Location:United Kingdom

An avid tea-drinker who likes nutmeg in her coffee and warm lavender-scented quilts. She knits, crochets and partakes in random acts of craftiness (and kindness). She likes obscure works of literature, philosophy and the idea that her mind exists separately from her body. She enjoys moving furniture around, literary criticism and baking bread. She writes haiku about nettles, would like to swim with seals and become completely self-sufficient. She writes as if her life depends on it, listens to beautiful music, and loves her darling husband Mr. VP.

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Friday 29 June 2007

A flower, nosegay, or bouquet

As a general rule I don’t tend to write about my love of pretty, old things. Timeless objects and little touches which make my home mine. I did used to when I first started blogging and this blog was more about keeping-house than the wonderfully organic creature that it has now become. I fear that my readers may find me rather lacking in the fripperies department, but I do enjoy tea more in fine bone china cups, from a teapot – and I do love little vases of flowers dotted around the home. In other words, I can be frippery-ish about things, though it tends to be rather toned-down.

And strangely enough today I awoke from a fretful sleep and had some purpose. I decided to dust the living room and give it a good old ‘going over’, and I felt not only quite peaceful with Ed Harcourt crooning on the iPod, but I also felt an inner peace. It was almost hypnotic. And to continue my morning of puttering I took one of my favourite pressed-glass bowls and filled it with roses from the garden. I don’t often do this, but I was determined to make the most of our crop before the rain steals it away tomorrow. All of our roses are repeat-flowering apart from Felicité Parmentier (who has a delicate, fresh smell), so I didn’t feel too bad doing this, and they served a delicious purpose. I brought them back in (pollen beetles, red spider mites and spiders to boot!) and arranged a posy to sit on my bedside table. The scent is stunning, and best of all, free.

They look a bit of a motley bunch, many were a bit ‘burnt’ from the rain we’ve had previously, but what scent and colour!  All apart from Zepherine Drouhin are David Austin roses, the best there are.  It also happens that the new Austin catalogue dropped through my letterbox yesterday, so I can take that to work and peruse it in my lunch hour.  Yum!

Thursday 28 June 2007

Carbon Neutral Monarchy?

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When the news reported the other day that Charles had gone carbon neutral, it made me grin. A few years ago he was in hot water for using his private helicopters, large cars and plane journeys all too often, once flying to New York to accept an environmental award, of all things.

Of course I’m very glad that Charles, a big supporter of the organic movement and long-time fan of British food, locally and seasonally produced, has taken the decision to do this, and getting it out into the public arena has undoubtedly brought this issue to the fore once again.

One of the news sources reporting this was my favourite newspaper, The Guardian – and in typical Guardian fashion (with plenty of intelligent wit and caustic sarcasm) came this paragraph which had me in stitches:

“The review said the prince’s households – the Highgrove estate in western England, where he farms organically, as well as Clarence House in London and Birkhall in Scotland – and the activities of Charles and his wife Camilla were now carbon neutral.

How they quite manage the latter is beyond me, but I’d really, really like to know!  Now all we need is the Queen to follow suit and we’ll be laughing…  I hear some Green modifications are on the way (from The Times, my other favourite newspaper)!

Wednesday 27 June 2007

Mud and spuds

Nobody mentions this phenomena – or perhaps they do, but when you grow your own, and finally get to harvest your crop, there is a pleasure bordering on smugness at being able to dip into the garden for dinner. As we did last night. And we were rewarded with potatoes so fresh the skins could be wiped off. A whole 4lbs of them, all we had to do was dig. Food miles? We don’t do food miles, we do food metres – about 35.

Variety Arran Pilot, cost of seed potatoes £2.79 ~ equivalent supermarket cost of just the potatoes we dug up last night? £4.50. Smug? Oh very.

