Monday, 8 February 2016

In a Vase on Monday - Windfalls prop up daffodils

We are having high winds and lots of rain...the daffodils do well with lots of rain...and raining down from the trees are twigs and branches.  We were looking for pooh sticks yesterday at The Vyne when I found a lovely one covered in lichen.  Gradually as we arrived back at the car, I had a small handful.  A twig of pussy willow and catkins adds to the spring arrangement.  Seeing the wild Lords and Ladies: Arum maculatum, starting to pierce the leaf litter along the walks gave me the idea of using a few leaves of Arum Italicum pictum growing in the boarder close to the gazebo.

These are the first of my daffodils to flower this year.

They are The Tenby Daffodil: Narcissus obvallaris.  This lovely little golden daffodil is the emblem of Wales.

The flowers are quite small about 5cm across so my little vase about 10cm high was just the right one...I tried others but this worked the best.  When I was at school I spent one of my first holidays in Wales at an Easter Camp, and was enchanted by the swathes of daffodils growing in the woodland just above Tenby.

Cathy has come up with a lovely arrangement which will no doubt sew new ideas for vases for the weeks to come.  Like me, do go over and see what she has come up with, and have a peep at what other people have put in their vases this week.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Tlalchigual buns

Its lovely to read Jane Mason's experience of coming across Tlalchigual buns near Lake Chapala in Mexico, and how lucky for us to find this recipe in her Book of Buns.  When Mr S and I are travelling around one of our favourite things is to try local food, and often it is the small outlets or sole vendors that come up with delicious morsels.

This is the early February Facebook Group challenge.  For these buns you make a starter dough and a sugar solution on the day before you want to bake.  To be authentic you would need to use a cone of piloncillo from Mexico, which is made by boiling down and shaping cane syrup...I can just imagine the lovely flavour.  Where I grew up in Mauritius one of the perks of knowing someone who worked at a sugar refinery was being offered a bottle of 'Sirop Canne'..a dark brown reduction that tasted not too sweet but full of other complex flavours.  I would love to be able to try this in baking!  However having neither piloncillo or Sirop Canne, I used Billington's dark brown muscavodo sugar from Mauritius and a teaspoon of molasses.

I followed the instruction for the day of baking, by starting the yeast in a little of the syrup...once before I had used my dried yeast with a molasses solution, but had had difficulty, and once again it did not look right...maybe the natural minerals and salts in the  molasses overwhelms the yeast, so instead I first got the dried yeast going in a little plain water, with a tablespoon of the sweet solution.  It worked beautifully.

I used wholemeal flour from our local water mill at Charlecote, hazel nuts and candied citron and lemon peel, as well as some cherries.

Most Mondays I have a little friend who comes to taste my buns and he loves singing his song about buns with cherries on the he'll need to sing one about buns with cherries in them, when he has one of these on his next visit!  Here is my friend Penny reading to my bun taster in chief.

Here is the dough ready to be portioned, with nuts and fruits all throughout the dough.

The buns rose beautifully and filled the house with a wonderful aroma as they cooked in the oven....they are now cooling ready for Friday bun day.

Monday, 1 February 2016

In a Vase on Monday - A posy in an ink bottle full of scent

Normally February brings rain to thaw the frozen pond again..but the first day of February is warm and blowy but dry, and I don't think that our pond has frozen over once this season.  Cathy's post this week features spring flowers and springs! And if you visit there, you'll also have the benefit and linking to others who join in with this posting.

I could have picked the first of my Tenby daffodils, which I planted back in 2008 which had started in flower last week.  I'll leave them for passers by to enjoy for another week or so.

My contribution is picked from the back garden.  Making up this very little posy are 'wild' primroses, aconites, single snowdrops and Pulmonaria Sissinghurst.

My little vase is an ink bottle I bought a few years ago when visiting an enactment at a Castle in Wales, they had bits and pieces to do with calligraphy, and I also bought a nice journal covered with leather, and the recipe for making ink with oak galls!  I haven't got round to making the ink yet.

