Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Kenilworth in Bloom Judging Team

What a cheerful picture of us all.  The judging for the Kenilworth in Bloom 2012 Garden Competition is complete, all forms and results have been worked out, and it was time for the judges to get together.  The judges go out to the gardens usually in two, with one person taking photographs, though this year Bob choose the days with the best weather to go and take ones ready for our presentation evening.  With all the categories, the various judges seldom meet, and we enjoy having a get together once the work is done.  We choose Stoneleigh Abbey for this year's get together.  One of the judges:  Vicki runs the tea rooms, and as she was busy preparing for us, she's not in the picture. 

When I first arrived in Kenilworth and joined the Horticultural Club, I was invited to judge in the annual competition run by Kenilworth in Bloom.  After attending the monthly meetings for just over four years, I was 'persuaded' to take over the Chairmanship of the Group.  I'm still not sure about this, but am hoping that we can attract more members, and gradually revert back to a member without office.  We have two other officers our Secretary Janet and Sue who is currently Treasurer.  They are stalwarts of the group and do a wonderful job.

Yesterday I went to give a talk to the Kenilworth Rotary Club.  I had prepared my talk and pictures over the weekend, and arrived at the venue, with some trepidation....this was the first time I had given a talk with pictures using this generation of technology...This was the one I had up on the screen during dinner.

I fumbled a little with the pictures during my talk, and realised that I just could not manage without a mouse, actually I would have liked to have someone operating the computer!! 

At our presentation evening, I shall definitely need someone to control the pictures for me.  Bob Watson has put all the pictures together ready for our evening.  Bob has recently come on board and helped out the band of volunteers which make up Kenilworth in Bloom.  On Radio 4 this morning, there were discussions on how to take forward the surge in volunteering in the wake of the Olympic Games.  Kenilworth in Bloom would love some new volunteers to help out with varying aspects of our work which range from dead heading the flowers in our tubs, contacting the newspaper, writing letters, organising sponsorship, up do date communication etc.  Just in case anyone reading this would like to volunteer, or knows anyone who would like to join us, you'll be welcomed and your contribution appreciated, so please get in touch.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Bread Baking Books

Yesterday morning Mr S popped out for a few hours and in between everything, I thought I would make some bread. During our visit to the Leamington Food Festival on the Saturday, I had bought quite a few bits and pieces, including some goodies which we consumed alongside great beer and cider, but no bread.   I was looking for a particular recipe, and in the end got out my pile of books on bread...my stash of bread books.....

I have decided to keep a note book to list where I find favourite recipes to bake, to cut down the time it takes me to find the one I want...this is one I have made before.  This time I split the dough in two and baked them with different topping:  sage and hazelnuts as per the original, and roasted peppers and garlic on the second.

and as they say on the 'packet' here are some serving suggestions:  his and hers packed lunches for today, with cold roast chicken and wild rocket!

I allowed a slow rising of the dough,as on his return Mr S and I went for a spin to Packwood House and had a turn in their garden...their walled garden was fun to walk round: discovering the gourds hanging down from the tunnel made of hazel sticks,  their sunken garden with succulents, and their borders which were full of colour, and buzzing with insects such as hover flies, wild and domesticated bees etc.  We often pop out there, as there is so much going on in the garden at different times of the year.

Kenilworth Horticultural Show brings new cuttings

Last week the Kenilworth Horticultural Society had their Autumn Show.  It was much reduced compared to previous years.  I was happy to return the cups, and for a year at least not have to polish the silver.  Maybe as it was in the new venue at Jubilee house, or perhaps the weather had played havoc with the gardens this year, and maybe it was just because I and another keen gardener had not entered! 

One reason I did not enter was that I had been invited to help with the judging.  Andrew Caine who often judges at the Gardening Club arrived promptly, and we went through the classes allocated to us.  We were both drawn to an entry under Garden Blooms: three stems.  When I first viewed the vase across the room, Lilacs were the word which came to mind....but I must be excused, see later...

Close up the bloom of Hydrangea Macrophylla (Serrata?) Uzu Azisai is intricate

with different colours on each stem.  The original plant had been purchased about twenty years previously from a special exhibition.  The exhibitor kindly offered the blooms to me, to try to propagate from their stems.....but I left the show without them....more about my excuse later.  Sunday morning I had a call from Andrew, and a few minutes later he arrived with the stems, which are now carefully potted up.

