Category Archives: Lifestyle

Kit’s Garden: Poppies

Papaveraceae family

I love all types for their varied colours and colour combinations, from pale pink (blue) through to red, red and black (often referred to as ladybirds), to purple, and yellow and orange of the Welsh variety. I also like the varied leaf shapes, either lobed, dissected or toothed from glaucous green/grey and flat, to dark green and spiky.

The poppy family is large group of annuals, perennials and biennials poppies which includes the annual orientals (Papaver orientale), native to Turkey and from which we get opium, morphine, heroin, codeine and papaverine plus poppy seed and oil for eating/cooking and birdseed; field or corn poppies (P. rhoeas); Iceland poppy (P. nudicaule); and the Welsh and Himalayan (Meconopsis). There is also the Californian poppy but this is another flower species altogether (one I will come back to at a later date.)

Most types are growing in my garden, either self-sown thanks to the birds, wind and neighbours or grown from packets of mixed wildflower seeds.  I also have two perennials which were purposely grown for a display a few years ago, of which I managed to salvage and transplant. My current favourite is the frilly fringed pom pom ones, Papaver somniferum, which magically appeared in my garden last year. I left a few to self-seed and collected the seeds from the remainder. Sadly, while de-seeding the last one, I dropped the container onto the ground. Seeds lost. Oddly, none have appeared this year where the jar fell. I shall not make the same mistake this year.

With most of my plants, I believe in copying nature and let the seeds disperse and propagate where they will. If I am scattering seeds (of any plant) I do it when they are naturally shedding, typically late summer/autumn) and leave them to it. I believe that Mother Nature knows what it’s doing and plants will germinate where they are happiest. I deadhead during the flowering period, so the plant’s energy goes into developing more flowers rather than seed, then let the last few flowers go to seed. After the orientals and perennials have flowered (typically May time) I cut them down to ground level for often they will regrow to give another display later in the season and the new leaves help to feed next year’s flowers.

There’s always room in my garden for poppies.

Late for a Date in the Garden

I had hoped to bring you the finished garden by now but the weather here in the UK has been dreadful. Two hot days in April, which meant I could finally make a start on bringing the back garden back to some semblance of prettiness. Two days! The rest of the month has been cold, wet, blowing a hoolie and even colder still – we even had to put the central heating back on.

Today the sky is cloudless, the sun shining and joy of joys, we have been promised good weekend’s weather, which is something of a miracle as it is a bank holiday weekend here. So …. Click here to read the garden so far

Rain, Rain, Go Away…

At last April is here. Spring! Except here, spring is rather slow to get going, thanks to all the rain and wind and snow. Even this past weekend, Easter (I hope you all had an enjoyable one), parts of the UK experienced a white Easter, though not for the first time. Here where I am I the West Country, we didn’t have snow but it rained like it was never going to stop. Which means… what I had hoped to enthral you all with on this post hasn’t happened.

Yes, I’m talking about the garden revamp. It has been such a horrible winter, far too cold and wet for either of us to do anything out there apart from pruning my buddleia and a fuchsia and pottering in the new greenhouse bringing on new seedlings and plug plants. The ground is so sodden and heavy it’s going to take a lot of drying out before we can even contemplate putting a fork or spade in. So far this spring we have only been able to enjoy a morning cup of coffee out there once. Usually by now I’m out there every morning having my early morning cuppa. Thus, apart from cursing the weather, it’s been a month of more planning and ideas and thoughts as to what we intend to do both outside and indoors. 

(click here to read on)

 

I’m Back!

Hello Blog Readers

I’m back after a long break despite good intentions earlier this year to blog more frequently. Life has been chaotic in the Domino household since March with many setbacks, medical issues and other matters of which I shan’t bore you about, suffice to say we are now back to normal. I think. Well, as least as normal as it can be here.

Sadly, a brief summer seems to have passed us by and autumn is well and truly on the wind. The leaves are turning and dropping already and most of the garden flowers spent although a few are maintaining a colourful display. To be honest, it’s been looking quite good these past few months thanks to the extra effort put in by the other half now he’s retired. At the moment he’s busy putting up new soffits and guttering around the man-cave before winter exerts another toll upon the tools and man toys.

As for me, I’ve had a few setbacks and disappointments but none that cannot be overcome and move forward from. I’ve even managed to create some artwork this summer and can boast three on public display in a nearby town venue.

