The Secret to Successfully Growing Supermarket Basil

Ok, so the warm weather arrived this week and if you’re anything like me, you had a vision of mediterranean salads with fresh herbs and large dollops of cool mozzarella. In the excitement, you may have bought fresh pots of herbs from the supermarket to line your kitchen windowsill and stood back to bask in the loveliness.

“Look at this, this is the good life,” you may have thought to yourself.

…and then a week later, the herbs look a little worse-for-wear despite your best attempts at caring for them. Then the realisation sinks in and you remember why you only bought them once last year too.

However, this can change! You can have the dream of fresh herbs in your kitchen to pick at will and add to your spaghetti bolognese or to garnish your soups with flair.

supermarket basil repotted in dip dye pot

The first thing to do when you get home with your new herbs is to repot them straight away. Choose a pot that is at least 3cm bigger in diameter. Fill it with lovely, nutritious compost before taking your herb plant out of the supermarket pot and re-potting it into your chosen vessel. I like to choose really pretty ceramic pots for this purpose, either ones that I have bought or those that I have painted myself. The picture above shows my newest basil plant in a plain terracotta pot that I painted in two colours to give a dip-dye effect. More pictures and a very simple DIY post can be found here.

Give your newly planted herbs a good watering before placing them in your chosen location. They seem to do well near a window with good, but not harsh, light.

repotted supermarket basil

In order to keep your herbs in tip-top condition, continue to pick leaves off to encourage new growth (although take care not to reduce your plant to mere stalks – it needs leaves to survive)! You could also consider giving the plants the occasional feed with a liquid fertiliser such as this one (affiliate link).

In these new conditions and if repotted when they have noticeably outgrown their original pot, the herbs should last a long time. In the case of basil, the green spindly stems will start to get woody and hard (a healthy sign) and you will have a constant supply throughout the summer season.

Hurrah that we can enjoy the good life!

Have a great day x

Happy Easter!

 

Easter sparrow

… lone sparrow …

A huge and chocolate-filled Happy Easter to you! I hope you have a wonderful weekend, whatever you’re up to. For us, it’s a great opportunity to mend the roof (yes, really) and start on a new garden project.  Fingers crossed that the weather will be a little calmer than it has been over the last few days.

The Dorset’s Delicious Bits series will be back next weekend and there are also a couple of very exciting things in the pipeline, which include a new series of posts, some wonderful collaborations and a wild-card surprise!! Are you intrigued??!!

So, for the mean time, here are some photos of Easter at The Dorset Finca.

Pair of sparrows

… oh wait, here’s his lady-friend …

Lambs

… the lambs and their mummy-sheep in the field behind the Finca …

Here’s to a fantastic spring!  Have a wonderful day x

 

Easy Easter DIY | Pom Pom Willow

Pom pom willow

I’ll tell you how this post came about, as it wasn’t planned at all… but I’m so pleased that it materialised in my head because it has really given the Finca a much-needed Eastery lift!

I had planned to take photos of the beautiful willow with its fluffy catkins and talk about how incredible that a 3-year old tree that was a mere twig when I planted it, could now look so robust and happy and have its own catkins. So I was standing there, admiring the beautiful, long, whippy branches with their fuzzy, almost chick-like flowers and wished that I could cut some branches and bring them inside. I often see florists, at this time of year, selling stunning branches of willow for people to take into their homes. However brilliantly my hedge willows have done, they are not at the stage where I can hack swathes of branches off them without returning them to their original twiggy state.

“I know,” I thought. “I’ll make some instead.”

…and that’s where we find ourselves.

So if you fancy a bit of cheap, easy fun, just in time for Easter – give this a try. Here’s how…

(I’ll provide links to all the bits that you may need at the end of the post).

rooster ceramic jug

Firstly, find yourself a nice jug or container. It doesn’t have to be ceramic and it doesn’t have to be patterned, but it just so happened that I was given this rooster jug by a lovely friend and it seemed to fit the Easter theme perfectly! You also need to source some long twigs – I used Cornus, or dogwood twigs as they have fun, twisty shapes.

pom pom on gold sprayed twigs

If you want to give your branches a face-lift you can try spraying them, like I did, with some metallic gold spray. It’s best done outside and not on a windy day, if you don’t feel like adding a new dimension to your shoes or trousers (not that this happened to me… of course not…). As it was a cold, damp (and yes, windy) day they needed a good 24-hours to dry.

pom moms attached with hot glue gun

Using the smallest of my trusty pompom makers, I quickly made twelve mini pompoms in four colours. I chose pastel yarn colours to stay with my Easter theme. I also decided to give my pompoms quite a radical trim with the scissors, so that they were small and compact, as I wanted to make sure that my branches would hold them without bending.

