Category Archives: Gardening

In a Vase on Monday – tea and biscuits

It was Canada Day last week (1st July). celebrating the foundation of the nation in 1867 – it reminded me to look out a vase my former boss Bonnie gave me a few years ago.  The connection is she is Canadian, and the vase was has a famous Canadian landmark.  I have to admit I looked it up, as I’d forgotten it’s called the CN Tower (553 metres 1815 feet). It’s the ninth highest free-standing building in the world.  The vase is abstract and not to scale 😉

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I picked lisianthus, lavender and a chive flower.  I am really suprised I’ve managed to keep the lisianthus alive and thriving. But, their common name gives it away prairie gentian. I’ve been watering the pots and key parts of garden every night – luckily I find watering plants very restful and mindful.  I’d really like some overnight rain though.

The Brits reading this blog, will know that temperatures have been over 25 degrees for over 2 months, and only two small rain showers here in Manchester.  The huge moorland fires at Winter Hill near Bolton and at Dovestones, near Oldham are only a few miles away – the acrid smoke smell hung across the city centre for a couple of days.  The firefighters, Mountain Rescue and the Army still dampening down the peat.  Grim.

Please have a look at Rambling in the Garden hosted by Cathy where people from around the world post their links of the flowers and plants they’ve picked from their gardens.  She has a riot of purple this week – inspiring for me as I love purple plants in the garden.

I think I’ve written a couple of times about Bonnie on my blog. She was a huge mentor in my career, and I often think ‘what would Bonnie do?‘ She has a brain the size of the universe but is always kind, helpful and supportive to everyone she worked with whatever their role and expertise.  She’s still missed around work – She’s happily retired now, walking the hills of Yorkshire and bird watching.  I mentioned her in this blog:

Tea tasting with Cottonopolis WI – July 2018
We had a great meeting hearing all about tea – and tasting some awesome brews.  Marcy from Parched Tea in Manchester came to speak at our meeting – we do our best to support local business and charities.  As well as selling quality black and green teas, she has developed teas for Manchester central library and the Bronte museum in Haworth.

20180703_192535She even has a kettle that has different temperatures – green teas prefer 70 degrees not 100 degrees unlike black teas, like oolong.

I don’t think I’ve written much about my tea drinking on the blog. I love earl grey, lady greys sunshine greys, Empress grey, in fact, most gunpower teas – all drunk black.  I think you might see a theme here – I’m lactose intolerant (I found out over 30 years ago).  My Chap loves strong builders tea with minimal milk – strong enough to stand a spoon in 😉

Our competition this month was to make something flavoured with tea or coffee. I decided on earl grey biscuits, as they’re simple to make.

Earl Grey and Lemon Biscuits

Here’s the recipe – it’s adapted from an American one so it uses cups – Canadians tend to use cup measurements too.  I adapted it a bit as I couldn’t find the vanilla extract.

Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) demerara sugar
  • 1 cup (220 grams) Butter
  • 2 cups  plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • about 10 drops of lemon juice (either fresh or bottled) or vanilla extract – according to taste.
  • 1tsp water to help bind the dough
  • 2 Earl Grey teabags – finer the leaves the better.

Notes

  • I used M&S Empress Grey as one of my favourites. Bagged tea is finer so it is better than loose tea for the dough mixture. You could grind loose tea in a pestle and mortar.
  • leaving the dough to cool in the fridge will help the tea infuse into the mixture too.

Method – takes about half an hour

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C or 350­°F.
  2. Mix caster sugar and demerara sugar in a large bowl.
  3. Add in flour, salt, and tea leaves.
  4. Continue to mix until a soft dough forms – it will be flaky and lumpy but
  5. Roll dough into a long sausage shape on parchment paper.
  6. Chill in the fridge for about half an hour rolled
  7. Cut into 3cm thick round shapes and place on baking tray.
  8. OR you can roll out about 3cm thick and cut with a round biscuit cutter.
  9. Bake on a parchment paper on a baking tray for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.