I wasn't quite sure where to place it as it is so small, and was moving it round to the house to find the best light to picture it in...since I think the little bottle could double up as a scent bottle, here it is on my dressing table.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Maize Mitts

Maize Mitts made for my friend Kevin are just the ticket for keeping his hands warm whilst in the workshop and gardening.  We were chatting on Facebook on Monday, and Kevin asked if I had seen Countryfile on Sunday, at there was a piece about wool.  Of course I watched it on i player, then we continued chatting about things woolly...and it ended up in my offering to knit him some finger-less mitts in pure wool, to keep his hands and wrists warm whilst he worked on this cooler winter days.

If they were purely for playing the piano they may have been fluffy and perhaps more stylised with cales and motifs, but he said he wanted them for working in, so some not so fluffy yarn was called for this straight forward sturdy pair.  I found just the yarn from my stash...some balls of Australia Sirdar Double Crepe brought by my sister Lizzie from Australia a few years ago.  Its sure to be vintage as there are no washing instructions and the weight is 1oz...remember the days?

These are amazingly simple to knit, and the pattern is free

I used the magic loop method with a long fixed circular needle, which was much easier to use compared to the short double ended needles, though I did revert to these for the thumb.  I already had the needle in my 'workbox', but lately I have been knitting socks using two shorter circular double ended needles and have found a very good supplier, where they are dispatched and in my experience arrive next day...what a service: from Woolstack.

Finished by Wednesday evening, they were popped them in the post on Thursday, and he got them today: Friday!

Whilst I was knitting them, I got my hero to try them on, so that I could gauge the he wants a pair, and am on the second mitt already.  That will be nearly all that yarn used am doing well on knitting through my stash.  I think I shall make some more pairs of mitts in more frivolous yarns, with dainty patterns.

Kevin is a wonderful gardener as well as being good at other things.  He writes beautifully and very knowledgeably about orchids on his blog.  He also grows his own veg, and knows a lot about succulents.  A few years ago me brought me a very little Crassula Buddha's Temple succulent plant, and I have since propagated them, and here are three of the latest posing with his gloves.

Monday, 25 January 2016

In a Vase on Monday - Snowdrops

Before I start, I must mention that when I opened Cathy's contribution this week, I beautiful: a real gem, so do go and see what the one whose brilliant idea this weekly meme was, has created.

Its warm and sunny today, not quite like other 'normal' winter days.  Looking back at when I have posted about the snowdrops in the garden, I would say that the snowdrops are about three weeks early.

I picked a few of the double ones for this vase.  I don't think they are anything special variety...I did not pay a King's ransom for these.  The doubles are a little more advanced than the singles, and the flowers are appearing before the foliage. I planted them the first Spring we moved to this house, and I loved the comment on Gardeners Question time that year explaining that Snowdrops should be split every four years, and by and large I have done this every leap year.  There are several really good clumps in the garden, and I have been able to give bulbs to friends too.  I also plant seeds, so the clumps keep coming up.  I wonder whether the squirrel is moving them around?

They needed a little foliage and chose some inky purple leaves from Ophiogon planiscapus nigrescens and the variegated ones from planiscapus Little Tabby, which I bought last year from Cotswold Garden Flowers.

Close up the little green horse shoe shows up really well doesn't it?

Sharing the window sill today is my little vase which held the spring flowers last week, my miniature pottery hen, which holds my dried chilies, and the pewter tea caddy.  The hen came from my Aunty Prue.  She collected the china hens and had a vast collection, well over thirty, and on a visit many years ago she offered me one...but my eye was caught by the very little one!  She was slowly giving them away, and very often was asked by her Village to donate one as a prize for the Local Village Show.  Aunty Prue is no longer with us, but each time my gaze falls on my little hen I think of her!