Sunday, 29 November 2009


Mr S and I have just returned from a few days in Lincoln. This is our first visit and we were delighted by what the City had on offer. At first we were disappointed that the Food and Drink festival was being held in an 'out of town' venue, and that we were a week early for their Christmas Market. By Saturday evening, as people were starting to put up the stands for Christmas Market, we realised that our view of the delightful street scape would have been spoilt.

In contrast to the current Christmas attractions, I found an ancient carving on the front of the Cathedral: doves, an emblem often found on Christmas cards:

The bells of the Cathedral sounded as we explored the City, and we were touched that the bells were silenced through the night, so as not to disturb sleepers. Our hotel was just a couple of streets away from the Cathedral, and from our window we had dramatic views of the Cathedral towers, and the walls of the Castle which were very well lit up at night. During our visit and guided tour of the Cathedral I found out about the Lincoln Imp, which Lizzie had told me about. Although it was quite late by the time we finished our tour, the light through the stained glass was wonderful. Later that evening as we rested prior to going down to diner, we heard a pair of owls calling not far from our window.

The shops down Steep Hill were very attractive, and it was interesting to go in and browse and look at the inside of ancient buildings.

We came across The Collection, which is the name of the City's Museum. It is housed in a very modern building, which has an excellent Cafe, with views up the hill to Cathedral. We spent almost half a day viewing a special exhibition called Making History: 300 years of Antiquaries in Britain. Another very different type of Museum, which we very much enjoyed was the Museum of Lincolnshire Life which is housed in some old barracks. In contrast to all the Christmas bling, this old printer's plate in the Museum caught my eye:

Then later I found a stained glass window with pretty flowers. So having missed the Christmas Market, I still found items from former times on the subject of Christmas, peace and good will to all men.

This is the original window designed by Edward Burne-Jones which came from the demolished St mark's Church in Lincoln. I think I have seen this design on Christmas Cards too.

To cap it all, a most extraordinary thing: just as we were walking down to have a coffee in an old Coffee House on High Bridge, I spied my Uncle Colin and Aunty Doreen. We had not been in touch for months, and they live quite some way and had come up on the train for an outing. It would have been so easy to miss each other in the crowds too.

Chatwsorth Outing

This is the second outing that I have organised for my branch of the WI. For several days before, I was receiving last minute bookings and queries, and I was a little nervous as I set off for the bus stop. However everyone at each pickup point arrived in time, and our trip went smoothly. In addition, although it was during the week of the most dreadful rains, this Thursday was the best day we had had for some time, with the sun even breaking through.

Chatsworth was decked up in all its glory, and there were plenty of tantalising items in their shop in the Orangery. I do like Christmas, but this was a little too early for me, and as it was not easy to peer in the gloom around the decorations, a visit in the Summer when more of the house will be open is definitely on the cards. I was able to take reasonable pictures of the Statues and the giant urn in the Orangery. Unusually for a Stately home, photography inside was allowed, but with the low lighting for the Christmas displays, my pictures do not really do the house justice.

Friday, 20 November 2009

J & J Cash and Serendipity

On the day Lizzie and I ventured out to Coventry, we were somehow funnelled into the market. Being new to Coventry I have yet to get my bearings, but was pleased to show off the exotic fruit and veg available. Before we could get to that part of the market, Lizzie was drawn to a Vintage bric a brac shop. After less than 5 minutes, we both were drawn to a picture of a Cardinal by J & J Cash. I had already shown Lizzie my Cash pictures back home and one of the purposes of our visit to Coventry was to go and see the ribbons and pictures at the Herbert Museum.

Lizzie is an excellent shopper and she soon picked out the best of the two similar Cardinal silk pictures. The amazing thing was that the last picture she had taken in Mauritius in Aunty Phyllis's garden was of a cardinal, which she called up on her camera to show me there in the market. In the Cash woven silk picture, the cardinal is shown perched on a branch of honey suckle, and we wondered whether honeysuckle exists in any of the normal Cardinal habitats, or whether the juxtaposition is a figment of some English designer's imagination.

