Monday 28th November 2016 – Harvesting Salsify, Horseradish and Jerusalem Artichokes

It’s been a while since I’ve been on my allotment, but because it’s November there isn’t much happening. I managed to get on my plot for a couple of hours this morning, and it was great to be back there again. It’s surprising how much you miss it when you’re unable to go and visit. The allotment site is very quiet at this time of year. I saw 2 other plot holders. I did have a successful morning though, as I harvested my Salsify, which I was very pleased with. It’s only the second time I’ve ever grown it. It’s not a fussy plant, and just takes care of itself. I then dug up a load of Jerusalem Artichokes, which again have grown brilliantly this year. If you dig any up that are too small, then just pop them back in the soil again. Then finally I harvested some more of my Horseradish. What an amazing plant. The smell as soon as it comes out of the soil is wonderful. Use sparingly though as it’s very hot. Perfect for spicing up a pasta dish or those all important casseroles at this time of year.

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Savoury Pumpkin Pie

Another hearty recipe for using up your Pumpkins. This Savoury Pumpkin Pie is a Mary Berry recipe from her “Complete Cook Book”. But I’ve added a few other bits to it, to give it a Claire twist. I think there’s a newer version of this book, but the one I’ve linked to is the one I’ve got. It was first published in 1995 so I must have got it not long after Mark and I got married. Yes we’ve been married for that long!! It’s the perfect warm dinner to have when British Summer Time ends and the nights draw in much earlier. Just serve with some green vegetables and it’s perfect. Maybe a glass of white wine as well, and then snuggle up under a cozy blanket with someone you love, and watch some TV.

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Pumpkin Cupcakes

I’m discovering all sorts of wonderful recipes with Pumpkins in them. Some are sweet and some are savoury. Today I made some wonderful Pumpkin Cupcakes from a book I have called “Muffin Bible”. If you would like to give them ago please do and then let me know how you get on. There are loads of other recipes in the book as well and I’ve tried loads of them. The measurements are in cups, so make sure you have those to hand before you start, and the flour is Plain/All purpose unless otherwise stated. Happy Baking!!

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Fruit Crumbles Pies

Mark and the kids are a Comic Con all day today, so I’ve been at home on my own. I’ve had so much fun filming what I’ve baked today. I hope you try these Crumble Pies at home. Use whatever fruit you like. I work in old weights so I’ll apologies for that now. If you prefer the other new fangled way of doing things then you’ll have to figure it out. For the Pasty you’ll need: 8oz Plain Flour, 4oz Margarine, 2oz Granulated Sugar and approximately 1.5floz of cold water. For the Crumble Topping you’ll need: 10oz Plain Flour, 4 oz Margarine and 2oz Sugar (whatever you have to hand). My little pies baked at Gas mark 4 for 30 minutes, but if you’re doing a larger pie then it’ll take a little longer, but keep at the same temperature. Enjoy! Mary Berry will be very proud that I had no soggy bottom!

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Thursday 27th October 2016 – A day out with Emily and George!

It’s half term at the moment, and the kids have been doing their homework, like very good children. So today we went out for the day. We didn’t go far. But it doesn’t matter how far you go, it’s good to spend quality time with each other that matters. To be honest I didn’t want to drive far, as the previous couple of weeks I’ve driven a long way. So after consulting the National Trust handbook we decided on Clandon Park and then Hatchlands Park. They’re both very close to each other, so it was the sensible thing to do. We’ve not been to Clandon Park for a couple of year at least. The last time we visited was before the devastating fire in April 2015.

The gardens at Clandon Park are open we had a lovely look around at the Hinemihi, or Maori house, then we looked at the Grotto, but Santa wasn’t there yet. To be honest I don’t think he’d like to set up his special place there, because it’s at risk of falling flint and rubble. Still it looks beautiful from the outside.

Sorry kids, Santa's not in his grotto yet!

Sorry kids, Santa’s not in his grotto yet!

