Tag Archives: birthday

A little bit of news

autumn-2015Well autumn is in full swing and you are probably wondering if I have dropped off the edge of the planet as it’s been SOOOOOO long since I penned you a little note, dear Reader.  In truth, I have been plucking up the courage to write this one for some time and then with all that’s happened over the last month, I simply haven’t had a spare moment to tell you.

So let’s start at the very beginning, shall we?  Huff, Puff and Snuff made their final journey – a sad but happy day for all of us.

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I never cease to be amazed at how well Poppy and Primrose deal with abattoir day.  Far better than I do for a start.  I feel wonderfully relieved that my haphazard hobby farming over the last three years hasn’t resulted in them being put off meat for life.  Quite the opposite, dear Reader, they love being a part of it all, caring for the animals until D-day and knowing where the food on their plate comes from.  So thanks to Puff, roast pork on that first Sunday was truly delicious and made Primrose’s 8th birthday lunch all the more special.

Yes, dear Reader, our dear little Primrose turned 8 at the beginning of this month.  Where does the time go I wonder?  Anyone wanting to give a group of 7/8 year olds a fun birthday treat (as well as the inevitable sugar rush…..and believe me it was epic) should give Chocolate Craft in Alresford a ring.

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Vats of tempered chocolate and 8 children are seriously seriously entertaining when mixed together.  Best birthday party I’ve sorted out in years and the children all went home with a mountain of chocolate – much appreciated by their mums and dads!

Before all of that, there was Poppy’s first day at school.  Not a moment too soon as far as she was concerned.  Talk about wishing her life away!  Her school bag was packed the first day of the summer holidays.  Inevitably, the house is much quieter without both the girls during the day and the dogs wait patiently for their playmates to return home.  However, I am busying myself with rather a large project and I feel that although this is the end of an era, a new chapter is heading my way in more ways than one.

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And then Dora turned one.  Still pretty half pint-sized for a spaniel but rather more grown up these days.  Sweet and mad in equal measure but always utterly adorable Isadora.  Even Monty has succumbed to her charms.

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However I digress dear Reader.  The bit of news I really wanted to share with you has been rather harder to pop into words than I thought.  Not least because it was not an easy decision for the four of us to make.

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After 3 years of living in our cosy cottage and settling into village life, we’ve decided that the time has come for pastures new and the house is on the market.  At this point in time, the future seems a little uncertain but rest assured dear Reader, we won’t be going too far.  In fact, we wouldn’t think of leaving the countryside we have come to know and love.  Dare I say it….we are looking for a farm perhaps?   Jerry is already resigned to the fact that his life from now on will feature rather more animals than he ever imagined when we married.  Poor chap.  I keep reminding him of all the bacon sandwiches he has enjoyed in that time…..

I hope you’ll wish us luck, keep all fingers and toes crossed and bear with me over the next few months as we search for a new home and try to find a new owner for our little cottage.  I’m already looking forward to setting up camp at a new Margot and Jerry HQ.  That’s if keeping the cottage as a ‘show home’ doesn’t kill me before then, dear Reader……

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Bluebells, birthdays and a touch of fever

Oh dear Reader, I could really do with a bit of cheering this week.  More on that in a mo but suffice to say that things have been rather hectic of late at Margot and Jerry HQ.  Celebrating reaching halfway to 70 (let’s gloss over that one fairly quickly) was top of the list, shortly followed by some pretty amazing birthday presents from Jerry and the girls.  What could be better than a bottle of my favourite gin, a bottle of Pol, a jolly green handbag and A PIG?!!!!  Yes that’s right, dear Reader.  Jerry bought me a PIG, just a few weeks’ old, for my birthday.  A gorgeous Large Black with inquisitive snout, floppy ears and a penchant for pig nuts.  It was pretty tricky to tell who was squealing more, when we first clapped eyes on each other!  Although, I’m not sure that the dear little piggy will be squealing with excitement quite so much once he’s realised that he will be salami come the autumn…..

