Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Christmas Marmalade

With the magic of freezing you can stash away Seville oranges and bring them out hopefully before the next season! Its only a couple of months away from when the new season oranges arrive. Here are a few jars of Seville marmalade made today, ready for selling next week at a bring and buy coffee morning at a friend's house in Kenilworth.

Using Tate & Lyle sugar does seem to lead to a better set, perhaps cane sugar is better than beet sugar, but I did add an extra lemon just to help the set, so it wasn't exactly a very scientific test.

Christmas inspired sewing

Having fallen by accident into a WI craft group earlier this year, with the help of very skilled friends there, I am exploring and starting to develop sewing skills. In my way I try to personalise each project and push the design a little further and incorporate small extras.

Many years ago in the Payroll Department of the NERC we had a part-timer, who was a member of the WI and would each year bring us goodies of handmade niceties to raise funds for various charities. These gave me the idea of making heart shaped decorations to give to my friends this year. I have continued to use the hearts I bought over 15 years ago using them on the doorhandles. Kaye who leads our craft group has a wonderful stash of materials and I've added a few extras to these, and taking about three hours each, I stitch thinking about each friend I am making these for.

This is the one, with different fabric each side, which I made for Vicki, my bread guru, who lives partly in London and partly in Southwold. I left this with her on my visit, but further ones will have to remain secret for now!

Here is one that I've made specially for myself, not a heart, but one with the year embroidered. I hope to make one each year, and hence trace the standard of my work. It started with two small squares of absolutely gorgeous turquoise silk. I sewed with 'silver' thread for the first time, there was a mirror, an embellishment, beads, padding and embroidery etc.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Out to town with my new shopping trolley

Still in my dressing gown, I answered the door bell. There on the doorstep was a Parcel Force lady with my box. It was so light I thought it was empty. But no, there inside was my new shopping trolley, only ordered last Thursday. Made in Spain, the Rolser trolley comes in many colours and I had decided for a darker colour but with a nice green trim.
As the day was sunny I decided to step out and had a number of shops to visit. Waitrose first and Sainsbury's on the way home meant I tested my trolley to capacity, and yes it fully meets expectations.
Up in Kenilworth I took a picture of the new Almanack Restaurant. Its also a coffee shop and has a light and airy feel to it. On Friday David and I went there for dinner and had some really excellent lamb which was the roast of the day, I would have loved more vegetables than the potato moussaka it was served with. The North side of the square is nearly completed. The development has been really slow having started before we moved to Kenilworth.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Cold weather and warm woollens

Yesterday we seemed to spend the best part of the day in Ikeas, yes, more than one of them! That is almost beyond the call the duty, but the boy now has his big bookshelf/cupboard with doors on. I am from the open shelf brigade and David is from the behind closed doors brigade. I would even like to have all my ingredients on open shelves and can remember my grand-mothers larder in New Holland in Lincolnshire. It was down a couple of steps from the kitchen, and being half underground was lovely and cool. It had a stone floor and marble shelves. I would happily swap this for cupboards and my fridge!

Mr S has taken himself off to the NEC to spend a day amongst model trains so today I have a day all on my own at home, and after the gloomy morning will probably go outside to check on the garden and clear up the leaves etc. I've sat and done some knitting and phoning around. Sadly Aunty Nora is very poorly and is now in Hospital, and a phone call to Aunty Prue put me back in good spirits. We compared notes and I found out that her sweetpeas are already up, so I shall start mine off soon. My tee pee with only a few plants yielded so many bunches last year, and I hope that do as well this coming year.

Although we had a sprinkling of snow in the night, it had melted away by the morning, and thanks to my recent knitted items I am pretty snug. Both the legwarmers and the gloves are knitted in Manos Silk Blend. I'm pleased to have knitted some gloves, but feel that I am rather a nice leather gloves type of person. I do however now wear some rather unflattering performance biking gloves when cycling around, as I ruined a pair of fine leather gloves when they got wet through whilst cycling during the blizzard a few weeks ago.

Anna from Web of Wool suggested I put a couple of drops of hair conditioner in the rinsing water when preparing my new Lace Triangle/Tucker ready for its stretch on my wires. Here it is drying in the conservatory. The design is one based on the techniques explained by Evelyn Clark her booked called Knitting Lace Triangles. I've had the yarn for a couple of years now and was the first of consignments from the shawl club from Poshyarn. It is a lovely shade of Lavender and is warm and soft.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Couple of days in London

  • First time down to London from Kenilworth on my own. Jolly pleased with myself as I managed to get some very cheap train tickets on line. I even managed to update some software called Adobe so that I could print off the tickets.
  • Fine weather meant Vickie and I had a lovely walk around her locality, it is almost like a village and even has a wonderful church.

  • Got to taste some delicious home cooking and excellent bread, succulent partridge , and a 'surprise soup' at lunch time which I have already cooked at home, and has Mr S's approval.

  • Visited Poilane with Vickie, and was shown round the bakery including their wood burning oven. Due to a hopefully temporary downturn in restaurant bookings, the morning bake on Thursday was suspended and all we could see was the mother in the mixer, and no actual bread being baked. Annie, the bakery manager was very informative. Bought some goodies back which were enjoyed although, bless him, Mr S said my bread was more to his liking.

  • Visited the Wallace Collection and had lunch there with Vickie in their restaurant which is light and bright and in the inner court yard which has been glassed over. Looked at some wonderful rooms with their silks and stunning chandeliers and found the Oval Drawing Room and the picture of the Swing by Fragonard.

