It feels like spring at last


GardenAfter such a wet winter and gloomy grey skies isn't it lovely to have a bit of spring sunshine to lift our spirits? It also means the start of the gardening season for me and for the first time in three years I have a garden of my own to tend. It will be exciting to see what the former owner of our cottage has planted as everything comes into bud and leaf.

I am so grateful to have Richard Jackson on hand to offer me advice on adding to the planting and it was such a pleasure to launch our Today's Special Value with him last night. I am definitely buying it as slugs and snails will abound this year after all the rain and I'm all for getting rid of other garden pests in a non-chemical way. I also need the weed-killer as we have moss growing through the stones of our patio, and compost, and container magic, not to mention some of our high quality plants …

Richard Jackson's Garden Care Kit - 504447Could be an expensive month but it will be worth it for the pleasure it will bring. I am going to try and grow some vegetables this year too, time permitting, maybe even tomatoes (I know technically they are a fruit) to make Tomato Soup with ….. I have been asked for my recipe and will put it at the bottom of this blog although I am not sure I will be using it so much any-more as I ordered the Vitamix TSV last Saturday so the method will be different from now on.

Basket of flowersUsually I just grow flowers because I love them both outside in the garden and indoors so what a lovely surprise to receive this basket from Chris's mum, Audrey, as a thank-you for organising her party. She really didn't need to but I'm very glad she did! Chris's sister, et al, go back to Australia today and I think she will miss them terribly.






PaintingI also promised you a photo of the painting that Uncle Dave did for us … clever isn't he? As those of you who have seen my sketches when designing jewellery pieces know I simply cannot draw … at all! I like to think I am creative in other ways.

Today is my last day on air for almost three weeks as I have to use up my annual leave. I am looking forward to a bit more house organising and plenty of time to write. I think I am one of those people that never really relaxes, unlike Poppy and Wilfie who clearly have no such problem … I think I'd like to come back as a cat. So I won't be live on QVC until April although I expect I'll pop up on QVC Beauty, Style or Extra from time to time.

Cats nappingMy two shows today are Fashion on Friday featuring Earth Spirit, with a couple of EMU styles too, followed by Decleor with our lovely Fiona Brackenbury. I have had one or two really kind comments about my skin lately and I can attribute it in part to using Aromessence Excellence under my morning moisturiser, which at the moment is L'Occitane Divine Cream, and Elemis Bliss capsules followed by Oxygenating Night Cream in the evening.

By the way I had my latest appointment at the hospital yesterday. I have to wait for the results of the test which measures how the CML is responding to the medication, but my Prof was really pleased with my white blood count and hinted that he may be able to reduce my dosage if the test results are good … keep your fingers crossed for me. So here is my recipe (haven't done one for ages):-

Tomato Soup

  • 450g Tomatoes (I usually use plum tomatoes for flavour)
  • 1 small potato
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 50g butter or marg
  • 750 ml vegetable stock (made with 1 cube)
  • 10-12 fresh basil leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

Peel the tomatoes by cutting a cross on the bottom and immersing in boiling water for two minutes – the skin should then peel off easily. Chop into quarters. Chop the onion, potato and carrot. Soften the onion in the butter or marg until transparent then add the carrot, garlic, tomatoes, tomato puree and basil. Cover with the stock and bring to the boil adding a little salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 20 minutes and then blend.

Before you blend it will look very thin and watery – don't panic it will come out of the liquidiser creamy (even though there is no cream in it) and paler in colour than tinned varieties. I hope you like it Carol Ann (as requested on twitter) and anyone else who tries it.

Must dash, much love,

Julia xx

p.s: Make sure to check out the interview I did with Will about Liz Earle's 18th anniversary which is coming up next week – have a look at this collection of clips from over the years!


