Monday, 15 April 2019

This beautiful book - Through the Kitchen Window by Susan Hill

About two years ago I was in Hay on Wye with my father, and he bought me this beautiful book - Through the Kitchen Window by Susan Hill.

I had never seen it or heard of it before we stumbled upon it in the corner of a dusty shop - but I loved it immediately.

"Through the kitchen window we glimpse a magical world - a world where each season brings its particular pleasures, from summer picnics to Christmas, from spring cleaning to making herbal remedies for winter ills"

It is both a practical companion and a celebration of country living. Traditional recipes and rituals gathered together by Susan Hill have been brought to life with gentle illustration by Angela Barrett.

It's kind of a children's book for grown ups. What a perfect thing.

My copy is very special to me - because my father bought it for me, because it is a first edition, because it somehow speaks to me.

I thought I would share it with you, through the year.

The book begins with winter, but we're beginning with spring...

"Spring Cleaning
On the first day of spring, whenever that may be, any day of March, April or May, the sky is swept clear of cloud and rain and winter murk, the morning sun shines in through the kitchen window, and there is a little warmth in it."

"Turn out the cupboards, sweep to the back, clearing out all the debris of spilled rice and sugar...."

Rhubarb... it is the least troublesome of fruits to grow; it will settle very happily at the bottom of any patch"

"Easter weather is unpredictable, because the celebration may fall anywhere between late March and the end of April. But weather nor'easterly gales howl or there is a balmy breeze and pale sunshine, there are certain dishes which will always be eaten with pleasure"

Easter biscuits

(we're going to have to make them, aren't we!)

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

The bunnies bake a chocolate cake

We have a few runner ducks, and every so often the duck-egg situation can get a bit out of control - and there's only so many omelettes a person can eat.

So not long ago, I asked three of the Cottontails Baby bunnies for a bit of help in using up a surplus of eggs - and together we came across the Alice Waters Chocolate Cake recipe. Not only is it a chocolate cake - never a bad thing - but it calls for no less than EIGHT EGGS!

Here are a few photos from our happy baking session...

The bunnies love this book - full of vegetarian delights

Mini Maileg bunny finds the recipe - which calls for EIGHT EGGS!

Sylvain rabbit is already hungry

The bunnies count the EIGHT EGGS!

Sylvain assembles the butter and chocolate...

....and begins to melt them (mind your paws on the hot stove, Sylvain!)

Mmmm... melted chocolate!

Quite a big job to whisk eight egg whites but Sylvain has powerful paws

And the cake is ready to bake

45 minutes later and it's cooked and cooling in it's tin

Maileg Mellow bunny (who frankly hasn't been much use) can't wait to tuck in

Yum yum - the bunnies sit down for a cup of tea and slice of chocolate cake!

Find these three bunnies, along with many more, in the All Our Rabbit Things department at Cottontails Baby  - please note Sylvain's blue jumper is the 'model's own'. And find the wonderful cookery book in all the usual places, or on the author's / chef's own website for Bill's Cafe

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Sunday Afternoon in the Snow

It's Snow Day Four here at Cottontails Baby HQ, but it's much milder outside, so this afternoon Sylvain decided to venture outside - and to take baby Maileg bunny for her first ever play in the snow.

Firstly he donned his thick woolly jumper and headed outside to check on the Cottontails Kitchen Garden. Hmmm. Not a lot to see there. (Although rumour has it there are a few of last year's leeks buried under that snow - just in case we run out of food in the store cupboard.)

Satisfied it's not TOO cold, Sylvain wraps up Baby Maileg Bunny in a cosy blanket (thank you to my mum for knitting this!)...

...and Baby Maileg Bunny has his first ever glimpse at the snow

With Baby bunny safely back in the warm, Sylvain checks out the perimeter. It will be another day or so before we can get out, he thinks.... 

... unless he gets the tractor going and uses it to clear the drifts? But he struggles to reach the peddles so decides against this idea.
Then time for a bit of tree climbing before heading back inside for hot chocolates and a toasted teacake...

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

After a fallow few years.... the Cottontails Kitchen Garden is BACK!

It's been eight years since I first created the Cottontails Kitchen Garden, a little project to market the children's gardening equipment I stocked, and since then much has changed - not least we have moved house so I had to wave goodbye to the original raised beds. But... Moulin Roty have just released a new gardening catalogue, Le Jardin du Moulin, and I've decided -  the time has come to dig again!

So - it's a new year, a new location, a great new space to work with not far from my back door, and plans are afoot to once again enlist the help of the fabric animals to grow veg, fruit, herbs and flowers and then come summer / autumn we'll be harvesting and cooking with our haul.

Before I begin, I thought you might want to revisit what I did before - and looking back I feel so proud - I really GREW THINGS! And believe me, I am no natural gardener. So here is a link to a few of the posts I wrote back in 2010, the first time round, and a few of the pictures from back then too...

