Thursday, 27 April 2017


Good Morning to you,

My goodness, we have been so busy working in the garden this week.

.... and we have had all kinds of weather thrown at us.  I think it would be fair to say, we've experienced all 4 seasons in just one day.

Sunday was a glorious day and when I spoke to Phyllis, on the phone, and told her I was wearing my summer clothes, she laughed and said she did not believe me. To be honest, I could hardly believe it myself. 

You might find it a little odd that Phyllis would laugh just because we were enjoying a sunny day, but there is a reason for this. 

Each Sunday, when I ring Phyllis, she will ask me what the weather is like here in Newcastle.  She knows, before I tell her, because she always checks the weather forecast the night before.... and trust me, it is always much colder here, than in the south of England. So Sunday was certainly not a normal day, because we had warmer weather than the south, which is why Phyllis thought I was pulling her leg.

.... and the reason she always asks about the weather is, she loves to tease George about the difference in the weather. She knows when she says its warm in the south, George will complain about how cold it is, up here in the north.  It's a little game they play. Then George will ask her to send some of the warmer weather up to us, to which she replies, no because he would not send water southwards.

I think I need to explain that last sentence.

A few years ago, because there had not been enough rainfall during the Autumn and Winter, the south of England endured quite a severe hose pipe ban. Somewhere or other, Phyllis had heard that plans were being made to transport water from the north of England to the south (I don't know if this was true). Anyway, she mentioned this to George and he teased her saying that the south had all the warmer weather and we had to endure the rain, so we were keeping our water and not sharing it with the south. To which Phyllis replied 'Well that isn't very charitable' and George answered 'Well you didn't send me any sunshine when I asked for it'. These conversations are very lighthearted .... Phyllis just loves to tease George and as you can tell it is reciprocal, because George teases Phyllis as well and do you know something, this has been on-going throughout our 46 years of marriage. As I said, this is all lighthearted, and they never tire of teasing each other.

.... but on this occasion, George did have the last laugh, because it was warmer here in Newcastle.  I feel sure he will constantly remind Phyllis of this one and only day when the north was warmer than the south.... the teasing on both sides will continue.

So after Sunday's conversation with Phyllis about the beautiful weather, Tuesday turned out to be a shocker of a day as the weather changed, the sun was still shining, but Arctic winds blew from the north and oh my word it was cold.  
We decided not to let a little thing like the cold wind obstruct us from working in the garden. I still had a few more plants which I wanted to divide, so we organised all our gardening equipment. We were ready to start work, when out of the blue, hail stones tumbled from the sky, and oh my, did they bounce off the ground. So we had to run indoors.... yes we left the tools in the garden, not good gardening practice I know, but we needed shelter.  We waited 10 minutes before the hail stones eased up, then back into the garden we went.  

I dug up and started dividing a large fern, which had outgrown the area where it had originally been planted. Have you ever tried to divide a large fern, my word it's hard going.  I had to ask for George's help, as I couldn't divide the fern myself.  I couldn't even push the fork halfway through the clump. We were making headway, we were half way through dividing the fern, when the rain arrived.  Just little droplets at first, but the kind of rain which we call 'wet rain'.  I know that sounds silly, as all rain is wet, but you know the fine rain, which you think you can stay out in longer than you actually can, but which soaks you, before you know it.  Well that happened to us. So back into the house we went for another half an hour.  We were not giving up, although this time we took all our tools back into the garage.... and we waited.

The rain passed and out came the sunshine.  The wind was still cold but the sun was beautiful.  So the gardening clogs were put back on our feet and armed with our tools, out into the garden we went once again.  We were not going to let a little thing like hail, wind and rain stop us.   We were making great headway. The fern had been divided into 4 plants and bedded into their new shady area.  They were watered in and seemed happy enough.

I then dug up some Hostas which again had outgrown their space and just when I started to divide them.... the snow arrived.  Yes snow at the end of April. By this time, I have to say, my nose was bright red because I was so cold. We could see from the sky, that the snow was going to be passing quite soon. So once again, we left our tools and went back into the house.... and I have to say, I was so grateful for the warmth.

By this time, you would have thought, we would have given up.... but no, we were on a mission, we wanted to finish our tasks. We waited, still clothed in our gardening clothes, but this time I made a cup of tea and we warmed ourselves up, before going back into the garden. 

