September

September is my favourite month for many, many reasons.

The end of September always makes me a little sad but but I am always looking forward very much to the next one.

It is filled with lovely things for us:-

It is the month we take our main annual holiday

The Shropshire Way

Walking – The Shropshire Way

It is the month of Burghley Horse Trials

Burghley Horse Trial

Burghley Horse Trial – Burghley

It is the month of harvest

Harvest in Northumberland

Harvest – Northumberland

It is the month of Sandringham Game Fair

Horse Boarding - Sandringham Game Fair

Horse Boarding – Sandringham Game Fair

It is a month when we do most of our walking

walking - The Lakes

Walking – The Lakes

It is the month when the best fungi appear.

Fungi - Fly Ageric

Fungi – Fly Ageric

It is the month of Food Festivals across the country. Ludlow being our favourite.

Ludlow Castle

Ludlow Castle

It is the month for Bramble picking & making Jam.

Brambles

Brambles

It is the month of Indian Summers when the heat has left the sun but the cold months are not showing themselves yet.

September Sun - Ford Village

September Sun – Ford Village

It is the month we got our hound and collected him when he was just 8 weeks old.

Max

Max

And it is the month we got married

September Wedding - Rings

September Wedding – Rings


tea total

delicious tea - cute graphics too

delicious tea – cute graphics too

I love tea!

My husband thinks I’m addicted to it.

I don’t want poncey tea, I’m a PG/yorkshire tea girl and I like it made just like builders tea (but without the 4 sugars – half will do as I’m pretending I don’t take sugar!).

I am aware that a cup contains about half the caffeine (50 caffeine points – or whatever they are measured in) as coffee (100) and that I should really be on the green tea wagon with everyone else but the honest answer is that I can’t stand green tea and it is a waste of hot water and a clean mug in my book (quite apart from the fact that I keep trying it, it still goes cold in the mug and gets thrown away!!) so there is little point.

And whilst a score of 450 on the caffeine front is still very much within the safety limits, and means I can have 9 cups per day, no problem. Most days, though, I don’t come anywhere near that

BUT

In the interests of health and also because I am not short sighted enough not to realise that there might just be a green tea/tree hugger tea out there for me, I have been trying a few things.

So…………

I have a number of different boxed tea bags and leaf tea to try and decided to give each tea a score.

Twinings Green Jasmine Tea

I started with this one as I already know that I quick like jasmine tea (as served in good Chinese restaurants). I have discovered that the leaves need to be so few in number or they really only need to see the water for a few seconds before the leaves need to come out.  Otherwise it becomes quite overpowering and has a stewed bitterness to the flavour.

too many leaves and left too long

too many leaves and left too long

Score 5/10

Whittards Hangover Tea Bags 

I don’t buy this tea for hangovers but because it is THE nicest fruit tea on the market bar none. Hard to come by as they seem to run out on a terrifyingly frequent basis so I used to buy about 4 boxes each time I got the chance & have a little supply that will see me through a fair few cups.

I like it because it is fresh, fruity and not too sweet. You can pick out the fruitiness and it feels like a nice clean wholesome flavour. It contains Hibiscus Flower and I think that May well be where the lovely taste comes

AND

The colour is lovely

fruitylicious

fruitylicious

Score 9/10

Twinings Early Grey Tea

Earl Grey has been in the news recently for it’s heart healing properties all thanks to the wonderful Bergamot used to flavour it (smells pretty nice too and I love it in skincare products!). I hated Earl Grey when I first tried it as a teenager but it has become a store cupboard favourite. I think putting Earl Grey in makes this little test a bit of a cheat but I would definitely say it ranks up there with the herbal tea teas for it’s health properties..

Score 9.5/10

M&S Citrus Tea

I always have lemon tea of some kind in my cupboards as a few people who visit seem to drink it so it was quite readily on hand to try.

It’s OK and it is probably done better by others but there is still that slightly grassy taste about it which puts me off. I didn’t have it very strong (having learned my lesson on the Jasmine Tea) and that is definitely an advantage until your palate becomes accustomed.

I might persevere with this one as it’s ok but I do very much like a simple single slice of lemon in hot water. It is also a good way to wake up your liver I believe.

