Quainton Inspires

I didn’t get much time yesterday, at the Railway Museum, to look for pattern and form, but a few things I really liked were:

The velour seat covering in the train coaches which I think dates back to the 60’s




The vintage advertising signs



The fantastic drain cover which I loved



and the steam escaping from the funnel up into the clouds



Vintage Rail..oh and Thomas the Tank Engine

Today saw a family day out to Bucks Railway Centre which is a Railway Preservation Centre based at what was Quainton Road Station near Aylesbury in South Buckinghamshire and about a 30 min drive from where we live.

The primary reason for going today was for the Littlest Collins to see Thomas.  He is completely mad on trains and really loves Thomas the Tank Engine, something we never really experienced with the two older boys.  We arrived for when the Centre opened at 10.30am and although busy it wasn’t so busy that there were long queues to ride on Thomas so we decided to do that first. Littlest one’s face on seeing Thomas when we got out of the car will stay with me for ever.  He was so so excited it actually made me cry..the lovely innocent joy of a nearly 3 year old.




After this we went into the main museum. Quainton Road was opened as a station in 1868 and closed to passengers in 1963 under the Beeching report recommendations. It opened as a museum in 1969 and is run entirely by volunteers and has a number of steam locomotives on display



Outside we find a loco that had been built in Glasgow to operate on the South African Railway


The boys also had a blast on the Miniature Railway


I found some great vintage advertising signs


and some old suitcases and associated paraphernalia on the platform


It was a great day and if you are ever in Buckinghamshire and fancy a visit you can find out more information here

Kirsty x

Challah Pudding

Another thing some of you may not know about me is that my husband is Jewish and as such we celebrate all of the Jewish fesitvals and rituals so that our 3 boys have an understanding of their cultural heritage.  This means that every Friday we celebrate the start of Shabbat (the Sabbeth) with a loaf of Challah bread.  Challah is a loaf of yeast-risen egg bread that is traditionally eaten by Jews on Shabbat, on ceremonial occasions and during festival holidays.


It is quite a sweet bread and the only person that actually seems to really like it is the littlest member of the family. This and the fact that it goes stale very quickly means that the hens normally get an extra treat on a Monday or a Tuesday.

However, this week I decided to use it as a base for a really quick Bread and Butter Pudding.


I buttered the Challah (you could use Brioche), sprinkled it with about 2tbsps of vanilla sugar (sugar flavoured with vanilla pods) and 100g of currants and then poured over 1 1/2 pints of milk mixed together with 4 eggs. Image

 I bunged it in the Baking Oven of the Aga for 45 mins.  In a conventional oven the temp would be about 160 degrees C.

Kirsty x

A few things about me you may not want to know…

Inspired by the lovely iMake blog (there seems to be a theme developing of me being inspired to write posts by others which makes me, amongst the things below, not very original) I thought I would share a few things about me and my life, nothing too personal such as my age or how much I weigh, (not that those are that interesting) but a few quirky things.  Here goes:

1. I can ice skate backwards

2. I am petrified of flying

3. I love wearing head scarves


4. I have 2 small dogs

5. I am a qualified Accountant but hated it so don’t do that any more

6. I love beach combing and making pictures from what I find


Pieces of pottery washed up on the North Norfolk coast

7. I can’t sing

8. I am very short sighted

9. I love 1950’s inspired clothes especially dresses

10. I have met and had dinner with Alan Titchmarsh

Kirsty x

Three AM

Once again I am sat here  at 3′ o clock in the morning after waking up and being unable to get back to sleep.  I don’t know why this happens to me so often but it does so I accept it for what it is, some very quiet time in what is normally a very chaotic house. I knit, catch up on podcasts and drink herbal tea and am usually back in bed by 5am for a couple of hours sleep before the boys get up and the day starts with a bang.

Tonight I have caught up on the blogs that I follow and one of my favourites A Playful Day really got me thinking about my life.  She talked about the difficulties life can throw at you when you have a new baby, how ‘The Plan’ goes out of the window and that life is not perfect.  And it really  struck a chord.

