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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Monday 12 January 2015

Menu Planning

One of my goals for 2015 was to get back into the habit of menu planning.  I used to do it religiously and then I got out of the habit.  I really missed its practicality and how it takes the hassle out of wondering what we’re going to have for dinner each night.  It also makes budgeting and shopping so much easier!  Thus once a week (usually on a Sunday), I flick through cook books and lists of meal ideas and then decide what we’re going to have for the week.  I have long since realised that planning for specific days doesn’t work for us, as I often don’t fancy what I’ve planned for that evening, so I now plan in a seven-meal rota and as long as those meals get cooked, then I’m okay with not necessarily having them on a particular day.

I was flicking back through the VintagePretty archives and looking at meals I’ve cooked previously and regret not posting these menu plans as a sort of archive of what we eat from season to season and year to year.  So from now on, I’m going to endeavour to post more, if not all, of what we eat at Chez VintagePretty, more as an aide memoire rather than for any other reason.  We tend to eat a lot of vegetarian/vegetable-based food, as I seem to prefer it (and I’m glad I do after this little bit of scientific research came out recently!) and Mr VP doesn’t mind what I cook as long as it’s tasty!

This week’s menu:

Last week’s menu:

  • Delia’s Piedmont peppers.
  • Veg-packed tomato pasta.
  • Delia’s curried nut roast and veg.
  • Stirfry & noodles.
  • Take-away.
  • Tuna pasta.
  • Roast chicken and veg (at Mum’s).


Saturday 10 May 2014

Days of Gratitude and Plenty

It has been a wonderfully quiet week or so.  After getting used to Mr VP’s return to work, I set about making the house a home.  The chair is one we found at the brilliant Tynemouth market.  I saw it and after quite a while humming and hawing, I decided that I loved it enough to want to take it home.  I’m so glad that I did and now Mr VP loves it, too.  I have been sprucing left, right and centre, trying to make it tidy (each box flattened is a little victory!) and more comfortable for both of us (and the visitors to come!).  Having a proper kitchen once more has been glorious and I vowed to make use of it each and every day, making sure that we have good, wholesome food and enjoying the process of long, drawn-out kitchen sessions (ah, bliss!).  As you can see, the results are looking pretty delicious: from homemade pizza to soups, scones, custard tarts, bread, and one of Mr VP’s new-favourite meals, this spring-inspired pasta dish with peas and proscuitto crudo, we have eaten well.

One of the first things I did after we moved in was to buy lots of pots and to begin planting them up, so that all summer we would have oodles of colour and interest in the garden.  This decision is already beginning to pay dividends as we find each day that one of the plants has opened a new flower, from ageratums to fuschias, marigolds and geraniums.  It is all lush and vibrant and not yet touched by the fiery fingers of summer.  In one corner of our garden, there is an acer.  I love its leaves and the colour and the dappled shade it throws over the rickety old garden bench when the sun shines.  It has to be one of my favourite shrubs, along with the white lilac growing over the fence.  Moving up to Northumberland from Cambridgeshire, which is one of the driest counties in the country, has come as a bit of a shock.  I had forgotten about the sheer amount of rain we get up here and how suddenly a sea fret can roll in off the sea and cloak everything in a grey-dark, cold fog.

I have a little story to share with you, too.  The other day, I saw an envelope pop through our door and thought it odd as the postman had already been round a few hours beforehand.  I looked at the card and it was indeed addressed to myself and Mr VP.  I opened it and found a lovely ‘welcome to your new home’ card from one of our neighbours, completely out of the blue.  It was so kind and thoughtful that it was one of those heart-swelling restoring-faith-in-humanity moments. The difference in friendliness up here is huge and so to say thanks for the card, I made our neighbours a batch of cheese and plain scones.  After not having needed it for the last four years,  I was greatly impressed that Mr VP could find my Be-Ro book (one of the most reliable baking books out there!) out of a mass of boxes, so my egg custard tart and both sets of scone recipes came from there.  Tomorrow holds more rain (they are more like April showers) and also a trip into the City of Bridges to explore it, as I haven’t been back since we moved.

Wednesday 30 January 2013

Candle Corner

As it has been so dark recently, there has been a need to gather close all of the things that make our lives bright.  Candles, LED staircase lights, our Swedish star light and lamps are all lit from 4pm.  Our little house glows, with all kinds of lights.  On our mantelpiece, two of these little candle holders throw out a surprising amount of light and look so pretty.  These pressed-glass candle holders came from Ikea – they were very cheap, but have been filling me with daily joy.  A simple kind of pleasure.

Sunday 11 November 2012

NaBloPoMo 2012: Day 11. Remembrance (and other things).

