Books I’ve enjoyed 004

The Green Roasting Tin by Rukmini Lyer

My current favourite recipe book which I’m using to bring some fresh meat-free meals to the table. Last week I made the courgettes roasted with olives, feta and tomato bake. It was delicious both hot and cold, though perhaps not for someone who is advised to use eat a low-salt diet. You could maybe miss out the olives and cut it down that way, but it wouldn’t be quite the same. Tomorrow when I’m doing my groceries order I’ll choose another recipe to make this week.

The Diet Myth by Tim Spector

Tim trained in medicine and rose to the position of consultant rheumatologist before turning to genetic epidemiology, the study of genetic factors in health and disease. Now he is professor of genetic epidemiology and director of the TwinsUK registry at Kings College London. He is a specialist in twin study, genetics, epigenetics and microbiome, and diet. (Wikipedia) You may also recognise his name and his face from the Zoe website. He’s very active on Instagram and Twitter too.

The Diet Myth is an exploration and explanation of why most diets fail, why despite, the multi million pound diet industry, and so much advice about what to eat, and what to avoid, people are still gaining weight and populations are becoming fatter every decade. This is a fascinating read.

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim

Published a hundred years ago, in 1922, this story is about a couple of women who are unsatisfied in their marriages and leading pretty dreary lives. They decide to rent a small castle on the Italian Riviera and gather two others to help pay for it during a summer holiday, without their husbands. It’s a lovely read, with some very touching and humorous lines. Apparently at the time it did wonders to advertise and bring tourism to the area. This paperback was a surprise sent by a friend when I was unwell, along with Midnight Chicken which I wrote about in my last books post. Friends who post books they think you’ll enjoy and cheer you up are treasures!

Telling Tales by Ann Cleeves

The second in the Vera series. This time she’s investigating a crime which happened ten years before. New evidence has come to light, which throws doubt on the original verdict. I found this absolutely masterful; the characterisation, setting and plotting. It could be any one of the community, it’s impossible to guess the ending.

The Woman on the Island by Ann Cleeves

If you have any interest in reading the Vera series then you MUST go to Amazon next and select this because it’s currently FREE! (Even if you don’t have a Kindle, you can get the free Kindle app on your phone or tablet and read the short story.) We learn the motivation for Vera becoming a detective during this short backstory. As she goes on a day trip to Holy Island with her father Hector. There’s an excerpt at the end for the new Vera book (number ten) The Rising Tide, which is set on the same island. This should whet your appetite for when it comes out on 1st September (sorry, I’m not sure of international publication dates) next week. I read of a proof copy, back in May, and it’s a 5 star read.

The Night Ship by Jess Kidd

I’ve been looking forward to telling you about this one. The Night Ship is structured with a dual time period, which tells the stories of two nine year old children Mayken and Gil more than 300 years apart. The author weaves fiction around fact to tell the story of Mayken, who is a newly motherless child en route to the care of her father. She is travelling with her nursemaid Imke on an East India Company ship The Batavia. The ship is undertaking the long and hazardous sea voyage from Holland to Batavia, the capital of the Dutch East Indies as it was (Jakarta in Indonesia as it is now called.) It is carrying goods and 200 passengers. Gil is also newly motherless and has been sent to his Grandfather Joss to spend the fishing season on a remote island off the west coast of Australia. Their story and developing relationship is rather touching as both adjust to each other and become closer.

Mayken is a fabulous character, she and Imke definitely have all the best lines. Mayken’s story made me both laugh and cry. She is a character who will stay with me.

Jess Kidd paces this atmospheric story perfectly, as usual in her writing there is folklore and supernatural elements. The tension gradually ramps up until the denouement for both children. I enjoyed the parallels between the two and found myself thinking a lot about cultural norms and what is thought of as endearing, or alternatively as weird; particularly from a gendered point of view.

From now on I shall be keeping witch’s stones / hagstones that I find on the beach and trying to see what has already been and what is to come! This is another 5 star read. If any of you have not yet read any of Jess Kidd’s books I urge you to find them. She’s such a talented and entertaining writer. I cannot wait to see what she writes next.

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There are some absolutely cracking books coming out in the autumn, I’ve read a fair few advance reader copies this year and I’m looking forward to writing about them, when I get the publishing dates.

We’ve had a good summer here, albeit far too dry, but now I’m looking forward to autumn. This is usual for me at this point in the holidays. I’m beginning to anticipate apple picking, soup making, cooking stews, walking through crunchy leaves and having cosy evenings crafting (crossed fingers) with lots more good books to curl up with on the sofa.

Want to share what you’re currently reading? Any book recommendations for us?

August

MAKING: salads still. Today’s lunch was delicious! You know when you really enjoy a meal?

Rocket, watercress, cucumber, vine tomatoes, sunblush tomatoes, artichokes and peppered smoked mackerel

COOKING: a new courgette recipe tonight from my latest KDD – 99p!

SIPPING: water

READING: Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves – fourth in the Vera series

WAITING: for my free tickets and food vouchers to a craft fair this weekend. I finally won something. Whoop whoop!

LOOKING: at the large miniature rose bush, I need to go and deadhead it again

A 6 mile circular walk on Sunday

LISTENING: to Craig Charles on BBC 6M

WISHING: for a garden dibber

ENJOYING: researching my family tree

EATING: fresh berries, greengages and nectarines

APPRECIATING: that I can see censuses from well over 100 years ago. Family Tree research has been consuming my thoughts and a fair bit of my time lately as I’ve been given a year’s sub

LIKING: all the colour in the garden still

LOVING: that the things I took on a long weekend away to the seaside recently are pretty much the same as I would’ve taken as a child! Something to make, read, colour/dot-to-dot, in case of rainy days and for quiet moments

BUYING: well, failing to buy some grey mats for the bathroom, currently out of stock. Wins were a Craghoppers top and a linen skirt from the M&S sale last week

MANAGING: to put off transferring my photos from the cloud to my laptop. I must because my phone told me I have 3,000+ on here at the moment

Ripe & juicy early this year

WATCHING: Rev on BBC iplayer. Why have I not watched this before?! It’s funny, touching, sad and thought-provoking. Absolute quality

HOPING: for RAIN. We’re going to have a hosepipe ban soon otherwise. It’s been so dry for so, so long

WEARING: shorts & a tee

Rousham church

NOTICING: The birds are really quiet today and not around

Breakfast (at this rate I’ll need to send you all a pic of today’s dinner*)

FOLLOWING: I thought of a good line for this one in the shower this morning. Can’t remember it….

GETTING: stiff from sitting a bit too much. I’ll move soon and dead-head those roses

BAKING: I made wholemeal pitta bread last week. Pleased with them. Will definitely be making pitta again, such a treat to eat one fresh from the oven for lunch

Nope, you can’t even eat lunch in peace here

COVETING: knowledge – what can I grow radishes in? I bet there are some good ideas online, but it’s nice to ask people, not Google all the time. At work I once grew potatoes in two tires which were stacked up, then you add another when the soil needs topping up. I need some ideas for radishes please

Great name, huge hydrangea flowers

FEELING: relaxed and happy

HEARING: Craig talking about embarrassing listener experiences. Lots of wind in funeral services and inappropriate laughing

*****

Tell us a few things? Maybe 4?