We did complete all our tasks and thankfully, we were able to do this without anymore rain, hailstones or snow.  The ferns were divided and replanted, 6 Hostas were given new homes, Astilbe, which grows so well in my garden was divided and I have spare plants which I am going to share with my friends.... and although it wasn't the right time, I divided my white Dicentra (Bleeding Heart) because it had become a little overcrowded with the Alchemilla Mollis growing beneath it.

When we finally went indoors, we were so cold, our noses were red, our hands were cold, but we both felt a great sense of achievement. 

I checked the plants this morning and everything has settled in well, not one plant has wilted, which I am grateful for.  Even the Bleeding Heart has settled in well. So all in all a good days work.

So what am I doing today.

Well although my garden is coming along nicely, there is nothing to show you, as yet,

but earlier today when  George returned home from his daily swim, he surprised me with a lovely bunch of roses.... my favourite flower and my favourite colours.

So I thought I would share with you a couple of arrangements.  This is my favourite, because I love using rose bowls. This one was gifted to me by Sadie, my mother in law for one of my birthdays.  She knew I loved rose bowls and surprised me with this one.

but first,

this is how the bunch arrived, complete with  long stems. Sometimes I do nothing but trim the lower leaves from the base of the stem and pop them into a tall vase or container as I have done here. It is very informal, but lovely.

Whilst other times,

I prefer this smaller arrangement.  I love Gypsophilia with roses, there is something quite light and airy about this little plant.  Each year I plan to plant some in my garden, to use for indoor arrangements, but as yet, I  seem to have let this idea slip by.

Other times,

I will divide the roses into small rose bowls. This rose bowl was a gift from Phyllis.  She had been out and about in Southsea when she came across this little rose bowl and knew that I would love it.

The little bell, has a whole other story behind it, which I will tell you another time, otherwise you will be here forever.

.... but the one thing I always do,

when I receive a bunch of roses is, I immerse them in water straight away.  Then when I am ready to create my display, I choose a clean vase and half fill it with water. I then add liquid plant food to the water and swirl it around the vase. I decide on the length of the stem I want and I cut the stem at a 45 degree angle.  I then boil a kettle of water, pour 1 inch of hot water into an old cup, which I keep for this purpose , and immerse the bottom of the stem into the cup of water.  I count to 5 and remove the stem. I then place it in the vase or rose bowl, whichever I am using at the time.  

This may sound an odd thing to do, but many years ago, I attended a flower arranging course, and the instructor said, the reason a lot of roses droop when placed into a vase is because of air bubbles trapped inside the stems.  By immersing the stems into hot water this helps prevent air bubbles.... and do you know it works.  In all the years I have been flower arranging I have never had a droopy rose. 

Just in case you are wondering why the rose stem is cut at a 45 degree angle, it is to allow the stem to take in water more proficiently. If the rose stem was cut horizontally, the stem would sit in the base of the vase and this might prevent the rose from taking in water and again the rose would not  fully open. 

.... and as roses are my favourite flower, whether indoors or out in the garden, it would be a shame to loose the flower too soon.

Give this a go and tell me if it works for you. Or maybe you have hints and tips of your own that you would like to share. I would love to know.

Oh before I go, I just had a thought.  If you do not have a rose bowl, I have a little trick, which again I was taught years ago, which will help.... but not today, as I really must leave you and allow you to get on with your day. I promise I will show you next week.

Take care and I will see you next Thursday.

As Always,

Thursday, 20 April 2017


Good Morning to you,

If you have been reading Ivy, Phyllis and Me! for a little while, then you will know how much I enjoy reading magazines. My love is so great that as much as I try, I find it hard to throw them away. The trouble is, I always feel, sometime in the future, when I get around to re-reading the magazines, I will discover a useful tidbit of information that I had missed first time around.

The reason I mention this, is, the other day it rained non-stop, so I decided to have one of my  half hearted sort outs. When I say half hearted, I mean that I don't approach the task with the same enthusiasm, as I do when I am cooking or gardening. I take it a little slower. So whilst making a 'to keep' pile and a 'to give to friends' pile, I came across a copy of The Lady, dated December 2013.  Should I throw it or keep it.

.... mmm, decisions, decisions.  So I decided to read the magazine before I made my decision, to see if I had highlighted any articles of interest. Your wondering, had I not already read it in 2013? Possibly, who knows, I really don't remember.

Do you know, I may not remember reading the magazine, but I do remember exactly where I was, when I bought this magazine.  Natasha and I were in London, we were visiting  friends when we decided to pop into town to have lunch.

