Thursday, 31 March 2011

Of Sibling Nuptials...

My darling brother got married yesterday.

Let me share some pics with you.

Whilst not for me, I can certainly appreciate the architecture and peaceful space of Church.  This is St Mary's at Oldswinford.  "St Mary's is the mother church of Stourbridge, a place of worship that has stood on this same site since at least the tenth century. The oldest surviving part of the building is the tower, built in the late 1400s. From the sixteenth century until 1982, it was graced by a spire. The tower supports eight bells, some cast in the seventeenth century."

The bells were pealing for the happy couple yesterday.  Whilst a somewhat drearisome day dawned with pelting rain by mid-day, we were a little apprehensive as 2pm approached.  Thankfully, the worst of the rain had died away by the time we walked up the path towards the church and we all held our breath  that the bride could make her way towards her groom sans brolly!

She arrived, looking absolutely gorgeous (as expected) some 20 minutes late (even more expected!), the ceremony commenced and the happy couple emerged into brilliant sunshine.  Thank you for smiling on them Mother Nature.

It was their wish that their wedding reception was a quiet meal with only immediate family in attendance.  We travelled to Brockencote Hall in Chaddesley Corbett.  Their website gives you a far better impression of this beautiful venue than I ever could have a look-see!

We had our own private dining room with a double outlook over the grounds.  Attentive but unobtrusive staff catered to our every whim and my goodness did we EVER feel like royalty!!!  We joked that we felt like we were in a scene from Downton Abbey - apart from the fact that we were all the 'downstairs staff' who were playing pretend whilst the toffs were on holiday!

Oh the food..... absolutely sublime!  I took photographs on another camera unfortunately so I'm sorry I can't show you but suffice to say I have never eaten beef so meltingly tender in my life!

Speeches, tears, laughter and lots and lots of love FILLED this perfectly sized room for the evening.  It was absolutely perfect, stress free and wondrous.

Let me show you the cake.... this was mine and Charlie (my partner)'s wedding gift to them.   Two sponges from M&S, ready iced and costing the princely sum of £29.50 (thanks to a cheeky staff discount from someone I know), a couple of ribbons and a topper from ebay.  There was a running theme of 'Cadbury's purple' (men's cravats and posies etcetera) and also rainbows and butterflies throughout the wedding day.  The topper actually looks very pale and mismatched to the ribbon there - not sure why unless it was the flash and lamp combo which bleached the true colours from the photograph - but I can assure you that it matched the ribbons perfectly!   I was so pleased with the finished cake.  I think it was special enough for their big day without the huge price tag for a traditional bespoke cake.  Yes I suppose I could have cut the cost even more by making it myself but I could never have finished the icing so perfectly and I really did not need the stress of trying!

Their day was completed by letting off Chinese lanterns in the grounds.  They looked so beautiful floating away into the night..... carrying wishes and dreams........

....... until the one I was holding caught light and floated up into an ancient cypress tree where it lodged... thank goodness that the tree was still wet from the earlier rain and it extinguished itself!!  Only me eh?!!  Bliddy typical!!!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Weekend Wafflings: Of Friendship, London Visitations and Balloon Moons...

Greetings my fellow blogging beauties!  Have you all had yourselves a wonderful weekend?  I do hope so!

Well first things first - my daughter didn't pass through the preliminary auditions. She had a great (although cold and tiring) morning however and was glad of the experience.  I do personally feel that the whole  selection process is highly suspect and have been boycotting the programme for the last few series now, however I guess it makes for good television and that's ultimately what they're looking for.  I won't launch into a tirade about it because it will look like sour grapes but suffice to say that my low opinion of the whole shebang hasn't changed!

Enn.  Knee.  Way. Moving on.

My friends and I had a wonderful weekend in London.  After an early start I reached Euston at 9.10am and met up with two of our number, Emma and Catherine soon afterwards.  We spent lots of time in Starbucks, sitting on squashy sofas with caramel macchiatos (them)(blergh!) and peppermint mocha (me) (YUM!) just catching up and putting the world to rights.  Bliss!  I really do love doing that - it just seems a little decadent really and very grown up and cosmopolitan to me. Again it's those simple pleasures that make me happy.

Sarah arrived at around 2pm and we had a wander up to Victoria Park to sit in the sunshine for a little while.  The general consensus was that we were all quite bloomin starvin marvin actually, so we made our way over to the Chinese Quarter.  I took a couple of touristy photos - please excuse the quality - my poor ancient camera really is about to give up the ghost I reckon!! 

