Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Homemade sushi lunch

homemade sushi

Sorry I have not posted for a while, the thing is that I was out there enjoying the sun! Sadly it was over by the end of the week so I didn't get round doing more in the summerhouse as I had heaps of gardening jobs to do - including checking for blight (cherry, tomato and apple plants were all affected).

However I made this delicious sushi with fresh mint from my garden. Today it's raining, so I'm stucked inside.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Revamping an old summerhouse on a budget

Despite the rain, my project is proceeding. The outside of the summerhouse has been painted a 1930s-style forest green. I now need to find some paint that sticks to the windows' putty and the bits of wood that frame the glass as the paint I'm using (Ronseal Forest Green, on offer for £9.35 for 9 litre at Screwfix) is not covering it. The summerhouse was painted with some brown, water-repellent paint so I needed to give it two coats before the brown undercoat disappeared. 

I have now located a vintage radio, have some vintage metal toys and vintage books. The table and the 1940s chairs need restoring (I will need nice, dry weather as the chemicals are too nasty for indoor use). Perhaps I could use the heat gun we bought for the doors (the presence of lead paint made it a no-no so they were stripped by a professional). Still, it's quite a smelly job so best pray for good weather!

All photos by Trevor Tondro
With permission of S. Foster.
Meanwhile, some gorgeous pics of one of the most beautiful hideaways I have ever seen. It's inspired by Victorian crafts, so less contemporary 
than my project but it does take my breath away....  I think I mentioned it before on another  blog, but praise again for Sandra Foster's ex hunting cabin, which is a triumph of creativity.
Photo by Trevor Tondro

Photo by Trevor Tondro

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Pond life and the great outdoors

My new restoration project: an old summerhouse. My partner re-roofed it and I have started painting the outside. This is what it looked like before we did any work to it (although I cleared the surroundings quite a bit since I bought the house). It looks OK from a distance but not so good close up. Watch this space for an amazing makeover.

Meanwhile the pond has sprung to life with lots of frogs and beautiful flowers surrounding it. I have "bumped" into the frogs while gardening as they spend a lot of time browsing my bushes for slugs and bugs. The other day an orange one with black spots jumped up while I was stirring the compost heap with a stick. Not much change indoors, though, all our efforts are devoted to the garden - the greenhouse is full of plants and we now have several bespoke raised beds! Below are a few pics I took in May, I will post updates soon.

Our first barbecue during a hot sunny spell in May. It has been quite rainy since then, good for the garden, not so good for us human sun-seekers. And even less good for BBQs. And yes, we got a huge discount on this barbecue as it was quite bad weather before the sunny spell. So buy yours when it's rainy weather.

A fungus growing on the stump by the Bradford Pear - it might have been edible, but I didn't want to risk poisoning so with deep regret I detached it and threw it away

Three of our raised beds. The fence has been painted since then and the beds are now full of plants. I will post new pics soon. Bramble plants are growing against the fence, held by a long wire that runs across it

I have been spending any dry day painting my summerhouse and selected sections of fencing. It's going to be a spectacular vintage summerhouse, I have lovely furniture and accessories lined up: an old table, 1940s chairs, embroidered linen and - since yesterday - a 1960s radio (looks a bit 1950ish though). When it's finished, I will film the results and hopefully play some old jazzy tunes in the background. I was hoping to sell an article about the makeover but no luck yet. If any editor reads this, I can do a budget makeover with all the stages and prices (incl. before and after pics).

And it rains again! No painting today.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Vintage tea party in Cambridge

Vintage tea party at the Cambridge & County Folk Museum: a Secluded Tea Party success
I had a lovely afternoon at the Cambridge Folk Museum on Sunday. Who cares about the rain when you can talk and eat cake? The event was mostly female, bar one brave male who came with his partner (good for him!). 