Amazing – I won! and all the biscuits were eaten – they didn’t look like much but the definitely tasted nice.   Not the best picture as they disappeared so quickly.  I’ll definitely make them again.

biscuits 3Cottonopolis WI meet on the first Tuesday of the month from 730pm at Halle St Michael’s on George Leigh Street, Ancoats Manchester.   Our next meeting is on 7th August when we will be going on a history walk around Ancoats and a quiz.  Visitors always welcome and we’ll have cake.  We’re a friendly bunch.

 

*****

Are you doing any baking this week? or is it just TOO hot?  I’ll be spending time in the garden, when I’m not watching the tennis, and watering pots in the evening.  I’m going on a couple of courses this week, so I’ll report back on that soon. 

Carpe Diem

Love Bec xx xx xx

 

Advertisements

My ‘Mindful’ Garden – I’m in the moment

To Dwell is to Garden – Martin Heidegger, (1889-1976) German philosopher

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. Albert Einstein (1879-1955), Physicist and Nobel Prize winner for General Theory of Relativity

With mindfulness, you can establish yourself in the present in order to touch the wonders of life that are available in that moment – Nhat Hanh (1926 – he’s 91!), Buddhist Monk

For me, Gardening is mindful, being in the moment. It doesn’t have to be me ‘doing’ things, it’s about the scents, the rustle of leaves, the birds, the hum of lawn movers in the distance. For me, when I’m in the garden, I’m in the moment – I find watering, deadheading and weeding relaxing – and planting too. For me, it’s about peace and recharging.

About my garden – it’s small, it’s rubbly soil and north facing; the neighbour’s have huge conifers, which make it even more shady at the end of the garden.

I love it – our small, sanctuary from the hussle and bustle of the world

I’m content in the garden.

FB_IMG_1512828949874

Before I bought my house – Summer 2009

In high summer 2016… some of the conifers on the right have gone now – but those on the left are even bigger 😦

20150804_112952-1

My garden is a work in progress – like me. I’m 51 – I definitely feel I’m in a new chapter with My Chap (my new husband) holding my hand, metaphorically too. To be fair, he does all the digging and heavy work as I have osteoarthritis. It’s a team effort in the garden.

and there’s always time to eat and relax.

IMG_20171204_172956_444

Many pots planted (and watered), and always Yoda – any season… Yoda (and Star Wars have appeared many times on this blog).

IMG_20180501_145423

I love lavender too – it figured very heavily at our wedding in September 2017 (it was our ‘confetti’ too) I have about 20 different plants around the front garden which gets sun all day.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Lavender and a cabbage white butterfly

Many crocuses and violas too. Always something for the birds too.

IMG_20180208_175817_738-COLLAGE

It’s not all purple flowers though – there’s lots of colour around the garden. Orange and yellow life my mood in Spring. I love tulips too.

IMG_20180501_145227

Flowers always make people better, happier and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul. Luther Burbank, American Botanist

Meanwhile, you’ll find me in the garden, drinking Earl Grey or a Pimms… you’re welcome to join us if you’re in the area 😉

DSC_0957

What do you do that’s mindful?

Originally, I wrote about what my garden means for me for the April competition at Cottonopolis Women’s Institute. We were asked to suggest our mindful activities, there was a vast range including knitting/crochet, sewing, baking, art or drawing, listening to music, and a few people like me loved walking or being in the great outdoors.

Our speaker in April was Deb Connor – an all-round star who led some mindfulness exercises and stretches. She’s a trained mindfulness teacher, an acupuncturist and is a vegan too.

I’ve been doing mindfulness for a couple of years now – which combined with over 10 years of yoga has really helped my mental wellbeing. I’ll write about this another to

Women’s Institute – Cottonopolis WI

We have such alot of fun at WI meetings, in June we made beauty products from lavender, peppermint and coffee skin scrubs.

Our next meeting on Tuesday 3rd July (730 at St Micheal’s George Leigh Street, Ancoats, Manchester) is tea tasting. I can’t wait.

If you’re local come along…

Let me know in the comments what you do that’s mindful? Do you have a garden? What does it mean to you?