Sunday 24 June 2007

Shop @ VintagePretty – Vintage-Inspired Fleur Brooches

Introducing Shop @ VintagePretty.org! I’ve been working tirelessly away to create two stunning brooches. I told you ages ago that I was going to do this – but with one thing and another it all got a bit waylaid. But with new inspiration in the form of my own garden, I came up with these and I’m in love! Please click the images to see larger versions.

–Sorry! SOLD–

Vintage-Inspired Fleur brooch made from 100% wool. The paler central-wool is local Northumbrian Cheviot wool, the duck-egg blue outer is 100% Pure New Wool.

Only £4.50 including Postage & Packaging worldwide.

–Sorry! Fleur #2 has been SOLD!–
Large Soy-Silk and Cheviot wool Fleur brooch. I love the design of this, it stands around 4-inches tall and has a very simple, elegant feel. Would look lovely on a winter coat or as an addition to a handbag.

This one is £5 including Postage & Packaging worldwide.

If you’re interested, please leave a comment with either Fleur #1 or Fleur #2 and I’ll get back to you ASAP. Payment will be through PayPal, which is safe and secure.You do not need a PayPal account, and they accept almost all cards. VintagePretty is a PayPal verified UK seller.

Saturday 23 June 2007

Questions, Answered

It has been really interesting being asked questions – they tell me quite a bit about the people who have asked them, and this time the questions have been intriguing to say the least, and I’ve definitely had to think about the answers to some of them! So without further ado – here we go!

Nicola asked “If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

Answer: You know, this one had me stumped. I should come forth with some wonderful place like Outer Mongolia (I hear it’s lovely at this time of year!), but really there are few places that excite me more than certain places in England. I remember wanting to spend time in India because their traditions and customs – meditation, respect for nature and one another – make me think that India is well-ahead of its time. Take Ayurveda for instance, they’ve been using this holistic medicinal health-care system for millennia, and it works. But the place I most wanted to visit, and when I was a child, to live, was Nunavut. As a child I was engrossed in the thought of living a completely self-sufficient life, and although maybe a wee bit cold for my liking, I’d love to travel there and know true isolation. As I write this I’m seeing a pattern of wanting to find something “deeper”, this may be a recurring theme!

Anastasia asked: “For us who dont know much about growing our own food – what would be the easiest and simplest vegetable to grow?

Answer: This is such a good question and it’s using my veg-growing knowledge, fantastic! The easiest veg to grow include potatoes, which can be grown just about anywhere from an old bucket, to a plastic bag, to a small garden border. They are trouble-free for the most part, and just need earthing-up every now and then. Peas are also on the list, they germinate easily and as long as you have some bean-poles for them to scramble over they’ll be happy to grow anywhere and will ‘fix’ nitrogen into the soil! Runner beans, courgettes, pumpkins, tomatoes and lettuce are all really easy to grow and maintain, and would make a fantastic introduction to gardening!

Sarah asked: “I was surprised at how many people find blogs so quickly, what surprises you most about your readers (and commenters). Which of the locations that people visit from surprise you?”

Answer: This too is a really interesting question. I love that everyone who comments give really constructive feedback, if I’ve asked a question for instance about my ethical shopping post, the ideas and feedback I got from that gave me the impetus to write more. As did all of my food activism posts. I also really admire other bloggers’ work, and love reading the diverse output that is shared with the Online Community. I do get some funny search-engine referrals though, usually “vintage tits”, “pretty nips” or somesuch, which makes me smile because heaven knows the people who search for such things must get a shock when they actually view my site! But I do get lots of searches for information on various things – “vintage look cake stand”, “bunny rolls”, “how to stop dandelions growing”, “transplanting prunus kojo no mai” and “the problems when making a victoria sponge”. It’s lovely to know that someone has found you completely by chance and then becomes a permanent reader – especially when they say hello!

Marie asked: “Hi Tash, As a former resident of the north-east, I am intrigued as to where you live. My family are originally from Middlesbrough – a long way from Southern Ontario – although I still have family in Yorkshire (North & West) and Cheshire. And how so many readers had found you – any idea?

