Rasin Embankment.  It turned out to be a Farmers Market – what a find – buzzing with locals preparing for the festivities of the coming week.

There was a definite emphasis on ‘health’ and ‘natural’ products at the market.

Wonderfully fresh looking vegetables – their odd shapes and earthy presentation proudly clarifying their status as ‘low food miles’ and Organic foods.

Home crafted style honey, potted preserves, pickled vegetables and inedibly ‘healthy’ looking vegan, wheat free and vegetarian foods were being snapped up by trendy looking locals.

The market had a gritty atmosphere to it – making us feel at home, having left West Norwood just a few hours earlier… cosy beds traded for the crisp, grey wind on the banks of the broad River Vltava.

At one end, a motley bunch of musicians were playing –

clustered around an Amy Winehouse sounding singer…

Enjoyed by a crowd of Bohemians, who we were glad to join for some time.


Then her lanky, shabby, middle-aged colleague took over.

Suspense – what would be his ‘turn’?

He jiggled about a little as his fellow musicians paved his way,

then gently began to join in, making increasingly audible ‘popping’ noises with his lips…

Weird, wonderful, boldly confident in an unassuming sort of way, and totally individual.

A happy and perfect finale to the ramshackle, somewhat bizarre market.

And a fitting introduction to Prague!

Wacky, Weird and Wonderful.

Wacky, Weird and Wonderful.

 The fact that the Vltava slices through the centre of Prague makes it a relatively easy city to navigate.

We followed its broad bank, admiring the military style rows of grand buildings either side.

Prague - River flanked by rows of grossly grand blocks.  Painted soft orange, deep yellow, soft green or cream - all sporting the uniform red-clay roof tiles.

Prague – River flanked by rows of grossly grand blocks. Painted soft orange, deep yellow, soft green or cream – all sporting the uniform red-clay roof tiles.

Visiting just four days before Christmas, the Christmas Market in the Old Town was a must.

But a somewhat disappointing one, it has to be said.  Stroppy stall holders, crowds, bustling without the joy.  Rows and rows of tacky souvenirs, over-priced cups of  poorly made tea, served without grace on dirty table cloths, all wrapped in a chill air.

Moving on, from desire to leave the area as well as to keep moving and a little warmer, we made our way to the castle… the only way was up  🙂

Despite having been advised to take a tram, nothing is too to walk in Prague – and doing so helps prevent frozen limbs in winter, I’m sure!  So we climbed the deeply cobbled streets; eyes set on the prize looking down at us from the hilltop.  On the way up to the Castle, we were able to stop and look over the river – breathtaking views of Prague, and the lines of buildings – blocks created through the ages, reflecting different social & political periods and architectural styles – like strata plotting timelines in an ancient mountainside.

‘The Castle’ turns out to be more of a town in itself.  Buildings & renovations dating back from the 13th century to the present day.  Originally home of Bohemia’s Kings and now housing Czech Republic’s presidents, architectural styles through the ages are represented in grand proportions: Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Neo-classical.

The waxy glow of the street lamps lends a warmer glow to Prague, despite the fact that temperatures inevitably plummet even further once the daylight has left.  It must be simply stunning in the summer; vines on the hillside basking in sunshine, a sparkling Vltava sporting pretty tour boats, and cafes spilling over the cobbles with lazy lunches (and cheap beer??!).  But dark winter evenings, lit by the ivory light from wonderful old lamps, combines with the magical architecture, misty winter chill and cobbles to create a truly memorable atmosphere, too.

Prague by Night: Charles Bridge.

Prague by Night: Charles Bridge.

We briskly walked back over the river and to the suburbs of town, happy to slip into our pre-booked sauna and soak up some deep heat!

Day 2 called for a more positive return to Old Square.

Wonders to admire: fire char baked pork roasting on huge spikes, traditional potato pot in oversized paella pans to taste.  A good-looking, even better sounding singer crooning on a swiftly erected stage listen to, whilst roasting under plentiful gas heaters…

Mystical, charming, magical and bold.

Reportedly one of the largest festive markets in the Czech republic, and having risen to the heady heights of featuring in ‘The Archers’ as the seasonal short break destination for Jennifer & Brian, I have to admit to finding the market somewhat of a disappointment… Perhaps my standards are too high now that London’s local markets have developed to include such enthusiasm, interesting variety and inciting atmosphere… spoilt with our local West Norwood Feast, Crystal Palace Food Market & Herne Hill… bursting with character and passion that seemed to be missing in Prague’s tourist trap effort.

But we did enjoy a pop up concert, and tasting Christmas traditions – huge hams roasting over red coals, a mizture of potato gnocchi, saucerkraut and ham… soggy, slightly greasy and better in anticipation than reality!  Also a fascinating sweet, cylindrical pastry called a trdelnik.  Rolled around metal poles, stretched over hot coals and turned by chains at either end; sold hot, dusted with cinnamon, sugar, and nuts.

Church of Our Lady before Tyn, Old Town square.