Using her excellent talent for bartering, a reduced price of £8.00 was agreed. Lizzie was triumphant and we could not think of a better present for her to take back to Aunty Phyllis. Our mother had had some lovely very large woven Chinese silk pictures which granny Teckkam had given her many years ago, which we returned so that Aunty Phyllis's two daughters can enjoy their heritage. Maybe it is because of those beautiful Chinese silk pictures which hung on my mother's walls, that I am now drawn to these. However I think my enjoyment is based on the appreciation of the skill of the designers and craftsmen and women who made these. When in Italy I have often noted how they are so proud of their silk weavers.....its about time we do the same for the Coventry Silk Weavers.

Gallivanting with Sister

This could be Mauritius, or it could be somewhere in Australia, the clothes give it away....this was taken in the tropical house in Leamington Spa. Lizzie is wearing her new hat, and we are about to have coffee in The Restaurant in the Park.

Each day except for one when Lizzie went off to explore Kenilworth on her own, we sallied forth to Warwick, Leamington and Coventry.

We spent some time exploring the new Ardman Exhibtion at the Herbert Museum where we enjoyed " a rare behind-the-scenes insight into how Aardman and other featured animators create their characters. From storyboards and set design to cel painting, stop frame and CGI technology," you can learn top tips from the industry and then have a go at creating your own crazy animations! This is not to missed by anyone who likes animation, and if you have children this will enthrall them. There were not that many children there during the week, and they made way for us.

I was tickled by the design board showing a sweetcorn dress!

Lizzie takes pictures and looks at the details just to get us in the mood I took this Green Christmas Window in Coventry......and you can perhaps guess why!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Crazy climate

Its November the 5th, and the leaves on the trees outside my bedroom are very nearly down, but cram your head to one side, and down the road you can see a huge oak tree, still very green and full of leaf. Yesterday I swept all the leaves off the front garden, and planted 12 more heathers. This time they are winter flowering types.

I love the light of sunny autumn days, one just has to cherish these, even though they are getting markedly shorter. When I sit in the conservatory, I love to watch the clouds scuttle past, and have even gone so far as to have my book on clouds to hand, but sometimes I just like to look at the shapes.

I've started my autumn chop in the garden, but am amazed at how so much colour remains. The penstemones are still visited by late bumble bees, so I am leaving these for the last forays for nectar for the year. This late rose is scenting the room.

Apart from that I am clearing and cleaning ready for my sister Lizzie's arrival tomorrow. I'm busy knitting her some warm socks. Well when I am sat down resting that is. At least they will be ready by the time she leaves as she goes off to stay with Jenny in Spain.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Harvest Festival

I was saddened to hear from my craft group, than fresh produce and home cooked items are no longer wanted at church harvest festivals in the area. They thought this was a real pity, so I suggested that in our own way, we give thanks for the good food that we have access to, and perhaps just make something nice to share with friends.

Not one in church, but my own display, with thanks to farmers, and market holders. This is what I brought back from this Saturday's market in Warwick.

To amuse the crowd at the larger market which incorporates local producers, were a pair of buskers dressed up as scarecrows playing instruments.
In the afternoon I baked a large batch of flapjacks and following on my theme of trick biscuits last year, added finely chopped crystallised ginger, and as we had a large pumpkin in the window with flashing light, added shelled pumpkin seeds. The flapjacks were down a treat. We had cut up small pieces so that the trick or treaters, could sample, before deciding whether they wanted a whole piece. I think the message was spread around very quickly, as we had over 40 excellently dressed and suitably scary callers....even the very little ones who dressed up as evil? fairies and princesses had given their outfits a Halloween twist. There were a couple of little ones who said they did not like ginger, so maybe next year, the treats will be along the chocolate theme.

October Knitting

I think that wool socks are definitely the best - hand knitted, with no seams across the toes, in bright or subdues colours. Anyone who has them, can knit, or have had them given, would be hard pushed to disagree. I had been thinking of increasing my personal stash of them, but just as one pair leaves the needles someone who needs some springs to mind.