* Don’t panic, I promise I won’t

Seven Days

I really didn’t know where to begin with this post. July has been a mixed month. A lovely holiday (go to my Insta to see the seal) and then an evening a week or so later, I went to sing and suddenly found myself croaky voiced. I also sang a completely different melody to the rest a few times and wondered why. The next day my throat felt like there was a golf ball stuck in it sore and I felt on the odd side, although not exactly unwell. I was about to leave to go to the city, but thought it might be wise to do a test. It’s pretty obvious to you what I’m going to say, isn’t it? I had my first ever positive. It finally got me.

I tested a few times during the first week and within 2 1/2 minutes that blinking red line appeared. So many people have said it’s akin to having a mild summer cold. Not for me; I felt really unwell for the first four days. Apparently new very contagious variants have developed and here 1/17 have Covid, according to the BBC news app. After the worst part I felt really quiet, not wanting to talk or move much. I read a lot, did some crochet and adult dot-to-dot pages from a book that I found in a charity shop for 50p last month. When I say adult I mean tricky, tiny numbers to 400, sea themed pictures. Not ‘adult’. That would be an interesting book…

So, rather than wade through many photos from mid-June onwards I’ve selected some from the last week*.

I finally got my first negative result at the weekend, after ten days. I’m still coughing well a fortnight later, have a blocked up head and ears, can smell and taste little. It will all pass. I’m dealing with the post-viral fatigue by doing some activity, following by quite a lengthy sit-down-and-read. I’m very lucky to have chance to quietly recuperate.

Bread making continues unwell or not, this is a slightly flat loaf because I got very involved in my book (or maybe it was tv?) and it over-proved one evening! It tasted good, I’m told, which is the most important thing. I use locally grown and produced organic flours: dark rye for the starter, then a mix of white and stoneground wholemeal, often more wholemeal than white, sometimes half and half. I keep reading about the benefits to the gut of fermented foods and have a glow of satisfaction as sourdough is always included on the lists.

I found a new mustard recipe online, it’s Beer Mustard. Tomorrow it will be a week since I made this batch and we will try it.

A few months ago I made my own mustard for the first time, maybe I mentioned it? It was Spiced Honey Mustard from my Good Housekeeping Preserves book which I’ve owned for years. It was made to give as a gift and tasted so good that I made a few more jars for us. One came on holiday as we couldn’t bear not to have it for 10 days!

The giftee liked it so much that he kept sending pics of his lunchtime cheese and mustard sandwiches. That made me grin.

I’m working through the book, I have been for years. There are very few that I wouldn’t want to make. (Harissa and a lemon pickle are probably next.)

Lots of wandering around the garden and admiring my pots, picking up stray fuchsia petals and watching the progress of the very late planted gladioli. Finally razor sharp leaves have appeared above ground. I’m not sure that we’re going to get any flowers, it may be too late, but it’s exciting watching their progress.

I’ve kept the plant saucer of water cleaned and topped up for the birds, patio mouse and next door’s cats. Last week we had some of our highest ever recorded temperatures in the country so sat outside until after dark, reading our Kindles, in the relative cool of the garden. And several nights running we heard a loud rustle and movement behind the shrubs at the back of the garden. We have a hedgehog! On Tuesday evening, when it was furnace like, as the heat had accumulated from the previous days, he spent a long time noisily slurping the water. We were spellbound, holding our breath watching the dark rugby ball shape at the end of the garden. Then he was off, to the ferns and under the silver birch tree. They always move more swiftly than I expect. Magical.

The gifted jalapeño plants in the conservatory are coming on fast (from the cheese and mustard sandwich fan.) No sign of my Thai chillies or sweet peppers yet, sigh. (Isn’t that potted hydrangea outside a thing of deep pink beauty?)

Plum picking! Kind of scrumping. Sort of. Not really. But. I hope I’m not whipped or given hard labour.

I’ve made a plum crumble and also stewed some with orange juice and zest, cinnamon and star anise. I’m told they tasted good. I am eating, although I can’t smell or taste anything. But I do appreciate the colours of summer food.

A little trip out to a garden centre after my first negative result. Current guidance is to isolate for five days and stay away for ten from vulnerable people. But feeling poorly (and still testing positive) I didn’t really want to go out after five days anyway, and who can tell who is vulnerable? I really didn’t want to pass on the virus to anyone at all, it’s nasty even after vaccinations, especially those who might be really adversely affected. Interestingly none of the people I saw leading up to my positive result have caught the virus. Even the 2 guys I hugged. Someone I live with hasn’t either. Good, but it’s odd.

So refreshing to be out. I drank it all in. This is a posh garden centre where the staff are super creative; you never just see a plant stand with …umm plants plonked on it. There are sculptures and carriages, old cars and even merry-go-round horses. The flowers are grouped into attractive displays of colour and form. It’s a lovely trip out, no purchase necessary for enjoyment. The next morning I woke and discovered that I had slept for 11 hours! Post-viral fatigue is real, this was after a 40 minute wander at a garden centre. Oh dear!

A visit to Waterperry Gardens Sunday late afternoon. Still using the Gardeners World 2-for-1 card, so it was £7.50 for two. What a bargain.

On a quest to use up food in the freezer I roasted my first guinea fowl on Sunday night. It was a yellow sticker bargain I picked up a while ago for a mere £5. I cooked it very simply; with half a lemon in the cavity, olive oil all over the skin and a good grinding of black pepper and sea salt, sat on a trivet of slices of onion. I ate it too, with roasted summer vegetables and puy lentils, but sadly couldn’t taste or smell a thing. I’m told it was absolutely delicious. (Sorry, definitely a lot of repetition here.) The third portion was eaten cold with salad on Monday night, while I had a homemade Spicy Black Bean soup. If I could have tasted it I would say it would have blown my head off! I used *a lot* of red chill flakes and hot smoked paprika, along with cumin and mixed herbs. As it was I could taste a very nice buzz which was the first thing in ages. I loved it.

Still trying little trips to be somewhere other than home for a while, I popped to another garden centre on Monday. (My third in as many days, if you count WPG which has a nursery and shop.) They’re good places for recuperation.

The jackdaws and starlings appear within minutes of the mealworm feeder being refilled. Do they have lookouts using tiny binoculars? This means the little garden birds are not getting any of the good stuff. They are ruddy hooligans (if you get the ref? I’m listening to that lots while I do my dot-to-dots!) So I’m on the lookout for a protected small-bird feeder that would be suitable for holding mealworms. Squirrels aren’t an issue in this garden, I’ve never seen one.

More plums! 2.5kg this time. Another gentle walk around the —— on Tuesday evening. (Avoiding whipping or hard labour.)

I’m looking up plum recipes while Someone is lobbying for jam. There are a lot of very, very small plums and it’s super fiddly removing the stones. I could leave them in and fish out as many as I can, I’ve done that before when making damson chutney. But it’s not much fun hanging over a roiling pan….