CumberlandHaving promised that we wouldn’t name any more animals we intended to eat, Primrose and Poppy promptly dubbed our teeny little porker, Cumberland.  After the sausage.  Obviously.  I suppose if you going to name an animal you’re going to eat, it might as well be a foodie name.  Names aside, there is another little snag with this whole piggy thing….this little piggy doesn’t actually live with us.  Nor does he even live in our neighbour’s field like the lambs did.  Essentially Cumberland is at boarding school.  I know dear Reader and yes, you did read that correctly…we now have a pig at boarding school.  The lovely John and Sarah Mills took pity on me and my dreams of being a pig farmer and offered for me to adopt one of their pigs, taking it from weaner all the way through to slaughter and beyond.  So Cumberland will live with his brothers (Lincolnshire, Merguez, Chorizo…..I could go on) up at Parsonage Farm, home of delicious Hampshire charcuterie for the duration of his fattening up period.

PiggiesSince Jerry and I haven’t suddenly inherited a large estate or managed to persuade any of our other neighbours to part with some land for us to rent, this seemed a very good option for now.  Although, we won’t be able to be that hands-on with Cumberland, this is the very best in next best scenarios and at least we can go and visit him regularly.  When abattoir day comes, I will then pop over to practise my newly found butchery skills and hopefully persuade John and Sarah to let me air-dry some ham over in their cabinets.  A little bit sad that I won’t get to use my new Pig Haynes Manual but a good learning experience all the same until I can have a couple of weaners in the garden…..don’t tell Jerry, dear Reader!  It wasn’t so long ago, that I persuaded him to move all his stuff out of the shed so I could house the lambs temporarily whilst I was still doing their night feeds!  I’m only hoping that he didn’t notice how much damage the piggies had made of a grassy patch in just two days down at John and Sarah’s!

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From pig fever to fever of a whole other kind.  With birthday celebrations over (and hangovers overcome), our little Poppy, with her habit of catching the more rare and unpleasant childhood illnesses, ended up joining more than a handful of Victorian poets and half the population of a workhouse too as she caught scarlet fever.  Never a good moment when the GP has to Google for a diagnosis but there it was in black and white, or rather scarlet spots, scarlet fever.  Always a worry when it’s on the Notifiable Disease list too.  Poor Poppy.  Probably the worst thing she’s had and with imposed house arrest plus feeling distinctly unwell, there wasn’t even an episode of Peppa Pig that would cheer her.  To add to the sickness woes, Primrose then fell ill with an ear infection and a large touch of cabin fever set in, almost resulting in me very nearly trading them both in for a dachshund puppy.  A lie down in a darkened room with the Pig Haynes Manual was the only answer at that point and of course a medicinal gin.  Mother’s ruin?  More like Mother’s restoration, dear Reader.

Bluebells2With all slowly on the mend, the four of us took to the woods for a much needed change of scene.  It’s a wonder a red cross hasn’t been daubed on the front door!  Still, our little secret glade of bluebells never fails to lift the spirits and we even managed a bit of den building too.  It’s such a gorgeous spot.  Pity I can’t keep Cumberland up there really.  I certainly wouldn’t mind having to venture up to the woods each day.  Perhaps I should just build myself a “Mummy needs a quiet 5 minutes” sort of den up there instead, complete with emergency gin rations and a good book?  Now there’s an idea, dear Reader………

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A bag of Allsorts….

My baking walk of shame......

