Thursday, 24 September 2015


Good Morning to you,

If you have been visiting Ivy, Phyllis and Me!  for a little while, you will know how much I love visiting charity shops and car boot sales. It makes me so happy to find pre-loved items, which I can re-use and welcome into my home.

So on Tuesday, after my sewing group, I decided to visit one or two charity shops. At the first shop, there was nothing to 'tickle my fancy' so I wandered down the road to the second shop.  Normally, the direction I come from, I don't look at the shop window display, because I reach the entrance door first ..... but not this Tuesday, no, this Tuesday, for some reason or another, I decided to pass the entrance and take a look at the window display.  After scrutinising most of the items, I looked upwards, and there, right at the very top of the display cabinet, I saw a collection of coffee cups and saucers, which brought such a smile to my face.

Let me tell you why.

When George and I married,  even though we both worked, there was not a lot of money to spend on luxury items and whatever we needed we had to save for.

Each week I would do my grocery shopping and I would pass a shop which had the most fabulous kitchen ware and dinner sets. Now the dinner set I owned was a creamy white Pyrex set, brilliant for everyday use, but a little boring. I had everything I needed, but it was Pyrex, which to my young eyes was very old fashioned. I had my eye on a fabulously trendy Denby dinner set, but it was way out of my reach in terms of price.  So I decided that if I could not afford the whole dinner set, I could afford, with prudence, 2 coffee cups, two dinner plates and two side plates just enough for George and I.

Each week I saved, and put money aside, then the following month, I would buy a coffee cup, then I saved again and bought another coffee cup. It was slow progress, but I didn't mind because I loved my Denby Arabesque, I felt so 'with it'... a very 1960's expression. As my little collection grew, I was in heaven, and I had them for years and years and never tired of them, but as always happens when moving from country to country, cups  became chipped, as did the plates and so, they had to be discarded.
So on Tuesday, there, at the very top of the display cabinet... yes you've guessed it, there were, 12 Denby, Arabesque pottery coffee cups and saucers in absolute pristine condition.  The years have passed by, but their shape and style is perfect for today's vintage look.

When I saw them, I just knew both Natasha and Danielle would love them.  So I promptly bought them..... even the cashier noticed my excitement, so I told her the story of the cups and saucers.  

I drove home, so excited, ready to tell George, all about my find, but when I arrived home, he was no where to be found, as he had not returned from his morning swim..... so I had all this excitement within me, but with no one to share it with.  So I took a photo of the cups and saucers and I text both the girls and told them about my find.  

I waited, wondering if Natasha and Danielle would love them as much as I did. I needn't of worried, because Danielle returned my text as quick as a flash and said she 'loved, loved, loved them' and couldn't believe my luck. Natasha replied shortly afterwards and said 'Wow, what a great find'.... they were both thrilled to pieces with my discovery. 

So the cups and saucers have been carefully wrapped and put away until I see Natasha and Danielle, but I have to tell you, I did keep one..... well, I had to didn't I, for old times sake.

So talking of old times and vintage things, I decided to bake something a little vintage today. I know I haven't baked for a little while, but both George and I are on a bit of a health kick, but, today, we are both ready for something a little sweet.... and,

I have found the perfect thing, an English Tea Bread..... something which I have not made in quite a while. Actually it is a vintage tea bread, which Ivy used to bake.  Ivy's recipe, was much more frugal, than my recipe, which is understandable, due to the post war era, but I have used the same basic ingredients.

So it's on with the pinnie, and I have a treat for you today.  

Listen to and enjoy Julian Bream and John Williams. I tried to find this album on UTube, but to no avail, so I have chosen another piece of music which I feel sure you will enjoy.

So while I am being soothed, by these two wonderful classical guitarists, I will organise my ingredients.


250g sultanas
250g raisins
250g dark brown sugar
375ml strong cold spiced Chai tea
1 large egg
500g self raising flour
2 teaspoons of mixed spice
1 orange
1 lemon

1kg loaf tin, buttered and lined with parchment paper




Pour 375ml of hot water over  the spiced Chai tea bags. 