Church of Our Lady before Tyn;

an immense Gothic edifice whose 15th century towers rise  80 metres above the surrounding Medieval streets.

Despite the jostling and hustling of packed crowds visiting the pretty Christmas Market, you can still soak up the legions of tumultuous history… heresy, revolutions, plots, and reform.  Perhaps less has changed than you first think… more harmonious and settled now, but still a bustling market square at the heart of the town, a focus for locals and visitors alike.

Vltava River's many magnificent bridges.

Vltava River’s many magnificent bridges.

Next time, I’ll take a hike up the old clock tower in the Town Hall to take in an aerial view of the city… didn’t occur to us at the time, but the birds eye view would have been worth the climb, I’m sure.

Just North of the Old Town Square is the Jewish Quarter.  Yet another side of Prague – a more tranquil atmosphere, slower pace and greyer colours (trimmed with copious amounts of gold) to other parts of the city.

Jewish Quarter, Prague.

Jewish Quarter, Prague. Reminiscent of Paris’ grand, leafy boulevards with fine boutiques; gold encrusted, inside and out.

Walking along the main street felt like entering a Grimms Fairy Tale book… gothic towers looming eerily over grey skies, defining the road with strangely intimidating dark spires.

Having had a very high recommendation to visit a particular cafe, next stop was to find Wenceslas Square.  Another busy hub; the heart of the New Town, a business and cultural focus.  More Christmas market stalls in what was originally designed to be a horse market, the square was named after the patron saint of Bohemia.  Wide boulevards.  Literally stunning, edged as they were with fringes of trees sporting fairy lights.  Again, especially attractive in the dark haze of a winter’s night, marking out the twinkling bare branches engagingly.

View from Wenceslas Square, Prague.

View from Wenceslas Square, Prague – photo taken before the tree lights came on, but still pretty impressive!

We were so grateful for this tip from a local – Ovocny Svetoxor (literally translated ‘fruity cinema‘) would have remained an undiscovered gem without it.  There are apparently branches across Prague, but the one we visited in the passage Svetoxor is the spearhead, having been here since the 70s… the psychedelic, block decor remains shocking but totally on trend (just not the same trend as anything else within a fair distance!).  Bright, fast and fresh.  Outside is an array of multi-coloured, glossy ices – too watery to be ice cream (and too frozen to try, despite looking otherwise irresistible).  Fruit cakes, gateaux, sundaes, freshly made juices… I never knew that Heaven was based down this little alley in Prague!

Despite being small and packed, we found deep lime green seats to sink into, and enjoyed the freshest juices I have ever tasted.  Then back through icy streets, now veiled in darkness but glowing in a romantic haze of the ivory light of street lamps.

Our third day – packed with pottering.

We walked along the top ridge from our hotel towards the castle – breathtaking views of the city in the crescent of the hill below.  Stretching out on both sides of the broad icy river.

Back through streets, admiring the huge painted blocks; wondering what was going on inside.

Watching tourists being whooshed around in jolly cars or traps pulled by impatient horses.

We found a huge Tesco, and had to go in to ‘spot the differences’… there were as many surprising similarities with regard to products and packaging as differences – a whole isle (double-sided!) of chocolate – acres of pastries and breads and unbelievably cheap alcohol.   (Interestingly, no drunks though).

Walking around Prague in darkened streets felt safe – even as we stepped away from the centre of the city, making our way through graffiti littered streets to the outer district of our hotel.  It was interesting staying further afield – seeing the environmental changes as we crossed through the city zones.  Also watching more Czechs busy about their daily life, uninterrupted by mobs of tourists doing an impression of a couple of girls in IKEA  on a wet Sunday afternoon.


One seasonal sight that we would have totally missed had we been staying in the more trendy centre of town was the local Christmas preparations… heaps of Christmas trees being sold and marched home. As they would be on the streets of London, but these had many fewer needles.  And those that were there, were longer and finer than those of the Norway Spruce or similar found at home.

The tradition of eating Carp is another that is not shared at home.  We were introduced to this on our first day, at the locals Farmers Market on the Rasin Embankment.  Large blue plastic bins filled with running water and tightly packed with huge, sad fish.  Jostling for space so that their fins often looked damaged.  Being prepared on stalls that were reminiscent of the mass executions held in past times in the old square.  Blood literally running down the street.  Fish heads, placed upright next to their decapitated bodies as the scales were vigorously scraped off.  Desperately, pathetically gasping their last airless breath as their mouths continued to open and close before realising that their lungs were no longer attached.

One morning, walking through the outer district, we saw an old lady ahead.  Looking forlorn – motionless on the pavement.  As we neared, we noticed the familiar smell and sight of the large blue buckets.  She had chosen her Carp and it was being prepared.  She stood further away and turned as we passed, holding her head in her hands.  Without looking, she gave a gasp as the clever cracked down.  Although it seemed in a way barbaric, the fish were always kept in running water, and killed swiftly and professionally.  Perhaps one day we will try fresh carp, to better understand the tradition which is clearly still so popular.

The observation Tower by night.

