Friday, 31 October 2014

Wonderful Witley at Halloween

It's a Friday and it's Halloween, what to do?

Visit a burnt out 19th century John Nash (designer of Buckingham Palace) designed haunted palace, that's what!

Poor Witley Court is a mere ghost of its former self.  Burnt out in 1937 and stripped of all its metalwork (the stunning ironwork gates now reside in the USA at Lake Havasu City in Arizona), it stands forlorn in beautiful Worcestershire countryside. 
 I'm afraid this post is rather photo heavy, Witley is huge and very sprawling, and despite being in ruins there is probably more to see than a lot of places we have visited
The beautiful Perseus and Andromeda fountain is now fully restored and fires on the hour.  Each display lasts 15 minutes and the main fountain is 120 feet, the second highest in England behind Stanway House 
 There is still so much detail left in the stonework
 This wing is allegedly haunted
 Another fountain, as if one is not enough!
 The back of the house, and the largest Portico on a country house in England
 The dormant fountain

The orangery on the left, larger than most executive houses, connected to the main house by a glorious sweep of stone facade
 Close up of the portico

One half of the orangery, complete with ancient grape vines                                                       

View of the fountain from the orangery

 Intricate plasterwork still survives in what would have been the grand staircase

 I'm wearing Moto jeans £1, Timberland boots ebay £12 (including postage), leather bag £1, silk scarf probably 50p or a pound, all second hand and my free jacket from earlier in the year.

Finally, Autumn arrives in England and the leaves are all changing colour

Well, we didn't see any ghosts thank goodness, but Witley is capable of sending shivers down the spine even in broad daylight!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

October overspend - monthly charity shop bargain round-up

Oops, that's all I can say this month.

I started out with good intentions, not to go mad, to resist and be good.  Nah, that soon went by the by when I saw these comfy little trainer alternative shoes in my local Cancer Research shop.  Brand new Kangeroos, they had only just been put out on the shelf.  So I bought them.  For £6.50, crikey, that's more than I spent for the whole of September!

Worth it though.

Again I managed to resist random purchases for a fortnight, even leaving two vintage capes on the rail in one reasonably priced shop.  They were £5.99 each if you were wondering!

Until mid month.  I happened to mention to him indoors that I'd seen a certain national team's rugby top in his size in a local shop for just £3.  He insisted I go back and get it for him.  So I did, and I found these for me!

The pretty fitted shirt with 3/4 sleeve cuff detail is M&S.  It looks unworn and was just a pound.  The denim pinafore was £2.49 and, unbelievably, is from Primark.  I was shocked.  I have a golden rule when charity shopping, steer clear of cheap brands.  This is a cheap brand but really well made.  It will look great with a jumper underneath and some woolly tights and long boots.

On a buying roll now, I picked up this t shirt at the shop I help out in, I always buy t shirts as I wear them under everything.  It was going in the 50p basket out the front and had a nasty blue mark across one shoulder.  I'm not a huge fan of pink but for 50p I wasn't going to pass up a good t shirt.  Never heard of the brand but a quick google showed me these retail at £24.50.  A quick wash soon sorted the blue mark out and now it's as good as new.


I then went on to find another M&S shirt on a pound rail.  This pound rail has recently appeared in one of my local shops, and I am thrilled!

Last week I managed to find a huge cat carrier basket for a fiver, ideal for transporting the chickens when we move, and just the other day I scored two long sleeved tops for him indoors, just a pound each!

As we are off out for the day tomorrow (to somewhere spooky!) I will not be making any further charity shop purchases this month.  Total charity shop spend for October is £21.50, oops!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Pumpkins and winter togs at Hanbury Hall

Well, it has suddenly descended into Winter, hasn't it?  Clocks going back, misty mornings and crunchy leaves underfoot, it's all so seasonal all of a sudden, I do like it!

Him indoors has been working too hard these past few weeks, so we decided to take a break and headed off to Hanbury Hall for tea and cake and a mooch around.  Last year we found a wonderful display of pumpkins and gourds there and we weren't disappointed this time.

It was also time to venture out and about in new (to me) winter clothing.  I love my new Boden jumper and Next denim skirt!  Both were a pound.  I'm so glad to find an alternative to jeans, I'm really trying to get away from wearing them all the time.  Him indoors is modelling his new (shop bought) jumper, say no more!

The pumpkins were indeed impressive, not so my pumpkin face!

Typically, Hanbury has wonderful formal gardens, with linear planting and sculpted plants, imported foliage and interesting seating!  Oh, and some rather lovely terracotta pots in the Orangery.

The grounds are filled with huge oak trees, all now shedding their leaves for the winter.  We found these pretty little bantams in the vegetable gardens, they made such a sweet little noise when spoken to!  The Blenheim Orange apples were being stored in the dark mushroom house.  We knew the place was full of apples as soon as we opened the door, the scent was divine!  The planters formed a sort of guard in front of the Orangery, and the paintwork was a theme throughout the garden furniture as you can see.

