Ice Cream Pie – A Recipe – Or, How to Make a Birthday “Cake” Without Baking

Last week, I woke up on my husband’s birthday with a jolt. Shit. I hadn’t made a cake. Totally forgot. Birthday cakes in our house are a strange tradition. My love is really good at making cake and each year for my birthday he creates something that makes me clap my hands like a two year old. On his birthday he has to put up with the one cake I make a year. There’s nearly always something wrong with it. I know I could buy one but I don’t want to. I’m proving my love through faulty cake.

So when I realised I had to make the cake on the day of his birthday I balked and decided that I would melt not bake. Melting I can do, even when under supreme pressure. He loves ice cream, so I took two hours toil off work in the afternoon and made him an ice cream pie.

slice of ice cream pie

This is a heavily adapted recipe – the original was called Rocky Road Tart from a book called Tart by Hamlyn. It’s out of print but you could buy a second hand copy. Here’s my version:


  • 1 litre of vanilla ice cream
  • 2 packets of gingernut biscuits (about 300g)
  • 150g butter
  • 50ml honey
  • 90g of your favourite chocolate (I used Cadbury’s dairy milk) (or buy ready made ice cream sauce)
  • 50ml of double cream (or use bought ice cream sauce)
  • Some sweets or marshmallows
  • A small handful of chopped nuts (I used pecans)



  • Crush the gingernuts. I used a food processor on chop but you could put them in a thick plastic bag and beat all hell out of them with a ladle.
  • Melt the butter in a saucepan. Put a couple of tablespoons aside in a cup.
  • Add the honey, crushed biscuits and melted butter (not the reserve in the cup) in a mixing bowl. Mix.
  • Press the mixture into the base of a freezer proof flan dish. Mine measured 28cm across. A baking tray would do the job too.
  • Put clingfilm over the top and freeze for 15 mins (make the sauce below while you wait)


  • Put the reserved melted butter, the chocolate (broken into pieces) and the cream in a heatproof dish over a simmering pan of water. Let it melt.
  • Once it’s melted, take it off the heat and stir. Put it in a jug for easy pouring.
  • If you prefer, you could do even less cooking – you could skip the chocolate, butter and cream and use a bought ice cream sauce.

Build the Pie:

  • Take the chilled base and the litre of ice cream out of the freezer.
  • Spread the ice cream over the base (I used a butter knife heated in a mug of boiling water to do the spreading)
  • Sprinkle the sweets and chopped nuts on top of the ice cream
  • Drizzle Pour the ice cream sauce over the top
  • Return to the freezer for two hours. (You could eat it straight away if you were desperate but the longer it’s been in the freezer the easier it is to serve up)

I don’t have a picture of the whole pie. By the time I realised I hadn’t taken a photo it looked like this:

ravages of ice cream pie

I would say it serves 8-10 people. Or one greedy couple – about three days.

Cutting Garden Week Eight and Nine – Chasing My Tail and Cheating

Since I’ve got back from holiday I’ve been trying to catch up with everything. Work, laundry, paperwork, reading blogs, writing, the garden.

I’m all caught up now with the garden at least. Time to catch the blog up too. I came back to these babies:

flax seedlings

My flax seed had germinated! Here’s week eight’s flowers:

yellow poppies Aquilegia, violets and onion flowers

That’s a rhubarb flower stem from the allotment. I rammed it in the liqueur glass and popped all the flowers inside.

We went to the garden centre on Sunday. Unsuprisingly, my sweet peas had not survived. Some annuals I’d sown hadn’t germinated. I was ready to spend some cash and get some plants. to plant outI bought antirrhinums, stocks, argyranthemums and sweet peas. Buying plants for the cutting garden that are already in flower really feels like cheating. I bought them anyway.

I did some planting and lots of weeding. Here’s what the cutting garden is looking like in week nine:

flax is growing blog catch up 086garden duck

Do you like my duck? He’s new. He’s going to eat the slugs. nom nom. Here are the cutting garden flowers from week nine:

Aquilegia, poppies and onion flowers Columbines, marguerittes and onion flowers blog catch up 070

Phew! Caught up.