There were lots of cooked dead things hanging in the windows looking ... erm....  dead... enticing.   Hang on a minute.  What on EARTH is that yellow thing?! 

I'm reliably informed that it was an octopus.  Ok.   If you say so.   I'm of the opinion that it looks like some weird alien pod and they can jolly well keep it to themselves thank you very much!!!

Dunno why but this shop sign made me smile! 

After inspecting around 947 shop front menus, we eventually had a buffet lunch at some, (frankly rather suspect), little upstairs Chinese restaurant.  Nothing special though I have to say - and it left me with a raging MSG furry mouth thirst for hours afterwards. 

Good job these were on hand to slake my thirst eh?!  Yep - there were only four of us. And we were only staying overnight.  And only three of us partake in the pink stuff!  Oops... there appears to be one in the bottom of the fridge door that met with an untimely demise at an early stage! 

Unusually, we rented an apartment for this trip.  We usually book a family room in a Travel Lodge or similar for our girlie weekends but having done a bit of investigation we got this fantastic apartment for which worked out at just £37.50 each via one of the online booking agents.  This is as much as we would usually pay for one room in London and to say that we were impressed was an understatement!  It was a little way out of London central - Limehouse to be precise, but as is usual with any London suburb it was relatively quick and easy to get to and worth that little bit of extra effort.  I believe that this block of apartments used to be an East End Mission.  There was certainly an ecclesiastically themed stained glass window at the front of the building which said as much.  It was a shame about the stroppy troll receptionist but once we had negotiated our way over the ricketty racketty bridge (so to speak) and up to our very swish apartment all that was forgotten!

Two double bedrooms.

One with ensuite.

A decent shower room.

A balcony with views across to Canary Wharf.

A lovely fitted kitchen with dishwasher, fridge, cooker, microwave etcetera

A nice squishy sofa with a dvd player and nice sized telly which suited our chill out night perfectly.

Pizza, garlic bread, wine (a little anyway. Cough.) and chocolate.   Oh.  And a few TT ** dvds along the way!!

I was a little disappointed that I couldn't take a better photograph of the most incredible moon I have ever seen.  It seemed to arrive from nowhere.  I happened to look over my shoulder and out through the french doors and actually gasped at the orange orb suspended just to the left of the lights of Canary Wharf.  I tried for ages to to get the perfect shot but sadly to no avail -  although I've seen some truly amazing ones throughout blogland - check out Leanne's beautiful images over at somerset seasons

Above the Dock

Above the quiet dock in midnight,
Tangled in the tall mast's corded height,
Hangs the moon. What seemed so far away
Is but a child's balloon, forgotten after play.

-- T E Hulme

I adore this poem.  It's one of the few that I can recite from memory and it seems very fitting somehow.... and it really did look like a huge yellow balloon you know.  The sight of it was something I felt priviliged to witness and had to quietly step outside on my own for a while just to gaze and to absorb.  I'm sure if I'd have stretched out my fingertips I could have touched it. 

N. B.

**The story behind our friendship is an unusual one I guess - well, unusual to some. (Cue "Our Tune" music).   We met through our mutual adoration of the band Take That via a fan-forum.  I would just interject here that people who have known me for years are a little aghast at my new found love for this band.  For the last 30 years my musical roots are firmly entrenched in punk (we have a 3 foot high poster of Johnny Rotten at the top of our stairs!) and very heavy rock music (when I mean heavy read Rammstein, Slayer and Slipknot!) and for me to admit that I lost my head and heart to an aging boy band at the age (at that particular time) of 39 never fails to get me teased by my old rocker pals!  What can I say?!  It's my guilty pleasure!!
Anyway - back to the plot - A few subsequent meet ups later and the four of us formed a firm friendship, travelling far and wide to see the band on tour and at various performances along the way.  It's a relatively new friendship, forged only over the last five years really; but I think it's safe to say that we'll remain friends for a very long time.  In that short space of time, we've road tripped to Sunderland to camp overnight in a tent on concrete to get to front row next day, lived the five star lifestyle at the Conrad Hotel in London following our attendance at The Brits, flown to Dublin and driven up to Belfast on a whim to see Howard play his DJ set, pelted across the pitches of several huge stadiums (Croke Park, The Stadium of Light,  Ricoh Arena and Millennium Stadium - culminating in, gasp, Wembley!) to secure our position on front row.  We've witnessed a bit of history at The Royal Albert Hall, attended a dress rehearsal for last tour which was limited to just 200 lucky people; we've seen Gary sing Born Free as a tribute to Don Black at the Palladium and we've watched James Corden sing his little heart out at the launch of their Sing Star game at the Tabernacle in London - again a very privileged attendance and a small intimate venue.  We've laughed, cried, been knackered to the extent of exhaustion, been soaked to our underwear by water cannons and endured virtual hypothermia and near bankruptcy and do you know what?  I wouldn't change a thing!  Although seeing the band is a lovely bonus, seeing each other is now just as special and I shall (ahem) Never Forget that.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Just a Quickie!