Score 6/10

Sage Tea

It is lovely and much less like drinking grass cuttings than most herb teas. It has such useful and powerful herbal and medicinal properties too that it is worth having in your garden for drinking even if it doesn’t get into your christmas stuffing:- it is cooling in the heat and also reduces menopausal hot flushes to name but a few.

a few tender green leaves in boiled water releases the essential oils

a few tender green leaves in boiled water releases the essential oils

sage is so easy to grow

sage is so easy to grow

Fresh has also got to be better though so this was straight from our garden.

Score 8/10

Mint Tea

Lovely and refreshing even in the heat, mint tea is so simple and easy.  Again, fresh leaves straight from the Garden and into the pot.

Rosemary Tea

Like the mint tea, this has a freshness to it that makes it lovely to drink in the heat (Rosemary is part of the Mint family) and has great healing properties. Known to boost the immune system, it also improves blood circulation, is a great anti-inflammatory and is full of those lovely anti oxidants.

All round a great herb.

What you don’t drink or cook with is also great to use in handmade skincare.

 

Whittards Lemon & Lime Tea

Then of course there is the pretend tea……

The turkish do a wonderful apple tea, the principle of which a lot of the flavoured sugars that dissolve into an instant tea follow.

This Whittards Lemon & Lime Tea has too much sugar for my pallet but it is very refreshing, especially served ice cold.

Whittard's Lemon & Lime Tea Granules

Whittard’s Lemon & Lime Tea Granules

Score 7/10

Builders tea still scores 10/10 compared to all these others but I’m getting there and drink a greater variety than just my PG now.

builder's tea

builder’s tea

The next question is whether it tastes better made in the cup or in the pot? AND should the milk go in first or afterwards?


coffee adventures

it's frothy man

it’s frothy man

After such excitement over our gorgeous new coffee machine, we have had some disappointments.

Our lovely machine blew something inside and was no longer safe to use with water and steam spewing out everywhere.

John Lewis were brilliant about it and because they had no De Longhi stock to replace it and it was dangerous, they refunded us in full and the pretty machine was condemned to the bin, unfortunately.

pixie!

pixie!

We were back to our traditional italian stove top coffee maker for a while and still loving our coffee.

But we missed the frothy milk and the espressos that JC likes. Coffee and hot milk done the old fashioned way just wasn’t hacking it.

traditional stove top coffee maker

traditional stove top coffee maker

After all it is still a bit of a faff using the stove top and a milk pan and even a wonderful morning coffee we can get from our wonderfully seasoned old campaigner hasn’t hacked it really.

We are busy and things need to be as easy as possible really

So!!!!

Having taken full advantage of our lovely friends thorough research, we are now the proud owners of a Nespresso Pixie with aerochino!

And it is wonderful

And it is easy

And there is no mess

And it is cheaper than buying beans and ground.

 

And we have found a fantastic clever devise for storing our pods that can be fixed to the underside of the kitchen wall cupboard. Right on hand but not seen. Marvellous.

pod holder

pod holder

Or mounted on the wall like a piece of art.

wall mounted pod holder

wall mounted pod holder

Finding the flavours that are right for us but it is fun trying and we have had some very helpful tips.

shiney and brilliant

shiney and brilliant

I feel coffee love again!!!


Willow Tree Fen

permanent waterways that edge the farm and the willow woodland 2012

We went to an agricultural show in June 2012 which was very wet and, although incredibly quaint and old fashioned with vintage tractors, rare breeds and country craft demonstrations, the rain drove us indoors eventually.

We took the exhibition tent and got talking to some interesting people at Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.

the ground is still partly drained by the grid of dykes across the fens 2012

Where we are based in South Holland, there are very few public footpaths because of the extent of the privately owned agricultural land.  We know there are some places that you can go to but they all involve a drive and sometimes into the next county.

Imagine our delight to discover some incredible and readily accessible nature reserves right near us.

flora and fauna 2012

Giddy with the joy of it, we joined the LWT at an annual fee of ONLY £33 and walked away with a comprehensive map of the local reserves, a book about all the reserves in the Wildlife Trust’s arsenal across the UK and a car sticker (should have handed that back as we won’t ever use that).

