Thursday, 15 March 2018


Good Morning to you,

March is a very busy month here in the Bryson household, not only because we celebrate Mother's Day, but also because the three females of this family, celebrate their birthdays during the month of March.

The first birthday in March belongs to our youngest daughter, Danielle, the second belongs to Natasha, with me bringing up the rear at the end of the month.... and the strangest thing is, we always celebrate our birthdays on the same day of the week. One year we can all celebrate on a Monday, the following year a Tuesday and so on.  This year our individual birthdays fall on a Friday.

This was something which was not planned, not that it could really be planned, it is how things turned out.... my baby girls decided they would arrive in this world, on the same day of the week. It's quite incredible really, because they were born 4 years apart.  How I managed to be born on the same day as well, is a mystery, but I love that we celebrate our birthdays on the same day of the week.

So as you can imagine, there has been a little bit of nostalgia floating around our house this month.  This is nothing new, I have to say, this always happens during the month of March, well to be truthful, not only March, nostalgia, can pop by to say hello, at any time of the year.

For instance, today, I was putting the finishing touches to our breakfast Chia pots and whilst waiting for his breakfast, George decided to go into the loft to look among the stored boxes, for something he wanted to give his Godson.

Whilst George was in the loft,  he discovered our old photograph albums, neatly packed away in one of the boxes, so he decided to bring them downstairs to show me what he had found. I was thrilled when he showed me what was hidden inside the box and we quickly decided to put breakfast on hold, whilst I made us both a cup of coffee. We then sat on the sofa together, ready for a good healthy  dose of nostalgia.

There were a few photographs of me as a child, when I lived in Cyprus.... there were never many, because people did not take photographs in the way they do nowadays. Was it because we were busy enjoying ourselves or was it because many people couldn't afford a camera.  Probably the latter, which seems incredible by today's standards. Having said that, Ivy and Gramps did own a  Brownie Box camera, so the few photographs of me are thanks to my lovely grandparents.

Whilst looking through the albums we came across  our very first Bryson family album.  There were photographs of Natasha as a baby and then as a toddler.... my word how the years have flown by.

.... and how young did George and I look.

There were photographs of Natasha in the pram, out of the pram, in the bath, wrapped in a towel, being cuddled, being fed.... actually being thoroughly loved.

.... and this tiny little baby grew up to be the beautiful woman she is today.

As a woman and a mother, I felt it was very important to encourage Natasha and Danielle to embrace what the world had to offer, that if they were brave enough, the world was their oyster. They were free to explore the world in a way that was not available to previous generations of women.

.... and explore they did.  They have experienced so much in their lives.

....and now it is my turn to learn from their experiences.  Nowadays life moves at such a rapid pace, that at times it is hard to keep up with this ever changing world. If I am unsure of anything, I speak to my daughters, because I know I will receive an honest answer.... maybe not always the answer I was looking for, nevertheless, it will always be the right answer.

For instance, today,

we are making Breakfast Chia pots.  I have seen the name, Chia, floating around the Internet, for quite sometime, but to be honest I have not really taken any notice. I mentioned to Natasha that I thought they were another fad and that they would be out of fashion at some point in the future.

.... How wrong was I, because when  Natasha came home at Christmas time she introduced me to the world of Chia seeds. A seed I have never used before.

I must confess, that for a while now, I have wanted to eat a healthier diet.  That is not to say that my diet was unhealthy, because it included a lot of fruit, vegetables, olive oil, nuts, grains and seeds, but it also included cake and if you have been reading Ivy, Phyllis and Me! for a while, then you know I also  have a deep affection for chocolate.... is the phrase 'a deep affection' too extreme.... no I don't think so.  If chocolate is not in the house, I don't bother, but if it is in the house, I cannot leave it alone. I swear I can hear it calling me to visit the cupboard where it is hiding.... It calls, 'Daphne I'm here, come and find me, you know you want to eat me,' which I invariably do.

I also wanted a breakfast which would take me through the morning without feeling peckish.  In the winter I do eat porridge, but I fancied something a little different.