Back to the warmth of the sauna for the final time.

And another wonderful supper.

Top Tips:

If flying from Stanstead, book short-term car park –

well worth it, especially at that time in the morning!

Pre-book a private transfer from the airport –

great value and saves worrying about being ripped off!

If you’ve got them, take thermal trousers to go under jeans –

and waterproofs to go over them.  If you haven’t got them, do!

Just enjoy – it’s a wonderful city, I’m sure equally so for different reasons

all through the seasons…



(Almost) Wordless Wednesday ± 3. Magical Prague.

Prague Old Town

Christmas in Europe’s Fairy-tale city.

Europe’s Fairy tale city. Icy, mystical, bold and beautiful. Never destroyed by war, Prague’s history is etched throughout – from the deeply cobbled streets to the intricate spires standing supremely above vast, solid roofs. Lit in a waxy festive glow by skilfully crafted street lanterns that look as though they have guided the way for generations of Bohemians; in every sense of the word. The centuries of proud architecture reflect it’s boisterous past; confidently hosting bustling excitement now as ever.

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday ± 2

Malvern Sky August 14

Landscape & Sky – Malvern. Aug 14.

‘In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west;

people create distinctions out of their own minds

and then believe them to be true.’

The Buddha

Rain Tomorrow.  Malvern Aug 14.

Rain later. Malvern Aug 14.

‘Don’t let one cloud obliterate the whole sky’  Anais Nin.

Turning sky - Gloucstershire weather!  Malvern 14.

Turning Sky – English weather! Malvern 14.

Linking to:

Easy Peasy Pudding: Rhubarb Swirl Cheesecake: Fiesta Friday 30!

The second crop of Rhubarb is well under way in the garden.  Strong pink stems, fading to gentle green and topped with ridiculously huge umbrella-like leaves again surround the pond area.  I love it.

And it’s Friday, so that means Fiesta time with The Novice Gardener…

The perfect excuse for a rhubarb recipe trial – hence this quick little gem  🙂

For Fiesta Friday ± 30

Easy Peasy Rhubarb Cheesecake.

Easy Peasy Rhubarb Cheesecake.

This tasty dessert can change with the seasons – featuring whatever fruit you have to hand.

It’s an almost instant pudding that will look as though you’ve given put in far more effort than was actually the case, but nobody will know…

I’d admired Moira Stewart’s Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake recipe online recently – original post here:  What follows is an adaption of that recipe – much simpler.  Quick and effective.  Not the best cheesecake ever, but it was received very well, required very few ingredients, and took less than 20 minutes to prepare, so what’s not to like?

Easy Peasy Rhubab Cheesecake.

Serves 6, depending on how much everybody eats (!)

Make in a round cake tin, approx 18cm, which has been pre-lined with baking paper.  Pre-heat oven, 180 degrees.

Rhubarb garden crop

Home grown rhubarb

I used rhubarb that I’d previously baked.  See post here:

Try to this dessert rest for at least 6 hours before eating – up to 2 days is fine.

If kept in the fridge, it should ideally be removed and left at room temperature for 20 minutes or so before eating, or the flavours will be slightly dulled.


1.5 Cup finely ground Digestive Biscuits

               2 Tablespoons butter

Cheesecake Mix:   

1 x 200g pack cream cheese

                                        1 x 200g pack low-fat cream cheese

                                        Half a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

                                        1 cup sugar

                                        2 x eggs

Simple, quick pudding

Easy Peasy rhubarb Cheesecake.

Melt butter and mix in biscuits, then press over the base of the prepared cake tin.  Cool whilst making the filling.

Mix cheese and sugar.  Add vanilla essence and slowly add eggs, continuing to mix.

Turn cheese topping onto base, adding some drained pieces of baked rhubarb.

Smooth top, then scoop up some rhubarb juice with a small deep spoon and blog onto the top – swirl with the tip of a knife to make a pretty pattern.

Bake in a preheated oven for around one hour.

Turn the oven off, leave door open a bit and let the cheesecake cool in the oven.

Cool thoroughly before removing from tin – this will help it to firm up first!

Enjoy – we had ours with home-made ice cream 🙂

 Now I’m off to the Novice Gardener, to see what everyone else has brought to the party –

or click on the purple FF link in the sidebar; happy Fiesta Friday!

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday ± 1


Hooray for Echinacea!

Echinacea is said to have many health benefits.

The satisfaction when I finally got my germinated seed to flower benefitted my holistic health beyond expectations 🙂


“Failure is the opportunity to begin again; only this time more wisely.”

Henry Ford.

No looking back.

Lines, he said.

Give Me Lines.


No Looking Back.

He said.

That’s My Line for You.


How Strong,
it sounded.

Get Over It.
He added, to her.  And sent her this song –


After all the years,
all those fears

the trip of a lifetime –

in a train that was off the rails
with The One who was totally trusted.

Whose mind slowly slowed,
morphed –



Driving That Train.


