Archive, Gardening, September 2019

Belated Garden Update: August – September

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I’m a little late posting this weeks garden update as back to school chaos and a not so wonderful 24 hour bug hit our home this week, but please know I love writing these posts and documenting what is happening in the garden and how the plants and wildlife are behaving so I will try to keep on top of posting on time.

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Since my last update two weeks ago we have been over took by beans! So all I seem to be doing is picking the runner beans, par-boiling them and then freezing them for the upcoming winter sunday dinners. They are beautiful tasting though, wonderfully sweet and Blue (our dog) absolutely loves munching any leftovers.

I also finally found out what has been chomping away on the vegetables in our makeshift nursery patch. Caterpillars in their dozens of various sizes (including newly hatched) seemed to be enjoying the all you can eat buffet in our little nursery garden. Because my dad doesn’t believe in chemicals (and rightly so) we just sprayed the leaves with warm soapy water to deter the caterpillars and I also moved as many as I could to the top of our compost heap (lid off) so they could munch on something useful instead.

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My parents took me for a trip to the local independent garden centres on bank holiday Monday just gone as well and I bought some new plants! I managed to pick up some leeks and spring cabbages for our winter vegetable patch, an oregano herb to add into my little herb garden which will come in very useful, a beautiful tall white flower which I have planted in the front garden in with our cottage flower patch we have going on and I even found some black tulips to keep my inner goth happy come spring, though I’m not sure how my parents feel about the addition of black flowers to their garden.

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Other then all of this I have mainly spent the past two weeks tidying the flower borders, deadheading and cutting back plants that have come to an end and let me tell you that that is not an easy task! I spent most of one day doing the front garden and back boarders and I felt like I had done a 6 hour session in the gym the next day!

I honestly can’t believe how quickly the weeks are flying over, I’m hoping that all my work deadheading will mean we enjoy the late flowering season a little longer and I can’t wait to get my winter veg transplanted into the vegetable patch.

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Gardening, Lifestyle, September 2019

Homemade Rhubarb gin!!

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This year our rhubarb went WILD in the vegetable patch and took over a ridiculous amount of space, to the point that there was no way anyone could eat that much stewed rhubarb or rhubarb crumble so I was at a loss about what to do with all those beautiful red stalks.

After a little googling I learnt you can quite easily make your own rhubarb flavoured vodka or gin which fascinated me. Coming from a house of gin drinkers I went with the latter and I am currently waiting for one litre to infuse in a dark cupboard before testing it out with a good tonic at some point in October.

I followed the BBC Good Food website recipe which I will link here and I used Gordon’s Dry London gin seeing as this is my first time at making this because quite frankly I didn’t want to experiment with a expensive gin on my first try incase it all goes wrong.

I’m not expecting my gin to go the beautiful pink colour like it is photographed on the website as the majority of my rhubarb stalks were green but I will keep you updated as to how the gin turns out in a months time.

Let me know if you have ever attempted to infuse your own spirits and don’t forget to link the recipes you used so I can give them ago myself.

Lifestyle, September 2019

9 things that have made me happy in August

Around a year ago I created a post called 10 things that made me happy this week. It was a bitter sweet post as I was suffering so badly with anxiety that I could barely leave the house but something that I wrote in a way to look at the positives I was achieving or witnessing around me got such a good response I think I posted another two or three more after.

Then those posts just became out of date drafts in my saved folder of wordpress, I felt a bit obnoxious writing about things that made me feel happy, like people would be offended or think I was up my own arse (fully aware nobody would think this, but this is anxiety for you, forever gnawing away at your brain) or even worse, I just couldn’t think of anything that made me happy.

Recently me and my wonderful friend have been struggling badly, and I can feel the tugs of my mental health once again becoming more than just a bad day, so we came up with a ‘one positive thing that happened today go!’ game to try to see the good in our lives or more of a way to try to forget the negative thoughts that our brains cling on to and focuses on.

So with that heavy topic opener out of the way I have decided to bring back the 9 things that make me happy tag, but for the month of August as sometimes it can be hard to think of 9 things a week but I urge you try and please feel free to share below what made you happy this past month.

