Thursday, 15 August 2019

Summer Tomato Soup

Hello Friends!

It's a very busy time of year, the tourists are in town and for those of us who work in the tourist industry it's Go! Go! Go! until the middle of September.  It's so easy to grab a ready meal, a quick snack, or rely on sandwiches as finding time to eat a healthy, balanced diet, and cook delicious food is something that is often a bit of a struggle during the busy summer months, and if I am honest, after a long day on my feet the last thing I want to be doing is standing in the kitchen prepping supper and tomorrow's lunch box.

I had to do a bit of a fridge clearing out a day or two ago, and as ever there were plenty of things nearing or even past their best, so here's what I came up with to avoid wasting a glut of cherry and other small tomatoes.  I have to say it's quite possibly one of the best soups I have ever made.

I found about 300 gr, or about 10 oz, of very ripe tomatoes in the salad drawer in the fridge.  Far too many to eat, and far too ripe to think about keeping any longer, so here's what I did:

I placed a layer of fresh basil in the bottom of a shallow Pyrex casserole, big enough to take the tomatoes in a single layer. I drizzled them very lightly with olive oil, and seasoned with freshly ground salt and black pepper, with a teaspoon of Balsamic vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar sprinkled over. I roasted them on Gas Mark 7 for about 25 minutes until they had started to caramelise. I removed the basil and cooled the tomatoes before putting in the fridge.  Today, I tipped them into my Ninja goblet, added the juice of a freshly squeezed, large orange and blitzed to a puree.  I warmed it through in a saucepan, seasoned with a little more freshly ground black pepper {to me there are few seasonings more special than freshly ground black pepper} a sprinkling of grated Parmesan, and a sprig of fresh basil to garnish.

Can I say it was utterly, completely, and totally lip smacking? Perfect for a light, summer lunch if you have a glut of tomatoes too, although it only made a small bowlful.  I am sure it could have been diluted to serve two, but then all that delicious oven roasted tomato goodness would also have been diluted, and tomatoes are so good for us.

I always like to play with my food, but this is one recipe I don't think I want to play with, and will definitely be making again, very soon. Fresh tomatoes and herbs only, and I don't think I will even consider adding onions or garlic, or any other tweaks to the seasonings.

Let me know if you try it, and if so, I do hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Until next time

p.s. I have to say my Ninja food processor is one of the best gadgets I have ever bought, and I have owned mine now for two years and I think I have used it nearly every day since I got it home. It wasn't cheap, but oh, my! how it has proved it's value in the food preparation in my kitchen.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Summer Days

Hello Friends!

What a glorious week of wonderful Summer weather we have had in the west.  It has been hot but not unbearably so, and the days have brought endless sunshine from one end of the day to the next. Tourists have been happy, the annual Sand Church competition went ahead with the tide way out and plenty of good weather for building such creative ideas. I had to work, but found it all on Facebook later that evening.  Fetes, outdoor events, and local festivals have all happened in the best of weather and everyone is smiling and happy, which is what we all like to see.

Blue sky above my cottage!  More than enough for a pair of sailor's trousers, I think we can outfit the fleet!

Please pause with me for a moment, though, for it is not all blue sky and sunshine.  My heart and prayers go out to the parts of England that have suffered most dreadfully. There are some areas that suffered with a heatwave of record breaking proportions, only to have this followed by horrendous thunderstorms, bringing torrential rain which is still bringing life threatening floods and destruction to so many.  I am sad to say that Lyme Park National Trust property is one such place under flood, and some of the significant historic gardens have been destroyed. There are more storms to come.

Speaking of the National Trust, I have been busy polishing my wood furniture with a tin of their finest Furniture Polish. Well, if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me!  Isn't this the most sumptuous colour?

The garden slowly fades into late Summer now, and flowers are fewer and further between.  My favourite Field Poppies are flowering and producing welcome seed heads now.

However, this very morning I picked a small handful of the first blackberries of the season. They were sweet and juicy, for we have had rain and sunshine in good quantities at the optimum times. Later, I found half a dozen more.  Yummy!

Butterflies have been visiting too, and Painted Ladies are in exceptionally high numbers across the country.

A Gatekeeper

Red Admiral 

Large White

Do you recall that lovely patio rose I shared here {scroll down a bit to see it}?  The buds that grew around the main one opened suddenly and all together making this sumptuous display.

My one worry is that this spray is on a sucker. I know the damage suckers can do, but oh! it's just so pretty I have not the heart to cut it off.

