29 June 2008

excellent women

I just finished reading Excellent Women by Barbara Pym, and it was indeed excellent.

I'd received Jane and Prudence for Christmas last year and absolutely loved it, so I was very pleased to discover Virago had reissued another Barbara Pym as part of their anniversary series.

Alexander McCall Smith sums her work up beautifully in his introduction:

'One does not laugh out loud while reading Barbara Pym; that would be too much. One smiles. One smiles and puts down the book to enjoy the smile. Then one picks it up again and a few minutes later an unexpected observation on human foibles makes one smile again.'

Mrs M had suggested coordinating my book covers with my flowers, but in this instance I'd rather coordinate my book cover with a blouse (both by Orla Kiely)!

27 June 2008

picnic time

One of my goals this summer is to organize a weekly picnic on the allotment. So I've been trying new picnic recipes, and the latest is mini pea frittatas.

Although tasty, they were the dickens to remove from the tin! I'm hoping paper baking cups will make it easier, although perhaps they'll just stick to the paper cups...

I've also purchased this book for more recipes and inspiration:

I would be very grateful for any favorite picnic recipes you might like to share (hint, hint Dragonfly and Mrs M!).

I promise they'll be put to use straight away--or as soon as the sun reappears.

25 June 2008

out and about

Today Rachel and I went for a spot of shopping in Richmond. Of course we had to fortify ourselves first, which meant coffee and chocolate treats at William Curley: a financier for Rachel and a little brownie for me. They have lovely non-chocolate treats as well, including these hazelnut crunches brought home for G (and me!):

We then headed out for a look-see. Our favorites were Maison and Brissi, both beautiful interiors shops well worth a visit. Rachel and I fell completely in love with this bath:

As you can see on the Brissi website, it's actually a gorgeous silvery color (I have yet to master the flash function on my camera). But it wouldn't fit into Rachel's car, and I'm not so sure it would fit into our bathroom either!

20 June 2008

mamma mia

In addition to 'pancake morning', we have 'homemade pizza night' once a week. I do enjoy my routines!

We recently discovered replacing some of the flour with semolina makes a truly fab crust: crispy and chewy at the same time. G rolls the dough super-thin, and we use a baking stone--it really does make a difference.

The toppings on my white pizza are always the same (see above re routines): mozzarella and prosciutto or green olives with fresh rocket and basil scattered over the top. But G likes to experiment and comes up with some rather intriguing combinations from the contents of the fridge!

18 June 2008

meme, part one

A few weeks ago, Dragonfly tagged me with a meme. The first question: what were you doing 10 years ago?

In June 1998, I'd just finished my BA in art and literature. But rather than attend graduation in Boston, I traveled to Salzburg and Vienna with Professor Gregory Slowik and 11 other girls to study the life and work of Mozart.

It was one the best months of my life: amazing music, art, and architecture...breathtaking scenery...great friends...and fabulous coffee! I'd love to go back someday.

16 June 2008

sarah raven's garden, part two

This morning Sue and I walked along the river to Hampton Court Palace for coffee at the Tiltyard Cafe. But I didn't take any pictures! So here are a few more pictures from our Sarah Raven visit, as you can never have too many splendid flowers:

We were also very impressed by the gooseberries in the fruit area. They had been trained as standards--essentially gooseberry topiaries. Such a brilliant idea. I wonder why we never thought of it before, as weeding and picking our low bushes is often painful in the extreme.

And finally, as Sarah Raven is probably best known for her flower arrangements, here's a lovely one spotted on an outdoor table.

There would have been more pictures, but my camera ran out of battery power just at this moment--right before I discovered the chicken house!

15 June 2008

sarah raven's garden

Today G very kindly drove us all the way to East Sussex for an open day at Sarah Raven's Garden. We were a bit uncertain about the weather at first. But except for a few dark clouds, it remained warm and bright, and the scenery on the drive was beautiful.

In the garden, the flowers were gorgeous, as always.

And we had a good look in the fruit and vegetable areas, with an eye to new ideas for the allotment.

There were also stalls selling plants and food from local producers. On the right is G's blackberry ice cream from Downsview Farmhouse--very yummy! And we purchased some amazing bread from Judge's Bakery.

At the end of the day, laden with our bread and a tray of green flowers and red celery to plant out at home, I found I really didn't want to go. I even considered moving into this caravan parked in the garden. Very Cath Kidston--no?

Finally, just a quick note to thank Ali so much for mentioning Jolly Hockey Sticks on Domesticali!

13 June 2008

summer reading

I finished The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield within days; it really is almost impossible to put down.

The fictional heroine's droll diary entries are laugh-out-loud funny. It may be about a 1930s Devon housewife, but the stylistic similarities to Bridget Jones's Diary are unmistakable.

This edition, with a fabric cover designed by Cath Kidston, is part of the Virago Modern Classics 30th anniversary series. While reading the last few pages on the allotment, I noticed the cover matched the roses in one of the neighboring plots perfectly.

12 June 2008

'roobarb' crumble

In addition to our asparagus, we've also had an ample crop of rhubarb this season (which we refer to as 'roobarb'--with extra 'oo'--after one of G's favorite childhood television characters).

G requested rhubarb crumble on Sunday, which I made from a fantastically easy recipe gleaned from the Waitrose website. I also made the rhubarb and apple upside-down cake from The Produce Bible on Tuesday, but that was whisked away to G's office before I could arrange a photo shoot!

I think our only hope of really dealing with all our rhubarb, though, is preserving it. I have multitudinous recipes for rhubarb and ginger jam. But despite a day course last year, jam making still scares the bejesus out of me...

10 June 2008

getting our greens

We've had a magnificent crop of asparagus on the allotment this year, so we've been trying new asparagus recipes. One of our favorites so far has been the Asparagus and Mint Frittata from this book:

As we also have a big crop of mint, I now just need to convince the allotment committee to let us keep chickens, and we'll be nearly self-sufficient in frittata ingredients!

09 June 2008

camping for beginners

I've always wanted to be the kind of girl who camps.

I was a Girl Scout for 10 years, but I was terribly afraid of dirt and could never seem to get a campfire going. I'm determined to change all that now, though, and this weekend I practiced setting up our new tent on the allotment.

G very kindly deciphered the directions, which assumed a familiarity with flysheets. And veteran campers may notice I omitted a few pegs along the sides of the tent. But all in all I'm terribly pleased with the whole thing.

Now I just need to work on my fire building skills (although a camping stove is probably more sensible) for the hot dogs and s'mores--yum!

08 June 2008

rise and shine

Breakfast during the week is invariably cold cereal and toast, which I do love. But on the weekend, we always have pancakes.

G thinks our pancakes look like moons, and he's provided me with this picture (of Io, a moon of Jupiter) to prove it:

Hard to tell which is which--no?

03 June 2008

wellie good car

Today was definitely a day for wellies...

As it was too dark for picture taking, here are some from a few days ago: a fab retro car parked in our development. I really hanker after a Morris. But this Citroën is not only beautifully restored and maintained...it's the same color as my wellies!

01 June 2008

a weakness for wellies

I love wellies. I'd never owned a pair--indeed had never even heard of wellies--before moving to England. But now I own a pair of light blue Hunters, and they make me so happy. Perhaps it's because I feel just a little bit more British when I'm wearing my wellies.

Pictured above is my current wellie obsession. I fell in love with these Ilse Jacobsen wellies the very first time I saw them at Petersham, which was over a year ago. Although they aren't actually British (Danish) and wouldn't be practical for the allotment (just imagine all the mud that would collect in those laces), they would be absolutely amazing around town. Like so many of the best shoes: impractical but very cute.