Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Hail, snow and ice

After visitors there is always extra washing, so having checked up on the weather, I pegged up two loads early yesterday.

Tuesday is my fun day but nothing seemed to go well: I missed my pilates class as I was on the PC upstairs and was checking a clock with the wrong time, then I burnt my toast for my lunch, and finally just as I was ready to go out, it started to hail very slightly. There was a note left to say the postman had tried to deliver a parcel put through the door when I was rescuing my laundry.

To save my washing I rushed out and brought it in to hang on airers with the dehumidifier on. By the time that was done, the hailstones got heavier. I took a picture, but was till determined to go out. My bike was ready to go but I wondered whether I could cycle through the slush and would have turned round if it was unsafe.

By the time I had got to my destination, I was pretty cold and fairly wet, but the afternoon spent crafting amongst friends was just what I needed. My jeans sat drying on the radiator, and despite offers to ferry me back home by a kind hearted friend I braved the driving snow, and cycled home. It was straight into a hot bath, and then a nice snuggle down for me. David did not get home till 7 just a few miles took over an hour due to the gridlock out of the University.

I didn't have time to stow the washing line away during the snow storm, and by mid morning, the icicles were dripping.

This morning the snow was still lying around, and the second lot of washing would not really dry over the icicles so that went onto the airers too. It was amazing to see snow in October with leaves still on the shrubs and flowers such as geraniums peeping through. Of course they will be all frosted now and ready to be dispatched to the compost heap.

First Visitors after refit all the way from Australia and Korea

It was Friday evening, and we had yet to move bookcases, books and other items back to rooms, when David's nephew called. Nathan and his fiancee: Yura were over from Australia and could they pop in to see us as they were travelling down from Leeds to Swindon?

Well we rushed and rushed and yes when we opened the door to them on Saturday afternoon, we were ready for them. After a quick pot of tea and cupcakes bought earlier in the day from a charity bazaar in Kenilworth, we took them on a walking tour of Stratford. They stayed over Saturday and Sunday nights. I even managed to find that 2 for 1 ticket to Warwick Castle which I had stashed away.

Nathan had recently spent two years teaching English as a foreign language in Korea, where he met Yura. They both appreciated my home cooking and we enjoyed getting to know them a little better.

Carpeting complete

When Mr Stasher said he wanted to take all the carpets up, I knew he meant business. All boards which could move were screwed down, and everything was carefully cleaned: vacuumed and washed! The smell of Pongo was definitely dispatched. I spent two days on the banisters
with the brushing wax and much polishing.

What with a new under stairs cupboard door, lovely new paintwork and new carpet, I just keep padding around in my hand knit socks, and breath a huge sight of relief now the carpets are complete, and the doors are now trimmed so that they fit.

Mercia Carpets from Kenilworth supplied and fitted the carpets. We had the same throughout the house, including the conservatory. There was one piece for the living and dinning room, and although there is a wall and door between them, they used one piece so as to have no strip. This was David's idea to help the flow between the rooms. We had the carpets fitted on three days, with time in between for us to move furniture around.

Pumpkin feast

This little pumpkin grew from the plant which I bought from the Kenilworth Lions Summer Fete in Abbey Fields. During the summer I willed it to grow and it produced one fruit which riped on the pebbles of the garden.

The outer skin was grey, but when cut through the wonderful green and orange colours were wonderful. Slow roasted with onions, garlic and olive oil, it yielded soft and tasty flesh which we had in various ways: as a hot vegetable on day 1, mixed with roasted red pepper etc with olives on roasted bread, then in a pilaf, and finally whizzed up into a soup.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Another Good Read

I'm pleased to have found an area of Kenilworth Library with a range of interesting books. Having enjoyed my Venetian Blues fix book, I read the follow on where Marlena moves to Tuscany. As well as the wonderful descriptions of the areas and her recipes, the author seems to capture and thoughtfully share with her readers the more sensitive and emotional sides of life.