Allow to steep and leave the Chai tea to become cold.

Juice the orange and the lemon,
and then,

grate the rind of both the orange and the lemon.

When the Chai tea is cold, squeeze the teabags and remove from the bowl.
Pour the tea into a large bowl.

Add the orange and lemon juice
along with the
grated rind.

Add the sultanas and raisins 
mix the ingredients together.

and keep in a cool place overnight.
This allows the sultanas and raisins to plump up.


Pre-heat the oven to 180C or 160C for a fan oven.

Butter and line a loaf tin with parchment paper.

Strain the sultanas and raisins over a bowl
and reserve the liquid.
Check there is 300 ml of liquid, sometimes,
depending on the size of the orange and 
lemon, I have enough liquid, other times
I find I need to top the liquid up, with 
a little water. I find quite a bit of the tea/orange
and lemon liquid is soaked up by the sultanas
and raisins.

Place the sultanas and raisins in a large bowl


add the dark brown sugar.

Mix well.

Sift the flour and add to the bowl


add the mixed spice.

Mix the ingredients together.

Add the reserved tea/orange and lemon juice

and mix very well to incorporate all the ingredients.

Whisk the egg
stir into the ingredients.
Mix well until the egg is thoroughly incorporated.

Place the mixture into the buttered, pre-lined loaf tin
bake for 1 hour 15 minutes.
I tend to start checking the tea bread when it has been in the oven for an hour.

Test to make sure the tea bread is thoroughly cooked, then leave it in the loaf tin for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes remove from the loaf tin and place on a cooling rack.

When cooled enjoy a slice

or two
spread with English butter 
and the 
perfect accompaniment..... a nice
cup of tea.

Perfect for a 4 o'clock pick me up.

When Ivy made this English Tea Bread, she made a pot of tea, using tea leaves, then she would strain the tea leaves, with a tea strainer, which produced a nice strong tea.

Ivy would have also only added currants and she would have topped the tea up with enough water to make the liquid up to 300 ml.  She would have never been able to use oranges or lemons.

Instead of using normal black tea, I decided to use some delicately flavoured Indian Spiced Chai tea, which includes black tea leaves, ginger, cloves, cardamon and allspice, as I thought this would give a lovely spicy note to the tea bread. Also along the way, I have seen recipes which include orange juice and lemon juice, so I decided to give that a go... and I'm pleased I did as the fruit adds a lovely citrus note to the tea bread.

If you don't have any Chai tea, feel free to do as Ivy did, and use black tea, but make sure as we say here in the North of England, 'It's a good strong cuppa'.

I used a 2kg loaf tin, but sometimes I use 2 x 1kg loaf tins, so that I can make 2 smaller tea breads.  I then keep one for tea time and the other I wrap in tin foil, and place it in a freezer bag to keep in the freezer for another time.... and it really does freeze well.

.... before I leave you,  did you really think I was going to say goodbye and not show you a photograph of my Denby Arabesque coffee cups?

Absolutely not..... I want to share my excitement with you.

How about you, what household item, from your past, would you like to have in your home today?

Take care and I will see you next Thursday.

This week I will be joining,


Thursday, 17 September 2015


Good Morning to you,

I was flicking through the television channels the other evening, wondering what to watch, when for some reason or another, I flicked a little too far and found the children's channels. I decided out of interest, to take a look at the programmes, to see if I recognised any.... and do you know something,  I did not recognise one.

Oh dear, I am really out of touch, when it comes to children's programmes.

... but having said that, I have heard about one children's programme.  Notice I say 'heard about' and not that I 'know anything about'.... the programme Peppa Pig. The reason for this is,  our friends, gorgeous little boy, is besotted with the programme, but other than Peppa Pig, I draw a blank when it comes to children's programmes.

..... so I started  thinking about my own childhood and the programmes which were available to us, as children, in the 1950's. The first programme which sprang to mind, was Torchy, Torchy, The Battery Boy, actually, come to think of it, I think it was the song which repeated Torchy and the programme itself, was called Torchy, The Battery Boy.

