Saturday, 5 April 2014

April Cheer



Apart from the fact that the day I decided to take these photographs happened to be a bit downcast, I think a bit of garden is quite the thing to keep up the cheeriness which broke out with the sunshine last week. We did suffer a bit with the Saharan sand-storm and other sundry pollutants, but thankfully it has passed on from East Anglia and my chest has stopped wheezing. That could of course be due to the steroids and antibiotics......


Our spring flowers are getting into their stride, and the garden is all prepped ready to be planted up and sown when the soil temperature improves a bit - and it is still very wet.

My mum has been moved from the acute orthopaedic ward out to a community hospital in Swaffham, about half an hour's drive away. I am so pleased she is there, I have high regard for the staff and their care here so I feel she is in a good place for the time being. We whizzed across to catch her for an hour the evening they transferred her, and as luck would have it, the session at the Canary and Linnet at Little Fransham falls on the same evening.  Tiny little pub with a small restaurant at the back and one small bar at the front. it was a bit of a squeeze but good fun.


Sarah is a brilliant fiddler, Dave on bodhran, Pete on flute, Terry on mandolin and Roger on uillean pipes


Jim propping up the bar. No, he wasn't bored, honest!


Rare shot of me on fiddle these days.


Georgia and I trying to pose.

It was just the pick-me-up I needed after the rather fraught week following mum's fall in her garden. It is her birthday on Monday - 92. She does pretty well considering, I think. We will have two days of family visiting and cards and cake tomorrow and Monday then we shall have to see how she is doing and what the Assessment Team think.

Just thought I'd pop in an extra post as I have been very lax these last few weeks. I would like to say a huge thank you to every one of you who have sent such lovely messages. Blogland may only be a 'virtual' community, but I am not the only blogger to have been on the receiving end of some wonderful heartwarming comments and support - and they DO count, believe me! It's all in the vibes, folks! Spread your kind intentions far and wide, and the world will be a nicer place. 

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

A Year in Books



Well here I am late again, I'm so sorry, but stuff has been happening. Some good stuff, certainly, but on the not so good side, my mum fell in the garden last Tuesday and fractured her neck of femur. She has had a partial hip replacement and physically is doing quite well. However, she is quite confused - much more so than usual, and I can't see us managing to get her back to her own little home again. It is very sad. I know there are packages of care, and we did actually have a pretty good system going between us, but I am so worried now about her being on her own at night. And to be honest, at the moment, she is a bit perplexed in time and space I think even during the day she would need someone with her constantly. We are waiting now to hear which unit she will be sent to for 're-hab', as our local hospital which has a purpose built wing for the elderly and re-hab, now apparently does not DO rehab. So it will be Downham Market, Swaffham or Fakenham.


Garden looking good - cheerful cowslips and primroses

In the meantime, I, who have not had so much as a head cold for nearly two years, - that's how retirement form the NHS improves your health! - has caught a head cold after two visits to the hospital, and now have exacerbation of asthma and a developing bronchitis. Nice. So, on antibiotics and steroids just when I could really NOT be doing with them!


My lovely Burwell Fiddle Class friend Debs

All of which, in-between hospital and surgery visits, leaves me plenty of time to read! I also managed a trip to my Burwell friend Deb's home in Godmanchester last Friday. She rang me to say our fiddle turor from the Burwell Bash, Jock Tildsley, was appearing with his band The New Rope String Band in Huntingdon, would I like to stay at hers and we could all go together? It was JUST what I needed. It was a hilarious gig, and afterwards another couple of Burwell Bashers came back to  Debs and also Jock came and parked his motor home on her drive for the night. We played very silly musical games as there were at least three fiddles, my melodeon, some boom-whackers, and a theorim which I have probably spelled incorrectly. It is a very strange instrument which makes weird sounds but you can play a scale and make a tune if you are clever. We weren't. A really lovely break, and great to see Jock and others who I usually only see once a year.


The New Rope String Band- minus Jock's wife Vera, at home with the children!


Jock, sorry about the terrible quality, I was too far away for a good shot.