We went to Covent Garden.... I really must sort out those photos for you.  We went to Carluccio's for the most lovely lunch. I even remember what I ate for lunch.... Eggs Benedict, that's a surprise that I remember the food I ate, but not what I have read. We went on to spend a lovely afternoon in the iconic London store, Liberty's.

.... but back to the magazine. One of the articles which caught my eye was a snippet about the suit, worn by Gene Kelly in the film Singing in the Rain. It was on sale for $160,000.  Apparently the grey woollen suit still had the water stains from the wonderful scene, where Gene Kelly is getting thoroughly wet, dancing and splashing about in the rain.

By all accounts the owner bought the suit from an MGM costume sale in the 1970s.... and honestly, you will never guess how much he paid for the suit..... $10, yes $10... what an investment, who would have thought that a 65 year old, water stained, woollen suit, would be sold for so much money.... and as much as I love Gene Kelly's performance, I can't imagine ever buying the suit for $160,000.  Do you know, with my eye for a bargain, I think even I, would pass the suit by, for $10.  So much for my keen eye,  it is obviously not keen enough.

.... and then I was watching a documentary about the life of Marilyn Monroe in which her personal items were being auctioned.  Once again, you will be astounded to hear how much was paid for that iconic beaded dress, which Marilyn wore to sing 'Happy Birthday Mr President' to John F. Kennedy.

Wait for it..... drum roll..... are you ready? $4.8 million.... I was astounded.

.... and then, at the other end of the spectrum, after reading The Lady, I discovered a 1926 Newcastle Daily Journal newspaper, which I had bought a number of years ago. Upon opening this large newspaper, I was informed I could buy a country residence with 9 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, front and back gardens, fruit trees and 2 acres or thereabouts (that is what was written in the advert) of land for £1,500. My word how times have changed. Properties in the area are selling for over £1 million nowadays. Having said that back in 1926 £1,500 was a tremendous amount of money.

.... and today, am I going to share with you something which costs oodles of money.

Oh no, I feel sure you would much prefer something which saves you money. 

I am going to show you something very inexpensive and it is something I do throughout the summer. 

So without further ado,

I am showing you, how to take 3 small cuttings and turn them into 3 large mint plants.

Now I know mint is a rampart plant and it can easily take over a whole patch of ground.  So we have to take care where it is planted. 

I don't plant my mint in the ground, I plant it in large terracotta pots with a water base, so that the roots cannot escape into the ground. This way, the plant is contained.... literally.

.... and why would you want to make 3 plants out of 3 cuttings if it is so rampant.  The reason is, I love mint tea and I love fresh mint tea, which I make from the mint grown in my garden.

I also dry the mint leaves ready for winter use, because the plants die back during the winter and don't return until early Summer when the warmer weather returns. 

So as there is a slight change in the air, I decided to see how my mint plants were growing in the garden. I was a tad disappointed because we have had so much rain during the winter, that I don't think the mint was particularly happy, this year.

So I decided to pay a visit to our local garden centre to buy a new pot of mint and,

when I arrived home I divided the 4 stems.  As you can see the roots are growing, but because the plant was stressed by dividing it, I decided to,

pop the stems into a glass vase.  I placed the vase on my kitchen windowsill for a week and as you can see the roots multiplied tremendously and were ready to be planted.

As the shoots are small and it is still quite cold outside, I chose a bowl which I could leave on my kitchen windowsill, which will encourage the new plants to grow.

I placed a multi purpose soil in the bowl and I planted each stem into the bowl, with enough space around them to grow.

Once I see the plants are growing, I will nip the tips from the plants to encourage new growth lower down the plant. As the plants grow and become a good size, I will place each  plant into a slightly larger pot and place the 3 pots outside, so that they can grow away. As the plants outgrow their pots, I will place them into larger pots until I have the size of plant I want.

When they have become a decent size I will show you the results later in the summer.

Have you by any chance noticed that the bowl in the photograph above, has 4 stems and in the 1st photograph I showed you, it has 3.  Well, I had a slight problem. One of the stems broke in half. I cut the stem back and thought I would pop it into the bowl, and although it looks alright in the photograph above, after half an hour it had  wilted. So out it came and 4 became 3.

I just had a thought, would you like to know how I increase my stock of basil plants? Way back in August 2012.... now that was a while ago, I showed you how I cultivated a bought basil plant. It is such an easy way to increase your plants.