Hello lovely blogging people!

Just a quickie post from me to wish you all a very happy weekend.

I'm off to London to see some good friends tomorrow for a girlie get together.  We're staying in apartment  in...erm... somwhere I can't remember at present!! Hope it comes to me before I get to Euston! 

Please keep your fingers crossed for my beautiful daughter who is going to the preliminary X-factor auditions on Sunday.  All she has ever wanted to do is sing.  I know it's a long shot for anyone who goes to these things but it will be an experience for her at the very least. 

Better go chuck some knickers in a bag then! 

See you soon!


Monday, 14 March 2011

Monday Monday...

"it was all I hoped it would be"

(from "Monday Monday" - John Phillips)

Actually that's a blatant lie.  It wasn't all I hoped it would be at all.  Howard Donald did not turn up to do my housework wearing nobut a pinny and a big pair of combat boots. This is what I had planned when I booked my day off.   It didn't happen.  Mondays are officially crap.

Three... Two... One.... and she's back in the room!!

*feels head*  Oooh I was a little overcome then!  Can't think why. ;)

Actually my Monday wasn't too bad at all.

Day of official annual leave from the 'dark and gloomy place' whereupon they are not allowed to phone me at home at stupid o'clock and ask me why I am not at my desk.    Check.

 Darlin' man finishing work early this morning and bringing me coffee and cuddles in bed.  Check.

 Both adorable (!) children up, dressed and downstairs before I had to chuck a bomb in their rooms  gently but firmly persuade them to awaken from their slumbers. Check.

 Sunshine. Check.  (n.b. Sun's temp gauge obvs. on the fritz today.  Could have been a tad warmer. Not complaining.  Just saying like.)

Two loads of washing blowing on the line in a blustery fashion.  Me, watching from the kitchen window in a smug housewifey fashion.  Check. (I do love to see washing hanging out on the line.  I'm a simple soul, me).

Home-made Lemon Drizzle Cake  - *makes Gordon Ramsay butch and meaningful hand gesture* - Done.  (chortle).

Lots of lazing around nosing into other people's lives reading lots of wonderous and inspirational blogs.  Finding new ones to add to my ever growing collection - Check.

Developing major psychological trauma due to comparing perfect homes/gardens/children/figures/handicrafts/
talents/frugality/green-ness/worthiness to mine. - Massive Check.  Apart from the children.  Cos my kids will always be far more beautiful/witty/talented than anyone elses!! tee hee.

It's all too much.  And if I hide she can't shout at me when
those ridiculous polar bears fall off their plinth.
She needs to remove those bloody snowflake stickers an' all!
Obligatory Barmy Cat. Check.

Developing feelings of a subdued nature similar to those experienced round about now of a Sunday evening due to realisation that I will be unable to play housewife tomorrow and have to return to said dark and gloomy place.  Check.

Stamping feet, throwing self on floor and beating fists on laminate flooring in a tantrum of monstrous proportions as feelings of subdued nature descend into abject despair.  Check.

Promising self choklit to get self through the evening and possibly some more tomorrow by way of enticement/reward.  Check.

Reminding self that in a momentary but highly stupid lapse of concentration pledged with colleagues that we would all give up choklit for Lent.  This made more majorly stupid by the fact that I am of Pagan leanings and don''t ruddy well DO Lent!!

So - a day of two halves then really!! 

Sorry about that - I should have warned you all about my rather questionable sense of humour!

In other news:-

New bathroom tadahhhhh!