Lunchtime Spicy Black Bean Soup leftovers. Bliss, I can almost nearly taste it, perhaps things are slightly improving. Catching up on back issues of Inside Crochet and Good Housekeeping magazines as I eat.

Yesterday I had baked beans with masses of curry powder, sriracha and Colman’s mustard powder and a couple of fried eggs. I took a friend to the hairdresser and that protein packed lunch kept me going until dinner at about 8pm. Pasta, lemony salmon fillets and half a pan of roasted veg topped up my 5 a day.

This morning’s loaf, much better shape. It’s a beauty! And with that I’m off to poach a couple of eggs to eat with a few slices, for lunch, or maybe I’ll just spread some with salted butter and leave it at that. Followed by half a dozen small plums.

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Tell me a few things about your last seven days?

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* apart from the crochet picture, that was taken when I was on holiday

March

Making: you know what-what. Slow slow progress. But I enjoy crocheting the chunky yarn

And knitting with it too

Cooking: pot-roasted lemony chicken with carrots & onions. Peas cooked in the ready made gravy at the end. Delish. Shared the recipe with my friend and baby Theo loved it too

Cooking: this cauli recipe from the excellent book below, borrowed from the library. It’s even better eaten cold for lunch, along with some green salad

Sipping: Tonic & lemon, ginger ale with lime (Dry Lent)

Reading: my first Ian Rankin book! After chapter one I wondered why I hadn’t read a Rebus before. Not sure if to continue this book, which is 23rd in the series, or start at the beginning. In the meantime I’m reading an advance reader copy of the new Rachel Hore. Any Rankin fans want to advise? Will it spoil the series if I decide to read all? Or whatever, can it just be read as a stand alone without giving too much away?

Waiting: for an MRI scan date

Looking: forward to making Hot Cross Buns again next month (this month actually, again I forgot to post these notes I made during March! I’ll set a reminder in future)

A test to see if a family member is still reading and recognises his tulips tee hee

Listening: to Spotify. I’ve made a few playlists, good eclectic mixes. Can share if you like?

Suggesting: ‘Lord it’s a Feeling’ by London Grammar – Live at Abbey Road – it’s absolutely EPIC. Play loudly (when little ears aren’t around)

Rainbow harissa chicken & fennel bake

Wishing: for more sunny weather so washing can be pegged out on the line again. March has had t-shirt & BBQ weather, then snow, hail, wind and rain. Four seasons in one month

Enjoying: making sourdough flatbreads for lunch one Sunday

Appreciating: our first visit to the cinema this year to see The Duke. Helen Mirren & Jim Broadbent are absolutely superb together. I think Jim’s courtroom scenes are my favourite of all his performances. Well, apart from when he’s Bridget Jones father. The scene that makes me cry every time is the ‘I just don’t work without you’ bit with Gemma Jones

Eating: defrosted Christmas turkey mixed with leftover bean chilli & veg stock, fresh coriander & grated grana padano. It made a delicious Mexican soup

Liking: that lots of National Trust properties reopen this month

Hidcote Manor Garden
Upton House

Loving: the anemones which appeared all over the garden early in the month, such a colourful sight with the pinks of the heather behind

Buying: a little pot of joy for lunch! Sushi ends from a counter in Waitrose, only £1.95

Managing: my physio exercises. I’ve got a rocker board, it’s fun and hard to use, especially with my eyes closed

Watching: Upload. S2. The Marvellous Mrs Maisel S4, both are on Prime. Men Behaving Badly on BBC iplayer. The last we’ve found so good still, real laugh out loud funny, especially whenever they dance (when Neil Morrissey is Tony)

Another day, another traybake. This recipe. Tip: BB don’t need to added until 5 mins before the end

Wearing: my old pink hoodie lots. I love it and can’t bear the thought it won’t be with me forever. Should have bought a dozen

Noticing: buds on trees, daffodils, blossom and snowdrops

Following: the news…

Sorting: soft plastics for recycling. Do you do this too? You can leave them at larger supermarkets. So many collected in just a week, including pouches, plastics from fruit and veg deliveries, magazine bags, the list goes on and on

Trying: cooking Mushroom & Puy lentil bolognese for the first time. This Jamie Oliver recipe. It was tasty

Getting: stronger glutes

Coveting: can’t think of anything right now

Feeling: determined

Hearing: birdsong. This is excellent for ID and lovely background sounds: RSPB | Sounds of…Parks and Gardens

Wondering: if you have any requests for blog posts? What do you want to see more of? Anything new?

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What have you been up to in the last month? Are you seeing lots of spring flowers and buds, or is autumn coming in for you?

January

Making: my cosy chunky star blanket larger, still. Really it’s the perfect project on a chilly day.

Slipping: on icy roads, they have been like driving on an ice rink quite often this January. I hope for milder weather now.

Reading: another book set in London, this time during the Victorian era. It’s a proof copy. If I think it’s worth recommending I will write a bit more about the story when it nears its publication date in the spring.

Eating: Brunch! Non-stop chat with a friend a couple of weeks ago, cups of tea, full English breakfast with locally sourced everything, then creamy cappuccinos to finish. As you see it was an absolutely HUGE plateful (so glad I went without eating anything since dinner the night before…) I was in a food coma for the rest of the day! I didn’t eat until the evening, and then it was a light meal, but it was so amazing. The best EB I’ve ever had. My friend enjoyed her Egg Florentine, but I think might be going for the full English next time. She looked really envious.

Disliking: Mud! As some fields are beginning to be ploughed and planted there’s such a lot of mud on the road from the tractors. Car wash? Oh yes please. Love them. But…it was rainy the following day and my car is back to grey. Oh it’s not the only thing either; my handbag is splodged with it as I brushed past too closely.

Reading: the latest issue of Inside Crochet and trying to catch up with my Good Housekeeping mags. I’ve now got a pile of January, February and March GH to read. I got a year’s subscription from Nectar points (I think) as I always really like their recipes. But I’m finding it hard to keep up.

Finishing: something at the weekend! Ding-ding first thing of the year made. I’ll show you soon.

Snorting: with laughter at Daisy May Cooper’s audio book: Don’t laugh, it will only encourage her

Singing: along to the Richard Ashcroft and Liam Gallagher version of C’mon People (We’re Making it Now.) It’s the perfect pairing you never knew you needed. It makes me grin. Here on Spotify.

Grateful: for a year’s worth of Spotify.

Listening: to Grace Dent’s Comfort Food podcast. I choose the episodes I fancy. There’s so many; it’s the advantage of coming to a podcast later. The Rafe Spall episode is painfully honest. His comfort food though OH MY, it’s roast chicken smothered in butter, with lots of lemon AND they make homemade chips. Mmmm. My current episode is Dave Myers from The Hairy Bikers. I listen to it in chunks. Some of Dave’s was at 0400 this morning. Groan.

