The last seven days

The Winnie the Pooh exhibition at the V&A was lovely. It’s so interesting to see E.H Shepherd’s original pencil drawings. What talent. There were many illustrations that I’d forgotten, but which were instantly recognisable when I saw them again. Winnie was a big part of my childhood. The exhibition is on until April 8th.

We saw the film Darkest Hour last weekend. It’s good. As good as the media hoo-ha and talk of an Oscar for Gary Oldman. It seemed a good time to see the Winston Churchill exhibition at Blenheim Palace, (his birthplace, home of his grandparents.) En route I noticed there are daffodils beginning to appear. It won’t be long before they’re everywhere in bright clumps of yellow. I love them!

I was held up in traffic on Thursday morning and quite glad when I noticed a large patch of snowdrops in a wood, on the hill at the side of the road. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity if the traffic had been better.

The joins make me think of those foam play mats we have for blocking.

I’ve spent a bit of time playing with my yarn leftovers and planning out my next strip of moss stitch (aka linen and granite) blocks. I thought it might be easier than trying to do it in the pub at Knit & Sip, in the semi dark. We ended up not meeting anyway this week, but no matter; it’s quite nice to have a plan. The fewer brain cells used during the evening, the better I find. It’s not my brightest time. Nor is very early in the morning. My optimum time seems to be between 10-3pm! This isn’t new either. I’ve always been the same. Are you at your best in the morning, evening or middle of the day?

A friend made me smile yesterday as she said she’s having a break from going to Slimming club. Her evenings are precious and she’s fed up hearing the same people complain about how hard it is to lose weight, when they don’t eat fruit and veg. I had popped into the garden centre to buy the birds a mealworm feeder and found myself wanting to shout ‘salad dodgers!!!!’ at the top of my voice. I refrained.

I haven’t made cheese scones since at least last summer. Yesterday I made a batch and this was the last three, with what I always call the knobble, made from the last bit of dough. The fact I haven’t made any for ages has been remarked upon lots. I reckon I’m close to being asked to sign a legal document, requiring me to make them at least once a month.

Once, years ago, I made heart shaped cheese scones for Valentines Day. Don’t do this; they look like bottoms.

The Hitchhiker is coming along. I laid it out to compare with mine. I still can’t believe it was finished and now look, so much still to redo! Ah well. There were nine teeth to knit yesterday, now only seven. ‘A tooth a day and it’s done’ I say to myself.

I came downstairs this morning to a surprise bunch of daffodils. Lovely. On Monday I collected David Sedaris Theft by Finding Diaries, vol 1 from the library and it’s a whopper of a hardback. A real brick.

If you haven’t read any of his other writing, I would suggest you start elsewhere. It’s not as funny, but I’m enjoying the insights into his experiences. Some of it’s pretty grim and sad.

What are you up to? Have you had a good week?

Taking Stock in September

IMG_1278IMG_1260Making : another star ripple blanket
Cooking : Dorset Apple cake with windfall apples from the garden, orange and ginger tea-loaf, pasta sauce with home-grown tomatoes and chillies, raspberry jam…

IMG_1154Drinking : nothing at the mo
Reading: Resistance is Futile by Jenny T. Colgan (85% through)
Wanting: to finish the book as the twee language is irritating meIMG_1267Looking: out at grey clouds and weak sunshine
Playing: solitaire games on my new lap top

IMG_1247Deciding: whether to finish another pot-holder, do the last section of my Hitchhiker shawlette, or re-edge my ripple, or make something new from cotton from my Hook, Yarn and Crochet book
Wishing: those 100+ baby cashmerino blocks from my long ago CAL would organise themselves into a blanket
Enjoying: using up oddments of yarn on the star ripple blanket

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Waiting: for a yarn delivery, I’ve run out of pink mid-way round the last row (not really the point of stash bushing makes, I know!)
Liking: that I could use a little of my birthday voucher for the order, thanks my friend

