Thursday, 11 January 2018


Good Morning to you,

On New Year's Eve, we awoke to a beautiful bright morning. It was very cold, but it was one of those days when the sky was blue, with just a few white fluffy clouds drifting across the sky. The sun shone brightly and it was the kind of day that was encouraging us not to stay indoors, but to go outside and enjoy ourselves.  

.... and enjoy ourselves we did, as we decided to visit the beautiful town of Alnwick.

Now you might be thinking, Alnwick, why do I know that name?

You might recognise Alnwick for a number of reasons. Could it be that you have seen the film Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. The film was shot on location at Alnwick Castle and also used as the setting for Hogwarts Academy.

.... another reason might be that you have read about Alnwick Castle itself or maybe you have visited the beautiful Alnwick Gardens.

No, nothing registering.

Well how about Barter Books?

One of the largest secondhand bookshops in Britain.

Barter Books is housed in the old Alnwick Railway Station, which was built in 1887. As a book lover, when you walk through the doors, you know you are in for a real treat.

Upon entering the main part of the shop, you will hear the sound of trains. On first thoughts, you wonder where the sound is coming from, but if you look upwards, there, rattling above your head, you will find a miniature train running along a railway track. I wish you could have seen the faces of the children who were visiting Barter Books with their parents and grandparents.  Their little eyes lit up when they saw the miniature  train.... and I have to say so did quite a few of the dads and granddads.

Once we had walked through the main entrance, George and I split up, because we like to look at different styles of books.  I decided to turn right, where I discovered this old water fountain. I wonder how many people, over the years, have used this water fountain with its drinking cups.

.... and the little water bowls?  Well I have to tell you, dogs are most welcome to visit Barter Books with their owners. It was lovely to see a Spaniel and a King Charles Cavalier pootling along on their leads.  I thought it was wonderful that the visiting dogs were considered. If  needed, they had bowls filled with water to quench their thirst. 

.... and this was the central aisle, filled with so many books.  Above each aisle a line was written from one of my favourite hymns, Jerusalem.

'Bring me my bow, of burning gold, 
Bring me my arrows of desire, 
Bring me my spear o clouds unfold, 
Bring me my chariots of fire'.  

I could carry on, but I feel you are probably singing the words yourself.

I did not walk through the centre aisle straight away, as I was looking for..... yes you've guessed it, cookery books, which were in another direction.

There were quite a few Mrs Beeton cookery books and also Mrs Beeton books of household management.

I was surprised to learn that it was Mrs Beeton who had the idea, of placing the ingredients at the start of each recipe. Something which seems so sensible and commonplace nowadays.

I had to stop at the children's section.  My word, I remember reading Rupert the Bear adventures when I was a child. I also bought the books for Natasha and Danielle when they were little girls. I loved that there were a mix of children's books....  Goofy, Marvel books and even a Star Wars book.

I wonder about the book Mice on Horseback... I would have loved to have read this story, just for curiosities sake.  Maybe I could make up my own story, actually I think Prunella Pepperpot , would write a much better story.

I could not resist taking a photograph of this section, I adore the title 'Smile-A-While'. We should all smile a while.... it is so therapeutic. 

When I read these words, it made me realise, I really could not imagine a world without books.... could you?

I eventually made my way down the centre aisle and look what I discovered, this wonderful Christmas tree of books. What a marvellous idea. The Lloyd Loom chairs were inviting people to sit down, relax and enjoy a good book.  Minutes after I had  taken this photograph, George had chosen a book to read and sat in the left hand chair, where he was settled for an hour whilst I continued my wandering.

By which time, both of us, were ready for a cup of tea before we went to collect Natasha and Danielle, who were visiting the grounds of Alnwick Castle.

.... and did I buy a book.... you just know I did.  As you know I adore vintage cookery books,

and as I had been given some money as a Christmas gift, I bought this 1935 'Round the Clock' Cookery Book.

