Monday, 29 June 2009

The world is a great big onion

I 'get' technology, but am not the complete computer geeky whiz that Handsome husband and sister in law are. I have however, managed to get Handsome husband to explain to me what I need to do to enable people to be able to google search me and find me. But if you are here, then you have already found me anyway.

I have even managed to set up my domain name and will be appearing soon on and There isnt anythign there yet- but there will be, soon! (well, soon-ish, you know me)

Car-boot cahoots

On Sunday, we enjoyed a lazy morning, us grownups being lazy, but Darling boy being very busy, with lots of important play with his tricycle going on. After his nap and lunch, we ventured out to buy a bell for his tricycle. We trialled several varieties, eventually plumping for one with a bee on it (‘beeeee’, as Darling boy would say) After the bell shopping we carried on into the town and sampled the delights of the car boot. It takes place every Sunday and I had never been before and wanted to check it out. I am on the search for cake stands and an old tasselled lampshade to go with the beautifully carved wooden standard lamp base I have recently acquired from the loft of marvellous mum and dad.

Alas the car boot wasn’t quite what I was expecting. It was certainly full of, erm, local colour, but not much in the way of cut glass and kitsch chintz.

We hurried home so a lunch of butternut squash risotto with Parmesan and a side salad of leaves freshly picked from the veg patch. Handsome husband joked about nibbling the leaves directly from the soil, making them extremely fresh, local, seasonal (foodie terms guaranteed to put Handsome husband into the category of ‘grumpy (old) man’, along with ‘charming period character features’ when describing a house, this phrase also engenders an allergic reaction in my other half, reducing him to a ranting wrack) The leaves certainly would have had zero food miles eaten in such a rabbity manner. As it was, they travelled probably 1 mile and were very tasty and the perfect peppery counterpoint to the creamy soothing flavours of the risotto.

My first shoes

After a measuring trip to Clarkes last weekend, the quintessential children's shoe shop, we returned this Saturday with Marvellous mum and dad and Brainy bro in toe (tow- toe, geddit?) to try Darling boy’s new proper shoes for the first time.

Luckily for Darling Boy, the very helpful assistant we had last weekend, who, whilst being a very friendly chap, our poppet took umbrage against for some reason, we think it might have been his hair? Darling boy was fitted by a different, but equally firm handed helpful assistant and took a turn up and down the shop in his new shoes for us to admire. The firm hands are essential for getting new shoes on wiggly feet. Unsurprisingly Darling boy's feet are in the small side (both me and Handsome husband don’t have especially large feet, mine are rather tiny actually) There isn’t much choice in Darling boy's size, as babies with his size feet aren’t normally walking yet. But we chose a lovely pair in light brown with blue Velcro and tiny stitched bugs on them and decided to leave them on for Darling boy to trial up and down the street.

It’s so exciting to see our boy in proper shoes. It doesn’t seem like long ago that we were marvelling at the perfection of his tiny toes when he was born, and now he is walking. It won’t be long before he is running and then the world will be his oyster.

Burgers, beer and sunshine

Marvellous mum and dad and Brainy bro came down for a visit this weekend and we had a lovely two days.

Darling boy was poorly on Thursday night and during the day on Friday the nursery called twice to ask if they could administer calpol (the magic medicine for children that cures all ills) He was running a temperature and non-specific grumpy. However, this was all forgotten as soon as he glimpsed Grandpa and Bubba (Uncle Brainy bro was travelling own from Manchester and would arrive way past Darling Boy’s bedtime) Darling boy LOVES his Grandpa and Bubba and finds them extremely funny, Uncle Brainy bro is pretty funny too.

We had a great day on Saturday, we went to the shoe shop (more on that later) and the food market to buy eggs and wave hello to the chickens that accompany the stall holder each week. After the weekly chicken chat, we retired to the Four and Twenty to show marvellous mum and dad the delights of this batty establishment. We each had coffee, chat and cake. Darling boy had a nibble on a piece of scone and buttered teacake, but really was too tired to eat (ahhh, poppet) Brainy bro had plumped for the coffee cake and I went for an orgy of sugar, manifested in a merguingey roulade, filled with toffee and pecans. MY WORD, I practically vibrated out of the shop, the sugar rush from this outrageous cake was really something. As ever, the portions in the Four and Twenty were generous and even after sharing out spoonfuls of the roulade, it was just too yummy that I managed to gobble it all.

