Archive | October 2015

Pumpkin Muffin Cakes With A Mascarpone Frosting

The clocks went back an hour last week and it really feels like Autumn is here.  There have been some beautiful sunny, crisp days this week and there have also been some rotten, wet days too:

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But the leaves are turning brown and falling and each day looks beautiful wether it is sunny or wet.

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This week I have been busy catching up in my home after last weeks decorating.  Someone asked me last week how I organise myself so that I do so much…..in truth, if I’m doing something like decorating, then the bare minimum gets done.  We have quick meals or freezer meals which I have cooked ahead of time and I keep on top of the washing, but everything else is put on hold…..as you can see from the mess in our kitchen in the photograph below:

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I have concentrated on finishing my daughter’s bedroom this week.  We had ordered some flat pack furniture that was delivered on Saturday.

The furniture is an early birthday and Christmas present for my daughter and she has also paid for some of it from her allowance too.

I have got to say that the instructions for assembling it were terrible and it took me ages to put it together and there was a small piece missing which the shop have promised they will post to us.

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But when they were finished they did look good and my daughter was very pleased:

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I also put her curtain pole back up after painting it, but found that the rings wouldn’t slide across the pole easily when I tried to shut the curtains.  So I used a wax candle to rub across the top of the pole and it now works well (this is something you can do with any curtain track that sticks).IMG_2739 IMG_2776

I am very pleased with the curtain pole, but it will look better when I get around to making the new curtains for her too.

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This week I also stained the old mirror from my youngest daughter’s bedroom, as she didn’t want it.

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As you can see in the photograph above, I used my very old tin of left over woodstain.

The mirror now sits in my eldest daughter’s bedroom, matching her furniture:

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Incidentally, my eldest daughter’s old mirror now sits in my bedroom, as the frame on my old mirror had final broken after twenty three years of use).

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As I still had some woodstain left, I used it to paint the shelves that again my youngest daughter didn’t want in her new bedroom.  The shelves now sit in my kitchen where the old chest freezer used to be before it broke.  These shelves will be great for both my daughters’ school work, to keep it tidy:

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Finally, we gave my daughters old desk to ‘Loros’ to resell and I put her old wardrobe onto ‘freecycle‘ and it was picked up by a lovely lady on Wednesday.  This wardrobe was given to us second hand, thirteen years ago and I think it still looked in good condition. So it was lovely to know that it will still be used, rather than ending up in a landfill site.

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Halloween

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Tomorrow is halloween and each year many pumpkins are carved and the insides are just thrown away and I so hate waste.  So I thought today I would share a few of my favourite pumpkin recipes with you:

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Pumpkin Recipes:

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Spicy Pumpkin Soup….the recipe is here.

 Pumpkin and Orange Cake….the recipe is here.

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Pumpkin and Apple Chutney….the recipe is here.

Pumpkin Lasange…the recipe is here.

Pumpkin, Raisin and Orange Muffins….the recipe is here.

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  Don’t forget you can freeze raw pumpkin.  In the photograph below you can see the frozen pumpkin that I used to make the cake recipe below…..this is raw pumpkin that had been in my freezer since January this year and I cooked it without defrosting it first.

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Also, most recipes ask for ‘pumpkin puree’…..to make this just cook the pumpkin in boiling water until it is soft and then drain the water and mash it.  I have found that you need approximately double the amount of raw pumpkin to make the pumpkin puree i.e 600g of raw pumpkin makes approx. 300g of pumpkin puree.

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Pumpkin puree can also be frozen in batches, ready weighted out for your favourite recipes.

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This year I decided to make a different pumpkin muffin with a mascarpone cheese frosting and it turned out well and tasted really nice:

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Pumpkin Muffins with a Mascarpone Frosting:

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Pumpkin Cakes:

230g self-raising flour

150g granulated sugar

100g soft brown sugar

100ml sunflower oil

3 eggs

170g of pumpkin puree

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground ginger

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Mascarpone Icing:

250g mascarpone cheese

50g icing sugar

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

Extra bit of soft brown sugar for decoration (optional)

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Preheat your oven to 180C / Gas 4 /350F

Sieve the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and ginger into a bowl and set aside.

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In a separate bowl mix together the granulated sugar, brown sugar and oil until combined.

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Beat in the eggs one at a time.

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Mix in the pumpkin and vanilla.

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Fold in the flour from the separate bowl, a little bit at a time.

