Sunday, May 31, 2009


What a gorgeous weekend! I took these snaps as we drove from the Sausmarez Markets in the south of the Island to dance classes in the north of the Island on Saturday morning.

There were people everywhere; as we drove through St Peter Port and past the bus terminus I was amazed to see huge cues waiting for the next bus to arrive.

Then in the distance I saw these two beauties and all became clear.

The tourist season is upon us; there are cars with large, bright yellow 'H's everywhere you look. In Guernsey all the hire cars sport the yellow 'H' of WARNING.
This is to let locals (or those of us who are not local but now understand the Guern road rules) know to give these cars plenty of space; let them go first through the filter in turn even when it is not their 'turn', get over as far as you can as they may not know to mount the footpath to allow two cars to pass each other in the narrow roads. Basically wave them through not matter what they are doing!
Well the two boat loads of cruise passengers could not have asked for more perfect weather. The sun was shining, it was about 19*C and there was a light breeze; just fabulous.

Guernsey welcomes between 75 to 100 cruise liners per year. More cruise ships actually stop in Guernsey than any other port in the British Isles. Yeah for Guernsey, you little tourist metropolis you.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pink Saturday - Vintage Glasses

Congratulations to Beverly at How Sweet the Sound for reaching her one year anniversary for Pink Saturday. Thankyou so much for hosting Pink Saturday each week Beverly; I always enjoy looking at what pink the other participants will post.

This is my pink offering for this week; my collections of vintage frosted and gilded glassware. These are not just for display, they are used everyday by my family. We have suffered a few breakages along the way but if I am completely honest I don't mind as it gives me a chance to collect a few more :p

I like the fact these glasses aren't run of the mill. People comment on them when they are served drinks in them; whether this is just people being polite and secretly they think I am a little strange I can't say. I would prefer to be regarded as a bit of a kooky person than 'normal' any day. Happy Pink Saturday to everyone and especially you Beverly for imagining it into reality in the first place!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Traditional Guernsey Bean Jar...with an twist

Once again Foodie Friday is upon us. Thankyou to Designed by Gollum for hosting it. Please visit this site to see all the delicious dishes on offer this week.

Please allow me to introduce the Guernsey Bean Jar. I had never heard of this recipe before we moved here and actually did not try it until we had been here sixteen months. It is a Guernsey institution to say the least so I hope they won't mind too much about my few little tweaks.

These are Haricot beans. I have seen them at our local butcher for months but until I decided to cook this recipe it never dawned on me what they were for. I did think that the butcher selling beans was a little strange, but hey, it's his shop he can sell what he likes.

These are Butter beans. It is very important to soak the beans overnight or longer if possible. The first time I cooked this recipe I soaked them overnight but they did not break down as much in cooking as they should have so this time I soaked them for 24 hours. As a result of the longer soaking they turned out with a true bean jar consistency.

Traditional Guernsey Bean Jar

1 pig’s trotter or shin of beef (I used three shins of beef; the round disc Osso Buco cut of beef)
½ pound Haricot beans (I used 1 ½ cups)
½ pound Butter beans (I used 1 ½ cups)
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots (I used 4 carrots)
1 bay leaf (I used 3 bay leaves)
Salt and pepper, to taste (beans tend to need quite a bit of salt)
2 pints stock or water (I used 1 litre of chicken stock and then added enough water to fully submerge all the ingredients)

Soak the beans overnight and drain. Place the beans in a casserole along with the meat, onions and carrots. Pour over water/stock and cover. Cook in a moderate oven (gas 2-3, 300-325*F, 150-170*C) for 6 hours or until beans are tender. Top up with water/stock as required during cooking. Serve with crusty bread and Guernsey butter (of course).

I cooked this for the first time a few weeks ago and the peanut gallery complained about the lack of beef and flavour so I have made a few adjustments to try and keep everybody happy. I added extra beef and I browned it in butter and olive oil. I removed the meat from the pan and fried the onion and carrots until the onion was translucent. I then added the beans, stock, bay leaves and beef and cooked it on a very low setting on the stove top as I do not have a casserole large enough to hold all those beans. If this becomes a firm favourite I may invest in one but for the time being I will make do with cooking it in a cooking pot. About one hour before serving I take all the meat from the pot, remove the bones and any residual fat; then I shred the meat with two forks before returning it to the pot.

It has a very, very thick consistency and is definitely what you would call a hearty meal. Sorry I forgot to take a more tasty looking photo of the Bean Jar artfully displayed in a large bowl, topped with a sprinkling of parsley and crusty bread smothered in Guernsey Butter on the side. I realise this photo of Bean Jar in the pot is a little uninspired but its all I've got; it was tastier that this photo suggests!

I have tried not to alter the recipe too much as it is a very big tradition in Guernsey. The debate rages about whether the beef shin or the pig’s trotter gives the dish a richer flavour and as for the addition of carrots; well it is safer not to go there! I’m sure my changes would be viewed with much suspicion and horror at my apparent ‘lack of respect’ for a tried and true recipe, but I would like my children to not just sample Guern cooking but to enjoy it so if I need to ‘tweak’ it a little to achieve this so be it.