IMG_0763Wondering: if it’s silly to try to sell on Etsy, there are SO MANY similar items listed. But none made by me…
Loving: thinking about what to cook with home-grown produce from here and family: apples, carrots, courgettes, garlic, onions, chillies, tomatoes, peppers
Pondering: Life and the Universe
Considering: buying a lottery ticket for the Euro millions draw tomorrow
Buying: capers so I can make putanesca with more of the tomato glut
Watching: Girl Meets Boy, we’re giving it one more episode.. It feels like an attempt to educate and teach people how to think, rather than a good comedy which it promised to be in the first episodeIMG_1272Hoping: for late summer weather again tomorrow
Marvelling: at the number of sparrow fights on the bird feeder
Cringing: at the way the house sparrows are ganging up against the tree sparrow (4:1)
Needing: a long walk
Questioning: what will happen long-term in SyriaIMG_1131Smelling: smoke, some plonker is polluting the air with a huge bonfire
Wearing: comfy home clothes
Following: no one new blogwise. I’ve been seduced by IG but really enjoy catching up with my fave bloggers
Noticing: how much more enjoyable it is to read people’s stories and hear their voice in writing, then the quick fix of a stream of photos
Knowing: I need to go and drink my peppermint tea.IMG_1148Thinking: I’m really thirsty
Admiring: People who have their own sense of style
Sorting: more stuff to go to the charity shops
Getting: organised
Bookmarking: recipes for seasonal produce
Coveting: a winning lottery ticket
Disliking: lock down because I closed every window in the house because the house is getting kipperedIMG_1055Opening: windows again soon, I hope!
Giggling: over silly vids people post on FB
Feeling: thirsty *getting up to go and drink that cold peppermint tea*
Snacking: on raw carrots…shortly
Helping: others by taking some of their glut and then passing on slices of cake etc
Hearing: the wind now whistling outside

Thanks to Pip for the list, it’s fun to play again. If you join in too let me in the comments below. I’d like to read yours.

Five things 

I’m making a few loaves of bread again at a time, one to eat and the other(s) to freeze. The freezer lately seems to be full of stewed apples from the glut last Autumn, and frozen trout because of my knowing a talented fly fisherman. No sooner had I baked two loaves on Sunday than 3 whopping fish were brought home; one brown and two rainbow trout. Luckily family and friends are more than happy to have them as they are or potted or smoked.

BBC radio 2 are broadcasting Sounds of the 20th Century, it’s ‘An audio journey through five decades, starting at 1951. Archive recordings include George VI overcoming his stammer to open the Festival of Britain.’  I’m going to try to listen to them on the iplayer because it’s fascinating; no commentaries or explanations, just music, news, programme clips etc from each year. I’m listening to the first from 1951 now.
“The average housewife works for 75 hours each week and does overtime at weekends….according to a Mass Observation study…”

“Coupons will continue to be required for meat, cheese….”

Poor little Princess Margaret “born into disappointment as the Nation longed for a little Prince.”

It is compelling listening for a social and economic history junkie.

On a Saturday jaunt to Marlborough it was lovely to see clumps of snowdrops under trees. It really feels as if Spring is on its way now; with blue skies and sunshine, albeit interspersed with showers. Washing has been hung on the line a few times this week already and partially dried in the gentle breeze, this is a very good thing.

Johnnie Ray is now being asked about why he cries as he sings and how long he’s worn hearing aids. We’ve just watched the three Rock and Chips specials on Netflix (an excellent prequel to Only Fools and Horses) and his music was featured in the first one…

I’m a terrible procrastinator where some things are concerned, like sewing up knitting. This little baby jumper was something I knitted it in 2013, just something I saw in a knitting mag and thought I could give to a friend. I also knitted a cat (recently sewn up by a Nana in my friend’s craft group, which sells items in aid of the Deaf Access charity) and a tank-top which I subsequently undid. I blogged about the sewing up then. Oops.

