Monthly Archives: May 2015

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Herb, Vegetable & Flower Seeds Need Sowing!

Potty Potted Gift, Rocking Dog

Potty Potted Gift

I finally sorted through all the leaflets that accompanied me back from last weeks Chelsea Flower Show. Oops! I hadn’t realised I had come home with quite as many seeds. They seemed such an attractive proposition since I unfortunately couldn’t bring a greenhouse or rose arch back on the train.

I particularly love Jekka’s Herb Farm seeds. She’s literally just up the road from me and runs some informative and inspirational workshops and open days. It was lovely to meet Jekka at the show on her vibrant and busy stand. Her various salad mix seeds are brilliant and keep us going through summer into autumn with delicious baby leaves. I usually plant up two wooden half barrels and enjoy cutting the leaves every two or three days. Jekka incidentally does an efficient online mail order service. Fab!

In the Pavilion I came upon Pennard Plants with an eye watering display of beautiful planted flowers and vegetables. I loved a Rudyard Kipling poem displayed as part of their installation- “The Glory of The Garden” penned in 1911. Again, I couldn’t resist some seeds.. so… more salad seeds and woodland wildflower mixes.

One more port of call for seeds- the delightful Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants. Some shade loving seeds to make my newly dug border feel less nude a few weeks down the line. Thank you to Hardy’s for all their advice.

As for the Ikea seeds– I just simply LOVED the packaging! A bargainous £1.75 for 3 packets. I made up a present in a pot for a gardener. Seeds, twine, plant sticks, knitted asparagus, biodegradable seed pots, beet brooch etc.. No wrapping required!

I include photo’s from my daughter Sorrel and son in law Pete’s garden inspired wedding. Vintage seed packet illustrations were used for place setting tags, whilst my lovely sister and brother in law designed the seed packet wedding stationery. There were even pumpkin seeds to plant. Lovely memories of a wedding in a beautiful lush and verdant garden (unfortunately not ours!)

Have a lovely weekend. Happy sowing!

Lovin' Ikea Packaging!, Rocking Dog

Lovin’ Ikea Packaging!

Pennard Plant Seeds, Rocking Dog

Pennard Plant Seeds

Jekka's Seeds, Rocking Dog

Jekka’s Seeds

The Summer Collection, Rocking Dog

The Summer Collection

Seed Packet Wedding, Rocking Dog

Seed Packet Wedding

Place Setting Seeds, Rocking Dog

Place Setting Seeds

Grub In A Jiffy For The Workers!

Ferguson Caprese, Rocking Dog

Ferguson Caprese

The border is dug and the plants are in! All looks rather sad, but know the bare earth will soon have a plethora of plants burgeoning forth. In the seventeen years of living here I don’t think the monster border has ever been dug in its entirety. Three more borders beckon and it’s when I wish I had a tiny courtyard garden. Maybe tomorrow will be a sewing day after eight hours of continuous and laborious digging.

In the sun we ate a Caprese style salad. Ripped Mozzarella, a variety of cherry tomatoes, torn Basil, seasoning and a glug of Umbrian Virgin olive oil. Served with some lightly toasted Ciabatta wiped with a garlic glove. Delicious!

I hope you had a good and sunny relaxing bank holiday weekend.

Roses Lime Cordial Too!, Rocking Dog

Roses Lime Cordial Too!

Two Summer's Ago, Rocking Dog

Two Summer’s Ago

Over For Another Year- Chelsea Flower Show

Artisan Garden, Rocking Dog

Artisan Garden

A few more images from my time at Chelsea Flower Show. In time I hope to post some images of my garden. The last few days have been spent tackling a very deep and overgrown herbaceous border. Newly purchased plants from Riverside anxiously await my getting to grips with a sea of Ground Elder. There are Angelica, Cardoons, Foxgloves, Penstemons and a host of other green lovelies to dig in. I’m hoping today will be planting day….and then onto another tangled border.

Meanwhile Andyman who is not a gardener, is repairing Compost Cottage. In 1988 we bought a wooden playhouse, as it was put on the site of an old compost heap it seemed apt to call it Compost Cottage. It has moved with us, and numerous children have played in it. I remember one or two uncomfortable nights sleeping in it with our three! Now with young Noah living next door Compost Cottage is getting a spruce up ready for the sunny hazy days of summer.