Rewatching: Derry Girls as they’ve just announced there’s to be a new series in March. It’s so good, so funny. (Series 1 is on Netflix so you can miss the adverts, 2 is only on All 4 at the mo.)

Missing: Schitt’s Creek. It really has been my tv programme of the Pandemic. Moira never failed to make me laugh, every single episode. If you’ve been under a rock and haven’t watched it yet, it’s on Netflix. Worth getting Netflix for IMHO.

Laughing: the day after the car wash / mud bath, I had my hair done, then walked my 5 mile loop and it started to pour with rain!

Deserving: after the rainy 5 mile walk I had a big slice of cake and a mug of English Breakfast tea. January involved lots of treats. It was the freezing cold weather…

Forgetting: your nearest and dearest reads your blog “You had cake after the walk?!”

Loving: wholegrain mustard with honey. If I could find white mustard seeds I would make some, I’ve got a good looking recipe. I don’t need a kilo thanks Amazon. I’ll try to buy some locally from an Asian shop.

Cooking: crab linguine, lots of curries and dals, poached pears in red wine and apple juice with blackberries (voted absolutely delicious.)

Drinking: a gin cocktail last night. Well ok, two. A free repeat January box was delivered here yesterday. It was an incredibly generous offer for those who decided to order February’s box, instead of skipping it. It was funny timing; I’d changed my mind anyway, decided to order it and then had the the offer email, but I wasn’t too worried. The timing was just a bit off. Then to my surprise I had an email on Friday saying my repeat January box would be with me on Monday! We never usually have a drink on a Monday, but yesterday it had to be done. I really like the Vietnamese gin. It’s floral, perfumed and really different to any I’ve had before.

Tempting: you… here’s my referral code for Craft Gin Club. If you’re in the UK you can order a half price box for £20 (with free delivery.) There’s no obligation to order any other boxes. I’ve shared this a few times and people have used it. I hope you’ve enjoyed your gin, mixers and snacks.

Spotting: the garden waking up and winter flowers appearing. Then on a walk on Saturday, we saw snowdrops in the wild. So lovely, so lovely.

How was your January? Any patterns, good reads, podcasts, tv shows or recipes you want to share?

Taking Stock – May

Making: glass spread all over the kitchen, yet again

Cooking: Chicken, pancetta & butterbean stew, recipe here. It’s even tastier the next day

Sipping: Assam Tea, no milk or sugar

Reading: The Haunting of Brynn Wilder. I’m really not sure about it, but will see how it goes

Waiting: for a family catch up at the weekend. And to walk by the sea. And to eat crispy restaurant chips. I. Can’t. Wait! First time away since last September. Phew!

Walked 5 miles and back to the car yesterday, just in time

Looking: at bare tulip stalks, stormy weather has blown the rest of the petals off! It’s been weeks of seeing their loveliness, so it’s ok

Listening: to cutlery chinking and cupboards being opened

All vivid yellow now

Wishing: to be 6” taller

Enjoying: salads again. Tuna, artichoke & butterbean, lentil & feta, sardine, watercress & orange

Appreciating: Spring, though it’s so much like 4 seasons in one day atm

Eating: Chia Bircher made with rolled oats, coconut milk, chia seeds, topped with fresh raspberries & chopped apple. Are you rolling your eyes?

Liking: Libby the library app now has magazines. Good Housekeeping for the excellent recipes, BBC Good Food and Love Embroidery are the 3 I’ve dipped into lately

Loving: Jessie Ware’s ‘Overtime’ song on Spotify. I defy you to keep still when listening!

I’ve rediscovered tinned sardines and mackerel, so good for tasty, filling and nutritious lunches

Buying: a new watch battery

Annoying: Old men – face masks under (big) noses

Managing: My aim to walk 1,100 miles this year (an increase of 100 miles) is going well so far. Hope I haven’t just jinxed myself

Watching: Superstore a tv comedy on Netflix. Funny, cute characters

Hoping: our figures continue to decrease, no mutations mucking everything up. People have been through enough

Wearing: a ball gown and tiara

Noticing: more flowers appearing in the garden. The clematis is looking very pinky, there are many buds on the rose and the lily of the valley are nearly all in bloom

Following: Twitter a bit more than usual, it’s largely negative so I won’t be checking too often

Sorting: well, I am tempted to sort through my WIPS, but am just sticking to the baby blanket as he’s now here (really gorgeous looking

Getting: Ready to walk to buy cheese and fruit

Coveting: New clothes

Feeling: Clumsy!

Also Feeling: Really pleased to see the crocheted wave blanket I made for Winnie being used by her new baby brother

Hearing: An aeroplane

How are you? You ok? What are you enjoying and doing at the moment?

Taking Stock – March

Making: a plan to try acupuncture. I can’t seem to do any amount of crochet or knitting at the mo. I’ve given up knitting the monthly dishcloths for now

Cooking: Oat & Pecan Cookies

Sipping: Twinings English Breakfast tea

Reading: Another Life by Jodie Chapman – this was the book I mentioned before. I got an Advanced Reader Copy, lucky me! It’s published tomorrow. The tale of Anna & Nick was really compelling, especially as it’s the author’s debut novel. I found it hard to put down

Waiting: to be able to travel freely

Looking: at all the anemones, grape hyacinth & pink tulips which have magically appeared in our garden

Listening: to Lo Vas A Olvidar by Billy Eilish & Rosalia on Spotify. It’s beautiful

Wishing: we could return to normal, but I think it’s a long way off

Enjoying: some sunnier days

Appreciating: being back at home. March has been very stressful, I was away for 10 days

Eating: lots of veggies this week

Liking: Schitt’s Creek I know, I am so late to the party!

Loving: Cinnamon buns with St Clements glaze. I won’t try anymore CB recipes – this enriched buttery dough is the bees knees

Buying: mixed peel & raisins to make Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday

Managing: fine, with some sleep now

Watching: the New Taskmaster series on C4

Hoping: I get to catch up with lots of friends from now on

Wearing: scruffs – a furry fleecy lined hood! Up, so have a cosy head. Not a great look but it’s comfy

Following: embroidery videos on Instagram. Addictive viewing, very calming too

Noticing: Spring has Sprung. Yippee!

Sorting: clothes, with rising temps forecast my Seasalt short sleeved tops will be coming out. It’s going to be 21 degrees, then back to 10, but wow that’s mini summer for us… The smell of thousands and thousands BBQ will be all over the land soon

Getting: Glitter Gel Pens for Easter instead of chocolate, maybe

Bookmarking: that TikTok Baked Feta Pasta recipe, why have I only just read about it? Have you tried it?

Coveting: new clothes

Feeling: relaxed

Hearing: Richard Marks singing his massive hit (sad) song

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Thanks to Pip who provided the original inspiration for these Taking Stock posts years ago. I still like reading hers.

Tell me a few things about your March?

Taking stock: June

Making: overnight oats to eat with a drizzle of honey, strawberries or raspberries. Raspberries are a fantastic with an apple topping too

Cooking: white ish sourdough (I use dark rye flour to feed my starter, so it’s usually a bit more beige than white) sourdough pizza and oat & raisin cookies last week. Fewer flour based foodstuffs this week!