Forty thousand feathers on a thrush!”

The silly thing is that I did the sewing while listening to my current audio book: The Minotaur by Barbara Vine (excellently narrated by Sian Thomas) and it was really painless. I guess in the interests of complete honesty I should admit that it took so long to finish because my cousin had it for ages, it was she who actually sewed it up. But I sewed on the buttons! This took several months, but it’s all done now.

You are the lone ranger!”The next is better; I sewed up my headband. It only took 2 weeks or so after finishing it. Improvement, yes? Here it is with a little card, ready for posting. The P.O has put in self-service machines and for some reason I really got flustered trying to gauge the size of the packet, type in the address for a proof of posting certificate etc. It was all too much but the new cheese counter take-a-ticket-wait-for-the-number-to-be-called wait was far too long.

“…without cotton many mills in Lancashire would close down…”The friend who sent me Clara Parkes knitting book also popped in two balls of yarn. This one was bought in iknit, London, she was going to make an entrelac something or other but ended up unravelling it without keeping the yarn band. It feels like wool, or a good wool blend, and is sock or lace weight (are these really so similar in weight that they are virtually the same?) I like using a really fine thread, it’s different.

“There will be more houses to let, more houses to sell, more houses for everyone…..the Conservative pledge will be kept in full…”

“The time is now six fourteen and three quarters…”  What an excellent programme, if distracting listening to it while writing here.

What are you enjoying listening to or reading at the moment?

If you write your own Five Things post then feel free to add a link in the comments below, then we can all see what you’ve been up to.

** I just had a text and selfie of the headband being worn, this was super fast delivery as I only grappled with the self-service machine yesterday! It looks really nice and will definitely be in use next week on the ski slopes. Hurrah!**

Polenta Bread Recipe

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It’s definitely homemade soup and toast weather at the moment especially with the threat promise of snow which hangs over each day at the moment.

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Back in the summer I bought this huge bag of cornmeal, aka polenta, to make a lemon polenta cake when we had guests here for lunch. Since then it’s sat in the pantry neglected really, apart from the first time I tried this polenta bread recipe. Yesterday seemed the perfect opportunity to bake some more and I’m so glad I did as it’s really delicious.

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This is the bread recipe book I use most. I first borrowed a copy from the library to try a few recipes. This had such good reviews on Amazon UK, and I was still using recipes I’d photocopied, that it seemed daft to ask for any other book for my birthday last year. A good decision as I haven’t had a disappointing loaf yet!

I thought I’d share the polenta bread recipe with you in case you have need for a soup and bread meal too.

Polenta Bread

Makes 1 loaf
Preparation time: 15 minutes + proving + 25 minutes
Freezing: Recommended

“Polenta (or maize flour) has a slightly grainy texture and a vivid yellow colour that makes an everyday loaf a little more interesting”

350g (12oz) strong white bread flour
115g (4oz) polenta, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fast action dried yeast
25g (1oz) butter, melted
275-300ml (9-10 fl oz) hand-hot water

1) Combine the flour, polenta, sugar, salt and yeast in a mixing bowl. Add the butter and water and mix to a soft dough.
2) Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth. Cover and prove in a warm place until doubled in size.
3) Grease a baking sheet and sprinkle with polenta.
4) Knock back the dough and shape into an 18cm (7″) long oval. Place on the baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, make deep cuts on alternate sides of the loaf.
5) Cover and prove until doubled in size.
6) Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7 / 220oc / 425of
7) Sprinkle liberally with polenta and bake for about 25 minutes until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

From Women’s Institute Bread: Over 100 Easy-to-Make Recipes by Liz Herbert.