  • Vickie knows the area well as she used to live just off Marylebone High Street, and it was a treat to see the wonderful food and cloth shops. We walked and talked and admired the wonderful architecture during a walk from there to the Railway station.

Onion tart supper

If you are making bread and still haven't thought what's for dinner....what do you do? Quickly rattle through the fridge, think about what there is lying around...well it is Monday and not much onions, red peppers roasted on Saturday, cheese, olives etc. Supper turned out a cross between a pizza and an onion tart. The red onions which I had cooked gently worked beautifully.
To whom do I owe this recipe? Not sure but I do owe so much to my friend Vickie who is a craft baker, and who has introduced me to writers like Linda Collister, Andrew Whitley, Paul Hollywood, and Richard Bertinet.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Kenilworth in Bloom - Daffodil Project

As I have not yet claimed my birthday present from last year, and the next one is looming close, I woke up one morning a few weeks ago with a yearning after daffodils in the Spring. Not just a few daffodils but loads and loads. Not having a big garden, I thought wider: grass verge outside the house and the green opposite. Things I miss about Swindon are my neighbours and friends and the swathes of daffodils each spring dotted all around the town.

Here are the wild daffodil and the Tenby Daffodil side by side, with my wedding ring to give some scale. It is a little late for planting the bulbs, but I wanted to get some in the ground. , and the wild ones I've planted in the back garden and in pots. The supply of the wild ones is very restricted and a little too costly, and it seems that the Tenby Daffodil which naturalises easily and also seeds, is the optimum for growing in grass. Just because I really wanted these and the growers were out of stock, I did manage to find a good wild flower supplier, but at a price!

I've contacted the growers in Wales and hope to be able to distribute the bulbs at cost to any groups in Kenilworth who wish to plant out verges, green areas, school grounds etc. I need to get my order in early, so will be contacting people early next year to gauge the amounts required.

I've done my research and contacted various bodies with more to do on that front. Having spoken with a Kenilworth worthy, he suggested that I do this in conjunction with Kenilworth in Bloom, and open this to the whole town. I'm looking forward to the next Committee meeting where I shall put forward my case. To promote my new pet project, I am planting some clumps of daffodils, which I hope will be flowering next spring when I want to launch the Kenilworth Daffodil Project.
I hope that people all around Kenilworth will be mobilised to plant the Tenby daffodil widely next year and enjoy the spring show for many years to come.

Patchwork bag project completed

Completed hand made and designed by your truly. All the following are firsts for me: cathedral window patchwork, quilting, herringbone stitch to apply patchwork square to an orange lining. and the use of binding to finish all the edges.

Bang and Splash

It was the second time we attended the Fireworks at the Castle. I'd bought the tickets in advance from Coventry Building Society, and had been watching the forecast and thought it would be a washout.

The rain held off, so off we trotted early this time, as last time we were one of the late ones who held up the show! This time there were loads of people with tickets and the queues for cash were much shorter, the reverse of last year, and chatting to the next people, found out that for the first time one could download tickets from the Internet and it seemed to them that there were many more people this year.

We found a nice vantage point, and enjoyed the start of the show. There were loads of bangs and ows of admiration, but about ten minutes from the end, the drops got larger and larger, and I could feel the trickles down my neck. The consensus was that we head home. David walked as fast as he could, as he did not feel like running. The pace was such that every few steps, I had to jog a little, and we both splashed our way home. Anyone who knows how much taller David is, can picture the image of my trotting along to keep up!

Lessons learnt:

Remember to take the camera
Take a torch
Take a large umbrella

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Halloween Treats

I look forward to seeing the kids dressed up in their finery. I love dressing up myself and am seriously thinking of getting dressed up next year to give the T & T a laugh when I answer the knock to the door. I had my first taste of Kenilworth Trick or Treat evening last year, and this year I decided to dish out Twix Bars. Why did I choose these? Well they are my favourite snack bar as I try to kid myself that they are like Millionaire's shortbread which is really my favourite sweet pleasure. If they did not all go, I could add them to my 'no longer secret' stash. Mr S has discovered them at the back of the ingredients cupboard. Why was he looking there I wonder?

On Friday I stayed home after a hectic day on Thursday looking around Coventry and coming home with new curtains. I looked through all my recipe books for ginger biscuits, but somehow I did not have all the ingredients required so improvised and this recipe has now been written up as otherwise, I can't be convinced that I will remember it quite the same next time.

I would have been happy to give the Twixes away and have the biscuits. We had so many callers, all really well dressed and very well behaved, and nice to see that younger ones were accompanied by parents, that almost all the biscuits and Twixes went. I'll be making a second batch of my biscuits very soon.

Here is the recipe, and if you make them up, do let me know whether you like them. Next time I make them, I'll take a picture to post.

Noelle's Trick & Treat Biscuits.

170 g Plain Flour, sieved with 1/2 tsp baking powder & 1/2 tsp salt, together with the following spices: 1 tsp ground ginger, 1tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg, 1/2 tsp ground cloves

Melt 110g butter and add 110 g caster sugar and 85g dark muscavado sugar.

When it is cooler, add 1 beaten egg, and 5 pieces of crystallised ginger finely chopped.

Combine the dry and liquid ingredients, and allow to cool a little and roll into approx 35 small balls, place on baking parchment and flatten with a fork. Bake in a preheated oven No 2/3 for twenty minutes. They cook very evenly, and when cool if they do not seem that they are crisp enough, they can go back in the oven for a little longer. When baked at this lower temperature there is less risk of them catching.

My trick in these biscuits were the pieces of ginger. Most of the children nibbled on them straight away and all of them thought they were lovely, and appreciated a home made effort.