Over the last few days I have thought of tips for going to a show such as Chelsea (lots of RHS shows yet to come in 2015)

1. Get to a show early. When I arrived at Chelsea at 8.30 am it was quite bearable, by 11am life was pretty frenzied!
2. On getting there early, visit show gardens (or indeed anything you desperately want to see) first. You will be three or four people deep later on.
3. Wear flat comfortable shoes!
4. Take your own picnic or time visits to food/drink kiosks early. There were long queues for many eating places.
5. Take a few minutes to plan your day. Sit with a catalogue and work out what you want to see and create a rough plan.
6. Take cash. One or two of the trade stands only took cash or cheque. There were Cashpoints, but there was a £2 charge per transaction.
7. Take a notepad or phone to jot down info you want to retain. Growers are incredibly knowledgable and helpful in recommending plants for your own garden. Additionally many of the Show Gardens, artisan gardens etc.. were handing out planting lists which were helpful.
8. Accept that you probably won’t see or remember everything!
9. Book tickets early (Put them on a Christmas/Birthday wish-list). Chelsea was a sell out.
10. I can recommend the Purbeck ice cream. Truly delicious!

Apart from the Show itself many of the shops in and around Chelsea had wonderful window displays and plant installations which spilled out onto the street. Therefore it’s lovely to spend a little time around Sloane Square and Kings Road viewing imaginative visual display and enjoying a coffee.

Chelsea Done and Dusted!

Aquilegia, Rocking Dog


Iris, Rocking Dog


Jack's Beans?, Rocking Dog

Jack’s Beans?

Breakthrough Garden, Rocking Dog

Breakthrough Garden

Pavilion Iris's, Rocking Dog

Pavilion Iris’s

In The Purple, Rocking Dog

In The Purple

Evaders Garden, Rocking Dog

Evaders Garden

Alexandra Of Kent, Rocking Dog

Alexandra Of Kent

Out on The Street, Rocking Dog

Out on The Street

Rocking Dog At Chelsea Flower Show.

Perfumer's Garden, Rocking Dog

Perfumer’s Garden

I was incredibly fortunate to be given a last minute free pass to Chelsea Flower Show yesterday. I had a truly amazing time and the weather was absolutely gorgeous.

Having never been to the show before, I was rather like an excited child in a sweetie shop. A particular highlight for me was the wonderful L’Occitane show garden
“A Perfumers Garden in Grasse”. I could really imagine myself sitting down amongst those olive trees, soothed by the smell of Lavender and herbs in the dry heat of Provence. Of course seeing the garden in baking sunshine really helped with that visualisation.

I also loved a greenhouse trade stand (Alitex) styled with vegetable pottagers, cold frames and dramatic purple hue flower planting. I especially adored the greenhouse with slipper bath and a seemingly endless trailing Stephanotis.

Trends seem to be for lots of foxgloves, cow parsley, and generally quite wild un-manicured planting. Yippee! There’s hope for my garden yet!

Have a lovely weekend and happy gardening!

Love Auricula's!, Rocking Dog

Love Auricula’s!

Divine Digitalis, Rocking Dog

Divine Digitalis

Sentebale Garden, Rocking Dog

Sentebale Garden

Beautiful Borage, Rocking Dog

Beautiful Borage

Hanging Floristry, Rocking Dog

Hanging Floristry

Happy Bee, Rocking Dog

Happy Bee

Peony Gorgeousness, Rocking Dog

Peony Gorgeousness

Greenhouse Bathing, Rocking Dog

Greenhouse Bathing

Space Age Planting, Rocking Dog

Space Age Planting

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme….

Heavy Metal, Rocking Dog

Heavy Metal

These words are from the lyrics of the traditional English song“Scarborough Fair”.In 1966 the song was revived by Simon and Garfunkel. “Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary, & thyme. Remember me to one who lives there, she once was a true love of mine”…

The time has come for some self sufficiency, so I have been planting herbs to avoid the exorbitant cost of piddly little supermarket packets! Indeed I have planted Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, together with Bay, Mint, Basil, Oregano and Caraway. There are also plantings of Dill, Fennel and Angelica, Chives, Sorrel and Coriander.

Over the years I have accumulated various tin buckets, watering cans and baths. These are perfect for growing herbs, never seem to age, are indestructable by frost and look good when amassed with old terracotta pots. I also love my roll top bath, which came from an Undertaker’s. When we were living in Chippenham in the late 80’s I spied the forsaken bath from a bedroom window. I cheekily asked the neighbouring Undertaker’s whether I could buy the bath. A few £’s later Andyman and I were lifting the extraordinarily heavy bath across the gardens of five properties to finally reach ours. Since then it has done four more house moves and gone through numerous colour changes, with another one beckoning! There is another bath story but that can wait until another day.