** I didn’t have any butter so used a tablespoon of olive oil this time. It worked well, although the slightly buttery taste is best. I use my Kenwood mixer and dough hook, so cut down kneading time by half (to around 5 minutes). To knock back the dough I give it a quick whizz again in the mixer. In the winter the warmest place for proving is the airing cupboard, so put the covered (cling film) mixing bowl there. Typically it takes an hour, to an hour and a half to double the first time. I put the oven on to heat after about 30-40 minutes, while the dough proves the second time, then it’s reached temperature by the time the dough has doubled.”**

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Polenta bread is best eaten fresh, when it’s moist and the knife slides through each slice as if it’s butter. It seems to go stale quite fast, but that’s no matter as it makes the crunchiest, tastiest toast. Perfect with chilli and lentil soup! Here’s the soup recipe.

What are you enjoying cooking and eating at the moment?

Timely surprises

What a week!

I’d had a very efficient start to the year, getting all those boring but necessary appointments and tasks ticked off a long list. I was feeling rather pleased with it all last week. The Mister brought the first surprise – my favourite Austrian chocolates from Stockholm airport on his way home after a week working there again. It was great to see him, after all the socializing over Christmas the house had suddenly become far too quiet. Then…he started feeling unwell and coughing. I definitely wasn’t getting it too, so went to bed early, took vitamin C and started off the next day with a scratchy throat…

2015/01/img_4819.jpgA few days later my cousin sent me a quick message to say she had posted one of my Christmas presents. I wasn’t entirely sure why because we often have a late Christmas catch up a few weeks or months after. One year it was in June, to the amusement of restaurant staff who watched as we all exclaimed over pretty wrapping and enthused about a pile of gifts!

I’ve found this about last year’s late Christmas. I never really look back at my blog posts but I might start; to see what I was doing this time last year(s).
2015/01/img_4817-0.jpgAh! What a great present. I can totally see why she sent it this week. I’ve looked at those make an origami-whatever or solve a daily crossword type of calendars, but have never seen a crochet version. It’s an American product which my cousin saw in a garden centre here. I bet you can buy one online.

Because I have GOT to keep on with the William Morris motif blanket I haven’t looked all through the January patterns as it’s too tempting to start some, but there are a some sweet makes.
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I am itching to make those mitts. I’ve never done granite stitch but saw a Kat Goldin pattern in a recent crochet mag which uses it. That’s going to be my next new stitch soon.

The third surprise was from my friend who has been sent free tickets to go to Excel to the Stitching, Sewing and Hobbycrafts show in March, and wondered if I wanted to go with her. Yes please, thank you actually!
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I haven’t really been able to do anything other than cough, ache, wheeze, shiver and groan crochet and watch Netflixs: Life on Mars, Black Books and the excellent BBC version of The Lady Vanishes, or listen to my current audio book: Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell. I’ve darned all the ends on the little doll blanket and now it’s ready to edge. I think it needs something very simple like rows of DC to finish it off, anything else will be too over the top.
2015/01/img_4837.jpgYesterday we both turned a corner, despite coughing in tandem at 5am. In the end we gave up trying to sleep and got up and made mugs of tea at six to take back to bed. Later I felt well enough to cook a little batch of cheese scones, then I collapsed back onto the sofa for a bit of Glee S4. But still, I felt better than I had the rest of the week.

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Last night the football was on and so I immersed myself in the new issue of Country Living which came yesterday. It’s a Springtime goodie and full of lovely designs in greens and blues. I became completely engrossed in this article about British hedgerows. When I’m enthused about something I can’t help sharing what I’m reading and giving impromptu pop quizzes. “So, how many thousand miles of hedgerows do you think we have?” “How many of our lowland mammals’ habitats are in hedgerows?” “How can you estimate the age of a hedgerow?” Luckily I get away with this and had some intelligent answers and a bit of chat, alongside the football commentary. The article brought back long-ago memories of a hedge layer giving my primary school class a talk and demonstration of his craft. It’s so interesting.

How’s your week been?