In for the Long Haul – Visualising Progression for Motivation

See these shiny stones? That’s how many days there are left this year. Two hundred and twenty nine. Whatever you or I planned to do this year we have that many days left to achieve it. a stone per day I set myself the goal this year of writing the first draft of a novel. I’ve been thinking about writing one since I was ten and I’ve started four in previous years. By the end of this year I want a horribly written thick pile of paper. Ready to edit in 2016. I’ve realised that the progression of writing is a numbers game. How many chapters have I finished? What’s my current word count? How many days have I written something? I was hunting around Pinterest for some ways of keeping up motivation and came across this diet motivation tally. I’m not on a diet but I liked the idea of keeping count in a visual way. I’m not numerate. Numbers are pretty meaningless to me. Time is pieces of pie and money has to be notes and coins or I don’t feel it’s value. I searched for ways of visualising numbers and found a lot of stuff aimed at toddlers, who apparently share my problem. Further down the rabbit hole I found stuff aimed at helping children understand a loved one’s deployment and hit on something so simple I knew it was the one for me. One thing I’ve slackened off with is writing every day. I did this in the beginning and it is so much easier to stay in the groove if I do. So tweaking the above idea I have created some jars recording how many days I’ve written so far this year, and how many days I haven’t. writing or not writing jars I’ve kept count because I keep a copy of every single day’s edit. I’m not going to beat myself up too badly but I would like the jar on the left to have more stones in it than the one on the right. Each day, I move a stone into the appropriate jar. To keep track of the word count I found an image of a tree and I’ve drawn leaves on it for every five hundred words I’ve written. tree way of visualising word count That’s what 33,000 words looks like. Each time I get past a 500 or 1000 mark I add a new leaf. I’ve got a chapter plan that I wrote last year. There are 17 chapters. Some have proved more unruly than others and some are difficult to get going. I wanted a way to celebrate each one I finish the first draft of. Sometimes I imagine writing this book is like swimming across a sea. I kind of know where I’m going but I still have to put in the hours. So with my very limited drawing skills I drew waves. I get to colour one in each chapter I complete. chapter progression In case you are thinking 33,000 words is a lot for seven chapters – I’ve written bits of other chapters already. It’s an annoying habit but one I don’t know how to stop. I’ve written a chunk of the end already. So, I’m motivating myself the same way you would a three year old. I’m pretty sure it’s going to work. Are you working on a long life goal? How do you stay motivated? How do you track and celebrate your progress?

The Garden of Cosmic Speculation

It’s a brilliant name for an incredible garden. My love read about it in the newspaper one year and said he’d like to go some time. I’d looked it up and discovered that it was only open for one afternoon a year. We would chat about it from time to time. Then last year it suddenly dawned on me that unless we plan this sort of thing, it will never happen. So we planned it.

The garden is near Dumfries and we live in Gloucestershire so it seemed pretty silly to drive three hundred miles for one afternoon. We started building the rest of a holiday around it. We went from Gloucestershire to Lancashire, Lancashire to Auldgirth in Dumfries and Galloway to see the garden. We travelled on afterwards to the Isle of Arran, before returning via Cheshire. But today I just want to tell you about the garden. I’ll show you the other stuff later! Garden of Cosmic Speculation It’s the private garden of landscape architect Charles Jencks. Designed by him and his wife Maggie Keswick but only opened to the public after her death; each year the garden raises funds through open days for the cancer charity set up to remember her. We queued in the rain for a while before it opened but it would be worth it whatever the weather. Garden of Cosmic Speculation It really wowed us. We went with quite high hopes and it exceeded them all. The landscaping was incredible: Garden of Cosmic Speculation Garden of Cosmic Speculation Garden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic Speculation Garden of Cosmic Speculation Garden of Cosmic Speculation Garden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic Speculation Someone has a sense of humour too.. The garden is inspired by science and maths. As I didn’t take a physicist or a mathematician with me there was a lot I didn’t understand: Garden of Cosmic Speculation Garden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic Speculation There were clever ways to get from A to B: Garden of Cosmic Speculation (Like my trendy trousers in socks look?) Garden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic Speculation Structures and sculptures everywhere: Garden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic Speculation Including this little house that I presume is an office:Garden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic Speculation Reminds me of Hagrid’s hut on the outside and Star Trek on the inside. That’s me with the red coat and the wet hair. When I’d seen photos before I went online I had assumed there weren’t any plants. I was very wrong. There were plenty, with lashings of topiary too: Garden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic Speculation Enough! I hear you cry. But there was so much more. Imagine my joy on discovering what was obviously a cutting garden: Garden of Cosmic Speculation Garden of Cosmic Speculation There were indoor plants too: Garden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic SpeculationGarden of Cosmic Speculation The details everywhere were inspiring. These gates: Garden of Cosmic Speculation This wall: Garden of Cosmic Speculation This path: Garden of Cosmic SpeculationHave I gushed enough yet? If you’ve been you’ll be shouting at the monitor “But you haven’t showed the train, or the birch trees, or the sculpture of the brain with the wobbly claws all round it”. Everyone else has probably had enough though. If you are reading this next year wondering whether to make the trip – do it. It is the best £6 I have ever spent. Still here? Perhaps you’re like me. When you read Famous Five adventures you always wanted to know what they drank when the ginger beer ran out and how they went to the bathroom when they were trapped in a cave for three days. This was the queue for the loo: Garden of Cosmic SpeculationThis was the cake stash in the tea room: Garden of Cosmic Speculation Garden of Cosmic Speculation That peppermint slice was the business. So is the garden of cosmic speculation.