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Half fill muffin cases with the mixture and then bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

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Put the cakes on a cooling tray.

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When the cakes have cooled down, mix the mascarpone cheese, icing sugar and lemon juice together and either pipe it or spread it on the cakes. I then put an extra pinch of soft brown sugar on each cake for decoration.

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Enjoy!

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday as usual.  Have a great week!

 

 

 

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Decorating Again & Judys Birthday

Yesterday it was Judy’s 5th birthday and we bought her a few little presents.  She gets very excited when I give her a present to unwrap and her little tail wags like crazy whilst she is trying desparately to tear the paper off with her paws:

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She seemed very pleased with the ball my daughters gave her.  You fill the ball with dry feed or treats and she pushes the ball around to make them fall out:

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And she also liked the ‘doggie treats’ and tennis balls that we gave to her:

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I also bought a ‘doggie cake’ from the pet store which she absolutely loved (unfortunately I didn’t get round to make a dog cake myself):

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Today it is a year since we brought Judy home from The RSPCA.  It really has been a rollercoaster ride, but I have learnt so much after all the training.  She has turned into a lovely dog and companion for me and I am so glad I persevered with her, rather than give up like her previous three owners did.

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This week in the home:

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This week I have finally got around to decorating my youngest daughters bedroom.

After clearing everything from her room I started off by removing the very old shelves that really needed to be replaced and filled all the holes around the room with some filler.  When it was dry I sanded the filler down until it was all smooth:

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I then sanded down all the woodwork in the room ready to begin.

I started by painting the ceiling and woodwork and then I pasted thick lining paper (1400 grade) on the walls to help to hide all the lumps and bumps.  We did consider plastering this room but it would have been too expensive for us and the lining paper was a cheaper option.

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When it was dry I painted the walls the colour my daughter had chosen….a ‘soft grey’ and I think she chose well (though I did have my reservations when she first told me she wanted this colour).

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I decided to paint her wooden curtain pole white, to match the room (it was previously a ‘wood’ colour).  It took three coats of paint and I couldn’t face painting all the curtains rings so I brought new ones, but they didn’t cost too much and it was still far cheaper than buying a new pole:

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I still need to put the curtain pole back up and I also need to put together the bedroom furniture that we are hoping to have delivered next week (an ‘early’ birthday and Christmas present for my daughter).

And finally I need to make a pair of curtains for the room….we looked in every shop I could think of for a ready made pair of curtains, but my daughter didn’t like any.  In desparation I took her to a material shop and she found some material that she loved, so I now have another job for next week:

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I love decorating, especially when I am pleased with the results.  I’ll show you a photo of the completed room next week.

Judy keeping me company while I decorated the room

Judy keeping me company while I decorated the room

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A few other things before I finish for this week:

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This week I made some butterfly cakes to show off the new cake stand my daughters bought me for my birthday last week……I really love this present!

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I also made some more dishwasher liquid out of soapnuts:

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While I was out and about this week I noticed that the seeds at Wilkinsons had been reduced to 20p so I stocked up with the ones I know I will definately use:

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In the garden this week I found that unfortunately the broccolli ’60 day raab’ that I sowed in the middle of August is flowering…..so it does grow quickly (as the name suggests), but it has gone to seed before it’s possible to get even a tiny crop, so I won’t be growing this again.  I made sure it was fed at the beginning and it was well watered when the weather was dry, so I can only think the ground wasn’t firm enough for it (brassiccas like the ground to be firm).  It was a free packet of seed so I haven’t lost anything but time:

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Also in the garden the leaves are falling from my neighbours trees and I will need to collect them up next week.  Previously I had grass in this area and I would just run over the leaves with the lawn mower to quickly remove them, however this isn’t possible in my vegetable garden so I will need to get down on my hands and knees:

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My Cosmos is still flowering well:

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And the tomatoes that I picked two weeks ago when they were nearly all green, are ripening well in my greenhouse…..(I am very pleased as I really don’t like green tomato chutney):

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So that’s it for this week.  I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog.

I will be back next Friday as usual.  Have a great week!

A Lovely Week & A Peanut Butter Biscuit Recipe

I’ve had a lovely week.

