Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Take ten plastic bottles .....

Well let M & S take ten plastic bottles and recycle them into this strong, bright bag.
Then attend a WI craft class with one imaginative person: Kay. This is just a quick project to tide us over whilst we plan for the big one.

Choose your colours then cut out little flowers, loads of them, then sew them to a backing with knot stitches, apply leaves, in my case very randomly, then sew the whole thing onto the bag. Remove big M&S label, and voila a bag to replace the one I lost with my dress in Leamington. I think this bag being so bright will be easy to keep an eye on. Unique or what!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Snowdrops in and around Kenilworth

I really love snowdrops and each year around this time we go out to seek those little harbingers of Spring. We used to go to Lydiard Park which was just a couple of miles from where we used to live in Swindon. There the snowdrops really do look like patches of snow and the scent is just wonderful. Whilst walking and cycling around Kenilworth, I have been peering into gardens looking out for the first ones. We were very surprised to see a small clump of daffodils in flower in a very sheltered spot not far from here, just a week ago. They must be a very early flowering cultivar.

My Valentine and I went out to enjoy ourselves this weekend. On Saturday we started off with a visit to Hill Close Gardens. They were holding a special snowdrop exhibition and had set up some tables at waist height, with well labelled specimens in their new centre. There were some lovely special ones which I shall look out in specialist catalogues, but for now, we can enjoy the normal single and double blooms in our garden. They also had a few examples of winter and early spring flowers, and did pretty well considering how much colder the weather is this year. Afterwards David and I walked around the little parcels of gardens and admired clumps of snowdrops under their hedgerows.

On Sunday with the warmer weather we took a circular walk up to the Castle where we spied a few snowdrops: along the side of the drive, and again in one of the small gardens by the gate house, there were a few. Later by St Nicholas's Church there were some clumps up. There are still some to emerge, and to think, the area was covered with snow only a few days ago.


We bought some snowdrops from Hill Close Gardens and here they are ready to be divided up and planted out in the garden. On Monday I was sitting in the conservatory with the window open and was drawn outside by loud buzzing. About 10 bees were busy on the snowdrops flowers.

We left some wonderful drifts of snowdrops in our garden in Swindon. Last year I planted about six pots of snowdrops in the garden in Kenilwoth, which I had bought during our break in Norfolk last spring. Together with this lot, we have the makings of nice displays for future years, and I shall be on the look out for the early bees and bumblebees next year.

On gardeners question time this time last year, the panel were asked: As it is leap year, are there any jobs the panel would do now and again in four years time? I remembered one of the answers which was to divide clumps of snowdrops. It is much better to plant snowdrops out when they are green, rather than in the form of dried bulbs. I expect my snowdrops to bulk up well over the next three years and look forward to splitting them in 2012!
These are just a few snowdrop facts posted up at Hill Close Gardens:

Friday, 6 February 2009

Baking Bread

If you don't feel like going out because it is so cold, one of the nicest things to do is to make bread. If one has a new book then choosing new recipes to try helps to banish the winter blues. Bread guru: Vickie gave me 'The New Family Bread Book 'by Ursula Ferrigno, for my Christmas present. Ferrigno is a new author to me.

There are some lovely recipes and well written section on technique at the start of the book. The photographs are mainly of the raw loaves before going into the oven.

I decided to try Treacle and Date Bread and Rustic Walnut Bread. Having fallen into the slow bread methods, I decided to follow the recipes exactly, and used the airing cupboard rather than my usual slower room temperature method. Even allowing for these I felt that the timings of 20 minutes for the second proving was insufficient. I felt it was almost a typo error that under the Rustic Walnut bread, 20 minutes was quoted if proving the dough divided into two loaves, then only 10 minutes to prove if one loaf was made. In my experience the larger the loaf the longer the proving time. I conferred with Vickie and decided to follow my instincts. The second proving was more like 1 hr. The yeast was really fresh as was the organic strong flour from Waitrose, so I just think the fast rises in the book are rather optimistic, and I do hope that less experienced bakers will not be disappointed by heavy results.

All the bread was delicious. The crushed fennel seeds in the Walnut Bread added a spicy touch which was excellent with Stilton. Luckily there is still one of each in the freezer, ready to be used. I freeze bread for a couple of weeks at the most.