Answer: I live in a tiny little town (east of the middle!) in Northumberland whose name I tend to keep off the ‘net for privacy’s sake – we haven’t lived here very long (2 1/2 years now), and moved when my husband re-located with work (neither of us are from the North). However we have fallen in love with the region, especially for the beautiful coastlines and wonderful pastoral countryside that surround us. Our families are spattered everywhere, and we seem to be the “black sheep” for moving so far away! As for how so many find me I’m not sure, I’ve been blogging over 2 years on this blog, and it takes dedicated posting, commenting and writing of interesting subject matter to keep people reading. At least that’s what I look for in other blogs I visit :) I spent most of those 2 years with very few comments, but I find that people will stick around if they like what they read!

Katie asked: “What is the best book you ever read and why?

Answer: It’s hard to put my finger on one particular book, I think that books find you, rather than you finding books if you know what I mean – the right book for the right time. But whenever I’m asked that question I always have to say one of the best is Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam. A true story, it was made into a film “October Sky” a few years ago, which is how I found out about it in the first place. It’s a story of struggles and hardships paying off, and at the time it was a book I really needed. It came to me when it should’ve, and remains to this day one of my favourite books. But I couldn’t leave things like Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides, Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier or any of the Falco mysteries off the list.

asked:”Do you make jam or cordials? if so what is your favourite and would you like to swap recipes???

You know what, I haven’t yet made a cordial but I keep hearing mention of them around the ‘net! I know I’d love to try an elderflower cordial as they are everywhere at the moment, and they smell so divine. But I have made jam. Last year I made redcurrant jam, blackcurrant jam and Wedding Strawberry jam! The Wedding Strawberry was using up all of our leftover strawberries from the wedding and putting them to good use. It was delicious. I love making chutneys too, and as we have over *20* tomato bushes this year, I’m thinking chutney will be the dish of the day come August! I’d love to swap recipes, I have a lovely tomato chutney recipe that works without fail!

Amy asked: “What made you decide to be more environmentally friendly and organically minded?

I’ve always been acutely aware of the environment, I was a wild child running around barefoot and loving being close to nature. That has always been my ideal. I also derive enormous amounts of pleasure from growing my own food and moving closer to my ultimate goal of being completely self-sufficient, not only in food but for energy use and life in general. It’s very, very hard to achieve but I believe it’s possible to go most, if not all of the way. As for being environmentally friendly – the environment is everything to us as human beings. It is the air we breathe, the sun we see and the rivers we swim in. It is life, and if we don’t protect this fragile world of ours, it won’t be there for others to enjoy. I see this as my primary goal in life, to protect the world. It literally means the world to me. I don’t think anything kicked it off, but a profound love of nature and the self-sufficient life-force that encapsulates the world and keeps it going.

Lesley asked: “What is your earliest memory? And what are your happiest childhood memories?”

Gosh it’s hard to remember.  My childhood seems to have a timeless quality, what I thought were my earliest memories I have been reliably informed were actually when I was around 6, and I have been told memories I thought older turned out to be from when I was tiny.  I remember leaving nursery-school and sitting, with my wonderful grandmother, eating a Curly-Wurly in the Cathedral and looking at the enormity of such a place.  We weren’t there for the religious nature, I think it was just a place for my grandmother to sit down and try to keep me entertained for a bit!  One of my happiest memories is being taken over the Brecon Beacons and seeing all the ferns turning their Autumn gold colours.  I must’ve been around 3 or 4.

Thanks so much to everyone who participated, it’s been really fun (hark on at me!) and very interesting!  But as I’m working tomorrow (at work =  heatwave!) I must get to bed!  Have a fantastic weekend :)

Friday 22 June 2007

Middle of the Hill

I have so much to do, and such little time to do it. I should be ironing, making cakes, nursing Indy and spending time with my husband, but I had to give you a quick post! I’ve been treated to a wonderful few days, starting on Thursday my husband got time off work so we’ve had a whole 3 days to spend together. This is unusual as I work on Sundays and only get a Saturday to spend the whole day together. Yesterday Alnwick, today Cragside – tomorrow? The housework!