 

Treats, rewards and more baby hexagons

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This is a progress photo from earlier in the week, it’s 28 days worth of a baby hexagons. Well, what can I say? They are addictive and so easy to make! But LOOK – 28 only measure just over 16″, so for a decent sized blanket by 31st December we’re going to need to crochet one a day, plus lots more!

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So now I’ve kind of abandoned the whole baby hexagon a day concept. Although a one a day CAL is a lovely idea I don’t think this one was properly thought through measurement-wise. So now I’m just doing a batch when I feel like it, and I plan to continue this throughout the year. It’s impossible to just make one a day anyway, the one turns into five or sometimes (prepare yourself) I don’t feel like crocheting anything at all.

Isn’t it turning out pretty though? I’m using leftover yarn from my zesty raspberry ripple blanket and pinching colours that I’m using for my motifs. It will change though as the plan at the moment is to add new colours from whatever I’m making in Stylecraft as the year goes on.

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When I decided to redesign my William Morris colour inspired motifs I was slightly panicked by going from a blanket which was a third complete, with a basket of semi-finished motifs to absolutely zero. So I hooked new versions without pausing to darn any at all. Argh! I ended up with so many ends that I’ve had to stop and do nothing but darning. Argh! On Sunday I divvied the remainder into seven little piles to tackle like homework each night. I missed last night because I was out, but it’s a good idea to tackle the last of a tiresome job in small bits. For the next fifty motifs I will make one, darn it, then move onto the next. I really will.

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I saw my dentist last week “Ah you always have stunningly good teeth” he said before I even opened my mouth! Afterwards I bought a bone handled 1935 cake knife made to commemorate the silver jubilee of George V who was the Queen’s Grandfather. It was a bargain £4, after some Googling it seems most online sellers are asking £15 plus for one! I bought it because I really wanted a cake knife, rather than grabbing the first knife which comes to hand when we have guests, but what a lovely find.

This week I’ve had an eye test. Have you ever been shown photos of the back of your eyes? It’s amazing being talked through how they can tell you probably haven’t got diabetes or glaucoma, and seeing your optic nerve captured in action. I hate the puff of air and the flashing light so the new book by the very talented Kat and a cheese scone for lunch were my rewards! I’m thankfully now at the end of my mini MOT…
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I’m so lucky to have been given membership to the V&A in London, officially known as The Victoria and Albert Museum. I’ve used my card for the first time and loved swooping into the Wedding Dresses exhibit with a simple flash of my card. Do go if you can before it ends. You “Wow!” your way around. I also visited the members’ room which was described to me by a room guide as ‘the inner sanctum’. It was certainly very peaceful and comfortable. The water jugs were donated by Waterford Crystal and even the tray is lovely! My membership includes a guest so I’m hoping to take friends and family to events over the year. Thank you Father Christmas.
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I’ve baked my first loaf of Artisan bread in my new cooker. I started to use silicon coated baking paper last Autumn because you can place it gently down into the heated pyrex while safely holding the strips of paper. I adjust the oven temp down to 220 oc from the recipe’s 230 oc to comply with the paper’s instructions, but this oven has a much better seal and there is a huge gust of steam as you open the door. I’d quite forgotten ovens do this and have had a hot facial a few times. The problem is this time the paper became melded to the bottom of the loaf. It might have been a wetter dough than usual, or the new oven. While I’m not fussy I don’t like the chewy texture of silicon. (Yes, I did try it.) So I might go back to gently plopping the loaf in sans silicone because it’s a tragedy to have to cut the crust off.
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How’s the third week of 2015 going for you?

Polenta bread

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I baked my usual couple of loaves last Friday and decided to also pick a new recipe to try from my Bread book. (I can’t recommend this book enough, I’ve made quite a few different loaves and they’ve all turned out well.) I’d ordered some polenta, aka fine cornmeal or maize flour, for a lemon polenta cake for dessert on Sunday. There was only the option of buying a 1kg bag so using some for a loaf seemed like a good idea!

