Thursday, 18 January 2018


Good Morning to you,

I have often waxed lyrical about my time spent living in Cyprus and the reason is, it is a place I have always loved and which remains close to my heart.

I love the slow pace of life, the wonderful seasonal produce and of course the warm weather, which is very appealing on this snowy, cold winter's day.

.... and the fresh produce, like all Mediterranean countries, is sensational.

For instance.

There is something about the flavour of a Cypriot tomato, which is beyond compare. The only accompaniment the tomato needs, is a little salt, or a square of Feta cheese.  Its shape is not beautiful, in fact I think it would be fair to describe them, as rather ugly. If misshapen Cypriot tomatoes were sold here in England, I feel they would be passed by in favour of the perfectly formed tomato. People would automatically think, their ugliness, was indicative of their flavour, but what a mistake that would be. Give me a misshapen, Cypriot tomato, any day, over the tasteless, imported tomatoes which nowadays grace our supermarket shelves.

.... and the oranges and lemons, which grow in abundance due to the wonderful climate are so juicy. If you were to take a stroll around one of the villages, you would discover each garden would have at least one orange and lemon tree laden with fruit. The fresh citrus smell of an orange or  lemon when picked from a tree, is a wonderful experience. I remember the first time I walked through an orange grove, it was springtime and the flowers were blossoming on the trees. I was overwhelmed by the heady perfume which the flowers imparted. 

As you continue your walk, you would also discover pomegranates  and figs growing in gardens.  I remember as a child using a pin to tease the pomegranate seeds from their cases.  I could lose a whole hour doing this.  Invariably, I would end up with pomegranate juice down the front of my clothes, which meant I would be in trouble from my mother, Phyllis, for making such a mess of my dress, but the experience of eating fresh pomegranates were certainly worth the telling off.

Grapes are another fruit which grow in abundance. When the grapes are ripe, what can only be described as edible jewels, hang from the vine waiting to be picked and eaten.  The leaves do not go to waste as they are used to make dolmades (stuffed vine leaves).

.... and I must not forget to mention the Cypriot potato, which are grown in the rich red soil. Their season is short, so when they appear in the market, I make sure I buy a supply to either roast, mash or slice to make moussaka. 

There are other fruits and vegetables which are grown in Cyprus, but which are too numerous to mention, but one  I could not leave out, is the olive tree. You may be surprised to learn that olive trees have been grown in the Mediterranean for thousands of years. Many households will have at least one olive tree growing in their garden, with many more grown on family farms in the countryside. Olives are plentiful and a staple food in Cyprus..... also they are so very healthy to eat.

Quite recently, I discovered this quote.

'Olive oil in Greece takes the place butter has in the English diet.'

Antony Andrews
Ancient Greek Society

Which is so true.

When it comes to harvest time, removing the olives from their branches is not an easy task. Beneath each olive tree wide nets are spread onto the ground, a long stick is used to shake the olives from the tree or if you have a friend, like my husband George, who loves climbing trees, then you would have an extra pair of helping hands.  

The shaken branches release the olives which fall onto the nets below, which when full, can be gathered up and sorted.  This is very labour intensive work, but George always loved helping his friend Stephanos to harvest his olives.... and as a reward, we would  be given 1 or 2 demi johns of freshly pressed olive oil. Along with the demi john which our tree produced, we had a plentiful supply of olive oil, until the whole process began again the following year. 

When I had a plentiful supply of olive oil, I did not think about the amount I added to a dish.  I was not sparing, in fact I would go so far as to say I was very liberal with my olive oil and this was highlighted on one of my visits to Atlanta when I spent a lovely few weeks with Natasha. 

I was cooking supper and as normal, I poured olive oil into a pan, ready to saute some onions, when I heard a gasp from behind me, followed by Natasha saying, 'Mum, I think you are using too much olive oil'.  I looked in the pan and I didn't think I had, in fact, I had added the amount I used at home.... and that was the problem, I had forgotten that a good quality olive oil was expensive to buy. So each time I cooked I had to reign in the amount of olive oil I used, even so, I have a funny feeling that Natasha kept a close eye on me when I used olive oil, but the minute I returned home to Cyprus, I was back to normal.... a liberal amount of olive oil was poured into my pan and each time I did this, I smiled to myself and thought how lucky I was to cook with such an expensive, good quality oil.

So why are we talking about olive oil on this cold winter's day.  

The reason is,

I wondered, have you ever considered using olive oil in a cake.  I had mentioned that I was going to make an olive oil cake on my Instagram account and I received various thoughts from friends. Some were curious, some excited by the idea, but 1 friend was not impressed. The idea of a cake made with olive oil was not appealing.  

Our mindset is an interesting thing, we have our way of cooking and happy with that way and that is fine, but it is also good to think outside the box once in a while, because only then, when something new is tasted, can we form a true opinion.

My original recipe, was given to me by my friend Maria, which included ground cinnamon and cloves. These are lovely flavours, but I omit these spices and adapted the recipe to include fresh lemon juice and lemon zest. Oh yes, and the original recipe was in cups, not American sized cups, but teacups.  A lot of my friends used teacups as measures. So as you can imagine, it took a little while for me to work out the  measurements, for you, because I too use teacups for this recipe.

As you can see, the texture is light and open.

Filled with lemon curd, it really is a lovely cake.  To enhance the lemon flavour sometimes I add a thin layer of lemon butter icing on the bottom tier of the cake and lemon curd on the top, then when the cakes are sandwiched together, they create a delightful tangy filling. You might think this is too much lemon, but the cake is delicately flavoured and not overtly lemony, because often the lemons do not yield very much juice.

I decorated the top of the cake with a sprinkling of icing sugar and in the centre I added crystallized lemons and oranges surrounded by sugar daisies. I keep a little supply in my store cupboard as they are a useful, easy alternative for decorating a cake.

Now you may have noticed that something is missing from this photograph. The slice of cake should be decorated with crystallized lemons and oranges.... it would have made for a nicer photograph, but my taste tester, yes George, got to them before I did and before I could stop him, popped them into his mouth.... this was his slice, so he thought nothing of it.... I feel sure you will understand, after all this is home baking.

So when this cake has baked, cooled, spread with lemon curd then decorated, it will be time to cut a slice and don't be surprised, because I just know, even my 'Doubting Thomas' friend, will enjoy this cake. I say this very light heartedly and with a smile on my face.

The recipe will be found by clicking RECIPE at the top of this page.  I have not used this recipe page for a while, but it is time to re-evaluate and I have decided to cut down on the photographs.... I know I have said this before and the photographs creep back in, but I must be firm with myself this time.

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

As Always,

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,

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