I am looking forward to the herbs establishing themselves, and being able to pick mint for summery Moroccan style mint infusions. Both savoury and sweet recipes will benefit from my latest herb growing efforts, together with producing great Mojito’s!

One of my most favourite smells in the world is watering herbs after a baking hot day. I can imagine it already!

Newly Planted, Rocking Dog

Newly Planted

Herbal Bath, Rocking Dog

Herbal Bath

Undertaker's Bath, Rocking Dog

Undertaker’s Bath

Rocking Dog’s Very Own Flower Show

Old Welsh Florals, Rocking Dog

Old Welsh Florals

I love EVERYTHING floral and this post is to pay homage to this weeks Chelsea Flower Show.

I am particularly fond of my floral coat made from heavy linen union bought in Clifton village. My sister made it for me about 30 years ago, and I have worn it every summer. I have lovely photo’s of me heavily pregnant with our son Alex who is 28 this year. I am sporting an 80’s hairstyle, pointed peach coloured suede pumps, together with a peach coloured drop waisted dress. Thankfully the 80’s penchant for peach is no longer! I really want to make a similar coat using a beautiful Sanderson Hollyhocks fabric. I have run out of windows to curtain so i’ll wear it instead!

The old Welsh floral patchwork quilt came from a shop in Brecon. I bought it together with a Welsh plaid blanket for £50 in a junk shop 2 years ago. They were both in a pretty dirty state but we ended up having to use them in this condition. We discovered that we had forgotten to pack our quilt for a camping weekend in our beloved Pod. Back at home the laundered quilt became a more delectable textile to dress a bed. Real Live Rocking Dog rather likes the lovely workmanship too!

For real floral inspiration I LOVE the wedding scene in Nanny McPhee. I also adore the incredible floristry talents of Amy Bowley of Bo Boutique and Juliet Glaves of Thoughtful Flowers. TRULY YUMMY!

Floral Coat, Rocking Dog

Floral Coat

Porcelain Florals, Rocking Dog

Porcelain Florals

Bathroom Florals, Rocking Dog

Bathroom Florals

Garden Florals, Rocking Dog

Garden Florals

Rambling Floral, Rocking Dog

Rambling Floral

Gift Floral, Rocking Dog

Gift Floral

Unlocking A Gladstone Bag’s Secrets.

Unlocking History, Rocking Dog

Unlocking History

At Redland Fair despite having a stall I managed to escape for a little while! In a cardboard box looking very forlorn I discovered a somewhat desiccated Gladstone bag. I was a little doubtful as to whether it could be revived, but thought i’d take a chance on it.

For a few days the bag sat sadly and patiently on the kitchen table, waiting for me to come up with a cunning renovation plan. In the end I settled on Kiwi Suede & Nubuck Foam Cleaner together with some Kiwi brown shoe polish. My Army spit and polish days came in useful and the results have been startling.

Then came the lovely brass catch, and with Brasso doing it’s magic I noticed the engraved inscription. I Googled the name and address not really expecting anything-but the little bags history literally unfolded!

This bag was almost certainly owned by Christopher Sewell, a jeweller with a shop in Berkeley Square, London. I returned to the newly polished bag to check for any stray diamonds, but alas no! During my initial search I found a fascinating news snippet from a Tasmanian newspaper reporting a London jewellery robbery at Sewell’s shop in 1913. £4,000 worth of items were taken (1,000 pieces) and the value of this hoard today would equate to more than £408,000.

Following on from this I put Christopher’s name into my account. With the help of public members trees (also researching a Sewell connection) I was able to gain a snapshot of his life. He was born in Uppingham, Rutland in circa 1836, the son of a farmer with 90 cows.

How he rose to live and work in one of London’s most exclusive addresses is something of a mystery. In the 1871 census he is shown to be living in Westbourne Grove and his occupation is Jeweller manager. Also living at the address is his wife and three year old son, a servant, two employees, a visitor and aunt. By the 1881 census Christopher is now widowed and living at Davies Street (the address on the brass clasp). Christopher’s son does not appear in the census but a three year old daughter does. There are two general servants together with an apprentice jeweller. An unmarried niece is listed too, and at twenty three perhaps she has the responsibility of looking after Christopher’s daughter. In 1991 Christopher is now 54 and has remarried. His daughter (Elizabeth Mabel) is now 13 and there is one servant.