Payment for the Litter Pickers

I had persuaded some local kids to tidy up a bit. How mean can you be! I noticed that litter had started to show up in the street, and on the island, and this irked me. I've been picking it up, in the absence of the usual street sweeper. They don't seem to be in our area, despite my noting this up at the help desk in Kenilworth Library. I also noticed that quite a bit was coming from a particular house, I think from the recycling containers which were spilling out.

It came to me to 'educate' the kids and perhaps their example would then 'educate' the residents to keep the area tidy. They did a grand job, and this kept the children busy at the end of their Christmas holidays. Over the next two days, I had several rings at the door, when their bags of litter were displayed for approval. When I said that I was finally satisfied and said how nice I thought the road looked, one little chap very nicely asked if they were to have a treat. I tried to explain that living in a nice and tidy street was a treat enough, and they seemed to appreciate this.

The following day when I spied that they were still keeping up their efforts, I relented, and suggested that perhaps a few cakes would not go amiss. The three children squealed with delight, and even more when I suggested they may like to decorate their cakes too. However, I did say they were to ask their parents to give me approval, and with that in hand, a date after school was agreed. I remembered that Veronica & Matthew had given me a box of letters as part of my cup-cake kit which was my birthday present.

Not only did each of the Litter Monitors go back home with their own personalised cup cakes including one for their mothers, they wanted to make one each for David and me.

Marmelade Time

It was not all January blues, and this year the fresh Seville oranges were bought from Kenilworth Market. At £1.50 for 3 lbs the Seville Oranges were a bargain compared to those in Waitrose, together with preserving sugar and lemons, the set was perfect and now several jars are now put away. I no longer consume the amount I used to as one of the types of food which affect me are Citrus Fruit. Just occasionally I have some on a slice of toast from home baked bread.

Snow in Kenilworth

Yesterday at 5:30 a.m. I seemed to sense that it was snowing. I peered through the curtains trying to make as little noise as possible and outside was a winter wonder land. I was so excited that I just couldn't sleep. As soon as it was light enough, I took this picture as I went outside to put some food out for the birds.

By the front door, the snowdrops caught my eye.

Having done most of my chores before breakfast, I was out early to do my shopping. I had listened to local radio and with the Weekly Kenilworth Market being cancelled, I needed to go to Sainsbury's to stock up on Veggies etc.
Along Warwick Road there was a procession of people heading towards Abbey Fields with all manner of sledges. The atmosphere was one of glee. I imagined most people had phoned into to work and claimed a holiday rather than risk the journey to work. Mr S had got up early and I had enjoyed helping to clear the car, and sent him off to work with the garden spade!
Children were enjoying their day off school and several large snowmen had been built. Not all schools in Kenilworth were closed though, however the Headteacher at Clinton Primary School just round the corner from us challenged the children to a day of fun building snowmen in the playing fields. Along our road, there are some excellent specimens.

On Abbey Field with its lovely slopes there were crowds sliding down the slopes. Knowing how the wind blow the snow, I realised that it would be thicker on the other side of the park where slopes are steeper too. There were fewer people there, and, so suggested to some young people that they try it. After a few minutes I would see them enjoying themselves though I think their climb back up to the top would have been harder.

Brass monkey or cosy monkey weather

Here is the picture of Stripie. She is a lovely sock Monkey made by Veronica and Matthew for one of our home made Christmas presents. We have found that somehow she can betray so many moods depending on how she is arranged, and her tail is quite expressive.

David has a lovely sense of humour, and from time to time arranges Stripie into different poses. I think this was the January Blues pose. Notice the cuddled up and arms crossed pose!

One morning, a couple of weeks ago, when David had gone to work, I was tidying up, (Yes the house does look at its best at about 10:30 a.m. and then it is downhill. The worst time is after dinner in the evening!), and found Stripie all wrapped round with my Hap Shawl. I just burst into laughter. The pose seemed to sum up my evening attitude to the cold!
And a few days later, when I was looking for my mauve tucker, I looked and looked, well I will discard it just about anywhere, when I get to the stage of asking: Is it hot in here or is it me? Finally my eye caught Stripe, and again I just collapsed with laughter. Isn't wonderful that I can just laugh so much at something which David has done, even though he is not here and at work.

I call this one Brass Monkey Weather or Cosy Monkey Weather courtesy of Noelle's cosy knits, on account of the low temperatures and snow outside.