Thursday, 27 December 2012

Befores and Afters

So, did you have some nice surprises on Christmas morning? This was one of mine. And this was another:

I've had a few little dips into each of them, but am looking forward to having some serious reading time later on. Books always figure prominently among our Christmas and birthday presents in our family.

Apart from a few mince pies, our Chrismas food was largely home made. And somewhat last minute too, as I hadn't been on the mood or in a fit state for preparing much in advance this year.

Here's the before photo of the spiced fruit compote I made for Boxing Day lunch. I forgot to take one when it had finished cooking! And it has all gone now so you'll have to imagine it. Gorgeous meltingly soft fruits bathed in a sauce of the juices, butter, sherry, brown sugar and spices. Yummy!

This is the suasage meat and stuffing pie which I now make every Christmas following my mum's tradition; it was always served to the crowd who were there Christmas evening, for the dancing, the pie, the (home) cooked ham sandwiches and the mince pies and Christmas cake. Sadly we don't have the big family get-togethers of my younger years any more, but some little pieces of the ritual remain.

I was so pleased with this ham, I simmered it first with some herbs, a carrot and onion and celery leaves. Then I removed the rind, scored the fat and made a glaze, studded it with cloves, and roasted it. Timed it just right - more by good luck than anything else! It was quite succulent and has been providing cold cuts since Christmas Eve, and still plenty to go. The stock I made into a veggie and lentil soup, and we have just had the first helping with this:

A wholemeal spelt loaf, freshly made this morning.  Delish! I just fancied some breadmaking today.

Christmas Day we were at Number One son's home and managed to grab a photo or two of our younger granddaughter Morgan who was providing cuddles between courses!

Being a good party-goer I have retained my paper hat, as you can see, though the rest of them have been discarded. Party-poopers!

Can't remember what was entertaining Morgan and Jim so much....I suspect it was the contents of someone's cracker. They were good 'uns!

Even my mum got in on the act! She had a lovely day out and was on top form. I hope you had equally good times over the two days and managed to see something of your extended families. We don't seem to have the huge family 'do's' that we used to years ago, there seemed to be hundreds of us, and despite not having large houses we all managed to find somewhere to sleep, often several branches of the family had journeyed quite some distance to be together - usually by British Rail, which ran on much better oiled wheels AND TO TIME in those days! But enough of looking back, the next Event for most folks will be New Year, so I hope you are all hale and hearty in readiness for it, resisting the Bug, or getting well over it, if, like me, you unfortunately succumbed!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Merry Bloggy Christmas!

Well, folks, this is my first Bloggy Christmas, and I'd like to wish all of you - whether you comment or not - a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Those of you who've experienced the Lurgy I hope you've fully recovered and feel up to tackling the event, and my commiserations to any of you who aren't quite there yet!

It took me a while to get going this year, what with one thing and another, but the tree is up and I suddenly feel a bit festive! Though we have gone for minimal decoration this year.

Had time to do some last minute stitchery - just a sneaky peek as it hasn't reached its new owner yet!

Eating out on Christmas Day so no turkey basting for me! Roast beef on Boxing day for a few of us. The ham is simmering away as I type and the veggies and lentils are waiting to go into the stock when the ham is having its finish off in the oven to crisp the skin.

So, tomorrow a sausage-meat pie to make and a spiced fruit compote to start...instead of Christmas pud, for dessert on Boxing Day. And that's me done. I've actually wrapped my presents BEFORE 1am on Christmas morning! A record for me.

It just remains for me to say how lovely it has been to 'meet' those of you who regularly leave comments for me - I thoroughly enjoy reading them and you know I reply to each and every one; it's what keeps me blogging! To you, and everyone who takes the time to pop in and have a read,friends that I know, and those of you who haven't yet introduced yourselves, I hope you all have a happy and peaceful Christmas and enjoy the 'time -out'  . Catch up with you sometime next week. xxx

Monday, 17 December 2012

Stitching and Sniffing

Isn't this a glorious card? It was designed by a lady called Karen Cater, wife of a melodeon player . She trades under the name of Hedingham Fair, and this is just one of her lovely, detailed, colourful cards depicting traditional musical instruments. This one will be heading off to the young man who teaches me melodeon.

