Sunday, 15 February 2015

Restless Spring



Well, hello. Yes, I know, it's been a while. And really, it isn't spring at all, just yet. But this morning, as I sit here at the dining room table, enjoying a cup of coffee with Jim as we listen to Just a Minute on Radio 4, the sun is blazing through the window, and there are green shoots thrusting above the soil outside.


Another manifestation of early spring is this feeling of restlessness which has taken up residence inside me since the turn of the New Year.  The seasons change. There is political change in the air - I live in hope that there may be some new Green Shoots on our political landscape (see what I did there???). World-wide there is unrest.... perhaps nothing new there, but there do seem to be signs of a new engagement by people who are beyond tired and dissatisfied with the status quo and sickened of the rich and powerful riding roughshod over the disenfranchised, and the resultant poverty which is so avoidable if the world were a fairer, kinder place.


                                     Garlic braving the snow and ice earlier this year.

My own sense of restlessness is rather more amorphous; just that feeling that I can't quite put my finger on. Something waiting to happen, maybe. Some decision to make. A new direction to take. Additionally, there is an element of anxiety about this restlessness. Again, nothing that I can pin-point. But it is sometimes not a comfortable feeling.


                                                 Happier looking garlic this morning.

Mum falling over while trying to get her arm through the sleeve of her cardigan  - you couldn't make it up, could you - and breaking her wrist quite badly. She is in plaster (or rather resin, these days) and annoyed that it is hampering her independent mobility because she can't use her zimmer frame. But she rather enjoyed the trips to the hospital with me. Even, I suspect, the tragi-comedy of three medical staff manipulating her fracture while I wrestled with the gas and air on the other side, and mum struggled with her dentures and the gas and air pipe. Yes, we even laugh about that now. This event has rather brought back all the trauma of last year when she broke her hip, and the subsequent sad leaving of her home and going into residential care. It never pays to be complacent, and even though she is - in her own words - in a safe place, she can still do herself damage. It was noticeable, during the hours I spent in A/E, how many women my age were there supporting an elderly, injured parent.

So, I hope I haven't depressed you all with my meanderings. I'm not depressed. I'm just .... in waiting, I guess. Hopefully when whatever it is arrives , or occurs, it will be a GOOD THING!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Preserving the Present for the Future



Well I'm to a good start this year! I decided that this year I would get back into jam-making , looking forward to seeing rows of gleaming jars of lovely jam, jelly and marmalade. Possibly even some chutney (the amount of green tomatoes we usually have at end of summer, I should be more creative with them). I planned to buy some Seville oranges at our local market, around February, I reckoned, according to the books I had. I just happened to ask last week at our lovely vegetable stall, and was told the Sevilles are in, and will be here next week, after that they aren't so good. So, panic mode!

I had to get all my jamming equipment out and check it over - it's been a while! See what I had, what I needed. Last time I jammed I used the pan of my large pressure cooker which I no longer have. So, where do I get a Maselin pan from, and how much is it going to cost me?

By chance, Jim and I took a Sunday trip into Dobbies to pick up some seed potatoes , blood and bone, extra compost to supplement our home made stuff...and there, one lonely Maselin pan stood on the counter, £4.99 Made by Kilner. Selling for about £20 - and more- from other places. It's rare I strike lucky with the sales, but I did that day!

I had jars, just needed some jam sugar and lemons, the oranges, and I was good to go.I didn't make a huge amount, only 3lbs of oranges, but it made all these jars of really super marmalade. I used 1/3 soft brown sugar and chucked in the half jar of ginger syrup left over from the preserved ginger cheesecake I made instead of a Christmas cake. So the end product is dark, but not the rosey hue that appears on the photographs; I think it must be the reflection from the tray.



I want to say to my American readers, that I made this in the traditional British/European manner which has done us for centuries without anyone getting botulism. I really must stress this, as I've had some pretty vehement on-line conversations from women who think you have to further process jam, jelly and marmalade by canning in the water-bath fashion. I can assure you WE DON'T do it here, with no ill-effects, and neither does our preserving industry, who sell their produce around the world, including to the USA.(Despite one lady telling me they wouldn't be accepted into the country because of your higher food standards. Well, let's not go there - I'm not even going to MENTION GMO's, and Corporate -driven legislation which prevents you from demanding open and transparent food labelling. Well, I just did. I think Tiptree, Chilvers, and Fortnum and Mason  and probably the Prince of Wales, would be very surprised to hear that they wouldn't get past customs! )

Ok, minor rant over. We just had some marmalade on toast for our tea, and it was good!