Hanbury appears to have been built at the turn of the 18th century, in 1701.  There is dispute about the date, which appears above the front door, as it is thought to be a Victorian embellishment.  Looks all very pretty to me though, and I hanker after grand wrought iron gates!

The interiors are sumptuous, with high ceilings and grand paintings, antiques everywhere and chandeliers hanging from every ceiling.  As you can probably see, some of the furnishings are a little threadbare but it all adds to the charm of the place.  The deer head stares down from a wall in the cafe, which used to be part of the staff quarters.

I do love the old staff sign, hanging in the cafe

Aside from the fact that we were disappointed at the lack of lovely Hanbury honey cake in the cafe, we had a lovely relaxing wander around Hanbury, and will be back again soon.

(Please excuse the bad spacing and formatting, not sure what is happening to Blogger but it won't let me space things correctly, gah!)

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Flapjack and hob nobs

Now that the girls have, it appears, stopped laying for the winter, I'm being really thrifty with the last few eggs, all from Lola (a bantam Araucana who should lay blue eggs but doesn't!), the little trouper.  I'm saving them for the weekend* and will make a pear pudding with my home grown pears. 

So a dilemma, him indoors was in need of something to take to work to fill his belly and increase his energy levels, I decided on flapjack.  I came across this hob nob recipe on a chicken forum ages ago and have been using it ever since for both biscuits and flapjack. It really does work both ways! 

You will need:

2 tablespoons golden syrup
175g oats
175g brown sugar
175g butter (or baking fat)
175g self raising flour


Melt butter and golden syrup and add flour, oats and sugar.  For flapjack, spread the mixture into a greased or lined 11 x 8 tin and bake for 35 to 40 minutes at 160c.  For hob nob biscuits, roll mixture into balls and place onto greased or lined baking trays and bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 160c.


*Just a few things about eggs.  You don't need to keep them in a fridge unless you have hard boiled them, then you should keep them in the fridge!   Egg shells are porous and will absorb fridge smells.  Eggs will keep for up to 3 to 4 weeks from day of lay.  Older eggs are better for baking as the white gets more watery with age, which makes mixing easier.   I happily keep eggs on the counter in my warm kitchen all year round and have never had one go off yet!  Never wash eggs unless you are going to use them straight away because of the porous shells, and to wash always use a slightly damp cloth and luke warm water (no soap) from the tap.  

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Bunches and pairs

I'm not one to babble on about the inane goings on in my life, I'm sure you'd all rather not know and prefer to see photos of charity shop bargains!  However, as I'm under self imposed charity shop thriftyness at the mo (more bargains at the end of the month though, didn't say I was buying nothing!) thought I'd share some other stuff.

As you know, (I may have mentioned!) I'm in the process of moving house.  This is the first time I've ever sold a house, so it's all new to me.  It appears to be incomprehensibly difficult, with twists and turns, forms to fill in, certificates to supply and regulations to adhere to.  I feel I now know more than is necessary for any lay person to know, nay, is healthy for any lay-person to know, about FENSA, 17th edition electrical regs, building regs and planning.  And lets not go near boundary issues, permitted development (including the new neighbourhood consultation scheme) and tree preservation orders. 

See?  Told you I knew too much, my head is buzzing!   

It's a nightmare!

Anyway, I digress, it has just stopped raining and is a little warmer here, so I ventured into the quagmire that was a garden.  If you are in the UK you will know that winter arrived with a bang not so long ago and it has been raining like it's monsoon season.

The chickens are moulting and one in particular is a dreadful, oven-ready sight.  She has one tail feather left, sticking right up like a feather on a squaw's headband.  She has a bare bum and longer legs now that her feathery plus fours are gone.  I've picked her up and she feels like a hedgehog, with all the new feathers just coming through.  No, I won't do her the indignity of taking her photo!

I've been feeding the chickens Cabernet Sauvignon grapes off the vine.  As per usual, the weather has changed before they are ready, and as per usual there's not enough of them to get any perceivable amount of grape juice.  Added to that, this year they have maggots in.  So the chickens get one of their five-a-day and a bit of protein to help with feather regrowth, bonus!

The small pear tree, which usually drops most, if not all of it's fruit in June, has managed to grow two large pears to maturity.  I want to bite into them, I'm just not too sure now I've seen the maggots in the grapes! 

I feel the need for a visit to a nice big National Trust property, but we just don't have time at present. Him indoors is swamped with new students and never wants to turn folk away.  I'm sure business will calm down in the new year, but when you are self employed you have to take the opportunity when it arises, you never know when lean times are ahead!

So there you are, my October so far!

For those of you on Facebook, there's a sneaky peek at my latest charity shop purchase on my blog page, see the Facebook button to the right of this post.