Well now, show me someone who hasn't had one or the other or both of these darned bugs going around and I'll show you a very fortunate person indeed. No household, it seems, has escaped.So hopefully we will all get the bugs out of the way in time to be on good form for the festivites. This year for the first time in I don't know how long, we are having Christmas Dinner at  Someone Elses! There are SO many things I am not having to buy or make that it seems like a huge weight off my mind. Which is ridiculous, because I actually quite enjoy having people here for meals. This year...well, this year I am just jolly pleased not to be doing it. Though Boxing Day we will be entertaining to a small degree. But that somehow doesn't seem to be such a big deal.

So without too much frenetic preparation to take care of, and because I've been 'gentling' myself through these bugs, I actually sat down and did some stitching  - long overdue!

This is the beginning of a Kindle cover. I'm making it for 'our' Kindle but am doing a spare one - I'll see how they go and maybe make a few more . I've used some fine pink linen, wadding and old sheeting to line, and some vintage fabric strips and Suffolk Puffs from A Mermaid's Tale to embellish. I'm going to lightly quilt the main body, and then bind the whole thing.

I also got off my backside and finally layered up one of the smaller quilt tops I made earlier this year. I sat and tacked it last night whilst watching the Unthank Sisters and A Very English Winter. I MAY take it to New Zealand with me....but then again it might be just TOO DARNED HOT to think of quilting out there!

I also stitched a little more applique on my basket quilt blocks...this quilt is going to be a 'work in progress' for some time to come, I can tell you!

Well I hope those of you who are interested in these things enjoyed the Unthank Sisters' film last night; I thought they did a good job of showing some of the diverse and highly entertaining winter traditions that take place in towns and villages all over England. They cut a lot out of the filming they did with us (The Ouse Washe Molly Dancers) we were the penultimate segment. And yes, I was there with my black face, black and red dress, trilby and fiddle! However I was left feeling a little irritated that as well as folks themselves being partly to blame for not supporting events like these, the British media consistently ignores or at best ridicules the rich seam of history and tradition, until the myth endures that the English HAVE no tradition, HAVE no music or dance' instead the media makes a big thing about say, the Nottinghill Carnival, or St Patrick's Day, while totally ignoring what is going on under their noses. OK rant over.

You will all be revving up towards the Big Day, and if you have little ones in your home the excitement may well be approaching fever pitch - I hope you are up to the mark and able to take it in your strides! I shall glide gently towards it myself, the past two weeks having been more than strenuous enough thank you very much!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Floods, bugs and ribstickers

No, this is not a garage sale, it's our rugs drying off in the garage after Jim got up in the night to find the landing radiator had burst, drenching the landing carpet, dripping through the ceiling and flooding out the living/dining room.. The radiator was a write off. We rescued the rugs, but are waiting the insurance assessors to view the landing carpet. Two days later the bathroom radiator went. So now we await the plumber to come and overhaul the system and put in five new radiators.

Just what you need before Christmas, eh? Of course the radiators don't come under the various insurances we hobble ourselves with. Do you ever feel you are being royally ripped off on all sides these days?

The one good thing about it is that it has happened now while we can deal with it, not while we are away. Imagine coming home after a 27 hour flight across the world, to find house contents bobbing about in six inches of water? It'd certainly cure your jet lag, at any rate! And, let's face it, this was an entirely manageable situation, not like the awful floods some folk have been victim of.

While all this was going on I was working my way through a little bug. Or rather a little bug was working its way through me. And it took its time. Just as it appeared to be vacating its host, another little blighter moved in, a simple head cold. Except I don't do simple. So within hours it was setting up a satellite division in my chesterly area, which annoyed the heck out of the resident asthma, causing it to become positively exacerbated. Oh, they were all throwing their rattles out of the pram, were these fiendish little bugs. More excellent timing. Nine days later (gosh is it only 9 days?) the steroids have just kicked in and I can lie down without wheezing - hurrah! I shall sleep tonight! And the head cold has abated to the odd cough and sniffle. Hey hey! We're on our way!