I bought this little recipe book from the Guernsey Museum and Art Gallery shop so I was hopeful that it would be the most traditional recipe I could get. Each family brings its own special way of cooking to this recipe but they all assure me that their Mum’s is the best. I hope my kids think so too.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

How to create lasting childhood memories that scar.

Mr Bee was enjoying quiet ale the other evening and he asked the kids did they want to know how to turn the beer can into a duck caller. ‘Yes’ was the unanimous reply.

He flips up the ring pull and says ‘Calling all Ducks. Calling all Ducks,’ into it.

B3 then grabs the can and blows into it and manages to create a sound reminiscent of a musician playing a jug in a jug band. B2 takes the can but, despite all her best efforts, is unable to make the noise.

Mr Bee came to tell me that he had created a lifelong family memory which will be told and retold throughout the generations.

‘When I was a child all I was given to play with was a beer can!’

Well I suppose it is better than ‘Walking ten miles to school through the snow and ice sucking on the rind of the orange you were given for Christmas.’ Hey Dad!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Baby Bird's Breakfast

This is just another of nature's cues that Summer is on the way. The baby Starlings are venturing out of the nest with their Mum and Dad.

I was watching and photographing them through the conservatory window so please excuse the hazy appearance of the photos but the windows need a good wash to get rid of their salt spray coating.

The Mother bird was trying her hardest to show her babies how to forage for themselves but all they were interested in doing was following her around, mouths open, whinging for food. One of them actually gave her a peck on the back when breakfast was not provided swiftly enough.

Our vegetable garden is coming along nicely. The broad beans, peas and Autumn brussel sprouts have been a great success. We still had one bed to plant out so we have chosen some rainbow radishes (I am looking forward to seeing how these turn out) which will be ready for harvesting in 28 days and some broccoli. After the blight which decimated our tomatoes last year we have decided to give them a miss this year; anyway the hedge vege will supply us with gorgeous Guernsey tomatoes all Summer.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Cottage Garden

We started our cottage garden back in March but I had been scheming for nearly a year prior to the first sod of earth being dug. Here is the 'before' photo of our front garden. It was low maintenance but fairly uninspiring.

Then Mr Bee slaved away with a shovel and garden fork to produce four enormous bags of turf.

Finally, after nearly three months of digging, fertilizing and planting it is nearly complete.

There are still a few bare patches which will need to be filled in however I think I will wait until next year to see the true size all the perennials will grow to so as not to overcrowd the bed.

The 'Dark Knight' delphiniums are doing very well but I need to invest in some plate supports to strengthen them again the bracing sea breezes. I fear that a good 'fresh force 5' breeze will snap them off at the base.

The scabiosa are clumping nicely. The bark chip mulch may not be a traditional cottage garden accompaniment but its weed suppressing qualities are excellent so I think I can be excused in this case.

We used a little of our home grown compost and it resulted in the arrival of of our own home grown vege. It may be a pumpkin but we will just have to wait and see.

The white foxgloves are fabulous. They too will need some protection from the wind.

I only planted four lupins but now I have seen them blooming I wish I had found space for a few more; perhaps next year.

The first of my 'Deep Secret' roses is about to burst from its bud. They are blood red and have a very strong scent. Ideally I would like to be able to grow enough of them around the garden to be able to pick bunches for the house.

The frog is another of my cast iron pieces I carried home from a Christmas holiday to Tasmania. He has rusted up nicely hopefully lending a bit of country and rustic crediblilty to the garden. Eventually I would like it to take on a wild but slightly controlled look, with plants self seeding and clambering over each other. There is still work to be done here and there but we are definitely on the way to our English/Guernsey chocolate box cottage garden.

'Your son is a true Guern!'

AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH! (I just felt I should clarify that this photo is courtesy of B1's photographic adventures with my camera and not actually my mouth.)

While watching a repeat of Britain’s Got Talent the kids saw the performer ‘Darth Jackson’.

Mr Bee, witty as ever, said ‘No you don’t want to watch this. What you want to watch is Chad Vader, Darth’s younger brother.’

To which B1 replied ‘Huh?’

Mr Bee ‘You know he runs as Supermarket.’ (please refer to a strange individual from Youtube) Youtube references from Mr Bee do pose the question 'How does he spend his day at work?'

B1 answered ‘Is it?’

OMG!! This is a Guern expression which some Guerns put at the end of their sentences that would replace the word ‘Really?’ in Australia.

We have only been here 22 months. It has made me wonder if they even truly remember Australia.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Hedge Vege Raspberries

Fresh raspberries are on the Hedge Veges - yah!!

Even Mr Bee, who is not a great fruit eater, pronounced them the tastiest raspberries he had ever eaten.