.... and on the back was an advert for the Radiation New World Gas Cookers, which was the cooker Ivy used.... so this book was meant to come home with me.

.... and George, after reading about 30 pages of his book, he reluctantly vacated the Lloyd Loom chair,

and bought Origin, by Dan Brown.

We collected the girls and had a lovely drive home. Just a thought, I promise I will share some photographs and recipes from my new cookery book quite soon.

Just before I leave you, I thought I would mention, that we will be returning to Alnwick in the spring time when the weather will be much warmer. I feel a tour of Alnwick Castle and Alnwick Gardens is in order.... I just know you will really enjoy yourself.

So take care and I will catch up with you again next Thursday.

As Always.

Friday, 5 January 2018


Good Morning to you,

My Christmas decorations have been placed in their respective boxes and once again returned to their home in the loft, where they will live for the next 11 months, waiting for December to return, when they will once again, decorate my house.

.... but for now, I am enjoying my home, without the twinkles and colour. In the evening, I love curling up on the sofa with a throw, not because I am cold, but because it feels so snugly.  Candles are lit and dotted around the room.... and I am feeling very happy.

So I thought this would be a nice time to look back at 2017.

The reason I like to review the past year, is because  it gives me the opportunity to refresh my memory. Believe it or not, I do forget some of the things I did last year.

So as always, we will begin in January,

where we spent the most wonderful Christmas and New Year in Chicago with our daughter, Natasha and her husband.  With so many things to enjoy, the food being upper most in my mind, I have to say, food was closely tipped, by the musical Hamilton, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

February arrived and I made Baked Greek Olives which are always a success in my household.

In the middle of March I was busy in the garden tying in my clematis plants which were shooting prolifically. The roses also needed pruning and between bouts of rain George and I were busy dividing plants.... but there is always time for baking. I discovered this recipe for Coconut Macaroons in my 1955 Good Housekeeping Cookery book..... if you love coconut and chocolate as I do.... these will certainly be a hit with you.

.... and then April, arrived with it's hope of warmer weather, but we were fooled, instead of warmer weather we experienced rain, hailstones, arctic winds and snow, this made gardening a little difficult, but George and I persevered.  We worked so hard dividing herbaceous plants. 

George is so kind, because he often surprises me with a bunch of flowers and on this occasion he treated me to these beautiful roses which I displayed in 3 different ways. Roses are my favourite flower, whether growing in the garden or cut and brought into the house.

.... and with the arrival of May, our Lilac bush flowered.... and it brought back wonderful memories of George's father, who like my father, loved lilacs.

On this occasion I showed you a little tip on how to support the lilacs when using a shallow container.

June was a very busy month for us, because we moved house.

and it was time to say goodbye to my much loved garden

and to say hello to this rather overgrown garden.  Were we daunted.... oh no we were not, George and I saw this as an adventure. The size of the garden was perfect for us, but I have to be honest and tell you, that when we were younger we would have towed into the garden and cleared it ourselves.... but we are not as young as we were, and we needed help.

.... and the help came, in the form of Gary, who runs the gardening company Ace of Spades.  He and his friend were absolutely amazing, they did the work in no time at all.  When I left the house, to go to my sewing group, Gary had not arrived, but when I returned 3 hours later, this is what had been achieved.  They were both amazing.  By doing all this work, we could see the bones of the garden. So the planning could begin.

One day during August, George and I were reminiscing about how food had changed during our lifetime. We talked about past loved dishes which had fallen by the wayside and George asked if I could remember how to make Waldorf Salad. Between the two of us, we came up with, the recipe.... and do you know it was so lovely, that it is back on our menu again.

This is also the month when I told you about my daughters.

Firstly, Natasha,

my eldest daughter, who is writing a book about the 1980s TV show Dynasty. Natasha is currently reviewing the new CW Dynasty and also the 1980s Dynasty show, on YouTube. If you loved Dynasty you will love her reviews.

