Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Orange Wednesday

Today is orange......and this was easier than I thought. My taste in colour is changing - a few years ago I'd never seek out orange, much less have an orange pair of shoes! So, here we go...

:: my orange 'Keen' all-terrain shoes


:: kitchen scissors


:: kilner jar seals


:: the orange lining of my camera case


:: detail in a painting


:: a terracotta pot in the garden


:: a rusty table


I'm enjoying this! More tomorrow - we're going red!

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Yellow Tuesday

Today is yellow day, and it's another colour I don't really choose to have in my home. I like yellow in nature and in sunshine and outside, but not on my walls or to wear. My favoured colours come later in the week!

:: lemons in the kitchen


:: bananas (actually, these are still a bit green!)


:: the classic national geographic yellow


:: and this boy's a beautiful pale gold

Monday, 28 April 2008

Green Monday

I've decided, a little late in the day, to join in with colour week over at Leya's. Each day this week I'll post photos according to the colour of the day. I'm aiming to take my photos at home - both inside, and maybe in the garden too. So, Monday is green.....this wasn't easy, green is not a colour I use in my house, so a little searching was necessary....

:: a bowl woven from recycled telephone wire


:: green-headed pins

Busy Sunday

Is it really the end of monday already? I had a busy and productive weekend, mostly at home, which just flew by. The sun came out, tempting me out walking, and in to the garden. A dog walk on one of my most beautiful local beaches yesterday morning. Look at the colour of the sea...no sooner than I took this, than the sea fog rolled in and visibility was down to 5 feet! This beach is on the north coast - a quick hop back to the south coast where I live, and the sun was out all day.


The new hazel fence panels arrived, and my neighbour erected them on top of our lovely old cornish wall. I've made some progress clearing the weeds and generally tidying up. I've also got some seeds going, in the shelter of my little conservatory. The extra warmth and protection will help them along before the temperatures are consistently high enough to harden the seedlings off and plant outside.


I also spent time baking bread for the freezer, a large batch of tomato sauce, and these delicious cardamon cakes.


This is a recipe from Rachel's Favourite Food at Home which I've got from the library. Lots of easy and tasty recipes. The little cakes can also be made as one big cake.....the cardamon is subtle but imparts a wonderful warm sweet spicyness.....here's the recipe:

Cardamon Sour-Cream Cake

Cake:
1 egg
200ml tub sour cream or crème fraiche
175g caster sugar
225g plain flour
½ teasp bicarb
pinch of salt
1 teasp ground cardamon seeds

Icing:
125g icing sugar, sifted
1 tblsp sour cream or crème fraiche

Preheat oven to GM4/180C/350F

Grease the sides of a 20cm/8” round cake tin, and dust with flour, line the base with greaseproof paper

Method:
Whisk the egg in a large bowl
Add all but 1 generous tablespoon of the sour cream, and the sugar
Whisk to combine
Add the sifted flour and bicarb, then the salt and ground cardamon
Fold the mixture to combine – don’t over-mix
Transfer to tin and put in oven
Bake for about 35 mins until the top of the cake feels firm to touch and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean

Cool on a wire rack before removing from the tin

Make the icing by mixing the reserved sour cream with the icing sugar. If the mixture is a little stiff, add a drop of water.
Spread over the top of the cake and allow to drip down the sides

This also works well in bun cases - divide mixture between 12 paper cases, and cook at the same temperature for 18-20 minutes

Yum yum!

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Postcards

I've really been enjoying taking photographs again, after a very long break (years...and more!) so on a whim I decided to see how a couple of my photos would look as postcards. Enter Moo. What a quick and simple process. (that is, after all my dithering about which photos to use) Anyway, my first choice had to be the trees....taken on a sunny day last November, in my favourite woods. What's interesting is this works whatever way you look at it, which I hadn't really appreciated when looking at the image up on my screen.


My other choice was the agapanthus seed heads, though perhaps the cloudy sky is a little too gloomy. Agapanthus grow very easily in Cornwall, and you often see fields of them, grown for the cut-flower market.


