Monday, 30 June 2008

Daisy, daisy...(or lucky find no.2)

We have seven charity shops in town, and mostly they're not very inspiring, though I do check them out regularly in the hope that I may have a lucky find (like this time). My experiences so far lead me to believe that posh/wealthy town = potential good finds (though as I write this I can hear you saying "rubbish! not true!") Anyway, my town is neither posh nor wealthy and on the whole all I find is tat.


So I was rather pleased to find these four little turquoise pyrex bowls on friday. When I first saw them I thought "mmm, cute, like the daisy shape, and the colour" and persuaded myself that I didn't want them. Two hours later I went back and they were still there, waiting for me to rescue them. And now they're home, I'm really glad I went back for them. They're nothing special, they just feel summery and kind of now, if you know what I mean. They make me smile.


The little shortbread biscuits are very moreish, and go well with a good cup of coffee, though I'm not impressed with the pattern on the top. Looks more like the tread on some knobbly mountain bike tyres.

Shortbread

Ingredients:
140g plain flour
25g rice flour (not ground rice)
50g caster sugar
100g soft butter
1 tblsp sugar, for sprinkling

Method:
Preheat oven to 140C/275F/GM1
In a bowl, mix both the flours, then add the sugar.
With your hands mix in the butter until it comes together – really knead it
On a baking tray or swiss-roll tin, form it with your hands into a round disc, measuring 7 or 8 inches and about 1 to 11/2 inches thick
Pat it on top to smooth it, and prick with a fork all over
Score the edges with a fork if you like

Cook for around 50 - 60 mins, until firm and pale gold
Leave for 10 mins when out of the oven, but slice before cold
Sprinkle with sugar

For small shortbreads:
Form walnut-sized balls and flatten slightly with a fork
Bake for 20 – 30 mins

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Mazey Day

Mazey Day -in pictures - my first ever mosaic (not perfect, but if I continue to fiddle with it I'll have quietly succeeded in pulling all my hair out. So I'm stopping.)


Friday, 27 June 2008

Golowan

This weekend sees the final celebrations for Golowan here in Penzance (and you thought this weekend was all about Glastonbury? Think again...) Golowan is the ancient Cornish Festival of Midsummer and is celebrated on the feast of St John the Baptist. Cornwall has a tradition of celebrating the summer solstice and on St John's Eve, 23 June, midsummer bonfires and beacons blaze from the carns and hilltops across our land, maintaining a continuity with ancient pagan and Celtic traditions.


Golowan was revived in the early 1990s and is now a ten-day arts event, culminating this weekend in Mazey Day and Quay Fair Day. One of the things I love about this festival is the way town is decorated with these wonderful bright banners and flags. They line our two main streets, the adjoining side streets, and the promenade.


Mazey Day (or mad day) sees a town in party mode, with parades, street entertainment, live music, the unmistakable golowan band, all dressed in white with blue, gold and black sashes, and street stalls, arts and crafts. A speech is made by the new mock mayor (who will be elected tonight, Mazey Eve) and who oversees the weekend's celebrations and traditions.


Sunday brings Quay Fair Day down to the harbour, promenade, and our very own lido, the Jubilee Pool (also adorned with banners). Be entertained by street performers and live music, visit the funfair and market stalls, and look out to sea to catch a glimpse of the visiting flotilla of boats.


The banners are made each year in the local community and schools - anyone can join in a banner-making workshop, though I confess I have yet to do so. All these vibrant seaside colours remind me of these two gorgeous quilts. Sally Anne called hers 'A Summer Sea' and Jane's is 'Swimming Pool Quilt' . They both echo the colours I adore, and see all around me in the sea and sky. One day, I'll make my own version. One day...


I suspect these images are very familiar to Pipany and Alice.

I think I might be joining in some celebrations this weekend. I hope you have a bright and colourful time too...

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Foraging for food

I had an inspiring afternoon today foraging for wild food on the north coast near Gurnard's Head. Along with five others, I joined Caroline Davey of Fat Hen for an afternoon on the cliffs, learning to identify edible wild flowers and leaves. This was an education! I don't think my daily rambles with the dogs are going to be the same again - the hedgerows have taken on a new dimension.

left side, top to bottom: rock samphire, wood sorrel, wild mint,
ox eye daisy, chickweed

right side, top to bottom: chicory, marsh samphire, fat hen

I would love to report that we came back with this rich harvest. Sadly no - this boxful was foraged by Caroline earlier in the day and its destination was the restaurant at the Gurnard's Head (great food, interesting menu, if you happen to be down this way. And you can stay the night).