I’ve also had a few shocks this summer, the biggest being when one day the other half requested curry and rice for dinner. Curry? Is he serious? Oh, and can I put apple and sultanas in it too? In all of our 42 years together he’s never once asked for a curry, let alone eaten one. He’s always moaned and grumbled and groaned whenever I’ve had one out, even if simply chips with curry sauce! Okay, so who is this man and what have you done with the real Dave? So a mild chicken curry I made. Well, I say made, it was made using a Korma curry sauce curtesy of Aldi. And golly good it was too. And now a regular on the Friday lunch menu. Talking of menus…

As you are probably aware, or not, I am a great lover of Greek food. Greek anything, in fact. And sadly, I haven’t been able to get to Greece now for several years, the past two years with no holiday at all! (Can hear the violins playing already.) I love the dips, especially tzatziki and hummus but those ready-made ones from supermarkets are just not the same. I had a deep craving for hummus one balmy week in June but didn’t dare make one as Dave is allergic to garlic. The smell, the taste and the thought. He goes ape. He can’t stand it. What to do…? How to curb such a want. Dare I attempt to make one?

Yup. I picked up a couple of tins of chickpeas, opened one, read the instructions how to make – easy enough and blitzed away minus the garlic. It tasted bland, it tasted dull, it tasted … of nothing. Then came a lightbulb moment. Now, it might seem obvious to you but it wasn’t to me until that moment. I added a dollop of roasted onion chutney to the mixture and voilà. Wonderful roast onion hummus I could eat until the cows came home, well… until it was all gone, without him moaning and groaning about it. It would have been even better with some garlic, but hey ho, this little beggar can’t have it all ways and this was better than none at all. So here’s the recipe.

1 400g tin of cooked chickpeas – drained and rinsed.
2 teaspoons of tahini
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Put all the ingredients into a food processor and whizz to desired consistency.
Then add 1 tablespoon of onion chutney and blitz for a few seconds, add more lemon juice/oil/chutney to taste.

It even freezes well too.

Shame I can’t get Dave to try it. Perhaps one day he’ll surprise me again.

A Gardener’s Delight

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We might now be in August, but you certainly wouldn’t believe it with the weather the last few days; there’s a distinct autumnal chill in the air early mornings and not warm enough (for me) to sit outside, but the forecasters say it is only a blip. Meanwhile, thanks to the wonderful invention of photography, I can at least sit back and admire the garden as it’s been these past few months – it’s been glorious!

100_6648It’s been one of our best for colour. Dave and I love colour; not for us the subtle tones and pastels as we love big and bold and bright and the unusual. We happily plant pink and yellow flowers together – they look great and, let’s be honest here, nature doesn’t pick and choose and colour co-ordinate. And the yellow rudbeckia planted next to a pink phlox and overhung with a blue clematis works for me!

100_6599This year we have planted the hanging baskets and pots with begonias, the showy, blousy sort I never used to like but I have been converted. It is a pity the winds and heavy rains of recent days have knocked them about a bit but they should recover. The dahlias, many of which have been grown from last year’s seeds, have not failed us. The bees love them and so do we.

Other plant100_6603100_6456s in pots include pelargoniums (or geraniums as they used to be called), particularly pink ones, and complimented by black pansies. These have proved a lovely foil for many plants and ones we will grow next year.

Also we’ve included lots of white nicotianias in the borders. Not by design, more by luck. These have all germinated from those we grew in planters last year – plants for free and, again, a perfect backdrop to bring the colours of other plants particularly in the shadier parts of the garden.

Best of all has been the wild flowers. A couple of packets of seeds strewn in the bare patches where I have removed unwanted or thug plants and bingo! A plethora of flowers have been growing non-stop for weeks.

100_6356100_6541100_6608Many of these wild flowers I do not recognise, others I’ve not seen for many a year, and I shall let them all set seed and fling themselves around the garden in the hope they will come again next year. Plants such as corn cockles, marigolds, love-in-a-mist (white, pink and various shades of blue), candy tufts and violas, snapdragons (although I know them as bunny rabbits!), cornflowers in blue and pink, poppies and many, many more I do not know and need to find out. I just hope I can buy the same seed mix next year.

The bees and insects have been loving all this although what is missing is the numbers of butterflies seen, way down from last year. Just a few red admirals and painted ladies, the odd comma, spotted wood, a holly blue, and very few cabbage whites – a good thing as it’s meant there’s been few eggs laid on the nasturtiums and thus no caterpillars to destroy the leaves, that’s been left for me to cut back to allow the flowers to be seen. I wonder if the lack of butterflies after last year’s plethora has been caused by the wet spring we had. There must have been lots eggs, chrysalises and caterpillars about. Did most get washed away, drowned or destroyed in the floods and rain?

100_6542On the plus side, I’ve had many birds visiting, thanks in part to the new feeding station, but also I think because of the extra insects thanks to the wild flowers. Apart from my resident sparrow flock, now numbering over 30 that congregate and sleep in my firethorn, along with the usual robin, blackbirds, wren and tits always flitting about, I’ve had goldfinc100_6485hes and chiff chaffs as regular visitors this year.

