Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Its been an Angie Lewin birthday

I love Angie Lewin's designs and often buy her cards, so I was really delighted with my birthday present.  Six mugs...I don't mind if my coffee is really hot and I have to wait, I just take in the fabulous details of the design.  They were not easy to find and the ladies at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park were really helpful and were very good packers.

I also had bought myself a birthday present and guess what....

 As my dearly beloved made a fuss of me all day, with treats, and meals etc all done for me, I had a little time to get out my paints, and pens, and did a little doodling, inspired by the fabulous pictures in Plants and Places.  I've dated them in my book, so in years to come, I'll remember my birthday and lovely presents.

Today Penny came over with a couple of tickets to Warwick Castle so with many thanks to her we shall be visiting there soon.  The last time we visited Warwick Castle was on another birthday years ago, before we ever moved to Kenilworth.

From my son and family, a delightful woven silk picture from J & J Cash, perfect for the season.

Monday, 29 December 2014

New socks

 Here is a selfie of me wearing my cosy socks, which I completed on boxing day with some of the wool from West Yorkshire Spinners bought on holiday, grown and spun in the UK.

No white stuff here, but only this!

None of the fluffy white stuff here, but that's not to say that I haven't had my hands full of white stuff.  I love white bed linen, to lie in bed under clean cotton sheets and a fluffy white down duvet is my idea of 'heaven'.  

A couple of days before Christmas it was bed linen change day and a wash was due.  A couple of hours would see the wash complete, but I was surprised when I opened the washing machine door, and found a big heavy lump.  The machine must have felt the weight and decided to stop the spin.

It took me twenty minutes of fighting on the draining board, trying to open out the duvet cover which was swallowing itself after having swallowed the flat sheet, pillowcases and towels.  There must be some mathematical equation to explain how this happens somewhere!  I normally rebutton the covers, but missed this time.

 I gave up and had to 'operate'.  We have had this cover for some years and we were thinking of getting new covers, so I went on line and ordered new bedding from John Lewis to be delivered to the local Waitrose.

Today, with three Egyptian cotton super king flat sheets, and three new duvet sets, you would think I would be a happy bunny.  No I am not...the sheets are too thin and too smooth for my liking.  They have all been carefully refolded and packaged ready to send back.  I shall sally forth tomorrow and visit various sheet outlet stores in search of some to my liking.  For the bottom sheet I like best 'heavy cotton' sheets which won't wrinkly and slip, but I haven't seen them for years.  I am on the hunt and would appreciate any help and advice.

I may have to get out the sewing machine and make a temporary repair on what had gone into the dust sheet pile! 

Friday, 26 December 2014

Christmas Day

What a wonderful day spent together...our big bauble

had donned her party dress, prepared nibbles, handed out presents

all whilst super hero of the day cooked a wonderful celebration lunch, at the same time as demonstrating his new coffee maker....

We played games, went for a walk to the park where Matthew and I  had a little jog round the running track....and then came home for a lovely tea including salad, various meats and cheese, and Christmas Cake decorated by Izzi.

The whole house was decorated up, and each little corner had some interest.  Here are just a very few:

large stars made up by V and paperchains by I,

to a little Christmas rabbit

and a small gingerbread house

V even organised us in a big selfie...

Christmas Cake and preparations 2014

What was to be a Christmas spent just the two of us, turned out to be instead a day with our family.  We had a few days notice, so had a calm lead up.  The cake I had baked before going on holiday was covered in home made marzipan and royal icing.  Gone are the days of intricate icing, I like to just get into the zone and go.

I had just received five star cutters and a little squirrel from Daisydebs.  The parcel was totally unexpected as I thought she had been so poorly and had sent a little knitted scarf to keep her warm, and not really as a Christmas present.   I was so touched by this, there must be little helpers down in the West Country.  Thanks so much for this delightful and tthoughtfulpresent.  The squirrel is a reminder that I must tolerate them, and  have since also decided that since I felt the dearth of birds I needed to  re erected the bird feeder and reinstate daily top ups of shelled sunflower seeds even though it may lead a to chubby pigeons and squirrels.  We have since had a lovely range of birds come into the garden.

I thought I would try a pattern on the top of the cake with the cutters.  Not everything turns out successfully:  well not as I thought it would.  Maybe I ought to have waited for the icing to set a little more, or dipped the edge of the stars in some food colour...ideas for next year!  The surface looks suitably winterey, like crazed ice crystals, but then when you look carefully with a low light, up pop the stars.  Suddenly I remembered that 3 D hidden images which you used to get in the colour supplements years and years ago.

The mincemeat was wonderful but my baking of the tray bake had a soggy bottom.  I tried baking it longer, but must now put individual pieces of a hot preheated tray to made the slices edible. Although I had taken some down on our visit, I retrieved them and brought them home, as they were not really quite right.