I wish now I'd chosen more images, but I did it all in a bit of a hurry. Also, the crop doesn't always work. Next up will be some Moo minicards - I think they'll be trickier to get right as it's a long thin image. I got my digital camera (a Panasonic DMC-TZ3) at about the same time as I started my blog. I wanted something that would fit easily in my bag or pocket, yet had a good magnification and a macro option. At this stage I knew I didn't want a digital slr, though I think that time will come. I rarely use my old Nikon 35mm. What interests me now is mostly taking images of nature - flowers and trees, the sea in all its guises, bits of my home, the dogs....whatever catches my eye.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Tulip love

I love tulips. Almost as much as I love sweet peas, but not quite. I'm quite selective about colour too - orange hits the spot, as do the maroons, almost blacks, and reds. I'm not so keen on yellow - maybe I'm all yellowed-out after the abundance of daffodils.


This tulip is in a pot all by itself, near some little houses just up the road. I love the different shades of orange, and the splash of black at the throat of the petals


These are meant to be Queen of the Night, but are not as dark as I remember. Some are even brighter - like this one. This morning they were dotted with dewdrops. They're past their best now, a bit ragged round the edges.



And this is 'Rococo' - just beginning to open out. I didn't notice the spider's web when I was taking the picture. These were also planted very late - obvious by the short stems!

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Life, chocolate and the garden

Thank you for all the birthday wishes! I had a lovely peaceful day which was just perfect. I find more and more that I'm not very inclined to go out.....one could argue this is a sign of age, but I think it's more to do with contentment. I love my home, and I don't feel the need to be 'out there' seeking other things - everything I could wish for is here at home, and I'm thankful for that. That's not to say I don't go out at all - I love to walk and get out in nature, and do that daily with my two dogs, and of course I see friends, but home is where it's at for me.

Yesterday I made a quick batch of chocolate brownies - late birthday cake I suppose! This recipe is failsafe, delicious and inexpensive (compared to many brownie recipes). What I'm always looking for in a brownie is a crisp topping and a squidgey gooey inside that melts in your mouth.


Chocolate Brownies - makes 16 squares

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180C/350F
Line a 23cm/9" square tin

100g dark chocolate - at least 70% cocoa solids
50g butter
2 eggs, beaten
200g caster sugar
50g plain flour
1 teasp baking powder
1/4 teasp salt
100g chopped nuts - I use either walnuts, pecans or toasted hazelnuts
1 teasp vanilla extract

Break the chocolate up in to pieces, and put in a saucepan with the butter
Melt slowly over a low heat, stir to combine with a wooden spoon, and leave to cool slightly
Combine all the other ingredients in a large bowl and mix well
Add the chocolate/butter mixture and stir again
Pour into the baking tin - no need to smooth the mixture it will even out in the oven

Bake for 25/30 mins, depending on how fast your oven is. It's better to slightly undercook it, to retain the gooeyness you want!

Now you can lick the spoon and scrape the bowl.....

Cool in the tin on a wire rack, and slice into squares when cold


The weather has been warmer today with a hint of sun here and there - enticing enough to get out in the garden. I've started to think about what I want to do with my patch. At the moment I have a bare space, somewhat destroyed by the dogs, and overgrown with grass that needs cutting and an abundance of dandelions. There is the occasional bit of beauty, like the tulips, but basically I have a blank canvas.


I've started to dig up the dandelions and other weeds which is leaving me with large patches of bare earth. For the moment I've covered these with a thick layer of cardboard - it will suppress any new weeds from popping up, and prevents the dogs from digging and messing around in the mud! I've also got some old hessian-backed carpet coming my way this week, which will also help. Before I can get on with the garden re-design, the fence and gate at the bottom needs replacing, and the side boundaries need some attention as well. Overall, I would like my garden to be both productive and beautiful and a space I want to spend time in. Having a garden is like having another room, isn't it? I'm rather excited about all the possibilities.

And a couple of tips for cleaning ingrained mud and dirt off gardening hands (if like me you don't wear gloves):

Put a squirt of liquid soap or washing up liquid on your hands and add a tablespoon of granulated sugar, rub hands together, paying attention to cuticles and under your nails. Rinse thoroughly. If you just want an exfoliant/moisturiser, substitute olive oil for the liquid soap.