I apologise for my intermittent appearances, and the brevity of my words, but I am very busy at work now. The main season is upon us, and for most who live here it's a case of all hands on deck while the holidays run, then it will all calm down again. The weather is on the turn too, which means it will be even busier as people do not want to go to the beach or walk the coast path. 

Until next time

Monday, 29 July 2019

Lazy Hazy Days

Hello Friends!

Glorious Summer has arrived! Much of the United Kingdom has basked in, or suffered {depending on your view} a heatwave of record proportions. Here in the west, the high, often stifling temperatures have been tempered by the soft Summer breezes that billow in from the ocean that surrounds the land I call home.

Warm days, often accompanied by warm nights, have kept us happy for days, and the odd sudden and sharp Summer downpours have been greeted as they cool us down and refresh the land.

I have been busy in work, so I have not been out and about enjoying the languid days as much as the people I serve in the information centre and shop, but I am happy meeting and greeting, and doing what I can to ensure others enjoy their visit to my home.

The garden pots have needed regular watering. As much as possible I use grey water.  The lawn is more yellow now than green, and I do not water it, but grass is tenacious and it will recover once the heatwave passes, as it surely will.  Laundry dries quickly, and bedding is strewn on airers in the garden to freshen and puff up in the bleaching sunlight and fresh breezes that blow. Those same breezes make the Verbena Bonariensis and Wind Anemones sway and dance delightfully, bringing soft rhythm and colour to the borders as the earlier blooming flowers fade and turn to next year's seed.

Yesterday was the birthday anniversary of Beatrix Potter, a particular heroine of mine. To me, she is so much more than the authoress of Peter Rabbit and other children's books, the tales of which many of us grew up with. She was a born countrywoman, with an unsurpassed natural love of the land, the countryside and it's ways; she was an illustrator whose work leaves me in awe; above all, she understood the importance of land management and her bequest to the National Trust left a legacy from which strong foundations were built, making the National Trust the respected organisation it is today.  Her legacy was so important to the Trust that they have named their  Central Offices in Swindon Heelis {her married surname} in honour of her.  

A few years ago I painted this little water colour, copied from one of her own, in her honour.

A parish fundraiser caught my eye, so off I went for a Strawberry Cream Tea treat. I arrived in good time for I wished to beat the crowds that would later pour in.   It was a delightful afternoon, and a perfectly lovely spot to sit and enjoy some refreshment.

On my way home, I stopped a while amongst the old and ancient stones that mark the silent resting places of the sleeping people of the parish gone long before, and glancing through the shady trees I saw the old part of the new cemetery and the former Cathedral caretaker's house, Sunny Bank.

The sudden Summer burst of colour in the garden is slowly winding down, but here's some of what is still doing well in my cottage garden.

The blackberry vines are in full flower and already many sprigs of berries are formed, so if we have a good and heavy rainfall soon then the crop should be a bumper one this Autumn.

On Thursday next the calendar turns to August 1st ~ how, my friends, has this come around so quickly? Soon we will be hurtling into Autumn, my most favourite season of them all.  Fruits to be foraged and harvested, Winter stores to prepare and put up!  A busy time in the kitchen coming soon.

Until next time
Deborah xoxo

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Meanwhile, A Trip to the Tip!

Hello Friends!

Goodness, it's been three weeks, most of which have been utterly glorious Summery weather, since I last wrote. If we have had the odd rainy day then it's gone mostly unnoticed, blanketed by blue skies and warm sunshine, and lazy ocean breezes billowing gently across sun baked hay meadows and ripening corn fields.

Welcome to my new followers! Thank you, and I am thrilled you now follow my ramblings.

I have a little news to share!  I started a new job on July 1st, and this is the reason why I haven't written an entry here for a short while.  I applied and interviewed in June, and shortly after was told I was the successful candidate! Yay Me!!!  It's part time, and that suits me well right now. It's taking a little getting used to, but I do love it.  My official title is Retail Assistant, but it also involves giving out a lot of information on the area to tourists and visitors who are looking for things to do, places to visit, and general things that all tourists need help with. I love helping people, and I simply love it!  Oh, it's with the National Trust, by the way. Many of you will know I am a huge fan of the National Trust, and I know many of you share my passion, so I am doubly happy to have got this job.  I am so grateful to them for giving me the opportunity to work for them.

So, today is a day off and when my lovely neighbour asked if I would like to go to the "tip" with her, I jumped at the chance.  Those of you who know me well know that I can get a little excited over a trip to the tip {officially, it's the Civic Amenity and Recycling Centre} as it brings back such happy memories of going there with my Dad when we had rubbish to take for recycling, and we would always route around to see if there was someone else's unwanted treasure that we could use. I've always been a recycler long before it was fashionable, you see.  Off we went to take away her garden waste, and I could not resist taking photos of all the flowers growing around the centre, they are such a haven for wildlife!  Here are a few.