The following day, the weather perked up considerably and off we trotted to one of the newest reserves that happens to also be the closest. Willow Tree Fen

jews ears or woodland ears on fallen rotting willow 2012

Unfortunately most of the reserve restrict dog access but we did happen upon dog walkers on this one and wished we had brought the furry one.

one of the many varied damsel flies that we spotted 2012

Willow Tree Fen is exactly what it says it is.  It is a fenland farm where Willow trees grow in abundance and it is one of the last farms that was run as a traditional fen farm where the seasonal water level changes are allowed to occur in the low section of land.  This in itself, gives rise to all the splendid wildlife and fauna that goes with it:- Willow Trees are in their element, sometimes standing in water for months at a time, the wetland meadows or meres are teaming with flowers, the permanent water ways that edge the farm are home to lots of interesting insect life such damsel flies that are so numerous in types that we got lost counting them, there are water birds, sand martins, swifts, swallows and many more.

kings cups with the new flower heads growing towards the water surface 2012

It was peaceful and a total delight to have found.

We spent a wonderful afternoon there once we found it (as the directions are a little sketchy) and it is tucked out of the way so is unlikely to get very busy (we only saw half a dozen or so visitors in a whole afternoon).  The original 2 hides have posters of the birds that have been seen and visitors are asked to record the breed and numbers that they see when visiting for the reserves records.

resting cattle in the fen meadow with the mere in the background 2012

Nearly all the work undertaken to build hides and walkways is done by volunteers and there was evidence of some of that work in progress as we meandered around the reserve.

acres of meadow and mere stretch out across the farm 2012

The farm itself was sold to the Wildlife Trust in 2009 after I imagine it became unviable as a business but when you look around the acreage, it is easy to see why if was kept in it’s traditional state but how that would mean low yields and limited options for making a living out of the farm.

It is a great thing that it is being maintained and that is thanks to the foresight of organisations such as the Wildlife Trust.

the wet meadows with the willow wood in the background 2012

Since first exploring the reserve, we have been back a number of times and see changes every time we do.

tree clearing 2014

tree clearing 2014

There is a new hide that sits between the 2 original ones and right on the edge of water that is punctuated with trees that were clearly planted in neat little rows at some point in the farm’s history.

logs piles from tree clearing

logs piles from tree clearing

These are currently being cleared as they have mostly died in the deep fen water but before this is completed and while we were enjoying the peace and quiet of the new hide, the trees provided a perch for a kingfisher that we were delighted to see.

a beautiful kingfisher

a beautiful kingfisher

In a flash of blue it appeared from behind the hide and stayed with us for a few minutes before flying around the front of the hide and disappearing behind the other side with as much flourish as it arrived.

reed bunting

reed bunting

We listed the numerous birds that we have seen this week (some more interesting than others but wonderfully varied all the same) and managed to photograph some of them:-

goldfinches

goldfinches

Kingfisher

Goldfinch

Mute Swan

kingfisher

kingfisher

Wood Pigeon

Great Tit

Blue Tit

off as quickly as it arrived

off as quickly as it arrived

Marsh Harrier

Crows (numerous)

Jackdaw

Swallows (still here)

little egret

little egret

Little Egret

Kestrel (x2)

Snipe (not confirmed as not 100% sure)

Reed Warbler

lapwing display

lapwing display

Nuthatch (also not 100% sure)

Reed Bunting (numerous)

Jays (x2)

lapwings flocking over the marshes

lapwings flocking over the marshes

Mallard

Coots

Moorhen

Grey Heron

coots and moorhens in amongst the drowned trees

coots and moorhens in amongst the drowned trees

Buzzard

Sparrow Hawk

Lapwings

House Sparrow

woodland walk

woodland walk

There is a new woodland walk, a new path along the drain which takes you lower and nearer the meres, there is an education centre, new benches dotted around and at some lovely viewing spots and a wonderful bug hotel at the visitor’s centre that would be the envy of many and has certainly made my little palace look wholly inadequate.

5 star bug hotel

5 star bug hotel

There are other reserves that we need to explore too but we will continue to come back to watch this one through it’s seasonal changes and improvements.

It is a lovely place!


horseboarding UK

leaning into that corner

greens – leaning into that corner

It’s about 18 months since I first ‘discovered’ horseboarding. I now follow it on FB and enjoy the odd post from the hard working teams.

 

purples - clearing the gate

purples – clearing the gate

I would like to eventually do more to support the sport as I just love it but for now, I remain an enthusiastic spectator.

dare devils - 9 and 13 years old

dare devils – 9 and 13 years old

It is fun, funky and very, very exciting.

norfolk and good

norfolk and good

I’m not lucky enough to feed my interest in it often but it does’t diminish my enthusiasm.

