Sunday, 6 November 2011

a bonfire by the light of the moon

I love a good bonfire. I find the dancing glow of the leaping flames both mesmerizing and meditative, energizing and calming all in one go.

Even better when the evening is shared with a little moonlight, fireworks, friends and a feast fit for a king.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

autumnal

Autumn is without doubt my favourite season. There's so much to love:

:: hedgerows abundant with berries
:: cooler, crisper air
:: light fading at the end of the day
:: snuggling up in warmer clothes
:: thinking about the endless possibilities for winter knitting
:: filling the store cupboard with jams and jellies
:: the lingering smell of woodsmoke from autumn bonfires
:: a generally slower pace as the days shorten
:: going to bed early with a good book

It hasn't been very cold yet here in the far south west, and I'm confident I shall hold out until November before I put the heating on. Mostly I'm still getting by with no socks, though I'm looking forward to pulling my boots on!

The leaves are falling off the trees, crunching underfoot as Walter and I go about our daily walks.

I've been raiding the hedgerows for several weeks, supplementing the rich pickings with crab apples from my local WI market and offerings from friends. I recently acquired a fruit steamer (actually, 'invested in' would be more appropriate) and have been making jellies and fruit butters. Nothing goes to waste - and with the fruit steamer you cut out the overnight drip drip through a jelly bag, so you save a little time. My first batch of crab apple jelly was a little sweet for my taste (a ratio of 1:1 so 600ml of juice to 600g of sugar), so my subsequent batches have followed the guidelines in this wonderful preserving book (a ratio of 600ml of juice to 450g of sugar).

I love the jewel-like colours of the jellies. Pink from the crab apples, and pale gold from the pears. In fact, the pear and cardamon jelly is my current favourite, along with its corresponding fruit butter, which is sublime. Rock-hard conference pears have been transformed into something quite delicious and fragrant. However, I still have more jams and jellies to make before I catch up with Sue. I picked the last of the blackberries today - a slow, meditative picking in the warm autumn sunshine. Plenty more sloes too, for another bottle of gin.

What have you been making?

Thursday, 13 October 2011

walter turns five

My sweet boy turned five today - a very good reason to sneak off for a long walk around Loe Pool.

The lake was shrouded in mist, so the landscape appeared and disappeared in layers. It was quite beautiful.

Walter was quite happy to go in for a quick dip, chasing sticks, and pootling around in the water. I couldn't get him to keep still long enough for any decent photographs!

By the time we reached Loe Bar, the narrow strip of land between lake and sea, he was ready for a roll in the sand.

Happy Birthday, Walter, you make my heart sing each and every day.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

chicken business

Long time readers here will know that my nephew Ben designs and makes beautiful chicken coops. He recently launched a gorgeous new coop design, the Small Dorking, suitable for one to three large chickens (or bantams) - perfect for the smaller garden. You can find out more about it here.

photograph copyright Ben Grist/Oakdene Coops

Would you like the opportunity to win one? Then hop over to the Guardian Gardening Blog to enter. You just need to fill in your details and answer a very simple chicken-related question....it's that easy!

The draw closes tomorrow night, 6 October, at 23.59pm, so get your skates on!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

seascape and skyscape

Sea and sky in the late afternoon light.  Perfect autumn weather.

Friday, 1 July 2011

dipping my toe in

Hello.

The first of the month is always a good date to start anything...or perhaps pick up the pieces of something that has lain idle for a while, so here I am. The last few days have finally brought some sunshine to the far south west, and the view from my bedroom window has been rather beautiful just before sunset...

and again just after sunrise.

I never tire of looking out to sea to check the weather.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

mizzle

For the uninitiated, mizzle is a word peculiar to the south west of England, and it describes perfectly the weather we had nearly all weekend.

In fact, it was wetter than it appears here, and the visibility was very poor. Despite the mizzle, a flask of hot chocolate was shared whilst sitting on the rocks having a catch up with a dear friend. Not the perfect weather for a bank holiday weekend, but you have to make the best of it. The sun finally appeared late monday afternoon. Better late than never!