If your hands still have staining from earth and plant sap, rub them thoroughly with the inside skin of half a lemon, saved from cooking. Instant and safe bleach!

Friday, 18 April 2008

Me day

That's a bit of a self-indulgent post title......but today is my birthday, so it's my day!


There are no mad celebrations planned - just a gentle day......a dog walk, lunch with a friend, a haircut, and time at home to potter, which will hit the spot perfectly. Maybe some crafting...I'll just see how it unfolds. And for anyone who's curious I am 44 and proud of it! All I can say is life gets better and better as you get older. I certainly wouldn't want to be back in my twenties or even thirties, so mid forties here I am!

The tulip photo was taken in my garden a couple of days ago - I was expecting the dark, moody almost black of Queen of the Night, but these have come out paint box red. They were planted very late and are a little stunted, but the colour is so vibrant. Inside the petals it looks like someone's added a few swirls with a paintbrush. I wish now I'd planted more.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Downshifting

Back in the 90s 'downshifting' was an often-heard word. As I recall back then, it was mostly used to refer to people who left their city lives, big houses and demanding jobs, for a simpler life in the country. They would often make a lot of money selling their houses and would be able to move to a cheaper house in the sticks and be mortgage free and not necessarily have to work full time to pay the bills. Perhaps that is a slightly harsh view, but I do think the whole concept has moved on now. I bring it up because InterNational Downshifting Week is here - from Saturday 19 April to Friday 25 April, and it's an opportunity for all of us to get involved. You don't have to move to the country to downshift - start where you are.


Downshifting is about slowing down to a gentler rhythm that embraces both your home and working life. It means welcoming simplicity, letting go of materialistic ideals and consumerism and as a consequence living with less, and leading a more fulfilling life. This in turn not only benefits us, but also our impact on the environment.


There are lots of tips and suggestions here on how you can take part - whether as an individual, a company or a school, so have a look and do your bit! At the beginning of January I made a decision to make all my cards this year, and not make a single purchase. I've made cards and envelopes of varying styles and descriptions for as long as I can remember, but often I leave it too late when a birthday pops up and I resort to buying one. So I'm going to be a little more efficient and plan (and make) ahead. I have plenty of vintage magazines and art catalogues which are perfect for both inspiration and chopping up!

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Finding Fairy Dye

A couple of weeks ago I had a serious clear out and spring clean of my kitchen, and found this little bit of vintage packaging tucked away in a corner.


What's strange is I've never seen it before, and have no idea where it came from. Curiouser and curiouser.... It's a tiny box, about the size of my thumb, with a wonderful illustration on the front, and on the back: Fairy Dyes Ltd, Glasgow, Scotland.


There is a tiny vial of rose pink dye pigment, together with these notes on making your home dying a success


and colour chart information with guidance on the colours you might achieve.


After a google search I found this vintage ad from the 1930s, with another illustration that made me smile. So I guess my little find might date from around then.


I wondered too, Caireen and Suzanne, if you have heard of Fairy Dyes Ltd? Glasgow is more your territory I think!

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Homemade breakfast and other titbits

Breakfast today was totally homemade......yesterday I made some butter for the first time. It was so satisfying, and very easy (note to self: next time use a deeper bowl so you don't get splatttered with cream). This in turn provided me with the buttermilk to make some soda bread. I haven't made any for a long time and had forgotten how good it can be. Quite different from the bread I make on a regular basis.


Warm bread, fresh butter and homemade jam from local plums (made last summer, or was it the one before?). The trouble is, it's very enticing and oh-so-easy to eat too much. There is still some left, just enough for a paltry breakfast tomorrow.


For almost two months a friend and I have been trying to do a car boot, but each chosen sunday morning has brought a dire weather forecast which has always held true. Today was another chosen sunday, and yet again heavy rain was forecast. We wavered a bit, then decided no, no fun getting wet, and we both have quite a few books to get rid of, which could so easily be ruined in a quick downpour. Contrary to the forecast, it has been dry, and mostly sunny, all day. Lovely weather, but a bit galling to miss a car boot opportunity.