.... and secondly, I told you about my lovely daughter Danielle

who spoke to Mungo Jerry, one of Danielle's favourite singers. I mentioned that Danielle was hoping to have a photograph taken with Mungo Jerry. Well the update is, Danielle has met Ray (real name) and the photograph is going to be taken when the band returns from touring Germany. As you can imagine, Danielle is very excited.... and am  I  singing 'In the Summertime' in January.... well yes, it is a fabulous song.

With September arriving,

it was time to care for my Moth Orchids, which, because of the move, had not been given the care they deserved.

October arrived, with a chill in the air,

so instead of showing you the progress we had made in the garden, I decided to share with you artwork around my home. My artwork is varied and does not fit into one category.  If a picture catches my eye, then it's for me.

November arrived and I shared with you,

the birthday card my Aunt Molly received from  Queen Elizabeth II

to celebrate her 100th birthday.  Sadly Aunt Molly passed away last year at the grand age of 101 years.

The final month of the year arrived and I was busy with Christmas baking, gift buying, decorating the Christmas tree and also the ups and downs of dehydrating fruit.

.... and here we are again, at the beginning of January.  I wonder what new excitement lies ahead for this year.... I look forward to finding out.

Take care and I will catch up with you next Thursday.

As Always,

Best Wishes


Saturday, 23 December 2017


Good Afternoon to you,

My Christmas cards have been posted

'Posting a Letter'
by Albert Ludovici Jnr


all our Christmas gifts have been wrapped and placed under the tree.

My Christmas pudding has been made
my Christmas cake is waiting in the wings,
to take centre stage,
 on Christmas Day.

The Christmas mince pies 
are yet to be made,
but the sweet smell of baking 
will fill my kitchen,
 on Christmas Eve.

All the practical things have been done.

.... but there is one more, 
very important thing, left for me to do

.... and that is,
to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for taking the time to visit me here at Ivy, Phyllis and Me! 
 I am thrilled that each year you return again and again, to see what is happening in my kitchen or in my garden. Maybe you return to read one of the many stories I write about my day to day life. 
For whatever reason you return, truly, I am very grateful.

So all there is left for me to do
to wish you a merry Christmas 
and a Happy New Year.

Take care and I will catch up with you again in the 2018.

As Always.

Thursday, 7 December 2017


Good Morning to you,

Oranges and lemons
Say the bells of St Clement's
You owe me five farthings
Say the bells of St Martin's
When will you pay me
Say the bells of Old Bailey
When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney
I do not know
Say the great bells of Bow

My day was going well. I had planned what I wanted to do.... and I was determined to stick to my plan, because as you know, I can be easily sidetracked.

I had thought it would be fun to make some dried orange slices to use as Christmas decorations. I did not want to string them together with cinnamon and pine cones, instead I wanted their delicate aroma to sit in bowls decorated with pine cones and a little pot pourri.

So I checked my fruit bowl and there sat 2 oranges some lemons and tangerines.... perfect for what I wanted to do.

I began by topping and tailing the 2 oranges and then I cut them into approximately 1/4" slices.

I switched the oven on, to its lowest setting and then

I spread the orange slices between the 2 shelves in my oven and waited for them to dry.  This took 2 hours 25 minutes.

A very simple task.... and as you can see, they turned out perfectly.

Whilst the orange slices were drying in the oven,

I set about scoring the peel of the tangerines and lemons into 8ths, taking care not to cut all the way through, just half way through, so when the peel dried, it separated and the inside of the orange could be seen.

I popped them into the oven, on the lowest temperature, to dehydrate.

So far so good.

I needed the fruit to be in the oven for 6 to 7 hours to enable the tangerines and lemons to dehydrate properly.  They had been in the oven for almost 6 hours and were looking good, when the phone rang.  Always a good thing, because I love a good chat.

.... and it was Natasha ringing to have a Skype chat.  Perfect.  I said I would be with her in 2 ticks.  I made myself a coffee as we always drink our coffee together when we have a Skype chat, Natasha in Chicago and me here in Newcastle. We talked about Christmas and Christmas gifts we were buying.