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  1. Annette Roberts March 14, 2014 at 4:02 pm -  Reply

    Hi Julia
    Glad to hear that Chris’ Mum loved her surprise party, what a lovely get together for you all.
    Absolutely loving the sunshine here at the moment, although we don’t need to do any gardening, the gardener came with the property…Chris said it’s very strange letting somebody else do it.
    Pleased that your Prof hopes you may be able to adjust your medication dependant on your test results…fingers crossed for you.
    I had to have bloods again last Thurs, the sore dry mouth and throat back again, it wakes me up at night because my tounge sticks to the roof of my mouth, its so dry, so I’m getting disturbed sleep, that together with a lumpy, bumpy sore scalp and to top it all my hair is falling out, literally!
    I have a cover over the plughole and it is full every wash, never ever had that before. My hair is all over the place, the floor is covered with it and the texture has all but gone, it’s the finest I’ve ever seen and my fringe is getting thinner and thinner by the day. I’ve not changed anything at all, diet or products and have tried PK shampoo, conditioner, elasticiser and even tea tree oil mixed in too for my scalp. Dr said the scalp was a type of eczemer and they are checking thyroid, hormones, vitamin deficiency etc.
    Just when you think everything is ok, something comes to bite you on the btm again!! Hopefully they will be able to sort it out, because I’m at a loss…it came from nowhere!
    Hope you have a good 3 weeks off, writing, gardening and no doubt playing with Poppy and Wilfy.
    Annette x

  2. TINA S. March 14, 2014 at 6:08 pm -  Reply

    Dear Julia,
    Hope you have a nice relaxing few weeks off.Our garden is looking somewhat bedraggled after such a terrible winter. I looked everywhere last year for wallflowers because we had them in our garden when I was growing up. The smell of them transports me back to my childhood. Unfortuanately they don’t look too good so I will have to get some more when they have them back in the Garden Centre. I think plants and flowers along with certain smells can trigger such vivid memories.
    My father loved his garden. He made his Green House from old window frames that our local cottage hospital were getting rid of. I also ended up working there when I first qualified as a nurse
    I hope your latest blood tests are o.k. and its good news regarding your white cells.
    I loved the photo’s of your cats.I’m hoping I can get another cat when we move.
    Well, its our last Rugby match tomorrow against Scotland. I hope our boys do better this week. They were terrible in the last one against England!! Still, there always next year.
    I’m off to make supper now ( a not-so-healthy curry!)
    All the best, Tina (South Wales)x

  3. Annette Roberts March 15, 2014 at 9:38 am -  Reply

    Hi Julia
    I know I’ve already written on your blog, but just want to say thank you for the two mentions last night whilst you were with Fiona…loved the ‘we’re not related’ bit. As you know, it was your suggestion I tried Decleor Prolagene Gel, that’s why I’m so passionate about it, it definitely helps.
    Have a lovely few weeks off, hopefully this gorgeous weather will continue.
    Annette x

  4. Pauline Howells March 15, 2014 at 8:01 pm -  Reply

    Hope your results come back fine. I was diagnosed with Essential Thrombocytosis in November and I am presently on Hydroxycarbamide (chemo) tablets ad infinitum. I am 81 and determined this diagnosis is not going to affect my life. I had breast cancer 22 years ago, and lost my precious daughter three years ago, but feel I have so much help to give my grandchildren and beautiful great grandchildren, and hope for many more years xx

  5. Carol Bishop March 16, 2014 at 7:39 pm -  Reply

    Thanks so much Julia for the recipe for tomato soup. I’m sure it will be delicious! I am going to try it soon. Thanks again.x

  6. Susan Smith March 16, 2014 at 7:43 pm -  Reply

    HI Julia, You are such a lovely lady, my husband & I were lucky enough to meet you at the QVC 20th birthday afternoon tea at the Mayfair Hotel as you said very swanky!! Gary my husband was the 1 who
    inevitably got you on to your favourite subject football, he was the Gunners fan. My word don”t you know your football! We asked you then how you were keeping & you said results were looking really positive, we both hope that remains & you go from strength to strength fighting your illness.
    We still talk about that day as it was so lovely & you spoke to everyone, making them feel very special so thank you for that, & hope we meet again one day, Much Love to you & your family
    Sue xx

  7. Carol Bishop March 16, 2014 at 7:49 pm -  Reply

    I am so pleased your blood results were good. I hope you carry on keeping well. You look great.x

  8. Sara L Hodgson March 17, 2014 at 1:22 am -  Reply

    Hi Julia, hope this finds you well. I have seen the Friday fashion promo QVC your in that features a pink Lulu Guinness bag . It’s beautiful. I can’t see it on QVC. What’s the name of the bag and do QVC sell it? Ps your fantastic and an inspiration.
    Kind regards Sara