They had a true raspberry flavour not like the sad excuses for berries sold in alot of supermarkets these days. I only bought one punnet as that was all the change I had but it certainly got me to dreaming about some delicious raspberry recipes I have come across during my regular cook book perusals. As for today's punnet; well it was consumed by the hungry horde in five minutes flat!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Wandering the Lanes in St Saviour and Catel

The sun was shining and it was a scorching 19*C. We had spent all morning in the garden and the kids were going a little stir crazy at home so we headed off to the Reservoir to go for a amble around the lanes.

The view to the ocean are just spectacular. One again my little camera does not really capture the true image so please enlarge the photo for a more realistic view.

There was a fight brewing when my children saw this beauty. Fortunately Mr Bee found two more straight away so they could all blow their 'fairy wishes' to be carried away on the wind.

Yellow always seems to flare on my camera but it makes for a fluky arty shot anyway.

The hedges were absolutely covered in late spring growth.

A memory from home - eucalyptus. There are quite a few eucalyptus trees planted around the Island. They are classed as 'exotics' here; what a bizarre thought.

St Saviours' church across a corn field.

I think this is a pink horse chestnut tree. I love these trees as they remind me of the first time I went to London nearly fifteen years ago. Good grief has it been that long, I must be getting a bit long in the tooth!

Busy bumble bee at work.

More hedge glory; by showing you these photos I am hoping to give a small sense of what it is like to walk in Guernsey. It will probably not be very noteworthy to those of you from the UK but to an Aussie girl, such as myself, it is like walking through the pages of a fantasy novel about a far off place where strange and unbelievable things happen. Nothing mundane here!

The gorse has finally finished flowering so no more spicy scents on the breeze until next year.

We had been walking for about half an hour when we came across the entry to the reservoir, so rather than backtrack we followed the nature walk back to our car which we had parked in the reservoir car park. We are getting better at finding places to park in Guernsey but I still believe it is an art which takes a lifetime of living on the Island to master. If you can guarantee you will find a park every time you are a 'Car Parking Aficionado' in my book. This is a derelict barn (we think) just as you enter the walk. Things such as this start me wondering why it was abandoned, how long ago it was abandoned (to have this much greenery clinging to its walls it must be a long time), who used it and what was it really used for.

I have a habit of needing to know about a thing and if there is no information available on the subject I make up a little story in my head full of who, what, where, when and why. Walking with my children and listening to them full of chatter and questions I can see they have inherited this need to know/story imagining. That makes me smile, more than a little.

The backwaters of the reservoir were covered in fine, fluffy, floaty seeds. They were truly everywhere being gently buffeted about on the breeze.

Unfortunately Mr Bee failed to see their beauty as they set off his hayfever, so we left rather speedily.

The reservoir is kept stocked with fish. Mr Bee started to fantasize at this point about learning to fly fish. He always loved the Australian TV show 'A River Somewhere'. We owned the video but he watched it so many times that the tape wore out!

Wild foxgloves.

I find these such a romantic flower. Growing up in Australia listening to my Dad talk about the Isle of Man, where he is from, seemed to lend a very romantic aura to all British blooms. As a child I could just imagine the foxes slipping a pair of these on as they headed out to the 'Woodland Ball'.

There is a high vantage point where you can look across they reservoir but oops I did not take a photo as when we reached it there was a couple sitting quietly contemplating the serene beauty. We were clearly disturbing them, so I quickly snapped these two photos of the commemorative stones and hastily departed.

We do not mean to be so noisy but the kids were very excited about sharing each new discovery they made as we walked along and they always tend to do so at full volume. I would like to say that we are only a noisy bunch by Guern standards (which we most definitely are!) but sadly my little trio were usually the loudest group of kids in Australia too. I remember on one occasion when a close girlfriend had brought her son over for our weekly play date my kids were being so loud that when I opened the door to let them in he actually physically recoiled and took a step back as if to escape the noise coming from the screaming banshees inside the house.

I love this photo. It seems as if fairies should appear in the branches of the trees and flutter out from the undergrowth.

Just magical - to me anyway.

An entire hillside of bracken ferns. B1 was amazed that it all dies down in the winter only to spring up again new year. In Australia there are not that many plants which are so 'seasonal', not in the city. The bush is another story.

Still with me? I know it is a long post but I wanted to give family and friends the chance to see how we spend our time and where we go. This is another favourite photo. I think it would make a good painting; one of these days, in all my spare time (ha, ha) I would like to take up painting again.

Proof that owls live in these woods. If you do not know what it is I am certainly not going to tell you. However I will tell you that B1 and B2 were truly fascinated by it and Mr Bee was horrified that I actually took a photo of it ;P

Nesting box. I tried to find out what type of owls live around the reservoir but I was unable to. Mr Bee thought he had heard mention of the Powerful Owl, but don't quote me on that.

I find tree bark very interesting; its texture, colours, patterns and markings. There are alot of trees in Australia with beautiful yet strange bark; it is lovely to find bark of similar beauty here in Guernsey as well.

We walked for about one and a half hours. There was whinging from the peanut gallery at the beginning about boredom, sore legs and 'I don't want to go' but by the end they were all asking if we can go for another walk next weekend. I'm just glad that family time and interest in the natural world around them can still compete with TV and Nintendo DS.