Carpe Diem

love Bec xxx

In a Vase on Monday – Marvellous Manly, Sydney Harbour, Australia

We are all equal in front of a wave – Laird Hamilton – professional big wave surfer

My Chap and I were in Sydney for a few days ahead of travelling to Melbourne for my nieces 18th birthday party. I’ve been to Sydney seven times over nearly 30 years. It’s one of the truly great cities of the world – and I could never get tired of traveling around the city by foot, on the Ferries or the double decker trains. My Chap has never been, so we decided to see some of the key places. I’ll write some more posts about our travels around Australia, so do come back again.

Sydney has changed alot in some ways, and in other ways has stayed exactly the same. I’m not talking about the famous sights, Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Rocks, the Ferries or the Opera House. Sydneysiders are still friendly, helpful and still have a really weird Australian accent. Though you’ll find, like most cities, the waiting and serving staff come from all around the world; we met Italians, Dutch, Germans, and of course, Brits and Kiwis.

Looking across Manly and the North Shore beaches

On Monday morning we headed off to Circular Quay to catch the ferry to Manly, which is on the North shore of Sydney Harbour. Sydney has an amazingly cheap, integrated, transport system across trawith a top up card like the Oyster Card. It’s easy to add money and the fare system is very clear – it also extends right out to the Blue Mountains which are over an hour away on the suburban trains. I wish we had a system like this in Manchester.

The trains (which are double decker and also serve as Underground trains) and buses stop right by Circular Quay – I recognised lots of the ferry names from previous visits so I know they ‘recycle’ them. The Ferries come in various sizes and people ‘really do’ commute to work by ferry. You can easily ferry hop around the Harbour, including visiting the zoo. We didn’t have time to do this much, but will definitely be on the Ferries more next time we visit.

Manly is about a half hour ferry ride, which also takes you past The Heads, the entrance to the harbour and it’s very easy to see why Captain Cook sailed straight past, and made landfall at Botany Bay a few miles down the coast. It’s a very small gap for such a huge harbour. Both North and South Health are now part of Sydney Harbour National Park. Cook sailed on to Botany Bay which is now the centre of the Australian shipping industry.

Sydney Harbour is the fourth largest harbour in the world. It’s proper name is Port Jackson. The geographical centre of Sydney is Parramatta which is a 45min ferry ride to Circular Quay. Manly is 25 minutes heading east towards the Heads. So this gives you a good idea just how vast Greater Sydney is, each neighbourhood has a different character and there’s usually intersting things to p see, parades of shops, parks and markets. If you’re a ‘people watcher’ like me, you’ll enjoy pottering around and a trip on a ferry is always good fun. There are many bays and inlets, with harbour or sea views commanding huge sums, these are some of the most desirable locations in the world.

We saw incredible homes almost glued onto the cliff often with infinity swimming pools. They have alot of glass and huge family rooms and outdoor eating out areas.

Manly – an Autumn Day Out

Manly It’s the home of Australian board surfing. Everyone tells you to visit Manly and they’re right. It’s a lovely place with many 1920s Art Deco buildings, just head over the road from the ferry terminal up the Corso to the surf beach. When I first visited Manly in 1991, the Corso was full of seaside ‘tat’ shops, but it’s definitely scrubbed up now. There’s some great places to eat and plenty of clothing shops. The Art Deco pubs have scrubbed up too – no sign of the 100 dollars fruit machines like the first time I visited.

If you like watching Australian sport Manly have a Rugby League team – Manly Sea Eagles. I watched them cuff Parramatta, the last time I visit Sydney in 2004.

Manly Surf Beach

It’s the Autumn in Sydney, the temperature was a lovely 19 degrees, sunny and there were were 30 foot waves – but most of the surfers were out on a spur from the rocks by Shelly Beach – too far away to photograph though.

We had a lovely day pottering around Manly, which has some great walks which take you past the ocean swimming pool.

We walked from Manly Surf Beach, via Shelly Beach to North Head – about 3 miles. There are sculptures and heritage boards along the way – it turns out Manly surf beach used to be called Cabbage Tree Bay – there are a few of these trees on the foreshore.

North Head National Park – new setting for In a Vase on Monday

The hills on North Head were covered in Banksia trees, so I improvised with the ‘In a Vase on Monday’ – no plants harmed in taking the photograph 😉 and I look closer to the edge than I was. I hope Cathy from Rambling in Garden will let me off with this – and I promise to do a proper vase when we are in Melbourne.