Back at home, Darling boy slept off the excitement of the morning, Handsome Husband and Brainy Bro disappeared off to the pub to watch the rugby and I relaxed at home with marvellous mum and dad.

Whilst Darling boy was sleeping, we thought we would get busy in the kitchen. We had decided to have burgers for dinner and as four ultimate beef burgers and one spicy lamb burger as a ‘here’s one I made earlier’ were defrosting, we got out the power tools ready to make coconut ice-cream. Marvellous mum famously doesn’t share the sweet tooth that dad and I share, but she is partial to coconut ice-cream. I thought I would pick up a coconut from the shops in honour of their visit and give it a go.

I couldn’t find a recipe I liked the sound of that was baby proof (coconut, vodka and mint anyone?) so I thought I would make it up as we went along.

Dad, a complete whiz with all things DIY, in fact he is a pro, drilled 2 holes in the coconut so we could get the milk out, then bashed it with a hammer to break it open. Marvellous mum and I chipped away at the flesh whilst listening to David Bowie singing about life in Mars. Eventually we had enough flesh to whack in the magi-mix. One chopped up coconut later, I combined it with everything else and popped it in the ice-cream maker. After its icy spin, it was ready for the freezer, but not before the chief ice-cream taster, Darling boy had awoken in time to sample his first coconut ice-cream- he approved and in the freezer it went. Yum!

The milk and chopped up flesh from one coconut
½ pint double cream
4oz caster sugar
Power tools optional










After these labours and the chaps had returned from the rugby, we sat in the dappled sunlight of the terrace under the vines and drank tea and ate vanilla cupcakes and according to age and taste, read last weekend’s papers or ‘That’s not my penguin’. We found out in the Review section, that David Bowie was right after all, there is life on Mars, well, at least this is the evidence of sea water on one of the moons that orbits Mars, which although is accurate, doesn’t scan quite so well.

For dinner, we turned the kitchen into a DIY burger bar, with the burgers a-flippin’ and the buns a-toastin’ I prepared a ‘platter of plenty’ as christened by Brainy Bro, the plate of cheddar, sliced red onions, gherkins and tomatoes for us each to accessorise our burgers. Out of the roasting aga, came a hot tin of crispy potato wedges which we dipped in ketchup and mayo. A green salad was present, but if only to make us feel a bit better. Burgers, beer, family and sunshine, what a happy day.

After the indulgence of the burgers, we followed up with coconut ice-cream and a tour of marvellous mum and dad’s holiday pictures from their recent trip to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. The two combined made me feel quite tropical, well, its certainly the nearest we will get to an exotic hot holiday anytime soon.

A word in your ear

Our Darling boy has an ever-expanding vocabulary, which features farmyard animals quite heavily. He is now quite conversant about

Mooooooooooooooooooooo- executed in a Barry White growl, which comes from the depths of his soul and is quite an uncanny impersonation of a cow


Bee (the shrub by the French doors in our kitchen is always teeming with bumble bees)

Caaaaa (which he does very excitedly every time he sees one of the cats skulking by)

Woofwoof (he is mad keen on dogs, although we don’t have one. In fact a blond, walking a dog, carrying a yoghurt would be pretty exciting for our Darling boy; his three favourite things, along with all his other favourites)

Door (I have no idea why he says this, apart from the fact that now he can walk from room to room he is very pleased with himself)

Duck (Which, in the vein of ‘the cheese makers referring to any manufacturer of dairy products’ -see The Life of Brian- Duck naturally applies to any feathered friend)

Mamma and Dadda (natch)

Yes, and no (Darling boy do you want more scrambled egg ‘yes’ Darling boy its time to get up now ‘no no no’ very funny)

That (said about a million squillion times a day, accompanied with a point of the finger, ‘whats that?)