Christopher Sewell died in London on 1st March 1898 at the age of 62. His widow Margaret is shown in the 1901 census to be head of the household and classed as a working jeweller. Perhaps she was was in the building in 1913 when the robbery occurred. Christopher Sewell. Ltd, Jewellers of 4 Davies Street appears in the phone book even in 1961 (Mayfair 0226). A four bedroomed flat in Davies Street recently sold for £10 million.

Eventually by 2am I had decided that I needed to stop delving into a family tree that does not belong to me! Nevertheless it has been fascinating to give a little bit of love and history back to the bag. I would love to know one more thing though, how did it end up in a tatty cardboard box at Redland Fair?

Happy Birthday Sorrel! I hope you enjoy this little bags provenance, and keep on going with a bit more spit and Kiwi! Furthermore, i’m sure you’ll love it more than any Gucci, Chanel or Prada bag. Do our menfolk realise just how low maintenance we are?!!

The gorgeous little vintage fabric purse is by the lovely Ellie Goodridge of Jelly Jam. Love it! But as they say the best presents are the ones you want to keep yourself!

Gladstone Bagged, Rocking Dog

Gladstone Bagged

Leather Graffiti, Rocking Dog

Leather Graffiti

Foxy Purse, Rocking Dog

Foxy Purse

Loving Ottolenghi Leftovers!

Lebanese Loveliness!, Rocking Dog

Lebanese Loveliness!

I have shelves of cookery books, but none so well used as those by Yotam Ottolenghi. My favourite volume is “Jerusalem” co-written with Sami Tamimi. Baby spinach salad with dates & almonds, Lamb meatballs with barberries yoghurt & herbs, Roasted chicken with clementines and arak are all truly delicious. To shake up Sunday lunch the Lamb shawarma is amazing! It involves making a spicy rub using a veritable list of spices and then massaging the rub into a leg of lamb.

Desserts are not forgotten, and the boys include a recipe for a brilliant sort of deconstructed crumble. It’s a great recipe for entertaining, can be cooked ahead, and guests enjoy helping themselves to the varied components. I like to use whatever fruits are in season.

This week I have been cooking some recipes from Yotam’s latest book “Plenty More”. It’s a book celebrating vegetarian dishes and as always the food photography is mouth watering, I am a girl who likes her pictures! The above image shows Yotam’s Rice salad with nuts & sour cherries. Basmati & wild rice, quinoa, almonds and lots of fresh herbs feature. One evening I served the salad with homemade Lamb kofta’s and the following day I had the pleasure of salad leftovers! I crumbled a little Feta over the salad and enjoyed some sunshine whilst contemplating my Day of the Triffids Garden! Everything is growing SO rapidly especially the weeds.

Most cities have great shops to purchase supplies of spices, flatbreads, fresh exotic fruits and vegetables etc.. Here in Bristol “The Sweet Mart” is fantastic. One year we boycotted doing a Christmas roast and cooked an authentic Indian feast. It was lovely to prepare and cook with ingredients that we had never used before.

If you are ever in London, check out Ottolenghi’s restaurants and the new posh kebab place “Sesame” in Covent Garden (launched on Friday)

Tomato and Roasted Lemon Salad tonight- hope there’ll be leftovers!

Cookery Bible, Rocking Dog

Cookery Bible

Celebrating The Fleeting Lilac Season

Lilac Hues, Rocking Dog

Lilac Hues

How fleeting the lilac season is. Resplendent showy floral spikes in hues of mauves, pinks, deep purple, magenta and whites. To smell their sweet perfume on a warm spring evening suggests that Summer is just around the corner.

This is a post to celebrate predominantly purplish hues. I love the Rococo chocolate box, the contents were devoured long ago, but the box is a permanent decorative fixture. Laduree also execute wonderful packaging for their magical macarons, again, I can’t bear to part with the boxes. Many of these are in tranquil pistachio, pinks and lilacs, embossed with luxuriant gilded script.

In the millennium year we were lucky enough to do a holiday house exchange to Seattle. When the family requested the swap I am ashamed to say I had to reach for the map book. I had no concept of where Seattle sat on the US map, obviously I should have taken more notice of “Sleepless in Seattle” ! The swap was a great success, though I rather think Mr Seattle must have been very happy to see his super huge bed again being 6ft 5″! Back to purple….. I bought some great books in the city by Tracy PorterCarolyn Quartermaine’s “Unwrapped”. Yummy for home and food styling ideas.

Yep! I love the flower and I love purple! Yes I was a Donny Osmond fan a century ago!