After all the years,
all those fears,

More than two decades since other lines of simple honesty were publicly exchanged,

the trip of a lifetime, and the ongoing climb back again, that’s felt like a lifetime in itself.

That Line,

so carelessly given.

A safe shield.  Treasured above all.


Her feeling of utter betrayal.

feels like a final nail.


Where is the truth in the world?

She wondered.

To herself.


Easy Peasy Supper: Beef Carbonnade.

Fiesta Friday *4.  

Hip, Hip Horray –

at last, it’s FRIDAY!

Beef Carbonnade.  Comforting, homely.  A no fuss, healthy treat.

Beef Carbonnade.

Beef Carbonnade.

Dress up with Dauphinoise potatoes or herby roasties for a dinner party.

Make a big batch and portion into freezer bags.  Take them out one at a time in the rush of the morning for an instant supper, served with quickly cooked rice and a bagged salad – who needs ready meals?!

A little advance planning required for this Easy Peasy Supper… it takes almost no time to make, and doesn’t require any ingredients that are demanding to use or difficult to source.  Allow a decent amount of time for it to cook, though.  Also, the flavours will fully develop if you make the stew in advance, allowing to cool and then rest in the fridge over night – which I see as an added bonus!

Beef Carbonnade: Easy Peasy Supper.

Beef Carbonnade: Easy Peasy Supper.

Use Shin of beef rather than stewing steak for best flavour and texture.

The recipe is based on Nigella Lawson’s Carbonnade A La Flamande.  See her website for details

This recipe apparently serves 8.  When I make it, it didn’t go quite that far – either evidence that it’s very good, or that they were very hungry people.

I served with Dauphinoise potatoes.  They gently cook in the oven as the beef heats up.  Their rich creamyness compliments the beef perfectly, as does the colour and texture.

Dauphinoise potatoes.

Sizzling Dauphinoise potatoes.

1 Table spoon olive oil

250 grams thickly sliced bacon, sliced into strips (not too thin)

4 onions (chopped)
2 teaspoons ground allspice
dried thyme, sage, rosemary or oregano – or a combination
1.5 kilograms shin of beef (in approx. 4-5 cm cubes.  Don’t let the butcher cut it into tiny bits!)
50 grams plain flour – wheat free if that suits you better
625 ml beef stock (I use a good quality instant, which is quite salty, so I don’t add extra salt)

4 large carrots, cut into evenly sized cubes
4 teaspoons whole grain mustard if desired
3 tablespoons soft dark brown sugar (I used quince jelly)
625 ml dark Belgian beer (or other dark ale). If you don’t have ale, use red wine

4 bay leaves

1 pinch of black pepper

A large handful of mushrooms, quartered

* * *

Preheat the oven to 150ºC/gas mark 2.

Gently heat the oil in a large, heavy based casserole dish.

Fry lardons of bacon for 5 – 10 minutes, until they’re a bit crispy.

Add the onion and turn the heat down.  Gently soften for 10 – 15 minutes.

Add spice, herbs and beef.  Brown the outside, shifting with a spatula to stop it burning.

Add the flour and shake the pan.  Add the rest of the ingredients.  I always crush the bay slightly to release the flavour.

Cover and gently cook in the oven for 3 hours until tender.  Enjoy the smell as it cooks, but best if you let it cool and then refrigerate for a day or two before eating.  reheat gently but thoroughly before serving.

Dauphinoise Potatoes

Dauphinoise Potatoes

I don’t eat a lot of red meat, but do appreciate it occasionally.  I agree with the importance of the origin of what we eat, and think that’s all the more important for meat, due to ethical concerns.

I sympathise many of the points put across by vegetarians and vegans, but do think that well-managed meat production can be a bonus to life and the countryside, both for us humans, and the other animals that we share it with.

Everyone knows that meat, beans & nuts are especially good sources of protein.  Protein is derived from the Greek Protos, or ‘first’. Whereas vitamins are mainly responsible for ensuring that the body functions well, proteins are needed to build and replace cells and tissue: muscle, hair, bone, nails and skin are all made up of proteins.  Blood contains proteins which help to carry oxygen around the body.  Proteins are needed to make enzymes, responsible for food digestion; and neurotransmitters, which (as the name indicates) help send messages from the nerves – enabling us to see, hear, think and move.

Although some proteins can be made by the body, there are 10 essential amino acids which have to come from food, and can’t be stored by the body.  So a regular consumption is needed to stay healthy.

When we do eat meat, it’s always unprocessed, and I think it’s important to know that it is from an ethical source – what was pure and good for the animal is going to be good for us.

Carbonnade of beef.

Carbonnade of beef.

I’d love to hear about your food choices, and the reasons behind them…

Now I’m off to see what other goodies people have brought to Fiesta Friday.

Click on the icon in the right sidebar to join the party!

Easy Peasy Supper: Parsi Chicken with Apricots.

Fiesta Friday *3

Time to entertain, but not to slave over an extensive shopping list and hot stove?