Sipping: jasmine tea. Think I always say that, don’t I?

Reading: Out of Bounds by Val McDermid. So good and I’ve only read a chapter and a bit. I fell asleep after reading 2% of the book last night. So that was roughly 5 minutes reading and 30 asleep. Sigh. I’ll have to sit up in bed to read, but even then I start nodding. This never happened until last year or so #older

Waiting: for many places and groups to open again, as we all are. I miss lots of things and people

Looking: at a fragrant bunch of pink pinks I’ve just cut in the garden

Listening: to Michael Crawford on Desert Island Discs with Sue Lawley, must be an old episode. The radio was tuned to BBC 4 extra when I turned it on (later: it is a vintage ep, she’s just said he’s 57 and I’ve just googled and now he’s 78!)

Wishing: for a pair of socks. Cold feet but listening, eating and looking at the moment so obviously too busy to go upstairs!

Enjoying: Michael Crawford’s story about meeting Gene Kelly

Appreciating: my lovely garden

Eating: overnight oats, honey and strawberries as I type/dictate/listen

Liking: the slightly cooler weather. Variety is good. We know that as soon as we’re able to rent holiday cottages and stay in hotels again that the weather will be atrocious anyway, don’t we?

Loving: Vera on BritBox. I’m new to it, so am watching in order from series one. Isn’t she gloriously grumpy?

Buying: avocados, we can’t seem to get enough of them at the moment

Managing: my wild lockdown hair

Watching: my sandalled toes when the bees are visiting the campanula flowers – they get very near!

Hoping: to be able to sing with my group again before the end of the year

Wearing: t-shirt and cropped jeans, probably need long trousers and socks and a cardie today. It’s been 25° for days and days, now it’s 15°

Following: James Corden on his USA tv show. Watch this clip

Noticing: how sore my hand still feels after a little bit of crochet on the new star blanket last week #Boo

Sorting: receipts. Next

Getting: those longer trousers and socks before

Bookmarking: local walks info, there are so many, so so many different paths and bridleways

Coveting: really comfortable loungers for the conservatory. Dozing, reading, sipping drinks while using type. Any recommendations?

Mr Scrappy went to his first non-essential items shop this week. He was the only customer. He felt like dancing and treated himself to some glitter gel pens for £2

Feeling: full

Hearing: the kitchen clock ticking and Michael Crawford singing

List copied from Pip’s marvellous Meet me at Mikes blog. It’s the one blog that I always return to. I read it in batches. I much prefer reading some blogs in batches, rather than one post here and there; I feel you hear their voices more clearly and get a grip on what they’re doing and where they are in life. Hers never fails to cheer me up if needed and makes me feel inspired. Thanks Pip.

Why don’t you have a go at writing a Taking Stock post? Then throw up some accompanying pics, if you like, it’s fun to write (and hopefully read) them.

In the last ten days

We finally got the promised snow, the Friday before last. These few photos were on the Saturday when my Snow Face was all go. (Manic grinning and crazy happy eyes.)

I do like snow a lot, I’m just not so keen on falling over when it’s icy. I definitely need to buy some new walking boots; because although they are still smart and comfy, my leather Timberlands are a bit worn and shiny on the soles. It makes me very wary walking the day after snowfall, when everything’s frozen solid. Last year I ended up making the shape of a capital A, with my hands flat on the pavement in front of me and my bottom in the air, when I slipped on the ice! No one needs to see that again.

At the beginning of the week I’d driven Mum around to four shops to try to buy a couple of small brown loaves, as I wasn’t planning on baking any sourdough for a couple of days. The snow had been forecast and it seemed sensible to make sure she had some. We found they were all sold out nearly everywhere. In the event it was a wet kind of snow and so didn’t hang around. By Sunday, when we went for another walk, it was beginning to melt at the edges.

Snow days means soup days. I made a new recipe from Olive: Creamy Tomato Soup. It’s a delicate blend of flavours and went down well with the others, though personally I’d halve the quantity of cream, it was a little rich for me.

I don’t have the same comments about the chocolate in the cake I had last Monday, courtesy of John Lewis rewards on my app. Get the app if you ever go anywhere near a JL. The free cake and hot drink can be perfect, when you’re shopping and in need of a pitstop. What I love about it is the free cake includes pastries, which means you can have a rather nice cheese scone! This was a rare time when I actually had the cake and a cappuccino, rather than peppermint tea and a cheese scone for lunch.

Now I know daffodils, snowdrops and hellebore are winter flowers, croci too, but just seeing flowers popping out and nodding their little heads can’t help but make you think of spring.

By Wednesday it was hard to believe we’d ever had any snow at all. Did you spot the foraging ducks amongst the fallen beech leaves? They were too busy to turn around to chat to me even, though I did try to start up a conversation.

Look at that handsome strutting boy heading back to the pond, he was all wiggling hips and attitude as he knew I’d snap him.

Thursday it was time to cook a warming curry. Another Olive magazine recipe to try. We really liked their version of Chicken Saag. It’s a good blend of spices, filling lentils, chicken and shiny spinach. It was declared “A Winner!”

Friday morning and I made cheese scones for lunch. Oops I forgot to start the timer, so they were rather more crispy than usual, which actually went down really well. Good!

Then lasagne for dinner. This one. Absolutely yummy, a proper Winter Warmer with bells on. A robust Malbec to sip and the promise of some chocolate after.

If you’re not going anywhere Friday nights are made for a tasty meal, which has to fit within the criteria of a Friday Night Tea, there are rules about what constitutes a Friday Night Tea and definite no-nos. Do you know what I mean? I was delighted to find out a friend thinks exactly the same way, that made me realise how in sync we were when we started to get to know each other. You also need a good film, or tv which makes you laugh, nothing serious, and the evening has to include a little something sweet for later. No dessert or chocolate to hand is very, very bad.

It’s not all food, drink and chocolate cake, as lovely as that is. My weekly tally, added to my accumulative total showed I’ve completed over a tenth of my walking target now. I’m aiming to walk 1,000 miles this year, without pressure or in competition with anyone else. Over 100 miles walked already. Go me and my shiny bottomed Timberlands!

What about you? What are you doing, cooking or making in your spare time? Have you read any good books lately? I am absolutely stuck into Last Letter Home by Rachel Hore. It’s going to be a quick read for me as I can’t put it down.

Taking Stock – February

Making : Slow Cooked Beef Brisket, recipe here except I added lashings of balsamic vinegar too. Cooked for 8 hours on medium, then sliced the beef and gently reheated it in the sauce, in a heavy based pan on the hob, the next day. I think slow cooked food is always better eaten the day after, to meld the flavours. I thickened the sauce with a tbsp of cornflour mixed into a little cold water. Delicious.

Cooking : the above to eat with potatoes, petit pois and kale

Drinking : lots of jasmine tea this morning, 2 x 1 pint mugs

Reading: I’ve just given up on the rather tedious The Old Curiosity Shop by Dickens. To be honest I had a sneaking suspicion I was going to do an Oscar Wilde. He reportedly said: ‘One would have to have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without dissolving into tears…of laughter.’