Now I don't know about you, but when I talk to my daughters, I never have a sense of timing.  I am always surprised to discover we can talk for up to 2 hours, without drawing breath, yes honestly. I only discover the length of our chat when Natasha tells me just before we say goodbye.  

So now you know Natasha rang, but let me take you back to the lemons and tangerines dehydrating in the oven.  They had been in the oven for almost 6 hours before I began chatting to Natasha, and a further 2 hours talking to Natasha, which meant the oranges and lemons had been in the oven for roughly 8 hours.

Can you see where this is leading?

What do you think?  too much time spent in the oven?

Well, let me show you the results.

What do you think now? Yes, you are absolutely right, they spent a tad too long in the oven.... they are a bit of a disaster aren't they.  I was so enjoying my chat with Natasha that I had quite forgotten about the dehydrating fruit.

Now I was not on my own in the house, George was downstairs, reading in the conservatory and when I asked him if he had noticed any burning smells, he said he had caught a whiff of what he thought was marmalade.... mmm it didn't smell like marmalade to me, because when I went into the kitchen, I could definitely smell a little bit of burning.

When I checked in the oven, I discovered that whilst dehydrating, 2 tangerines and 1 lemon had dropped between the shelves,  because as the fruit dehydrated they had become smaller.  They must have fallen with a bit of a thud, as their bottoms were all squashed.... certainly not the look I was going for.

Now I could have decided not to talk about dehydrating whole fruits in the oven, but as you know, I like to be honest and share not only my successes, but also my failures with you.... and it has to be said, on this occasion,  the drying of the whole fruits were a complete disaster.

They normally work well, but that is when I keep an eye on them. So what will I do next time.

.... what Natasha and Danielle are always telling me to do.

'Mum, use the alarm on your phone, to remind you when you need to check something.'

I think it's time I heeded their advice, don't you.

How about you, have you ever been caught out and forgotten the time, when talking with friends or family.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that I'm not the only one who does this.

But before I leave you, I have decided,  I am not going to leave you on a low,  oh no,

I am going to show you one of my cute Christmas cushions which are beginning to fill my home.... I feel sure, this cute little dachshund, will put a smile on your face.

.... and a further treat, enjoy 'The Bells of St Clements' played by the BBC Concert Orchestra. It is almost 5 minutes long, but well worth the time, so sit back and enjoy.

Take care and I will catch up with you next Thursday.

As Always,

Thursday, 30 November 2017


Good Morning to you,

I have been prevaricating.  That doesn't sound like me does it.  Well if you have been reading Ivy, Phyllis and Me! for a while, then you will know that it sounds exactly like me. I am one of the world's worst prevaricators.... I can easily convince myself, not to do something, that I really should do. 

.... and what have I been prevaricating about this time?

Instagram.... yes honestly, something as simple as Instagram.

Whilst half the world is already using Instagram, I have been waiting in the wings, wondering as to its merits. The idea to set up an Instagram account was floating around my brain, but to be honest with you, I ignored it, as I said, I  am a terrible prevaricator.

I hadn't reached a decision as to whether I should dive in headfirst, that is, until quite recently, when I was given an Instagram demonstration.

.... and do you know who gave me the demonstration.... my daughter Danielle.... both of my daughters are brilliant, as they are so patient with me.

It all came about when I visited Phyllis recently. Danielle drove over to see us all and to see how her Nan Phyllis was getting on.  Whilst we were together, Danielle showed me the photographs in her Instagram account, I was intrigued, so she explained the 'ins' and outs' and showed me what to do, just in case I stopped prevaricating and finally decided to open my own Instagram account.

Instagram seemed like a whole new language. For instance, what on earth were 'hashtags'? I had heard the word used so often, but to be honest with you, I never really understood their significance.

