Thursday, November 24, 2011

One Hundred Atishoos And A Tunnocks Tea Cake




When I was a child we rarely had home-baked treats, in fact, only when my Nana had been to visit. I was a child of the 1970's and my after school daily snacks consisted of buttered Rich Tea biscuits, sandwiched together so the butter would squeeze, worm like, out of the holes. Sometimes ther
e were Fig Roles or Jaffa Cakes. My little sister was taken to the see the doctor because for a time it seemed that all she would eat was Jaffa Cakes, the wise doctor assured my mother that it was not the end of the world and that there were plenty of children in the world who would be very glad of a Jaffa Cake.




My own favourite treat, even more than pink wafer biscuits, was the Tunnocks Tea Cake. The pleasure began with that cheery yellow box and the see through lid, then the careful unwrapping of the mesmerising shiny striped tinfoil. The foil was always saved for smoothing and admiring later.




The chocolate top was gently cracked. Eaten piece by piece.

Then the mallow.



Licked slowly, like an ice-cream cone.

Finally the biscuit base, rotated like a wheel for even nibbling.



Handmade at Poshyarns orders have been exceptionally busy just lately and this week I have embroidered Atishoo no less than one hundred times. There has been no baking and my children have been forced to experience 1970's style snacking.

They are rather enjoying the Tunnocks Tea Cakes.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The right tools



My tissue case template is cut from a cereal box.




My turning tools are knitting needles and paint brush handles.



My pin cushion is, all too often, the arm of the chair.




When making jelly preserves I have a complicated arrangement that involves upending a chair and suspending the muslin bag from it's legs.



I use a tea cup to cut scones.

A crochet hook is kept in the bathroom and used to remove hair from the plughole. I know, sorry.



Barbecue tongs stand guard in the fireplace, ready to place the next log.

And my food processor requires a cocktail stick to be jammed into a slot before it works.



But when it comes to cutting fabric, I dearly love my rotary cutter, it is exactly the right tool for the job. The paperweight is perhaps less obvious but applies itself brilliantly and the metal ruler belongs the Technical Advisor. We tussle over it. He retrieves it periodically from my room and tries to hide it in his man cave. But I always find it and it is the perfect tool for the job.


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Thursday, November 17, 2011

One, two, three



I once had a cleaner (way back when life was very different) who liked symmetry. There is no symmetry in three. She and I would perform little weekly tussles over the grouping of objects around my home.



Upon the mantlepiece there were two small groups of objects - vases and bowls, a propped plaster relief, sometimes a little tower of beach stones - that sort of thing. I always placed them carefully off-centre in their little groups, I liked them to look as though they had organically arrived there and indeed I suppose they had. Over time. As any new build Show House or Room Set is surely testimony to, it is very difficult to dress a room and immediately achieve a comfortable, believable look.

Of course the lived in look is not for everyone and certainly was not to my cleaner's taste. Each week she would carefully re-arrange my objects into evenly spaced pairs. Two by two. Photographs were placed square on, no casual angles. Cushions exactly placed, corners sharp and square.




Each week I would go around the house, after she left, and put them all back.

We never talked about it. We just carried on our silent battle.

Nowadays a cleaner is way out of my budget and my little piles and groups sit as they should. With a layer of dust upon them.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Somehow sort of



Once upon a time I exercised a lot. I began ballet lessons at about 6 years of age. I took my exams, won medals, danced on pointe. I read Noel Streatfeild and dreamed of dancing. I expected to be a ballerina and perhaps I could have been.

If I had kept it up.




But then I discovered teenage kicks. I wanted to put on lip gloss and go to town on Saturday mornings, not warm up in an icy cold hall.

So ballet was forgotten and other than that which was enforced by school, exercise and I parted way.



My twenties rolled by without any exercise other than bad dancing in nightclubs. Then my thirties arrived and I felt the need to try again. It took only a handful of visits to realise that the gym was not for me. On the other hand Yoga felt like coming home.

Every so often I would try something else, something more aerobic, but would quickly fail to keep it up. I attemtped running again and again, carefully followed the Couch to 5k plans but without success. It was too hard. I was not a runner.

Then someone gave me some very good advice. Just keep running, no matter how slow.

So I did. I ran so slowly it was laughable, barely breaking a sweat, perhaps even slower than I walk. It was a revelation.



I kept it up. A few times a week when walking the dogs I would run, oh so slowly, instead of walking.

And one day I started to like it. I run most days now. Not far, it's about two and half miles. I am faster now but won't be winning any prizes and I am not sure I will ever run much further. It doesn't matter, because I am so happy to be doing it. Running through the woods, marking the daily changes of the season, breathing deeply, dogs by my side. It's fantastic and I finally get it. Somehow I became a sort of runner.


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Monday, November 14, 2011

Oops



Yes, I fell off the NaBloPoMo but I am ready to jump right back on that horse.




I left home early and arrived back late on Saturday, too dark for pictures, as the these surely demonstrate and much too late for my brain to formulate words.