Wanting: to spend my Christmas gift cards, but still haven’t found anything apart from new socks at Fatface. These,these which I’m wearing now and this delicious pair

Looking: at these Dr Who props in the BBC lobby on Saturday. My friend and I walked past and went to peep in the windows. A security guard invited us to come in to look. We watched the last few minutes of the Winter Olympics curling on one of the huge screens. (We lost to Japan.)

Playing: my friend’s Adventure Bus Game on foot, my nifty adaption. You set off walking in a random direction, with no destination in mind and take turns to choose left, right or straight ahead at the next junction. We ended up in the BBC, then Regents Park. After 5 miles we went for a late lunch here.

Deciding: to go to the library for new books soon

Wishing: to meet the UK winner of Friday’s £78 million euro millions win. What did they decide to do first? I had a message when I was walking down Baker Street, London on Saturday morning – “Did you see this news article? (‘Massive Jackpot Split between one UK and one Spanish winner, £78 mil each’) Is it you?! Have you checked?”

Enjoying: lots of winter warmers featuring tasty sauces – lamb hot pot and that beef brisket last weekRegents Park croci

Waiting: for dried mealworms to arrive by post, the Blue Tits can’t get enough of them. The robin doesn’t use the stick on balcony window feeder here, but they do. You look up and see a little blue and yellow thing looking at you!

Liking: the bright blue skies and sunshine, although it’s very very cold. Currently we have wind blowing from Siberia, so on Saturday it was 5 degrees but with the wind chill factor felt like 1. Brrrrr. Also, really liked seeing the first blossom in Regents Park

Wondering: if the media are making a huge unnecessary OTT fuss about the ‘dire weather’ coming this week and next. My friend G just Whatsapped to say the news site is advising people to be home by 6pm tonight in her area. Woah!

Loving: my new slow start yeast, the bread is light and rises like a rocket

Pondering: which colours for the next strip, then realising my tension must have been way tighter so redoing the entire third strip

Considering: whether to sew or crochet the strips together, crochet usually wins hands down

Buying: lamb mince to make koftas

Watching: Grace and Frankie

Marvelling: at the ages of the four main characters, it’s excellent to see seniors leading a successful series

Hoping: I’m still as fit and able at Jane Fonda’s age

Cringing: at my renewed nail biting

Needing: a new book

Questioning: if any of you have read Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty? Good? Might have asked this before…

Smelling: Dry Roast Peanuts

Wearing: a head of Crystal Tipps (and Alastair) hair

Following: the dire water situation in Cape Town

Noticing: how dry my skin is in this weather Icicles on the water features at Waterperry Gardens shop

Knowing: there was no way Muller Light yoghurt can replicate raspberry doughnut flavour. Indeed, it’s horrid

Thinking: Ruby Wax’s analogy about thoughts being like leaves swirling past, along a pavement is very apt

Admiring: people’s openness in discussing tricky topics on IG and the respectful, often very supportive comments in reply

A rather deliciously wicked meeting place: Lola’s in Selfridge’s, Oxford Street London

Sorting: out which snowdrop pics to keep, so many taken at Waterperry Gardens yesterday

Getting: down to gently look at the insides of snowdrops. This is something I’ve copied from my Mum, it’s often surprising how much colour is inside these little white flowers

So many varieties: singles, doubles, dwarf, tall, big and plump, fine and delicate. Snowdrops are very special

Bookmarking: new recipes, any meatless recipes you enjoy and can recommend? Variety is good

Coveting: “What am I coveting at the moment?” “Other people’s gin.”

I’m doing Dry Lent once again….

Disliking: The taste of sweeteners

Opening: bird books and many websites, then putting a pic on my Instagram account to ask for help to identify a bird – the consensus was that it’s a female chaffinch

Giggling: at Barty apparently not deserving his new catnip toys. Sunday morning Mum was in her sitting room and noticed a sparrow walking across the carpet in front of the window!

Feeling: thirsty, I always seem to write that when TS

Snacking: on radishes

Helping: motivate a friend, but not taking my own advice

Hearing: an aeroplane

Mixing: tonic water with ice and lime, pretending it’s as good as a G&T

Worrying: well, there’s always something

Slicing: onions for virtually every recipe this time of year

Catkins and beautiful twisty trees at Waterperry Gardens

Celebrating: the busy garden birdlife, since I’ve been typing I’ve seen: a Robin, multiple Blue Tits, a Coal Tit, a couple of Great Tits, a male Blackbird and the female Chaffinch is back

Forgetting: what I need to add to the shopping list

Winning: at life? Urgh, smug expression

Pretending: nothing

Sneaking: extra oddments of nibbed hazelnuts, flaked almonds and walnut pieces into the museli. It’s getting close to being an end of packet dust situation!

Embracing: brighter and longer days, it’s light at 520pm still

For the full list to fill in your own Taking Stock post visit Pip. It’s fun to do.

Twixmas

I really like the week between Christmas and New Year. If approached properly it has a mixture of planned and unplanned days. You need activity and people, but also days where you can lounge around reading, crafting, eating chocolates and nibbles and catching up on Christmas films and tv. This year we’ve got it just right.

Just before Sewing Club ended for the year another sewer told me she couldn’t see the point of wasting time and energy on making bottle bags; as they wouldn’t be appreciated for the amount of effort that goes into making them. Well, happily I’m glad to report that definitely wasn’t the case. I gave them to members of my family who sew and who totally got the point. They made my (Christmas) day by saying how impressed they were with the quality of the sewing etc etc. Every year we pass around card gift bags and bottle bags, saved from previous Christmases, and last year a few lamented that they had to buy new bags. The horror! I knew that these would be used again and again. It will be quite fun seeing them reappear. Am I revealing my sad nerdiness? Ah well! They’re fully lined with contrast fabric and reversible. Now perhaps I need to make Birthday bottle bags…We all seemed to arrive at Mum’s with presents for Barty the powder puff tail. My cousin and my nieces all did and I took him a set of jingle mice. But this one was the clear winner: my friend and her dog George sent him a crocheted pillow filled with catnip (bought in Asda, it’s fab.) After I took this photo he got a bit manic. It was so funny to see this laid back ‘I can sleep for England’ young cat so excited. The pillow is already all tatty and with ends sticking out! It was so lovely to see this ornament again when we decorated the tree on 23rd. I remembered that one of my nieces bought it for me last year, with her pocket money.My Dry October turned into Dry November and Dry December (bar 3 occasions where I’d finished in November but then decided to carry on.) All I really fancied was a glass of champagne and so on Christmas Eve I had my first drink in weeks. And my second. And on Christmas morning felt so very ropey that in the middle of drying my hair had to turn off the drier, sit on the bed and take deep breaths! Oh this was not the plan! How pathetic. Seeing a line of just-filled glasses on Christmas morning I apologised to my brother and declined one. During the toast I tasted a sip from Someone’s glass, just to try, and decided it was really rather nice, that perhaps that old chestnut, the hair of the dog thing would be worth a try. My brother said it was the fastest turn around he’s ever seen! I stuck to a single glass all day and it did the trick marvellously. I had another glass on Boxing Day evening with family too. There is a champagne diet, apparently good for weight loss (perhaps not for the liver.) Maybe that will be the one for me in January?On Boxing Day morning we were so glad to see a crisp and bright morning. We headed out for some exercise. It was a great walk, albeit 7 1/2 miles, not the planned 5. I think it was a combination of a lot of chatter, passing a big group of walkers at a crucial moment and wishing them a Good Morning that meant we missed the intended turning. We ended up in open countryside surrounded by grazing sheep. I turned to my iPhone for our location and saw on a satellite map that we had walked in the opposite direction and were approaching an unexplored village in the west. Oh well, new public footpaths have been discovered and it was a great yomp. Very good for walking off some of the mince pies and Christmas pudding. We took ourselves off to the sales on Wednesday and popped into a new-to-me coffee shop, where we sat on wooden boxes and spooned our Demerara from a communal jar with a wooden spoon. How very hipster!

