Friday, October 23, 2009

As I was going to

St Ives. Be back in a week, will I meet a man with seven wives?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


If whilst making fudge you happen to leave the room to fetch a book it is almost guaranteed that finding that book will take longer that you thought. It will almost never be on the shelf you expect it to be on and you will spend too many minutes scanning and gazing, perhaps suddenly noticing another book and pausing to take it down a flick through.

You will think you were only a moment gone but on return the sugar thermometer will tell you otherwise.

So keep a clear head and calmly turn off the heat. Continue as planned and pour into prepared tin.

Some time later bash the shiny, solid mass like crazy with the end of the rolling pin.........

and call it caramel.

Congratulate oneself on being so wonderfully domesticated as to have a jar of shiny cracked caramel on hand to scatter on a dish of ice-cream.

And make a private note to buy more fudge ingredients tomorrow.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Everyday cooking

The lovely Kristina of Jolly Hockey Sticks blog, may very well have a cook book fettish to rival my own and it was her eagle eyes which correctly identified the spine of my latest acquistion featured at the top of the previous post.

I love buying cookery books, sadly I have to seriously curtail my buying due to budget constraints but honnestly, my list of wishes at the moment is huge. With the approach of the festive season (there, I didn't actually say it, just alluded, but I'm sorry, it's true, it really is approaching fast), it seems that new cook books arrive on the market almost daily.

Several have caught my eye and at the moment my list includes Warm Bread and Honey Cake - the title alone seems promising but I do have rather a lot of bread books and several baking books too, do I need this one? Hmmm, I certainly want. I often pick up the beautiful Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights ... lovely images, intriguing, varied recipes. My biggest want of all at the moment, one that I do not need but nonetheless I want... Tender: v. 1: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch by Nigel Slater. Nigel Slater is by far my favourite cookery writer and indeed the books of his I already own are well thumbed and dog-eared from use. The pleasure of Nigel Slater is that he is the sort of food writer you want to keep by your bed, if you know what I mean!

There are older titles amongst my list of wants too, I have long desired Ballymaloe Cookery Course but then again, maybe actually owning such a weighty tome might mean I never looked at any or my other books. And I don't own anything by Simon Hopkins which seems a mistake.

But all that wanting aside, this latest acquisition, River Cottage Everyday book is a good and useful addition to my groaning shelves. Much as I love the beautiful lifestyle books with their exciting dinner party recipes, family cooking is what I do everyday and I am always looking for fresh ideas and indeed the odd miracle. I already own The River Cottage Family Cookbook and was a little worried that this might be too similar but there are enough new recipes to make it worthwhile and as is increasingly the case with cookery books it is beautifully photographed and thoughtfully laid out.

There is an excellent section on bread and some really good fish recipes (if only the TA would eat fish with us). The Lunchbox chapter is full of new ideas involving things like couscous and I feel inspired add several of them to my increasingly tired repertoire. The Thrifty Meat section is very interesting, a breast of lamb recipe which I shall certainly try and a friendly sounding rabbit stew which I may possibly try; I know that Dylan is very keen to eat rabbit (although I think he really wants to catch his own and cook it on a campfire, eeek) but it may be harder to convince Tilly to try it, she is very keen on owning a bunny at the moment...

So out of all these varied recipes what should I try first? Why a Ginger Cake of course (I already have at least 6 different ginger cake recipes, indeed my favourite is a Nigel Slater one but I like to keep an open mind on these matters). This one measures up well, dense and sticky, it did sink somewhat but Mr Fearnley-Whitingstall warns of this and says not to worry, so I didn't. Treacle, syrup, sticky lumps of ginger and darkest muscovado sugar, makes you want to light the fire and make a pot of tea don't you think? Excuse me now, I have a fire to stoke.....

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It is almost two years since I discovered the 365 projects on Flickr and made a conscious decision to take a photograph every day. It was an interesting challenge, some days I would think there was nothing to photograph, no interesting knitting or baking, no child pulling a fu
nny face; so I would make myself look around for alternatives. The exercise was good for me, it made appreciate odd corners of my day, it made me notice so much more. Before I knew it I was spotting potential photograps everywhere, I had learned how to open my eyes a little wider.

I was mostly drawn to photographing things that I found attractive and sometimes these could be the most ordinary of objects or scenes, the exercise taught me to look for beauty in the ordinary and perhaps this practise went some way towards contributing to the general quality of my life. It became an exercise in appreciating all that I had to be grateful about.