It started last Saturday when I woke up early and sat outside watching the sun rise….it was stunning.  In just under an hour it went from darkness to daylight.  This is something I have never watched before….nature is so beautiful:

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On Saturday myself, Mr Thrift and my daughter went on the ‘Bradgate Park’ dog walk again with Judy.  I am still amazed that less than six months again she couldn’t go anywhere near dogs without barking and lunging madly at them and yet now we can walk for a couple of hours with lots of other dogs…….and as you can see in the photograph below, she is chilled out enough to even lie down when we stop.  I am so proud of her:

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Also this week I saw the most amazing rainbow whilst I was walking Judy in our local park.  The colours were really bright and it looked as though both ends of it were in the park…..(so I will keep a look out for a crock of gold over the coming weeks).

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And this week it was my birthday and I had some lovely cards and presents.  My daughter also made me a gorgeous cake.  She spent ages making it into my kitchen garden and even put ‘pretend’ mud on the vegetables…..and it tasted delicious!

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This week in my kitchen garden:

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I picked the rest of my sweetcorn this week as the weather is turning colder and I was very pleased with it.

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I blanched the cobs and froze them so we can enjoy them over the winter:

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I then cut all the sweetcorn down so I can start to prepare this area for next year…

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I also removed the dead leaves from around my curly kale and cabbages as these can harbour pests like slugs and snails etc.  I gave it a good weed and it looks much better now.

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I picked my last white summer cabbage and I left four red cabbages to harvest another time:

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I also picked some more parsley to freeze….

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and some spinach so I could make a spinach and poached egg florentine and it was really nice:

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Unfortunately I also had to cover the overwintering onions and garlic that I planted last week, as the local family of squirrels (that one of my neighbours insists on feeding) keep digging in this area to hide the nuts they has been given:

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And finally I harvested my first few mizuna leaves from the seeds I sowed at the beginning of September.  Hopefully I will have many more leaves to follow over winter:

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This week in my kitchen:

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I’ve been very busy in the kitchen this week.  I started by making the crab apple jelly from the crab apples I was kindly given last week:

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I also decided to make some things in advance for my freezer, to help save time when I prepare meals over the next few weeks.

I made a big portion of spaghetti bolognaise sauce and we had some for tea, but the rest I froze in portions ready for another day:

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I also made a double portion of white sauce to use half in macoroni cheese and I froze the other half after it had cooled completely.  It is really easy to reheat in the microwave and then add cheese for a cheese sauce:

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I made pastry this week for a pie with some leftover chicken and vegetables.  I made a big portion of pastry so I could freeze three portions for a quick pie another time.  It defrosts quickly when I need it.

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I also made another load of passatta out of tomatoes that I picked at the end of last week:

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This week I ran out of cheese, so I bought three big blocks and grated it all in my processor.  I then froze it in bags of 250 grams so it is easy to defrost a pack each time we run out.  I find grated cheese seems to last much longer when I grate it, as it’s so hard to cut thin slices of cheese when it’s left in a block…..and also ready grated cheese costs more money to buy than cheese in blocks:

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And I also made a double load of chocolate ice cream and separated it into individual portions…. again I find it goes further this way.

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All the above things help to save me time or money, which has to be a good thing!

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As you have probably guessed by now, I really don’t like to waste any food in my house and this week I found some peanut butter lurking in the back of my cupboard that really needed to be used up.  So I made some peanut butter biscuits, which really are one of the easiest biscuits to make and they tasted absolutely delicious:

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Peanut Butter Biscuits Recipe:

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150g smooth peanut butter

150g granulated sugar

1 egg

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Preheat your oven Gas 4 / 180C / 350F

Put all the above ingredients into a bowl and mix together:

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Put large heaped teaspoons of mixture onto a baking tray (there is no need to grease the baking tray):

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Bake in your oven for 10-12 minutes until golden:

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Enjoy!

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Thank you for reading my blog today.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a good week!

Overwintering Plants & A Welcome Friend

It has really felt like Autumn this week with the wind and rain that we have had and the trees in the park are now turning into beautiful colours.

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At home in my kitchen garden I have started to tidy some areas.  I gave my pyracantha a light prune as it seems to grow so quickly…..I made sure I left all the berries for the birds to eat.

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I also gave my comfrey its last cut of the year too:

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As my compost bins were full I spread the comfrey over an empty bed and I will dig it into the soil another day after it has died.

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I also decided it was time to strim my green manure (phacelia) that I sowed in August, as it was beginning to flower.  Phacelia has beautiful purple flowers which bees absolutely love, but unfortunately it self seeds like mad (which I don’t want in my small garden) so I cut the plants down before they flower.