Our aim was to learn to recognize the wild foods that grow abundantly around the clifftops (hopefully we'll do the seashore another time), which bits of the plant are edible, if not all, and how to eat them - raw, cooked, as teas etc. I'm an absolute beginner when it comes to recognizing and naming wild flowers, but I do love being outside, connecting with nature. We strolled and chatted, tasted and touched, smelling and photographing as we went, some of us scribbling notes. Cow parsley (be careful with this, one of the umbellifers in the cow parsley family is poisonous), red clover, wild mint, hogweed, yarrow, sorrel.... it was a revelation. There is so much to learn. I've been doing a little reading - Jane recently mentioned this book, which has some lovely recipes and lots of foraging tips and photos.

above: digging up the tuber of pignut (a small and delicate umbellifer)
below: the nut itself - about the size of a hazelnut - Caroline said it
makes a great pesto



wild thyme - less pungent than cultivated thyme, so use larger quantities

We stopped for a tea break and made a couple of infusions from yarrow and meadowsweet - the meadowsweet had a refreshing almondy taste, while the yarrow was quite bitter. Generally, foraged leaves tend to be more astringent and stronger-tasting, and the leaves are best picked when young. As the leaves mature, many become quite bitter.

meadowsweet

I can't wait to try more - of course recognizing what you're picking is crucial. These three books were recommended as a good starting point. Caroline also runs foraging and feasting weekends where you go out foraging and then come back and participate in cooking with trained chefs. And then you feast. Yum!

There is a code of conduct for foraging here

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Recycled mini notebooks

I've been feeling a little cranky and unmotivated these last few days. My back is very sore - the hours spent driving on my recent family visit, coupled with too many hours at the computer, have taken their toll. I'm shuffling round like a crippled old lady. I know the answer is less time sitting still, more time stretching and walking. I'd let my morning stretches slide (nothing fancy, ten mins max on the bathroom floor!) and I know that hasn't helped either.

After a slow start, today has been easier, though I feel like I'm having a bit of a creative block. Desperate to see a small project through from start to finish, I turned to my trusty scalpel blade! While trying to find something else I came across some unused filofax paper. I no longer use a filofax, preferring moleskines, but various bits of paper were still hanging around. I thought they'd be perfect for a couple of mini notebooks, and I didn't need to chop any paper down to size.

(edited: did I say no trimming required? Ok, just slivers...I can see them in the photo!)


The 'icing sugar' book was made a few days ago from paper scraps and an icing sugar box, using a not-very-even stab stitch. I now have a bookbinder's awl, needles, and proper waxed thread, which makes the whole process much easier.


These two notebooks were made using a filofax envelope for the cover, and various papers for the signature. They're bound very simply using pamphlet stitch. For the one on the left I've used the flap of the envelope to wrap round to the front.


The one on the right (shown here upside down!) keeps the envelope opening inside at the back. You can use the envelope on both of them - maybe for receipts or loose bits of paper. I also stamped the one with the red closure, but was only half paying attention when I pressed down the 'e'. Hey ho.... The button came out of my button box.



I cut out a little card disc for the closure on this one, sewed it on, and just wrapped the yarn round it with a single knot to secure.


They were very quick to make - once I'd decided what I was doing each notebook took about fifteen minutes. And I felt like I'd finally achieved something, however small.

I hope you all had a lovely weekend. It poured and poured here friday and saturday, so the solstice was literally a wash-out. Back to blue skies today, which is what I expect at this time of year.

Friday, 20 June 2008

My sister's garden

My sister G has a beautiful garden, crammed with cottage garden plants, rusty iron work, and places to sit and linger. Just a few images from when I was visiting last week...








Towards the end of last year my nephew hatched some fertilized bantam eggs. He was hoping for a rooster and a hen. The chicks successfully hatched and were named Spartacus and Cupcake....except we now find they're two roosters! The names have stuck regardless, and so far these two are best buddies. Whether this continues once some hens are introduced remains to be seen. Most of my chicken pics were awful, so this is all you get...


I include these out-of-focus ruffled feathers for no other reason than they made me smile!


And here we are at 'mid-summer'. How did we get here so quickly? The rains came down today, relentlessly. I leave you with a view of foxgloves through my car windscreen.


And a very happy solstice to you all x

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Gifts, goodies, give-aways

My sister G gave me a belated birthday present last week - this gorgeous little knitted purse with polka dot ribbon trim, and a little ceramic button


and these fabulous lead crystal drops which she got from a chandelier shop in Farnham - Ginny might know it. They were hard to photograph to do them any justice, so I tried them strung up in the doorway, against a clear blue sky...


...and on a damask cloth, catching the sun's rays. I expect I'll dot them around the house - anywhere they'll catch sunlight and flash rainbow patterns up the walls, or perhaps reflecting the warm glow of candlelight.