Catch up post – Cutting Garden Week Seven

The start of week seven I was heading on holiday so wasn’t planning on recording week seven. But I did cut some flowers quickly before I went to take as a posy for the friends we were staying with on the first night.

Violets go on holiday

Just some violets and sweet woodruff. We carried the posy water and all, in the cup holder in the car. Road trip violets

They made the 200 mile first leg of our road trip a bit prettier and seemed to be very happy to be going on holiday. Our friends daughters really enjoyed them and played at flower arranging and set them at their little play table and had a “feast” which consisted of one orange. They live by the river Lune. Love the name, I want to find out more about it.

River Lune

So week seven was still brightened by the cutting garden even though I was nowhere near it.

Results of the Water Experiment

Just before I leave my blog behind for a little while I wanted to share the results of last week’s water experiment.

day oneDay two Day three day four day five two waters

As you can see there’s not a huge amount of difference in it. I think tap water performed very slightly better but not by much. On the waterbutt water side there is a flower top right that I accidentally cut up when trying to cut the back off to get a better photo. It looked pretty good, so bear that in mind!

I would like to do more experiments. I chose my mantlepiece as it is cool but i don’t think the violets liked being out of the sun. And who knows if violets don’t mind waterbutt water but perhaps tulips would hate it. I will carry on experimenting and will share the results with you!

Hobbies to Take on Holiday

I’m off to Scotland soon. Maybe it’s because I have the attention span of a gerbil but I’m packing lots of things to do. Some people pack toys for the kids or the dog but I pack toys for me. I’m going for it this time because we will be spending a lot of time travelling – at least sixteen and a half hours in fact, though thankfully not all in one go. When it’s not my turn to drive I will need something to take my mind off the fact I can’t get up and wander about. When we get there, well, hobbies are my favourite thing to do so no holiday would be complete without them.

Here are the hobbies I’m preparing to pack. And yes, our kitchen table does need rewaxing.

Holiday knitting

A knitting project. I was looking for something easy that I could knit without getting car sick and while quaffing single malt in the evenings (when in Rome..). I remembered seeing this blog post by the lovely micihii knits about the Sunlight shawl. So I pack the wool, needles and pattern. It’ll be my Scottish Sky Shawl. There’s something very exciting about casting on a new project at the start of a holiday. I’ve never finished a knitting project while on holiday but the ones I start while travelling always remind me of the trip.

holiday reading

Something to read. I’m currently reading a few books two of which I’m planning on taking with us. Work: A Story of Experience by Louisa May Alcott as part of my LMA reading project. The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle by Kirsty Wark which is set in one of the places we are visiting. Plus, I have a funny obsession with reading Agatha Christie on holiday and while I’ve seen this one on television, I’ve never read it so in the bag it goes. The phone belongs to my husband. We’ve downloaded two audiobooks onto it for the journey. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy and The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Both Librivox.

journaling on holiday

Somewhere to scrawl and sketch. I keep a journal that’s pretty random. I like to draw pictures, write about where we’ve been, quote my friends and family. I keep my journal in a washbag with colouring pencils, pens, a globe pencil sharpener and a water reservoir brush. The bigger book is for bigger writing. The mini watercolour tin is new to me and I’m keen to try it out while we are away.

astronomy on holiday

Finally, the hobby that doesn’t photograph well. Astronomy. I’m very very new to this, hence all the books. I have a planisphere which you twiddle to the right date and time to see what you should be able to see. Binoculars to help me see it. A mini torch on a ribbon to help me read the astronomy books while out in the dark! My work colleagues bought me the planisphere, torch and 101 night sky objects book for my birthday. I’m really excited that some of the places we are going to have really dark skies so fingers crossed for a night clear of clouds.

