Happy Easter

Slightly more rustic than usual, their appearance didn’t affected the taste and a warm Hot Cross bun spread with butter for breakfast yesterday was a real treat.

I proved this batch of spiced fruity dough overnight in the fridge and so they were hard to shape well. But I like the fact you don’t have to get up 04:00 to make dough to have them ready in time for breakfast. It’s a good method. But I wonder if I can shape them before they go into the fridge next time? They were light and airy and that’s the important thing, I was a bit concerned before as each felt like a cold clammy piece of concrete before they went into the oven! It was still a fairly early start as I got up at 06:40 to take the dough out of the fridge so it could come up to room temp, then shaped and baked them an hour or two later.

Traditionally Hot Cross buns have always been eaten on Good Friday, although you now seem to be able to buy them in some shops all year round. Usually I would have bought a few packets in the lead up to Easter and debated the merits of extra fruity or extra spicy varieties and voted which store’s were best. But I always draw the line at marmite Hot Cross buns, salted caramel or cranberry. I just want the traditional spicy fruity ones perhaps with a bit of orange zest. This year I waited until I’d made the first batch on Good Friday. I have to admit that I find it a bit perplexing that people now want everything available ALL of the time. Some foods are a seasonal treat, strongly associated with festivals at specific times of the year. So why not wait and enjoy them then? Isn’t that what makes them special? There’s no reason why you can’t bake or buy teacakes or a fruit loaf in between anyway. Here’s a bit of history and info about Hot Cross buns because I know not everyone reading will have ever eaten them or bought them.

I really needed a walk last night. We wandered off around the fields as the sun was beginning to go down and it was perfect. Still warm and bright. Good Friday was a very good Friday; a day of socialising, eating delicious roast pork and then blueberry tart for lunch and catching up with family. And what a lovely day it was, gorgeously warm t-shirt weather, sunglasses and suncream on while we sat on the patio in the garden. The borders were full of flowers, shrubs displaying their new leaves and the apple tree was absolutely covered in pink and white blossom.

We had nearly walked our one hour loop and a hare streaked across the field in front. He had been ambling along and then suddenly stopped quite a distance ahead, looking fully alert, ears up. I think he must have heard us. When he took off, streaming across the grass, it was magical. We see hares often but I will never become blasé about it.

What are your plans today and for the rest of the weekend? I hope you are able to do whatever makes you feel relaxed and happy, at least some of the time.

February

I’m not sure whether to carry on with the monthly posts…

I think you should.

Why?

Because they’re fun to read, lots of little snippets.

Is it alright to do February’s on the sixth of March though?

I don’t know, I think so, but I haven’t read the rules.

Ha! Ok, so I’m taking their word for it. Here goes….

Making: my third washcloth in last year’s series from Garlene of The Kitchen Sink Shop. This is called Double Dutch. I could manage one set of repeats at a time, 10 rows, before my hand started to warn me it was really, seriously, No, I MEAN IT, it’s time to stop!

Cooking: a lot of white sauces. I made fish pie several times, a beef lasagne and a cheesy topped gratin of leeks, smoked lardons and chicken. Comforting comfort food, which went well with the wild February weather

Reading: so many good books! February included the soothing stories that are Jenny Colgan’s Mure series: An Island Christmas and Christmas at the Island Hotel, both perfect comfort reads, Free Love by Tessa Hadley and The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell. I’d waited months for the last and finally got the ebook from BorrowBox the library app. It didn’t disappoint

Sipping: Tanqueray, our first bottle in a while and a bit of a pause from Craft Gins. Although I did get February’s box which had a Berkshire London Dry Style gin. Very pretty bottle and label

Here’s my referral code for Craft Gin Club. If you’re in the UK you can order a box with £20 off (free delivery.) There’s no obligation to order any other boxes. I’ve shared this before and people have used it, so may as well again

Waiting: for more of the garden to wake up, there’s a lot of colour, even in February

The garden was absolutely carpeted with these purple croci by mid-month, lovely

Looking: at the stark beauty of the trees and bare hedgerows

Listening: to birdsong when Storm Dudley, Eunice and then Frank had gone. I really felt for the tiny garden birds and wondered how they managed to cling on in the face of 75mph winds

Wishing: for dry days so the mud dried and walks were easier

By the end of this new 6 mile circular my walking trainers were no longer pink and grey…

Enjoying: Blue skies. Cold and wind are ok if accompanied by beautiful colour like on this day’s walk

Appreciating: Traditions like Shrove Tuesday, seeing friends’ pancake pics on a WhatsApp group and popping up on Facebook

Eating: English crepe style pancakes with lemon juice & castor sugar and American style fluffy pancakes on Shrove Tuesday

Liking: The Tuckers. I appreciate Welsh humour, being a massive fan of Gavin and Stacy and enjoying Stella. The Tuckers ticks the boxes: Does it make me laugh? Do I like the characters?