Now I can eat with impunity, I decided to do something with a brace of poussin found on offer at Mr Sainsburys.  I browned them off, removed, and sauteed off the veggies.

Simmered the poussin in stock with the veggies, and voila, a meltingly tender, meaty, veggie, brothy meal - just what we needed to cheer us up! It was a bit hit and miss with the flavouring as my sense of taste was a bit off. (Now there's a great opportunity for a chortle from all my friends who know exactly how much 'off' my sense of taste is!) However, there were no complaints, just lots of little satisfied murmurs from himself, and actually I enjoyed it too. So good to eat and know you were going to hang on to it for the requisite time!

I wouldn't like you to think it has all been doom and gloom here abouts. We had a lovely dash down to Kent for my cousin's 60 th birthday bash, combining it with her daughter's 40th. Lovely to see the fextended family if ony for a short spell. On the way home next day we detoured through Norwich and booked our flights to New Zealand for the New Year! And to round it off, despite not having booked, we bagged a table at Jamies Italian and had a lovely lunch. (Not having had breakfast we pushed the boat out!) So now I've been twice and it did not disappoint. (My friend Sue K, it transpires, has done a sneaky re-visit herself, without telling me!)

Hoping you are well ahead with your festive plans, and enjoying the build-up without getting too stressed. We are very low key these days, most of my stress has come about trying to make sure my mum's life carries on serenely in every aspect despite the floods and bugs - all her cards are written and sent, presents bought and wrapped, her weekly shopping is done, meals planned, pharmacy organised, doctors visits organised and arrangements and plans put in place for when we are away. She of course, has no idea what all this entails, but if her life carries on free from pain, free from fear and free from lonliness that's all I ask. I can't do anything about her general physical and mental infirmities, but we can keep her cheerful and comfortable. And why wouldn't we? Catch you next time!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Unthank Sisters

                                             Ouse Washes Molly Dancers Musicians

STOP PRESS! Not a proper post, but I know lots of you have an interest in folk music and traditional dance, and I'd hate you to miss this!

 Earlier this year the Ouse Washes Mollies took part inthe Ramsay Plough Monday celebrations, and we were joined for part of the day by the lovely Unthank Sisters, Rachel and Becky, and their film crew. The girls were putting together segments for their second film 'A very English Winter', which continues their journey into Englands' customs and dance traditions and winter celebrations. They filmed us dancing outside the pub, just as the light was fading, and interviewed Andrew and Jason our Broom Dance officionados. The rest of us sat at the pub benches not looking to camera, and muttering 'rhubarb, rhubarb', while Jason and Andrew taught the girls how to do the Broom Dance. It was all great fun, they even roped the crew members in!

Now given the very nature of filming, we don't know how much of the film shot ended up on the cutting room floor - although that is a redundant term nowadays - but I'm sure the film will be both entertaining and informative.

You can watch or record it on BBC4 Sunday 16th December at 9pm.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

HandEye Magazine

Some months ago I blogged about magazines, about the cost, and the frequency with which I buy one, seduced by the eye candy on the front, only to be disappointed by the content within. I mentioned two in particular, Mollie Makes, which I know is a favourite of many of you out there in Blogland, but which I find irritatingly lacking in substance, considering its cost. The photos are very good, plenty of colour, but the content always leaves me feeling unsatisfied. The other magazine I mentioned is Selvedge - a publication I feel is so self regarding it probably prefers to be called 'a slim volume' or something similar! Like Mollie Makes it is beautifully presented but I seldom find more than two articles  of real interest to me, and it promotes one or two favoured makers at the expense of the many other up and coming young crafts people. I burst out laughing at the V&A when I saw the price of some pin cushions and cloth dolls. Ludicrous. I asked how many had been sold and the pained expression on the assistant's face spoke volumes! For all its pretensions, Selvedge is merely an upmarket Mollie Makes, at double the price.

