A whole new meaning to a ‘kitchen garden’!

I am really getting into growing our own veg this summer – gold star to Joanna for ticking box on ‘must do’ list! As you may have realised, I am not one for wasting things. Well, OK, so I am a typical crafter and I hoard things… but I also like to recycle and make use of ‘waste’ products in the garden too. We all go on about ‘being green’ and reducing our carbon footprint, but really, this is all common sense stuff that previous generations did as a matter of course!

Slug off!
If you want to give your garden slugs a hard time and, like me don’t like using slug pellets, save your coffee grounds! Empty the bits left in your cafetière or machine on to the soil around your plants. They not only keep the pests at bay they will enrich the soil too.

Now this idea is a little contentious… but you could try submerging some plastic cups into your veg beds around your plants and fill them with beer. Yes, beer. The slugs will be attracted to the beer and drop into the cups. Richard is not entirely happy about this…

Egg shells are also a pet hate of slugs and snails as they don’t like to crawl over them. I put my empty egg shells into a plastic container, wait until I have quite a few and then take great delight in smashing them into small pieces with a spoon! You can then sprinkle them on the ground around your salads and the critters ought to keep away.

Eggcellent compost
Egg shells can also be added to your compost with other compostable waste. Around a third of an average household bin can be composted including fruit and vegetable peelings, but don’t put whole old potatoes in, as these will grow into plants and create more spuds. You can also use teabags and even shredded cardboard and newspaper along with your general clippings and cuttings but be sure you don’t put in any weed seed heads or those with roots that can regenerate.

Rice water is nice water
When you cook rice keep the water rather than pouring it down the sink. There are several plant friendly minerals that are ideal for giving your plants a nutritional boost.


Ninety years young!

The Queen on her 90th birthday walkabout.I make no apology for being a royalist! I think our Queen is magnificent and, for her still to be as active as she is at 90, is just incredible. What a role model she is and what changes she has witnessed in her lifetime. What I also love is picking up little nuggets about the Queen being herself, the ‘real Elizabeth’, especially tales about when she was a youngster. These are two of my favourites:

Horse-mad from the earliest, Lilibet, as she was known, used to tie dressing gown cords to her nursery bed posts as reins to drive her pretend horses. Some 30 toy horses were fed, watered, groomed and then ‘stabled’ in a corridor each night.

Once, while very bored in a French lesson with her governess Crawfie, Lilibet tipped a full ink pot over her own head!

“Good evening Mr Bond.”And then, possibly my favourite moment where she showed her great sense of humour… the Queen surprised the world during the London Olympics by pretending to parachute into the opening ceremony, uttering the immortal line: “Good evening, Mr Bond.”

Well done, and many happy returns for yesterday your Majesty!


Here’s a quick summary of some of the events, major and quirky, that Elizabeth II has witnessed:

8 May 1945

Victory in Europe Day

Elizabeth and Margaret walked miles through the London streets, witnessing public jubilation for themselves.

17 May 1956
Elvis Presley’s first chart hit Heartbreak Hotel reaches number 2 in the UK

The Mini, with its creator Sir Alec Issigonis26 August 1959
Launch of the Austin Mini

30 July 1966
England win the World Cup

1 July 1967
First UK colour television broadcast

20 July 1969
The moon landings

1 January 1973
UK enters the European Economic Community

First man on the moon. Photo: NASA20 July 1976
Viking I lands on Mars

Silver Jubilee

4 May 1979
First female UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher was also the longest-serving UK Prime Minister of the 20th century.

1 January 1985
UK’s first mobile phone call is made

9 November 1989
Fall of the Berlin Wall

20 December 1990
First web page

“Annus horribilis” In the words of the Queen “1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure.”

6 May 1994
Channel Tunnel completed. The tunnel was the first land link between Britain and France since the last Ice Age.

4 August 2000
Queen Mother’s 100th birthday

11 September 2001
Terrorist attacks in New York claim 2,996 lives.

Golden Jubilee – although 2002 saw the deaths of both the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, the Jubilee year was marked with popular support for the Queen.

Lovely portrait of the Queen surrounded by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren to celebrate her 90th birthday. Photo: Annie Leibovitz14 April 2003
Human genome decoded

4 February 2004
Facebook launched! And here’s a page for the British Monarchy.

Global financial crisis – the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Diamond Jubilee – Elizabeth became the first British monarch since Victoria to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee… and appear alongside James Bond!

9 September 2015
Elizabeth II becomes UK’s longest-reigning monarch. The Queen entered the record books as Britain’s longest-reigning monarch after surpassing the reign of her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria. At 5.30pm she had officially equalled Victoria’s 23,226 days, 16 hours and 18 minutes on the throne – over 63 years, seven months and two days.