Before I show you, there's a story behind the wallpaper.  My other half and I have a bit of a thing about zebra stripes!  Before he moved in, we found a website advertising teeshirts in Black Country dialect.  We, childish as ever, thought the Black Country alphabet definition of the letter Z ( this ) was hilarious.  Anything of a 'stripey 'oss' nature has henceforth found it's way into our home!  Throws, bed linen, pictures, mugs, a shopping bag so far!  So when we found the wallpaper there was no need for any further discussion regarding the redecoration of the bathroom!

So this is it:

Old mirror decoupaged with some spare wallpaper.

Old original door -  three zillion layers of toxic paint nitromorsed, heat gunned, sandpapered
wood dyed and varnished into oblivion.

New cheap as chips floor tiles and black bath mat with sparkly bits!
Windowsill covered in same paper. Mad flowers from Wilkinson!!
The new paper.  And me. Posing.  There's no excuse for this kind of behaviour really.
And no, I'm not sitting on the loo.  That's a towel rail!

I'm off to stroke some choklit now.  There is nothing in the rules to say that I cannot stroke it! 

Sunday, 13 March 2011

"It is the first mild day of March..."

IT is the first mild day of March:
Each minute sweeter than before
The redbreast sings from the tall larch
That stands beside our door.
(From To My Sister:  William Wordsworth)
A very Happy Sunday to you all!

It’s been a simply beautiful day here. After a miserable, drizzly start, the sun came out at around 11am and has been shining his little head off all day.

Have you had a good weekend? I’m feeling quite upbeat for a Sunday evening! Usually the Sunday evening blues are beginning to set in around now as thoughts of Monday morning and the evils of work begin to muscle in on my equilibrium. I’m lucky enough to have tomorrow off though so I have a day’s respite at least from those feelings that I’m being wrenched away from my man, my kids and my home! Needs must though when the devil holds yer purse strings eh?

I had Friday off too so it’s been a lovely long weekend. Sometimes I just need to ‘be’ here at home, just pottering around. I was pleased that my holiday request was granted. On Friday I did some much needed tidying up around the house and then did some baking - just cos I could!! My daughter had requested that I bake brownies so those were the first ones to be done. Second on the menu were some simple little fairy cakes. I think everyone has their own fave recipe - mine is 2 eggs, 125g each of butter, SR flour and castor sugar, plus a few drops of vanilla essence. They’re lovely and light and very moreish. Incidentally - since WHEN did fairy cakes evolve into cupcakes? And WHY? Lol


And a special one for my man cos he’s wayyyy too Punk to eat your usual common or garden fairy cakes don‘t you know!! *Snigger!*

Last night we entertained my brother and my very soon to be sister-in-law. As is usual when we get together we had such a giggle. Just at random stuff but nevertheless I woke up this morning with my ribs aching from laughing. We had home made lasagne (which cost probably four times as much as a ready made frozen one would have done!)  but even though I say so myself, it was really good and there’s still enough left for two good portions for tomorrow too. We had that with some salad leaves, vine tomatoes with red onion, balsamic vinegar and olive oil and served with garlic focaccia. There were warm brownies, fresh fruit and cream for pud. Well for my other half and my brother at least; we girlies declined as we were stuffed to the gills! Unusually, we didn’t partake in much booze. My sis-in-law to be had fallen down the stairs earlier that evening and was very sore and wobbly, and my brother was under the weather with an ear infection too so it was plenty of coffee all ‘round! Shows you don’t have to drink copious amounts of alcohol to have a good time - (although I know it helps sometimes)!!

Today was spent outside tidying the garden and making the most of the Spring sunshine. We let the hens out of their run for the first time today as we were going to be out there with them, and they had the time of their lives after making the first tentative steps to freedom.  The 'builder's bum' in the background is my son on... ahem.... 'litter' patrol!

This was taken just as they discovered that the gate had actually been left open for them.  I'm sure I could hear a clucky "Wahayyyy" as they all trooped out.

They made a bee line for the borders and soon settled down to some heavy duty scratching around  in the gravel.  Oi!! Mind me aqueligias girls!!

I asked them all to pose for their first outing to be properly documented for prosperity.  This was their collective response. ~~~~~~~~~> 


Oh my goodness I have never seen so many ladybirds as I have done today.   They were literally EVERYWHERE!  Not just in ones and twos - but in great clusters!  We first noticed a couple on the alchemilla which had died down over winter.  I had raked some of the leaves form the top of the dead wood and look what was nestling inside! 

 A ladybird rave!!!