  9. Jean Pugh March 17, 2014 at 8:25 am -  Reply

    Hi Julia,
    Yes it is time for the garden at last, that is if the weather stays dry. I did stock up on Richard Jacksons compost a few weeks ago, some of the best I have used, and of course his flower power etc are all brilliant. Yes you are right the horrible slimy little slugs will be about, yuck. It is nice to have your own garden as you will be able to have it just as you want it and then sit out and enjoy. I had some young geranium plants from QVC at the weekend and have planted them in pots ready to grow on for the bigger pots or baskets, I get all my plants from QVC, such quality and variety. What a lovely basket of flowers from Chris’s mum, how sweet of her it shows how she appreciated all you did. Love the painting your Uncle did for you. And Poppy and Wilfie look so chilled out, they are gorgeous.
    Your recipe for Tomatoe Soup looks good, but I must admit there is one soup I do not like and that is Tomatoe, I like eating them but do not like the soup, but am going to try yours and will let you know, you could change my taste buds. Hope you results come back okay, keeping fingers crossed. Anyway you enjoy your time off and have a good rest, no doubt you will be busy writing and in the garden.
    Love Jean XX

  10. Carol Bishop March 18, 2014 at 12:07 pm -  Reply

    Just thinking Julia. I am going to try your tomato soup recipe in my soup maker. xx

  11. Sandra Gregory March 19, 2014 at 8:49 am -  Reply

    Hi Julia, I hope you have a good rest, it is well deserved as you work so hard. Also good luck with your test results. You are certainly an inspiration, you are such a positive lady and always very bright and cheerful. Glad Chris’s Mum enjoyed her surprise party.
    Look forward to seeing back at QVC in April.
    Take care
    Sandra xxx

  12. Julia roberts March 19, 2014 at 7:46 pm -  Reply

    Hi Annette
    I must confess we are having’a bit of help’ with the garden as a lot of the shrubs are quite overgrown but we’ve already planted a few shrubs of our own, including 2 types of honeysuckle, a cherry laurel, choisya, ceanothus and escallonia …. a long way to go but we’re in no rush!
    I can’t believe you’ve got yet more health issues …. have they discovered what the problem is with your hair? I’m glad they are doing lots of tests – better to be safe than sorry. If it is eczema don’t be afraid of doctor prescribed steroids short term … they worked for my skin issues.
    Haven’t had my test results yet but will pop it on here when I do. We are managing to get away for a week so I will miss my Poppy and Wilfie cuddles.
    Hope all your tests come back ok and they find out what is wrong
    Julia x

  13. Julia roberts March 19, 2014 at 7:56 pm -  Reply

    Hi Tina
    I know what you mean about the scent of certain flowers evoking memories … for me it is sweet peas as my dad always grew them and our house was full of them around my birthday in June. My mum is growing some this year. Hope you manage to find some more wallflowers this year.
    I think your team finished on a high? My son had the Ireland v France game on and even though an Ireland victory meant England lost out he was very pleased for O’Driscoll.
    I think Poppy will miss Wilfe terribly when Daniel gets a place of his own even though she pretends not to like him much! I hope you will get another cat as they seem to like company.
    Hope you enjoyed your curry?
    Julia x

  14. Julia roberts March 19, 2014 at 8:00 pm -  Reply

    Hi again Annette,
    I’m replying as I read so hadn’t realised you had written in twice. No worries, just pleased you really find Prolagene so good for you and the POM is such a generous size.
    Speak soon
    Julia x

  15. Julia roberts March 19, 2014 at 8:04 pm -  Reply

    Hi Pauline
    I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your daughter. You sound like you have a wonderfully positive attitude to life – we are so lucky to have this new generation of drugs to treat conditions such as ours. I wish you well and many more years to share with your family.
    Julia x

  16. Julia roberts March 19, 2014 at 8:07 pm -  Reply

    Hello Carol
    I hope you enjoy it – let me know. My Vitamix has arrived so I may have to adjust my soup making slightly as I think maybe potato needs to cook to have thickening properties?
    Julia x

  17. Julia roberts March 19, 2014 at 8:13 pm -  Reply

    Hello Sue
    That was a lovely afternoon wasn’t it … sorry if I bored the pants off you chatting football with your hubby but he shouldn’t have got me started!!!
    I haven’t had my results yet but the Prof seemed to be quite optimistic.
    Love to you both
    Julia x