Using a hot glue gun, I attached my pompoms to the twigs at various points. Some twigs held one or two, while the branchier ones looked good with three.

Et voila!

Materials:

Gold spray, Clover pompom maker and hot glue gun (affiliate links).

Have a great day x

Dorset’s Delicious Bits | Fiddleford Manor

Fiddleford Manor

… a section of the original manor house …

Our discovery of Fiddleford Manor was a complete, unexpected pleasure! How did I never know of its existence? I have probably driven past its little, lane entrance about a squillion times and never investigated further.

What I loved most, at first sight, was the massive, free car park. Secondly, I loved that entrance to the house (run by English Heritage) was also totally free. Free! 

…free!

The thing about visiting new places (if you’re anything like me) is that you don’t want to stress about parking. Who wants to venture out into the unknown, only to have to –gulp- parallel park in the only space that is left, leaving you so hot, stressed and bothered that you spend most of the outing working out how to extricate yourself from said parking spot. Mr D-F doesn’t quite see my point on this one, but then, he’d park anywhere… he’s got that sort of happy-go-lucky parking ethos.

Anyway, I’ve digressed.  So after the relaxed parking bit, we walked down a lovely mown, grass track which led us to some farm gates and into the ‘garden’ part of the house. We immediately noticed the incredible detail of the roof (apparently one of the finest in Dorset).  After reading the information, we realised that this was only part of the house, as a large section to the right is no longer there. There is also a large portion of the house that is privately owned and has been carefully fenced off, so that there is no danger of you stumbling across someone happily pottering in their garden or enjoying a peaceful Sunday reading the paper.

river gates

Dorset blue skies

… Dorset blue skies …

Fiddleford Manor is right next to the river and you could clearly see – sluice gates? Are they sluice gates? It really was a beautiful situation. The skies were blue and the river was making soothing noises… I could have stayed for ages and would have loved have been able to have a picnic on the lawn (although I don’t think that it is encouraged)!

sheep with personality

… a sheep with serious ‘tude …

We walked back down the grassy path to the car but I couldn’t stop without taking a picture of this sheep… she had such attitude and personality and seemed to want to know exactly what we were about. Either that, or her tummy was rumbling and she was due some food!

I really recommend visiting Fiddleford Manor, especially if you’re local. It seemed to me, the perfect place to bring people who are staying for the weekend. It’s small (no massive house to trail around here), it’s interesting and it’s free.

For more information, have a look at the English Heritage page on the manor here.

Have a wonderful Sunday x

Four Ingredient Coconut Macaroons

coconut macaroons

… freshly baked …

It felt like a baking kind of a day yesterday and it didn’t take long for the cry of ‘ooh macaroons’ to confirm what I was to make.

I had planned to spend a morning, perusing my beautiful new recipe book The Hummingbird Bakery Home Sweet Home, over a cup of tea. I thought that it might take me a good, restful half hour to decide upon which of the delicious treats to make. However, this was not to be the case. As soon as the page turned to macaroons, all other cakes, biscuits and puddings were forgotten and mutterings of ‘I might hold my breath until you say you’ll make macaroons for me’ were heard. From my husband.

coconut macaroon recipe

… lining up the eggs …

This recipe only consisted of four ingredients: eggs, sweetened condensed milk, desiccated coconut and vanilla essence. It was quick and easy to make, but I was a little dubious about the lack of sugar and chocolate. I’m not a massive sugar fan, but I wasn’t sure where the sweetness of the macaroons was going to come from.