And here: 
Vegetation wasn't the only place to sunbathe though - how funny!!  You can even faintly see yet another little cluster of them in the clump of cranesbill on the ground.  Wonder what folklore significance there is to having an influx of LBs?  From what I've read it's a herald of a good harvest!  Bloomin long way off though!  We'll have to wait to find out!

Betty helpfully decided that she would assist Charlie (my other half, not Charlie-cat) (Yup - gets mightly confusing around here at times!) to tidy up the shed.  Thank goodness he got to the straw before she did as he may have had to tidy up for a little longer than he anticipated.  We think she was looking for somewhere to sit as very shortly afterwards she took herself off back into the nesting box and quietly laid an egg! 

Hattie and Leia were having none of that hard work malarkey however.  They took themselves off to a patch of bare earth and rolled and "cuck-cucked" quietly to themselves in the sunshine.  Don't blame them - it was Sunday after all!

Another wonderful sight today was that of no less than FOUR buzzards wheeling and calling in the clear blue sky above us.  We usually see two of them quite regularly but never four together.  One of them flew quite low over the house a little later on, low enough so that we could see the underside of his wing span.  Thankfully the chooks were safely locked back in their pen by this stage!

So in the (very short) intervals in which I was able to tear myself away from nature watching and chicken observation, I actually did manage to do some work!  One of my ornamental grasses has now been pruned vigorously, the ice plants have had the woody flower stems removed now that the new growth has appeared and the seed heads have been utilised during the winter by various insects and birds. The pots have been emptied and the spent compost and waste plant matter have gone into the compost bin.  Annoyingly however I had to stop as I ran out of space both in my compost bin and in the Council collected green wheelie bin which is full to the brim!  Hopefully it will be emptied this weekend however, so that will allow me to finish that little project.  We should be having some top soil delivered for the raised bed very soon so it will be all systems go with the veggie planting.  Can't wait!

OO! Can I just say a humungous THANK YOU and welcome to our bloggie followers!  There are 14 of you now ! So pleased!

Behind bars once again.  It's an outrage!!

Edited to add:  Note to self.  Do not blog past 11pm at night as you are most likely to type a complete load of twaddle with zillions of spelling and grammatical errors.  And make yourself look like a right tit.  Sigh.

Mostly corrected now!!  I think I need new glasses!!! ;)

Friday, 11 March 2011

Quiet Thoughts

"Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all ..."

(from 'Hope' by Emily Dickinson)

Mother Nature stamped her feet again today.  The sheer power of Her temper unleashed is truly terrifying.  Hell hath no fury.   I'm sure we've all been horrified by the coverage of the 'quake and Tsunami in Japan.  If we should take a life lesson from this awful natural disaster it's to cherish what we have.

It goes without saying that my thoughts are with those people whose lives have been affected by this.


Wednesday, 9 March 2011

A Little Pot of Sunshine

Hello my lovelies!

Have you all had a great day?

Not much excitement going on in Peapodland today really.  The usual mundanities at work drove me to distraction and as usual I made good my lunchtime escape!

First of all I popped to the supermarket in search of belly draft (!)  I know... you're beside yourselves with excitement aren't you at that rivetting snippet of information!    I had severe cravings after reading Froog's blog yesterday!  Mission accomplished I then decided to venture into the H igh Street to check out the Charrie shops. The charitable establishments in the cathedral city of Brierley Hill (cough) are plentiful - but never seem to yield much in the way of bargaintastic offerings.  Perhaps I'm just a fussy old bint!  Although I have to say that it's difficult to shop for stylish liddle vintage items of a clothing nature, dahhhling, when you have boobage the size of a small continent and hips of the equivalent circumference of the bow of the Queen Mary.  Sigh...... 

Anyway, moving on......

The British Heart Foundation shop, I have to say, is particularly pretty bloomin dire - I dunno why - it's Stourbridge branch is brilliant but this one just seems a little dark and dismal.  Sorry guys!!  Just an observation.  BUT!!!! Today.... there was shining beacon in the gloom!  Would you look at this little jockey?!!

Dunno what it is about it but it yelled at me to buy it and at just £2.00 I didn't argue!  It's so bright and cheery and spring like!  It very nearly met with an untimely demise when the assistant dropped it bottom first on the glass display counter top and I nearly had an attack of the vapours, but thank goodness it's made of sturdy stuff!!

I got it home this evening and immediately had to transfer my three bunches of daffies into it that I picked up yesterday for just £1!  Now how wonderously springy and yellow and zingy do they look?  A match made in heaven I think!