I put this photo on IG and had a request for the recipe – so here goes:

Polenta Bread

From Bread by Liz Hebert, this is a Women’s Institute recipe book.

Makes 1 loaf. Can be frozen.

350g (12oz) strong white bread flour
115g ( 4oz) polenta, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fast action dried yeast
25g (1oz) butter, melted
275g-300ml (9-10 fl oz) hand-hot water

1) Combine the flour, polenta, sugar, salt and yeast in a bowl. Add the butter and water and mix to a soft dough.
2) Turn out onto an unfloured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth (I use a dough hook on my mixer and knead for about 5 minutes.) Cover and prove in a warm place until doubled in size (Up to an hour but depends on warmth.)
3) Grease a baking sheet and sprinkle with polenta.
4) Knock back the dough and shape into an 18cm (7 inch) oval. Place on the baking sheet. Using a shape knife, make deep cuts on alternate sides.
5) Cover and prove until doubled in size.
6) Preheat the oven to Gas mark 7 / 220oc / 425of
7) Sprinkle liberally with polenta and bake for about 25 minutes until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

This loaf has a really nice texture and flavour. Family ate the rest of the loaf – so it’s definitely a tried and tested approved recipe.

Happy Friday everyone!

Create Make Bake Nurture Enjoy

This is maybe a bit of a syrupy sweet title but it nicely describes my Summer days at the moment.

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Picking strawberries; Mum on one side of the row, me on the other. Trying to keep up my end of the conversation with strawberry juice running down my chin! Sun warmed, juicy and sweet they were – oh yum.

Three large punnets of raspberries and one of strawberries picked, some very posh meringues bought from the farm shop and then home to my sugar mountain.

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The recipe was from my Good Housekeeping Book of Preserves It’s here in my jam making post from 2012 if you fancy making some too. It’s so easy and pretty fast; my eight pots were full of raspberry jam by 10:30.

Brrrr if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere! It seems to be all about sock knitting, blanket making, log fires and snowfall with some of you this week.

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Homemade breakfast. Yum. There is nothing more satisfying than eating homemade toasted bread and jam. It really gives a glow to know that you’ve created something from scratch; whether it’s food, flowers or craft, doesn’t it?

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I’m doing the sourdough starter thing again, I started this on Monday.

Get a 1 litre kilner jar, or similar, put in 70g strong white bread flour and 70ml water, mix well until there are no lumps. Repeat this feeding process daily for a week. After 3-4 days it should be bubbling nicely. At the end of the week it’s ready to use. It’s as easy as that.

Google sourdough starters at your peril; there are so many sourdough starter nerds and pages of bumpf out there detailing exact temperatures and micrograms of this, that and the other when it’s basically a very simple process that people have been doing for hundreds (thousands?) of years.

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I took these two pics yesterday afternoon, it was doing great. Then late last night I came downstairs to whip the aerial out of the socket, after seeing the sky lighting up with strange horizontal silent lightning, and smelt the starter really strongly. The jar was sat in a puddle of starter, it was seeping out of the closed container like a slow volcano! It was about 28 deg here yesterday, probably hotter in the house, and look how much it grew in a few hours. I must have trapped some super-powerful natural airborne yeast! It’s now in a large mixing bowl…

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My first posy of sweetpeas. I sent Trish a packet of seeds as part of her birthday present in the Spring and we’ve been sharing pics of our first sweetpeas on IG.

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Some Saturday mornings I get up and really feel like baking something. This morning I chose to bake Citrus Muffins from this book. A little like lemon drizzle cake with a zesty lemony syrup drizzled on top when they were hot from the oven. You also put lemon and lime zest in the muffin mixture. I’d double the zest next time to make them even more citrusy.

Have you created, made, nurtured and enjoyed something this week?

Productivity

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I was given Beyond the Square for Christmas, but haven’t made a single motif until this week. The other evening I thought I’d play with #118 and figure how to join it as I went. It took five tries and I got it, I think. Others might have sussed it out differently but mine looks like it will probably work. Since then I’ve had a little production line going making middles and am now round twoing them all.