Do have a look at Cathy’s post this week – roses! There’s always beautiful flowers from around the world.

I’ve been taking photos of interesting plants I’ve seen around Sydney – I’ve got no idea what most of them are, although I’ve spotted plenty of our house plants growing happily in gardens – seen some huge Peace Lillies.

We spent a relaxed half hour looking at the views and watching the surfers. There weren’t many plants blooming, there were many succulents around and it was very dry and dusty. Easy underfoot though and there are board walks too. Since this is a National Park, no dogs are allowed (with v heavy fines) – not a problem for most tourists.

I did forget that sunset comes earlier and quicker than in the UK, so we had to cut short our walk around North Head and head back as we didn’t have a torch and my fear of Australian critters would overcome in the dark.

We walked back to Manly and had dinner, and a pint or two, in Four Pines Brewery – thoughtly recommended. Then the ferry back to Circular Quay – it was very windy so we were the only people out on the prow – hardy Brits.

It was a great day out 🙂

Sunny Sydney – we will be back

It’s a whistle stop tour but we will be back to stunning Sydney…

Come back again for our next adventure around Australia – the Blue Mountains – an hour out of Sydn

Have you been to Australia? Where did you go? If you’ve not visited yet, what would you like to see?

Carpe Diem,

Love Bec xx xx xx

In a Vase on Monday – Bee Kind this Spring

‘Be happy for this moment, This moment is your life’. Omar Khayyam (1048-1132) Persian mathematician, astronomer and poet.

Over the last month or so, I’ve been concentrating even more on my mindfulness practise – and being more in the moment. But, it feels a bit like groundhog day at the moment, Winter (and snow) re-appearing and Spring receding into the distance again (much like it was at the beginning of March). Once again it was a very cold weekend, with snow forcast, so I thought about what I might find the garden; most of the plants are looking a bit sorry for themselves (especially the Camellias) but plenty of bulbs coming up.

27 March 2018 – Hellebore, tête-à-tête daffodils (with ice) photographed on 18 March 2018

On Sunday 18th March, there was about 3inches of snow in our garden, the sky was blue, but it was very cold. It certainly concentrates your mind when you have to bundle up in your thickest coat, scarf, hat and gloves (and walking boots), just to explore what flowers are out in the garden. So I dashed out, and I found more than I was expecting. It made up for the pain from my arthritis, which doesn’t like the cold at all. I’ve struggled with the cold, with pain, which makes me tired all the time. That’s probably why it took over a week to write this blog – oh well I’ll try to be quicker next time.

Continue reading

In a Vase on Monday -A Cold, Snowy, Salford Spring?

‘No Winter lasts forever, no Spring skips its turn’ Hal Borland (1900-1978) American author and naturalist

No one in Britain can have missed the weather the last few weeks, #thebeastfromtheEast, #StormEmma and more snow due this weekend. I hope you don’t mind, but some of this post was written a couple of weeks ago, and the rest today, as another wintery weekend looms. Also I’ve been a bit stuck, very tired and osteo-arthritis aching but I’ve been plodding along. I feel a bit like Spring, stuck around the corner, nearly in reach but not quite. I saw something on twitter today, which made me laugh:

Winter this year, is like a person who leaves the room in a huff, only to come back in ‘and another thing…’ only to leave again… and return…

#theBeastfromthe East brought about 4 inches of snow to Monton, it’s very unusual to have this much, usually it’s about two inches, as it’s very flat around here with many canals. It was THAT cold and icy our local Parkrun (Worsley woods) was cancelled… this never happens as its under trees and very protected compared to most Parkruns. Fortunately my Chap was OK about this, as the air was far too cold for running – you wouldn’t think to look at him that he has asthma 🙂

The wind chill dipped to minus 12 during the night, and minus 8 during the day. I don’t think I’ve ever been so cold in the middle of the city. I’m very used to cold, when I’m up a mountain and layered up. It reminded me of the very cold day in January 2015, when we went to Neuschwanstein, in Bavaria with my Brother and his family, who were visiting from Australia – happy memories 🙂