But what amazes me more is how everything is moving onwards, and I feel a bit taken aback, a bit slow in the face of movement. It was March only a few weeks ago (in my head at least) – now we have strawberries and I made potato dauphinoise with our own grown potatoes (and eggs from our hens), we ate salad from the garden and our courgettes are lush and ripening. Where is the time going?

So until I finish the answers and questions post, here are some things I couldn’t hold back – things I really had to share! I think the rest speaks for itself… Hummed to the tune of “My Favourite Things” from that rather annoying (?) musical The Sound of Music (Mary Poppins was infinitely better, in my humble opinion…).

Newly-opened flowers, to wow the spectators…

The blue of the Borage and white of the ‘taters… (sorry!)

Golden grasses and fields of pure wheat…

These are the things that I see from my seat…

White, gold and green, that cure all your headaches…

Tiny white flowers that bring in the new day…

Green pods, hanging on the vine…

These are the things that make it divine…

Ok, I won’t make you listen to any more of that! Enjoy the rest, and thanks to every single person who congratulated us on our first year of wedded bliss!

Thursday 21 June 2007


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I can’t believe it is here, but one year ago today we were getting married. Today is our first anniversary! And what a year it has been – so much has happened to both of us.

In some ways this year was easy, being a newlywed came naturally – it was a continuance of something that we were already sharing. We got engaged very early into our relationship – 6 months, but waited another 2 1/2 years before we decided to tie the knot, and this year is our fourth year of being a couple. I am constantly amazed at how time changes and morphs when you’re in love – even the dreary side of love, if there is such a thing. The ‘chores’ of life are made so much nicer when you have a partner, a soul-mate to share it with.

Walking through our garden earlier this year, it occurred to me that like the garden, our relationship started out as a blank canvas with only the bare bones, and it has become what it has become only by lavishing the time, effort and love that we have on it. Like the garden we have grown together, intertwined and become our own little sphere reliant on and reliable to the other. I find this analogy so apt, and so beautiful – because like the garden, I’d like to think we’ve laid the foundations for something that will be there for years to come, that will flower year after year and bring joy to us.

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We decided to be married on Midsummer’s day (despite huge protestations that “It’s midweek, who gets married in the middle of a week?!”), because for me it represented the solstice, hope and good things. It’s an ancient day of celebrations when marriages would’ve taken place, and it’s the longest day to spend with my beloved. The day itself was exhausting but good, I was up all through the night checking on an enormous salmon cooking very slowly in the oven, and tossing and turning in bed. By 5am we were wide awake and putting up a gazebo in the back garden which ended up blowing away into next-door’s garden (!), only to be rescued by our wonderful neighbours who did so much for us on that day.

I’ll always remember the high winds and the clouds racing across the sky – it wasn’t very warm either, but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. It was a long day, lots happened – I’ll remember the kindness of the guests who came to the wedding, and the laughs we shared together. The speeches made and the wonderful food, heaps of local strawberries and local cream, Eton Mess, a BBQ tended by my father-in-law in his best suit. People huddling under blankets against the wind.

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This wreath above was one of the ‘decorative’ wreathes which sat on the gazebo. After the wedding guests had left, I was exhausted and promptly collapsed into bed and slept. I know my husband and mother stayed up quite late doing the tidying up – and in the early morning I woke up to this wreath, my husband had hung it up so it’d be the first thing I laid eyes on as I awoke.

Our honeymoon was without doubt the happiest time of my life. We were in the place that we both love the most, and situated on possibly the most beautiful farm in the whole wide world. We could’ve gone on a permanent honeymoon, we were that happy – and I’ll always remember that as being the happiest time of my life.

One year later and much has happened but little has changed. So to my other half, Happy Anniversary – may this be only the first of many.

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Edited to add:  You’ve got until tomorrow to keep sending those questions in…  All shall be answered on Friday!

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