I also added to my trimmimgs collection (while on the way to Hastings!) with these lovely striped woven ribbons, and the pale blue velvet. These days it is rare for me to buy anything finished, if you know what I mean. I love looking, I love being inspired, and I do buy the ingredients where necessary - wool, needles, fabric, card, book binding supplies etc but I want to try the making and creating myself, and work on my own ideas. And in truth, I just don't need anymore 'stuff'. Although I do have a weakness for books...but that's another story. Anyway, back to ribbons...Tracy sells these ribbons, and a bigger selection in other colours in her Etsy shop, so go and take a peek!


And so to a give-away.... last week Jane at Snapdragon's Garden was giving away one of her embroidered sketchbooks, and I was the very lucky winner! So far Jane has been making them in A5 landscape, and they're selling really well. She wondered what other sizes would be popular and what we would all use them for. I requested a square book - I love the proportions of the square format, and would use it as an 'inspiration' book.

And here it is - it came beautifully wrapped in pink tissue paper, and has a daisy embroidered on the front.


The sketchbook is really good quality with lovely thick pages, and the cover is removable so you can easily slip in a refill.


You can see Jane's other designs here, and while you're there, do look at all the other goodies she makes and sells, including the flowers she grows in her cutting garden. Jane - thanks so much, I love it!

And thinking ahead a little...I have twenty four more posts to go before I reach one hundred, so I'm thinking I'll have my own little give-away to celebrate. Plenty of time to think about it...and if I can't get my act together, well, I'll just post a little less frequently to buy some time! So what should I give away?

And Caireen, Cheri and Nicole - I haven't forgotten Pay it Forward, I admit I'm being slow, it's work-in-progress. Soon.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Days Out

A couple of days out were planned for when I was away last week, visiting my family. It is bittersweet, going 'home'. I say home, because it is where I grew up, and where I return, quite regularly, though of course my own home is here in Cornwall. Bittersweet, because my Mum died very unexpectedly about 18 months ago, and 'home' is no longer the place it was. My Mum was the glue that held us together - she was vibrant, energetic, a gardener, cook, very accomplished horsewoman, adored mother and grandmother. A force to be reckoned with, and sometimes quite formidable! She is sorely missed by us all. I still expect her to walk in the room. So it's not easy, being there without her.

Days out are a chance to spend precious time with my sisters. Whenever I go up, G and I put a day in the diary to go off somewhere - we want good coffee, shops, thrifting, food, somewhere with charm. Last time we went to Lewes - to search out Caroline Zoob (a bit of a disappointment. The shop is now closed, and the website is more inspiring) and Bill's Produce Store. This time, we pondered between Hastings and Whitstable. We even had a mad moment when we thought we could do both in the day, but that would mean we did neither justice.


So Hastings won....but we did stop off on the way in Forest Row - there's a wonderful Village Crafts shop, selling Rowan and Artesano Yarn, needles, myriad art supplies, cards, you name it, they stocked it. There's also Bramble Corner Toy Shop, selling traditional toys and sweets (I couldn't resist purchasing a quarter of aniseed balls), books and moleskines. We then stopped at Nutley Antiques - a great source of vintage enamelware, textiles and garden stuff at very reasonable prices.


I should add that my sister is the ultimate shopper when it comes to interiors-type shops, and clothes. I am a mere bystander, trailing along in her wake! So in fact, we didn't even get to Hastings until 2pm....


The two places on our list were Made in Hastings and Judges Bakery. Made in Hastings is a wonderful quirky shop selling locally-made crafts - cards, toys, bags, gifts, ceramics and more.


It's well worth a visit. The stock is really inspiring, and a little different from the usual stuff you seem to see everywhere these days.


I wanted to go to Judges Bakery to check out the food and bread. The bakery was taken over, and subsequently completely overhauled, by Craig Sams and Jo Fairley, the founders of Green and Blacks. It's wonderful - great breads, sweet treats, local vegetables and other groceries. I defy you to come out empty handed! The thrift shops are also worth visiting - keen prices, and a few good finds. I have to confess it was also nice being driven - a sunny day in my sister's soft top, though I can't say I'd rely on the sat nav...coming back had a few more twists and turns than necessary!

Our other day out was to go to my eldest sister's degree show. After a major career change, she's about to graduate in Furniture Conservation, Restoration and Decorative Arts at Bucks New University. We went along to see the pieces she has worked on in her final year, which included a beautiful sewing box with a hand-printed paper lining. Part of the original lining was missing so she had to copy and re-print it by hand. The attention to detail and effort applied to each piece was inspiring. G and I also went and looked at the textiles show, which was beautiful. There were some stunning hand-printed silks, and fabrics layered with stitching, sequins and other embellishments. Photos were banned, but we did pick up the students' cards.