Now if you are British and you are around my age, I feel sure you will remember Torchy.

If not, let me enlighten you. 

Torchy was a little puppet boy, who was created by Mr Bumbledrop .... don't you just love that name. Torchy, as you might have guessed, was powered by a torch battery and he lived with Mr Bumbledrop and his dog, Pom-Pom, in Topsy-Turvy Land.... and how I loved this programme. I loved all of Torchy's adventures. I have to tell you something,  I always thought that Torchy lived in a land far away, where everyone had strings attached to their clothing.  I did not realise Torchy was a puppet.... such is a child's imagination.... and I had imagination by the bucketful. 

When Torchy was on the television, I always sang along to the song,

Torchy, Torchy the Battery boy
I'm a walkie, talkie toy
Press my switch,
See my bulb start to beam
It's the most magic light
You have seen.

Isn't the brain a wonderful thing, do you know I can put my glasses down and not remember where I put them, but I can remember a song from over 55 years ago.

How about you, what was your favourite childhood programme? 

I feel sure it was probably much more sophisticated than Torchy the Battery Boy.

So from the old, we will move on to the new,

Recently, I have been reading a lot about ramen noodles, so I thought I would try them out..... then what do you know, a recipe appeared in my favourite magazine,  Good Housekeeping, so I just had to see, what all the fuss was about.

I have not stayed true to the recipe, I adapted it slightly, to use the ingredients which I had to hand.  

So today, we are making,

Ramen Noodle soup with chicken, kale, mushrooms and spinach.  This differs so much from my usual soups, because as a rule, I make a much thicker soup and not a broth.... but I have to tell you, I was pleasantly surprised with the results, as the soup was jam packed with flavour.... and more importantly George loved it.

So 'it's on with the pinnie' and today, instead of music, I am listening to,

Thomas Hardy's 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles'.  I love listening to stories and often tune into Radio 4, Afternoon Drama. At the moment I am listening to 'The Right Ingredients' by Pat Davis..... but I digress, back to Tess.  There is something so soothing about listening to a person telling a story.... and I am really enjoying Tess of the D'Urbervilles.

So I thought you might like to listen to Chapter 1, 'A Question of Ancestry'.

So whilst I listen to Martin Shaw's soothing voice, it is time to organise my ingredients.


Serves 2

3 chicken thighs
100g dried ramen noodles
2 cloves of garlic
3 cm of fresh ginger
600 ml of chicken stock
2 teaspoons of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of miso paste
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
4 large brown chestnut mushrooms
2 handfuls of chopped kale
2 handfuls of chopped spinach



Place the chicken thighs onto a baking tray and place in an 180C oven until roasted.

When cooked, removed the skin and slice into bite size pieces.


We need to slice and grate the ingredients, because this soup comes together very quickly.

So let us begin.

Grate the garlic and the ginger.

Set aside for the moment.

Clean the mushrooms
slice each mushroom.
Set aside.

and then
chop the kale.
Set aside.

Wash the spinach leaves
and set aside.

Measure the chicken stock.... it is important that
the chicken stock is of good quality.  
I appreciate you might not have the time
 to make your own stock, 
but do choose a good, ready made chicken stock 
as the stock really enhances the
 flavour of this soup.


Fill a kettle with water and bring it to the boil.  

Pour the hot water into a medium sized saucepan and 
return the water to a simmer.

While waiting for the water to return to a simmer,

Place the sesame oil in a second medium sized saucepan


add the ginger and garlic.

Cook for a minute.

Add the chicken stock

the soy sauce,

the miso paste
bring to a simmer.

Now is the time to add the

ramen noodles to the pan of simmering water.

Cook for 4 minutes.

While the ramen noodles are cooking,

add the chopped kale,


the sliced mushrooms, to the pan, with the chicken stock

simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove the saucepan from the heat
add the spinach.
Place a lid on the pan
and allow the spinach to wilt.