                                                                   Atis Fanm Matenwa

Had quite few comments in the same vein, and I think it was Annie who asked whether I'd read Hand Eye magazine. I hadn't, so whisked off to check it out. A few days ago my first issue arrived, and Annie, you are quite right. A very colourful, informative and interesting publication, well worth the price (cheaper than Selvedge!) And to my delight the fifth article was all about one of my favourite people - Jude Hill, who writes the excellent Spirit Cloth blog. I was totally entranced, and I have hours of enjoyable reading ahead of me. Thanks for the tip-off, Annie!

So many sumptuous photgraphs, and great writing. I also deeply admire the whole vibe of the magazine. I can do no better than the reproduce the final words in the editorial, by Keith Recker, Editor and Founder:

-  "Cratf is powerful. Craft is good. Craft is deeply human. We are eager to have you celebrate it with us."  - Keith Recker. Winter 2012

                                                                       Beading in Kenya

                                                      Embroidery in Bangaladesh

Now I do realise that there are different levels of craft, the 'getting the kids together at the kitchen table' kind, the hobbyist, the happy amateur who does a few craft fairs, sells a few items on -line, the semi-professional, and the professional. No one publication can hope to meet the needs of all these groups, but I feel that the 'bottom' end if you like are being sold short. When you consider the huge amount of advertising in these magazines, you might expect there to be better content; pages and pages of misty dreamy photographs loosely connected by  a 'theme' do not cut the mustard.

I also realise that we all, at times, splash out impulsively on a magazine as a treat to ourselves, and perhaps we aren't as discrimminating as we are when we make a considered purchase. Nevertheless, we deserve to get value for money. Hand Eye magazine certainly fits the bill.

This is a bit of a quickie post as I have been away (again!) and am now struck down by this so-called 24 hour bug, washed out, achey, and worst of all D&V. In fact I reckon I could give the Duchess of Cambridge a run for her money! (And no, I am definitely NOT pregnant!!) I have spent 4 hours gingerly sipping my way through half a glass of sparkling water. Hopefully this will result in the loss of a few pounds before Christmas!! There has to be a positive outcome, surely!!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

November Colour

                                                   View from the Front Door this morning.

After a very cold night last night, the full moon hanging hugely in the clear sky, I was expecting a heavy frost this morning. However, though it is cold, there's no frost here, just damp and wet, and very, very sunny. We have been so fortunate where we live, to have escaped the devastating floods elsewhere in the country. I do hope none of you have experienced the heartbreak and chaos we've been seeing on our televisions the past week.

At the weekend, a friend and I took a calculated risk and drove down to Evesham in Worcestershire for some more music making. We checked with the Premier Inn we were booked into, that they were flood free, as the online videos of some caravans bobbing about in several feet of water had made us think twice!!  Our journey was uneventful and we spent a great day in the barn at The Fleece Inn, and the evening at a session in the pub itself. GREAT music, and lovely to put faces to the names we knew only from the melodeon on-line forum.

                                                               Deep Concentration!

                                               Lester's Melodeon Maintainance Spot.

The next morning we left after breakfast, no rain, brilliant sunshine. We later learned that the proposed lunch-time appearance by the local dance side had been cancelled as the road to the village flooded and no-one could get through! We left in  the nick of time!

I feel I ought to be putting some textiley bits on here at last! So here are a couple of shots relating to 'patches'.

The patchwork top waiting to be layered up and quilted! Well, at least I now have the wadding!

And the silk and velvet patchwork cushion on the cane chair. This has been sat on so much the patches are beginning to shred, I need to repair it...possibly over-patch it, that would be fitting, wouldn't it? Yes, I think that's what I shall do.

Some of you commented about those lovely ceramic spoons I bought in Bury the other week. This is why I immediately knew they would fit well into our kitchen. You'll notice (again) that I don't go in for the minimalist look!