Yes, it’s been a good summer so far and there’s much still to come. It’ll soon be time to gather stock and decide what add, what to move or to change for next year. I’m hoping the sun will come back soon so I can put my feet up sitting in the shade on the patio, enjoying the sights, smells and sounds of my little patch of heaven.

101 Things to do with Cucumbers…

…well, maybe not 101, but there’s certainly more to this fruit than sliced in a salad. And yes, cucumbers are fruits.

This year, we’ve grown a dwarf variety, two plants which are cropping ridiculously well. If we’d only grown one plant, it would surely have died, as in previous years, but this summer we are awash with them, cropping 5-6 a day. The Bee Gees may have had a Cucumber Castle (how many of you can recall that film, I wonder?) but we have a cucumber mountain!

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Today’s crop

I’m all for eating 5 a day, but I don’t think that it meant 5 cucumbers! Oh heck, what to do with them all? I’ve given plenty away, and eating the rest as best and as fast I can in the hope that like the cucumber, it will make me tall and thin, and most probably turning green as a result.

My dear English granny would always and only serve cucs thinly sliced and soaking in malt vinegar – not for me. It seems that was the only way the British ate them, apart from sliced into thin, brown bread sandwiches so beloved of the English garden party and tea at the Ritz!

These cucs, as fat as the normal ones but only much shorter, are too big to pickle and preserve like gherkins, so apart from making tons one of my favourite Greek dishes -tzatziki (yogurt, crushed garlic, and cucumber) and adding them to every sandwich and salad, I’m also been happy to use them as a side dish vegetable with a cooked meal. You may wonder if I’ve gone a little mad, but this dish is one eaten often in Germany, and one my mother showed me how to prepare. It’s simple and delicious and goes very well with hot food such as casseroles or steak or chicken (think KFC chicken with coleslaw). It’s especially good with fish dishes and one I always make when serving trout.

Cucumber Salad

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Cucumber Salad

Simply peel cuc and thinly slice, add a finely chopped onion, and toss in mayonnaise. Serve within half-an-hour or the water in the cuc will thin down the mayo too much. If you do want to make this more in advance, slice the cuc, put into a colander, sprinkle with salt, and press down with a heavy weight, ie a brick on a plate, to extract the juice. Then, before adding the other two ingredients, pat the cuc slices dry on a clean tea towel or kitchen paper.

That still leaves me with a mountain to conquer, so yesterday I attempted making cucumber soup. If leek and potato soup can be eaten hot or cold (even if it is renamed vichyssoise), I thought why not give it a go. I love cold soups, gazpacho being a favourite frequently made in the summer. Cuc soup didn’t disappoint. Hot or cold, it was lovely and simple to make. I enjoy making soups as you can use anything and especially useful in using up those bits and pieces lurking in the fridge. As long as you have the basics: potato and onion, you don’t have to fuss with weighing and measuring everything either.

Cucumber Soup

100_6528Using approximately equal volumes of cucumber, potato and onions (spring onions, including the green parts, also work) simply the peel the two veg, chop into chunks then sweat these two in saucepan in a little butter or oil for a few minutes before adding cubed cuc – no need to peel.

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Add  enough water or vegetable stock to cover (I used the water my runner beans were cooked in the previous day – full of goodness and flavour), place lid on saucepan and bring to a gentle boil before turning down heat to a simmer for approx. 10­ to 15 mins or until veg and cuc tender. Then add in some chopped lettuce, such as cos or little gem, and cook for a further 5 mins.

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Add salt and pepper to taste and if you wish, a flurry of chopped fresh parsley. Allow to cool slightly before blitzing with blender until smooth. Serve hot or cold with a swirl of cream or yoghurt. If reheating, do not allow to boil.

This is one I will definitely be making again.

Making a Comeback

SURPRISE! Have you missed me? Where has the time gone? Actually, it’s gone so blooming quickly I can’t believe my last blog post was September 2013. So much has happened and gone on it’s difficult to know where to begin. I won’t bother you too much with details, suffice to say if you really want to catch up with what’s been happening in my world these past months, you are more than welcome to pop your head Over The Backyard Fence and read my monthly missives there.

It’s been a chaotic and difficult time, I have to admit, a few health issues, a major project that I’ve been working on and keeping under wraps, as well as a few problems and incidents plus a major, milestone birthday earlier this year, all of which left me feeling very depleted and down. I’m not by nature a person to succumb to depression but I did hit a low point, only to bounce slowly back. The warm weather now has certainly helped, and as I sit in the garden typing this, I can honestly say, “I’m back!”