  18. Julia roberts March 19, 2014 at 8:16 pm -  Reply

    Hi again Carole
    You’ve done an ‘Anette’ on me with two replies …. maybe I should have read through them all first!
    Thanks for the compliment – I am feeling pretty good at the moment but glad of the time off to recharge my batteries.
    Speak soon
    Julia x

  19. Julia roberts March 19, 2014 at 8:36 pm -  Reply

    Hi Sara
    Thanks for your lovely compliments but I’m not sure I can help you with the style of the bag featured in the Fashion on Friday promo – if it’s not on the website then we don’t currently sell it but keep watching the QVC shows or check Lulu Guinness own website.
    Julia x

  20. Julia roberts March 19, 2014 at 9:03 pm -  Reply

    Hello Jean
    As I mentioned in my reply to Annette I have already started adding my own touches to the garden planting a few of my favourite shrubs …. I always plant honeysuckle because I love the fragrance, and ceonothus and escallonia because they are evergreen and grow quickly. You just reminded me I need to order RJ’s weed killer!
    Audrey sent a thank you card as well as the basket of flowers – I think she was well chuffed!
    I’m not a fan of tinned tomato soup so maybe you might like this one ( a bit)!
    Will keep you posted on my results
    Speak soon
    Julia x

  21. Julia roberts March 19, 2014 at 10:14 pm -  Reply

    Hello Sandra
    Thanks for your kind remarks – I enjoy my job so it’s not really hard work but I am ready for this break from routine.
    See you in April
    Julia x

  22. Annette Roberts March 20, 2014 at 12:43 pm -  Reply

    Hi Julia
    What you’ve done so far sounds lovely, hope you take a photo before your week away and then again when you get back to see how things have blossomed in your absence.
    I go and see the Dr tomorrow for the results and will keep you posted, trying not to worry, but…
    Annette x

  23. Beth Morton March 20, 2014 at 3:46 pm -  Reply

    Hi Julia,
    It’s a bit of a belated reply to your blog – I hope you’re enjoying your time off. I know you enjoy your job as you’ve mentioned it, but you always seem “fresh” on screen and never like you’re just going through the motions. Not that I think any of the QVC presenters do so but your enthusiasm is admirable!
    Wilfy and Poppy are adorable! I’ve often said I’d like to come back as a cat as when they relax, they look so contented! I am a born worrier hence being quite envious..I didn’t tell you or Marverine but our rescuing a cat didn’t have a happy ending. We were given v.little, virtually no information about her (I can’t mention her name, when I talk about her to Ian, I say “Furry Friend”) and it turned out she was very traumatised. It broke our hearts to return her but the dream had literally turned into a difficult situation. We have one of the lovely photos of her framed and I have little “chats” with her and hope she’s ok. Unfortunately the Shelter showed no compassion and so we can’t contact them to get an update – hey ho.
    Onto brighter things, good for you to get some lovely flowers for all your hard work with the party and the picture is beautiful.
    You take care, REST when you need to and I am keeping everything crossed that your test results are good.
    Lots of love, Beth XX.

  24. Annette Roberts March 21, 2014 at 1:25 pm -  Reply

    Hi Julia
    Ooops, me again…Bloods were fine thank goodness, the Dr thinks it’s menopausal, so trying low dose HRT, also thinks scalp and hair fall out may be that too, along with the lash reduction even though I had started using Revitalash a couple of weeks before you again. They had begun to lengthen, but have since reduced…hormones! The Dr has also given me a scalp tonic (which will apparently burn when applied, oh joy!) and a scalp calming shampoo.
    My liver count was fine so I start taking the cholesterol tablets too and hopefully that will drop together with the continued diet and exercise…glad I’ve got a pre-payment card for the prescriptions, the bag was enormous!
    Thought it was funny you telling Carole, she’d done an ‘Annette’, writing twice, made me smile!
    Have a lovely holiday!
    Annette x

  25. Jan atkinson March 24, 2014 at 11:31 am -  Reply

    Hi Julia
    Loved the tomatoe soup recipe,it’s now my favourite, all my soups are homemade,there is just no comparison,good look in your new home,and with the garden.
    There is nothing quite like looking onto your garden that you’ve loving worked on, and then having homemade soup and bread for lunch, I love qvc Yankee candles and have just watched under cover boss USA it’s the Yankee candles boss, it so brilliant to see how they are actually made,and makes you appreciate what goes into them,I’m sure if you had an under cover boss you would sail through it, your the best presenter I love your style and your natural ease with all your quests.
    JAN xx