Divide the cooked, sliced chicken

between two bowls.

Drain the ramen noodles


divide the noodles between the
 two bowls.
As you can see the chicken is completely hidden
 by the ramen noodles.

Divide the kale, mushrooms,
and broth between the two bowls.

Find your chop sticks

Oh yes, you will also 
need a spoon to enjoy this delicious broth.

I was really pleased with this soup, because as I mentioned, George, who is a lover of really thick soups, also enjoyed it.  So this Ramen Noodle soup will certainly be staying on the menu in this home.

Just as an added thought, if you prefer to use chicken breasts, then please do, but do not roast them, as I find they become too dry. Instead poach them, which keeps the chicken moist. 

.... and finally, before I leave you, have you had any thoughts about your favourite childhood programme?

I'd love to know.

Take care and I will see you next Thursday.

This week I will be joining,


Thursday, 10 September 2015


Good Morning to you,

Some of us, love to see our flowers growing in the garden.

Some of us, like to pick flowers, take them indoors and place them in a vase.

.... and some of us, as I discovered when I visited Natasha in India, 

enjoy flowers, with their stems removed, floating in a beautiful bowl, filled with water.

Each day, Natasha is visited by a flower man who brings little bags filled with flower heads.  Sometimes he delivers marigolds, sometimes he delivers jasmine flowers, sometimes he delivers roses and other times when they are in season, he will deliver small chrysanthemum flowers.

Natasha, then fills a bowl with water and gently places the flowers of the day, into the water, to float where they may. They look spectacular, oh and not only do they look spectacular, but the perfume from the jasmine flowers is wonderful.  Their sweet perfume fills the room.

The jasmine flowers, in Natasha's bowl, are mixed with small roses, which remind me of  our native dog rose.... they are tiny, but perfectly formed. I have to say, I think they are  as lovely as our hybrid roses, now that is quite a statement coming from me, as roses are my favourite flowers.... but without wild roses, we would never have our beautiful modern day roses.  

I just had to show you the decoration around the outside of Natasha's bowl, because as you know, I am a great lover of the colours, blue and white, oh and I have to tell you, this bowl is huge, it is fourteen inches in width. So imagine it placed at the centre, of a very large, round, marble table.... yes.... it looks absolutely fabulous.

Of course, the bowl does not have to be so big, as in this case. To be honest, I'm not sure if these are chrysanthemum petals, I think they are, but I'm not absolutely certain, although I feel sure you will agree there is a similarity.  Not that it matters, because the colour of these petals, are stunning. The petals are so bright and sunny that they would bring a smile to my face any day of the week.

With the flowers placed on the table, I wanted to show you this carpet, which you can see underneath the glass table.... sorry about the toes. I really would love this carpet to grace the floor of my living room.... I just love the muted colours.

I then discovered these beautiful lilies.  They were placed in this lovely marble dish and I loved the idea of the dish replicating the shape of the petals.

Now you would imagine, the stems of these lilies, had been placed into a block of oasis, but no such thing, the stems were placed into shallow water. When I was taking this photo, the perfume from the lilies was quite heady.

I think one of my favourites, has to be these bougainvillea bracts, which were placed individually onto this dish to create the image of a flower. Here you can see the marble petal dish much more clearly.... isn't it stunning. I am sorry this photograph isn't as sharp as it should be, but for some reason I only took one photograph and I really wanted you to see the beauty of this design. It must have taken someone such a long time, to lay each bract on to the dish to create this design.... as I said, it really is stunning.

The bowl you use does not have to be large and it does not have to be filled with flower heads. Using just a few flower heads and an unusual brass dish you can create a lovely effect.   

So, on returning home, I had to recreate my own lovely dish of flowers.

I decided to used this lovely Turkish, hand decorated glass bowl. I filled it two thirds with water and added some Alstroemeria flower heads.

..... another reminder of our fabulous trip to India.

Take care and I will catch up with you next Thursday.

This week I will be visiting,

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