I spend way too much time trying to have the perfect life; the perfect house, the perfect garden.  Trying with all my might to do everything to please everyone and be the perfect friend and you know, most of the time it just doesn’t happen and that then makes me feel miserable.

I always think that everyone else is living a charmed life and that they seem to be able to do it all, so why can’t I? A Playful Day’s very honest post, in a world of blogging, Twitter and Facebook where we can all pretend to be living the dream was refreshing to read.  In the main my life is great and I love most of it but it is never going to be 100% perfect and sometimes we all need reminding that that is actually ok.

Kirsty x

Lonely Aubergines


I don’t really like aubergines..I find them a faff to prepare..all that salting to get rid of the bitterness and I’m not keen on the texture of them either.  So what do you do with two aubergines that turn up in your veg box?  Well they sat in the fridge for a week while all around them all the other veg got eaten, until they looked very sad and lonely.  I refuse to throw food away but knew if I made something like moussaka I wouldn’t want to eat it..and then when I was in the supermarket I saw jars of aubergine pesto on sale and thought ‘I could easily make that and the aubergine will be all chopped up so no texture issues..hurrah’.  So earlier in the week, that’s what I did and it was nice with some pasta and rocket but it only used up one of the aubergines and with the addition of Parmesen cheese I did find it very rich.

So this morning, with the remaining aubergine, I made a variation on the Pesto and here is my Lonely Aubergine Dip.  It’s really scrummy and would taste great on it’s own or with fish.

Chop the Aubergine into thick slices, brush with olive oil and grill for 10-15 mins until slightly charred. Put the slices into a food processor.

Add 2 tsps of Dijon Mustard, juice of one lemon, half a bunch of basil, 2 cloves of garlic, one tbsp of Balsamic Vinegar, good glug of olive oil.

Whizz it all together to your preferred texture.


Greenhouse Time

It has poured down nearly all day today so apart from walking the dogs I have spent time doing housework..(yuck!!)..knitting (hurrah!!) or in the greenhouse planting seeds.

For the first time I am planting Asparagus Peas, which apparently will taste of asparagus..who would have thought that! The seeds should grow into small shrubby plants with sweet pea like maroon flowers which are then followed by small seed pods, and I am told, are delicious cooked in butter with a little salt.  The pods should be picked when they are an inch long otherwise they go tough.  I have sown the seeds in modules and left them in the greenhouse to be planted out in the vegetable garden in late May.  Because they are a member of the legume family they will fix nitrogen into the soil which will be an ideal spot for planting brassicas (cabbages, broccoli etc) next year.


Asparagus Pea Flowers and Seed Pods

I also planted some tomato seed. I am going to grow a variety of different tomatoes this year, all in the greenhouse. Some will be for cooking, some for eating. Today I have planted two cherry types. The first is a Determinate type (bushy) called Minibel which is a compact plant I will grow in pots, and will not need training up a support. It could also be grown in hanging baskets outside.


Minibel Tomato

The second is the well known Gardener’s Delight which I grow every year and can be grown outside during a good summer or under glass. It is an Indeterminate type which means it needs to be grown up a support and the side shoots removed as it grows.


Gardener’s Delight

Both lots of seed are in modules in a heated propagator as they need a constant temperature of 15-20 degrees to germinate.

Kirsty x Continue reading

Dahlias and Digging – Gardening Part 2

I’ve been so busy in the garden today that this is my second post..wozza.  After weeks of not really being able to do very much, the sun has been out, the auto vents in the greenhouse have actually opened and I really feel that Spring is in the air. Sod the fact that it is forecast to rain for the next 4 days!!

Hellebores by the back door

Hellebores by the back door


First daffodils to flower are Tete-a-Tete

After getting the onions in I retrieved my camera and dahlia tubers from the kitchen and spent some time in the warmth of the greenhouse.  I lost all my dahlia tubers last year to frost so have bought some new ones from Sarah Raven.  She has a really great selection and I choose 3 smaller ones as I want to put them in a mixed herbaceous border and don’t have huge amounts of spare border space..more on that later!