My baking walk of shame……

Dear Reader, I can only applaud you for sticking with me after last week’s empty blog post calamities!  Lately, I seem to have acquired a cottage full of gremlins which has reduced me to some very unladylike language.  I wondered if Debretts have a section on appropriate words to use in such circumstances.  Note to self: must refer to their Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners when dealing with broadband customer service call centres, children who won’t do as they are told and the bl***y old biddies and Chelsea tractor owners who keep pinching all the parking spaces in our road….  Anyway to add more insult to injury, a crockpot of kitchen disasters also fell upon the cottage last week.  Poppy’s pre-birthday birthday party meant that I had to resort to my dreadful baking skills.  Dear Reader, you may well be asking yourself why I did not buy the birthday cake.  Yes…..that would be a good question.  It is true that scones, biscuits, even the odd macaroon I can rustle up.  Birthday cakes, I definitely cannot.  Remarkably depressing when you try all sorts of recipes and even attempt to channel some Hummingbird Bakery magic (dearest Barbara bought me a HB book for my birthday and I haven’t managed a single recipe without a culinary cock up).  Since I endeavour each year to make Primrose’s birthday cake, I thought that it just wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t provide Poppy with the same opportunity to ‘enjoy’ a lead-like taste experience and overambitious cake design!  Primrose’s toadstool cake this year looked amazing (I had a lot of help from dear Mamma with that one) but tasted hideous.  Luckily I didn’t serve it to any parents and the 4 year olds at the party were too full up with jelly boats and fairy cakes to eat any of it.  Undeterred, I decided to climb Mount Everest once more and upscaled a HFW recipe for Poppy’s ‘cat’ bitrthday cake.  That may have been my first mistake.  I set about creating a chocolate cat and was not successful at all.  My cat looked more like it had feline palsy and the head was too small for the body.  Apparently, you need to measure cake tins rather more accurately than I did.  With no option but to serve it, as my guests were due to arrive imminently, I simply poured yet more melted chocolate onto the top and then added a pink bow in a nod to ‘Hello Kitty’.  I hid it at the back of the kitchen and told Jerry (on pain of death) that we would not be letting anyone consume any.  A quick rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’, a candle blown out and then cake quickly squirreled away.  Mission completed and no class action for food poisoning.  All in a day’s work for Margot.  I must be about the only person not to like cake which doesn’t help either as I have neither patience for the process or a desire to eat the fruits of my labour.  Only last week, my dear friend Edie, had the cheek to suggest that I was a baking fraudster and that she was not entirely convinced of my inability to make cakes.  I can (hand on heart) promise that if she had tried Poppy’s birthday ‘cat’ cake, she would have acquiesced and issued a damning judgement on my baking talent.

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Oooh look at Margot’s Christmas Allsorts on the back row!

On a cheerier note, Edie did make a special trip to follow my Christmas chutney on its journey to stardom and dragged her hubby all the way to the WI’s Real Jam Festival 2012 at Denman CollegeMargot’s Christmas Allsorts (had no idea what else to call it) sat remarkably plain (less is more…) amongst some serious contenders.  Well it was a WI comp after all.  Jam and chutney entries were judged by the likes of Pam ‘The Jam’ Corbin, whose preserving prowess knows no bounds.  She has even taught the dear HFW at River Cottage a few tricks or two.   Primrose had been asking me for weeks if my chutney had cut the mustard and I am proud to announce, dear Reader, that it most certainly had!  No awards this time but a none too shabby 15.5 out of 20.  For a preserving and pickling virgin, I was thrilled with the score.  I lost marks on the jam jar but was tickled pink that I had made it to the judging table at all.  Margot’s Christmas Allsorts was commended as a ‘well cooked chutney’ with a ‘strong spicy flavour.’  Who knows what Margot’s Christmas Allsorts might have achieved if I hadn’t taken the instructions on labelling the entry etc so literally!

15.5 OUT OF 2O!!!!!!!

15.5 OUT OF 2O!!!!!!!

The success has left me wondering if I should ditch all further baking attempts in favour of churning out chutney from now on!  I have certainly been bitten by the preserving bug and intend to try my hand at some more chutney challenges.  (Edie, you have created a monster and you only have yourself to blame)!  Tempted by a few of the courses they run, I might drop Jerry a hint or two.  The purveyors of Tracklements condiments are safe for the time being but perhaps not for long.  Wait until I get an industrial sized chutney pan!  Now onwards to the next country challenge…..

Goats cheese anyone?!(photo: Mr Edie)

Goats cheese anyone?!
(photo: Mr Edie)