On the other hand Veronica's mincepies were not just picture perfect, but the best I have ever eaten.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Soudough with proper holes using Swiss Dark Flour

There are so many variables in making sourdough, that it is hard to settle on what went right or wrong and for which reasons.  However this time I have got good holes right throughout the first loaf I cut through.  Holes in sourdough are good...but you have to eat it with the right things.

I found the recipe on Shipton Mill's site.  I was looking for a recipe to use the Dark Swiss Flour I had bought a few weeks ago.  I didn't have enough walnuts for the whole batch, so made a large plain loaf, and two smaller walnut and fennel seed loaves.

Today I had a thick slice of the walnut sourdough made with Swiss Dark Flour, with scrambled egg.  It was a delicious combination.  I had added some roasted fennel seed when I added the walnuts which came through giving a warm taste to the bread.

Yesterday I went round to Tony's, a baking buddy, who has just had a hip replacement.  To take his mind off things, we talked bread making!  Tony and I share an order from Shipton Mill, so that between us we can make up a 'free delivery' order quantity.

Bundt tin chocolate and almond cake

As Nicki and Fizzi were coming over on Friday afternoon, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try out the new Bundt tin which Penny gave me.  Here is the  chocolate and almond  marble cake, the fine dusting of icing sugar brought out the lovely pattern of the tin.  After a log walk down to Castle Farm to see the Soay Sheep which graze the old fish ponds area, then to the park, where we saw the Heron take off from the no fishing sign, we settled down for tea, cake and chat.  What a lovely start to Christmas.  Thanks to Nicki, Fizzi and Penny.

December in the garden

A lovely December Sunday: not too cold, no rain, and quite calm in the garden, so after washing the car...which has much needed, I spent a couple of hours in the garden.

A little bit of weeding, some light trimming of rose bushes, some potting, removing old leaves and dying waterlily leaves from the pond made me feel at one with the garden.

Behind the gazebo, growing on a large stump of dead wysteria, which I added to the 'fernery', I found these lovely fungi.

There is always something to catch my fancy.  In the low winter light, bright stems...

 Lovely acid green foliage

 Cyclamen with pretty leaves

Early spring flowers on a self seeded primrose

Sharp leaves...

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

J & J Cash Lapin

My little Grand daughter loves rabbits, and yes she soon learnt the French name at her French Play Group.  I was delighted to find this picture which I hope in years to come will remind her of her early days...

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Muesli Stangen

When I had borrowed The Book of Buns by Jane Mason three times from the Library, and needed to take it back in order to renew it again, I realised I had to buy it.  Usually I play the safe game and try out the recipes which only really totally appeal to me.  However I have caught the bug of a 'Lets bake the recipes from the book of buns' bakealong, which I found on Facebook, when I was googling one of the recipes.  This has made me bake recipes that I would probably have left alone.

I've learnt techniques from trying bun recipes I would not necessarily have tried, which  I have added to my repertoire, and can also now apply to my most favourite recipes.   My latest 'bun' has been these Muesli Stangen.  I had one for my breakfast this morning, but it was eschewed by my dearly beloved which did not surprise me as he is not a muesli fan.  I found them really satisfying, and will be able to take the odd one out of the freezer as a post gym snack.  It was during one of the rising times when I phoned Vickie, and I said I would post a picture of them for her.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

New tin and new cake recipe

I was very happy to receive an early Christmas present from Penny.  Not only did I get my bundt tin which I had hinted that I would like, but also a long narrow loaf tin which came in the same pack from Lidl.  Thanks so much Penny.

On Friday when David went out for his curry evening with friends, I was going to make my first cake in the bundt tin, but instead opted to try the long tin.  I chose Mrs Post's Lemon Drizzle recipe from How to Bake by Paul Hollywood.

I had not made any lemon curd so used extra lemon peel, and also used a couple of tablespoons of cream cheese which needing using up.  Penny would approve of this.  We were only talking recently of our little foible of using everything up, and not wasting food!

At the same time, well in between, I was washing and drying two of the lovely Maluka scarves knitted in hand dyed cashmere from Posh Yarns, in a lovely shade of Robin's eggs.  We normally see the Robin's red breast at Christmas, and I thought this was a lovely link for the Christmas theme.  After I knitted my first Maluka scarf  in a beautiful pale green, which I sent to a dear cousin in the Netherlands during the summer, I knitted these two during a knit along with my Kenilworth knitting friends.  I think we have knitted quite a few between us.  I have had this yarn stashed away for some time, and its been lovely to knit with.  I have enough to knit a third just for myself!  I had a long evening to myself, and boy did I spread over the whole of the living room floor.  By the morning the scarves were dry, and I got the space cleared before he upstairs came down!