.... and if you want to know how I make Mint tea, press this link to discover how.

The weekend is almost upon us and I am hoping the weather is kind so that I can get out into the garden. Don't you just love this time of year when everything is stirring in the ground.

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

As Always.

Thursday, 13 April 2017


Good Morning to you,

The week before last, I was busy working in the garden and did not hear the knock on the front door. George had gone swimming, so he was not around to answer the door and I have to say, I keep meaning to buy one of those door bells which alerts you, when in the garden, that the front doorbell is ringing, but as yet I haven't managed to get around to buying one.... I really must make a point of remedying this situation.

Luckily, I have a lovely neighbour, who was working in her front garden and saw the postman arrive at my door. She peeked over our adjoining back garden fence, to let me know that the postman was knocking on my front door, and that he had a parcel in his hand. I stopped what I was doing, and luckily on this occasion I was wearing gardening gloves, so my hands were nice and clean, but I have to say, that is not always the case, so I did not have to waste time washing my hands. I opened the door and there stood the postman with a large parcel in his hand.

I was pleasantly surprised, because I wasn't expecting a parcel to be delivered, but I was secretly thrilled, because don't you just love unexpected parcels.

I signed for the parcel and thanked the postman. I then closed the front door and as I was walking into the kitchen, I noticed the postmark on the parcel and I knew immediately who the sender was. The lovely Bea and her family had sent us a  gift from America.

I wasted no time, I immediately found my scissors, which for once, were where they were supposed to be, and opened the parcel, to discover a jug of Wolcott New York Pure Maple Syrup, a jar of pure maple cream, some granulated maple sugar and a packet of maple fudge..... how wonderful is that. I was tickled pink.

I have heard of maple syrup, but I feel sure, I have never used it as an ingredient in my cooking. I remember eating pancakes and maple syrup for breakfast, on one of my visits to America, but that is all I know about its use. I was not sure how to use the rest of the ingredients.... but that is what is so exciting about discovering new ingredients, finding out how to incorporate them into a recipe.

.... but no research was needed, because after removing the jars and jug, I discovered a recipe card tucked into the side of the parcel. I was especially surprised to see a recipe for spicy maple lemonade, which included a touch of cayenne pepper.... sweet and spicy sounded good to me.  I love salmon and there was a recipe for maple glazed grilled salmon.... a definite winner in my book. Also maple jalapeno peppers, which included cream cheese, feta cheese and grilled, crumbled bacon strips... all the ingredients I love. I also discovered that maple syrup can be added to coffee, my breakfast muesli, plain yoghurt and a host of other dishes.

I then read the nutritional value of the maple syrup and was surprised to learn that maple syrup is described as 'nature's healthful sweetener' containing vitamins, minerals and necessary amino acids. How exciting, something sweet and healthy.... now that's unusual.

Now I feel sure you are expecting me to write about a dish I have made using this maple syrup.... but  I have to say, not on this occasion, because today, we are making, what I had meant to share with you last week,

a very simple dessert, but a delicious dessert.  My favourite yoghurt, is full fat Fage Total Greek yoghurt, it's creaminess and slight tartness is divine and I often use it as an after dinner dessert, because good yoghurt also aids digestion.

I had decided upon our evening meal, but we both fancied a dessert as well. This tends to happen more at the weekend, but we had both been working hard and I think we had built up quite an appetite. Now believe it or not, I did not fancy whipping up a dessert. Yes, sometimes, even I, am not in the mood for cooking. So I took a look inside my fridge to see what I could use, to create a dessert.  I had a full tub of Greek yoghurt, but I had run out of honey and walnuts, which is my favourite way of eating Greek yoghurt, but I noticed half a jar of lemon curd which I had made the previous week, languishing in the back of the fridge and which needed to be used. I decided the tartness of the lemon curd would make a nice change to the sweetness of my usual honey... so the dessert was decided.

So it is on with the pinnie, and it is a bit of a cheek to talk about ingredients and method, because this dessert is easy peasy. I decided to include the dessert this week, because I felt that maybe you had not thought about combining these two flavours to make a quick dessert for your family and we all need speedy desserts to add to our repertoire.


Serves 4

500g tub of Greek yoghurt
2-3 dessert spoons of lemon curd
plus 4 teaspoons of lemon curd to decorate
4 tablespoons of blueberries
4 thin slices of lemon and lime zest, per dish, 
to decorate


Place the Greek yoghurt 

the lemon curd
into a 

medium sized bowl.