Now then, back to books. I continue to race through the Game of Thrones epic, now on the final Dragon book, the last he has written (so far!) However this was not my Year in Books book. That was the Elly Griffiths newest publication "The Outcast Dead" which sees Ruth Galloway back in Norfolk and solving another historical conundrum, whilst dealing with her unorthodox relationship with her young daughter's father. All very satisfying and interest-holding. I look forward to her next! And those of you who have told me you've been inspired to check out her earlier novels - do let me know how you are getting on with them.

For March I have chosen a book by a favourite author of mine - Sally Vickers. I simply adore her first novel, "Miss Garnet's Angel", cannot get into her second, "Instances of the Number 3", and I have "Mr Golightly's Holiday" waiting my attention one day. This new one is her sixth novel, called "The Cleaner of Chartres" and is about the mysterious and elusive Agnes Morel whose little acts of kindness around the cathedral city of Chartres touch the lives of many. Then her tragic past is exposed and life for her can never be the same. I have begun reading this book and I can say she has, for me, regained the lovely flowing prose and human interest I last found in Miss Garnet's Angel. More about this next month!


I have only found this one Snake's Head Fritillary so far this spring.

So happy reading, folks, and I hope you are suitably impressed by the lovely weather we - here at least - have been enjoying. I was actually considering sun-tan lotion this afternoon as I sat out enjoying the flowers and herbs in our garden . Keep it up, weather, I can stand lots more of this!!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Quinoa



Welcome to the Foodie Post! If I can organise myself this should be a regular spot as requested by (some of) you! I had quite a few comments here and on face book about quinoa so I thought I'd use this post to introduce it to those of you who have never heard of it before.

Quinoa - pronounced keen-wha - is actually a seed, not a grain, and is gluten free. So if you are cutting back or excluding those items from your diet, quinoa is very useful. I regularly use it as a rice or couscous substitute. It comes from South America and has for years been a diet staple of indigenous peoples there. The brand I buy is called Granovita, which is a fair-trade company. There has recently been some controversy about the increased demand for this foodstuff world-wide, apparently pushing up prices and making it too expensive for the people who grow it to eat it. There are several sides to this   debate, but I will include a link to an article my musical friend Marj sent me this morning, and you may read and follow it up as you please. I think paying the growers a fair price for their labours is an equally  strong argument, and I am about to investigate an English firm who have been growing quinoa for years, to see if that is worth following up.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jan/16/vegans-stomach-unpalatable-truth-quinoa


Darn it, I didn't get the name of the company in! But you have it above anyway. Pictured also is the stock I used to cook it. The instructions tell you to rinse well, and add to twice its volume of boiling salted water. Cook over a moderate heat until the germ separates- about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cover, leaving it to absorb the remaining water. May be served hot or cold.

Today I cooked it as I would risotto. I prepared my veggie basics and sautéed them until soft, then I added my spices - za'atar, grated turmeric and mixed peppercorns.



I then added my quinoa and stirred to coat the grains, and poured over my stock. This is what the uncooked seed looks like. A bit larger than couscous, slightly smaller than barley, I'd say.


A quick turn round the garden found a handful of herbs - parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme and some Moroccan mint. The sage is a bit on the sparse side as it is from an old bush which is past its best!


As the quinoa absorbed the stock I added a little more water, then covered the pan until the water was gone and the quinoa was cooked and fluffy. About half an hour. Meanwhile I had steamed some broccoli and cauliflower, and shredded some spinach.


Here is what the quinoa looked like when first cooked, close up.


And here is the finished dish, with the spinach and the cooked veggies stirred into it.


And very nice it was too! We ate it as a side dish to some stewed lamb. Not the cheapest of 'grains' so if you are being very frugal, one to miss perhaps. However, a good substitute if you are grain free, and I shall let you make your own minds up about the ethics involved. Do let me know what you feel about it http://hodmedods.co.uk/blog/hodmedods-british-grown-quinoa-update/

Friday, 14 March 2014

A Couple of Jaunts



Such a sunny day it was, and the photo above looks quite grey! Never mind, you will have to imagine the sun! Jim and I took a jaunt up to Dersingham to look at some plants to go in the garden. It really was a lovely day, and warm when in direct sunshine. After visiting Thaxters and having a coffee in the cafe we drove up to Old Hunstanton and took a stroll round the craft centre - we go about once every year or so - it doesn't change much!


