Finding work for idle hands: making, baking and more.

Nottingham’s secret gardens June 27, 2011

Filed under: Flowers and plants,Places to go — lauravw @ 8:42 pm

On Sunday afternoon, in the sweltering heat, I went with a friend to another open gardens event.

This time, it was in The Park, a prestigious, partly gated community right in the centre of Nottingham. It’s an interesting place: it really is right in the heart of the city, and yet it’s full of mature trees and open spaces.

Houses in The Park are some of the most expensive in the region – here’s a four bedroom, semi-detached house for £1.5million. Here’s a slightly less pricey one, complete with turrets. The houses sit in what used to be the deer park of Nottingham Castle, and many of them are Victorian (though over the years some modern monstrosities have been built alongside them!).

We enjoyed pottering around the area and seeing inside some of the beautiful gardens – many of which are so surrounded by mature trees that they really don’t feel like they are in such an urban area. As ever with these events, we would have loved to have seen inside some of the houses. A few in particular really captured my attention and seemed like amazing places to live. There were children on duty selling drinks and ice creams* in a few of the gardens, and it made me wonder what it must be like to grow up there.

In other Nottingham-related news, Wollaton Hall and all of its grounds are currently closed to the public, while they film the new Batman movie there. I imagine filming anything was rather a challenge today, since it has been sweltering all day long. Even now at almost 10pm it’s still hot and humid.

*I had ice cream in one garden, and strawberries and cream in another. It was so hot that I think I could have happily eaten an ice cream in each and every garden we went into.


Nothing to write home about June 21, 2011

Filed under: Music — lauravw @ 8:56 pm

I don’t know why I’ve been so quiet on here of late – I can’t even claim to have been that busy. I’ve just slowed down a bit, I think.

What I am *slightly* busy doing is looking forward to the Glastonbury Festival. I am not a camper – well, I could be persuaded to go camping, but certainly not with 125,000 other people (including a fair few soap-dodgers, I suspect). I will be watching the festival from the comfort of my sofa, with easy access to a kitchen full of fresh food, and a clean and tidy bathroom with hot and cold running water. Being at Glastonbury on a sunny year would cause me to fret endlessly about getting sunburnt, but being there on a wet year is not exactly appealing (four days’ worth of mud on my clothes? No thank you.). Being there on the sofa is ideal.

I have never camped overnight at a music festival, which I know probably means I’m missing out on some wonderful shared experiences. But I just think I’d be anxious the whole time – I’m a worrier, and I’d be worried about my tent while I was away from it, and what I was missing while I was in it (and worried about creepy-crawlies of course…). I’ve had the odd day-ticket for music festivals, so I’ve seen how it goes, and I think I’m OK with leaving it at that.

Plus the advantage of watching it all on TV is that you can watch the best bits over and over again – I lost count of how many times I watched Bruce Springsteen’s set from a year or two back. And you don’t have to traipse across dozens of muddy fields to get from one stage to another.

So yes, I’m happy with the sofa. And these are the bands I’m hoping to see perform from there:

If you’re watching, I hope you enjoy it. And happy solstice – it’s almost 10pm here, and still light-ish outside.


The Mexican Pizza June 10, 2011

Filed under: Food — lauravw @ 12:19 pm

Also known as: my new favourite pizza.

A few months ago I saw on the Craft blog a recipe for black bean and goat’s cheese pizza, and I’ve been wanting to make it ever since.

Last weekend, we finally got round to it, and it was delicious. We made the dough for the pizza in our bread machine, and then set about adding the toppings. The recipe calls for canned chillies in adobo sauce, which is not something I’ve been able to find here in the UK. But I found jars of smoked chipotle salsa in M&S, and thought that would make a good substitute – which it most definitely did. (So much so in fact, that I went to the shop this week to buy a few more jars for the future, but they seem to have sold out of it at our local shop at the moment. I shall keep checking…)

Other than that, we didn’t really make any changes to the recipe. We’d had fajitas the day before, and so had leftover guacamole, salsa, and sour cream, which really complemented the pizza and made all the flavours come together nicely. I plan to make this again VERY soon.

If you’d like to try it, you’ll find the recipe here.

What have you got planned for the weekend? I’m hoping to do a bit of baking. I’ve treated myself to two new baking books this year, and there are so many recipes I want to try out. I bought Claire Ptak’s Whoopie Pie book a while back, and then last week bought a secondhand copy of the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook. Lots of yummy things to make (and eat).


Thankful for bats June 6, 2011

Filed under: Nature and wildlife — lauravw @ 1:10 pm

I worry about a lot of things. This spring, I have been worrying about the two little bats we used to see flying around our garden at dusk. The winter was so long and harsh this year, and for long periods the temperature never got above freezing, even in the middle of the day. Then there were ridiculous days when it was minus twelve while I walked to work, and all that snow.

When the weather is extreme like that, I worry about wildlife. I know that bats hibernate for much of the winter, but it was so very cold that I wasn’t sure how they would fare. In previous years, I’d seen bats flying around the garden in early April, and so for a few weeks I checked outside every night at dusk, watching the garden for a few minutes to see if there were any bats. There weren’t.

So I kept worrying. Weeks went by, and still no bats. But on Friday night, I went into the kitchen to find our cat, Daisy, looking out of the window with the sort of persistence she demonstrates when there is something or someone out there. I looked out to see a big fox on our lawn. I think it must have heard me, because very quickly it headed for the far end of our garden, where I could no longer see it.

I stood by the window for another ten minutes, waiting to see if it would come back. I didn’t see the fox again, but I was delighted to see the bats! Two of them flying around the garden together. It was a humid and buggy night, so I’m sure they found plenty to eat. It made my day to see them. I can’t be sure that they are the same two bats we had last summer, but I’m really happy that they’re there.

I did a little bit of reading on bats, and found this lovely animated guide to British bats and what they like and don’t like about our gardens. One of the things the Bat Conservation Trust suggest is to plant night-scented flowers in your garden – this attracts insects at night, which is when the bats are there to eat them.


In search of weeping angels June 5, 2011

Filed under: Nature and wildlife,Places to go — lauravw @ 1:10 pm

Ever since I saw that episode of Doctor Who about the weeping angels, I’ve been wanting to visit the kind of spooky old cemetery where there are statues on the graves of mourning angels. And so it was that yesterday morning we got up early (well, early for a Saturday), stopped at a local deli to buy croissants and smoothies, and went and had breakfast amongst the graves in Nottingham General Cemetery.

Which all sounds rather macabre. But it was a bright, sunny morning, and the graveyard is filled with beautiful trees.

The cemetery is not used much any more – according to the council, you can only be buried there if you already own a plot. Most of the graves we saw dated back to Victorian times, and they had some interesting engravings on them. We saw one for a man who’d died in 1890, which praised his “upright and manly conduct in the ring”. Another said “thy race is run”.

The cemetery is on hilly ground, and it seemed to be that the fancier, more elaborate tombstones were at the top of the hill – perhaps there was some prestige in being buried higher up than the poorer people?

From the graveyard it’s a short walk to the Arboretum, somewhere I’d never visited before (despite living in these parts for some twenty-plus years…). We enjoyed walking through there, and saw quite a bit of wildlife on our way round.

We watched the skies to look for any signs of the peregrine falcons that are nesting nearby, but it wasn’t until later that we saw one of them, right in the middle of the city centre, close to their nest on one of the Trent University buildings. (We’ve been watching them on the webcam for a couple of months now, but the young seem to have fledged and so are rarely seen at the nest now.)

Here are the rest of my photos of weeping angels.