...and mostly recently...Shoe

Train tantrums

Why in a massively empty train does Mr and Mrs Talk-a-lot need to sit directly opposite me, to carry out their amazingly dull, yet rather loud conservation. I wouldn’t mind so much if it were juicy chat, but why so dull? It renders my brain to mush as I get sucked into the spiralling vortex of the earwigger. Oh help!

An inspector calls

One of the essential things I have to do to be able to sell my cupcakes to the wide world is be inspected by the local council. I contacted their offices on Wednesday and by Friday morning, I was frantically scrubbing my kitchen, like the loopy love child of Lady Macbeth and Mr Muscle.

I got up super early and after waving off Handsome husband and Darling boy, I got to work before I had to log on to my laptop to work from home. There wasn’t an inch of the kitchen and utility room that wasn’t tidied and cleaned in anticipation of the inspection. Not that my kitchen isn’t normally fairly clean (well, as clean as a kitchen with a toddler, husband and 3 cats can be) but I thought I should make an extra special effort.

The food inspector arrived and to my surprise didn’t seem to want to know how nicely organised my larder was (sugar on the right organised by the finest of grain, to flour on the left- organised from bread-making via gluten free) He didn’t ask to look inside my fridge either, where he would have found it to be a shining example that my Home Economics teacher, Mrs Stobbs, would have been proud of. We each had to fill out a form, which we, naturally did over a vanilla cupcake each. Mr Inspector did have a look at my eggs, and he explained egg labelling to me (‘1’ means free range apparently)

I passed with flying colours (I think mostly because cupcakes are such low risk really, rather then my domestic devotion, though he did glance around and say my kitchen was ‘clean and tidy’) and he was such a nice bloke we had a very friendly chat about the chickens Mr Inspector keeps on his allotment. I also offered him a vanilla cupcake- with sprinkles- not normally my thing- the sprinkles that it. But it seemed to appeal to the Inspector. We ate them accompanied by a cup of tea and chicken chat.

So, that’s it. 15 minutes later and I have a certificate that says the council know who I am, where I am and what I will be doing.

Next up is public liability insurance which I need in case someone trips over my stall, or if a cupcake leaps off the stall and fly through the air to hit a member of the public squarely in the eye, causing them to trip over a small dog, which causes the small dog to bite the ankles of an old lady, which causes her to shout, which wakes a baby, which makes the man selling salami to jump and cut his finger off with the cleaver he was using, spurting blood into an open plug socket , which short circuits and causes an explosion that is seen for miles around. You never know.

Monday, 22 June 2009

That's the way to do it

A few weekends ago we had a visit to the local West Yeo Farm. The owners believe in farming combined with conservation and were keen to explain the working practises they had in place to support both. The land had the beautiful rolling hills that you see so much of round here in Devon, lovely on the eye, hard work on the thigh. We had a tour of their mixed organic farm and saw the Red Ruby cows, long haired shaggy sheep and Oxford, Sandy and Black pigs, as well as glimpses of their (very) free range chickens which they have for their eggs. We also visited the totally organic chickens they keep for ‘table’ living in a very bijou chalet up on a hill.

I have been a mum for the same amount of time that I have lived in the countryside, and whilst I still instinctively call these bovine beauties cows, and not cattle, like proper farmer folk, I also think ‘moo!’ when I see them. The impacts of motherhood are already ingrained on my soul, but whilst I’m loving the country life, you can see I’m still a townie at heart. Only a townie would say ‘cow’ when they meant ‘cattle’ it’s as certain a give away as shiny new wellies and a fear of mud. My wellies whilst being very jolly and patterned in bright strawberries which sets them far apart from the regulation green hunters, they are also permanently muddy, so perhaps there is hope.

Anyhoo, back to the farm. The owners were absolutely charming. They showed us around and explained how the farm, which is featured in the Domesday book, used to look hundreds of years ago. The wife was a teacher 9 years ago and packed it all in to become a farmer. They are slowly re-introducing areas of woodland and already have a fine wildflower meadow, dotted with rare orchids only found in Devon, and full of ambling butterflies.