This time round I have decided it would be wise to enlist a bit of help - and given his superior digging skills and general affinity with any and every veg patch, there's only one man rabbit for that role. Introducing Head Gardener, Sylvain Rabbit. 

Here he is this very morning, with his new domain in the background behind him... and it seems we have the perfect soil for snowdrops.


Over the coming weeks Sylvain and I will be making plans, planting seeds, digging, raking, scratching our heads, grumbling about the soil and all the usual stuff. We'll also be taking delivery of the beautiful new Moulin Roty gardening and wild activities range and having a go at everything - pressing flowers, catching minibeasts, the lot. 

In the meantime, here he is in his natty gardener's jumper checking out the new Moulin Roty gardening catalogue.  With a cup of tea and a carrot, of course.

So 2018 is going to be a wonderful year of gardening and cookery for Cottontails. I am so excited!

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Christmas is coming, the goose is going shopping....

I know it's a bit early, but I spotted mince pies in the Co-op the other day, so I thought it would be nice to take a peek at the forthcoming Christmas offerings from Moulin Roty and Maileg this year.

This is just a very small selection of what is coming, but it gives you a flavour... and it should all begin arriving in the next two or three weeks, so watch this space.

From Moulin Roty we have some new festive Grand Family decorations, some wonderful present ideas from their Memoire d'Enfant range, and  few old favourites that do well (i.e. sell out!) pretty much every year. Here is a glimpse:

Moulin Roty Grand Family advent calendar and decorations

Lovely new gift set of Sylvain and Nini in their own house

Brand new classic rabbit and mouse family - meet The Mirabelles

Old favourites - carpentry, tea and sewing sets

You can flick through the Moulin Roty UK Christmas catalogue here - it's not everything they do but gives you a good flavour. I will be stocking most things, but if there is something you particularly want, do get in touch as I can probably order it in for you. 

And now on to Maileg, which I will split into the departments I use on my website...

Decorations and Festive things - I'm stocking LOTS of pigs this year, plus there will be a new crop of mischievous pixies arriving soon (uh-oh!) and some lovely decorations, cards and accessories

Pixies, napkins, decorations

Pigs! Decorations, wooden, candle holders, fabric...

Bunnies - a few new arrivals and the lovely angel bunnies

Bunny and a few accessories - wellness set and tea and biscuits

Angels - many sizes and types flying in

Mice - how great are these new superheros? Plus a plethora of new arrivals scampering in soon

Mice, clothing and suitcases


Saturday, 3 June 2017

Happy and Sad

This is a happy and sad post. But don't worry, the sad bit happened a long time ago now so I'm okay.


Say hello to Ralph!

I would like to introduce everyone to the lovely Ralph, the latest member to join the 'team' (i.e. me) at Cottontails.... in fact Ralph has been with me for some months now, I just haven't launched him on the world before now because hand in hand with introducing Ralph is writing sad news about dear Rudolph, and I just haven't felt up to that really. More on that in a bit.

Ralph is an ADORABLE rabbit. Of course he is a rescue bunny - he was 'unwanted' by his previous owner (what a bloody fool she was) and left at a rescue centre, a subsequent re-homing attempt failed and back he went to rescue again before he came to me. But despite his difficult start he is the friendliest, most relaxed rabbit I have ever known. A truly lovely little chap. And as you can see, he is settling in nicely!

On door duty

Supper time

As I said, he is the most relaxed rabbit I have ever met!

An unfortunate fondness for my sitting on my desk

Now of course, those of you who have been following Cottontails for a while will perhaps be thinking, what about Rudolph?

Very, very sadly I lost Rudolph a long while ago now - it was last year - but I just couldn't face writing about it at the time.

It was heartbreaking.

In a matter of hours he went from being a happy, healthy little chap into becoming desperately ill. I had been away for the day, and returned home late at night to find him clearly feeling very poorly. I called the vet and rushed him down at midnight... overnight they did everything they could but he passed away the following morning. It was a terrible shock, he was only five years old.

Rabbits are such delicate creatures really. Their digestive systems in particular. Rudolph had a case of something called 'bloat' where something (a sudden obstruction? we don't know) stalled his digestion and the fermenting food in his gut caused a gas build up. He was fine and happy at the lunchtime, critically ill just a few hours later.

Rudolph was the first rabbit I had lost quite so suddenly in this way. In the past, all my beloved rabbits have become ill gradually, usually as part of getting older. Of course that is challenging in itself. But this was brutal and I just couldn't write about it.

But that was a eight months ago now, and since then lovely, friendly, funny Ralph has moved in and makes me smile countless times every day.

So over the coming weeks and months, expect to see him gracing the pages of Facebook and Instagram.

And if you have a beloved pet - go and give them a cuddle right now, and appreciate every day with them - because you just never know. 

Dear Rudolph