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Time off!
This summer I took two weeks off from work with absolutely no plans in place other than to have some well needed downtime with my family. In that time I have built many of mine and little legs warhammer miniatures, focused on the garden, began knitting again and managed just let my anxious brain rest from the busy rush of everyday life. It is going to be a good year before I can manage to do this again so I have really, really enjoyed being away from civilization and stress for a short period of time.

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Knitting
So as mentioned above, this month I picked my needles back up and I finally completed my first ever knitting project after 20 years of knitting on and off. Yes! I managed to knit a wonderful chunky black scarf just in time for Autumn. I know, how hardcore. I’ve also started my next project which is a jumper that I hope will be done in the next few months, so fingers crossed for that.

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Kitchen chaos
So August seen me in the kitchen a lot more than I have been in other months. I used our glut of basil to make some of the tastiest homemade pesto as well as making oreo brownies because who doesn’t love a good chocolate fix!

Rhubarb gin
With all the rain we’ve been having the rhubarb was well and truly loving it and exploded all over the vegetables patch, so it’s safe so say we have a lot of excess rhubarb lying around. I decided to make gin with it because why not? I’ve never been a huge lover of rhubarb on its own or boiled down into a stew like mush so this seemed the best way to use it up this season! I’ll keep you updated in a future post about how that turns out.

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Wildlife in the Garden
I have seen SO MANY insects in the garden this month, way more than we usually see so that has been fantastic! We have a lot of birds visiting us daily, both big and small, the usual snails and slugs, a toad who seems to sitting on our decking and SO many caterpillars! Both big and tiny tiny small, all who are trying to much their way through my turnips and cabbages / cauliflowers.

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Bees!
I’ve seen a few beautiful little drunk on pollen bees buzzing about this month and I was honoured at the beginning of August when I tried to save a little bee by offering it some well needed sugar water, however the bee decided to climb on my hand instead and start washing it’s little face before finally accepting the sugar water and getting on his way home. Such beautiful creatures!

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Beans
Aghhh!! We finally have beans! I feel like I’ve been running up and down the garden everyday since forever looking to see if any little bean pods have appeared yet and on the second week of August they finally appeared and on the fourth week they were finally ready to be picked!

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Possible sprouts?
More garden, but basically I was told to plant some cabbages in the little nursery garden I created to save them, they then turned out to be califlowers according to the little ticket in with them, however there is a small chance they may actually be sprouts and I am so excited to see what happens and finally grows! Though I am also slightly terrified as I have read sprouts are hard to look after and grow? Fingers crossed we will have some homegrown sprouts this Christmas.

Rain
August give us a lot of rain! Like.. A LOT. But if truth be told I absolutely adore walking in the summer rain, it’s incredibly refreshing and not as harsh as the autumn / winter rain we are used to up north, plus as much as I love sitting in the sunshine, there is always a special part of me that loves sitting watching the rain fall on a lazy grey day watching movies or reading books with a warm cup of tea.

Lifestyle, September 2019

September 2019

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I always find that there is a feeling in the air around the start of September of good times, new beginnings and large feasts, especially with the majority of  the summer harvest being brought in.

We begin to see the return of the daddy-longlegs (crane flies) in September, who adorably always seem to drunkenly fly along bashing into walls and ceilings as well as appearing from nowhere in your bedroom late at night! Damson’s and elderberries begin to appear in hedgerows and blackberry season is coming to and end meaning I will be hunting for those dark purple little gems to make blackberry and apple crumble with for when I am sitting under a blanket watching Bake Off.

Autumn also returns in September although there is a divide as to what the official date actually is seeing as the 1st marks the start of meteorological Autumn yet the 23rd is the start of Astronomical Autumn. I personally always go off the latter, as this is when we see equal hours of night as we do daylight, just like back in March (Spring).

Mabon also falls in September, and is the second of three harvest festivals and is celebrated on the 21st. I’ve just bought a book all about Mabon and I cannot wait to read more ways to celebrate the sabbath / seasonal festival later this month.

What are your plans for the upcoming month? And when do you believe the official start date of Autumn falls?