Easy Peasy Suppers fit the bill when interesting but non demanding recipes are called for, using ingredients that you don’t need to trawl the back streets to find  🙂

See more quick and easy ideas by searching ‘Easy Peasy’ in the right hand side bar.

Parsi Chicken with Apricots.

Parsi Chicken with Apricots: A delicately spiced ‘Easy Peasy Supper’.

Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Easy, I love this dish.

Spiced but not shouting and wonderfully adaptable

(Madhur says her friend ‘puts in a healthy glug of Maderia towards the end of cooking!’)

it’s a delicate, no fuss supper which works well with plain rice or potatoes.

Potato mint and egg salad

New Potato, fresh mint and soft-boiled, freshly laid egg salad.

‘Parsi’ means Persian.

India’s Parsi community were driven out of Persia by muslims around the 8th Century and settled on India’s West Coast.

At first there were concerns from locals that their country was already over populated.

According to tradition, the Parsi’s leader asked for a bowl of milk filled to the brim and a spoonful of sugar.

He carefully blended the sugar into the milk, without spilling a drop.

“We are like the sugar,” he explained, “We will only sweeten your country.”

Parsi spiced Chicken with Apricots.

Parsi Chicken with Apricots: A delicately spiced ‘Easy Peasy Supper’.

This dish is a little sweet, but delicious with it.

I’d recommend a fairly bland accompaniment to complement and not overpower the sweet – sour tones.

I had some new potatoes and mint that needed trimming, so made a quick salad with soft-boiled, freshly laid eggs… perfect!

Serves 4.  

Recipe adapted slightly from Madhur Jeffrey’s Curry Easy.

1.25 Kg Chicken pieces (or use a whole chicken, portioned, as I did)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

12 dried apricots

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

2 Cinnamon Sticks

1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

2 medium onions, sliced

1 Tablespoon tomato puree

3 teaspoons peeled and finely grated fresh ginger

1 1/2 Tbs granulated sugar (I used quince jelly)

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon garam masala

1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Mint - growing apace in the spring rain!

Mint – growing apace in the spring rain!

This is my contribution to Angie’s Fiesta Friday over at The Novice Gardiner

I’ve learnt so much from the other Fiesta-goers,

and am so grateful for the tips and advice I’ve been given.

I’m off to join you all now.

Follow the link above, or on the right hand side bar –

hope you enjoy this dish, and I’m looking forward to trying some of yours!

Half Term ‘Time’ in the garden.

How Does Your Garden Grow *5.

In London, it’s been disappointingly wet for a May Half Term, as everyone seems to be saying.

Last week, the sun shone and the air seemed warmer.

     As I sat in my office at school, glued to the computer for too many hours each day.

Now, the sun has taken a break along with the schools.

Lady's mantle in Spring rain.  May 14.

Lady’s mantle in Spring rain. May 14.

But the Half Term holiday gives precious time nonetheless.

Instead of the bright sunshine that May promises,

raindrops line the edge of leaves and glisten like jewels caught on petals and fringing stems.

Crystal encrusted Alium.  May 14.

Crystal encrusted Alium. May 14.

Dripping from the end of my nose as I pot up seedlings in muddy compost.

Wondering at the amazement of those little pink earthworms who, unaided and in under a year,

have transformed kitchen waste, scrap paper and random discarded garments into a mass of beautiful rich, crumbly compost.

Our pond seems to have turned into a fantastically successful blanket weed incubation centre.  (‘Long String Algae’ in US.)

Despite bales of barley straw, this wretched weed demands regular harvesting and discarding.

Luckily, the worms on the compost heap seem to appreciate it.

As I was clearing, I found myself face to face with this little fellow,

   poised on a lily pad and boldly watching me – as I watched him – throughout the dredging process…

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“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
― Margaret Atwood, Bluebeard’s Egg

* * *

“Is the spring coming?”  He said.  “What is it like?”…

“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”

– Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden.

Alium in the Spring rain.

Alium in the Spring rain.

Washed and dried, now I’m off to see what’s going on with Annie’s How Does Your Garden Grow project.  Take a look at or follow the pink blossom link on the right hand side bar for wonderful blogs and inspiring pictures.

Silent thoughts on a cold Spring day

Time for thoughts on a cold Spring day

‘Time’ is precious, even if it’s a grey or rainy day.

What do you do when you have ‘time’?

Easy Peasy Supper: Chicken Cacciatora.

Fiesta Friday *2

Delicious, quick and healthy.  I’m presuming that this is the dish Italian ladies had waiting for their hard-working husbands when they came home from a day working in the forest… made with equal love, it’s my healthy contribution to Fiesta Friday this week!

Easy Peasy Supper recipes are perfect for mid-week dinners, or entertaining at the weekend, when you’ve got something more entertaining than cooking to do all day!

Italian Forester's Chicken

Italian Forester’s Chicken

I based the recipe for this dish on Jamie Oliver’s, from Jamie’s Italy.

I omitted anchovies, and cut right down on wine, adding stock and extra tomato juice instead, in line with the tastes of the friend I made it for.  Really delicious – I love recipes that easily adapt to suit availability or taste.