So, hoping to do more preserving this year, including some chutneys and maybe pickles, and I have been having thoughts about making my own sausages...... and no, I'm not contemplating keeping a pig! But more on that another time.  Keep well, keep warm and dry, and I'll be back with more next time.

Friday, 2 January 2015

It's a New Day ..........




Well folks, it's been a while! Both Christmas AND New Year have come and gone, and  I managed to get a post written about neither of them. I can only plead annual sick episode - the usual, asthma, bronchitis and a never-ending head-cold - during which time I have used enough tissues to deforest a small Scandinavian country,  consumed more steroids than a disgraced Olympian athlete, and clocked up more hours on the Poorly Chair (previous known as Jim's Recliner) than is respectable for a woman of my age. However, I feel the Corner has been Turned, so I can pick up on normal activities again. Thank you so much for the kind thoughts you've sent my way which are now published on the previous post!

Our Christmas was very quiet, with just the two of us and Mum for Christmas lunch. She really enjoyed it, though having sat down for a nap in front of the television after lunch, she awoke not knowing where on  earth she was; it took a while for us to talk her through what had happened that morning. Having done that, she was fine, back in her own skin again as it were. By four o'clock she was more than ready to get back to her 'own home' though she really would rather be in her OWN little home and not the Care Home where she now lives.


I had two really rather wonderful Christmas presents from Jim - and some jolly nice other ones, too! But these two were totally unexpected. The first is a wonderful metal sculpture of a moonlit hare, made by the Holkham Blacksmith; I had seen it at the Back to the Garden Craft Fair and fell in love with it. Unknown to me, Jim had been across to the guy and ordered it there and then. Apparently I had scuppered his first attempt to pick it up saying I fancied a trip round the coast road with him one day, so he had to come up with another excuse for going up there!


Here he is, I photographed him right away in the garden, but of course, he will live indoors. Isn't he wonderful?

My second Big Surprise was a long, flat envelope containing the cardboard details attached to a Square Foot Garden package, which was too large to wrap up. I am no gardener, but have been wanting to move on from just growing herbs, perhaps salads, and some easy greens? Then I came across this very easy system of growing which seemed so manageable to me, who has always felt rather overwhelmed by the whole concept of "Gardening" . I read up about it and watched umpteen you tube videos. Being used to my enthusiasms, Jim was less than overcome when I stated I wanted some garden to do this new thing of mine. So I thought well, I shall just get on with it on my own, I have several gardening friends who are more than willing to talk raised beds and no-dig methods with me! Jim really enjoys digging, our soil is beautiful and organic, and he sees no reason to waste an inch of it - and I don't blame him. But I really thought I was going to have to source all the material myself and just crack on with it. Then I opened this on Christmas Day and was totally thrilled to bits by the fact he had gone out and bought this for me. (Any other time he would have knocked some nails into a few bits of wood). So here is the picture again, and I hope in a few months time I shall have something similar to show you myself!


 On Boxing Day we had Mike and Vicki for the day, and in the evening we trotted round the corner (I drove, as legs still too weak at that point) to our local where a couple of dozen  hardy perennials were gathered with homebaked bread, quiche, sausage rolls, cheeses, pickles and chutneys, a lovely spread; I took home made bread and a chicken-liver and pork terrine which I'd made two days earlier.



We had a lovely social time, and some of us made music on guitars and melodeon, there was much singing and even a little dancing!


Jim insisted upon wearing a "Hippy Waistcoat" which I made for him about 15 years ago for a fancy dress party!


Me accompanying Pat with some Cajun tunes. Then he accompanied me playing a couple of my tunes.


At one point Linda couldn't sit still any longer and dragged a not too reluctant Derek up to jive. Do you love the matching Christmas Jumpers? Derek didn't!


 It all packed in by 9pm as arranged, everyone having had a splendid, quite spontaneous time of it. I was pretty shattered by then but it was worth it. To make up for all the excitement (!) we had a very quiet New Years Eve, what Party Poopers we have become! I hope your own celebrations were happy and memorable, and I'd like to wish you all a very happy and healthy 2015. I shall now go and try and catch up with weeks of blog-reading and see what you've been up to!

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Late Autumn Activities



Well, you've seen one activity in my previous post; the Craft Fair. About two or three weeks before the fair my textile mojo went for a vacation. Yes, it just up and went. Never giving a thought for bad timing or inconvenience. So it was a hard slog to get things finished and everything else done that is required before you set off to sell your wares. I know from past experience that this situation won't last, but until my mojo returns I can safely say there won't be much of a textile vibe going on round here!