Archive, August 2019, Gardening

My little Herb Garden: Basil

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I am so very proud of my little herb garden.

Last year I had the grand total of seven plants under my care and this year it has grown to 10 different herbs all potted up and sitting happily on our decking around the kitchen door.

Some of the plants have returned  from last year, such as the mint, parsley and camomile which give me so much joy to see life re-grow in their pots as I assumed all herbs died off after one season. The others I have re-purchased from the supermarket fresh herb section and potted them up i.e the coriander and obviously basil.

Infact, this year we have two different types of basil growing, your more traditional italian genovese basil and greek basil which have smaller more dome like leaves and seems to be growing like a bush in its pot.

Seeing as we have two lots of basil growing this year, I thought I would step up my game from just using a few leaves in my spaghetti bolognese recipes and attempt this year to make fresh homemade pesto and oh my, I am so glad I decided to give this ago!

Firstly it was ridiculously easy to make. I don’t know why but I always assumed making pesto would be difficult and time consuming but it literally took all of 10 minutes tops. In fact stacking the dishwasher took more time then making the pesto!

It is also so so so much nicer than your shop bought pesto especially the jared stuff you find in the condiments aisle, I know that I will never ever buy the jarred stuff again. How you may ask,  considering basil has such a short life span? Well because you can freeze your homemade pesto and keep it in an airtight container for up to 9 months.

You can find the instructions of what I did below.

Basil Pesto

Ingredients:

  • Basil
  • Olive Oil
  • Pine nuts
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Garlic
  • Salt

Method:

  1. I firstly toasted the pine nuts in a pan until they were a golden colour before removing from the heat and crushing into a paste in my pestle and mortar.
  2. I then blended the basil leaves, garlic cloves and olive oil in my food processor however next time I make pesto I think I am going to do this also with my pestle and mortar.
  3. I combined the crushed toasted pine nuts, basil paste and parmesan cheese into a bowl with extra olive oil.
  4. I left the bowl of pesto for a few minutes and went back and tasted the pesto before adjusting it to how I saw fit ( I personally added some more parmesan cheese because cheese is life).
  5. I then spooned the pesto mixture into two separate jars, covered with olive oil so that the basil didn’t brown and then placed one jar in the fridge (after putting a generous spoonful on top of my salad of course) and another in the freezer to use at a later date.

 

Archive, August 2019, Books, Non-Fiction, True Crime

Talking with Serial Killers: World’s most Evil

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Synopsis:

Christopher Berry-Dee is back. In Talking With Serial Killers: World’s Most Evil, the bestselling author delves deeper still into the gloomy underworld of killers and their crimes. He examines, with shocking detail and clarity, the lies and lies of people who have killed, and shines a light on the motives behind their horrific crimes.

Through interviews with the killers, the police and key members of the prosecution, alongside careful analysis of the cases themselves, the reader is given unprecedented insight into the most diabolical minds that humanity has to offer.

Extending its sweep from lonesome outsiders to upstanding members of the community, Talking With Serial Killers: World’s Most Evil shows that the world’s most monstrous killers may be far closer than you think…


Kicking off the start of the true crime section this week with the book Talking with Serial Killers by Christopher Berry-Dee and my god, this one was a tough one to get through I must admit.

This book says it focuses on five serial murders that have shocked the world over the last few decades starting with John Wayne Gacy before moving onto Kenneth Bianchi, William Heirens, John Cannan and lastly Patricia Wright.

Berry-Dee has interviewed all five of these convicted murders and presents the cases from the evidence from those interviews as well as evidence from the case files. He even delves into the childhood trauma suffered by Gacy and Bianchi and argues the nature / nurture debate but never sways to either side of the line and instead lets the reader make up their own mind on whether environmental factors played a part on how these criminals turned out or if they were just born plan evil.

Berry-Dee also provides us with two case files where not everything seems to be black and white and he sort of allows the reader to make up their own minds on whether the convicted criminals are guilty or if it is a case of mistaken identity. These cases are William Heriens and Patricia Wright. I personally question the conviction of Heriens, but believe Wright is guilty of murdering her ex husband from the case evidence that is provided within the book.