One could also argue that mizzle is an 'in' colour as Farrow and Ball have added it to their latest collection.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

jammy

Luscious local strawberries are always a treat, and an excuse to make a wee quantity of jam. These punnets yielded two jars of delicious soft-set, not-too-sweet strawberry jam which I've especially enjoyed swirled through some home-made yogurt.

I use the recipe from this book, and it never fails to delight. How do you like your strawberries?
* * * * *
I can see a month has gone by with little thought for my blog. Looking back it seems it's been a time of both extreme busy-ness, and a time of doing nothing much at all. There was also one week where I was over-the-top grumpy, and irritated myself beyond measure. That's just how life goes.... sometimes it's pretty jammy, and sometimes it isn't.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

sweet indulgence

When the first of May dawns wet and grey, and frankly seems more like February, it calls for deperate measures. I've been meaning to try this recipe for longer than I can remember.

I can now highly recommend Sophie Dahl's Peanut Butter Fudge. It melts on the tongue and has a delicious crumbly texture. It's rich and indulgent, and goes perfectly with strong coffee.

Pipany, I'll bring some over tomorrow. I can't eat all that by myself.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

snippets

All these bank holidays have lulled me in to holiday mode! Here's a few snippets from the last week:

:: Meandering through my local graveyard early sunday morning and seeing this perfectly-framed gravestone.

:: Walter plucking up the courage to swim for his ball.

My boy is not a brave dog - he rarely goes out of his comfort zone, and quite literally needs the security of the ground beneath his feet.

It makes my heart sing to see him swim properly - it happens so rarely. Mostly, he paddles and runs through the water, then lies down to cool off.

:: Rebecca reminded me how delicious homemade yogurt is. I'm back in the swing of making my own, using local unpasteurised milk. Yum!

:: Making pesto with wild garlic leaves - my version is made from sunflower seeds, wild garlic, a garlic clove, olive oil, grana padano (cheaper than parmesan), lemon juice and salt and pepper. It's divine - smeared on toast, tossed in some pasta, in a simple risotto, or in a sandwich.

:: Watching my sweet peas emerge into little seedlings. I planted them a little late, but I'm sure they'll catch up. At the moment they're on the window seat in my bedroom.

:: The wedding. I was planning on ignoring it, but somehow I drifted to the computer on and off all day yesterday to catch up (no tv in my house!). It was so moving, and for all the grandeur I think it retained a sense of intimacy. Two young people setting out on their life together, and so clearly in love. Kate looked quite beautiful, and her dress was stunning. I admit to feeling a little teary with emotion.

Friday, 22 April 2011

walter goes green

Walter likes the simple things in life. Like rolling in freshly-mown grass. He often comes home from a walk covered in grass stains. Happiness comes with a green tinge.

It's raining here today and I've had to retreat indoors. It wasn't part of the plan. Hey ho.

Thanks so much for all the birthday wishes, and a Happy Easter to you all!

Monday, 18 April 2011

birthday bluebells

Today I've turned 47. It seems to me the older I get the faster time flies. It slips through my fingers like melted butter, and I find I want more hours in my day for the simple pleasures of life. I'm not fussed about getting older - it's just a number. I believe what's important is one's attitude and approach to life. And life is good. I looked in the mirror this morning, noted the all-over dusting of grey hairs and knew I would continue to go with the flow. After all, grey is one of my favourite colours!

So today has been blissful - a day off, a day for me to spend with Walter 'just pottering'. It's been a beautiful sunny day, not a cloud in the sky. We went to the beach this morning, stopping at a favourite cafe for some cake to take with us. Walking home, I paused at a roadside stall to buy a bunch of bluebells. A gift to myself.

What's not to love about a bunch of bluebells?

I sat in the garden for a while soaking up the sun, while Walter dried off from his dip in the sea, then headed off to my knitting group for our monthly gathering (and more cake!).

Now I'm heading out for another walk in the early evening sun. I suspect a gin and tonic will be poured on my return, and consumed while I cook my supper. A pretty perfect birthday, really.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

ingredients

I have here a rather beautiful box of ingredients.