Today is about remembrance and remembering those who have given their lives for their country.  It falls in this almost-half-way point of the NaBloPoMo cycle and its presence is a nice, dutiful reminder to do something outside of ourselves; to think of and remember others.

I will do as I always do on Remembrance Day – I will watch the BBC service and I will remember.

But before 11am, I have a lot of housework to do.  Windows were opened for twenty-minutes or so, to let the rooms breathe.  Mountains of washing have gone into the machine, with lots of Persil and sweet-smelling (natural) fabric conditioner and what cannot be line-dried will be tumbled (regrettable but necessary).

The music of Stravinsky, never really on my classical radar before, will be played molto forte.  The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du Printemps) will be wafting through the house, peppered with The Firebird (it’s definitely different to my two usual routes: Shostakovich and English pastoral (Vaughan Williams/Elgar et al.)

Drawers will be emptied and sorted with summer clothing relegated to vac-bags under the bed, whilst warmer, cosier winter things will find their new homes.

I will try to resist the urge to watch It’s A Wonderful Life (I cannot wait to see that film!)

I will make coffee in my little cafetiere.

I will  read by the heater (the closest approximation to a roaring fire, I’m afraid).

And then at some time, late-ish tonight, I will gather myself together and I will ascend the wooden stairs and slip into a bed that is freshly laundered and which has been warmed by the heated blanket.  Perfect.

Monday 17 September 2012

Early Autumnal Treats

The British weather is slowly becoming more autumnal (though it is still given to have odd very warm spells).  The winds that blow westerly are divulging trees of their leaves with every gust that comes.  The nights are now much longer (boo, it’s dark before 7.30pm!) and are, when not in the midst of Indian Summer weather, much cooler.

This has made me to want to nest a bit more in the house before I leave it for university soon.  So the other day, I thought I’d turn the house into a haven of domestic bliss and autumnal cosiness.  I began by giving the kitchen a jolly-good do-over which included moving everything to one side, blitzing the work surfaces with some very lovely citrus-scented cleaning products and then doing the same to the other side.  I scrubbed cupboard doors, blitzed the sink and left a trail of cleanliness in my wake.

That’s the thing about autumn, it’s the time to hunker down and ready ourselves, like the squirrels who bury their acorns and hoard their nuts, so too we must prepare ourselves for the onslaught of what can be a pretty rough winter.  I feel sorry for those people in regions where there are no distinct seasons, because I value autumn as a slowing-down season in many ways.  It’s all about digging out your favourite jumpers from the back of the closet; jumping into warm, frothy baths; lighting candles (Yankee Candle’s Autumn Lodge is one of my favourites, though sadly no longer made) in every corner of your house and snuggling under fluffy, proper-wool blankets whilst watching The Great British Bake-Off.

I thought that it was the perfect time to make use of a large turkey drumstick that I had bought, by making the most lovely, light yet warming turkey stew.  It’s really simple and very filling.  You could have it with any starch: potatoes, rice etc, but I decided that with time being a bit restricted (laundry, vacuuming, tidying, cleaning etc!) I would make some really quick and easy (and deliciously stodgy) dumplings.

For this Warming Turkey Stew you need:

A mirepoix, the French for a carrot, an onion and a stick of celery, diced finely.

A turkey drumstick.  Make sure that it fits into your slow-cooker beforehand, otherwise you’ll have to do as I did and bone it out yourself!

A handful of grains.  These can be pearl barley or a soup mix.  I used Waitrose’s Love Life mix of spelt, barley and wheat grains, which is toasted and gives soups and stews a lovely nutty flavour.

About 1 pint of organic chicken stock.

A twig of thyme.

Salt and pepper to taste.

A little oil or butter, about 1 tbsp.


Gently fry your mirepoix in the oil or butter until translucent.  Add the tyme and let sweat down a little more.

Add this mix, with all the other ingredients, to your slow-cooker.  Make sure your turkey leg is covered by liquid.  Give it a good stir.  Set on High for 4 hours, or low for 6.

About 30 minutes before you want to eat, take the turkey leg off the bone and shred the meat.  Remove any connective tissue and/ or tendons (in turkey legs, these are really bony and unpleasant) and put the meat back into the slow-cooker.  Stir.  Add in any dumplings and leave for another 30 minutes, or pop it onto the ‘keep warm’ setting and pop some floury King Edwards on the stove to make fluffy mashed potatoes.

Dish out into bowls and enjoy your delicious (and exceedingly easy) creation under a blanket on the sofa ;-)  Apologies for the slightly awful photos – the light was not great to start with and had disappeared completely by the time I served up!