Have a lovely weekend.

Scented White Lilac, Rocking Dog

Scented White Lilac

Our Lilac Bower, Rocking Dog

Our Lilac Bower

Room Fragrance, Rocking Dog

Room Fragrance

Tracy Porter Frou, Rocking Dog

Tracy Porter Frou

Perfect Pink, Rocking Dog

Perfect Pink

Purple Hue, Rocking Dog

Purple Hue

Nellie’s Diary Entry. Remembering VE Day.

The Ages Of Nellie, Rocking Dog

The Ages Of Nellie

I have been thinking about the 70th anniversary of VE Day. I have also remembered my Grandmother Nellie’s diary entry for 8th May 1945. It simply read “War Over. Blackened fireplace.” I love the statement, you’d somehow expect something a little more euphoric after five and a half years of war. It is difficult to fathom her apparent lack of elation considering the family lived on the Essex coast. My Mum recalled witnessing the red glow of London ablaze, terrifying Doodlebugs and the constant drone of aircraft. There were frequent air raids and Mum hated the smell of the rubber gas masks. I remember her telling me that she felt particularly sorry for babies encased in the specially designed Mickey Mouse masks. I don’t think we can appreciate just how simply terrifying it all must have been. Together with the impact of rationing, worrying about loved ones, sleep deprivation, housing and transport difficulties life must have been fraught for the nation.

So…. my Grandmother felt the compelling need to blacken the fireplace on VE day. Nellie’s diary unfortunately was not one of those diaries worthy of inclusion in a museum to demonstrate the plight of those on the home front. Indeed entries were sparse but there were monthly “Red Letter Day” entries. Nellie’s husband Newsome was employed in a reserved occupation and thus at home. Pregnancy could have been a definite and inconvenient wartime possibility.

Wartime rationing left Nellie with a compelling need to hoard food and when she died in 1975 there was much to deal with! I remember numerous jars of Heinz Sandwich Spread, Marmite and Shipphams paste. There were tinned peas, packets of Typhoo tea and bags and bags of sugar. Most disturbingly there was a large bucket of eggs which had been preserved in Isinglass. Isinglass is a substance obtained from the dried air bladders of fish, and it was used to preserve eggs during WW2. The Isinglass would be dissolved in a bucket of water and then the eggs would be submerged in the solution. It would preserve the eggs for between 6 months and a year. We take eggs so much for granted today but during the war the standard weekly ration for a person was 1 egg or a packet of dried egg which equated to twelve eggs. Vegetarians were allocated two eggs. My late Dad recalled loving omelettes made from dried eggs.

Nellie’s 1975 eggs had a grey furry appearance and looked decidedly unappetising, especially in the eyes of three squeamish teenagers! As my mother had also grown up with a wartime “waste not” mentality the eggs in their bucket lurked for a month or two in our house. Eventually, even Mum realised she couldn’t quite bring herself to use the egg hoard.

I include photo’s of family, especially of my Dad who loved his time at sea during WW2. War for Doug strangely provided a wonderful opportunity to see the world, and he sent numerous letters detailing his travels. A stash of letters sent to his aunt and uncle survive and describe in detail stops in Malta, Egypt, the Far East and Australasia. I find it fascinating that my Dad could write, whilst serving in the QARANC in Germany my Mum was always the one who wrote. Very occasionally Dad would add his name and a kiss, and I appreciated that.

Doug’s Certificate of Service has helped me pinpoint where he was in the world at particular points in the war. Indeed I discovered that his ship HMS Belfast, took part in the Scharnhorst Action in the Arctic Circle. The German Battleship “Scharnhorst” was destroyed with the loss of 1,932 men (36 survivors) on 26th December 1943. A few years ago whilst on a cruise up to The North Cape I found it very poignant that I was sailing in the same waters that my Dad was sending and receiving coded messages deep in the bowels of The Belfast. Furthermore, I thought of all those from both sides who had perished at sea, and I shed a tear for them.

I am grateful that my Dad’s letters have miraculously survived, together with a touching archive of naval photo’s, documents and medals.

We as a generation have witnessed the passing of the last veterans of WW1 and now are likely to witness the sad demise of the last veterans of WW2. I feel it is vital to try and gain first hand accounts of war and the home front whilst we still can.

My Dad Could Write!, Rocking Dog

My Dad Could Write!

From A Boy To A Man. WW2, Rocking Dog

From A Boy To A Man. WW2

Fading Family Photo's, Rocking Dog

Fading Family Photo’s