Can you guess what they're for?

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

random goodness

A few good things from the last week:

:: sun, sun, sun! (until today, that is)

:: a little bunch of hellebores from my neighbour

:: roasted, salted soya nuts. Strangely addictive, and rather virtuous (or am I kidding myself?)

:: progress on the sock - I've finally turned the heel. I've been knitting this in fits and starts. It's slow.

:: my boy. He loves to sunbathe

:: the woods, with the early morning sun streaming through moss-covered trees

 :: primroses nestling at the bottom of a cornish hedge

:: new leaves unfurling from lichen covered branches

:: a brief visit from friends. Stories were told, laughter was shared, and it was all over too quickly.

I'm loving this month, there's so much to enjoy and savour. Life feels full of hope.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

stamp love

I've fallen for the most recent stamp issue. These came out a couple of weeks ago, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the WWF - the World Wide Fund for Nature (originally known as the World Wildlife Fund).

I've always loved seeing animals on stamps. My favourite is the polar bear.

What's yours?

Friday, 1 April 2011

welcoming the weekend

What better way to start the weekend than a bag of Montezuma's Giant Chocolate Buttons? A gift from one of my sisters.

I was going to spell out 'weekend' in chocolate buttons, but I'd already started munching and there weren't enough....

Much as I like visiting my family, my favourite place is home. I appreciate it even more when I've been away, and can look at it with fresh eyes. Still, it's time for a spring clean I think, and some more de-cluttering. I have no weekend plans, I'll just see what unfolds. Pretty blissful, really. How about you?

Thank you for all the lovely comments on my last post. I'll be making my own 'cook box' soon, once I've decided on the colour of bookcloth I want to use. One thing that came up in the comments was chopping up my Mother's old books. I am a bit of a book junkie, and I could easily have brought this little pile home and stuck them on a shelf. The thing is, that's where they would have stayed. I didn't want to read the stories, so to upcycle the pages and personal inscriptions into something new that would be used and hopefully loved, was the perfect answer for me.

Happy weekend to you!

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

a labour of love

I can now share a project I completed before christmas. It's been under wraps as these were presents for my three sisters - as I was ill, I never made the christmas family gathering and present giving. Finally, I visited this last weekend, but this is really a post about my Mother and a love of cooking which she has passed on to all of us.

My Mother was an accomplished and creative cook. She loved to cook for family and friends, and frequently entertained. She kept books full of notes from every dinner party and family gathering she gave - who was present, what she cooked, recipes, likes and dislikes. It makes fascinating reading and also shows how tastes and fashions in food changed over the years. One of the ways she kept track of recipes was this little box of recipe-filled index cards, and loose pieces of paper.

In fact, it had contributions from all of us over the years, including recipes we brought home from school. I'm not sure who's writing is on the subject dividers, but it wasn't my Mother's! She died four and a half years ago, and this little box is one thing that would be impossible to divide up fairly between us, so unbeknown to my sisters, I decided to create a 'cook box' for each of them (I've yet to do one for myself). Anyone who reads here regularly will know that I have a passion for paper and card, and using my scalpel and cutting mat, so creating these boxes has been enormous fun, if emotional in places. Each box was made to measure, starting with flat greyboard, cutting the template, and then assembling the box. I've always loved bookcloth, so knew what I would choose for the covers.

I wanted to add some history, and something very personal to my Mother, so I lined each box with pages from her childhood books, along with the inscriptions from her parents (each book I chose was a christmas present from my Grandparents to my Mother in 1944, when she was just eleven years old).
Some of the pages are marked with age, but it adds to the sense of history. In each box I also used pages from the same book to make the subject dividers (mounted on to card, for strength).
Then I copied some of the recipes on to card, and also some of the loose papers with notes.
There are plenty of blank index cards just waiting to be filled with more favourite recipes.
As you can imagine, each familiar recipe, along with my Mother's handwriting, brings back so many childhood memories. I'm really pleased with how this labour of love turned out - and even more delighted that each of my sisters loved the gift. Now I must make my own, and one for each of my nieces, as they've each requested one.