It’s not been all doom and gloom – my life’s not like that. On the plus side, I’ve sold several paintings and, fingers and paint brushes crossed, hopefully secured a commission for a large landscape, so watch this space. I’ve created a new blog/website for my art, due to go live in the next few weeks, and meanwhile have been working hard finishing a novel or two –  “Finishing”, being the operative word. The past few months have been a time for reflection, evaluation and redefining the path my life is taking and I am now at the point where I am moving forward, taking a different route, and getting back to enjoying life to the full.

You might have noticed I’ve dropped off the radar on Twitter too. I think I got bored with it, plus it takes up so much time and nothing achieved or gained. I mean, doesn’t anyone “talk” on Twitter any more? All I see is a constant bombardment of “Buy my book”, or words to that effect. What’s happened to all the jokes and fun and light hearted banter that used to go on? – which was why I joined in the first place. Okay, I’m a writer too and a book person, but I don’t want books, books, books 24/7. The same with Facebook. Okay, most of the changes there are FB’s own doing. They keep changing it, moving things around and, well, ruining what was a good thing. Not much I can do about that.

So, what do I have planned for my blog? A promise (to myself) to blog more often, to get back to writing about the things that are important to me and articles on any subject which I hope will be of interest to my readers. I’ve some recipes to put up, gardening features and, well, back to what it was when I first began.

100_6381I mentioned I’m in my garden. It’s had a bit of sorting out year, with many shrubs pulled out, plants divided and moved and it’s beginning to come into its summer glory thanks to a packet of wild flower seeds costing £1 from Lidl, and scattered all around the garden. I think every seed has come up and with a promise of much more to come. Will certainly buy that again. I haven’t done as much to it as I’d planned though – lousy weather and lousy joints have put 100_6380paid to a lot of that, and the cost of shrubs in the garden centres – extortionate this year! Still, there’s always next and I already have a lot mapped out for spring 2015. I’ve also got a new bird feeder which the birds are loving and I love because it brings them much closer to the patio and means in winter I won’t have to venture across muddy, wet, frozen grass to get to.

Well, that’s about it for now.  Hope you all come back soon.

Through the Garden Gate

It’s been ages since I last blogged here but life and business have been hectic with little free time despite the virtual holiday I had last month (you can read all about that here!) Summer is now heading towards autumn (boo hoo) but what a glorious one it’s turned out to be here in the UK and the garden has certainly rewarded us with its glory.

To think we went from this:

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to this:

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Last year’s weather was a washout and this year was forecast to be the same yet Mother Nature has a way of recovering and boy, did she! From a superb display of daffodils and stupendous tulips:

100_5817100_5830to being eventually entertained, if about a month late, with the most wonderful array of poppies, peonies and foxgloves leading into a hot, colourful display all round. One foxglove grew to over 6 foot tall.

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pruned foxgloves

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But not everything faired well. The fuchsias haven’t been good, the columbines peaked all at once and were over within a week and my two tall, all-summer-long varieties were blown over in the strong winds we have here. As the plants flourished, so did the snails to decimate my hostas – their leaves are like lace curtains although the flower spikes survived. We aren’t plagued with slugs, thankfully. We have an army of frogs that keeps them in check. The roses have re-bloomed three times now, and we have never had such a glorious or long display of sweet peas. I’m still picking them.

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The rear garden is still dazzling splash of colour with many pots and hanging baskets,

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and the new lilies we found, in red, yellow and white, were exotic but each flower only lasted a day.

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The good weather enabled me to get in the garden more, enjoy my early 7:00 am coffee out there and it’s been wonderful being able to sit outside all day and work whilst enjoying the sights, sounds and perfumes.

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Along with the glorious flowers we have taken much pleasure this year in the wildlife that’s come back to the garden. We came across our first slow worm for many a year, although he nearly got chopped up by the lawnmower!

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Dragonflies have been in abundance, as have the butterflies (read more about the butterflies in Over the Backyard Fence), moths including the fascinating humming bird hawk moth, crickets and bees – I never realised there were so many different sizes and varieties of bumble bees, from tiny “baby” ones to huge fat, long haired ginger ones. Certainly no shortage in my garden.

What we haven’t had this year is the plague of flying ants we normally get in July, nor wasps.

Soon it will be time to put it all to bed and dream of next summer. I’ve great plans for the garden. Much has to come out as it has become crowded, many larger plants need dividing, ie the astilbe and hosta, most of the irises and crocosmia will be thinned out so I can put in a wider variety of perennials and shrubs, and several larger shrubs must come out altogether as they are taking up too much room and creating far too much shade, apart from which they are not the colour they were supposed to be when purchased, but they have served their purpose and given the birds handy perches whilst waiting to feed.

Ooops, spoke too soon. A wasp has just landed in my glass of wine. Oh well, at least he’s died happy and merry. Best go and get rid of him and refill my glass.

So cheers, here’s to a wonderful summer. Thank you, garden, for giving me such a good one this year.

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