I have no idea what I’m making, or for whom, as it’s been so spontaneous but it’s another way to use up some of my oddments of Stylecraft.

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As I crocheted half-finished motifs, and tossed them into the basket beside me, I realised the colours are echoing those in my bouquet. This is nice, I like it.

Some stack their middles and half-done motifs beautifully, others lay them out in imaginative patterns to photograph; mine are tossed into a basket ends up and bedraggled! It’s all about doing some crochet again, not artful photographs. I can attempt to redress the balance and make sure they’re laid out with a CK mug of coffee in the background (tho I mostly drink tea) or my socked feet in the picture if you like? All the blogging photo cliches by request.
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Stop being silly and go into the garden.
The potato leaves are looking lush and healthy, hopefully the potatoes are too. I can’t wait to dig into the soil and see them.

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So many strawberries for one plant! My friend’s are redder and huge too, I think they get more sun in her garden, but I’m pleased my plant came through our wet Winter so well.
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The first tomato. I bought two varieties this year; yellow Golden Sunrise and Gardener’s Delight, a red cherry.
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The pepper plants look ready to fruit too. I’ve grown extra to swap with family this weekend.

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I’ve baked wholemeal and a white seeded – poppy, sunflower and pumpkin – loaves for this week’s daily bread. The white is a bit darker brown than usual on top, I blame that motif I was trying to whizz around – rather than just putting it down and getting to the oven a few minutes sooner. It’ll be fine though. The bottom and sides are a nice colour.

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For a week I’ve felt under par, waking up in the early hours with a thumping headache and sore neck/throat, had a hacking cough with lots of sighing and a bit of grumping. Today is the first time I’ve truly felt like myself and even slightly dynamic, rather than going through the motions. Three lots of washing washed and hung on the line too. It’s been a good day.

Oh and now it’s raining again, doesn’t that always happen just after you’ve done the watering?!

How are you feeling this week?

 

Oh by the way rather than just staring, hearting and commenting on others’ pics (only in the last few weeks – what can I say, I’m slow) I’ve started to join in on Instagram. Only three pics so far, but there’s scope for more! Let me know if you’re there too. I like the way you can swap quick chatty comments and search for hashtags, it feels like the best aspects of blogging and twitter. However I can’t imagine it replacing blogging, for me, because you’re limited word-count-wise…!

Dough!

At the beginning of the week I started to read Little Beach Street Bakery. I’d read The Ghost Hunters and May we be Forgiven and just fancied a really fluffy read. Four chapters in and I was itching to bake some bread from scratch: kneading, proving, knocking back – the whole caboodle. The artisan bread is no effort and all very well but I don’t always plan to make bread ahead. The artisan bread is better left overnight I’ve found, so I haven’t made it as often as I expected.

I grabbed a handful of my many recipe books to compare quantities and decided to use Jamie Oliver’s basic white bread dough from The Naked Chef. This was his very first book, published in 1999, he looks so young on the cover (lots of cheap copies to be had on Ebay I see.) I’ve had it years and never tried the bread recipe. The great thing is that he gives all sorts of variations to make with the basic dough. I decided on two….

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A 2lb white loaf and an olive and rosemary focaccia.

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I don’t know what happened to the end, my shaping obviously needs some refining. The loaf rose SO much that it touched the shelf above; that’s why it has a dark patch in the middle! The bread is so light and tasty.

I cut down the salt to 2tsp overall for 1kg of flour as think the stated amount of 30g is crazy, especially when you’re adding salt to the focaccia top along with a good lug of olive oil.

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I had to take some crochet books back to the library on Thursday and dived into the cookery section grabbing these two. The WI Bread book looks great, it’s packed with recipes.

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More dough, but I didn’t have enough strong white bread flour and also ran short of plain flour so used some wholemeal too. It was probably 300g out of the 1kg total. I added slightly more water too.