I bought some cards and some little odds and ends for future gifts, and no, I was tempted, but did not walk out with any socks, delightful though they were! They were imported from America so I didn't feel they had much to do with Norfolk Crafts!


Then we went for a stroll overlooking the sea and the beach huts. An old friend and I used to bring the children here - oooh MANY years ago now, to a little hut they had. Crikey! That must be about 30 years ago!!


Jim, gazing out towards Hunstanton. Blue sky more apparent here!


Looking West - Hunstanton faces both north and west, as it sits on that corner of the Rump of East Anglia.


Looking north, across the dunes to the sea.


Jim in the car park at The Lodge where we had our lunch. And very nice too!

Then on Thursday, after my melodeon lesson, I met up in Norwich with my friend Sue and we had a wander and then lunch (yes, my posts are all about eating, I know) at The Waffle House , which has been going at least thirty years and Sue can't imagine why she has never taken me there before. 




Sue polishing off her waffle with brownie mousse and ice cream. I know, disgusting isn't it?


And my almost clean plate. Except I didn't have ice cream. Honest. well, just a little bit of Sue's!

So that's the extent of my wanderings for the last couple of weeks, the sunshine was just too good to remain indoors and it was good to catch up with Sue - plans for more lino-cutting are in the air. I hope you have all managed to do nice things in the sunshine - but watch those frosts! We aren't there yet!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Mandy Pattullo Workshop


Hello Sunshine!!! I can't believe this weekend is wonderful, sunshine and real warmth, and the garden is cheering up no end. I took a Sunday stroll around Gill Acres this afternoon and thought you might like to see how the rockery beneath my sewing room window is shaping up; the crocus have it to themselves at the moment but it won't be long before more colour blossoms forth.

Yesterday was just as lovely, weatherwise, and Yvonne and I sped across-county to Swanton Novers to spend the day at Jane-Ann's studio taking part in a wonderful workshop with Mandy Pattullo. If you have never seen her work, do google her name and see her original and stunning textiles. The workshop Mandy taught us was The Enchanted Forest, and is a fabric collage technique using pieces of vintage patchwork quilt as the background, or pieces of vintage sheet, 'altered' with emulsion paint and embellished with image transfer flower sprigs. An outline of our chosen animal or bird was traced onto our background pieces, and collaged and stitched to give a very impressionistic idea of the original drawing.

Herr are a few photographs of Mandy's work - excuse the poor quality of photo as the pieces were mounted and wrapped and the light bounced around a bit!



This hare is my favourite and I was very tempted to buy it, but Mandy told me to hang on as I might want to make my own version! And she was right. I have (with permission) traced her template and intend to have a go at it myself. I did manage to come home with the one similar to the stag above.



So here are some initial shots and a few of how our worked had progressed when we packed in at the close of workshop. We all have work to do before completing our pieces, but I think we all came away quite pleased with ourselves and impressed with our progress.


             My photocopy of a drawing from a beautiful book, but I have forgotten the details!


               Yvonne gets cracking with transferring her image to her piece of altered sheet.


             I have selected my fabrics and cut and pinned them. It was surprisingly intense work!


                  Sharon has stitched in most of her outline and begun to pin her fabrics down.


                          Jane-Ann is pinning her tiny pieces to her fox mask outline.


                                  Red is at the selection and first pinning stage here.


Fen has chosen to work with altered sheeting, like Yvonne, and has stitched her outline and begun pinning.


                                              Me , beginning to stitch, close-up.



Pauline is working on sheeting, and has an outline of a photograph of one of her beautiful Haflinger horses, who I showed you in the Open Studios post last year. Below you can see how she had progressed by the end of the workshop.. She is choosing to work mostly with stitch in her piece.


And here are the final photographs. We all have more to do at home - this is very intensive work!


Fen's owl


Red's hare


Yvonne's hare


Sharon's bird


Jane-Ann's fox


My hare.


Close-up of my hare. Some seed-heads to be stitched on the quilt as well.

And there we have it, a very full day's work, in wonderful surroundings, and we had gorgeous weather to boot. If you get the chance to do a Mandy Pattullo workshop - jump at it, she is an extremely interesting woman, excellent tutor and very generous of her time, fabric stash, and images!

Enjoy the weather too, I think it is with us for another week.... oh to be in England now that some sunshine is here...or words to that effect!