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On 6th February 2012, 60 years after her accession to the throne, Queen Elizabeth II is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee 

As you will suspect readers, Tea with Mary Kate will need very little excuse to dust off her vintage china to celebrate this splendid occasion. What more perfect way to join the jubilation than to create, yes, you have guessed it, a Royal Afternoon Tea.

Royal Afternoon Tea to celebrate the Queens Diamond Jubilee

Queen ElizabethII will hold 4 garden parties, and have tea for a staggering 34000!

Now while I am far from proposing organising an event on quite that scale, there are some splendid events planned in June to coincide with 60 years after Queens Elizabeths coronation.

The Big Jubilee Lunch

On Sunday 3rd June, 2012, there is the Big Jubilee Lunch where everyone will be encouraged to share lunch with neighbours and friends as part of the celebrations. How terribly British! I adore the idea of a traditional street party or a picnic lunch – and a traditional afternoon tea is just perfect for it. Organised by the Big Lunch http://www.thebiglunch.com, do make sure that you have your bunting at the ready.

Diamond Jubilee Royal Afternoon Tea

Royal Jubilee Afternoon Tea – Inspired by a Vintage coronation Tea cup

While it is a Royal tea, Queen Elizabeth has always been a terribly practical, no nonsense sort of Queen so the focus is a celebration of traditional British fare without too much embellishment. I have themed the royal jubilee tea around this vintage coronation tea cup. White table linen, with red, white and blue flowers to decorate. I am planning to fill vintage tea cups with home grown flowers from Sarah Ravens beautiful celebrate Britain flower seed Mix, Draft your own afternoon tea menu, and decorate it with splendid blue red and white ribbons, and sparkly “diamonds”.

Beautiful flowers for Diamond Jubilee Royal Afternoon Tea – Celebrate Britain mix form Sarah Raven

Diamond Jubilee Royal Afternoon Tea Menu

A selection of gorgeous sandwiches

Cucumber on white bread

Egg mayonnaise with a hint of garlic salt and lashings of cress on brown bread

Cheddar cheese with homemade pickle on wholemeal bread

Something Sweet

Scones with jam and cornish clotted cream

Cup of tea cake spread thickly with butter

Tea cups filled with warmed apple crumble – with traditional custard

Yorkshire Gold leaf tea

For more inspiration, there is Tea with Mary Kates  Top Tips on how to Create the very Best Royal Wedding Afternoon Tea, another amazing Royal event.

Other Events to Celebrate with the Queen

Cecil Beatons portrait of Queen Elizabeth Coronation

Cecil Beatons Portraits at the V & A

An exhibition of Cecil Beatons wonderful portraits of Queen Elizabeth II will be held at  Victoria & Albert Museum on 8 February – 22 April 2012.

Diamond Jubilee River Pageant

if you fancy an outdoor event, the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant, on 3 June 2012, will be one of the main events of a four-day bank holiday weekend marking her 60-year reign. The Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant will take place on the Thames and consist of up to 1,000 boats assembled from across the UK, the Commonwealth and around the world. The Queen will travel in the Royal Barge which will lead the flotilla, with the Queen the head the fleet, and  including vessels from the UK, Commonwealth, and around the world. The flotilla is expected to be seven-and-a-half miles long and will feature a mix of private and commercially owned historic and modern boats – ranging from rowing boats and sailing ships to steamers, wooden launches and larger motorised craft.http://www.thamesdiamondjubileepageant.org/

Time is fleeting and moments are so very precious. All too soon they are gone. Tea with Mary Kates intends to celebrate this is a once in a life time event with a very British afternoon tea – how will you be celebrating?

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Delicate snowdrops herald the start of spring

Spring feels finally like it has finally sprung after what has been a long and hard winter. The snowdrops are braving their beautiful heads into the brighter and brighter sun. I love the spring, the light after the dark, everything is fresh and green, full of hope & possibility. It also could be the time to create something rather special – your very own beautiful and productive kitchen garden.

Spring has sprung

Although much has been written on the practicality of growing your own, the reality of a kitchen garden can be overwhelming. I believe this is why many would love the idea of a beautiful kitchen garden but very few act. So here are a few useful pointers to guide your way, with more to follow as the season progresses. Of course, this creation takes time and patience but March and April is the time  to take action!

Environmentally friendly Pots for nurturing your seedlings

Growing seeds has a few simple but critical requirements. Warmth and water of course but essential is sufficient light to ensure the first shoots are not etiolated (all pale, yellow and elongated).  Get that first stage right and the rest is pretty much plain sailing. I love these gorgeous wooden paper pot makers from Cox & Cox, a creative, practical, beautiful, and totally environmentally friendly way of potting up your new and precious seedlings.

Beautiful and practical paper pot maker

Inspiration for growing your very own fresh edible favourite vegetables

Salad is another easy and great crop to grow.  Last year, I used my beautiful Victorian cloche from Crocus, an inspiring gardeners web site. This allowed me to start crops early in the season and effectively monitor the slug situation, as I’m a total organic aficionado. Once you have  had the joy of stepping outside and cutting your lettuce that is minutes later served on your plate, you’ll never be able to taste another leaf without reference to that freshness. Yes, you are utterly spoilt after that experience but the economics of doing it this way are also pretty compelling. All that’s needed is a small area, even a window box, and you can have fresh salad all summer for next to nothing.  You’ll be able to buy seed from many garden centers but my choice this year is from the excellent Sarah Raven with her wonderful vegetable seed collections, and really great practical advise on what to do.

Growing your own can be both wonderfully aesthetic as well as producing a fresh crop of gorgeous vegetables

Beautiful and practical Victorian Cloche

Connecting to the knowledge of the past – your own Kitchen Garden is your own small haven of tranquility

I remember being asked to sign for my allotment in which I planned and created my kitchen garden. When the book was produced, it looked really rather scruffy. The pages were creased and a bit worn, the front of the book a little threadbare. I then  put my signature at the bottom of a long list for plot 14, and noticed that the first signature was dated 14th May 1895. After that, I revised my opinion of the book – it had been kept and cherished in that village parish for over a 100 years. It was wonderful to be part of that.

I confess that it took quire a bit of work to clear the site. I decided that raised beds would be the way forward for optimum production and minimal management. Start small, with a few simple crops. Keep your enthusiasm going by imagining  just stepping outside your door to your very own favourite fruit and vegetables, into a kitchen garden of your own. It’s actually quite like being on holiday, a day out, with a flask of hot water to make tea and a picnic basket full of wholesome goodies to keep you going while you are digging and planting. My advice is to grow what you love to eat, as you’ll have plenty of it from even a little plot.

My wonderful kitchen garden

Growing your own food allows you to witness the time and skill that it takes to produce it.

My wish for this blog is that you are inspired to start your own kitchen garden, even on a small scale. Feeling the earth in your hands and looking out for the weather takes you beyond yourself to ensure your latest plantings will survive. Nurturing a garden connects you to the world in a way that is unique and inspiring. The fresh air, the physical enterprise, and community, especially of the allotment, are wonderfully connecting and healing. Give yourself the time to watch things grow. The slower pace of the garden takes you with it and you are the better for it.

Sean and Mary Kate debate whether it is potatoes or roses

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