First garden grown meal of the year – homemade minestrone and fresh stawberries (not together)!

The garden is soggy but productive. We have not spent as much time out there as we would want to; the rain has been horrid and the packing has kept us busy. I thought I would have a wander down the garden this week to see what I could find.

I was delighted to pick the following selection of lovely garden yummyness.

If you look carefully you may spot courgettes, baby carrots, celery, fennel, spinach, purple sprouting broccoli, new potatoes and spring onions.

This all inspired me to turn it into a hearty minestrone soup.

I only added some tinned tomatoes, chorizo (to provide a depth of flavour), ready cooked leftover pasta and some stock. The result was delicious and is always a favourite in our house. It’s never the same twice and is a great way of using up a vast selection of pickings.

This is even better the next day, so we make plenty!

To top it all, as I was picking the spinach I noticed a glimmer of red in the fruit cage, could it be? Yes, we have our first ripe strawberries!

The other berries were not quite ripe but these tasted great as they were.

Her x

The cupboards are bare and the boxes are packed but we need the rain to stop before we start the building work!

It has been a hectic few weeks. We have been living our usual everyday lives as well as fitting in all the extra tasks of packing, setting up a base in the garden and liaising with builders.

We now have a house full of boxes.

…most of them packed with the contents of our cupboards.

Bare cupboards.

Empty shelves.

But the camping stuff remains in the bag. The weather is just rubbish. We have had so much rain that the builders have delayed the start of our build!

So here we are, living in chaos, ready to move into the garden at a moment’s notice, waiting for the weather to improve. Come on summer, make an appearance soon! The children are raring to start living outside, the outdoor adventure we talked about was supposed to have started by now. Instead, we are in a semi-camping state, living in our house with everything packed away.

I picked a bunch of garden flowers today, then realised I had packed all the vases. I had to make do with a jam jar, they still looked pretty and cheered up my empty kitchen.

Her x

Birthday cake – Big Girl’s 10th birthday!

Birthday cakes in our house are long thought about creations that the birthday child gets to choose.

Last year’s cake had a long story behind it. It was a wonderful creation produced by a lovely friend. This year it was going to be hard to beat it, so I didn’t even try, I just let my daughter decorate her cake herself. She did a wonderful job and the end result was fantastic.

We had bought some food colouring pens that provided the initial idea.  We made a chocolate cake and iced it with a plain ready roll icing. The rest was up to her…

She was so careful and creative. It was a wonderful way to involve her in the party preparations and the other children have already requested a decorate- your-own cake for their next birthday!

She also made some thank you party biscuits to give out at the end of the party.

It was a great day and a great way to celebrate a 10th birthday!

Her x

Homemade birthday party thank you biscuits

We have just celebrated a 10th birthday in our house. It was fab and the Big Girl absolutely loved it. She particularly loved getting involved in the preparation for the party. I thought I would share some of our ideas.

These are chocolate chip biscuits with a cut out of ready roll white icing stuck on with apricot jam.  They are decorated with some fantastic food colouring pens.  My daughter enjoyed making these all herself!

These are the food colouring felt tip pens. I am not a big fan of food colouring usually but as it’s a party, I thought a little couldn’t hurt!

After decorating they were packaged in little cellophane bags ready to give out to the guests at home-time.

Even the rest of the family wanted to have a go…

In fact you could use this idea to make biscuits for Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Easter or just as gifts.

Happy making!

Her x

Party ideas for a girl’s 10th birthday party

Birthday’s can be a really tricky to get right. I really like a good home party and have put together a list of things we recently did at my daughters 10th party. It was a huge success and we have had loads of requests for a repeat next year. The party lasted two hours and we filled the time perfectly.

Meet and greet over fruit cocktails.
We printed out a menu and the girls enjoyed mixing up their own drinks.

We provided plenty of juice and mixers for the cocktails.