There was a huge bank of Convolvulus and the pristine white flowers were simply gigantic! It has many names, including bindweed and morning glory, but is generally considered the bane of gardeners and farmers alike as it chokes out everything in its creeping path.  Did you know there are over 1,650 species of Convolvulus?  Neither did I.  I think it is a very beautiful plant.

A hedge full of all sorts of wild flowers, and some that may have seeded from the nearby composting centre

I love umbelliferous plants of any kind. Their flower and seed heads make my heart go pitter patter and the birds will feed happily for many weeks to come.

Teasels in a tiny patch by some giant concrete monoliths. Loved by goldfinches particularly, and also by me to put in dried arrangements for Autumn decorating.

I think this one is having a 1980's style aerobic workout!

Another umbel gone to seed

Such a pretty colour on the sorrel plant. As a child, I would pull all the seeds off in my hand and scatter them like confetti as I walked the country byways with my Nanna. Little did I know my sweet game was spreading the seeds far and wide!

Buddleias abounded everywhere! Butterflies will be in abundance when the sun comes out, for sure.

One of the fun things is finding new treasures from the discarded items others have brought to recycle, and today I found these two, tiny cut glass bowls. I think they may be salt cellars, but whatever they are, they are pretty, vintage pieces that I am happy to give a new home.

Uh oh! As we approach the junction back on to the main road, we suddenly discover we will be stuck behind a tractor pulling a trailer full of hay bales. The joys of Summer in the country!

Soon enough, though, he turns into the farm lane and once again we are on our way!

So, I hope you enjoyed your little trip to the tip!  I am gathering material for more gardening entries, but you will have to bear with me as I adjust to working and I settle down into my new routine.

Until next time
Deborah xo

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Stargazer Lilies

Hello Friends!

Stargazer lilies, a big, beautiful, bold and blousy lily of the Oriental group and well known for their incredible perfume {which you either love or loathe} and those infamous deep orange stamens that drop pollen everywhere, indelibly staining anything it drops on.  Stargazers can grow to a height of around 36 inches with up to eight blooms on each stem, which in turn, when grouped together, makes a spectacular display in any summer flower border.

It's fun sometimes to look back and revisit things we once had in our gardens. At one time, I had beautiful Stargazer lilies that festooned the patio and borders, spilling everywhere in pots and which brought bright, bold splashes in a movable feast of colour to any spot in the garden. Each year, for about five years, they bloomed, but with diminishing vim and vigour, each year seeing smaller and fewer blooms. What became of them I knew not. It was a puzzle. They were properly cared for, as I thought, with the right amount of water and feed, and every year the compost was refreshed, so why did they just slowly diminish and disappear?

It seems, in retrospect, I may have done a few things badly by my bulbs, by using the wrong compost, by putting them in pots, and by not digging them in deeply enough, despite following the instructions that came with my bulbs to the letter.  Also, apparently, lilies don't stick around that long either, so as they sowed seed each year, this contributed to their demise. I am no expert, these are simply facts I have gleaned from across the internet. You may know differently? Please share!

While I had them in my garden, I adored them, and so did the pollinating insects, especially the hover flies, and they obligingly posed while I snapped away happily as they drank the rich, fragrant nectar.

Sometimes, when I have taken a macro shot, the resulting photo looks as if aliens have landed.

Pure, velvety, sumptuousness!

Another alienesque shot, but oh! Just look at those snazzy colours complimenting and making the whole image pop!

Pretending to be a Venus Fly Trap look alike

Even after the rain they still manage to look spectacular

The Lily and the Bee 
by Henry Lawson

I Looked upon the lilies
When the morning sun was low,
And the sun shone through a lily
With a softened honey glow.
A spot was in the lily
That moved incessantly,
And when I looked into the cup
I saw a morning bee.
“Consider the lilies!”
But, it occurs to me,
Does any one consider
The lily and the bee?

The lily stands for beauty,
Use, purity, and trust,
It does a four-fold duty,
As all good mortals must.
Its whiteness is to teach us,
Its faith to set us free,
Its beauty is to cheer us,
And its wealth is for the bee. 

“Consider the lilies!”
But, it occurs to me,
Does any one consider
The lily and the bee

I hope you enjoyed a little trip down Stargazer Memory Lane today!  Maybe one day I will bring them back into my garden, for no cottage garden is complete without.

Until next time
Deborah xo