Tuesday, March 23, 2010


So, these "Jiffy plugs" were given to us as a Christmas present to plant chilli seeds in. They're all from the South Devon Chilli Farm, and were given to us by Hagos's brother's family. They usually send us chilli chocolate every year too, and I have to say, they make some of the best chocolate I've ever tasted (and there were a few years when I tasted chocolate daily from all over Europe).  
This is them in their little propagator. It's very cute. I have it in Hagos's studio at the moment as it's warm and sunny (but not direct sunlight) in there.
And these are the types I've planted. The Cherry Bomb looks particularly exciting.

I haven't had much success with chilli plants. A couple of years ago the aforementioned brother-in-law gave us 20 packs of chilli seeds - far more than we could ever hope to grow, and I wasn't even a gardener then - and our gardening expert friends Janie and Ba adopted them all and their whole house was covered in chilli plants in little pots. They gave us one back to bring home, we put it in the bathroom (it was only about 8 inches high) and it grew into a GIANT BEANSTALK!! It took over the whole bathroom, grew up and along the beams, and it didn't give us a SINGLE chilli. I had to throw it out in the end because I noticed it was attracting little flies to it, and then when I looked at it very closely I noticed lots of little white things crawling all over it! Yuck! Immediately it was chopped down and put in the outside bin.

So, I'm hoping for more luck/success with these. Janie and Ba gave us another (normal-sized) chilli plant last year, which we grew outside and that produced THREE chillies, which I used in cooking and they were delicious.
These are my gardening bibles. I consult each one intensely about everything I'm planning to do, and then I email Ba to double-check everything with her. She's given me SO MUCH advice and help. I'll have to make her some extra-special tomato relish this year as a thank you.

Gardening is just great! During my daily morning tub-check I noticed that my garlic is already growing!!!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Gardening Season Begins!

It's so lovely to wake up in the morning, to know the sun is shining, and to jump out of bed, excited to rush outside and see how the vegetables are growing! Of course, having just planted them I know nothing will have changed so far, but it's exciting to look nonetheless.

The back three planters have potatoes in: 1st earlies Swifts and Pentland Javelins. The yellow planter at the front has onions, and the big tub beside it has garlic!
These are my Swifts before being covered up. I'm impressed with the planters I have them in actually, they have little pockets at the side so you can pull the odd potato out without upsetting the entire sack.
And the garlic I planted midweek last week. I love garlic, and I've never grown it before, so this is of particular interest to me, especially as it's French garlic, which tastes better than any garlic I've ever tasted. My half-French friend brought me some back from France once and it was amazing, so I hope mine will be amazing too.

I also sowed my chilli seeds. I didn't photograph them, and now they're snug in Hagos's studio so I will have to photograph them and post another time.

Happy Spring!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Shake and Bake Friday!

It was my turn to bake for our Shake and Bake Friday this week at work. I wanted to try something new, of course, and chose these triple chocolate cookies from Linda Collister's gorgeous book Christmas Treats to Make and Give.

They were good fun to make - melted chocolate combined with whisked eggs and sugar, a little flour, and chopped chocolate and walnuts thrown into the mix before putting splodges on a baking tray and baking for ten minutes until they were just baked.

The photo above is taken from the book itself because, uncharacteristically, I forgot to take photos of my finished product. My biscuits turned out darker, possibly because I used golden caster sugar instead of white. I also didn't bother drizzling chocolate over the top, so stricly speaking my biscuits were double chocolate cookies. Really, they didn't need any more chocolate! The house and oven smelled delicous for a day, and my work colleagues LOVED them, which is always gratifying.

Friday's Shake and Bake is turning out to be something we all look forward to, and it's a great shared experience. We're all interested to see and know what each other is making or thinking of making. 
After the momentous task of finishing the boys' jumpers (which they were chuffed with, according to their parents) I have now leisurely picked up my own stripy, long-sleeved TV jumper. I'd finished the back and front ages ago - at the beginning of winter! The pattern has short sleeves, and as documented in this blog I've already made three short-sleeved versions, but I realised I rarely wear them because it's usually either too cold to wear a short-sleeved jumper, or too hot to wear a short-sleeved jumper. I'm using the sleeve instructions from a bolero pattern, which is in the same book (Vintage Knits) and have only had to make a slight adjustment to the sleeve top to fit it into the body. 
I'm having a great Saturday so far. Hagos and I went to Cafe Rouge in town today for breakfast. We both had cafe complet - croissant, jam and butter with orange juice and coffee, and I read the Arts section of The Times, which had a piece by Jeanette Winterson in it. I always like reading her journalism though I've only read her first book Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, years ago, for some reason. I should try another.

Happy Saturday! (photo above of Meg contemplating the outside - she's loving the arrival of spring and the spring-time birds!)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Finished Jumpers

The jumpers are finally finished. Never again will I attempt to knit two jumpers at the same time, with the same deadline.

I got up at 7.30am on Sunday, set myself up at the kitchen table with my laptop and the audio book of Pride and Prejudice, and sewed.
Sewing together is my least favourite part of knitting. I have to be in the right mood to do it and I'm rarely in that mood.

I also decided, because it had been part of my original idea, to re-knit the pockets with each child's name or initials. Nate was shortened to N8, as above.
And JJ of course was easy. The picture above is fuzzy - probably due to tiredness and feeling delirious that I'd finished - but you get the idea.

They are packaged up, ready to post tomorrow.

I'm also nearly finished making the game for the same family (everything I decided to make instead of buy at Christmas had problems. In fact, I don't think any of my home-made gifts were finished on time, jumpers, pavlovas, Yule logs, games...). I'll post photos of the finished game once the family has received it. I'm quite pleased with the concept and, of course, I hope they'll like it too.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Saturday so far

Lunch at Frank's Bar with the beautiful iitalla mugs.
One jumper finished (thank goodness).
One jumper to sew together (my least favourite part of knitting).

It is a beautiful spring day here in Norfolk. The washing is on the line, the sky is clear and sunny, and I have an urge to buy daffodils.

I'm just about to sew together Nate's jumper. I'm so looking forward to posting these off on Monday. It's taken me too long to finish what was supposed to be Christmas jumpers. I just hope they fit the boys and they get a good amount of wear out of them (and that they like them!).

Monday, March 01, 2010

Happy Birthday Hagos!

It was Hagos's birthday yesterday, and I decided a while ago to make him Bishop's Cake from an old family recipe his mum had. Bette made us Bishop's cake at Christmas, and on Christmas Day evening we had an Enid-Blyton-esque tea of home-made soup, Bishop's Cake, chocolate and ginger pieces, wine and coffee. It really was my kind of tea! We were so impressed by the Bishop's Cake that we took a copy of the recipe. Hagos said he used to have the cake when he was a kid, and there was an association of visiting his uncle Bill who had a grocery store. 
The only ingredient I couldn't get locally was Angelica. Next time!

We had a really lovely day, and went out to Pizza Express in the evening.
This is my new Thermos Flask! from the great people at Amazon. It means I can have non-stop coffee (well, two coffees is pretty much my limit anyway) while working in my shed. And in the afternoon, after I've been to the gym I can have a decaf earl grey tea waiting for me! And we can take it on picnics, or car journeys. It's so versatile :)