However, other events and interests have filled my existence and I'll fill you in on some of them.

First of all there has been the seeing off of our eldest grandson Chris on his way to a holiday of a lifetime in New Zealand which we promised him when he had finished uni. So he is there now, spending time with his Uncle Kit and Auntie Krissie and taking off on his own, backpacking his way round North Island, and fruit picking to pay his way.

I'm playing lots of music -I  even have a video on you tube - look for Attingham Waltz - Lynne Gill - and there it is. Though you can't see me. Which is a good thing. A couple of music-playing friends came for the day a couple of weeks ago which was lovely. I don't know whether we played as much music as we'd intended, there was some chatting and some eating (see below) but all in all we had a good day.

On the subject of food, I've been cooking up a storm, having great fun trying out new recipes and using different  ingredients.

 I've been glued to Youtube videos of Rick Stein and Ottolenghi, because I love Mediterranean dishes, and I'm  developing a bit of a passion for middle eastern dishes. I've been experimenting with various dhals  and versions of humus which Jim enjoys as well - fortunately!

This is coconut lentil dhal. After we had it hot over rice, we ate it cold as a spread for the rest of the week - I did make rather a lot! It is delicious cold as well as hot.


This is the humus I made when I had friends round for music - we also had the kale crisps, below, which were a hit! I prefer kale this way I must admit, to a cooked vegetable. I know it's very very good for you but......




Goulash and spelt soda bread for a suddenly very cold day! Paprika and smoked Polish sausage. Yum!




 I went to town clearing out my spice shelves and re-stocking. I made a large batch of natural vegetable stock : NO MSG and very little salt. It's quite good.


Dried thinly sliced vegetables in a very low oven. Both root and leaf veggies are fine but they do dry at different rates.


Whizzed the result in a small chopper, until it was a medium fine powder with a few chunkier bits in it.


I added dried herbs, garlic powder, celery salt, pepper ...... I think that's the lot. Looks much like the stuff you get in the cartons. And you don't have to do a whole amount at once, you can just shove some veg in the oven when it is cooling down, and process it in small amounts.

So, here's the neat spice shelves:




And here's something else  that I was experimenting with the other week: Garlic cloves in honey! Apparently after a couple of weeks the garlic tastes like candy, and of course the honey is great for colds and sore throats. I grated lemon zest into it as well, and I could have added some sage leaves too, both good medicinally.


For some reason I've lost the photo of the whole loaf of date and sultana tea bread - but here it is sliced and buttered.





I thought I'd have a go with Filo pastry, and made my first Spanokopita - Greek spinach and feta pie. Filo is fiddly to use, as it dries out very quickly and you have to keep it damp while you work, but the results are well beyond the skill it actually takes to make this pie. We really enjoyed it, I made it with half spinach and half chard.




We collected a fine autumn lamb from friends who run a small flock, so this is in the freezer -  apart from this lovely shoulder which I first marinaded in olive oil, garlic and lemon juice and thyme.


It was delicious, we had two days roast dinner from it and two curries, and six samosas. Beautiful rare breed lamb- tasted like nothing we'd had before. In a good way!



So, I'm afraid there are no textile photos for those of you who came here expecting to see some! I'm hoping that very soon I will be feeling like getting in to the sewing room and picking up a needle and thread. However, I've really enjoyed my time in the kitchen, there's nothing nicer on a cold or wet afternoon than chopping and peeling and mixing and stirring over a hot Rayburn.

Does anyone else find their muse disappears at inconvenient moments? Until next time .......


Saturday, 29 November 2014

Shipdham Craft Fair



Well, not quite sure how to open this post - it's been such a while since I last posted and I've almost forgotten what I was going to say about the craft fair! I put the photos up quite soon after but then got into a whirlwind of cooking and music and family stuff and textiles quite went out of the window and everything to do with it.

Anyhow, above is my stand at the Shipdham Craft Fair. It taxed my ingenuity a little to get it set up around the church pews and the pillars, but actually it was a surprisingly pleasant venue. We were kept going with teas and coffees and cakes and savouries made  and organised by the talented Mrs LESLEY BUCK. Thanks so much Lesley for inviting me to take part in the event. Amazingly, I seem not to have any photographs of Lesley's daughter KERRY BUCK, who you will know from previous posts, as a talented artist and print-maker, who is responsible for my lovely "If there be crows" print hanging on my cottage wall. Sorry Kerry!