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Today, I got my fix at Sandringham Game Fair and it just gets better and better.

fast and exciting

fast and exciting

To the uninitiated, it probably just looks like a lot of very fast fun but there is some serious skill involved. There are polo players, championship snow boarders, olympia qualifiers and some very good jockeys.

I know that they perform as often as they can and I also know that they practice hard. There are long days on the road to get to where they need to go and I’m sure they have a wonderful associated social life but there will also be some massive sacrifices.

raising some dust

my favourite ‘dead pigeons’  raising some dust

And they rescue horses!! What’s not to love?

balance going

balance going

My favourites are still Dead Pigeon but there are some great new teams.

uh oh!

uh oh! Poor Tom took a tumble just before the end

I just love the sport and wish I was still a rider….. I might just think about taking it up!!


a prickly issue

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Love or hate them cactus are amazing!

My gran was an enthusiastic grower and appreciator of cactus and I wish I knew what happened to her wonderful collection when she died.

IMG_8039

My dad has his theory on my Gran’s love for these spiked green wonders and it is something along the lines of her being in good company……

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I don’t mind admitting that I LOVE a cactus.

I have them (they are practically the only green thing that I have indoors) in my home.

I am drawn to them in garden centre and places like Kew and the Eden Project.

IMG_8057

I wonder what it really does say about me and my gran, then?

I’m not bothered about succulents (pah!! pretenders!!), I love the full blown, nasty, needle covered cactus that is impossible to repot and will remind you (in no uncertain terms) what they are capable of if you forget yourself and get too close.

IMG_8034

They are the perfect architectural designer’s accessory and even if they are hugely uncool at the moment, this designer loves them.

I love them!!

IMG_8068

I love them for their architectural grace and interesting shapes.

I love them for their unforgiving ways (hmmm? some might say…….).

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I love them because they work perfectly in our understated london home which is mostly white with grey furniture and walnut floors that is only coloured by the contents of our shelves AND a carefully placed cactus here and there.

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They are neat and contained so they also fit in with my deep love of order and tidiness.

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It is in complete contrast, I have to say, to the outside which is a mix up of colour (not too much), green, wild stuff, compost and things not necessarily in the right place (rhubarb).

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Every time I look at one of my little beauties, my gran comes to mind.

What could be wrong with any of that?


a bit of DIY

the old fire place

the old fire place

There used to be a very imposing and completely inappropriate fire place in the living room of our little lincolnshire house. I have always hated it.

It has long been the source of discussion and apart from being architecturally wrong for the period of the house, the size is too grand for a house with such tiny proportions.

gone

gone

A particular picture from a magazine page has been gracing our notice board for a long time by way of inspiration and finally it came into it’s own.

We set about tackling the beast in the may bank holiday weekend in 2013! We carried on over our september holiday (which is our only real holiday of the year!) working into the night most days and finally got everything back into shape ready for christmas.

It had taken us a day to strip out the entire fire, hearth and mantle surround (in tact too). I popped it on ebay to raise a few extra pounds to pay for the materials (now restored and in a local shop). Then we spent a day preparing the space for a new hearth plinth of slate tiles.

brickwork exposed

brickwork exposed

The plastering (husband has good skills but kept this one hidden) took up the Monday by the end of which  the plaster was the only sign left of where the old surround had been.

freshly plastered

freshly plastered

It’s quite satisfying stripping something like this out and revealing what is behind.  We weren’t sure how wide the fire opening would be or if the brickwork would be in good order.

Imagine our delight when a nice wide opening with a lintel and good brickwork revealed itself and all in tact.

Even with the fireplace out and the brickwork exposed with no new wood burner, the improvement was immense and we couldn’t have been happier.

wood burner and slate hearth

wood burner and slate hearth

We picked out the wood burner we wanted and booked the installation for later in the summer.

ahh cosy

ahh cosy

Eventually the day came and we got the wood burning stove fitted and someone couldn’t wait to get that bad boy fired up and it was barely dry from the installation.

the dreaded decorating

the dreaded decorating

This long awaited change also meant we could start the very long over due decorating. No great shakes; just a spruce up as it was starting to look tired and sooty from the old fire.

The biggest change would be painting out the timber skirtings, cills and door surrounds which I particularly hated.

the dog bed gets the best spot in the house!

the dog bed gets the best spot in the house!

That just leaves the rest of the house to do now and the decoration has made the other areas look REALLY shabby. Forth Bridge comes to mind!

tada!! just a mantle shelf needed now

tada!! just a mantle shelf needed now