2014-05-08 20.00.08

Serves around 6 people

2 Kg chicken, jointed, or 2 Kg of chicken pieces
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
8 bay leaves, slightly crushed
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 cloves garlic, peeled (1 crushed, 2 sliced)
½ bottle Chianti
flour, for dusting
extra virgin olive oil
6 anchovy fillets
1 handful green or black olives, stoned
2 x 400 g tinned plum tomatoes

Season the chicken pieces with salt and freshly ground black pepper and put them into a bowl with the bay leaves, rosemary sprigs, crushed clove of garlic and wine. Marinate overnight in the fridge, or for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4.

Drain the chicken, reserving the marinade, and pat dry with kitchen paper. Dust the chicken pieces with flour and shake off any excess. Heat an ovenproof pan, add a splash of olive oil, fry the chicken pieces until browned lightly all over and put to one side.

Fry off the sliced garlic gently until golden brown, then add the anchovies, olives, tomatoes (broken up with a wooden spoon) and the chicken pieces with their reserved marinade.

Return to the boil, cover with a lid or foil and bake in the preheated oven for around 1½ hours.

Skim off any oil that’s collected on top of the sauce, then stir, taste and add a little salt and pepper if necessary.

Remove the bay leaves and rosemary sprigs, and serve with a salad.

Foresters Chicken - Dairy Free & Deicious.

Foresters Chicken – Dairy Free & Deicious.

– It’s a shame the pictures have all come out so horribly ‘RED’!! Maybe because I took them when the chicken was still hot?

I’d appreciate any advice on the photography front if anyone can help – Thanks ex.

Meantime, I’m off to see other inspiring dishes – with far better photos, no doubt – over at Fiesta Friday – click the link in the right side bar to join in with Angie, the Novice Gardener and her crew  🙂

Pole dancing in the garden!

How Does Your Garden Grow *4

Washing Line Pole

Upcycling in the garden!

Too busy this last weekend to do much gardening… 😦

and surrounded by swaths of laundry after a house-full of guests,

my washing line seems to be the only thing that’s Growing In My Garden this week.

How does a nylon line suddenly get a foot longer, therefore a foot nearer the muddy ground…

Ensuring that the sheets have earthy brown trims after flapping over a wet lawn for a day or so?

My redundant IKEA curtain pole, having lost a ‘finial’ during building work, came to the rescue!

Washing line pole upcycled

Recycling in the garden

I’m suffering from not having ‘my time’ outside this week.

But watching washing dancing on the line,

billowing around such a pretty pole makes up in parts.

Hoping next weekend will be less frantic, and sunnier.

Until then, here’s my curtain call…

2014-05-11 07.05.27-2

Ode To a Washing Line.

There are many funny sights worth witnessing
on blustery days or fine
sights you see in the open air, on a swaying washing line. 
Socks are jovial talkative things, forever wanting to dance
Pyjamas are always so tired it seems, fall asleep if given the chance.
Shirts are ”armless” pathetic clothes
Crying at the merest whim
Briefs and pants are reluctant to talk
(they keep everything in)
Vests go around with mini skirts
they’ve fallen out with the slacks
Bras are so very full of themselves, but seldom have time to relax
T-shirts are ill-used and misshapen, from being too long in the sun
Trousers are extremely frustrated,
never being let-down for fun.

* * *

By John Day

* * *

Now, I’m off to see what’s growing in other How Does Your Garden Grow gardens –

follow the Pink flower link on the right hand sidebar to “How Does Your Garden Grow?”

– Annie’s wonderful weekly collection of inspiration and awe at Mammasaurus.


Curtains to the old washing pole!

Curtains to the old washing pole!

What have you ‘upcycled for use in your garden?

Mammasaurus and How Does Your Garden Grow?

Perfect Party Pudding!

Fiesta Friday *1

We have just enjoyed a wonderful sunny Bank Holiday Monday in the UK 🙂

This is my stand by celebration pudding and my first choice for gatherings on such occasions, when I want to make something special, but don’t want it take so long that there’s no time do something special as well!

… it takes ages in the oven, but only minutes of preparation time and always looks great.

Strawberry Pavlova - slice

As an added bonus, if you don’t count any of the white bits, it’s full of vitamins and virtually calorie free too!

Having enjoyed reading Fiesta Friday posts and using some of the recipes, I’ve plucked up my courage to join in, conscious that my photography skills are not comparable with other Fiesta participants.  But I’m hoping that I’ll pick up some tips… (I’m relying on you other fiesta-goers for that!)

* * *

So with thanks to with Angie over at Novice Gardiner,

Here I am, knocking on the door of the party house and looking forward to joining in…

* * *

An easy pre-metric way to remember the quantities for meringue used to be to allow 2 oz sugar per egg white – so when I’m making a pavlova for a party, I use 10 eggs and used to use 20 oz sugar… it’s all a bit more tricky now, with grammes – but that’s the idea!

For example, 4 egg whites and 250g caster sugar.