When we arrived, the sky was thick with rain, but as soon as we started the tour, the clouds broke and the sunshine began to peek through. By the time we had finished, we were sat in the hot late afternoon sunshine. We relaxed in garden chairs looking out over the rolling hills, the emerald green of the fields contrasting pleasantly with the muted champagnes of the sheep and the deep russet of the Red Ruby cows (see, ‘cows’, there I go again) wandering about. We enjoyed a Devonshire tea of a nice cuppa and a home-made scone with lashings of clotted cream and home-made jam, whilst Darling boy had a great time rolling down the grassy hill in the garden. This made him laugh and laugh as he crawled back up the hill to roll down it again.

After we were refreshed by the tea and scones, we ventured up to their on-site butchery. The do all their own butchery and had a fine selection of beef and pork hanging. Mother in Law bought some steaks and a whole sirlon to use in a Beef Wellington in a few weekends to come (Handsome husband and I are looking forward to this hugely!)

Handsome husband and I had the steaks for our dinner after a happy and sleepy Darling boy was tucked up in his grobag, happily reunited with his teddy with much to tell him.

To start our feast, I had cooked the globe artichokes I bought at the market that morning. We tore off the pale green leaves and dipped them in a mustardy shallot vinaigrette. Handsome husband cooked the steaks to perfection- we like them rare and they were delicious, so tender and the yellow fat was scrumptious, in fact I ate almost all of it, it was so good. We talked about the farm and agreed it was just the sort of thing we would like to do. Over a glass of red wine, life, we declared, was pretty good.

Here is where we went They also supply the meat to one of the local pubs round here- we have them on our hit list.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

The tea shop time forgot

There is a tea shop, ‘The Four and Twenty Blackbirds’, in our local market town that is quite simply fabulous. It is everything you could wish for in a rural tea shop. From the mis-matched wooden chairs and tables, the unusual china, and the crazy patterned carpet to the heaps of bright fresh flowers in jugs and vases along the window sills that make you feel as if you are having your Earl Grey in a hot house.

The staff I’m sure are from the local branch of the WI. They are warm, friendly and slightly bonkers, but most importantly of all, they seem to be fairly accommodating, or at least turn a blind eye to the chaos that follows the family when we descend for our post-market tea and cake. The buggy, bags, baskets of eggs and veggies from the market all mix with beakers, cracker, baby biscuits, toys and books which are essential accompaniments to the Darling boy being anyway. Drinks are spilt, crumbs embedded into the carpet and forkfuls of cake are passed around to share.

Darling boy normally goes for an adventure around the tea shop, with new found walking skills being put to the test looking out for a suitable silver haired old dears to charm. Failing that he will giggle and wave at the young waitresses, their blond tresses acting as some kind of baby magnet. Darling boy comes from a family entirely comprised of brunettes which I suspect has a lot to do with his hankering for the platinum ladies- or perhaps blondes really do have more fun?

The ‘Four and Twenty’ always has a fine selection of cakes adorning the round wooden table immediately opposite the door. If your intentions were good on the way down the stone steps to the tea shop, any hope of just having a cuppa are dashed when faced with the table of temptation. Platters of cheesecake, fruit cake, chocolate tarts, fruit tarts, nestle next to cut glass cake stands showing off apple pie, which comes with cream or clotted cream, tray bakes of millionaire shortbread, flapjacks and roulades and toasted teacakes. It is such a tempting selection, its often an agonising decision which to choose. Mother in law often goes for the toasted teacake- a classic and one that Darling boy is keen to share. Last week I enjoyed a simple cheesecake (which Darling boy also enjoyed after pinching the strawberry off the top in one nimble swoop) Handsome husband had a sweet and sharp lemon tart which we agreed was very good. Sister in law, who was down for the first weekend with her new boyfriend, the Entrepreneur, went for a rich orange cake, with thick icing and the Entrepreneur also opted for the toasted teacake, served with inches of cold butter. Guzzled down with pots of tea and filter coffees, we sat and chatted and shared cake.

We usually have to bid a tactical retreat when Darling boy starts to get hungry for something other than cake and we head for the hills. I always feel I have to thank the waitresses for having us, as if we were guests in their home, and apologise for the noise and mess that we have made and attempted to clear up. There seems to be a network of local ladies who have met in the Four and Twenty forever. It would be lovely to become long term regulars in this darling place too- if they will have us?