We then went to explore the little play are with the wooden balance beams in. It was very tiny and my kids are a little too big for it (it’s meant for little people, not great oafs like mine). But we all walked the balance beams, even me, and none of us fell off. We had then booked a time slot to go into a small section of the house and have a look around at the devastation the fire did and how they are rebuilding the house. You have to wear hard hats and high visibility jackets to go inside, and are only allowed into a very small part of the building on a guided tour. The tour guides showed us before and after photos and told us all about the fire. The mystery of the Stoneware duck from South Korea. How the marble has all survived and why. Apparently marble can withstand the heat from a fire as it’s created using temperatures even hotter! You can still see the amazing marble decoration on the fireplace and other figures that are still in the house. How they saved what they could, what started the fire and where it originated from. We were able to look around for 30 minutes. And as the restoration goes on, they’ll open up other parts of the house so we can see how they are getting on. I wouldn’t know where to start, but they have a magnificent team who just get on with the job. They’re hoping in about 5 or 6 years to have it complete. I hope they do.

You can still imagine the beauty of this place even in amongst all the fire damage.

You can still imagine the beauty of this place even in amongst all the fire damage.

We then walked through the Lime Walk to the church. Very noisy bells at West Clandon, I’ve rung them several times. Not bad to ring, but no sound proofing at all and you can’t hear yourself think when ringing them.  Then across the meadow to the Dutch Garden where we sat on a bench and had our lunch.

And into the Dutch Garden.

And into the Dutch Garden.

The sun was shining and it was very pleasant. Although there were masses of ladybirds about. You looked up to the sky and they were everywhere. Once we’d had lunch then we went back to the car and set off for Hatchlands. The drive from Clandon to Hatchlands only takes about 5 minutes. The most important thing to do when we arrived was to ALL have a go on the space hoppers. Yes even I had a go! I may not have got much height on my bounces, but at least I tried. We then wandered around the grounds looking at various points of interest. Some of the holly bushes were covered in red berries and others had none on them at all. I told the kids that you can tell what sort of winter you’ll have by how many berries appear over the autumn. Loads of berries then it’ll be a hard winter, no berries it’ll be warm. George got so excited at seeing the berries he is now hoping for lots of snow this winter. We’ve not had any for a couple of years, so just a sprinkle will be good. Although they would like enough to build a snowman with.

Berries ready for the birds this winter.

Berries ready for the birds this winter.

We wandered round a little more and went through the various wooded areas, we saw The Temple, The Icehouse and all sorts of other things. We then left around 3pm, and then went to see Dr Strange at the cinema. A very impressive film and thoroughly enjoyable. I’m pleased to say we saw it in 2D. There is no way I would have been able to see it in 3D, I would have felt very sick. If you do go and see it, then make sure you stay right to the very end. Like all Marvel films there is an end credits scene! Only the hard core Marvel fans know this always happens. Oh and please concentrate when you’re driving!!

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Thursday 20th October 2016 – Harvesting Pumpkins & Squashes!

Did you miss me? Sorry I’ve been away for so long. Work has been manic lately. But today I had a day off and it was dry!! So what better way to spend the day, then down on the allotment. Well I say the day, it was really only about an hour and a half. But it’s still good. My Pumpkins and various Squashes have been growing really well all by themselves. I’m sure Lottie and Dottie would be proud. Now that the leaves and the stems have all gone brown, it’s time to harvest them before the first of the frosts come soon. Once you’ve harvested them store them in a frost free place until you use them. I’ll keep mine in the greenhouse. It’s half term next week, so I’ll hopefully be able to get to the allotment and do stuff more often, but here is what I got up to today…..

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The Bestseller Experiment launches today!

Mark Stay Writes

A simple proposition: write, edit, publish and market a self-published eBook and get it up the Kindle charts… in a year. Fifty-two weeks. Yeah, a doddle…


Oh, and while you’re trying to achieve this, and on top of all the other crap you have going on in your life, you’ll also be helping run a weekly podcast where you interview folk from the industry and maybe a few authors? Maybe even a few bestselling, mega-million-household-name-type authors?


And yet, here we are… Luckily, my cohort in this exercise in insanity is the super-driven entrepreneur and life coach Mark Desvaux who could convince the most devout nun to abandon her vows and take up pole dancing (don’t worry, he only uses his powers for good, not evil).

Mark is also that wannabe writer who’s started writing a novel a few times, but has never finished one. He still has that joyous naivety…

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