Line your flat baking tray by lining with good quality baking parchment.

Turn the oven on – I set the shelf in the centre and put the oven to the very lowest setting, and ‘cook’ the pavlova over night – it  slowly dries out this way, but you need to make sure you’re not going to need the oven for a late night roast or anything whilst its cooking!

Whisk egg whites until they form soft peaks (that’s a lot of whisking – best to go electric!)

Whisk in sugar, 1 Tbs at a time as this helps stiffen whites further.

Spread about 1/3 of the meringue in a circle to form the base of your Pavlova.

Either ‘blob’ or pipe remaining meringue around the edge, to form the ‘walls’ for the pavlova.

Let it dry out overnight in the oven.

When dried out, lift from baking sheet and carefully place on your serving board or dish.  Fill with cream and fruit and prepare to dazzle your guests – simple!

Strawberry Pavlova - whole


Some people recommend adding cornflour – this helps keep the meringue soft in the centre.  I don’t do this, because I like to fill mine a few hours in advance and this means that the moisture from the cream softens the meringue a bit anyway (this allows me to focus on the party and relaxing not finishing off the pudding at the last minute!) If you’d like to try this, add 1 tsp sieved cornflour with the last addition of sugar

Others like to add a tsp of vinegar.  Some believe that this keeps the meringue white (I think it’s pretty white anyway!) and also say that it helps the egg whites increase in volume.  If you’d like to try this, add 1 tsp vinegar with the final addition of eggs.

It’s fun to try making flavoured meringue – add some drops of vanilla or rosewater, depending on fruit used.

You can make darker meringue by substituting some of the caster sugar for brown – but this does make them more gooey too!

Add a drop or two of red food colouring and just marble it in lightly for a pretty pink fleck to your meringue.

Interesting fact –

The Pavlova desert is named after the Russian prima ballerina, Anna Matveyevna Pavlova (1881-1931).  It was said that her dancing was as though she had wings – so light and airy – hence naming the case for this desert after her.

Strawberry Pavlova - wholeWhat is your easy-peasy party pudding?

Follow the Fiesta-Friday link to see more great foodie posts – and thanks for letting me join in, guys!


Dainty Dancers!

How Does Your Garden Grow *3.

I love Aquilegia, or Columbine flowers.

Their common name is ‘Granny’s Bonnet’.

But my granny wouldn’t have been seen dead (and certainly not alive!)

in a bonnet like this.

DSCN2250 copy

Granny’s Bonnet on a hazy morning.

They always make me think of light-footed dancers in frilly tutus,

effortlessly drifting over flowerbeds…

Surfacing in new and surprising colours, just where they please the next year!

Here are some of the beautifully dressed acts appearing in my garden, lighting up the shady boarders this Spring…

 From Cecily Mary Barker’s beautiful Flower Fairies book, which my girls and I so enjoyed when they were young,

here is the accompanying poem…


The Song of the Columbine Fairy

Who shall the chosen fairy be
For letter C?
There’s Candytuft, and Cornflower blue,
Campanula and Crocus too,
Chrysanthemum so bold and fine,
And the pretty dancing Columbine.

Yes, Columbine! the choice is she;
And with her, see,
An elfin piper, piping sweet
A little tune for those light feet
That dance among the leaves and flowers
In someone’s garden.
(is it ours?)

Peeping through the Trellis as the day begins.

Peeping through the Trellis before the day begins.

Last Sunday was International Dawn Chorus Day.

I was up early as ever (groan) ready to prepare breakfast for guests we had staying.

The bread was finishing baking and the coffee brewing.

I nipped out and took these shots as the sun gently heralded the start of what turned out to be a fantastically sunny Bank Holiday Weekend Sunday…

Thank goodness the weather doesn’t always listen to the forecast!

Good morning gift!

Now I’m off to check out what the other How Does Your Garden Grow participants have been doing in their gardens last week…

Follow the pink HDYGG flower on the right sidebar to join Annie at and the other inspirational gardeners  🙂

What have you been doing in your garden this week?

A Riot… of Tulips!

‘How Does Your Garden Grow?’ 2:

4.14 Tulips white

Visiting the Royal Horticultural Gardens at Wisley every Easter and Summer holiday has become a mother and daughter tradition for me…

4.14 Tulips Pink ripple dwarf

A shot in the arm for us both.  A perfect excuse to snatch and share some ‘quality time’.

4.14 Tulips pink over bench

Having been inspired by Annie’s stunning post over at last week, I was planning to head for the monster greenhouse, to admire the orchid display.

4.14 Tulips red & yellow soft petals

But we got diverted by an absolute riot of tulips – over 1600 planted in a huge, unself-conscious mass.

Celebrating the totally wondrous variety of colour and form.

So bold and simple.  Unlike anything I have seen at Wisley before.

4.14 Tulips Purple

So my ‘How Does Your Garden Grow?‘ post this week is not exactly about my garden, but about one that I feel, in a way, is part of my inheritance…

4.14 Tulips red & white loud stripe

The joy of visiting with my mother and being inspired.