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Soon I will dig the green manure into my soil to improve it, however until then I have covered it with weed suppressant as I have found through bitter experience that digging Phacelia into the soil doesn’t always kill it……but the weed suppressant will kill it if I leave it down for long enough:

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This week I also cleared the yellow, dying leaves from my rhubarb plants.  The plants have grown very well this year, though I will leave them another year before I harvest any to allow the roots to grow strong:

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In the middle of August I sowed some Broccoli raab ’60 days’

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This week I finally got around to thinning the plants to their final spacing:

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I was very pleased to see that a couple of plants actually have a broccoli spear growing in the center….I have never grown this variety before so I am looking forward to seeing the results, though I don’t think I will be harvesting at ’60 days’ as the packet suggests:

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This week I have also been sowing some seeds.  I started with perpetual spinach, which should really have been sown a month ago…so it will be interesting to see how it does.  I then sowed some ‘All year round’ cauliflower for next year and some overwintering peas which I have sown in modules which I think improves the germination rate.  Finally I sowed some coriander which is sitting on my kitchen windowsill:

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I also ‘pricked out’ the winter lettuce and corn salad that I sowed a few weeks ago:

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This week I removed my last two outdoor cucumbers (which felt quite sad) and I then pulled up the remaining plants and added a bucket full of compost and some blood, fish and bone to the soil:

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I bought garlic to plant this week in place of the cucumbers.  It is a softneck variety called ‘Cristo’ which I haven’t grown before…..hopefully it will turn out well.  I have planted some cloves directly in the ground and I have decided to put a cloche over them in a few weeks time to stop the cloves from rotting in my heavy, clay soil over winter.  I have also kept some cloves back to plant in pots in my greenhouse, ready to plant out in February.

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I also planted out my overwintering onions next to my garlic this week:

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Last weekend I picked my final ‘outdoor girl’ tomatoes.  They have given me such a good crop this year:

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I have finally started to pick some of my ‘Money maker’ tomatoes too, but as you can see from the photo below I still have lots left still to ripen:

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I knew we were in for some rainy weather during the week, so I made the decision to pick my remaining green tomatoes and place them in my greenhouse to continue to ripen…..this way I wont lose them to ‘blight’ .  I’m not sure if they will ripen this late in the season, but if not I will be making green tomato chutney!

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On Sunday Mr Thrift was very happy as my sweetcorn was finally ready to pick.  I picked four cobs that were cooked and eaten within fifteen minutes and they were delicious!

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Finally this week I noticed that I have a couple of new, very welcome visitors to my garden.  I don’t know if you remember, but when I first started my kitchen garden I placed some rocks around the edge of the garden to attract beneficial insects to my plot…..My plan seems to be working as I found a couple of frogs hiding in the rocks this week…..the frogs will eat the slugs so they are welcome to stay!

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This week in the home:

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This week it was Mr Thrifts birthday and my daughter made him a lovely cake.  I was especially impressed with the footballs she made out of icing…they must have taken her ages to do!  The cake tasted delicious.

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I made Mr Thrift some shortbread as it is his favourite biscuit:

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And I also made a chocolate traybake with chocolate frosting and grated chocolate on top, for Mr Thrift to take to work for his colleagues.  He said they enjoyed them:

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Finally this week my lovely friend gave me a bag of crab apples from her tree, so I spent a happy few hours topping and tailing them ready to make crab apple jelly.

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Well that’s it for this week.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a great weekend!

Pear Rust & A ‘Judy’ Update

After reading last weeks comments, I realised that a few people out there also have a nice, old fashioned ‘English tea’ similar to the one we had last week, which is nice to know.

This got me thinking about other things I used eat when I was younger and I remembered that on a Sunday my dad would always make a cooked breakfast.  Now this isn’t too unusual, however while he cooked he would feed me and my sisters raw bits of sausage and we would suck on the raw rind of the bacon!!!!….I’m surprised we weren’t really, really poorly.

It’s funny but I can still taste the sausage now and I have to admit it was lovely!   I wonder if anyone else reading my blog today ate raw sausage and raw bacon rind too?….it’s not something that is advised nowadays!

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A ‘Judy’ Update:

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For those of you that don’t know, Judy is our lovely rescue dog that we have had for eleven months now…..unfortunately she came with a lot of problems and we recently found out that we were her fourth owners.  Our first behaviourist suggested we should give her up as she was untrainable and in the wrong environment, but thank goodness we didn’t.

