Monday, 27 February 2012


What a lucky creature I have been these last few weeks, feeling as though I've had the best of both worlds!

When one decides to up sticks and head halfway across the globe, one generally leaves with mixed emotions - a sense of trepidation, mingled with huge excitement and anticipation of what's in store - a new adventure and the road less travelled.  For some people there is an underlying concern (even fear) that they will hanker for that which is familiar and comfortable. That special store (where you know where everything is), a favourite restaurant (that knows exactly what you like, how you like it and can even be trusted with the request "surprise me!") and so on. For some, it's the thought of dealing with the disruption in their established routine built up over many years - things that have moved beyond a habit and long since gained the status of Ritual - for others, like myself, it's the very fact that there is a chance to create new rituals that is so very appealing.  Though there is one thing that we all seem to agree upon - that there is a sadness in leaving friends and family. Even for the most exciting adventure imaginable - part of you wishes they could come along for the ride and that somehow the journey would be that little bit more special, if they were part of it.

For me, I was leaving friends to be re-united with family so one-out-of-two is not so bad.

What a bonus it is then, when one of my dearest friends decide to make the journey and come to visit my island home - and even better when they come for a wedding! It's been a wonderful 14 days, and in that short time, my friend and I had slipped into a routine of post-children's-bedtime-evening-chats.

Today they should be safely returned home, to temps some 20 degrees cooler than they have left here.  Those days seem to pass extraordinarily quickly but we managed to make some new memories.

Old friends + new location + happy occasion = very special memories.

This particular friend and I have begun a ritual of sorts - that of taking a photo of the boys and I in "the special chair" from the time the eldest was a baby. On this visit, the boys and I had our photo taken on the beach under the palm trees and we joked that in years to come perhaps we will recreate the "St Lucian palm tree picture" as we do the "York chair picture" - here's hoping for very many chairs and palms trees .....
"Let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit" ~ Khalil Gibran

Sunday, 12 February 2012


Today was the day, the mood was right and I finally got around to trying my hand at gluten-free fresh pasta.  Finding a suitable recipe seemed to be the hardest part; an internet search threw up endless possibilities, all with a dazzling array of ingredients (given that I always thought that pasta was so very simple and made of just three ingredients - flour, eggs and water). However, no two recipes seem to be the same, which made it rather difficult to determine which sounded best.  So, I finally settled on one based almost entirely on the fact that it called for ingredients that I actually had available.

As with all these things, it was rather messy with a resultant mountain of dishes in the sink (I should say at this point, that although I cook every day, my kitchen usually looks as though the home owners have gone abroad for an extended stay - all that is missing are those white dust sheets that one sees servants in movie adaptations of Jane Austin novels throwing over the furniture before the master's carriage has even reached the end of the long driveway - how efficient they were!), anyway I digress.

The very first mouthful was a testimony to the fact that this was indeed a truly worthwhile exercise!  Silky smooth pasta dough, with a delicious spinach, ricotta and nutmeg filling, topped with my favourite tomato sauce, fresh parmasen, a twist of freshly ground black pepper and basil from the garden.  I'm pleased that I made the effort to try the challenge from my fellow blogger at and will definitely make fresh pasta again (on this occasion I made something akin to Agnolotti, but had enough dough to make a portion of noodles).  Now, my tummy is full and I'm about ready for an espresso and a piece of dark chocolate to end my sunny Sunday lunch.....if only I had someone to wash up the dishes.

- Recipe from "More from the Gluten-Free Gourmet" by Bette Hagman. 

    • ½ cup tapioca flour
    • ½ cup cornstarch
    • 3 tablespoons potato starch
    • ¾ teaspoon salt
    • 4 ½ teaspoons xanthan gum
    • 3 large eggs ( or 4 or 5 egg whites)
    • 1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil

  1. In a medium bowl, combine flours, salt, and xanthan gum.
  2. Beat the eggs lightly and add the oil.
  3. Pour the egg-oil liquid into the flour mixture and stir.
  4. This will feel much like pastry dough.
  5. Work the dough into a firm ball.
  6. Knead for 1 or two minutes.
  7. Place the ball of dough on a potato or corn starch-floured board and roll as thin as possible**.
  8. This dough is tough and, when almost transparent, will still handle well.
  9. Cut into desired shape.
  10. For fettuccine and spaghetti, slice very thin strips.
  11. For a noodle casserole, make slightly wider noodles.
  12. If using for lasagne, cut into 1 1/2-by-4-inch rectangles.
  13. For my recipe today, I filled with creamed spinach, mixed with ricotta, seasoned with salt, fresh ground black pepper, freshly grated nutmeg and a little dry oregano. 
  14. To cook pasta: Cook in salted boiling water, to which 1 tablespoon of oil has been added, for about 10 to 15*** minutes depending on the thickness and size of your pieces.
  15. You will have to test for doneness.
** I rolled my dough until I could just make out the black type of the recipe under the glass cutting board. As I don't have a pasta machine, this was the hardest part.   
*** My Agnolotti were pretty large - the size of my palm and well filled, so I cooked for closer to 18 minutes.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012


Returning home from a brief trip to the UK, I was struck by how dry my island home had become in the short time that I'd been away. Due to a lack of rain, many trees are already turning brown and dropping their leaves and the grass has turned a pale straw colour. My poor cocoa sapling has no leaves at all and one of the avocado trees finally seem to have given up.  It's sad to see a three year old tree give up when it has done so well thus far. Perhaps it will send some new shoots - I'll give it some recovery time and review the prognosis.  