Mix 2 dessert spoons of  lemon curd into the yoghurt.
and mix together.
At this point I would suggest you taste test, because the dessert may be lemony enough for you, 
but if you feel you would like a little more lemon flavour, then add the 
3rd dessert spoon of lemon curd.

Place the yoghurt and lemon curd dessert into a pretty dish
place a teaspoon of lemon curd in the centre of the yoghurt.

Arrange the lemon and lime zest over the lemon curd


add the blueberries.... yes it really is as simple as that.

Then all there is left to do,



You can use a good quality bought lemon curd, but I have to say, if you have the time, homemade is really much nicer.  If you would like to make your own, you can follow my recipe. Or if you prefer, you can click on the Featured Post towards the top of the page, to see how I make lemon curd.

Now since, I have made this Greek yoghurt dessert, I just had to try the maple syrup, swirled through some Greek yoghurt.... and oh my word.... it certainly is a little moreish.

Just to say, I will be sharing a recipe, using maple syrup, in the next couple of weeks, but for now, whatever you decide to do, have a wonderful Easter and take good care of yourself. 

I will catch up with you next Thursday, which will be around before we know it.

As Always,

Thursday, 6 April 2017


Good Morning to you,

Last Thursday, you might have noticed, I was missing from my usual routine of writing to you. My normal routine, went right out of the window and things here at Ivy, Phyllis and Me! became a little higgledy-piggledy,

.... and one of the reasons for this was.

.... it was my birthday.

Normally, on a Thursday, I write and tell you about something I have observed, or I have done during the week. Then I add a recipe which I have also cooked during the week.... but oh dear me,  the best laid plans of mice and men.... this did not happen last week.

I did make a dessert and I did take the photographs and edit them, but that was as far as I got,

because on Wednesday, the sun shone and I became distracted.  Instead of organising myself to write to you, as I normally would, I decided to take advantage of the warmer weather, so I went outside to enjoy the sunshine and to do some gardening. You see, as much as I love living here in the North East of England, I don't enjoy the weather, as it  can still be cold, at this time of year. So  when the sun does decide to shine, I love nothing more than being out in the sunshine  spending time in my garden. I felt sure I would have enough time to write to you later in the day, when I had finished gardening.  

.... but it didn't work out that way.  To tell you the truth, I was keen to divide my herbaceous plants, as they were growing very quickly and time was running out to divide them. I became so absorbed in what I was doing, that I did not notice the time.  The only reason I stopped dividing and replanting was because the air was getting a little nippy, so I knew that it was late in the day. 

By the time I had showered and cooked supper I was feeling tired.

.... and then the following day my birthday arrived and I did not have the time to write to you. My day was taken up with lots of surprises.  Phyllis rang me to wish me a happy birthday, by singing the song over the phone, which was so sweet. I spoke to Natasha and Danielle, I spoke to friends.... I opened presents.... and I have to say, I was thoroughly spoilt.  The day was flying by and then George asked me, if I fancied going out for something to eat, to which I replied, 'absolutely'.

.... and before I knew it, the day had flown by.

So, there it is, my reason for not writing to you. I spent a lovely day gardening and a lovely birthday, but the loveliness, replaced the time it takes for me to write to you, but I feel on this occasion, you really won't mind.

I am now back on track and  I am also pleased to say, the divided plants are happy in their new position and the garden is beginning to flourish once again. Suddenly, so many plants are shooting through the soil.... and the lilac bushes, whose perfume I adore, are even starting to bud. The lighter nights and slightly warmer days are making such a difference to the garden.

.... and what am I doing today. Well, I am going to celebrate another birthday, I am just about to pop over to visit Auntie Mim to wish her a happy birthday, as it is her 85th birthday today.

March and April are such busy months for birthdays in our family. Are you like our family? Do you have a cluster of birthdays during the same month as well? My goodness it takes some organising to make sure every birthday is remembered.  I still use the old fashioned method.... a monthly, paper calendar, where I highlight birthdays with a yellow highlighter. This method works so well for me. This way, no one is forgotten.

Or are you more up to date like Natasha and Danielle. Do you use an electronic gadget to record your family birthdays? Who knows, maybe one day I will catch up with the rest of the world, but for now, I will rely on my paper calendar. 

Take care of yourself and  I look forward to being with you again, next Thursday.

As always,

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