We have been training since the beginning of May with Steven Havers (a different trainer) and the results have really been amazing!  Finally this last week I have started to walk to the park (instead of drive) as she can now tolerate the traffic well (except for the very large lorries).  This is something that used to really make her stressed.

She can also walk with other dogs on the park now and is fine if another dog runs up to her.  But the most amazing thing this week is….I have started to let go of her long training lead when I walk her on the park, so I am not holding her (this way I can pick it up if she strays too far, though her  ‘recall’ is much better now too).

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So things are going very well with Judy and other dog walkers are now commenting on how well she is doing……one particular lady who has seen me walking Judy from the beginning spoke to me this week and said how well she was doing and said to me that “I have given Judy her life back”…… and I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day as it made me feel so proud!

She still gets anxious if there are lots of people around and dogs on leads are sometimes still a problem, but I will keep working on this.

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I am so glad we didn’t give Judy up as we all absolutely adore her.

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This week in the garden:

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This week I noticed that my Cosmos has finally started to flower properly and it looks beautiful together with the orange berries of the pyracantha that the birds love to eat:

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The grass on my newly laid lawn is rooting well and as it was growing well, I ran the lawn mower over it, on its highest blade setting.  I will leave the grass a couple more weeks before removing my ‘make shift’ fence from around it, so we can walk on it properly:

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This week I decided to cut back the Viburnum tinus that was casting far too much shade over my one raised bed.  I planted the Viburnum when we first moved into the house thirteen years ago and I didn’t really want to cut the whole plant down, so I took away some of it as a compromise….hopefully this will make a big difference to the light in this area:

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In the end I removed a ‘car load’ of branches (which we took to the tip the next morning), but by the time we had filled the car the moon was shinning!  This really made me realise that the nights are drawing in quickly now autumn is here:

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This week I planted some spring cabbages in my kitchen garden after raking some blood, fish and bone into the soil.  I made some cabbage collars to avoid the cabbage root fly, as the odd one may still be laying eggs at this time of year and I then used my usual method of using canes and bottles to support a net over the cabbages, so the birds don’t eat them:

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I also planted some more lettuces which will hopefully last until the really harsh weather of winter comes our way.  As the nights are getting colder, I decided to cover them with a cloche to give them a bit of protection:

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Unfortunately this week I noticed a problem with the pear trees that I planted this year… They have ‘Pear rust’ which is a fungus that unfortunately spreads long distances between pear trees and junipers, which I can’t do anything about.  Therefore all I can do is remove the infected leaves on my trees and hopefully, if it doesn’t become too bad, it won’t reduce future harvests too much.

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You can read all about pear rust on the RHS website here.

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This week I thinned out my tray of over wintering onions…..again I used scissors to cut off the ones I didn’t want, to stop any root damage to the remaining onions.  I will wait a couple of weeks now before I  plant them in the ground:

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This week I also dug up the last of my ‘Desiree’ potatoes.  I left them out to dry for a couple of hours and then placed them in a sack to store them in a cool, dark place until required.  It seemed strange only having one sack of potatoes as I usually have lots of them to store, but at least this year I only had a few to dig up:

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I have also put the garlic that I grew, in a cool dark place to store.  I didn’t think the garlic looked very big but when I separated a bulb the cloves seemed a decent size, so I was very pleased with it in the end:

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I am STILL waiting for the sweetcorn to ripen, however the ‘Moneymaker’ tomatoes that I planted outside are finally turning red…..I am praying that we don’t have an early frost….I am watching the weather forecast very, very closely.

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This week in the home:

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I am still picking autumn raspberries and a few blueberries from my kitchen garden and my daughter stuffed as many as possible (together with fruit from my freezer) into the pancake that I made her this week:

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Also this week I made a couple of plum cakes (one for us and one for my gardening forum):

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Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of the cakes after I cooked them, but this is how they look when cooked:

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Unfortunately we have now finished eating my homegrown onions for this year, all except the last few really small ones……

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I hate using the really small ones when I cook dinner as they are so fiddly when I’m in a rush, so I decided to pickle the last few instead:

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And finally this week I topped my wine up with cooled, boiled water and it is bubbling away nicely…..I can’t wait to try some soon!

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So unfortunately that’s it for this week.  I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog today.

I will be back next week as usual.

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Have a good week!