Dorset Buttons

I've been enchanted by Dorset Buttons for some time.  A few years ago I bought a little booklet from the Goldhill Museum in Shaftesbury by Marion Howitt.  I've looked up the topic via google, and they are all more or less based on this booklet.  Its explanations are quite difficult to follow, but it a question of having a go, reading and rereading the instructions, and building up one's own techniques and skills.  I even bought a little kit at the time.  I've made buttons for a cushion.

At about this time of year I start to think of a little individual Christmas decoration to make, usually it is a small heart.  David put up the Christmas Tree yesterday, and in our box of bits and pieces out came examples from previous years that I had forgotten about.  It all started about 20 years ago when I bought some lovely decorated hearts from a colleague, when I hardly knew now to use a needle.

Reading one of Tracy Chevalier's wonderful novels called Burning Bright reminded me of the delightful little buttons.  In Georgian times people earned their living making these buttons, which were very popular.  This was an inspiration for the little decorative buttons on my hearts this year.

This year out came a piece of fabric which was part of a bunting pack of fabrics, just the right shade: pale blue, and with my silks, a few beads, and some brass rings, I have been fiddling of an evening.  It takes me an evening to make one button!  I suppose I could make a couple, but this is all around making the dinner, watching TV and chatting with hubby.

You should see the mess around me...pieces of fabric, rings, beads, beading needle, sharp short needle with large eye, and large blunt needle for the weaving part, scissors, and threads.  I started with a simple one a couple of weeks ago, which I sewed onto a heart, and into the stuffing, I put in a small piece of cloth impregnated with essential oils, to act as a room scenter, then later perhaps to scent a drawer or act as a moth repellent hanging from a coat hanger.   The first one was sent off to London with a pot of my cranberry relish as a little Christmas present to Vicki.

I have since changed the essential oil to that of rose geranium.  I have a small bottle which was bought years and years ago when we visited the Domaine de L'Ylang Ylang in Mauritius.  The essence is distilled on site, using the handpicked blooms.  Opening the little bottle reminded me of the wonderful day we had there walking around the plantation and watching the distillation process.  The views out to the sea in this quiet and green south east corner of the island are magical.

The first step is to cover the ring which I did with embroidery thread.

then for my second  button I decided to try using small beads.  The very long thin  beading needle  is thin enough to go through the smallest of my beads.

on a third button I used white thread for the outside and also beads, and used different stitches.

With a variety of buttons, I now have some hearts to finish off.

The most difficult one so far, and I shall try to work on my technique to get the centre 'centered', and the spokes a little more even, if that of the Lace Shirtwaister.  I could only make this after I had covered the ring with blanket stitch, as without this,  windings just slipped off the brass ring.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

A Coruna last stop

I did a lot more looking than snapping on this stop.  We were lucky enough to 'park up' almost alongside the old part of the City.

With most of the shops shut as well as the Castillo de San Anton, we were very pleased to find the home of Emilia Pardo Bazan open.  Its just a small entrance off the street, and the living quarters are found up a flight of steps.  The interior is well furnished and gives an interesting insight into the domestic layout of a City 'salon' of the late 19th early 20th century.

This 14th century Santa Maria Church is offset from the main hubbub of the town, and well worth a little detour.  The streets in the old part were really quiet, but I guess with places shut its not surprising.

The Plaza de Maria Pita was large and surrounded by delightful departments

I often am not disappointed by looking at the roofline and find quirky details

If the city can be as cool as it was that day, I am not surprised that an architectural detail typical of the older buildings  are the windowed balconies. 

We stopped in a cafe and after a while a lovely English lady came up to us to 'apologise' for the weather.  She was now living in the City and said that it had been really lovely just a few days ago.

After this we had another full day on board ship.  By this time we well into the swing of things, timing our transit from one activity to another, with a recital in between, and getting ready for our formal dinning evenings, with concerts and dancing afterwards.  

We always found time to walk round the deck, look at the sea and sky, and even find rainbows in the spray off the crests of the waves.

We met and chatted with many people.  One gentleman had been on over 50 cruises, and another couple seem not be able to last more than a few months back home, before looking out for a bargain trip.  You certainly are well looked after and cossetted, but I feel that to explore the Cities we stopped at, you really need to have several days to get to fully enjoy the places.

Lisbon 4th stop

It seems ages since we returned, and my late posting just shows that I have had other things to do and think about.  However when I look through my pics, I can see what a lovely City Lisbon is.

It was pretty cool and damp, the magnificent central Praca de Commercio with its central statue of King Jose I, is surrounded by high colonnaded walks

and as we only had a short time, and I had not made plans beforehand, we just took the open air bus to give us an overview of the place.  Afterwards we had a little walk around, up a tall hill along wide stone steps, then down again.  The colours of the painted walls, the stone and the greenery gave this city a vibrant and fresh feel, and certainly a city to revisit and spend far more time there.

There is so much to see, lovely little touches around each corner, delicious pastry shops

little statues
antique trams

ancient monuments

 and great views too from the shipside.