Loving: Russian Doll on Netflix, only 3 episodes in so far but wow it’s good. Glad to see there’s another series in the offing soon

Fish pie, balsamic roasted plum tomatoes and steamed tenderstem broccoli

Buying: a new walking raincoat. When you take off your jacket and reveal two large circles on your t-shirt, it is fairly embarrassing. That was the only area(s) no longer waterproof, despite having a try at reproofing

Managing: to tick things off the ever expanding list of things to do. There are a few things which I do not want to do, but they WILL be tackled in March

Watching: for signs of Spring as March 1st approached

Hoping: for peace, it was not to be. I’m so sorry for the people of Ukraine. And my heart also goes out to their family and friends in other countries who are waiting anxiously to hear from them and watching the News. It’s really scary for us all. Please give to one of the many charities who are raising money to support Ukraine. Here’s a link for UNICEF, but there are many. Pick one please and donate

Wearing: scruffs and blue socks with white spots

Noticing: how naff it feels to write the above about Ukraine, then describe my socks. I’ve been astounded at the number of bloggers who are not writing anything about it, no mention at all. Then this morning (March but…) I read my friend Phil’s Blue and Yellow blog post and noticed my shoulders dropped. So relieved to read a post which doesn’t feel like the writer has their fingers in their ears, going lalalalalalala

Following: lots of cooking accounts on Instagram, more and more. I like the dinner inspo, though actually rarely follow their recipes. Love the little reels filmed over a mixing bowl or chopping board. Watching snippets as someone kneads, mixes, chops or peels is so relaxing. Alex Hollywood, Anna’s Family Kitchen and 5 O’Clock Apron are some of my faves. Anyone you want to recommend?

Sorting: egg boxes for my cousin

A few stitches out of whack on the last repeat, I see looking at the photo. I was listening to Julie Walters audio book, no cider was involved. It’s a washcloth; so no need to undo. I will fight my perfectionist tendencies

Getting: appointments booked in for March

Coveting: chocolate, the weather in February boosted sales of nutty chocolate. Bars from M&S, Cadbury and there’s a gorgeous dark or milk chunky hazelnut one by Lindt

Feeling: round, ahem, it was the above

Hearing: nothing much by the end of the stormy week, I appreciated the peace

~~~~~~~~~~~~

How are you doing?

An autumn walk

An autumn walk wearing T-shirts! In October! It was really special because Someone was off work mid-week for a few days, and so on Wednesday we grabbed the opportunity to go for a longer walk. It was a beautiful day, about 19° and very quiet. I think we only saw a couple of joggers in the middle and then a couple of dog walkers at the end, it was 3 o’clock by then.

We took our time. I went slowly, took lots of photographs and really looked around. It was the first longer walk, at 6 1/2 miles, that we’ve done since August because I’ve been feeling so unwell. We’ve managed the hour-long loop around the fields near home a few times, but this was a proper jaunt.

To begin with I felt quite unbalanced, especially as the initial part of the walk begins alongside a road. Walking along with cars going past felt quite disorientating. But once we were on our own walking along the footpath and bridleway, everything seemed easier.

The footpath is a mile or mile and a half long and was a green lane enabling farm workers and people wanting to come to the shops to walk between villages and farms.

I wish that I could go back in time, morph into an invisible being, to see the people and listen to what they talked about as they tramped along this lane. I’d like to know what they bought. A length of ribbon to decorate a new bonnet? A packet of sugar, or flour? A long saved for book? A twist of salt? Or did they just go to the pub and then stagger home again. Stumble, trip, stumble, trip!

Why, Hello there!
Sometimes dark and leafy green, other times bright and sundappled. I really love this walk along the lane!
There are crabapples scattered at various points. I wish I felt like making crabapple jelly, or something with them. There are many more still in the trees which could be picked. It feels a waste of free produce, but jelly making is a faff.
Rose-hips and ivy flowers, what a pretty combination.
Old man’s beard or wild clematis.
It’s a well used footpath and bridleway, things can get very turned up and sticky for walkers during the winter. Especially when it’s been rainy and the horses have churned it up.
Just look at that! So beautiful with the sunshine playing in the leaves
Common barberry, the red and green together are stunning, don’t you think?
A mossy log, crunchy leaves and glossy ivy leaves. If you stop and look around, remember to look up and look down there is so much to notice and appreciate.
Last time we paused by these trees there were waving stalks of oats and barley, in the fields alongside the footpath
Beautiful ugly fungi
Reflections in the water gathered in the dip between the conjoined beech trees.
A perfect window.
Beech nuts crunchy underfoot.
I wouldn’t want to fall into this holly bush, steady as she goes…
High above my head the holly berries are beginning to look good.
We seem to have been walking along this lane for ages, it always takes longer than we expect.
And suddenly we are out!

I turned back to take this photo at the end of the lane and then enjoyed being out in the open again. Surrounded by countryside, with long views across newly ploughed fields, a distant village with smoke from a bonfire rising into the sky. At this point you are at a green crossroads and can go one of four ways. We have tried all, but our favourite is the one, which with several more turns takes us in a big 6 1/2 mile loop. It ends with a hill right to our front door. A downward hill, is definitely the best kind at the end of a good walk.