eggwhites

… whipping up some stiff peaks …

Despite my reservations, I didn’t deviate from the recipe. The condensed milk, coconut and vanilla were mixed up before I whipped up my egg whites and folded them in. The mixture definitely looked as I imagined it would and I spooned it out onto three baking trays. There wasn’t an indication in the book as to how many macaroons would be made from this mix but I managed to spoon out at least 20 coconut blobs.

unbaked macaroons

… pre-baked macaroons …

I was pretty impressed that after only 15-20 minutes, the macaroons came out with the perfect consistency and were crunchy with soft centres. Mr D-H obviously took it upon himself to conduct the taste test and the macaroons were given a thumbs up of approval. My thoughts were that they had a good flavour, but I would still stand by my earlier musings that they needed a little something extra, perhaps a drizzle of melted chocolate would add a bitterness to them, which I think they would benefit from.

If you fancy giving macaroons a try, you can buy the book here (affiliate link), or try these links to free recipes on the internet:

Enjoy! x

Dorset’s Delicious Bits | Early Spring Walks

anemone

 … my first anemone flower of the year …

With the clocks soon to go forward and as the days get longer, it really is making me believe that we are shaking off the winter and heading full on into spring. However, it isn’t really spring yet and I need to be careful not to get too ahead of myself. (I remember one year, in early April, deciding that as Breton striped t-shirts were everywhere in the shops, it must be spring-almost-summer. I spent a whole week without socks, walking around in short-sleeved t-shirts before admitting that it was actually about 9 degrees and I possibly had the start of flu).

So although it may be time to go out and explore the countryside, I can’t expect to see bluebells and wild garlic dotting the woodland paths just yet. That, I can save for a few weeks (try months) time.

I thought that in the interim, before the true spring loveliness is upon us, I would give you a quick summary of a few great places for a walk whatever the weather…

Badbury Rings – the Iron Age hill fort that is perfect for a walk to blow away the cobwebs.

Lulworth Cove Coastal Path to Durdle Door – if you click the link, there is some great information here from Walking Britain. Although, where they write about ‘some’ uphill walking… if you’re anything like me, you’ll need to stop regularly along the way to … look at the view and drink some tea… 

Okeford Fitzpaine and Belchalwell – this lovely feature from Dorset Magazine gives you step-by-step directions to this 3-hour walk. You’ll encounter some beautiful countryside and be able to give the dog a pretty good workout.

Cerne Abbas – a great website called ‘Walks for Softies’, lists some not-too-strenuous walks around the Giant, with accompanying historical facts. Who doesn’t love a historical fact?

If you have any other suggestions for some wonderful weekend walks… please let me know. Have a lovely weekend and don’t forget to pack lots of snacks if you’re venturing out into the Dorset wilderness! x

Update | Wild Flower Bank

newly planted primrose

… newly planted primroses on the bank …

You’ll remember from this post a few weeks back that we are in the process of creating a wild flower bank at the front of the house.  The bank already exists, just incase your mind conjures up visions of diggers and mounds of earth (in Mr D-F’s dreams). We especially wanted to consider a planting scheme that would provide interest all year round, changing with the seasons.

As we began the project in February, the first things that got transplanted to the bank were snowdrops and primroses. Although not yet making a major impact, they look very pretty dotted in amongst the mosses and have thrived in the south-facing sunshine.

Unfortunately the cowslip seeds that I planted haven’t shown any sign of germination in 3-weeks. I’m not surprised. It’s no wonder that they are on the endangered list, if they take so long to sprout… however, I’ve not given up complete hope just yet!

wild flower seedlings

… quick to germinate – wild flower seeds …

The harebell seeds have already germinated and although are very tiny, they look healthy and should enjoy a bit of growth time in the propagator.  The real stars of the show have been the wild flower mix of seeds.  These babies germinated in just under two weeks and are already looking quite mature, with leaves of all different shapes and sizes. The plan is to keep them warm in the propagator for a bit longer, probably until their first pair of proper leaves appear.  They’ll remain inside until they are big enough to stand up to the moss and grass on the bank and after the likelihood of frost has passed.

plug plants

… the cutest plug plants …

The final piece of update news, is that for my birthday, I was given some wild flower plug plants – yes indeedy! I couldn’t have been more excited and as they are pretty grown-up already, they can be transplanted straight onto the bank…

It’s all shaping up nicely! Have a great day. x

Dorset’s Delicious Bits | Kimmeridge Bay

Kimmeridge

… the tide going out at Kimmeridge Bay …

‘Where’s Kimmeridge?” Mr D-F asked a while back. I was so astonished that anyone in Dorset and the surrounding counties could possibly not be aware of the existence of this very cool spot. It was decided then that Kimmeridge would be our next mission out and luckily the weekend was supposed to be warm, sunny with highs of 14 degrees.