We’re also going to be walking, swimming, whisky tasting, garden exploring and a bit more..I’m really, really looking forward to it. Can you tell?

What hobbies do you take with you on holiday?

Planting Out

Do you remember these? Well, they’ve grown up and moved out. We’re going on holiday soon and I wanted to get stuff planted out before we go.

I’ve planted out:

  • some anaemic sweet peas. I’d fed them but they clearly wanted out instead. We’ll see if they give up altogether or survive this.

pale sweet peas

  • some Calendula and the one Zinnia that germinated. The Zinnia is in the middle (I thought the Calendula could protect it a bit). They look all floppy. I think they’ve been straining south for a while too long in the conservatory.

calendula and zinnia

  • some lily-of-the-valley that I grew from rootstock. They’ve picked up some aphids in the conservatory so they need to go out somewhere shadier where they will be happier and the ladybirds and lacewings can chomp away at the bugs.

lily of the valley

Outside is the best place for them all.

A Water Experiment – Cutting Garden Week Six

Last week, I said I would experiment with using water from the waterbutt for my cut flowers. The water in the waterbutt comes from the roof of our house. Our roof is not clean, there are plenty of birds who sit on it and we have starlings nesting in the barge boards. I’m pretty sure from everything I’ve read that it’s going to make the flowers fade faster but there’s something in me that always refuses to believe until I’ve tested it for myself. Maybe it’s my science degree rearing it’s ugly head.

Anyway. Here is my water:

Jam jar full of water

Can you tell which one contains the waterbutt water?

(It’s the one on the left) The cutting garden has a few primulas and lots of violets. I picked only violets and have left the remaining primulas for the bees.


Aren’t they darlings? According to Wikipedia the common names for wild violets include heart’s ease, heart’s delight, tickle-my-fancy, Jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me, come-and-cuddle-me, three faces in a hood, or love-in-idleness. Come-and-cuddle-me is a ridiculous name for a flower but I think it describes how I feel about them pretty well. What do they call violets where you live?

I put seven in each jam jar and trimmed them to the same length. violets and water

Then I had a panic that I would forget which was which. I tied some yellow wool to the tap water one before putting them on the mantlepiece.

violets mantlepiece

I’ll take photos each day and update on the experiment next week. I find violets very thirsty on the first day so I will top up with the appropriate water. I put what was left of the violets in glass bowls around the house, including this vintage jelly mould.

violets in jelly mould

This weed sprouted up elsewhere in the garden but as I couldn’t identify it I left it to flower. It’s very nice and I need to look it up. If you know what it is please leave a comment.

unidentified weed

I will keep watering it and collect some seed. Could be a good addition to the cutting garden.

Sewing in Loose Ends

My Afmæli jumper is nearly nearly finished. I cast off yesterday after knitting and watching two episodes of Miss Marple. She knits quietly while trying to work out who did it and so do I. Except what I’m actually doing is trying to remember who did it as I’ve seen all the episodes before.

Even though it wasn’t finished I still tried it on (for fit you know) and then *ahem* wore it for half an hour with all the ends hanging down and the armpits on stitch holders. Just to see how it felt. It was rather warm as it was a sunny day here. When I took it off I had to eat an ice lolly to cool down again. I need to graft the underarms and block and sew all the ends in.

loose ends knitting inside out afmaeli jumper

But in what order? There are some puckers in the green and gold rows I need to try to block out. I’m fairly sure I can because when I tried it on they were greatly reduced just from me wearing it. I know that my next step is to graft those underarms but after that I’m not sure. I’ve only ever blocked lace. So, I need your advice:

  • Do you weave ends in before or after blocking? (I’ve read advice both ways when I googled)
  • Have you ever blocked something knit in the round? What did you do?
  • Have you ever blocked stranded colourwork? What did you do?

Any thoughts gratefully received!