I will admit though that in some places I found this an incredibly difficult read, especially during a chapter discussing the hillside strangler (Bianchi). I actually ended up having to put the book down for a good 24 hours as it all became a bit too much and left me feeling nauseous and quite frankly a little distraught, I even debated if I should continue reading on but decided just to skip that section and move onto the next.

I would probably give this book three stars out of five. I wavered a bit between three and four stars, but I think three is the right amount from my personal point of view due to the fact that there are other books available if you wanted further knowledge into the criminology and forensic psychology side of the crimes. However if you are not easily shocked and are just looking for something quick to read that briefly covers the cases then this would probably be a good book for you.

Archive, August 2019, Gardening

In the Vegetable patch: Mid August

It’s all go, go, go around here at the moment with the amount of produce the vegetable garden keeps throwing at us!

In the 14 days that have passed since my last published post (found here) we have managed to pick the last of the broccoli, two beautiful cabbages and one cabbage full of caterpillar poo (bork). As well as enough courgettes to sink a battleship, a ridiculous amount of rhubarb which is currently sitting in sugar waiting to be added to a bottle of gin for my first ever attempt at homemade rhubarb gin AND today I’ve noticed some of the beans are ready to be picked at last!

We also seem to have enough potatoes to supply Walkers! I swear to god. I dunno why but my dad went MAD when planting them, but considering the amount of mashed potato for sunday dinner we go through and homemade chips we make (family of 5 here, 7 on a Sunday!!!) they won’t come in wrong over the next few months.

The beetroot seems to be coming back strong now the cauliflowers and first lot of broccoli have finally been removed from the patch and they can actually get some sunlight, however it’s not all going fantastically, my poor little cauliflowers (/ possible sprouts??) are being well and truly munched to death and I’m not entirely sure they are going to survive. I can’t find the culprits but I know the slugs and snails are having a wonderful time with all this wet weather we have been having up north and are enjoying munching most of the flowers (delias, roses etc.) so there is a strong chance it’s them or their friend the very hungry caterpillar.

The herb garden is still going strong, and I bought some sunflowers a few weeks ago which now they are past their best we have tied them up on the shed to dry out so I am going to see if I am able to collect the seeds for next year and have a sunflower growing competition with little legs, that’s if the birds don’t beat me to them first.

Lastly, I am starting to plan what to plant in the vegetable patch over the next coming weeks for late autumn / early spring next year. Usually my dad always lets the ground rest over winter, but I would like to grow garlic and my mam said I could plant some leeks and possibly turnips and I was reading that you can grow beans! I have NO idea what you plant for the autumn / winter in your vegetable patch (other then the above) so if you have any suggestions please let me know.

Archive, August 2019, Gardening, Uncategorized

Vegetable Patch: July – August 2019

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So our ‘little’ vegetable patch has EXPLODED with produce recently, probably due to the crazy amount of rain we have had over the last few days here in the North East. The first lot of broccoli has been picked along with five heads of cauliflower all of which has been par-boiled and frozen for meals over the coming months.

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The cabbages are still in the ground and doing well, however we have lost two as they have ‘gone to seed’. What the hell does gone to seed mean I hear you ask? Don’t worry I asked my parents the same question, and no I won’t just keep repeating gone to seed at you as an answer until you feel like you’ve gone slightly mad. Basically it’s gardener speak for when a plant enters the flowering stage in preparation for seed production, and means the cabbages are past their best and will taste rank.

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The beans are also going crazy climbing the structure my dad built for them and producing lots of beautiful flowers which will hopefully soon turn into more beans then we will know what to do with, which is currently what the courgette plant is doing! I honestly don’t think I have ever seen one plant produce as many courgettes and I’m slightly glad my dad ignored my protests when I argued that we would need more than one of them in the garden to give us enough produce to cook with, boy was I wrong!

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My little nursery is going well, and now that the cabbages and first lot of broccoli are done I am  going to remove them from the vegetable patch and help my dad transfer the cauliflowers and turnips across  into the spaces left behind. I am a little worried for my beetroot though, even though I saved it and it survived despite being on the brink of dehydration and death, I’m worried that being under the huge broccoli and cauliflower leaves has stunted their growth due to the lack of sunlight. Fingers crossed they will flourish now that those vegetables surrounding them have been removed.