I know it sounds rather a grand statement but sometimes, when we are bogged down in our daily routines, perhaps overwhelmed by daily grind it can be a very positive tonic to make yourself look around for the things that make you happy. Taking regular pictures has provided me with such a rich view of our day to day family life because in addtion to that one a day photograph the habit of keeping the camera to hand made me record so many details of our lives, little things that are good to look back on, memories to anchor us in time and place.

Lately I have lost my way with 365, when we moved and were without internet and then a slower connection than I was used to, I lost my habit of regular Flickr posting. Gradually, perhaps without the focus of posting my pictures in my 365 folder, I stopped taking so many photographs.

So yesterday I took up my camera and walked around the house, immediately I was noticing things that hadn't caught my attention before and it was a good feeling. The smallest things served to make me smile.

The light catching the corner of a picture frame in the downstairs loo.

The contents of a pocket emptied following a woodland walk; I have been annoyed by this little pile for two days, irritated that they had been just emptied out and abandoned but with camera in hand I looked at them afresh. A little work of art, beautiful, shiny colour.

A dog caught napping on the sofa.

Neglected, sometimes dusty, little corners of my day to day life, they feel spruced up and sparkle anew. I think we all need reminding to open our eyes a little wider from time to time, there is so much to be gained.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Knit one, repeat

There was one of these made once before, way back in September 07. Two years later, that sweater is no longer over-sized but small and well worn. It has seen a great deal of wear, been on several sleepovers and cub camps and became the essential bedtime sweater. A sort of substitute dressing gown, it has been thrown over pyjamas on chilly mornings and even worn to bed during some of those very cold winter nights.

Dylan liked to keep it handy at all times and its being indisposed in the washing basket was always unpopular.

When packing for the move Southwards I decided, in a fit of ruthlessness, that this old sweater needed to move on, be liberated. I feared recriminations but it was not mentioned once, all through the summer. Until late August that was. The night we decided to let the children stay up late, light the chiminea and gaze at starry skies. That sweater was exactly the sort of thing to wear, so much more comforting than a hoodie. I had to own up and I felt bad, very bad.

So yarn was hastily ordered and The Weasley Sweater, mark II was begun. This time I used a less luxurious, but somehow more Weasley like, yarn from New Lanark Mill. This is such a pleasing yarn, nice and heathery, ecconomical and very woolly (I know, you know what I mean by that!). During a mid-knit fitting the fabric was proclaimed a little scratchy but thankfully he seems happy to over look the scratchiness and indeed I think it may have softened after blocking.

Let me tell you a funny story about the knitting of this. As I sped my way up the front of the pattern I held the garment up for The Technical Advisor's admiration (which is all too often a "very nice dear" without actually looking), luckily on this occasion he did look and followed up his "very nice dear" with "how come your doing this one with an H". To which I responded with a shriek and a curse and promptly started ripping back.

So there it is, finally. A Weasley Sweater, with a D for Dylan, knitted according to the pattern found in the very useful Charmed Knits: Projects for Fans of Harry Potter.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Come on in autumn

You are finally welcome. The weather feels well and truly turned at last, my scarves are heavier and the fire has been lit several times. It has taken me a while to feel ready to give up on summer and feel positive about the changing season but it happened this weekend.

Today the kitchen felt a little chilly when I came down in the early morning, the day is grey and wet (I had almost forgotten what rain was in this strangely parched corner of England) and yet I find myself surprisingly happy about it. Because of course, autumn is such a very good season. There are still more damsons to be picked and grape jelly has been added to the ever-growing pile of preserves in my pantry. The sloes are ripening along the hedgerows and I look forward to preparing this years vintage of sloe gin.

The thought of curling up by the fire is suddenly a good one and the blankets that drape the arm of each chair are already in regular use.

Of course there are still great outdoor days to be had in autumn and the walks around here take us through apple laiden orchards, the air is rich and heavy with the smell of the fruit and I find myself hankering for mulled cider and apple pie. The best part of being outdoors in autumn is the promise of returning to a cosy house.

So come on in Autumn, I am ready now, my knitting ignites me once more, the pleasure of thick, warm yarn on my lap, the smell of baking in a steamy kitchen and woodsmoke. I am ready to pull up a chair, close the curtains and be glad of Autumn.