Anyway, the time came when I thought to myself, I really must stop this nonsense and just open an account.

So I did.

My first foray into Instagram was a photograph of some soup I had made.... with one hash tag, surely that was enough, I mean why on earth would you want more.

Apparently, as it turns out, one was not enough.

This time it was Natasha's turn to take me in hand and explain the significance of hash tags. So during one of our Skype chats, the world of hash tags was opened up to me. Natasha patiently explained, in great detail, how to make use of them. I emphasise the words, great detail, because I think, when she was explaining, she could see the glazed look which appeared in my eyes.... the significance of hash tags took a while to register in my brain.

So if you visit my Instagram account, you will see the hash tags are increasing and I have to tell you, the glaze over my eyes is lifting. This reminds me of the Marie Curie quote, 'Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.' Now I understand Instagram there is no fear.

Now there is a reason I am telling you all this.  Another photograph I posted on Instagram, was a chicken cooked in my slow cooker. This is something which I have never written about, here on Ivy, Phyllis and Me!

.... and to my great delight I was asked by 2 new friends, Linda and Diane, how I cooked the chicken.  

So my friends, today, I am going to show you my method of

cooking a chicken using a slow cooker. 

But first, it's on with the pinnie and the music I am listening to, is a song, I first heard when I visited Atlanta a few years ago. On hearing it I loved it instantly,

the Zac Brown Band singing Chicken Fried.  Now I know I'm not frying chicken, but when you hear this song you will know why I am listening to it.... it's a song which makes you tap your feet.... and if you know a few line dancing steps.... I guarantee you will be dancing around your kitchen.... and the words, well, they will make you think about what you love the most.

Now it is time to organise my ingredients.


You will need: A large 3.5 litre slow cooker

1 (1.8kg) large chicken
1 large lemon
4 large cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of sweet paprika
1 dessert spoon of dried oregano
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves


Cut the lemon into quarters
set aside for the moment.

Peel 4 cloves of garlic
set aside for the moment.

Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil into the base of the crock pot and using a pastry brush, coat the bottom of the crock pot with oil.

Insert the 

quartered lemons

prepared garlic cloves
into the cavity of the chicken.

Place the chicken into the crock pot and pour the second tablespoon of oil over the chicken.  Using a brush spread the oil evenly over the chicken.

Using a pastry brush, cover the surface of the chicken with paprika. If you find you need more paprika, then sprinkle more over the chicken.

Sprinkle with sea salt

black pepper

and finally sprinkle with the dried oregano


place the

bay leaves either side of the chicken.

Put the crock pot into the slow cooker, put the lid on and turn the switch to HIGH.

Cook for 6 hours. 

When cooked, you will have a,

tender, cooked chicken with lots of stock to make a gravy.

All there is left to do is,


Now I do know that slow cookers vary, because Natasha can cook a chicken in 4 hours using her slow cooker.  I think the American slow cookers cook food faster, if that makes sense. I have to say mine is an old slow cooker which I have used for years, so you might find you do not need to cook your chicken for 6 hours.

When it comes to checking if the chicken is thoroughly cooked.  The method I have always used, whether roasting or slow cooking, is to insert the point of a knife into the thickest part of the leg, if the juices run clear then the chicken is cooked. You may prefer to use a thermometer.... the choice is yours.

.... but I have to tell you, nowadays, this is the only method I use to cook a chicken, because I love my chicken moist and tender.

Just before I go, over the years I have used my slow cooker for cooking meat products, but I have recently discovered, there is a whole raft of other things which can be cooked using a slow cooker.  I was amazed to discover that mashed potato can be made using a slow cooker.... who would have thought it. So pop over to visit, Marilyn at Marilyns Treats and find out how.... plus you will discover how to make quite a few other treats.

Oh yes, I just know you will also want to visit Linda and Diane. You will find them here, Linda who writes My Sew What Blog and Diane who writes Southamsdarling 

Take care and I will catch up with you next Thursday.

As Always,

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