Amazing almond cakes
The event, catered by Sue Flay of Secluded Tea Party, was opened by a talk by Education Officer Tamsin who regaled us with a social history of baking. She whittled down the months talking about traditional celebration cakes – what they were called, why they were baked, what ingredients they contained… Most had lots of spices – such as a whole grated nutmeg (I have a cough attack just thinking about it) and they weren’t saving on the eggs – from a dozen up to 18 for a single cake! Most were basically fruit puddings, a bit like the traditional Xmas pudding but with more spices and fat. And my beloved but very downtrodden lardy cake was in too…  Shame on you, supermarkets for banning it because it has a high fat content, after all you still sell lard.

Fabulous filled sponge, so light and delicious
Many of these cakes were quite basic, kind of sweet breads or even sweet loaves but without the sugar (only currants for sweetness). There were class distinctions too, cakes baked for the poor and even harvest cakes for labourers were basic, but if you were baking for your guests or the top farm table, then you’d put more sugar, eggs, spices. So richer ingredients for the rich really, which seems hard on poor labourers who were paid very little and counted on the harvest celebrations to eat a nice meal. 

After the talk and a wander in the museum following a foodie trail, we went back to the pretty tearoom with lovely bunting and scoffed the cakes provided by Sue Flay from the Secluded Tea Party. Just have a look at more of her photos (thanks Sue for sharing them on Facebook). If your mouth is watering as much as mine (even in retrospect), visit  www.facebook.com/secludedteaparty/app_211526985586920  and book the next event. There will be another museum tea on 1st July with a different talk and an event for parents and children in late august. Visit the  Cambridge & County Folk Museum 's site for more info on those.

Terrific teapot-shaped ginger breads

PS: All these lovely vintagey pics belong to Sue Flay, contact her if you want to use them and give her a credit!  Visit her Facebook page for more pics... And if you want more info about the recipes and the talk, visit her blog.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Spring has sprung, plus Cambridge retro ride

A bumble bee gets some nectar from my Helleborus foetida
Progress has been made in the 1930s house but not indoors. Spring sunshine has drawn me out to tackle my still overgrown garden. I did quite a bit of work last year but as we are gearing up to plant our veg, more clearing is needed in the bottom garden and plants need to be moved.

The first pic is of my front garden, where I have been tidying up, trimming overgrown plants (it was marginally better than the back garden) and planted some plants, including a Helleborus foetida (pictured) that was growing at the back among a rubbish heap of rubble, bramble sticks and a pile of tree trimmings (the garden bin is way to small to deal with my pruning, even with the occasional use
of a shredder).

And of course as soon as I dig, my friendly robin
arrives to have a look at the hole and get some juicy worms. Here it is, perched on a mystery plant I grew from the stone of an exotic fruit I bought in London at a Turkish store. I haven't been able to identify it yet but it seems quite hardy, having survived two winters outside. I have more, some planted in the back garden and one in a tub.
I couldn't resist bringing some spring colour inside, here is a small posy on the wooden mantelpiece of my fireplace. As I'm a very keen gardener, all my free time has been spent outside improving the garden and planting my first seeds (in summerhouse and greenhouse). However I have still some beetroot plants from last year in the ground and broccoli plants in the greenhouse. I was hoping to restore the summerhouse and tried to get some sponsorship from B&Q but have not succeeded. I would love to test some products, so if any DIY store is willing, they will get a professional review and photos of the project. If not, I might contact some colleagues at home interest publications...

Nothing much has changed indoors, except furniture re-arranging. We are still pondering the remodelling, it will be costly and we don't want to get it wrong.

Trying to be a Tweed runner (click for video)
The nice weather has meant more cycling. Below are some pics prior to the Cambridge retro ride, part of the FAB weekend. The ride was a lot of fun and it's a pity there were only a few of us in vintage gear (more like reproduction/mismash for me as the bike is not original and the clothes are of different decades). However I was taken by two ladies with smashing clothes and vintage bikes. The venue was brilliant, Plurabelle books' yard, thanks Michael for the wonderful post-ride tea! I missed the fashion show by Cambridge Raincoats and independent designers, though.

I hope to do more bike rides and air some other vintage stuff I own.
1930s with a twist

1950s at its best