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And lastly, I added basil and greek basil to my herb garden this week and I can’t wait to make my own homemade pesto from scratch. Only one of the mystery plants has survived but has yet to flower, we still feel it is a sunflower plant and hope the slugs keep off it until it has a chance to reveal itself but at the minute (due to the wet weather) the snails and slugs are having a field day in our garden.

Oh and I must add, my dad is baffled that I run around the garden taking photos and ‘blog’ about our little vegetable patch (despite only writing and publishing one post so far) and says he hopes I am telling you that he has done most of the hard work in the vegetable patch this year, but in my defence this is due to him choosing days I am at work when he originally transferred all of the plants into the ground, sooooo.. not my fault really. Right?

 

Archive, August 2019, Books, Fiction

The Bear and the Nightingale

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Synopsis:

Beware the evil in the woods…

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold at night and the snow falls many months of the year, and elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.

But for the young, wild Vasya these are more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods…


Oh my, where do I start with this book? I originally purchased this book on my kindle with the audio book attached to it as something I could listen to on the way to and from work but like most of my kindle books I ended up a few chapters in and forgot it was there. Roll on a few months later and I was standing in my local Waterstones where I was drawn towards this book due to the wonderful artwork on the cover, I flipped it over and read the blurb. Confused, I felt as if I knew part of this tale already but I couldn’t work out how, I opened to the first chapter, read the very first page of this book and instantly recognised where I had come across this tale before and off I ran, book in hand, to the till to purchase this magical book.

And that is what this book is, Magical.

This beautiful, unique, dark fairy tale is set in the wintery world of Russia where grand princes rule and young maidens must be quiet, presentable and well behaved. Everything that Vasya is not.

Vasya’s rebellious spirit is definitely what drew me into this book, which is a good considering she is the main protagonist of the story. The secret world she is able to see and how she behaves towards it is incredibly endearing and resonated with me personally as I believe in the old ways more than any other faith.

Also if truth be told I have a soft spot for young adult fantasy fiction books, especially if the theme of magic or fairytales arise (Hello J.K Rowling, Darren Shan, April Genevieve Tucholke) and The Bear and the Nightingale ticks all of these boxes for me and has definitely flew into one of my top 10 favourite fiction books.

Katherine Arden seems to have the ability to bring her words to life and has created a book that you can lose yourself in for hours at a time. I am incredibly glad I have found the second instalment to this, ‘The Girl in the Tower’ so that I can continue reading Vasyas story and hopefully find the answers to the many questions I have left from ‘The Bear and the Nightingale’.

So yes, I fully recommend this book! In fact I would actually go as far as recommending you to read this book on the build up to Yule where the dark nights set in quickly and there is a certain magic in the air as I imagine it to (somehow) be an even better read when you are snuggled up under a comfy blanket with your favorite hot beverage in hand.

Archive, August 2019, Lifestyle

August 2019 & Lammas

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August, one of my favourite months has arrived at last along with the first harvest festival of the year Lammas / Lughnasadh.

We are now at the halfway point between Summer and Autumn and nature has now shifted from growth to ripening, and in the coming weeks we will see gluts of blackberries, autumn raspberries, plums, peaches, apples and pears as well as beans, potatoes, spinach and cucumbers.

I won’t lie, I have already gotten a little bit excited about the prospect of the dark nights coming in, homemade soups and hot chocolates warming my hands up while I snuggle up on the sofa under my blanket waiting for the return of The Great British Bake off and Strictly Come Dancing before the Autumn leaves being to fall and the fairy lights appear in time for the countdown to Yule. Yes, as much as I love spring and Summer I long for the darker, colder months as soon as August the 1st hits.

I am also not really sure what I am up to this month. I know I will celebrate Lammas over the next few days by making homemade flapjack, stuffed courgettes, summer vegetable and feta pie and lemonade and I hope to make jam for the second year in a row, but for the most part of this month I will probably just tend to the garden and relax in the little bit of sunshine we have left before the Autumn nights set in.