  26. martin forbes bucksburn aberdeen watching via sky tv March 28, 2014 at 5:56 pm -  Reply

    hope you and the family are well and you and chris are settling in tto your new house hope daniel and sophie and your cats arewe ll i am not bad

  27. Steven March 29, 2014 at 10:00 pm -  Reply

    Sorry this is nothing to do with your blog Julia – but what a win for Palace today! What a boost to the survival hopes! Were you there? Hope you are well xx

  28. Julia roberts April 6, 2014 at 11:50 am -  Reply

    Hi Beth
    A very belated reply to your reply!! My 3 weeks off went by in the blink of an eye but got a lot of stuff done before we went away for a week to Barbados. We had a really good holiday and I was very disciplined with my writing – nine chapters finished …. hoping to finish writing it by the end of April and maybe out May/June, don’t want to put myself under any pressure!
    I’m sorry to hear things didn’t work out with your rescue cat … sometimes it s better to have them from a kitten so you have more chance of influencing their behaviour.
    I forgot to mention on my latest blog that my bcr/abl test results were good again. A smaller percentage decrease this time but still moving in the right direction so staying on the same dose of my medication for at least the next 3 months.
    Julia x

  29. Julia roberts April 6, 2014 at 11:56 am -  Reply

    Hi Annette
    Apologies for the lateness of my reply. Great to hear that all your tests came back ok – such a relief for you. I hope you are starting to experience results with the scalp treatment the doc has given you?
    I didn’t take any photos of the garden before we went away – Should have done really. The previous owner had planted a row of stunning white camellias against the fence under some olive trees which are now in full bloom and look amazing, and the weeping cherry is just about to blossom. Loving discovering what is already planted and deciding what to add!
    Look after yourself
    Speak soon
    Julia x

  30. Julia roberts April 6, 2014 at 12:02 pm -  Reply

    Hello Jan
    Really pleased you enjoyed my tomato soup recipe, I need to make it sometime this week I think and enjoy it with a piece of seeded toast looking out on the garden!
    Thanks for your lovely compliments – I genuinely enjoy my job so I’m glad it comes across that way.
    I need to stock up on my Yankees, down to my last couple of votives
    Julia x

  31. Julia roberts April 6, 2014 at 12:14 pm -  Reply

    Hi Martin
    We are all well thanks Martin. I really enjoyed my break but good to be back. Might have some exciting news about Daniel in the next few weeks so watch this space
    Julia x

  32. Julia roberts April 6, 2014 at 12:20 pm -  Reply

    Hi Steven
    Wow! As I write this Palace have just secured a 3 – 0 win away at Cardiff City a cracking result and giving us real hope of Premiership survival for the first time ever!!
    Yes I was at Selhurst for the Chelsea game …. our flight got in at 6.30 that morning, I had a little nap then headed off to the match – so glad I didn’t miss it, brilliant atmosphere! Winning that game could be the key to our season.
    Hope all is good with you?
    Julia x

  33. Steven April 7, 2014 at 10:15 am -  Reply

    Hi Julia.
    Palace have had a fantastic couple of weeks and survival looks more a probability than possibility. Appointing Pulis was an absolute masterstroke. Unfortunately as I write this I was at a Cup Final yesterday that Rangers lost and we are currently in the midst of wanting our manager sacked! Harsh? Definitely but with the 2nd highest wage bill in Scotland we expect better. We could struggle in the league above under the current management. Anyway I’ll stop because I could take up lots of your time moaning about my team! Glad you had a good holiday and great to see you back on QVC the other day. On a major plus note for me its ten weeks today until I go to Bulgaria with my mates 😀
    Take care xx
    Love Steven x

  34. Julia roberts April 10, 2014 at 9:45 am -  Reply

    Hi Steven
    I haven’t heard about the damas with your manager on Sky Sports. There seem to be quite a few problems in Scottish football at the moment. It is amazing what a difference a manger makes … maybe Mourinho has it right only staying a few seasons before the club and fans get fed up with you. I keep telling my son Dan he’ll need a thick skin!
    We have Villa at home this weekend – if we win that we are more or less safe …. I think Fulham may escape the drop with Cardiff, Sunderland & Norwich all with really tough run ins.
    Speak soon
    Julia x

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