The varieties I chose were Jescot Julie which is a vibrant burnt orange with purple undersides


Ambition which is a rich purple

Dahlia Ambition

And New Baby, a small ball type dahlia in a deep tangerine orange

Dahlia New Baby

They will all work so fabulously together in a border during late summer and autumn. I love the combination of purple, orange and the green of the leaves. Each of these colours are equidistant on the colour wheel and therefore are really harmonious. I wouldn’t want to wear these colours but they look great in the garden.  Anyway, at the moment they just look like a dried up mass of tubers, which is exactly what they are!


The tubers are tender so I can’t plant them out in the garden until the frosts have passed. So I have potted each one up in a two litre pot in multi-purpose compost and will leave them in the greenhouse, as this super interesting shot shows 🙂


By the time the frosts have finished they should be bushy plants.  I will then pinch out the tips and remove all but five shoots sprouting from the tuber to encourage strong growth and lots of flowers.  Both the pinched out shoots and the removed shoots will then be potted on in a gritty compost mix around the edge of a pot and covered with a plastic bag.  After 4 weeks these should have rooted to give me new plants for free..how good is that..and by mid summer there will be no difference between the mother and daughter plants. 🙂

With three boys a lot of our garden is laid to lawn for games of football and cricket, but every year I find myself reclaiming a little bit more lawn to make extra border space because I love flowers so much and do not have enough room to grow everything I like.  So today I started digging up a little bit of one of the front gardens to extend what was a bit of a mean border to say the least.





I just need to shape it into a curve now,and plant it up before I move on to make the right hand border just a bit bigger!

Kirsty x

Onion Skins

Today there has actually been some sunshine and I decided to plant my onions sets.  They can be planted anytime from now as long as your soils isn’t waterlogged, and as I have raised beds the soil is nice and crumbly and just right for planting.

After digging the bed a few weeks ago, I raked it over and added a general fertiliser. I tend to use calcified seaweed but you could use any general fertiliser that provides nitrogen, phosophrus and potassium

This bed has not been used for onions, garlic or shallots in the past two years to reduce the risk of disease and it has not been manured this year either.  Manure contains a high level of nitrogen which can affect onion growth so best to keep that for crops such as potatoes and runner beans who love it.

I planted them in rows approx 25cm apart with approx 10cm space between each onion.  They are planted pointed side up and just under the surface, so that you can still see the point.   I will need to keep an eye on them until they produce roots as birds tend to pull them out until they are rooted; I’m guessing that they think the onions are worms 🙂  They will need to be watered in dry weather and kept weed free and hopefully I will have a crop by August.

In the greenhouse the sweet pea seeds I planted have germinated and I will grow these on before planting outside in May.

The leek seeds have also germinated and I have moved these from inside the house to the greenhouse where they should be ok.

In the house, a number of my pepper and chilli seeds have come through but I will keep these inside until the risk of all frost has passed,  They can then live happily in the greenhouse.

Just thought everyone would want to see this gorgeous shawl designed by Jemima Bicknell and just released. It is truly gorgeous.

Kate's Twirl

The Zelda Shawl by Jemima Bicknel
Jemima in the small Zelda Shawl

My lovely friend Jemima has just released her first shawl pattern – and boy what a pattern to launch with!  The Zelda Shawl is a truly gorgeous beaded shawl with a lace and beaded edging.  The shawl has been named after Zelda Fitzgerald, the original 1920s ‘flapper’, and the lace pattern is Art Deco inspired.  You can buy it on Ravelry on Jemima’s page: Jemima Bicknell Designs.

There are instructions, both written and charted, for a small and a large shawl.  The small shawl is black with silver beads and was knitted using approx. 400m (440yds) of laceweight yarn.  Shown above in Knitwitches Seriously Gorgeous Swiss Silk 2ply Laceweight (100% silk, 600m (660yds) per 100g). The large shawl was knitted in cream / pale gold with gold beads, using approx. 600m (660yds) laceweight yarn.  Shown below in BC Garn Jaipur Fino (2ply) laceweight, 100% silk, 600m (660yds) per 100g), Pale Gold, shade h69. …

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