Sunday? Well, same thing pretty much. Another market, this time the sun came out and shone gloriously, as it pretty much has done on every single Assington Farmer's Market thus far. I cannot tell you how it lifted the mood after so many days of grey.




The grey returned today but Sunday's sunshine is still fresh enough in the memory to feed my soul.




My model? The lovely Sarah of Casey's Cakes. I am rather thrilled every time I see Sarah wearing the apron, she wears it so beautifully. Sarah also makes amazing cakes and puddings, The Technical Advisor goes quite weak at the knees for her Bakewell Slices. You can find Casey's Cakes (and me) at Lavenham Farmer's Market on 25th November

Thank you so much for all your recent comments, I have relished and smiled at every single one, please know how very much they are appreciated.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Strange but true




Now I really hope that what I am about to say does immediately lead to readers running from my blog with all the haste they can muster.

But it struck me this morning, a little blearily admittedly as it was 6.45am, that I rather like ironing.




I'm not sure how it happened. Very gradually I think. As I have mentioned before I rather like ironing freshly washed brand new fabric lengths but this is a little different.



This is napkins and tea towels and crisp, double cuffed shirts. Bed linen and t-shirts. All carefully pressed and folded.



I like it. I like how they look, I like the smell, I like the steam. I find myself enjoying the process, it feels....quite relaxing! Is this what middle age feels like?

I will be attending my first Christmas Event tomorrow (and am feeling full of nerves) - Walpole Barn If you are in the vicinity I do hope you will say hello.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Almost



I almost didn't make my post.



Just one of those days. Time marched too fast.



I am short on words today, my head too full of whirring to make sense. Just this vintage suitcase to show you. I use it to transport my wares and for display. It makes me smile every time I use it. I like to think of the places it has been, the sights it has seen. When I bought it I intended to refurbish the interior.




But as it turned out I could not quite bring myself to cover up its memories.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Right now



I am up to my eyes in linen rabbit limbs, key fobs and and bookmarks. I feel quite panic stricken, so much work still ahead.

I need to centre.



Focus.

Prioritise.


So I left the chaos of my studio, snapped shut my To Do List and did some baking. Calm was restored for a short while, baking may well be Yoga for my mind.




I made biscotti. The same way I always make them.




Chocolate & almond, a hint of orange zest. And when I dunk them in my morning coffee I will think of Not So Granny who made me laugh out loud with her comment on the To Dunk post - "This is going to make me sound frightfully middle class but I only dunk biscotti in latte".

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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The scent of the unexpected




Today as I ran in the woods the normally dry, hard ground felt soft and damp beneath my feet. The recent rain has awakened this woodland, the ivy and holly are glossy with raindrops, the fallen leaves smell sweet and earthy like rich,
fresh compost. This familiar trail has been rendered strange and different in rainfall. The dogs know it too, their noses twitching all the while, tails held high, ears pricked for signs of life.




As I rounded the top corner of the woodland the most incredible scent filled my nostrils. Warm, mossy honeysuckle and rose. It unnerved m
e initially, so unexpected, so wrong in November. It was deeper and more grown up than the scent of Spring and Summer, a very last few flowers clinging on for life in these dimly lit days, somehow awakened and invigorated by the rainfall. I really cannot tell you how wonderful it was, like that very particular smell of a re-discovered favourite wool sweater. Layer upon layer of scent that can never quite be removed by occasional washing. Memories immediately sharpened.




I came home and sprayed myself liberally with Joy and re-visited my well thumbed copy of Perfumes: The A-Z Guide . I spent a rather happy coffee break lost in fragrances remembered.







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Monday, November 07, 2011

To dunk




Or not to dunk.



I grew up very much a non-dunker of biscuits.




This may be in part due to the fact that my childhood biscuit tin consisted mostly of Jaffa Cakes and Fig Rolls. Yes, I know, that raises a whole other can of worms, is it a cake or is it a biscuit? For the purposes of this discussion my point is that whatever their official VAT related status may be, they are not great for dunking. Entirely the wrong texture.

I spent my student years rather horrified by all the dunking that went on around me. Being un-initated, and predominantly a coffee drinker, it seemed an alien habit indeed.

Then I met The Technical Advisor and had to modify my views on dunking.




And eventually I joined him. In tea drinking and dunking.



But only Ginger Nuts. Surely there cannot be a biscuit better suited to dunking?

In case you were wondering, I make my Ginger Nuts according to the excellent Linda Collister recipe in my well thumbed copy of Cookies, Biscuits and Biscotti (The baking series)





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Sunday, November 06, 2011

Sunday lunch




Lunch for twelve rapidly reduced to just the four of us, it is the season of germs and ailments after all.



Not the end of the world, same components, less potatoes to peel and less washing up.



And we still laid the silver and lit the candles.




Early candles are one of November's most redeeming qualities. The soft, warm glow instantly transforms the greyest of days. Moods immediately lifted from claustrophobic gloom to cosy comfort.




Favourite ideas for left over roast pork gratefully received.


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