I started some new crochet that evening. I’m not totally sure this is going to be continued. But look at the difference going up half a hook size makes. The fabric is now beautifully drapey and soft. Plus it’s far easier to find the 1 chain spaces. I’m going to play around a bit and might undo it, or might carry on. Just don’t ask me about the Hitchhiker, I actually might cry. Disaster struck. And I can’t blame it on Barty either.

On Thursday I met a friend in Hoxton, London at The Geffrye Museum of the Home to catch their Christmas Past exhibition. This features rooms decorated (or not) for Christmas from 1700 to 1990. Did you know that the Puritans banned Christmas for around 15 years? People disobeyed and still brought greenery into the home for decoration.

It’s a good exhibition and interesting overhearing others’ memories of past Christmases when you come to the various twentieth century rooms. My friend and I liked this early 1960s room best. It’s just after the children have opened their presents, when they’ve gone off to open their chocolate selection boxes and spoil their appetites for lunch. Sounds a familiar scenario, doesn’t it?

Why the toothbrush in the cafe, the eagle eyed among you might have spotted? I text her from the train and asked if she had an old one she could bring. I reckon it’s the mark of a good friend (or one who’s used to your ways) who responds with “I’ll see if I can find one” and not a single question about why.

After five miles of walking we went for a very late lunch and obviously chose the low calorie option….

And back to a superb mixture of laziness and activity yesterday; I tried out my new dumbbells that my father in law gave me. It’s become a thing every year; I really like to add practical presents to my wish list, things I need and will use. He laughs, but is usually the one to buy them. Over the years I’ve asked for a car valet, garden shears, secateurs, loaf tins and so on. This year it was dumbbells so I can work my triceps which are a little wobbly after a mere 4 months of a power shower and no hair-washing with a jug over the bath. (I miss my jug. I could also touch my toes and the floor without a problem. Probably that’s a no-go now too.) I started my daily routine yesterday. I will begin challenging people to arm wrestle by February. Actually, I’m having a day off today as I think my left elbow feels a bit sore. Ha! I’ve broken my resolution even before New Year.

How was your Christmas? Did your homemade gifts go down well? What’s the most bizarre present you received? Are you feasting still or dining on water and crackers now?

Autumn colour, apples & whisky 

I really love autumn! There’s so much colour still and we keep having bright blue skies and sunshine, which really makes for my favourite type of autumn days. Even when it’s grey and murky there’s always something comforting to do: soup to make, apple cake to bake and hot chocolate to turn to, or a brisk walk through crunchy leaves, pausing to pick up shiny conkers and special leaves.

The asters at Waterperry Gardens have been superb. We visited in September which was between the two ‘Aster Weekends’ when visitors are encouraged to go and see the glorious long-border full of autumn colour.

Asters are also known as Michaelmas daisies because they bloom around the same time as the Christian festival. ‘Michaelmas, or the Feast of Michael and All Angels, is celebrated on the 29th of September every year. As it falls near the equinox, the day is associated with the beginning of autumn and the shortening of days’ (according to Google.)

This year has been a bumper one for berries. Apparently it’s to do with the mild winter we had, followed by a dry spring and summer. They are everywhere in abundance, adding such a cheery splash of colour.

Upton House and Gardens looks after a National Collection of asters so it seemed a good plan to go and see them there too. The following pics were taken there last Tuesday. My Mum really loves asters, so she and I went to see them at both WPG and Upton. Looking back at my photos though, it’s not asters which dominate, it’s dahlias. I really like them. I have a vase-full of scarlet and peach asters downstairs, picked by her for our table. They are gorgeous. I should try to get a few photos of them in her garden to show you. I’ll try and remember to do that when I pop by later.

Waterperry have an annual apple weekend, celebrating the picking of their many varieties, you can sample and buy many varieties of apples, juice and cider. Unlike the supermarkets who offer the same scant half dozen varieties, if you’re lucky, WPG has many old varieties. Most of which I’ve never heard because 65 varieties of apple are grown there, although only about 25 of these are available commercially. The others are being trialled for juice, or preserved to ensure heritage varieties don’t die out. I bought bags of Egremont Russet and Ribston Pippin. Slices of both went very well with the cheese board we had at a family lunch on Sunday.


I also went to another type of autumn festival at the weekend: a Whisky Harvest Festival at Cotwolds Distillery. We went to pick up a pre-ordered (3 years ago) bottle of the first batch of 500 bottles of their whisky. Admittance to the festival gave everyone a free dram, so pretty soon most people were singing along and having a little dance to the live bands. A little measure of whisky is good for loosening people up. It has such a good flavour for a brand new whisky. You don’t have to take my word for it; Jim Murray writer of The Whisky Bible was there and pronounced it excellent. If you want to see his impromptu talk see here. He’s an entertaining soul. Prue Leith (she of the new Bake Off) also spoke and it seemed as if she’d enjoyed her dram rather a lot, ha ha.

The distillery also make a very tasty gin, a cream liqueur, similar to Baileys, and various other drinks. The cocktail tent was doing super business, though the gin cocktail bar was definitely favoured over that of the whisky. Personally if I’d been drinking, not driver for the day, I’d have chosen a whisky sour…

What are your favourite autumn things? What do you eat, drink and make? Do you also love it, or have flagging spirits at the end of summer? I really hope it’s the former.

A long weekend away

We’ve been away again for a long weekend in Lincolnshire, which included a night’s stay in Lincoln. After walking around admiring the cathedral, pictured above, we had an interesting audio tour at the Medieval Bishops’ Palace (have a free year of membership of English Heritage, hurray!) A drink in Widow Cullen’s Well pub after all the walking, including up Steep Hill and exploring the old part of the city, was definitely restorative. That evening we had what turned out to be a mega dinner at Ribs ‘n’ Bibs. The beef ribs were gooood, but we couldn’t finish our food. A plateful for one, would actually be plenty to share.