Following on from that I've picked up another book, set in the area of France just across the Pyrenees from my sister Jenny. I am just getting into 'Happy Hour' by Patrice Chaplin. I am now getting to grips with the balustrade in the hallway, and am going to try using a brush on wax. I need to do a small test piece.

Last Thursday & Friday, I used several pints of elbow grease/wax and boiled linseed oil to revive my chests of drawers which were covered with rain spots. We had a severe thunder storm I think it was some time early last year, anyway it was in Swindon, we were out in the garden with Matthew and Veronica, and did not have time to rush inside to close the windows. I had really thought we would have to have them sent off to be reconditioned but at what cost....I had found out of course, and it was almost as much as getting some more from an antique shop!

Friday seemed to be one of those days, which just went so well. Work on the house, shopping etc went well, and then our evening out in Leamington was well above expectation. We went out to dinner to the Basement Restaurant and there was a good jazz ensemble: guitar, keyboard and vocalist. David had Fresh Sardines with sauce on toast, followed by gigot of lamb and veg, and orange crepes with chocolate and pecan nut sauce, I had red onion and blue cheese tartelette on a bed of mixed leaves to start with, main of freshest pan fried fillet of sea trout on the best pumpkin and Parmesan risotto I'd ever had, followed by a smooth creme brulee flavoured with Baileys. We'll definitely be going there again. The restaurant was full and the service and whole evening a delight.

Autumn Sunshine

The shadows are lengthening and without early sunshine, I seem to be able to sleep in a little later at the weekends. Maybe it is because I am waking up in the middle of the night worried about the global economic situation. The night frights are soon dispelled when I draw the curtains and look out onto the lovely trees just a few feet from my bed.
We have been blessed with a superb weekend of warm and sunny weather. The blessings are warmth, whilst our heating is still disconnected, and the ability to sit outside on the patio for breakfast, lunch and tea, rather than our picnic table in the kitchen, the ability to dry washing outside, whilst there is nowhere to hang anything inside.
Saturday evening, after a session undercoating the loft hatch and radiator in the hall, David humoured me by escorting me on a nighttime walk to the Castle to see if we could spy owls or bats. We hardly needed to use the torch as the moonlight was so bright. I had hoped to walk well beyond the castle but my hips started to hurt, and knowing that I had glossing to do Sunday we turned back after a nice sit down.
I have gloss painting down to a fine art, and the radiator in the hall is looking very good. We had enough time to have another treat, we went to the cinema for the first time in maybe two years, after a very good but late lunch: "I've loved you so long", a thoughtful French film. Afterwards David took me on a walking tour around the campus, looking at one his current project: the new nursery. It is close by a lake, and whilst we were enjoying the lovely evening, we had several flybys by groups of Canadian Geese.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Watching Paint Dry

This was the situation earlier this week. Paul the builder was at the painting stage. We now have the walls crossed lined and papered with the final paper. What a job and well done especially as the old layers of paper were very hard to get off. The ceiling was specially hard to get cleared, unlike the bedroom paper which almost fell off leaving me to wash the ceiling down several times to remove the distemper.
There is now a new door between the dining and living room to match all the others in the house, and it now opens into the dining room. Previously there was only one position our armchair could stand in, just one inch one way or the other, meant the door would not open. That meant I did not often move the chair when vacuuming!
I've not been idle today! Well I have to have some fun and it has been such a lovely sunny day that I decided to go to see Rita, and I rigged up a tape player and also found her a lead to play her radio without using batteries, and had a laugh as I danced my sega. I had brought the tape during one of our holidays several years ago and this was the first time I had played it. Let me explain to non Mauritians what this sega is: it is a dance that the slaves started and now their descendants and all Mauritians love to dance to tunes played on home made instruments and guitars. The ballads are very topical and current ones describe the ups and downs of daily life.
Thursday is of course Market Day in Kenilworth, and I bought home eggs, pie, bacon, figs, mango, ginger, potatoes, and leeks.
I did paint all afternoon, and have completed all the gloss in the hallway except for the radiator and hatch....tomorrow is another day.

