Tuesday, August 5, 2014

July - a vintage month

Well, that didn't work, did it?  In the end, July was too hot to do anything outside and I spent most of the month with my torso thrust inside the fridge, aaaaaahhhhhhh........  The dog has only been for short evening walks and the garden is burnt to a crisp.  Only now am I venturing back outside now the temperature has lowered a few degrees.

Spot the 15 year old in camouflage

This month I have been mostly:

- Observing (from bed) a green woodpecker on the telegraph pole.  They have a very loud, strange call and don't tap much apparently.

- Watching the early harvest.

- Enduring 28 degrees in the bedroom at night.

- Hearing a loud smack as a sparrow-hawk flies in to the dining room window, only to see him fall to the ground, dropping the dead sparrow he was carrying, and then flying off (rather indignantly).

- Trying to fill a trailer with garden debris in the field behind us, whilst keeping an eye out for the bull munching not far away!

- Being woken at 3am one morning by two bats screeching and flapping at the open bedroom window.  Agh!  The next morning we found bat poo on the window sill.  They may have found a home in our roof.

Very, very exciting (to me anyway) - Our Chinese tulip tree has finally flowered!  They do not flower for the first 15 years and can grow to well over 100 ft (gulp).

Our Chinese tulip tree in flower

A colleague of mine brought in the most sumptuous cheesecake to the office one day, made by his American wife.  I begged him to get me the recipe and tried it out on the family.  OMG!  It is so easy and so disgustingly delicious.

200g digestive or ginger nut biscuits, crushed in to fine crumbs
50g fine caster sugar
100g butter, melted
500g full-fat cream cheese
100g icing sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1 vanilla pod, sliced length ways and paste removed or 1 tsp vanilla extract or 1 tbsp vanilla paste
200ml double cream, lightly whipped (don't forget!)

1.  In a mixing bowl, mix together the biscuit crumb and sugar.  Add in the melted butter and mix well.
2.  Spoon the biscuit mixture into a 20cm spring-form cake tin lined with silicon paper or baking parchment.  Use a metal spoon to press the biscuit crumbs down firmly and evenly.  Chill in the fridge to set (just chill until done making the filling).
3.  In a large mixing bowl, using a whisk or a wooden spoon, beat together the cream cheese, icing sugar, lemon juice and vanilla until well mixed.
4.  Whip double cream into soft peaks.  Try not to over whip but if you do it will still be fine.  Fold in the double cream, mixing well.
5.  Spoon the cream mixture over the chilled biscuit base, making sure that there are no air bubbles.  Smooth the top of the cheesecake with a palette knife or metal spoon.
6.  Chill the cheesecake in the fridge for anywhere between 1 hour to overnight to set.  Overnight works best.
7.  To serve, remove from the cake tin and cut into slices.

Heavenly - don't worry about your waistline

I cannot deny that I have enjoyed the sunshine and longer days (when I'm not too hot and grumpy).

Small Tortoiseshell butterfly - their closed wings resemble leaves to hide them from predators.

I have managed a couple of nature walks.

Agrimony & field scabious

Agrimony -  
In the old days it was used to treat snake bite.  The flowers were also added to lemonade to cure colds.

In the field

Great hairy willow-herb -
Other name - 'codlins-and-cream' due to the smell of cooking apples (or codlins) if the leaves are bruised. And it does smell just like apples!

Corn mint -
Flowers in whorls, not at the end of the stems (as in most mints).

Self-heal -
Once thought to have medicinal properties, curing people without the help of a doctor - hence it's name.  

Corn (or field) mint, self-heal & great hairy willow-herb

One hot day, we received a small green visitor in to our sitting room.

Grasshopper trying to navigate the dog hair - I must fire the cleaner.

Cosmos in the back garden

Sarah satisfied a long held dream to go to a test match at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton.  I prefer the old name - Rose Bowl.  India v England.  Lets just say, I enjoyed the train ride.  It must have been 30+ degrees in the grounds.  I sat there with my very naff French Legionnaire type hat on, covered in factor 50 with an ice pack from the cool bag stuffed down my top - not a good look.

A happy bunny

We were greeted by Indian drumming

The countryside is looking autumnal already.  It's lovely and cool in the early morning.  I am quietly excited at the thought of being able to wear scarves and light fires again soon but I don't mention it to my fellow sun worshipers because it doesn't make me very popular.

Speckled Wood butterfly

I have found some great finds for the house.....

- a printers' tray (from Elm Tree Antiques in Devizes - a fab shop full of military coats, grandad shirts, 1950's handbags, hats.... oooh)
- a sewing box/stool (from the window of a charity shop in Melksham)


- I am borrowing my Mum's typewriter - oh, the memories.  I can't wait to hear the nostalgic sound of keys tapping and the roller whirring.  

Printers' tray - ideal for all my finds

Manufactured from 1890 to the 1960's, printers' type cases were originally used to keep various letters of a typeface in order.  The case for the capital letters would sit at a steep angle at the back of the desk and the case for the smaller letters would be placed at a shallower angle at the front of the desk, where it could be more easily reached.  Hence, the original meaning of 'lower' and 'upper' case.

Silver-Reed 500 typewriter waiting patiently on my desk

Silver-Reed typewriters were made in Japan in the 1970's.

Sputnik sewing stool 

Sewing stool made in the 1950's and named after the Sputnik, the world's first satellite.  This heralded the dawn of the space age and the US/USSR space race.  The Sputnik launch also led directly to the creation of NASA.  

It almost makes me want to sew........

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