Right. Well that didn’t quite end up being the truth. In fact it was pretty cold and windy, but as March in the UK is never tropical, we were dressed in lots of layers and had a great time anyway.

We drove through Kimmeridge village and stopped on the other side at the little hut to pay our £5 to use the toll road and for parking. After doing a little research it seems that this part of the coast is a section that belongs to a privately owned estate.  However, as entrance to the marine centre (run by the Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve) is free, we didn’t have any hard feelings about paying.

kimmeridge waterfall

… one of the many little waterfalls …

We knew that low tide was going to be about mid day and we planned to arrive as the tide was going out. There is very little to see or do if the tide is high as almost the entire beach is covered in water and I’m glad I checked the times before we set out.

Nevertheless there was still a good half hour or so where the water was covering the best bits. To entertain ourselves we took out the trusty pocket kite.  This little chap goes with us on all of our trips and is a full-proof way to keep people entertained if there is a wait. It goes without saying that journeys to busy places like motorway service stations do not warrant the use of the kite (although with the DF family, it is always a worrying possibility)!

kite at kimmeridge

… kite flying while waiting for the tide to turn …

Once the main ledges of rocks were exposed, we set off along the beach. It was incredibly slippery. When we used to come as children, we always had a large supply of plasters with us for this outing as it was pretty likely that someone was going to take a tumble and need some knee First Aid!

The next hour or so, was spent skimming stones, inspecting rock pools and seeing what the waves had washed up (lots of seaweed and dead bits of crab mostly).  We couldn’t venture the whole way along the beach because the red flag was flying, signalling firing on the army ranges.

winkle

… winkle on the move …

 To end our morning out we went into the marine centre. It may not be the London Aquarium, but it was fantastic! They have a rock pool in the entrance with simulated wave action to keep the inhabitants happy. We spent such a long time peering over the side at the prawns and the blenny fish that would come right up to you to say hello. I loved it!

On a warm summer’s day and armed with a net, bucket and a good supply of snacks, this would be a wonderful day out and all for £5.  Bargain!

Have a lovely Sunday x

A tiny note – just to say, of course I don’t get any money for blogging about the gorgeous gems of Dorset – I do it for the love! 

At Last! A Stylish Hair Solution

mini clip

… one of the many beautiful hair clips at Stone Bridge hair accessories

I know that I don’t usually write about anything to do with hair or beauty. I think this is because I am, by no means, an expert in this field. I wanted to write this post because I had a little revelation that I wanted to share, which hopefully will help other fellow hair-strugglers. By next week, I’ll be back to talking about frog spawn or whatever else is happening at the Finca.

My hair has a complete mind of its own and my beauty regime could, at best, be regarded as umm… minimal. However, I do like to be well-presented and would happily make a bit of effort under some careful guidance.

How has this sudden epiphany occurred? I’m writing this post, as it happens, on my birthday. A time when I like to look back at the past year and shake things up a bit if they need it…

…and after seeing a friend last week with the most effortless, beautiful hair swept off her face in a chic, little plait – I have become more motivated to find a solution for my wayward tresses and not use the excuse that I’m too busy taking photos, in the garden, blogging or tackling a new project with my crochet hook. 

I turned to the lovely Melissa and Libby at Stone Bridge hair accessories.  For years, I’ve swooned over the vast array of beautiful clips, claws and hair bands on their website. My favourite go-to clips are all from them and are all still up to the job, even after 8 years of continual use.

pretty packaging

… it’s like receiving treasure in the post …

Melissa has this passion to free people from the whole ‘I can’t do anything with my hair’ mantra.  She encourages people to email, phone in and talk about their hair so that together, the best solutions and products can be found. Stone Bridge deal in luxury accessories… with materials that are carefully sourced from the best people in the business.  The online shop is stocked with a wide variety of clips, the prices of which, reflect their high quality and they pride themselves on offering something for everyone.