Hanging with the Dexters and pooh-stick practise

On Sunday morning the babies had had breakfast feast of weetabix, which is generally more worn than eaten. The adults then had their breakfast of home-made toast and honey, accompanied by coffee and warm milk, served in my great Aunt Theresa’s china jug with the go-faster silver stripes. We ate sharing bizarre conversations that only make sense to the very tired.

After breakfast, we decided to don our wellies and hit the hills. We made an unlikely band of merry wanderers; each of us was either carrying a baby, Cute as a Button’s little hand, or a clutch of cameras, beakers and tubs of biscuits and other snacks necessary to power little legs on long walks. We crossed the garden, ventured down the hill and headed to see the Dexters.

Whilst we were tramping across the fields, I happened to spot a fairy trampoline! Imagine my surprise! After seeing so many fairy houses yesterday on the farm, this was a treat indeed. The early morning mist had collected on spider webs on the grass to create a perfect gossamer canvass for tiny fairy feet to bounce on. Cute as a Button, who is a keen trampolinist herself at the tender age of 3 and a half was extremely excited and left a buttercup in totem to this unusual find, so that they fairies would have known she had been there.

Onwards, over the hill, through the gate, down the lane, over the stone bridge and through the gate, across the stream and we were standing next to the field. Handsome husband called the Dexters over, and as a young herd, they were extremely curious and cam running over to admire us. Dexters are a charming breed, who are the hobbits of the cow world. With tufty hair and stubby legs, they are munchkin in their size, but stocky and come in a beautiful range of shades from rich chocolate brown to oatcake beige that I’m sure they have inspired a range of Farrow and Ball paints. Tiny Cowgirl got to practise her skills again on the bovine beauties and they seemed to be very intrigued in her tiny figure waving away.

Cute as a button named each the cows and pointed out which one was which. The babies dined on baby organic crisps (which are basically wotsits for the middle classes, but they’ve got my number) and the grown ups rested their weary shoulders and revelled in the sunshine and birdsong.

After the cows had bored of our presence and had wandered over to the stream for a drink, we too carried on, into the woods and towards the stream to cross the bridge for a spot of pooh stick practise. Cute as a Button had collected a fine store of sticks to distribute to the willing participants. The competition began and winners were admirably victorious. Cute as a Button, on the way home back up the hill held onto my hand tightly and told me how she would need to practise at home, using the bath and a good stick. I’m sure the fairies will post her a suitable stick for training in Essex.

A walk on the wild side

Our first morning together and we loaded the cars with wellies, babies and grown ups and headed across the hills to the in-laws new farm.

We admired the veg-patch and the tiny shoots making their bid for freedom, and their destiny as our dinner in the bright sunshine. We visited the black and white cows and Cute as a Button learned the cow for ‘hello’ (which is of course, ‘moo’) Cute as a Button’s little sister revealed her calling as a true Tiny Cowgirl when, as excited babies would do, she waved her hands and all the young cows took a great leap backwards – she is obviously an Outside kind of gal at heart.

We then headed across the fields to stretch our legs and admire the land. We kept an eye out for any fairy houses and Dear friend was the first to spot one of many tiny mushrooms where they fairies lived. We called hello, but decided they must have been out. Having Cute as a Button around is such fun, as it is so important to believe in fairies at this age, and Devon seems to be a rich community for the fairy world, there is a lot of natural habitat for them to enjoy.

Once back at home and the babies were fed and put to bed, the mammas got to enjoy a white wine fuelled lunch and much gossiping on the back step in the sunshine. The babies woke late, and the men folk returned from Honiton where they had been watching the rugby.

Dear Friend began to get busy in the kitchen, as she had so kindly volunteered to cook us a curry. Safe to say it was delicious, totally delicious. Dish upon dish of fragrant spicy offerings was washed down with beer and talk long into the night. The ice cream I had been up preparing the nights before provided a soothing, sweet balm to the spice and each flavour was sampled and enjoyed. We retied to the lounge, now cleared of the acres of toys and books that accompany children in a whirlwind of plastic and noise. Handsome husband lit a fire and we watched the fairy castles in the flames and felt most content. We went to bed, stuffed and happy.