And more colour in the Big Bowl, I'm so glad Jim prompted me to buy this , we use it all the time.

Coriander looking a trifle woebegone! Most of it ended up in the Moroccan Meatball Sauce I made earlier this week, after watching Ottolenghi. Be still my beating heart - I am smitten by Tunisia!

Well, that's your lot. Just remains to say a HUGE thankyou to all those lovely people who rushed to my aid with advice and 'virtual hand holding' when I panicked over my photo storage trauma! You saw me through it; don't despise us technophobes, you clever people, we obviously have other - just as useful - talents! Many thanks to you all. I love Blogland.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Normal service has resumed.......

Well, here we are, back from the Land of Desperation! First of all, look at this little bundle of goodness! Arrived last week from lovely Penny at L is for Love blog, with whom I've been having a few off-blog chats recently. I'm very fond of gingham - reminds me of Junior school dresses! I know I will have fun incorporating these pieces - quite possibly into the 'vintage' style quilt which is on my to-do-before-very-long list. (I've been planning for this quilt for about two years now, time it grew some legs!) Thank you Penny, totally unneccesary but very gratefully received!

Jim and I spent last  Sunday (ie a week ago) - wasn't it a glorious day? - driving down to Suffolk to see our grand-daughter Morgan, taking her birthday present...I'm not saying what it was but if `I say Jim put a quality amount of credit on it to start her off you will get the clue I'm sure! In return I snagged her Hunger Games books two and three! I did take a photo but it wasn't very good - to see our gorgeous girl you can spin through the Kiwi Tales blog posts of earlier this summer. She is a stunner, just like her cousin Beccie. (Grandparents' Rights, the occasional brag, now come on, fair's fair, it's my blog!)

We had intended going home via Norwich  and have some lunch, but decided it was too late in the day and the place would be packed with desperate last-minute Christmas shoppers. Ok I'm being ironic. But I can never understand the frantic many shops does it take to buy your Christmas Dinner, and a few presents? Why does it take six to eight supermarket visits, each one with two toppling high trolleys?

I digress. We decided to go to Bury St Edmunds instead. I hadn't been for years, befor eall the new shops were built. I have to say it looks very well planned and was quite bustling - but not aggressively so, on Sunday. We had a wander round some nice little shops, then popped into the museum at Smiths Row, the Market Cross  to see the Christmas Craft Fair. Well, what a treat that was! I asked permission to take photographs for the blog. I also bought some Christmas presents, I was spoilt for choice.

Aren't these spoons just gorgeous? I do have  a few bits of brightly coloured china about the house, these will fit in very well!

 I was hoping to have this post up before the exhibition finished there, but unfortunately Blogger chose this time to tell me I had run out of phot storage and it threw me somewhat. Had LOADS of helpful comments, and I do thank you all out there in Blogland who wrote such helpful and supportive comments - I was having a Major Wobble! When you are not very technologically minded it doesn't take much to throw you. And I still don't understand, if I have my photos stored on iphoto, /My Pictures  /drop box etc, why I need a FURTHER storage facility in order to put photos on my blog? WHat's that all about, apart from creaming off some money? I didn't ask for my photos to be stored in Picassa! They are already on my computer, for Heaven's sake! Unless you know better, in which case, enlighten me, do!

Anyway, I have purchased extra storage but will also look into reducing the size of my photos when I upload them if I can work out how to do it.and it isn't too long winded a process every time. So, sorry to the very nice lady at the Museum Shop who was expecting a heads up for the exhibition. Catch you next time with more textiley news!

Friday, 23 November 2012

Emergency Blog Post!