So Natasha came to the rescue, she brought me 4 small Ball jars, I think my American friends call them canning jars.  We bought the seeds and she gave me a brief outline as to what I needed to do.... but do you know, we never got around to making Chia pots whilst she was here, as we were too busy going here, there and everywhere.

So last week I decided to find the notes I had written, which took some time to find as they were written on a scrap of paper and tucked inside a book. I then read the instructions on the packet of Chia seeds and I haven't looked back.

So it's on with the pinnie and time to organise my ingredients.



4 dessert spoons of Chia seeds ~ preferably organic
300ml unsweetened almond milk
handful of mixed berries (I use frozen)
2 tablespoons of Greek Yoghurt
4 teaspoons of Maple Syrup
4 walnuts ~ crushed



The pots are made in 2 parts. 


Divide the Chia seeds between the 2 jars.
Pour 150ml of almond milk into each jar
and stir.

Place the frozen berries on top.

Pop the lid on the jars and place in the fridge over night.


Remove the lids from the jars and stir the Chia seeds and fruit.  You will notice the fruit has defrosted. If you feel the Chia seeds need a little more almond milk, then add now and stir again.

Add the Greek yoghurt

Pour over the maple syrup

Sprinkle the crushed walnuts on top,


all there is left to do



Interestingly, since we have been eating these Chia pots for breakfast, both George and I, feel we have so much more energy.  I had thought this, but I did not say anything to George, I thought it might be my imagination, although the information does state that these little seeds are energy boosting, but then George mentioned, and to use his words, 'he was feeling full of beans', so we have decided to stay with the Chia pots and have them for breakfast everyday.

I have also added Chia seeds to smoothies and yoghurt and I am going to do a little research to find out their other uses.

You can also change the fruit, I have added banana and mango, really any fruit that appeals. I do buy a lot of frozen fruit, because there is nothing worse than finding the blueberries in the fridge, which have turned mouldy.... and I find this happens quite often, they don't seem to keep as long as they used to.

Just an added tip. Sometimes I find that I need to add a little more milk to the Chia pots in the morning, I cannot explain why, but they are very absorbent little seeds.

Now looking at the seeds, you might be thinking that they are not very appealing, I think the best way I can describe them is, they look a little like sago pudding which we all used to have for school dinners, but without the taste, as I cannot detect a flavour when I eat them.  So please do not let the 'sago' reference put you off, because I know many people hated sago.... although I think I am in the minority, when I say I use to love school milk puddings.

Just a thought,

If you don't own any Ball jars, don't worry, any small jar will work, although I use Bonne Mammon jars for George, because he has a heartier appetite.  It might seem strange to my British friends to eat out of a jar, but what I have discovered is these little pots hold just the right amount of breakfast for me.

So go on, try these healthy little Chia seeds and let me know if your energy levels rise.

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

As Always.

Thursday, 8 March 2018


Good Morning to you,

This week we celebrate British Pie Week, so I could not let today go by without sharing a pie recipe with you.

.... and when it comes to pie, George is a connoisseur.... as he loves a good pie, especially a savoury pie.

I have mentioned before, that George comes from very humble beginnings. During the 1950's, when George was a little boy, there was not a lot of money around in the north east of England, so Bob, George's father, who was also the chief cook for the family, had to find ingenious ways to feed his growing children.... and pie was the perfect thing, simply because a little went a long way.

Meat and potato pie was a favourite.  A few potatoes would be cooked in a pan, then sliced. A very small amount of meat,  would be added to a sliced onion.... if it was available. Water would then be added and the meat would gently cook. When the meat was cooked, it would be seasoned with a little salt and white pepper. Finally  an Oxo cube (beef extract) would be added to enrich the flavour. The sliced potatoes would then be added to bulk out the meat.

The pastry would be made with lard and certainly not butter, then rolled out. Half the pastry would be placed onto a plate, the cooked meat and potato would be piled on top of the pastry. The pastry lid would then be placed on top of the meat and potato. Using a knife Bob would make two slits in the pastry to allow the steam to escape.  Depending on whether there was any milk left over, this would be sparingly brushed over the pastry, if not, the pie baked just as it was. During those days, people could not afford to use a whole egg to egg wash pastry, it would have been deemed as too wasteful. Far better to fill the stomach by eating the egg.