~~~~~

To be continued, part 2 coming soon…

Taking Stock – February

Making: a bit of progress on my Coast Blanket, 3 more rows and I’ve finished another block.

I’ve done another 18 row repeat of my (probably not going to be a) dishcloth too. I just have the last 4 rows of plain knitting to do and it’s done. It’s frustratingly slow. Ah well. I’m glad I can still do bits and bobs Actually I have noticed bloggers I’ve followed for years, mentioning their tendon issues, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis and such. All the crochet and knitting has caught up with us! Take it easy and don’t do too much in a sitting. BE CAREFUL

Cooking: olive focaccia. Last night I tried a third recipe, another sourdough recipe. This trebled – it was absolutely huge! It didn’t even look like focaccia. My starter is super powered. We hardly made a dent in it, but it tasted great. It also had massive air holes which was quite fun, but I’ll be going back to my first recipe which uses predictable commercial yeast. And looks like focaccia!

Sipping: on Saturday before dinner – Vagabond, a pale ale made by Scottish brewing geniuses BrewDog

Reading: Hungry by Grace Dent. I heard her on this podcast and immediately borrowed the ebook from the library, using the Libby app. So good. So good. I can’t put it down.

Waiting: Yep, we are all still waiting in England. I’m waiting patiently and feeling quite chilled.

Looking: forward to a holiday. Fingers and toes crossed!

Listening: to Madonna’s ‘Dress you up’ on the radio

Wishing: just to drive out of county. As soon as we’re allowed I’ll be off in all directions! Coast, National Trust places, shopping, museums, London, cafes, theatres, cinemas, short trips, long trips…I’d better check our cars over and make sure the tyres are up to all the driving. In the meantime I’m walking every day and enjoying it.

Enjoying: sunshine streaming in the windows. I woke at 7am and the room was full of delicious golden light.

Appreciating: birdsong, winter flowers, beautiful views, friendly people

Eating: lentil dal. I made what turned out to be my best ever. Just on the spur of the moment because I fancied some for lunch. Red split lentils, coconut milk, stock, onions, ginger, garlic, spices, fresh green chillis and a few chopped tomatoes. YUM

Liking: Taskmaster on 4OD still. We’re working our way through old series on 4OD. We take it in turns to choose. It never fails to make us roar with laughter. S2 now.

Loving: Lupin on Netflix, it’s French with subtitles. Don’t let that put you off, it’s fantastic. The story, the twists and music and …. Just watch the first episode and know that I’m winking at you

Buying: new walking trainers. I’ve gone through a pair in less than a year, as I walk so many miles

Managing: fine, thanks!

Watching: birds coming to the feeders. Love the cheeky aggro of the starlings raiding the mealworms and the hyperactive nervy blue tits

Hoping: for family gatherings

Wearing: scruffs

Following: changes in nature, loving all the greenery and shoots appearing

Noticing: much lighter earlier mornings and later afternoons

Sorting: socks. Wool walking socks shrink in the wash. When they’re all different ages it means I’ve got shorts, mediums and larges.

Getting: motivated with monthly goals. I’ll be reviewing them at the end of March and I’ll be setting new in April

Bookmarking: podcast episodes by searching for favourite comedians and listening to a range of shows

Coveting: summer evenings by the river with cider and a nice meal

Feeling: calm but keen for normal life to resume …

Hearing: the kitchen clock ticking

~~~~

What were your highlights of February? Was it good for you?

Plans for March?

Beautiful bluebells

Not many words are needed today. I’d run out of superlatives anyway; trying to describe the beauty of this bluebell wood. 

This year again we didn’t see any deer, though we did stand still several times when we heard rustling in the undergrowth. 

Mum, when I first started blogging, used to say: “You’re taking so many photographs!” Now it’s: “Have a look at your blog later to see when we came here last year.” And: “Take the bluebells in front of that magnificent horse chestnut. There are such pretty celandines here with bluebells behind, the colours look lovely together. Here’s a pretty group of cowslips.” She’s right of course, so I snapped them all for you. 
Here are blog posts from previous visits to the same woods, in 20142015 and 2016. I think you might recognise some of the trees and paths.