We provided water play in the garden.
We had a water slide that you plug into the hose pipe. This provided endless fun. It was helped along by some washing-up liquid to make it extra slippery!

We ate party food.

After a few savoury snacks we provided all the ingredients for ice cream sundaes. The girls loved inventing their own desserts!

We served the ice creams in my vintage ice cream bowls and used a random selection of glasses too. The overall effect was beautiful and was appreciated by the girls. I think they noticed we trusted them with glass rather than the usual paper party bowls.


We had cake.

We ended with party bags and thank you biscuits.

The party bags contained a tatoo, bath confetti ( from a multi pack I split-up) and a few sweets. They looked great with some printed labelled attached – all put together by my daughter!

I will post separately about these biscuits – they were so easy and can be adapted for any occasion!

I can’t believe my Big Girl is 10. The time has flown by. The children are growing faster than the weeds in our garden.

Her x

How many chickens and ducks should we keep to provide eggs for a family of five?

We currently have 11 chickens and three ducks – they are lovely characters and have become family pets. Unlike most pets they are also useful as they provide us with a supply of lovely fresh eggs.

I often wonder if we have too many birds?

How many would be the perfect number to provide eggs for our family of five?

My hubby complains we don’t have enough and he would love to add more varieties to our collection.

An important consideration is how much space you have. Our chickens live in the orchard and share two houses. We try to keep the chickens and ducks separate at night but they will often tuck up together. In fact, the chickens love going to bed with the duck – maybe he is seen as a replacement cockerel?

The chickens and ducks live on grass and if we have too many we lose the grass and end with a mud bath. Fewer birds would ensure we always keep the grass.

Regular readers will know that I am always trying to use up eggs. We have a noticeable lack over winter and a huge glut in summer. We are not keen on pickled eggs so they all tend to get eaten fresh, baked or given away. I do sometimes sell a few at work.

I wonder if it makes economic sense to have all these extra eggs that I am trying to use, give away or sell. I make a little money but I don’t think I cover the cost of keeping them.

So, from our birds we are collecting between 8-10 eggs a day at the moment. We are eating lots but I could easily manage on less than this. As we lose hens we replace a few at a time to ensure we always have a mixed age range. This helps keep up the supply of eggs. I am wondering about not replacing any for a while so they naturally reduce their numbers.

I think 4-6 eggs a day would be more than enough. That’s 28-42 a week! I could still provide some for family and friends but at a more manageable level.

So less birds would mean fewer eggs, less cost of keeping them, less mess, less wear and tear on the garden and less cleaning out!

I think I just have to persuade the Hubby!

Her x

The packing has commenced – look out garden, here we come!

We have started the horrible process of packing up our house ahead of our garden adventure. I love my garden very much. I just hope I feel the same way after living in it for 6-8 weeks while we have some building work on our house.

Hubby and I have been planning this for a long time. We dream of more indoor space, better storage and an upstairs bathroom. Unfortunately the only way to get that without moving is building work.

We have made the brave (or stupid) decision to live in a tent in our garden for the duration of the building works.  We need to set up some sort of living space. I think we are considering two tents, a summer house and outdoor camp kitchen at the moment.

I am thinking that the long summer nights will be perfect for pottering round the garden, tending to the veg garden and enjoying the outdoors. Is this a rather romantic view of it?

So, we started the packing. We have lived here for nine years and in that time have filled the loft, every cupboard and every nook and cranny. Packing is not a job I look forward to or enjoy. Hubby is more keen, I think he sees it as an opportunity to throw out things he thinks is useless and I see as interesting.

There is actually two of my children hidden in these boxes. They developed a great technique for assembling boxes – one would wear the box on their head while the other taped it up!

Little lady was a bit sad to pack all the cuddly toys away.

Our house has been slowly filling with boxes ready to go into storage.

So far, we are one-third through the loft, kids’ rooms are packed up except for beds, books packed and under the stairs area sorted!

Still a long way to go….three weeks left until we move out.

Her x