The big entrance

Friday night and our friends were arriving. Some by train and some by car. We were really happy to having our Dear Friends to stay, and on this occasion, they were also to be joined by the Greek, another old friend from university days, and her totally beautiful mini-me, a little girl of 9 months who is a complete munchkin and totally gorgeous.

After a long day at work, and much too excited to be measuring, etc, I was very glad to have done all the prep for dinner the night before. After the babies were bathed, fed and put to bed and our home absorbed the many accessories that accompany children, I assembled the moussaka, made in honour of the Greek's first trip to Devon. In the aga it went and chatting as I went, I iced the cupcakes that I had made the night before (how very blue peter!) with the cream cheese butter icing that is just as delicious eaten from your finger, as it is the cupcake. I dusted each beauty with cocoa and placed them on the cake dish ready for pudding.

After an hour, the moussaka was ready and we ate it in greedy scoops with salad and red wine. There was much to catch up on and we chatted and ate, and ate and chatted. For the third time ever, Dear Friend’s husband even cleared his plate, a phenomenon hardly ever seen (the other time was the last occasion of their visit to us and we had the Iranian Feast) He isn’t the biggest of people- he had the nickname of ‘Boyfriend in my Pocket’ before they were married- he even had seconds. Even Handsome husband agreed the moussaka was delicious, and he claims to not like lamb.

We munched the cupcakes, some in two stages, as although they are only cupcake size, they are rich and gooey and chocolatey and cheesecakey and very moreish. Peppermint tea and coffee joined the table and we talked on till it was time to take our weary bones to bed, ready for more fun the next day.

Nice work if you can get it

When it's a sunny day and I'm working from home, here is what the view from my desk looks like...


Friday, 5 June 2009

Mission impossible

Have you ever tried to get a box of recycling, a baby and 2 unruly cats in a car to the vets? It is surprisingly hard. You need at least 3 adults, if not 5, in fact a swat team from MI5 might have been defeated.

However, I didn’t have a swat team, to call on, not even the A-Team, though they would have been little use against the feline cunning I faced.

Here was my plan, put recycling in the boot to drop at the top of the drive, get Darling boy in the car then ‘simply’ put Phoebe in the loving renovated card board box, lined with a towel and having plenty of large holes (one of these turned out to be my downfall as you will discover) sellotape this up, then put Booboo in the real cat basket (a real basket specifically for cats, not a real cat, you understand, though Booboo is of course real). Anyway, put both cats in the car, drop recycling at the top of the lane and then onto the vets. A fool proof plan, surely? Even so, I still allowed myself a generous 30 minutes for this activity.

Well, it wasn’t that simple. With the recycling in the boot, the boot didn’t shut, so I left it open. I put Darling boy in the car, then went to tackle the cats. I put Phoebe in the box and she went in quite happily. I then sellotaped it up, using the only sellotape I had to hand, rubbish thin stuff, which was never going to work, but I was optimistic. Then I coaxed Booboo into her cat basket, lined with a towel with a tempting trail of cat biscuits. As I was just on the verge of success, Phoebe escaped her box and wandered in to see what was going on. I picked her up and put her back in her box and put the heavy hessian door mat over the top whilst I look in vain for some more sturdy sellotape. Giving up on this fruitless search, I went back to squeezing Booboo into her basket and into the car. Meanwhile Darling boy has had quite enough of being in the car and not actually going anywhere and so is making his displeasure known. Once I get Booboo into the back with the seatbelt around her basket Darling boy perks up immediately. He adores the cats and started saying ‘CAAA’ and seemed much happier. I then stuffed Phoebe in her box on the front seat with the doormat still on top.

By this time, we are now 20 minutes late for the appointment, but at least we are all in the car and on our way.

I began reversing out of the car porch and a distinct crunching sound signalled that perhaps having the boot open might be a problem. I leaped out the car, re-fixed a plastic thingy that had snapped off the wipers (Handsome husband if you are reading this- I promise it’s fine, really, I fixed it)

I closed the boot as best I could and as I was turning the car around, there was a frantic scrabbling from inside the box on the front seat and Phoebe can be seen making a bid for freedom for the second time. She unsurprisingly defeats the feeble cardboard box in seconds and is then running around inside the car, round and round until she spies the boot is still open and flies out the back of the car like a speeding bullet. Darling boy is delighted by this feline show. I am resigned to the fact that I have been outwitted by a cat and decide to call it quits and just take one cat to the vet.