Opposite my stand you can see YVONNE AUTIE  setting up her jewellery and a few textile bits and pieces - she concentrated on her jewellery this time.




Further down the aisle was MARIE DAWE    and her fabulous mosaics and stained glass. You can imagine I was instantly taken by her pieces and planning on how I could do a course with her.......when common sense kicked in. I am weaning myself off going down blind alleys, being led by my butterfly mind.




Over the other side of the church was this chap, PHIL ARTHUR,  selling his pottery birds, largely owls. They are SO tactile! Aren't they wonderful?





At the back of the church, around the font, and just across from me, is my old friend JULIE KING and her baskets. I LOVE a well-made basket, and Julie and husband Rob make exceedingly good ones.


The flat, round basket on top of the font at the front so intrigued me. Julie tells me it is an Irish Potato Strainer, which actually sits on the kitchen table in front of the diners, with the newly strained spuds dripping away through the spaces between the .....withies? I loved it, I might just have to have a word and buy it and use it as a fruit bowl perhaps. If that's allowed. Should one use these things for purposes for which they were not designed?


Right next to me was lovely AMELIA BOWMAN, or Amy, as she preferred to be called. Amy's prints intrigued me, and she gave me a detailed run-through of the process she uses to create her colographs.




And that's the lot, I didn't take any more photographs. It was a surprisingly slow day for everyone, though most of us were fortunate enough to make sufficient to make it worth our while. Last year apparently had been much busier, but there you are, you win some you lose some. It was still a very nice day out and I met some lovely people. Thanks again Lesley, for the invite!

Now then, I have got this post out of the way, I feel I can start again properly. I must tell you, textiles are not much on my mind at the moment, you know how much I am an all-or-nothing kinda gal, and it is so hard for me to do stuff when I'm not 'into' it at the time. Fortunately I'm not trying to hold down a job now!!

I want to thank those of you who have been kindly asking about my health and happiness and extending good wishes for my return to blogging. I've even become facebook friends with a couple of bloggers who visit Textile Treasury, it has been good keeping up with them even though I've not been blogging. So hi there Kathy and Lynne! You've been keeping me going!

See you soon!





Sunday, 26 October 2014

Stitching, and a Studio Jaunt



Hello hello hello! Late again! Busy with all sorts of things but especially preparing stuff for the Shipdham Church Craft Fair this coming Saturday. I seem to have become a cushion maker - I did do a few more bangles, a photo-type Christmas wreath, and a felt wall plaque which I like but don't know whether anyone else will! Where did my plans to be making Christmas cards, perhaps a quilt, go? Ah well, you can only do so much. I have been doing some doodling and designing, here are a few pages from my sketch book - and I warn you I am no artist!


Above and below, some try-outs for wings and leaves - I seem to applique these shapes a lot!


This is my intitial design for the bird and stem felt plaque. I enjoyed making this, we'll see how it goes.


And this was my first idea for my Three Folk Birds cushion, with a couple of plaque ideas above.


After meeting Debbie Osborn at the Castle Acre Craft Fair last month, I was keen to visit her Open Day at her Art House Textiles studio just outside Fakenham, so Yvonne and I toddled over there on the way to Jane Anne's at Swanton Novers for a day of stitching.

We arrived just after opening time and there was already a crowd. Debbie and husband Keith made it a very welcoming experience, both sharing the chatting and coffee/tea pouring which made for a lovely visit.

Debbie is a fan of the Slow Cloth Movement, using eco-txtiles and natural plant dyes, often using re-cycled fabrics. She uses her own original designs which she hand cuts into print blocks to print lengths of fabric which she then makes up into cushions, bags, napkins, coasters and so on.




                                Here's Debbie describing the printing process to a visitor.

As well as textiles, Debbie works with mixed media and especially paper. I LOVE all of her notebooks and calendars, I did make a few Christmas purchases!


Here's just a few of her paper products. I'm looking forward to going back and spending some time with Debbie, drawing perhaps, painting - who knows? I do know it will be fun.

And now I must away, but before I go I must include an old photo of Jim and I taken on our Engagement day in 1970. I posted this on face book and it caused a bit of a stir, I've never had so many comments or views - well, you don't normally pay much attention do you, to how many people read your posts, only to answer comments if needed. We were quite astounded. Even got a 'like' from Andy Cutting! So there!

Love's Young Dream, eh? Taken on my 19th birthday. Who knew we'd still be cuddlin' 44 years later!