These are my favourites:


Today I walked up on the moor for the first time in months. In winter time the ground is very wet and waterlogged and is to be avoided, so it becomes a summer place for me. Blue skies and a clear view to the sea reminded me why I love it so much. Shortly after the dogs had cooled off in the stream we came across an adder basking in the sun, blocking our path. Fortunately I was in front and grabbed Walter's collar before he spotted it. Bessie, who's much older and slower, was quite a way back, bringing up the rear. As I kept hold of Waltz, I reached for my camera with my free hand, but I wasn't quick enough, the snake slithered away into the undergrowth.

Adders are very common here, though it's quite rare to see them. They have a very distinctive zig-zag pattern down their back. For a dog, an adder bite is potentially fatal, so I was very relieved I came across it before the dogs!

Friday, 13 June 2008

Home again...

Oh, how lovely it is to be home again! I have a few things to share, but I'm dog-tired right now from all the driving and general busyness of the last week. The Pup* came with me and had a bath the day before we left. He looked beautiful, though I say it myself.

It didn't last...


On a day when the temperature was nudging 80 degrees he found the only mud and water for miles...


and ground himself in, as certain retrievers love to do! By the time I took these pics he'd rubbed most of the mud off his head and into the lawn.



It took a severe soaking with the hose and some washing-up liquid (all I had to hand, but it was Ecover!) to get him spotless. Again. And I love the way his ears look crimped when they're wet.




*I should perhaps tell you his name..it's Walter! Not chosen by me, I hasten to add. He was named already when I took him on a year ago as a frightened and traumatized 7-month old pup. I had to commit to keeping his name, and I'm used to it now. He's often called Waltz for short (and a few other terms of endearment).

Friday, 6 June 2008

Off visiting

I'm heading up country tomorrow to visit my Dad and two out of three of my sisters. I'm really looking forward to seeing them all, and yet I know I'll find it difficult getting myself out the door. There's something about leaving home....the peace, my own space, sorting out my older dog to stay with a friend (the pup is coming with me), thinking of all the things I'd intended to do before I left....it's crazy, really. I do like home!

Once I'm in the car, engine running, it's fine.....it's like it was never a big deal, and I'll be all excited. I don't even mind the three-hundred mile drive - I take it at a more leisurely pace these days, and enjoy the scenery.

So a last photo before I go. Creeping buttercups in a jam jar, inspired by Jane. I've really enjoyed having these little jars scattered around the house, their bright and zingy yellow reflecting the sun that's been streaming in the windows.


I'll be back in a while....

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Needles galore!

How many pairs of knitting needles does a girl need? My lovely friend and neighbour (the car boot pro) has cleared out her knitting bag and given the contents to me to sort out.


As a new knitter, who only has two pairs of bamboo kneedles, sizes 4mm and 5.5mm, this is like a child being let loose in a sweetshop! They are all the old uk sizes, but with the aid of a conversion chart, and the needle box with conveniently labelled needle holes I've sorted out the needle stash.


There's plenty of choice in most sizes - plastic, metal, double points.....


Some chunky wood needles, the largest pair stamped with Jaeger Kingpin (not sure what size they are, too fat for the size guage)


Some odd ones here and there...


The choice is mine ... to keep what's needed to fill in the gaps in my collection, except it's the other way round, of course! You can hardly call two pairs of needles a collection, more a place to start. So I will choose a pair to keep of each size from this vast array, and return the rest. I have also been given a lovely red tartan knitting bag, which I forgot to photograph.

So I'm very lucky indeed, and am very grateful. No excuses for not knitting owing to lack of equipment! I'm still in dishcloth mode....time for a photocall soon.

Monday, 2 June 2008

My bench

I grew up with this bench.


For as long as I can remember it was on the terrace at my parents house. Somewhere, there's a black and white photo of me shelling peas into a colander, aged: very small, I don't know, about 4 I guess. So that makes the bench forty-plus years.... Several years ago my Mum and Dad decided to replace it with a new one - a different shape, and a new position in the garden. For a while this one was still wanted, and then finally, it was redundant. So I claimed it - I'd much rather have a bench with some history, with a story to tell, of sitting outside with a cup of tea, soaking up the sun. It has the perfect flat arms for your mug, or a glass of wine. Room to sit, to spread out, read the paper, or relax with a book. It has a bit of a wobble these days, and the oak is very worn, but that adds to its vintage charm.

I did, however, have to think about getting it down to Penzance. And so it has just sat for rather a long time in the garage, awaiting transportation. Until last week...it's journey underway, a brief break in Somerset, before arriving in its new home on friday morning. I was spurred into action by my father threatening to turn it into firewood. My garden is south-facing, and when the sun is out it's hot all day. The perfect place, then, was the east-facing wall, to sit with a cup of tea and absorb the first rays of hot hot sun in the morning.

I love this bench (but then I think you've guessed that by now)

And if you need a very reasonable and reliable man with a van, who seems to drive all over the country, I have his number.