The pie would then be placed in the oven to cook and George said, they all loved the smell of pie, baking in the oven.

Now I don't mean for this to sound Dickensian, but George's childhood was not easy, it is fair to say it was very harsh.  He wore wellington boots to school, even in the summer time and he remembers having red welts around his legs, where the wellington boots rubbed. When the soles of his wellington boots wore out, his granddad would cut out cardboard and place the cardboard inside his wellington boots, to help keep his feet dry.  Nine times out of ten, he did not wear socks, because the money was simply not available to buy them.  In the winter time he often wore shorts to school, because his parents could not afford long trousers for him .... and this, in the bitterly cold north east winters. So as you can see, his childhood, was not an easy one.

The interesting thing is, George never complains about his childhood, as he has often told me, when he was living the life, he never felt that anything was wrong. He didn't feel the odd one out, because everyone in his neighbourhood lived the same way.  There was the odd family who appeared to have a little more, but certainly not very much more. No one had a car and no one had money to spare, everyone was in the same boat.

It was only when he left home and made a different life for himself, that he realised how harsh his young life had been, but as he always says, 'It was, what it was' so why complain.  It wasn't his parents fault, they did the best they could for their children, but if money was not available, it was not available and you had to cope the best way you could.

George could so easily have carried a chip on his shoulder and blamed his childhood for anything that went wrong in his adult life, but in 47 years of marriage, he has never once complained.  If anything he talks lovingly about his childhood, about the love he received and the fun he had playing with his brothers. He certainly is a 'glass half full' kind of man and that is something we both have in common.

So when I mentioned to George that it was British Pie Week, well, that made him very happy and he started talking about the pies his dad cooked.

My heart did sink a little, as I hoped he wasn't expecting a meat and potato pie. The reason is we are eating much more plant based food and I didn't want to break our routine. Having said that, of course I would have made him his favourite pie if he had asked.

.... but when I explained what would be in the pie, well, he was not disappointed he appeared to be very happy. I feel sure it was the word 'pie' that made him happy.

I don't know about you, but I do buy a lot of vegetables, so it was very easy for me to find the right combination.

So without further ado, it's on with the pinnie and time to organise my ingredients.


50g butter
3 tablespoons of olive oil
3 large carrots ~ chopped into small pieces
2 large leeks ~ trimmed and sliced
1 large sweet pepper ~ deseeded and sliced
1 red onion ~ sliced
1 level tablespoon of paprika
125 ml water
560g tinned potatoes ~ cut into chunks
250g tub mascarpone cheese
2 cloves of garlic ~ crushed
1/2 medium sized savoy cabbage ~ sliced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


4-5 sheets of filo pastry
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of sesame seeds


1 medium sized enamel dish or casserole dish

Oven temperature: Pre-heat the oven to 180C


1.  Melt 25g of butter with 2 tablespoons of olive oil
in a large wide pan.

2.   Add the leeks, red onion, carrots and sweet pepper and cook for 10 minutes. 

3.   Add the paprika and stir ingredients.

4.   Add the water, bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cook for 10 minutes or until the carrots are tender.

5.   Add the sliced potatoes and stir the ingredients together. Remove the pan from the heat.

6.   Add the mascarpone and stir well, the heat from the vegetables will turn the mascarpone into a sauce.

7.  In a separate frying pan melt 25g of butter with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

8.   Add the garlic and cook for a minute.

9.   Add the savoy cabbage and cook for 3-4 minutes.
Make sure you do not overcook the cabbage.

10.   Remove from the heat.

11.  Add the savoy cabbage to the first pan and again, stir the ingredients together.

As you can see the savoy cabbage is still quite crisp.

12.  Season with salt and pepper.

13.  Spoon the mixture into an enamel dish or a casserole dish.

14.    Cut each sheet of filo pastry into quarters and scrunch them in your hands.

and place each one over the vegetables. I am hoping you can see what I mean by scrunching, when you look at the photograph. 