I'm thinking that some lovely bright tulips will look just as delish in there and shall try that combo in due course!

These are MY carrier bags. MINE.  You left them here. Ergo they are MINE!


BCDA (Barmy Cat of the Day Award) goes to Minnie who insisted on sitting in the middle of the pile of empty carrier bags I was sorting out on the kitchen table.

Now Go Away and stop bothering me!

Love Love Love!!
 K xx

Monday, 7 March 2011

A Rather Random Selection.

"It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade."

- Charles Dickens
Hello my beauties.  Thanks for dropping by again.   How was your Monday?  Not a manic one I hope.
This was the sight which greeted me first thing this morning as I waited for the kettle to boil.  Please excuse the quality of the picture as it was taken through a (eek! rather smeary) window, and whilst still half asleep, but I had to share it with you.  This is Charlie - sitting on top of an old fencing post which is very precariously leaning against the bench and awaiting disposal.  I have a cat who appears to think he is an owl.  How could he have possibly been comfortable?
I'm sure Cassie is wondering how on earth he got up there!! 
I badly needed to escape from the office at lunchtime today.  It was such a beautifully bright day, it would have been a travesty to sit inside in the dry fug of the air conditioning, and  poring over a computer screen.  So, for one precious hour, I walked down to the canal and ate my lunch there, sitting on the (admittedly rather cold) wall and filling my lungs with crisp, 'relatively clean' air. I took the camera and took just a couple of shots.  This lovely little spot is right in the centre of huge office complexes and about five minutes away from the bustling Merry Hill Centre.  Just a few years ago there used to be a thriving cosmopolitan network of winebars and nightclubs right opposite where I was sitting.  Sadly, apart from a couple of chain-owned pubs, the majority of them have now closed, forced out of business by mega high business rates and falling trade.  It's left the area looking a little bereft and bleak; boarded up and unused it's  a rather expensive white elephant now. 

Still Waters

Dudley No. 1 Canal.  This view shows the Earl of Dudley Bridge - and a lone fisherman.  Wonder whether he caught anything?

This beautiful silver birch was almost glowing. against the clear blue of the sky
Back at home this afternoon I was really happy to discover that lovely man had put in a new gate to give us better access to our beloved field.  He'd dug out some soil from behind the old makeshift door which had been threatening to perform it's own mini landslide and block our exit for ever(!), and had also cut back some overgrown branches which were a bit of a hindrance.  He laid a few spare slabs as a solid pathway and that's another long overdue job completed.
I took this shot when I got home this afternoon -
ooh it looks all mystical and mysterious doesn't it?
My apologies for the rather random selection of photographs today. 
See you very soon.
K x

Sunday, 6 March 2011

A Mixed Bag of Everyday Pleasures

Ok who pinched my weekend? Eh? Was it you?

Oh that's alright then!! I'll let you off!

Come with me... into the green...

Hasn't it been an absolutely beautiful day today? I escaped out into the field this afternoon. The back door is a little overgrown as no-one has been out since well before Christmas, but I fought my way out through the undergrowth, fighting off all manner of tigers and lions and bears. And tiny acid green, incredibly vicious baby nettles! Come with me... through the secret passage...

and out into the field. On a clear day you can see forever. Or to the corner of the field at least.

This field is an endless source of pleasure to me. We're blessed to have this right on our back door step and I never get tired of it. I watch the seasons change by it. I walk off bad moods in it. I breathe in it. I go blackberrying and foraging in the Autumn in it. My kids have grown up making dens in the hedgerows and hiding in the barley on the perimeter of the crops. My numerous cats over the years have struck fear into the hearts of multiple generations of voles and field mice in it! It's my little piece of heaven just yards from my back door. My house may be tiny – but I can't see myself wanting to live anywhere else but here.

Look how the shadows are lengthening – these photos were taken at around 4.30pm – how wonderful it is that the days are getting longer now. I can't wait to get out into the garden when I get home from work.

I cleaned out the coop this afternoon, ably hindered assisted by three meddlesome chickens. I wish I'd kept hens years ago. They really are the funniest, friendliest, sweetest birds. They managed to untidy the place more quickly than I could tidy it! But as they were burbling away to me all the time I was in there, allowing me to stroke them occasionally and making me jump by pecking at the holes in my bright pink Crocs (yes I know that's my fault for wearing hideous footwear!) - I can't say that the cleaning operation was a chore at all.