Thursday 26 July 2012

Green and squeaky-clean

I haven’t done a ‘green’ post for a while now, but I thought it was high time I wrote a little ditty about washing up liquids (no, really!).  Now, for the last six or so years, Mr VP and I try, wherever possible, to use ecologically-friendly variants on the normal household products.  Through our leanest times, this has still been our motto and we are thrifty and cautious moneywise as we always have been.  I get a bit non-plussed by people saying that “going eco” is ridiculously expensive and not necessarily better for the environment or us etc.  Quite simply, this is not the case if you do it right.  The whole notion of “going green” means to think about which choices you make on a daily basis and with an informed view of the products on offer.

So, washing-up liquids.  Mr VP and I love Bio D (and Faith in Nature and Ecoleaf) products.  We have done so for years and years.  I simply love their huge (in print size, small in length) ingredient list on the front of the bottle, their affirmations about responsibly sourced products and how well their products actually perform.  They sell all manner of cleaning products from multi-purpose cleaners and shower sprays to washing (laundry) powder and washing-up liquid.  It was a real boon when we found out that a few years ago Oxfam shops began to stock their products too.

Now at £2.49 per litre, it isn’t that expensive.  C0mpared to supermarket leaders (i.e. big-name branded liquids), they come out quite favourably.  All the brands (apart from Ecover) in supermarkets are usually sold in much smaller bottles.  Moreover, the most important bit is that Bio D has nothing bad in it, unlike main brands which not only utilise pertrochemicals (finite rescources which take a lot of work to reclaim) but also preservatives (the allergy-inducing, immune-system toxicant Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Benzisothiazolinone), phosphates, foaming agents and other nasties such as (the very carcinogenic) formaldahyde.

Since beginning to write about green issues in perhaps 2006, I have noticed that many product formulations have changed to remove parabens (have you noticed this trend?) and other well-known ‘nasties’ from their ingredient lists and this is a laudable change which is, I belive, down to the awareness of individuals of the concept of “chemical cocktails” (see here and here) which happen every single day.  However the negative side to this is that the list of ingredients of products has changed to include more cleverly-concealed ingredients (I mean, who is going to Google an 11-syllable ingredient, which is unpronouncable to all but chemical geeks like me, in case it might be bad?).  So now parabens are (partly) gone (yay), they have been replaced by the likes of Methylchloroisothiazolinone and (one of my absolute no-nos) Butylated hydroxytoulene aka BHT (which is in an alarming number of items nowadays, particularly in oily products like moisturiser and lipsticks as its purpose is as an anti-rancifying agent).  I don’t think that most people realise how bad they are, or even care enough, to not use these products.  I have to walk by certain skin products that I want to use because they contain these things – but that is the way I’ve chosen to live.  If I want to poison my body, so be it, but I don’t want other people (big businesses) to do it without my knowledge.

Such is why I like Bio D products (and no, I haven’t been enticed in any way to write this, though if Bio D want to buy me a year’s supply of their products, they can contact me below!).  Honest vegetable-based products, from sustainable sources, fairly-traded and considerately made.  Now to the cost.  I mentioned that for a 1ltr bottle of washing-up liquid the going rate in most stores for the Bio D is £2.49, however I am a firm believer in buying in bulk those things which you know you’re going to use – like toilet roll, washing (laundry) liquid/powder, washing-up liquid – in bulk.  From our online retailer (Amazon), the cost of the bulk 5l size is ~£8.80 (£8.40 after my student discount!).  That means that it is less than £1.70 per litre for our washing up liquid which currently beats everyone else.  In our household, doing two loads of washing-up per day, it has taken us 4 weeks to use a litre of the stuff!

The best bit and the bit that made me squee with delight (apart from the knowledge that I was saving the planet)?  The fact it was unscented!  As soon as I decanted it into the smaller bottle, I popped 9 drops of rose geranium essential oil into it and I had the most delicious-smelling, custom-scented washing-up liquid which was cheaper than the stuff in the shops, better for me and does an excellent job of washing up.  Perfect!

Do you know, I think I might go and do some washing up…

Thursday 12 July 2012

I am a geranium kinda gal

If I was to hold a National Collection of any kind of plant, it would be pelargoniums (or possibly lavender, I am very fond of that too).  I love pelargoniums with their scented leaves, bright and happy little flowers and their ability to grow and look nice all year round.  I remember them when I was a child in my grandmother’s garden and conservatory and I remember their bright and happy flowers.  As old fashioned as they may be, they are still some of my favourite flowers in the world.

This summer I bought a couple to stick on windowsills around the house.  The first, a bright unashamedly red one.  That one is on the kitchen windowsill.  Then a salmon pink one (one of my favourite colours) in the living room.  Living plants are so much nicer than cut flowers and will continue to flower, with regular feeds, from April to October.


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