Monday, 6 October 2008

First Quilting

In between all this painting, and I haven't yet taken a close up of Jasmine emulsion and gloss, I sit on the bed doing a little bit of quilting. I wanted to have some circles and with a number of plain pastry cutters found one just the right size. At first I used the small stabbing stitches the books advise, but I soon found a small running stitch gave a much neater effect on the back. By pulling a little on the thread when I finish each circle the gathering up accentuates the quilting effect. This bit is to go on the back of the bag I am making up using up the dragon fly Cathedral Patchwork technique.

Pear Harvest

We love trees, and in a small garden I thought it would be lovely to plant a couple of fruit trees. Earlier this year I had the big excuse of exploring local nurseries, and found a Concorde Espalier tree and a Doyenne de Comice. Knowing that one ought not to let the trees bear too many fruit, I picked so many small pears off. I thought there would be a further drop so left two on the Concorde and obviously more on the Comice tree. There was no June drop, and we are now starting to enjoy our harvest.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Kenilworth Market, more stalls

The weekly market on a Thursday also has a number of excellent stalls in addition to that of the Cotswold Pudding and Pie Co.

An excellent greengrocer, whose artistry adds to the visual pleasure is Stodds of Leicester. The produce is fresh and seasonal veg abounds. I like the way he uses savoy cabbage leaves to edge his display. Last week the display was fabulous and it inspired me to take my camera this week. However the display was not as its best as I did not get there till after 1 p.m. I often have a peep at the boxes to see where and how far they have travelled. After Venice I pined for figs, and having seen the miserly specimens in Sainsbury's was delighted to buy some a few weeks ago at the stall. Last week there were none, but it paid to have asked, as this week they had pride of place.

This is what I bought and as I cycled home I was already planning what I would have for lunch and dinner.

There is a nice flower stall and a couple of plant stalls. I'll have to think of a way of bringing back some trays of flowers to plant out for winter colour.

I am already eyeing up the olives for when my stash in the fridge is consumed. The stallholder, whom I have nick named Mr Gastromie has a fantastic array of olives, tomatoes etc preserved, as well as excellent bread and patisserie from a real french baker. I think the baker is baking and does not come to Kenwilworth, but I did catch a glimpse of him at the Saturday market in Warwick.

Cotswold Pudding and Pie Company at Kenilworth Market

Its over a year since I moved to this lovely small town. One of the regular things which adds to my contentment here is the weekly market. Contentment is an understatement, glee is more like it. Most weeks I manage to cycle up in rain or shine. One thing I must remember is to lock up my bike by the library thus avoiding having to hold my breath when I lock up my bike right by the temporary generator which emits fumes behind the fish stall.

This is part of my shopping today. Last week I had an egg weighing 103g, which turned out to be a double yoker. No joke for the hen I am sure.

One of the first stall holders to get my five star award at the Kenilworth weekly market was that of the Cotswold Pudding and Pie Co. It was my search for a good egg which led me to Mr Salmon. Well I had tried everywhere, and having had bantams in my garden in Swindon for several years, it had not been possible to match their eggs for taste and freshness - until I tried Mr Salmon's eggs. They come in all sizes and colours, and each week I seek a peep down all the trays to try and find a green one! I take them as they come, politeness demands this of course, but if there is a particularly beautiful one, then this is handed to me, with very good grace.

I have tasted most of Mr Salmon's produce: EXCELLENT Pork pies, meat pies, sausages, boiled ham, bacon and more. The pastry is perfection and all the pork is reared by a member of his family, with Mr Miles's brother curing the pork and making the produce. The Steak and Kidney Pie is a firm favourite and what with builders all around, makes an excellent easy evening meal with fresh veg from the market. Recently when I had missed the market and got a Pork Pie from Waitrose, it failed to please.