Do not worry if you need more filo pastry, this is not an exact science. You just need to ensure that the vegetables are covered with the filo pastry.

15.  Randomly brush the filo pastry with the remaining olive oil.

15. Finally sprinkle with sesame seeds.

16.  Place in a pre-heated 180C oven and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the filo pastry turns brown.  

You will need to keep a watchful eye, because the filo pastry can turn brown very quickly.

Then all you need to do, is to spoon yourself a healthy amount of vegetable filo pie



I think with this vegetable pie, you will certainly be on the road to eating your 5 a day.

A couple of things I wanted to mention.  Firstly, you really do not have to use tinned potatoes.  I tend to have tinned potatoes in my store cupboard, which cost only 15p from Lidl supermarket,   I use them for this pie and also if I want to bulk up a soup.  

Secondly, I do change the vegetables to whatever I have available. So if you do not have 3 carrots, then use 2 and add another vegetable. This type of pie does not need exact amounts.

Oh yes and before I leave you, I was respectful, I asked George if I could mention his childhood to you and he said he really didn't mind, because there was nothing to be ashamed of.  During the 1950s many families struggled to make ends meet. 

As George says, 'It was, what it was'.

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

As Always,

Thursday, 1 March 2018


Good Morning to you,

I am so sorry that I did not write to you last week, but I had a really busy week. 

There are occasions when my life catches up with me and I have to focus on my home life and last week was one of those weeks. 

.... but this week, oh my goodness, what a week we've had here in Northumberland, as the weather has been, and continues to be, bitterly cold. There has been a huge amount of snow fall, with blizzards appearing  from no where.  One minute all is calm and the next, the wind is blowing a hooley and whipping the snow into a frenzy, which makes it difficult to see my hand in front of my face.

I have seen so many beautiful photographs on blogs and Instagram of snow laden trees and stunning views of gardens, covered with snow, which I have loved seeing.... but there is another side to this beauty which we need to be aware of.

.... and that is, when we have this extreme weather, the elderly find it very difficult to cope.  They cannot get out and about as they usually do.

So George and I try to do a little bit to help our friends. 

Each day, we go out for our walk, but before we leave,  we always check with our elderly friends to see if they are alright and if there is anything they need from the shops. Normally it is basics like bread, butter and milk, but if this cold weather continues, which I believe it is going to, I feel sure there will be a lot more groceries added to our list. 

So today, once I had made sure that bread and milk was all that our friends needed, we began our walk. 

We were half way along the avenue, when we saw an elderly lady, trying to clear snow from her drive way.  So we stopped to talk to her. We did not want to jump in and assume she wanted our help, as you have to be respectful of a persons feelings.  We both could see that she was very tired, so we decided to offer our help. At first, she declined and said she was fine, that she could cope, but once we asked if she was sure, that we really didn't mind helping, the relief was clearly written on her face. So whilst I spoke to her, George cleared the snow.

I know I have mentioned this a few times before, but I feel it is worth mentioning again, because I truly believe, that when we take the time to stop and talk to someone, we can make such a difference to their day.  For instance, this lady's husband was recently diagnosed with dementia and the change to her life was proving very difficult.  We talked for a little longer, then I finally said, she really must go indoors, because the wind was getting up and it was bitterly cold. I think she just wanted someone to talk to, even if it meant standing outside in the cold. We mentioned that if there was anything she needed, to let us know, but to be honest, I don't think she will.  So George and I have decided that every other day, when we go out for our walk, we will knock on her door and see if there is anything we can do to help. She might refuse help the first few times, but I am hoping, eventually she will accept our offer.

It is just a small thing for us to do, but it will make such a difference to her.

.... and talking of small things,

In December, I planted an Amaryllis bulb.  It may surprise you to learn, that even though I am a keen gardener the Amaryllis bulb was not on my radar, that is, until I saw the impressive flowers which my sister in law, Gloria, had grown.  

.... and look at the result. From one bulb, I was treated to these 3 vibrant flowers.  I am over the moon. 