I'm a bit behind in replying to your comments, and I do really appreciate them, thank you. I'll catch up in the next couple of days!

Friday, 11 April 2008

My lucky find

I had a lucky find today - I popped in to town for a few necessities and decided to do the rounds of the charity shops. I couldn't believe it when I came across this book at a bargain £3.50. It is immaculate, probably an unwanted gift, only published last October and retails at £25. I've had it on order at the library for a couple of months but it was obviously not my turn yet. Still, now I can dive straight in. It's about sustainable living - consuming less, saving resources, growing-your-own, the reduse-reuse-recycle mantra, and making a difference - all starting on your own home patch.


It has been printed on paper from sustainable resources, and has no glossy jacket. Visually, it's stunning, with some beautiful photographs and illustrations.


What's more, it's written by Tom Petherick, who's cornish born and bred. He led the team that restored the kitchen gardens to their former glory at The Lost Gardens of Heligan, near Mevagissy in Cornwall, and then went on to run his own soil association registered market garden. He now writes and broadcasts and undertakes consultancy work. I'm going to enjoy settling down for a good read.

My aim is for a simple life, to tread lightly, and I can feel and see my life changing, heading in the right direction. And the simpler it gets the better it gets. When I lived in London I had a beautiful and productive allotment. My space here is much smaller, and has been trashed by the dogs, but I plan to do more in the garden this summer. The evenings are drawing out and the weather is slowly warming up. It's very enticing out there!

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Morning sunshine, morning image

Washing line shapes and shadows in the early morning sun

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

The bluebells are here

I seem to have lost the last week in a blur of being exhausted after my teeth op, and feeling disjointed in my head, like the dots don't connect anymore. I blame it entirely on the anaesthetic. So not much creating going on, but it's all happening in nature...the bluebells are here!


At the moment they are few and far between, gently scattered, in the woods I walk in several days each week. Soon there will be a rich blue carpet as far as the eye can see. As far as I can tell (and I'm no expert) they are all native english bluebells, and not the spanish imposters that are invading our shores.


The woods are also home to many lichens and mosses, which decorate everything they touch with myriad shades of green



And today I saw some tulips, just the odd one here and there, intense saturated colours, almost startling when everything else around them is green and brown.


Tuesday, 1 April 2008

On knitting, and recovery

Thank you for all the good wishes and food suggestions, I really appreciate it. The operation went well and I feel fine.... just a bit wiped out, it's more the anaesthetic than anything else. It's been a long time since I've had a general, and the passing of the years make a difference to the speed of recovery! Still, I count myself lucky, the woman in the next bed was having a total evacuation, followed by dentures, and she was only two years older than me. And I'm not exactly old, really I'm not. So, many smoothies later, some porridge, and lots of sleep and I'm still here. I can now have hot drinks and hot food too, so back to my daily ritual of a Green and Black's hot chocolate at bedtime. Bliss!

As I was only capable of shuffling around at home over the weekend, I picked up the knitting needles again. And something weird happened. Suddenly, I could just knit (very basically, you understand) I think kind of not thinking about it helped, and I realized I was trying to cast on in a complicated way, so I abandoned that. I had some Rowan dk cotton left from about twenty years ago when a friend did some knitting for me, so first off I knitted a dishcloth, and then I got carried away, and chose the easiest project in the Monkey and Sofia Knitting Book.

Introducing......


You may be thinking he's a dog, with those floppy ears, but you'd be wrong. Here's a clue:


A rabbit! A very special rabbit - I adjusted the pattern for the ears, so now he's a lop-eared rabbit and he's destined for my eldest sister. She keeps real lops, so it was a necessary alteration!

I can see why knitting is so addictive - all that potential, and so much beautiful wool to choose from, it's very seductive. I knitted very briefly as a child, knitting scarves for my toy animals, but never mastered it and as a consequence got thoroughly bored. I can see things might be a bit different this time round.

A few days ago I received my shopping tote from my swap partner in the States (this was from a tote swap over at Rhonda's) and I love it. Fabulous bright colours, perfect for spring. The design has been taken from deconstructing a plastic bag and using that as a pattern.


Thank you, Aubrey! I posted mine off today, but I really think I got the better deal.