I was at my friend Rita's a few weeks ago, and was surprised that she had the heating on, even though she is in her eighties it was warm. When I asked if she was poorly, she said no, but her feet were cold. Marie-Claire who was with me, and is already in receipt of one pair from me, was thrilled when I said I would knit Rita some. Rita tried mine on and could not believe how wonderful they felt. I took careful measurements, as one does for 'bespoke' tailoring, and was given very clear instructions as to what colour etc she wanted.
Rita is one of those very elegant ladies, who loves to choose her clothes, jewelry and make up to look her very best. Wearing usually dark trousers, I chose some sock yarn from the wonderful array at Web of Wool.....and now Rita is so thrilled that she has even worked out that she can wash them in the evening, and have them ready to wear the following day. I think I shall have to knit her a second pair for Christmas.

Teacakes at tea time

When the clocks have changed and we suddenly have darker evenings, one of the bonuses for us, is that we sit down at the weekends and enjoy afternoon tea. Real tea, with teapot, tea cosy, strainer, cups, saucers....well the British Tea ceremony takes place, with of course something to eat.

A bit taken aback by how prices have risen recently, I put back the four teacakes for about £1, and was determined to make my own. I selected the recipe from Paul Hollywood's 100 Great Breads. We enjoyed them last weekend and had plenty to freeze too. This morning I took a couple out, and Mr S had everything ready and have had mine with damson jam, and a couple of cups of Darjeeling, am suitably refreshed and ready to continue my blog updates. They did not suffer from their short time in the freezer.
The other bread recipe which caught my fancy was his Pain de Campagne, which we have now renamed mighty white....with 400g white flour to 100g of the superb stone ground wholemeal organic rye from Waitrose, we have a loaf, which Mr S considers to meet his requirement for a 'white' loaf! I've made the same twice since, and just as successful each time, though I did not use the 1 tbsp salt thinking that was far too much, and used just 2 tsps.

On the same day, I also baked a chocolate cake using a recipe from my old Good Housekeeping, which was the best I had ever made, and which we had in the place of desert on a couple of evenings. I added some vanilla which I think gave an added depth to the chocolate.

Its November already

Unlike last year, we are having our 'Summer' very late indeed. Today Mr S and I were out in the garden and it was warm that we had to have the windows open when it was time for lunch.

The time has flown by during October. After the pre holiday busy period, trying to cope with a bumper crop of plums, the post holiday period was filled with slower activities. If it were not for downloading the contents of my camera, then I would be hard pushed to think about what I had been up to.

When I got back from Whitby, I decided it was time to harvest the pears. Our two young pear trees were heavy with fruit. I brought back a good sound box and dividers from the fruit section in Salisbury's and had harvested most of the fruit, when I read the label....One of the fruit tree labels said harvest in October. So I left the rest for a few more weeks. The fruit continued to grow, and this is just one of the late harvested fruits, which shows that there are about four pears to a Kg. Next year, if the poor tree is not having a complete rest, I shall thin the fruit well and wait until October.

When I was young and growing up in Mauritius, I think the only pear I may have eaten was in the form of small cubes in tins of mixed fruit salad. One of the tales which my mum used to repeat, was of my night forays to the fridge, and when I was pretty young I went to the fridge and eat more or less the whole contents of a big party size tin of fruit salad. I have grown out of the habit of late night eating! And faced with such a big pear, I sit on the settee with plate and knife, and share the feast with Mr S.

At the market in September, instead of the big green pineapples, which I think have been developed for the canning industry, they had some lovely glowing golden small pineapples, exactly the same size and shape as the small ones which grow in Mauritius. These smallish but deliciously sweet pineapples were two for £1, and although I would only need one, thought immediately of taking one around for my Mauritian friend Marie-Claire. But surprise surprise, she did not know how to peel them. In less than five minutes, I had demonstrated the technique, and from now on, there will be more than just tinned pineapple on their table.

When I got home, I proceeded to peel mine, and yes the taste was just the same, this pineapple had been sun ripened for sure, and as I bit into a slice, I was transported back to that island on the tropic of Capricorn.