As for my excuse....I had spent the morning at Coventry Hospital being given a very full eye examination, and my eyes were still sore following all the drops which were administered in order to explore the back of my eyeballs.  It all started on Sunday night, after a full day at the Open Garden Day at Fieldgate House where I was running the plant stall, as I lay down to read my book, suddenly the bottom half of my right eye seemed to mal function, and shortly afterwards was full of floaters and cobwebs etc....

I am starting to get used to this, my vision isn't impaired, no new glasses required, but dark glasses and hats in sunshine help.  Apparently my condition: posterior vitreous detachment PVD is not unusual for someone of my age and who is very short sighted.   It is reassuring to learn that it is unlikely that I shall experience retinal detachment.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Butter Buns again

Its really wonderful that we are having some good weather at last.  This afternoon after a big nap much needed after several hours at the Leamington Food Festival, I went out to wash the car.  When I wash the car, Mr S is always grateful, and feels the need to recriprecate with lots of tidying up, washing up etc.

I was at the stage of carefully cleaning the alloy wheels when I sensed I was being observed....MC and Steve were there.  They had brought me a lovely present, and MC asked me about some specific details about the butter buns.  I've revised my previous blog, and added details about the second rise.  Anyway, MC has asked about coming over for a butter bun tutorial. 

I recently made up the recipe again, and used the batch of sweet dough to make butter buns and macatia ena coco, also known as coconut buns. 

Friday, 7 September 2012

Belgian Brioche and beyond

After chatting with my sister in Australia,  I came off the line, and decided it was high time to use one of my new toys, and make up some brioches for the weekend.  Lizzie had bought me 12 individual brioche tins only a few weeks ago, and this was their first use.  This was such a lovely and generous gift.  I had first asked her to look for some for me when she went over to France, but in the end she got them from Lakeland.  I used the Brioche Recipe from the Hairy Bikers Book: Belgian Brioche (Craquelin)....but I had no oranges or orange liqueur.  I then remembered the bottle of Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste which Penny had brought for me, and the unopened bottle of Mauritian Vanilla scented Rhum, which I have had for about five years in the cupboard!  Therefore instead of orange, I added Vanilla, and soaked the sugar cubes in the rhum.

I carefully weighed each piece of dough, and had 12 buns rising in the tins.

As the mixture already has four eggs, I was a little bit miserly and decided not to brush them with yet another egg yolk.  I will definitely not miss this out ever again, as without the sheen they are not quite the same.  The shape though is very pretty and I am hoping to have many years of using this little tins.  They are dark and heavy and just a light brushing of oil, the brioches tipped out easily, even though some of them had leaked some of their sugary filling.

I am really looking forward to tomorrow morning's breakfast.  I shall warm the brioches up and have a couple with a large cup of freshly ground and brewed coffee!  They rest are already frozen, ready for another weekend.

Perfect Sunday

A couple of weeks ago, I had a really lovely day.  It was a Sunday and we had not planned anything in particular. 

After a pleasant breakfast in the conservatory, and a look up to the sky, I just had this urge to go out and fly a kite.  Since it has been a pretty miserable year weather wise the recent change to sunny weather is encouraging us out into the country. 

With a picnic packed up and kite selected, we set off for Burton Dassett.  This lovely spot reminds me of the Wiltshire Downs which were the backdrop for walks and days out for over 30 years.  When we started to walk and look down at the grass sward we were amazed to find the whole range of flowers one would see in May or June.  The cool weather, with all the rain, then the sun had maybe caused a second flowering, or maybe there had been none earlier in the year.

After flying the kite and a walk, Mr S said he thought he could hear an unusual vehicle.  Within a short time we had found a good vantage point alongside the road, and had a running commentary from a couple who came to join us.  They usually entered their vintage car, but this year they came to cheer on some friends, we benefited by having an excellent running commentary.  This was the annual run from Coventry with several hundred vintage vehicles.  I'm certainly going to look out for this festival next year.
Some cars decided to pull up for a picnic, and near our car was this beauty, which was similar to the  car  my father had when I was young, except for a few items.  I can't remember the shades over the headlights!
We used to go to the seaside most Sundays in the big black car when we were young. 
Afterwards we drove to the National Herb Centre and collected a few different herbs for the garden.  We topped off the day with a visit to Compton Verney, and enjoyed the exhibit on flight, and then tea with scones in their restaurant.  We thought we had just caught part of the act, as we walked up to the house, as there was a plane doing loop the loops overhead.