As with all things, thankfully, there is a balance and whilst some trees have lost their leaves, others are putting forth new growth and all around young fruits are making their debut. Lime, mango, gauva and more, are showing off the cutest miniature versions of the real thing.  Curiously, the Golden Apple (spondias cytherea), has lost all it's leaves but still has a good crop of new fruit. Before long, we will barely be able to spot the fruit amongst the lush new foliage.

In the driveway, although the grass is looking rather rough and unkempt and the temporary gate looks as though it is about to keel over, the young trees seem to be holding their own and the  Cashew has donned her first pretty pink flowers and burnished copper leaves.  Fingers crossed that they will go on to make fruit and eventually nuts!

So all in all, whilst Europe struggles with the snow, here in St Lucia there is almost a sense of spring in the air and I feel spurred on to start thinking about planting seeds. It is also Full Moon this week, so anything potted needs to be transplanted. Using traditional local methods, the weekend will mean that I should decide if I'll be planting any root crops and if so, what? I need to consider whether the time is right or whether I should wait until the next moon.  Perhaps by then we may have had more rain which would give seeds and newly transplanted saplings a better chance of survival.

By the way, it's not just the plants that are a-stirring in the garden - can you tell what the creature in the last photo is?  OK, it's a really poor quality photo - these fellas move like grease lighting - but you might just be able to make him out.....

Cashew with it's new coppery leaves and pink flowers 
One of several baby limes on the potted tree waiting to be transplanted

A mature Golden Apple tree full of fruit but without leaves for now

My favourite variety, Mango Palwee, small, sweet and a lovely shade of bright yellow when ripe.

The three year old Julie Mango tree showing it's first fruit

Cashew, Acerola, Golden Apple, Pomegranate and Love Apple saplings settling in nicely

A very poor photo - these fellas are as quick as lightening....but can you see what it is?


Just a quick share of some photos, sent by friends, of the places I visited only a few days ago, now transformed by a sudden cold snap and the arrival of snow. Whilst I am very sorry to have missed this winter wonderland, there is a part of me that knows that it's so much nicer to look at than having to travel in.  Especially, in the UK, where all transportation seems to come to a grinding halt at the mere appearance of the first snowflake.  For a country that has had snow, pretty much EVERY year since man first inhabited Britain, you would think they would have a master plan in place by now? That aside, it's all rather stunningly beautiful, while it lasts.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Wednesday, 1 February 2012


It is the ancient Pagan celebration of Imbolc (also known as the Christian festival of Candlemas).

If Imbolc be Fair & Bright, Winter will have another flight...
If Imbolc be Shower & Rain, Winter is gone and will not come again....

The First of February belongs to Brigid, (Brighid, Brigit, Bride,) the Celtic goddess who in later times became revered as a Christian saint. Originally, her festival on February 1 was known as Imbolc or Oimelc, two names which refer to the lactation of the ewes, the flow of milk that heralds the return of the life-giving forces of spring. Later, the Catholic Church replaced this festival with Candlemas Day on February 2, which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and features candlelight processions. The powerful figure of Brigid the Light-Bringer over lights both pagan and Christian celebrations.

In most parts of the British Isles, February is a harsh and bitter month.  In old Scotland, the month fell in the middle of the period known as Faoilleach, the Wolf-month; it was also known as a’ marbh mhiòs, the Dead-month.  But  although this season was so cold and drear, small but sturdy signs of new life began to appear: Lambs were born and soft rain brought new grass. Ravens begin to build their nests and larks were said to sing with a clearer voice.  

In Ireland, the land was prepared to receive the new seed with spade and plough; calves were born, and fishermen looked eagerly for the end of winter storms and rough seas to launch their boats again. In Scotland, the Old Woman of winter, the Cailleach, is reborn as Bride, Young Maiden of Spring, fragile yet growing stronger each day as the sun rekindles its fire, turning scarcity into abundance. Of her, Alexander Carmichael wrote: 
Bride with her white wand is said to breathe life into the mouth of the dead Winter and to bring him to open his eyes to the tears and the smiles, the sighs and the laughter of Spring. The venom of the cold is said to tremble for its safety on Bride’s Day, and to flee for its life on Patrick’s Day.

Excerpt courtesy of

Views of my old home at this time of year (complete with "For Sale" sign);  so very different to my view today - how does Imbolc 2012 look in your part of the world?

Side entance of our house and view of Slingsby Church, where the 14th Century Knight, Sir William Wyvill is buried

Front entrance to Prospect House & Prospect Cottage (our main house and guest cottage).

View of the ruins of Slingsby Castle. Our fruit & veggie garden was in the castle moat behind that hedge.