The bin bag full of spent sawdust and straw was lent an investigative foot by Leia – so tipping over the bag and spilling stuff all over the gravel. She also took a liking to the bag of barley straw and gave that a good kicking too!

Hiyeeeee-YAH!  Take that!!
Betty decided that I wasn't spreading the new sawdust quickly enough and also lent a hand foot, scratching sawdust everywhere – mostly out the bliddy doors of the coop thank you very much! 

What? I'm only trying to help!

Hattie merely looked on with disdain

Get on with it woman!

You've missed a bit!  Down there look!
until I'd finished and then immediately dived into the nest box to check whether I'd made her bed correctly. Hope it's to your satisfaction Ma'am. Now get your fluffy bottom settled and get laying!!

Whilst dinner was cooking this evening I decided to make the most of the warm oven and threw together a brownie mix.  These squidgy calorie-shocker slices of indulgence are a firm favourite in our house. I've made them so many time now that I no longer need to look at the recipe.

I always mix cakes/make bread/pastry using my late Nan's Pyrex mixing bowl. She had it for so long it was probably insured against Viking raids but I absolutely love it and use it at any opportunity.

For these brownies, you'll need 200g of chocolate of your choice. These bars of dark choccie are from Asda and cost £1.00 for the two – but they do an even cheaper version which would work just as well. The recipe (it's a Jamie one) calls for good quality chocolate but to be honest I chuck anything in. It's good to experiment and this recipe stands up to most types of chocolate. I've made Rum n' Raisin brownies in the past using some of that Old Jamaica chocolate which were A. Mazing! The flavoured choc is a great way of giving an old fave a bit of an update and there are so many different combinations of chocolate around these days.

Anyway – I'm rambling again.

I have to sing the esteemed Mr O's praises at this stage because I learnt a little bit of magic from his latest bible book.  

Greaseproof paper.  Annoying stuff innit?  You cut a suitable length with which to line your baking tray and it proceeds to do this: 
Well now,  the secret is... if you take the greaseproof paper and wet it under the tap, scrumple it and squeeze out the excess water.... (here's one I prepared earlier:-

You can do this^^^^^^^^^.   Wow eh?  It moulds perfectly.  I was so impressed!  I don't get out much though.

Next....smash up the chocolate. Now you can either do this with the end of a rolling pin but I will warn you that you'll be fishing bits out from the back of your washing machine/oven/fridge for weeks. I've found the best way is to take a hewooooge scary looking knife and chop it up into tiny pieces. It's very satisfying and makes a lovely crunching noise when you do it. This is a good stress buster too – particularly if someone has really hacked you off during the day!! (see – they do have a healthy edge to them!!).

Then... splat 250g room temp butter into your bowl and stir the chopped choccie into it so that it looks like a mess for a mad dog combines.

Then, 6 level tablespoons of cocoa powder. Mix thoroughly.

Add 200g sugar (I've used caster sugar but it works just as well with granulated. Use golden caster sugar if you have it but I've never been precious about me sweetening agent!)

Then, add a pinch of salt, and gradually beat in four medium eggs. Stand back, admire your handiwork, pat your hair, adjust your vintage pinny and look particularly smug if you have just retrieved said eggs from your own coop full of delightfully splendiferous chickens.

Finally, add 4 heaped tablespoons of self raising flour and mix, making sure all of the mixture is comple combined and looks glossy and decadent.

Utilise this lull in proceedings wisely by licking your fingers/bowl/utensils/bits spilled out over the worktop due to vigorous mixing.

Pour the resultant concoction into your prepared tin. Press some pecan nuts into the top if you like em – I have to do half and half because DD (Diva Daughter) doesn't particularly like nuts. Jamie grates some clementine zest over his brownies at this stage – and I agree this is a lovely touch. Bake at Gas Mark 4 for about 14 mins (although I never time anything). You need to remove the cake from the oven whilst it's still verrrry slightly moist on top but cooked through. Remove tray from the oven, flip upside down (the brownie tin not you – but if you're into kitchen gymnastics then who am I to question this activity?) Gently peel away the greaseproof. Then cut into as many slices as you wish.  Or don't cut it at all.  You could start at one end and your partner the other then see who gets to the middle first without being sick.

Et Voila! Shockingly, sinfully indulgent squares of gorgeousness which you might as well apply directly to your hips and thighs with a butter knife.

Or you could just choose a piece of fruit!!

See you soon!!