.... and another bit of colour.  On these cold days, this little primula is such a welcome sight.  If you have been reading my blog for a while, then you know George is not a fan of Valentine's Day, he feels it is too commercial and he does not like to feel pressured into buying me a gift. Instead, he prefers to buy me flowers as a surprise.... and one such surprise was this gorgeous little primula.

I planted it in this little tea cup and placed it on my windowsill, where it is living quite happily until spring time when I can plant it in my garden.

Before the cold snap arrived, we visited our local garden centre.  I had not intended buying anything, I really was looking at plants to buy in spring time.... but then this beautiful Camellia caught my eye.... and I  snapped it up.    The only problem is, it is far too early to plant out and this was before the cold weather hit, so it is sitting quite happily in my conservatory, until such time as it can be planted in the garden.

Have you ever done this?  Bought bulbs to plant in the garden, thought that every bulb had been planted, only to discover that a few had escaped your attention.

.... well this is what happened to me.  I had planted 2 pots of French garlic before Christmas and I thought that was the job done, that is, until George discovered this bulb in the garden shed, somehow or other I had missed it.  

So what to do? 

Do I leave it, or do I plant it?

Well I decided, to plant the cloves, keeping my fingers crossed that they grow into bulbs. 

You never know, I might succeed.

.... and before I leave you, would you like to see what I look like after I have finished one of my morning walks?

Yes that's me, I look like Nanook of the North, or as George calls me, Daphne of the North.

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

As Always,

Thursday, 15 February 2018


Good Morning to you,

If I were to ask you, to think of one daily or weekly domestic task, which your grandmother did, but which is not relevant today.

What would your answer be?

For instance, I asked George this same question and he said, 'Collecting coal from the coal house'. Something his grandfather did on a daily basis during the winter time, but a job George hasn't done since we first married.... yes, we did have a coal house and yes, that is how long it has been since we had an open fire. 

George then mentioned that with the introduction of casual shoes, the polishing of shoes had changed. That is to say, the products we use are different nowadays.... which led me to thinking about my Gramps. 

I remember every time we visited Gramps and Ivy, one of Gramp's evening rituals, would be to collect everyone's shoes, even my mother and father's. The shoes would be carried into the back parlour, where newspaper would be laid out on the floor. His brushes and shoe polish would be lined up ready and waiting to perform their work.  One brush would be used to put the polish onto the shoes and the second brush would be used to remove the polish from the shoes.  The final job would be to use his duster to buff up the shine on the shoes.  Now I am not saying that my father did not shine our shoes, but I don't remember shiny shoes like the ones Gramps returned to us each morning. I remember mine were red and how they shined when Gramps had worked his magic.

So back to the question. My answer would be, darning holes in socks.

I cannot remember the last time I darned a hole in a sock. In actual fact, it was so long ago that I cannot even pinpoint the exact time.

I remember being taught, firstly by Ivy, who always darned Gramp's socks. She had a basket which seemed to be overflowing with socks which needed darning.  With hindsight they were probably kept in pairs, so she knew which socks went together. I am sure I have a 1940s pattern tucked away somewhere showing how to knit the socks Gramps wore. Ivy knitted socks because Gramps needed hard wearing socks for work.

I know there are many women who still knit socks, and I can think of one lady in particular, but on the whole, I think it is fair to say, nowadays socks are knitted  for pleasure and not necessity. 

It was also one of the things we were taught to do at school during Domestic Science classes.  Along with how to starch a tablecloth and many other domestic duties, which are no longer relevant to today's way of living.

The reason I ask the question, and the reason for my answer is, I discovered my Grandmother Ivy's darning mushroom in one of my unpacked boxes. The darning mushroom is wooden and is quite lovely. The handle has worn smooth due to so much use.

.... so why do I keep these little treasures which are of no use today?

Simply to keep Ivy's memory alive. 

Time slips by, and with each passing year, I have discovered the memories have started to gently fade. I want to stop this happening, I want to hold on to the memories, as tightly as Ivy held my hand, when I was a little girl.  It is many years since Ivy passed away, but I want her memory to burn brightly in my mind. By keeping items which she used, I know her memory will not fade and she will continue to remain in my heart.