4.14 Tulips pink open

The entertainment of discovering temporary displays such as this one, and the security of re-visiting the fruit trees and checking that I’ve got the pruning in hand at home!

4.14 Tulips yellow & crisp red

So I’ll enjoy the orchids over at Mammasaurus, from the comfort of my own living room –

and savour the memory of those cheeky, bashful, outrageous tulips making such an exhibition of themselves!

4.14 Tulips black soldiers in front of gravel

Click on the ‘How Does Your Garden Grow?’  pink flower in the right hand side-bar to follow the link to other HDYGG? posts.

4.14 Tulips pink & strong white strong ones

* * *

Easy Peasy Supper Chicken & Cardamom Curry.

‘Easy Peasy Supper’ posts are just what it says on the tin –

simple recipes that can be easily made after a long day from mainly store cupboard ingredients

(depending on the content of your ‘store cupboard’!)

Chicken, Cardamon and Tomato Curry.


This week, I needed to make supper for a friend who, like me, doesn’t like strong spices… intact, he is probably the least adventurous person I know as far as taste is concerned  🙂

But I wanted to make something a bit different.  Something that would look as though I’d make an effort, despite the fact that I didn’t have time to go trawling shops for specific ingredients.   Or to cook (!)

This delicious recipe fitted the bill perfectly.

Although called a ‘curry’, the gentle spices perfume and enhance the flavour of the chicken, rather than being the main feature of the dish & overpowering it.

It’s an interesting mix of spices – I thought it sounded rather odd – but am glad I gave it a go!

Quick Chicken, Cardamom and Tomato Curry.

Quick Chicken, Cardamom and Tomato Curry.

The original recipe is based on one from Madhur Jaffrey’s ‘Curry Easy’ (and it was!)

5 Tablespoons Olive Oil

2 x 2″ sticks of Cinnamon

8 x cardamom Pods

1 x 1.6 kg Chicken, cut into pieces – or Chicken thighs (that’s what I used as I think they have more flavour)

2 medium Onions, peeled and chopped

2 small cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped (I omitted this on this occasion)

2 Tablespoons ground coriander

1 Tablespoon ground Cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric (I omitted this as it makes such horrid stains if it’s dropped on the tablecloth!!)

1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper – or more or less to taste – I used slightly less

Tomatoes from a tin (don’t use all the juice), chopped

1 Litre / 32 fl oz Chicken Stock


Brown chicken pieces in oil over a high heat, in a wide sauté pan – don’t overfill the pan.

When hot, add cinnamon and cardamom.

Transfer browned chicken pieces to a bowl.  When all pieces are browned, add onions to the pan with the cardamom and cinnamon. Reduce heat to medium and saute until the onion starts to brown lightly.

Add the garlic and stir a few times.  Then add the coriander, cumin, turmeric (if you dare to use it!) and cayenne pepper.  Stir again, then add tomatoes, stirring.

Return the browned chicken and juices to the pan, along with the chicken stock.  Bring to the boil, cover and cook rapidly over a medium heat for 15 minutes.

Remove cover and turn the heat up.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened.


I served with Basmati rice – I added a few leaves from my lime tree to infuse the cooking water, and stirred in some peas at the last minute… simple and delicious!


If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
J. R. R. Tolkien


What is your current favourite Easy Peasy Supper recipe?


Rampant Ladybirds in the Rhubarb!

How Does Your Garden Grow? 1.

Easter Holiday this week – so I’ve been planting French bean, pea and marigold seeds, potting on the courgettes, cosmos, chard, sweet peas & pansies, and generally having quality time in my favourite place.

The wildlife have been busy too…

I wonder what next year’s Ladybirds will look like!?


I have also joined up with Annie at Mammasaurus and  her ‘How Does Your Garden Grow?‘ project.

Annie’s blog is inspirational and beautiful – food for the eye and the mind.

I’m looking forward to a virtual weekly meeting with the other participants in HDYGG and following what is going on in their gardens… humbly, having compared my photographic skills with those on the other blogs… but bottom of the pile is a good place to start, as the only way is up!!

Click on the pink How Does Your Garden Grow image in the right sidebar of my blog to see Annie and the other HDYGG bloggers –

or follow this link:

Rainy Easter Day.


Apple Espaliers – 4 years old this Easter!

Snatching a little time to potter is so precious.  I found some bags of clean sand being offered on Freecycle, so took the opportunity and did one of  the garden’s most satisfying and most dreaded jobs – renewing the grass edging with a cleanly cut sandy trench.




A satisfying job, because it does make the grass look so smart.

Dreaded, because it always leaves me aching all over – must be a wonderful workout!

I love the principles behind Freecycle – that one person’s waste will be of use to another… I also picked up some Victorian Rope Edging tiles this week, but they’ll be used for a project that is yet to be conceived!

Who needs the gym when they’ve got a spade and Freecycle?!

Here’s an illustration of how my garden grows this week –

What has been happening in your garden this week?

And do you use Freecycle?