Liberty prints

After chatting to Melissa and Libby about my hair issues, they were eager to send me three products to try.  A barrette, claw and mini clip from a new collection, which features the most beautiful, embedded fabric from Liberty of London.  I couldn’t believe how closely they matched this print to my own style… relaxed, a bit quirky and with a garden feel – perfect!

large claw

… the large claw, which easily fits in all of my hair …

So here I am now, sitting with my hair behaving itself in its new clip and feeling extremely grown-up and effortless. It’s time to spread the joy…

If you would like a bit of advice on the sorts of accessories that would suit your hair type, follow the links to Libby’s videos. I would strongly recommend watching a few, but then getting in contact to chat specifically about your hair. Everyone is different, right?

For thick haired lovelies (I’m in this category), click here for the videos for you.

For stunners with fine hair, click here for video tips.

stone bridge hair clips

… I think the mini-clip is my favourite …

If, in the meantime, you would like to get in contact with the lovely people at Stone Bridge… You can find them at their shop, on Facebook, Twitter, on their blog or take a look at their YouTube channel.

Here’s to hair happiness!

 

Just a quick note to say that this post contains no affiliate links, so you can click away merrily without a care! x

Dorset’s Delicious Bits | Sparrow UK


fabric chicks

… the brightly coloured, enticing displays at Sparrow UK, Shaftesbury …

Last week, I stepped into the crafty world of Sparrow in Shaftesbury. It is not often that I have far too many wonderful photographs to choose from for a DDB post, as usually there are a handful that really stand out.  However, this time I had oodles of joyous pictures and the decision over which ones to include has taken me rather a long time! I hope you like the final choices…

With Mother’s Day around the corner, I tend to get lots of people asking my advice about where to go and get something small, but thoughtful.  Not only is visiting Sparrow a chance to indulge yourself with spending time in a space that oozes creativity, but it also has a wide selection of carefully chosen cards and present ideas.

Nina bracelet

When the owner, Sarah, first conceptualised the idea of the shop, she felt the importance of showcasing primarily UK items. That is definitely still her mantra and the glass cabinets, shelves and long trestle tables are stacked with UK and local made goodies. The beautiful bracelet above is one of Shaftesbury-based jeweller Nina Parker’s designs.

If you visit (I know you are very tempted now), you must make sure you go upstairs.  As you reach the top, the space opens up into the largest, light filled studio that you can imagine. It is bright and airy with a lovely view over the top of the high street. Apparently, Sarah says that she often hears people reach the top of the stairs with a large intake of breath or ‘wow’!

Sparrow shares its space with Enchanted Plants – another local business that produces the finest, organic soaps, right here on the premises. The two businesses merge together well and give you, the shopper, a lovely range of items to choose from.

green plants

The large studio space is also where Sparrow’s famous craft courses take place. Not only do you get to sit and bask in the creative atmosphere, while having tea and cake, but you can choose to learn felting, crochet, quilting and lampshade making amongst other things.  It is possible to buy gift vouchers that can be redeemed against either a course or items in the shop… a possible idea for a crafty Mother’s Day gift?

The courses that are on the horizon are:

Crochet Sock Workshop – Saturday 21st March 10am – 4pm

Lampshade Making – Saturday 11th April 10am – 12:30pm 

Needle Felting (Reindeer Workshop) – Saturday 14th November 10am – 4pm

more to see

…and of course, because you know me so well… I couldn’t leave without spending a large proportion of my time adoring Molly, the Sparrow dog-in-residence. She was so good and allowed me to take lots of photos while she posed elegantly on the counter top! Isn’t she gorgeous?

Molly dog

If you would like any further information or want to check out Sparrow’s online shop, please click here.  Sarah is always happy to help or answer any queries – I know lots of you have already chatted to her about the famous pom pom makers that I keep going on about!

Alternatively, you can find her on Facebook or Twitter.

Enjoy your day! x

 

A tiny note – just to say, of course I don’t get any money for blogging about the gorgeous gems of Dorset – I do it for the love!