.... and someone else who is in my heart, is my lovely daughter Natasha.

.... and she has made a request,

and asked me if I would share my recipe for Sweet Potato Shepherds Pie here on Ivy, Phyllis and Me!

Which of course I am thrilled to do.

I tend to be the type of cook, who, if I do not have the exact ingredients for a recipe, I will look in my store cupboard and see what I can use as an alternative. 

I created this recipe when the Christmas festivities were over.  It was just before New Year's Eve when I had intended to make my Lentil Shepherd's Pie for supper, but I had ran out of a few of the ingredients. I checked to see what vegetables I had to replace the carrot and mushrooms and found an aubergine and red sweet pepper, so I adapted the recipe. 

.... and it was such a hit with everyone, that Natasha wants to replicate the recipe.

So it's on with the pinnie and time to organise the ingredients.



500g or 1 large sweet potato ~ peeled and cut into equal chunks
500g white potatoes ~ peeled and cut into equal chunks
a knob of butter


1 large aubergine ~ topped and tailed then cubed
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 red onions ~ finely chopped
1 large red sweet pepper, deseeded, cut into cubes
2 cloves of garlic, crushed with salt
60 ml red wine (optional)
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
1 400g tin of tomatoes ~ chopped
1 teaspoon of brown sugar
1/2 pint vegetable stock
1 level teaspoon of salt
400g tin of green lentils

Pre-heat the oven to 180C or 160C Fan oven



  Place the sweet potato and potato into a pan of boiling, salted water and cook until tender.

   When tender, strain the water and mash the potato with a knob of butter.

   Replace the lid on the saucepan and set aside until needed.


   Place 1 tablespoon of  olive oil into a wide pan and add the onions.

   Over a moderate heat, cook until the onions are golden brown.

   Whilst the onions are cooking, place 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a separate pan and add the aubergines. Cook until they are starting to brown.

  Add the peppers to the pan and cook for 10 minutes.  You will find the aubergines will continue to brown.

 Add the peppers and aubergines to the cooked onions and stir.

   Add the crushed garlic and cook for a minute.

   Add the oregano, tomato paste to the pan and stir for a further minute.

   Add the wine and turn up the heat to allow the alcohol to evaporate. This will take a couple of minutes.

   Reduce the heat to medium and add the chopped tomatoes. Stir the ingredients together.

   Add the brown sugar to the pan and stir.

  Add the vegetable stock and simmer for 10 minutes. If you find the mixture is becoming too thick, add a cup of water to loosen the mixture.

  Drain the tin of green lentils and rinse under cold running water.

   Add to the pan and simmer for a further 10 minutes.  Again you might find the liquid has reduced too much.  If needs be, add a little more water, but not too much as you do not want the mixture to be too loose.  You want the mashed potato to sit perfectly on top of the vegetables.

   Taste and season as necessary.  I find there is enough salt added when crushing the garlic with salt.

   Place the lentil mixture into a relatively deep pie dish, or as I have done, divide the mixture to make 2 individual portions and 4 larger portions.

  Place the mashed sweet potato/white potato on top.  I find spooning the potato around the edges first, then filling in the centre guarantees that I have an even spread of potato.

  Place in the pre-heated over for 45 minutes until the topping is nice and crispy.

Then all there is left to do,

This is a really healthy supper and you will be surprised to learn, very filling.

I wanted to mention not to worry about the red wine, if you have it, use it, if not, that is fine. Although I do find the red wine adds a nice depth of flavour to the shepherd's pie.

If you prefer to use dried green or brown lentils, then you will need about 40 minutes of cooking time.  When I use dried lentils I put them in a pan to cook first, then I start to peel the potatoes.

I always have tinned lentils in my store cupboard.  I appreciate they are more expensive, but often you can find them on offer and they are perfect for those times when you really need to get a meal on the table quickly.

.... and Natasha.... I hope you enjoyed this Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie.

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

As Always,

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