Sorry folks, this is an old photo from my blog, it's one of my stipple quilts. This header should have been a photo of some lovley gingham fabric and embroidery threads sent to me by the lovely Penny, of L is for Love blog fame. Penny and I have been doing some off-blog chatting recently, and she kindly sent me a fab little bundle of goodthings which I wanted to feature at the top. Only to find that I have apparently exceeded my storage! Some very techie stuff and options which make no sense to me come up when I want to upload more photos. Well, I can upload them from my camera into 'pictures' but I can't access any for the blog. I remember some of you, over time, have mentioned similar situations but don't know what you had to do to resolve them .

Can I throw this open to Blogland and ask for some advice? In words of one syllable if possible! You are talking to the terminally inept here! Posting this in great hopes of assistance and reassurance!

Monday, 19 November 2012

A Tale of Two Cities (2)

          Slightly blurry action shot of Steve and Jan demonstrating a ceilidh, Sunday afternoon.

My second city visit was to Witney, in Oxfordshire. Now, to be honest, I don't think Witney is a city at all, but it was too good a title not to use! It has the dubious honour of being the Prime Minister David Cameron's home constituency. And it shows. I have never seen such a heavy Friday-night police presence on the high street, keeping the lid on the pubs and clubs. Really, there were dozens of them!

These three suspicious characters are pobably why they were out in force! Cate, Liz and Ellie great fun to be with and much better on the buttons than me, I can tell you!

Anyway, I digress! My reason for being there, getting re-acquainted with the Northampton Ring Road once again on my way there (DEEP joy!) was to attend Melodeons at Witney, two days of melodeon workshops with some of the best international musicians walking this earth. I had chosen workshops with Emmanuel Parisell, an incorrigible Frenchman of great charm and humour, learning about music of Breton dance.

             Emmanuel demonstrating how to get a musical note out of a bicycle pump!

 Then I did a workshop on adding really juicy chords and basses with Saul Rose, who often gigs with Eliza Carthy.

 My final choice was.......need you ask? Working with Andy Cutting on his tune To the Edges, utilising all the wonderful chord sequences he is famous for. It was perhaps the most difficult workshop, I noticed even people who had been playing much longer than me were struggling, BUT we got through the whole tune (by ear) both hands. Absolutely great experience.

We actually kicked off the weekend with a meet and greet in the assembly hall of the Henry Box School (no pun intended!) where the course is held. This became a session which finished at 9.30 when we all trotted off to the pub to carry on playing music. The pub had laid on a table of hors d'ouevres for us which was rather nice (mind you the drinks weren't cheap it was a bit of a shock especially to those people who had travelled down from Up North and had to pay Southern Prices!)

Here's Andy, joining in the session. We left about 11.30 as we were so tired but I think it carried on a bit longer.

Saturday evening was the tutors' concert. It was amazing. Here's a shot of Andy, Emmanuel and Man Mountain Christian Maes. They lifted the roof off!

There was another tutor, who I hadn't heard before, called Paul Scourfield. Now Paul is an East Anglian box player (from Essex I think) who plays in the main, English traditional tunes. I bought a cd of his which has some really great music on. If I ever get the chance to take a workshop with him I will jump at it. Here you see him playing and calling for the ceilidh demo on Sunday.

And here is a better shot of him at the session, sitting next to Lester, a Melodeons at Witney stalwart and Keeper of the Tune Archive on

I so enjoyed myself, it was my second year and I felt I was getting to know people a lot better. I could kick myself as we had the usual, by now traditional Italian meal just before the concert, and I forgot to take any photographs. I had my camera in my bag! But lots of lovely memories, and some really great tunes to take away with me. Though it was nice to get home and see the Old Man. Who, lest you think he was mouldering along on his ownsome, was up in the chilly far north he was just over the border in Scotland.

                  Experiencing his first attempt at fishing for salmon, near Etterick.

Salmon fishing is so far outside the realms of our experience, but the opportunity came up for him to go with a few friends. I might add - ruefully - that no salmon were harmed in the making of these pictures! They were a week or so too late, apparently, but he enjoyed himself and that was the main thing.

So there you have it. As far removed from a textiley post as you could get, I reckon, but I promise the next one will be back on song! (ooops, didn't mean to mention more music!!!!) Catch you soon!