We arrive at the vets half an hour late for our appointment and are suitably chastised. There seems to be little pitty for the challenges presented by transporting livestock in this wholly inappropriate ad woebegone manner. I think they are made of sterner stuff down at the vets. Or perhaps they just have stronger sellotape?

These are a few of my favourite things...

Allotments- don’t you just love them? The neat little rows, the promise of the green shoots and leaves. The chocolate brown, turned earth and the jolly bright flowers. The bamboo cane wigwams for the peas to climb. The home-made cloches and silvery spinning cds to protect the precious seeds from hungry birds. The darling tiny shed, just big enough for the essentials of gardening, i.e. spade and teapot. To me they symbolise someone else’s hard work and their future dreams of home-grown veggies to go with their Sunday roast, of podding broad beans sitting on the back door step when you get home, of cauliflower cheese and sweet-peas in a jug. I glimpse flashes of several from my train carriage in the bright, early morning sunshine and they are just heavenly to look at- one of my favourite things.

Ice-cream o’clock and the Supremes

What does any sensible girl, who has to get up at 5.30am the next morning start doing at 10pm in the kitchen? That’s right, start making ice-cream for the first time of course. This sort of thing is very me, you will come to discover, the unusual time-keeping and totally impractical decisions.

I haven’t ever used my ice-cream maker before, as I’ve never had a freezer big enough to accommodate the separate mixing bowl that you need to pre-freeze as well as all the frozen food, ice-cubes, baby food and UFOs (or unidentified frozen objects) I don’t think there is a freezer i n the land without UFOs stowed in their chilly bellies. Lots of icy things in Tupperware whose label has dropped off. I think they might be casseroles?

Anyway, I am here to tell you my friends that making ice-cream is a complete doddle and very tasty indeed (though you knew that about ice- cream before, dur!)

Likewise, if you have never made custard before, and rely on Mr Bird for your essential partner to your apple crumble (I must tell you about Mr Bird sometime, it’s the most romantic story ever) you need to give making it yourself a go. If I can do it at bedtime, on the aga, then I reckon anyone can do it. The quantities of eggs, sugar and milk seems to vary from recipe to recipe, but I went with;

3 egg yolks (with the whites stashed in the freezer to make meringues or cats tongues at a later date, or indeed macaroons, yum! Don’t forget to label them, hoho)
3 oz caster sugar
300ml milk
300ml double cream
2 tsp vanilla essence (or a proper pod if you are minted)
Motown Gold on your ipod
(I find the symmetry of this recipe very pleasing)

You heat the milk to boiling point, whip it off the heat. Beat the yolks and sugar in a separate bowl, add the milk and put it all back in the saucepan on a low heat and stir for 10minutes or so, dancing about to Diana Ross and the Supremes (this bit is essential) Then once it has thickened and looks custardy, splash the saucepan into a sink of cold water and carry on beating from time to time. When it’s cold, add the double cream and vanilla essence to taste. You need to make your ice-cream custard much sweeter than normal custard as the cold will turn the volume down on the taste.

So, I had done all of that and, after some instruction reading shenanigans, got the machine all set up. I turned it on and poured the golden yellow mixture into the frosty bowl. The ice-cream maker churned its magic on the custard and after 10-15minutes it was ready. I tasted a sneak preview before popping the rest in the freezer. It was so scrummy, so creamy, and vanillary. Handsome husband was dozing on the sofa, but I woke him up to taste the fruits of my labour. He was very impressed and we agreed that a certain little someone would also probably by very keen too.

Now I have conquered vanilla, next on the hit list for ice-cream is strawberry, blackberry and chocolate. Not all together of course, but 3 more ice-creams. I plan to reduce the berries to a sweet goo before using them. We are having friends and babies to stay soon, so I will get busy with my new best friend – the ice-cream maker- and fill up the freezer with ice-cream, all whilst still imagining I am in a gold dress, with a giant beehive, dancing to Diana Ross.