Happy Birthday Sis!

Richard and I flew over to Jersey last weekend to celebrate my sister’s 60th birthday (ha ha not keeping that number quiet!) and I decided to make her a simple but, hopefully, popular card.

There have been times when my sister has wrinkled her nose at over embellished “Joanna’s gone mad with flowers” type designs. So I thought I would aim for calm and elegant and leave the photograph to do the talking. In case you wondered I am the little girl on the right and she is on the left. My Mum was always so glamorous when we were small – lovely memories.


Time for tea?

There are times when I just love playing with the pretty decorations that I have in my house – well I think they’re lovely anyway! Dating back to the times when I was helping style all the non fiction flower arranging and cookery books that I wrote in the 80s and 90s, I have always liked arranging pretty things.

Some might call my house cluttered (Richard does for one) but I just can’t resist lovely bits of vintage lace, shells, pretty flowers, semi precious rocks, old china – you name it and I squirrel it away pretending it might come in for a photo shoot sometime, somewhere!

Well these lovely flowers arrived today and I thought they were too nice not to share with the world. The blue hydrangea is high on my list of favourite flowers as Richard knows and the fabulous bouquet of tulips and herbs was part of my Christmas present also from Richard – a bouquet of flowers every month for six months – how lucky am I?

So I got playing and before you accuse me of eating way too many cakes, these are fake cakes intended for use in photography or window displays and I just think they look lovely sitting on the dresser base I have in that room. I have had to explain to little Grace several times now that they are Granny’s toy cakes like the bits in her toy kitchen and not for eating – you can see her narrowing her eyes and deciding whether to believe me or not!


Moving on…

My partner in crime writing, Julia, is about to embark on a bit of a mammoth undertaking… moving house after 21 years! I’m jolly glad it’s her that’s moving and not me!! Here, she tells us how preparations are coming on…

“I’ve put it off as long as I can, but the time has come to downsize both my house – very old and spread over three floors, and my garden – too large and steep. As I am sure many of you know, the entire moving process is a bit of a nightmare as this country does not seem to have a particularly logical buying and selling process, unlike Scotland, which does. But I am not going to go on about that side of the business, I was thinking more of the ‘de-cluttering’ exercise that moving house involves…

Over 21 years one does accumulate a lot of ‘stuff’. And the ‘stuff’ always seems to be perplexing. I find myself crawling about in a cluttered cupboard or dusty loft space and thinking: “Where on earth has that come from?” “I don’t ever remember buying that!” or, most commonly, “Why ever did I keep that?!”

My best moment so far has been finding two pairs of curtains and feeling memories fill the air along with the dust of two decades as I opened the plastic bag they were neatly stowed in. The first pair was dark blue velvet, made for me about 50 years ago to keep the early morning summer light out of my bedroom when I was (ahem!) a very young child. The second was a pair of very posh curtains I had made when I bought a house in Cambridge and that I remember, at the time, made me feel thoroughly grown up.

I was thrilled at this rediscovery as I thought they’d been ruined when a squirrel had nested in them in an eaves storage cupboard when I’d first moved into this old house. The endearing little furry creature had gnawed its way through the folded curtains producing an effect rather like we did at infant school when cutting out shapes with scissors on closely folded paper… 

I whipped out the curtains with glee… only to discover that yes, there were the neatly spaced holes created by Mr Squirrel and each curtain completely ruined. So why had I kept them? I have no idea… perhaps some moment of whimsy years ago when I couldn’t bear to part with them. Not so this time around – they went straight in the bin being of no use to man nor beast. But rest assured, anything half decent now resides in my local charity shop. Books, clothes and interesting kitchen rejects now adorn their shelves. All I have to do is stop myself from going in and re-buying everything thinking it’s all so nice and such a bargain… oh dear.

Among many other grubby and rather depressing discoveries was a box of ‘bits’ which included two spanners, numerous packs of travel tissues, a clockwork mouse (really) and two rather bizarre looking red rubber teats. It took me some time, and not a little consternation, to remember that I had once bottle-fed a lamb and teats had been much in demand!

Boxes and boxes of photographs are still sitting waiting to be opened. I will sort through and chuck out the completely pointless, the out of focus and the images of people and places long forgotten. But I am sure most will get packed up again and carted off to my next house as I can’t bear to chuck out images of childhood or of the dear departed. Throwing them away always feels like a rejection somehow. Anyway, sorting through old photos won’t be a chore for today’s young people as printed photos are almost obsolete now. While this may make for less clutter I can’t help but think it’s a shame. Flicking through old and faded photos is a rather lovely way to reflect on who, and what, have gone before and to think positively about what lies ahead.