I was chatting to Miles today and was delighted to hear that he attends Cirencester Market. That is where my love of good local food markets developed. One thing I used to look forward to when working there was getting out to the market at lunch times. The hot news is that their pies are being hunted down and they are going to supply a deli in Malmesbury. That's another small town where I used to go to the market having left work in Cirencester.

Here is my market day lunch: lovely small slices of pork pie, well they are so tasty these are sufficient to tingle the taste buds, with my home made beetroot chutney and windowsill sprouted alfalfa.

Builders and choosing finishes

These were just some of the carpet samples which I brought home. I had gone through dozens at the local carpet shop. David and I had tried some 'National Names', but trying to use locals suppliers generally, we also popped into some local ones and found one which we liked. I visited a number of times and asked all sorts of questions are to advantages of one type against another etc. Ever patient they were, and the house has been measured up, and the carpet ordered. I have to keep in mind the wonderful feeling of carpets new and clean, warm and cushy under my feet. This picture of underfoot comfort is sustaining me through the four weeks that Paul our builder is here. We now have only a small piece of capet left in the hall way and the landing and that is coming up this weekend when I do the glosswork in the hall.

I can almost hear you gasp, what four weeks! So did Matthew, my son, but when I explained to what was being done, he emailed back that he understands that was necessary what with David's exacting standards. Cables are being sunk, skirting boards replaced, new fire surround, putting air vents in chimneys, small cupboard being upgraded, papering, painting etc etc.

The first room to be carpeted will be the living and dining rooms, as they will be empty. We shall have a couple of days to shift some things around. Then the fitters will return to do a couple more rooms, and the same again. That's the beauty of having a local Company, at least they also most live in Kenilworth, so that reduces the fitters carbon footprint as compared to having a company from Stratford or whatever.

Cathedral Patchwork

How's that for a link! My previous post mentioned light and Coventry Cathedral and now the little project I've just started is based on Cathedral Patchwork.

The Kenilworth WI had an evening where an expert came and showed off and talked about her Cathedral Patchwork. I missed it, plain forgot about it, but had a strange sensation all evening that I ought to have been somewhere else. After that the WI craft group was inspired to try some out. Not a large piece, mind you but a project which would give us an idea of the techniques. I'm enjoying this craft thing: it gave me an aim when I visited the Knitting and Stitching Show recently at Birmingham. I found some lovely fabric with dragonflies, which I would try to frame within the calico backing. Here is the small sample completed. I worked on this in Hereford sitting a window with a lovely view of the Cathedral, and also during times when I just had to escape from the builders. We do a lot together on Tuesday afternoon, but I had to unpick this as I had folded my squares wrongly. It takes a lot of fabric but the backing is completely finished off neatly without any work. This sample is being made into a bag, and the other side will be quilted.....another first try for me at this craft. Now I am really making up for the fact that academic girls at the schools I went to never did needlework. Its really fun.

The very small scissors were also a little treat from the Show in Birmingham, and fit in my little sewing box which I also made at the group.

All things bright and beautiful

Its Harvest Festival time. A period to be thankful that despite the weather people all over do have things to be grateful for. Here is the glorious effect of light, my little bit of the theatrics reminding me of Coventry Cathedral. A friend from knitting group: Mandy and her Husband are on a stained glass course, and I am sure that they will come up with something lovely to adorn their abode. I had a moment of light through nasturtiums.

The produce of what Marie-Claire thought were courgettes and edible turned out to be a variety of gourds. They are a little on the large side, growing next to the pumpkin, perhaps they did not want to be outshone. These climbed and even went next door, where Dawn coaxed some on, and now the stash of gourds from my side have gone to join hers. I think she is going to make an arrangement with them for Harvest Festival.
The pumpkin grew on a plant which I bought from the Lion's Fair early this summer on the Abbey Fields in the centre of Kenilworth. No doubt this will be baked and coaxed in a number of delicious suppers.