I’ve always got SR, plain, strong white and wholemeal but by the end of this week I’d run out of all apart from a sprinkling of SR! I’d made an Hawaiian macadamia cake for Easter Monday teatime and also Herman the German Friendship cake. A neighbour brought some Herman batter to us a few weeks ago in return for a trout. We’ve since passed on batches of the dough and today three family homes are scented with the delicious smell of baking. I’ve had messages and pictures to say how yummy the cake is.  If you haven’t made a Herman – do, it’s worth all the stirring. The original cake recipe with apple, raisin, walnuts and cinnamon is the most delicious treat, especially eaten warm from the oven.

Tonight I found that there’s a website so you can make your own starter and spread a bit of Herman to friends and family too. There are different variations too.
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Herman the German Friendship cake. The cake batter has melted butter and a good sprinkling of demerara on the top which makes for a wonderful crunchy topping.

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My final shaping again needs work, it’s ages since I made bread from scratch, but it’s meant to look rustic huh?

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The rolls were delicious, it’s a great basic dough recipe. I had aimed for mini loaf shapes but will just go for the classic round next time! I’ve shared some of the different breads with family. I’m going to top some with sunflower seeds and others with poppy seeds again next time. I’ve written down some different glazes to try from one of Mum’s bread books too.

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A friend was meant to be coming on Saturday but sadly she came down with a horrible lurgy, poor thing. Chatting with her about the necessity of soup when you’re ill made me realise how much I craved some; so I made a quick batch of lentil and tomato. Homemade soup with a fresh warm roll…..mmmm.

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There really is nothing like homemade bread: the taste, the smell, the process of making the dough is so relaxing and very therapeutic. I’m going to carry on making bread regularly. Although we buy good loaves from the local shop, homemade is definitely tastier.

I was lucky enough to grow up on homemade bread and cakes, homegrown fruit and vegetables. You really can’t beat it, but at the time I could never understand people getting excited about apple crumple, pie, rhubarb fool or gooseberry whatever, to me it was ordinary everyday fare. It wasn’t until I was older that I appreciated how well fed we were.

20140427-195447.jpgI had a strong indication that my dough obsession was being encouraged when I was given this little lot (and 2 boxes of yeast) today! Apparently the checkout woman’s eyebrows were all the way up to her fringe as she heaved the bags across the scanner. When she asked if Someone was planning on doing lots of baking he told her we have a lot of wallpaper that needs putting up. Ha ha..groan…..

The pantry shelf is full: plain, self raising, Doves Farm Rye, Doves Farm Malthouse, Doves Farm Strong White and their Wholemeal too. Woo hoo!

I’m planning on making a Malthouse loaf (recipe on the bag) next week.

Sandwich anyone?

2013

A selection of this year’s highlights. (Top of my list for 2014 is to enjoy putting the CAL blocks together, after a refreshing break. You should know I’m basically pre-empting comments here!) I’ve got many, many more photos of craft events, exhibitions and shops I’ve been lucky enough to visit too, probably enough for another gallery times ten. What a fun and creative year.

Meeting other crafty peeps has been a highlight, I see I wrote the same on last year’s gallery 2012.  I’ve always loved meeting new people and not being a shy sort find it all a bit of an adventure. Putting on some music, the radio or an audio book and settling down to make something is one of my favourite ways to relax, apart from reading, cooking or baking. But I have to say that there’s nothing like meeting others – having a good chat and seeing what they’re making. Social crafting seems to be one of the best ways to meet people too. I reckon if you’re shy then joining a crafting group works well as you can always focus on what you’re crocheting, knitting or sewing or whatever to calm your initial nerves. If you’re stuck for conversation just ask what kind of yarn (or whatever) they’re using and generally you’re off!

Have you joined any new crafty groups this year? Taken part in any workshops? Do you enjoy social crafting, or prefer it to be solely during your alone time?