SAM_5152-edit

A very cold, snowy day in Monton on 4th March 2018
It wasn’t lost on me that 1st March was the start of the meteorological Spring – so I layered up with my thickest, longest waterproof, gloves, hat, scarf and boots and ventured into the garden to see what flowers I could find. I was surprised to find some tête-à-têtes, and some purple perennial wallflower so I quickly picked the flowers, and put them in a vase with some lavender. The vase has appeared in ‘In a Vase on Monday’ many times, I wrapped ‘bee happy’ washi tape around it. The print is part of a series – the Winter print with descriptions of moons has appeared too (Worm Moon, Pink Moon and Flower Moon) at the start of metreological Winter. Butterflies and bees seem a long way off at the moment, but like most things, they’ll be back.

Continue reading

In a Vase on Monday – love and marriage #teamRebecca

‘You have made a place in my heart where I thought there was no room for anything else. You have made flowers grow where I cultivated dust and stones’. Robert Jordan (1948-2007) author of The Wheel of Time series of fantasy novels

Spring is definitely on its way here in Manchester – I LOVE Spring, it lifts my soul. But,as usual the weather is due to change again, so I’m making the most of the sunshine.

The snowdrops have been flowering for a couple of weeks, dwarf irises, crocuses too. I picked some along with some lavender leaves and flower spikes from last year. The vase is purple recycled glass I bought at the Eden Centre, in Cornwall. It’s appeared many times ‘In a Vase on Monday’.

Do have a look at Rambling in the Garden www.ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/ where bloggers from around the world present their flowers; there’s such amazing diversity and skill. Many thanks to Cathy who hosts IAVOM – she has some stunning iris this week.

20 February 2018 – iris, crocus, snowdrops, lavender in purple glass vase

With my vase I’ve included a print which says some very important words in French, Spanish, Italian German and English 🙂 The Little jar is a wedding favour with a chocolate mousse/pudding. It was luscious. My Chap laughed when I said ‘Oh look another Vase for Monday flowers’ 😉

dsc_1520-1615469982.jpg

20 February 2018 – my vase, sign ‘I love you’ and chocolate mousse jar

It’s been a week full of love for us: it was Valentine’s Day, we always have a relaxed meal at home, unless we’re at a gig 🙂 As ever, My Chap bought me flowers, he does this regularly. I think he likes bouquets nearly as much as I do, but then he does work in the florist industry.

dsc_1547-469960013.jpg

Adventures around Manchester and beyond…

A very special wedding – My Chap’s nephew Darren and his fiancee Rebecca who awesome people and devoted parents to baby E 🙂 . E enjoyed their day v v much and she had a wand! how excellent is that? Darren and Rebecca got married in a beautiful Georgian Hall, with many snowdrops in the grounds. There was what alot of laughs and fun, there was live music and we danced all night. Their wedding cake was truely amazing and tasted awesome – a chocolate cake with hidden depths 🙂

There was so much love that day, and every day in their relationship, it’s wonderful to see.

PicMonkey Collage

20 February 2018 – wedding flowers , wands and my wedding shoes 🙂

I wore my sparkly purple floral wedding shoes too 🙂 and Rebecca had beautiful wedding flowers #teamRebecca. I’m not putting any other pictures at the moment as they’ve not uploaded many – but their wedding cake was utterly awesome.

Food as an expression of love – We’ve had lovely food this week too – pancakes with blueberry sauce on Shrove Tuesday, made by My Chap. I’ve got no idea how he made the sauce but it was lovely. We a sumptuous Chinese dinner to celebrate the ‘Year of the Dog’ but no photos as we ate it so quickly. My Chap would still love to have a dog but we will have to wait until we are retired…. fingers crossed a cat may be joining us later in the year.

IMG_20180213_231322_159

Here are some crocuses and pansys from our front garden – many more are on their way.

spring flowers

20 February 2018 -crocuses, primulas and pansies in our front garden

I’m continuing with mindfulness, #savouringHappiness on instragram @becinmonton. Walking for at least an hour each day, weekly yoga too (not quite managing to step it up to daily yoga practise). I’m still very tired, my arthritis aching, but I’m better than I was. And Spring is around the corner…. 🙂

What do you have planned to #savourhappiness this week?

Carpe Diem

Love Bec xx xx xx