Famous Five picnic

Just this week the Guardian were talking about Famous Five picnic food which reminded me of a favourite post from 2012……

Before Baby-Gusto was even thought of, H-G and I both discussed how we wanted any children we might have to grow up loving the same books that we did. For H-Gusto that included all the CS Forrester Hornblower series, and for me it included all the ‘Jill’ pony books by Ruby Ferguson, ‘The Secret Garden’ and ‘The Railway Children’ by E Nesbit and of course ‘The Famous Five’ by Enid Blyton.

I must have been pretty food oriented even then, because several of my memories of these books are based firmly around what the characters ate. I recalled Jill and her friend Ann after a showjumping session with their feet up on the Aga eating hot buttered toast and drinking cocoa. How I envied them for having their own ponies and wished that they would be my friends. One of my enduring memories of the Linda Craig series, set in the Wild West, was that they ate something strange called ‘slaw’. It took me until almost the end of the book before I realised that this exotic sounding dish was the rather banal coleslaw that featured in every family BBQ.

But the books I loved most for the sheer fantasy AND the food was the Famous Five series. I was so envious of the Famous Five. For going to Boarding school and having tuck boxes. For having their own Island AND for the endless summer days and picnics that they seemed to have. Those children always seemed to be eating!

After B-G arrived I bought the entire Famous Five series. (Did you know there were 21 books? No, me neither). Then I set about to read the lot. I am currently on number 13, ‘Five go to mystery moor’ and am flagging, I will admit. It is hard to re-read a story you loved as a child with adult eyes. Every time the five go camping on their own I wonder ‘what on EARTH are their parents thinking?’

That aside. The food and the picnics remain as fascinating to me as ever. So after about book 3 I found myself jotting down all their meals, and then a few weeks ago when we realised that the day was going to be the last blast of summer with a 28 degrees predicted, H-Gusto and I thought it might be a bit of fun to have a Famous Five picnic. So, after sustained and committed ‘research’ (flicking through all 21 books while sipping wine) I found out that the Five were remarkably constant in their meals. Those kids ate alot of sandwiches. Despite popular legend, they never seemed to have ‘lashings and lashing of ginger beer’ – good thing too as H-G’s homemade ginger beer is very seriously alcoholic and we approach it cautiously – so the final menu looked like this;

Ham sandwiches
Potted meat sandwiches
Cheese and tomato sandwiches
Fruit cake
Hard boiled eggs with a screw of salt

In other words, a proper, authentic, no frills picnic. H-G flatly refused to believe that it was even possible to get potted meat anymore which I knew to be wrong as certainly the local Co-op has shelves of the stuff. So I went to the Co-op, bought up big and we went off for our very own 50’s inspired, retro Famous Five picnic.

The weather may have been ‘warm’ but it was also very very windy. We went down to The Green in Cowes and sat on the shingle looking out at the sea. We ate our sandwiches, ate our fruit cake, tried to convince B-G that it was fun to shovel up shingle into his child’s bucket, and then went for ice cream. All in all, a nice day. Unlike the Five however, we did not witness the theft of any jewels or smugglers.

Maybe that happens on the other side of the Island.





100 Adventures : 2 – A Spa Adventure

Thanks to a good friend I enjoyed a really wonderful spa day at the Lakeside Park Hotel and Spa in Wootten on the Island.


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We had a wonderful package and enjoyed a mini-facial, a massage and use of the pool and jacuzzi facilities followed by a two course lunch all for a mere £57.00 (Give or take a few pence).

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View of Wootten village

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Seagull spa and wedding gazebo

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Lunch for me was a vegetable tagine that was subtle and spice with large pearls of cous cous. My friend had the seared salmon. We both had cheese and biscuits for dessert which came with lovely little gems of quince jelly.

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This was a lovely way to spend a relaxing spring day!! Highly recommended.

Did someone say Bikini-body for summer…?

Well, not really, but we have been eating an awful lot of raw main meals this week. never hurts to try and cut down on unhealthy fats and the uptake of fresh fruit and veg has been great.


Lunch – Coleslaw lettuce wraps with mustard and maple syrup dressing.


Dinner- Raw chestnut mushrooms stuffed with spicy guacamole and cucumber, tomato and basil salad.



Melon, banana, strawberries and clementine.


Lettuce and avocado salad with mustard and maple syrup dressing.  I am just loving this dressing… it is just a tablespoon of dijon mustard, a tablespoon of maple syrup and the juice of half a lesson stirred vigorously. Mmmm…… simple and good.


This was a huge hit in our house. It was simply raw courgette ribbons topped with salsa. I chopped up raw tomatos, crushed one garlic clove, a tiny bit of diced onion and marinated it in olive oil, lemon juice ad fresh basil leaves for several hours. I then made the courgette ribbons by using the vegetable peeler added the salsa and scattered with walnuts. It was really very good indeed!

Mocktail Hour


I have been having lots of fun experimenting with mocktails lately. This is my ginger concoction…. Belvoir Ginger cordial, ginger ale, a squeeze of lime and fresh mint.



Equal parts 100% pink grapefruit juice, 100% pineapple juice, the juice of half a lime and a sprig of mint blended with lots and lots of ice. The grapefruit and lime cut through the sweetness of the pineapple juice very nicely.


This was an attempt at the mocktail I had at The Mess last week. I boiled fresh lavender leaves and a sprig of rosemary with a cup of sugar until I had a herb-infused sugar syrup. I added 75 ml of the syrup to a glass of ice cold tonic water and added thinly sliced cucumber. It was delicious, but not as fragrant as The Mess’s original version so tweaking will be needed!