I also got another fix of the seaside, albeit courtesy of the North sea. It is not, it has to be said, as pretty as the Atlantic sea which surrounds West Cornwall, but it is good to walk along to Sutton. I certainly felt I needed to walk at least 5 miles! We walked 8 by the end of the day.

 If you grew up with traditional English bucket and spade holidays, like I did, then Mablethorpe is your place for an enjoyable day out. I doubt it’s altered since the 1970s. There is a small fairground, arcades, cafes, ice cream stands, rock and sweet shops, souvenir shops and donkey rides on the beach. We’ve been popping there for years now and it doesn’t seem to have changed in a single way. Did you spot a Mum being buried in the sand?!img_3470 My cousin hosts several BBQs from early summer to mid-autumn for family and different groups of friends. We try to go to one, or maybe two, each year. They’re always good fun, with everybody mucking in. The informal rule is that every time you go to and from the cottage, across the tiny lane to her field, you take something. I have to admit that the (huge) glass of champagne I had on arrival went straight to my head, so the only thing I initially managed to take across was another glass of champagne! But if this was hash-tag land I’d probably be typing #winwin.

As far as stereotypes go the men conformed and ruled the two barbecues, there’s always one for meat and the other strictly for veggie foods. I grabbed my chance to cook, when someone left their post to top up their glass of red. I enjoyed flipping a batch of home-made halloumi burgers. (Recipe here, but made with some grated carrot, not heaps and no courgette as we found before that it’s too ‘wet’.) Apart from that I did a lot of chatting, took some photos and nibbled delicious food. That was all fine by me!

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I’ve had a week’s self-imposed ban of no crochet or knitting, to rest my elbow. It flared up in irritation at all the long rows of knitting I’ve been doing. I’ve tried a few rows of both knitting and crochet and it’s a feeling bit sore again. It’s definitely the knitting, as crochet has never really affected it. I’ll concentrate on finishing the Wave Blanket, then go back to the Garter Stitch Blanket and see how it goes. It’s not the end of the world if I just add a row or two a week. Or every other week. As you know, I started it to use up odd balls of DK yarn, and to have an easy project for pub knitting with the girls. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to finish. It’s a shame though as I have enjoyed adding to it and blending the colours.


My library books this week couldn’t be more different; Sweet Temptation was total fluff, but quite enjoyable. It tells the stories of three women who are overweight and become friends through joining ‘Fatbusters’. Ahem…I’ve glossed over the homeward bound visit to Melton Mowbray, home of Pork Pies and Stilton Cheese, but I’m back on lots of fruit and salad now! Vinegar Girl will be my next read; it’s a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew. It’s ages since I read an Anne Tyler novel.

What have you been eating? Do you use your local library? Have you seen the sea lately?
If you’d like to share what you’re making and reading every Wednesday too, leave a link in the comments. Don’t forget to link back to this post on your blog, and use #yarningalong on social media, so others can find us and join us in Yarning Along.

 

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Harvest Festival

I’ve had my own harvest festival this weekend; as I’d been offered the chance to help myself to anything in a relative’s garden while she’s away. Woo hoo!

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I thought it was silly to bring the beetroot and carrot tops home with me, so cut them off and went across to the compost bins in her garden. One lid I couldn’t pull off, so I decided to try the other, quite forcefully yanking it off. A tangle of worms flew off the bin lid, scattering onto the outside of the bin, sliding down my jeans and onto my boot. Knowing my pro gardening relly these worms will have been flown in for their special composting services – so I’m there with a large crinkly leaf scooping them up and putting them back into the composter. Argh! I did take a quick photo of some, but it’s rather blurry as they are pretty fast wrigglers and I didn’t want them to get away.
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After that mini episode of The Great Escape I took a bit of time out to stare at the flowers.

I can’t describe the sweetness of the crisp carrots, we munched a couple raw and had a few cooked for dinner. It’s like having your own kitchen garden just ten minutes away! I hope she goes away again next summer, just when the vegetables are ripe for the picking.
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The tomatoes and peppers are my own. The yellow tomatoes are stacked up like a pyramid now as I gathered more this morning, ready for using. The bowlfuls around the house are multiplying as I’m picking more every day. Even I’m surprised to find a pyrex dish full of them on the windowsill in The Little Room when I draw the curtains! It’s a good job we love them isn’t it?
I cooked a couple of the green peppers and made Balsamic Chicken, one of my favourite easy peasy recipes, last night. We tried a slice of raw pepper first, just to taste it. I’ve grown chilli peppers several times, but not pepper peppers (capsicum.) Tonight we’re having a yellow tomato greek salad, pitta, taramasalata and other delights as we’ve had a return to summer today. I’m really enjoying thinking of tomato based meals to enjoy, it’s so much more satisfying to use homegrown. It will be salmon with cherry tomatoes and couscous tomorrow and Nigella’s tomato curry with coconut rice from Kitchen later in the week. Mmmmmmm.
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Are you having your own harvest festival, or heading into Spring and dreaming of all that to come?

Nine Random Things

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I stopped my subscription to Simply Crochet a few months ago because I was a bit bored, I reckon it’s stuck in a bit of a rut. When they asked readers to complete a questionnaire some months ago I requested more garment patterns. I know I’m not alone in feeling fed up of patterns for small items you don’t want or need. However ( a little positivity coming up now!) I really fancied crocheting the scarf pattern I’d seen Heather of The Patchwork Heart posting pics of on IG. So I picked up a copy last week, there was the added temptation of pretty pins too…but oh! They are mostly rusty – albeit silver coloured rust, not rust coloured, but it’s rust all the same. I can’t use them at all. Boo!
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Ooh now this is a good magazine related bit of news – I’ve been given a year’s subscription to this beauty. I’ll turn into a green eyed monster at times (beautiful homes and expensive lovelies to buy) I know, but I am very pleased.
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This is my catch up reading pile. I asked for my birthday subscription not to be continued for a third year to Mollie Makes, again it’s feeling in a bit of a rut. I really can’t face yet more patterns for felt animals and the target audience feels like it’s for young twenty somethings. That’s fair play especially if it’s encouraging them to develop or learn some crafty skills; I just realised that I hadn’t used any of the mini packs, let alone made any items from the magazine for ages and ages.
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Just because I saw this in a gift shop in Broadway, in the Cotswolds, and it made me smile. It’s one of those things you’d love to say when someone’s being all one-sided me-me-me.
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While I was wondering around Broadway I kept hearing yelping and barking. I ducked down an alley to pop into the Sue Ryder charity shop and saw two pens of hounds. They must belong to the local hunt. I’m a baby where dogs en masse are concerned so this is as close I got.
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I’ve seen these chargers in airports etc before, but how handy to find one in John Lewis (High Wycombe) for free charging.
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My friend gave me a bumper lot of thoughtful presents including this lovely tin. It’s my new things crochet tin as the other was bulging at the seams, especially with a new bigger notebook. Isn’t it similar in design to the Cath Kidson tape measure and needle book? It’s such a good match and right up my street.
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Warning. Warning. Tomato talk incoming! I’m still cooking with my home-gown tomatoes, this time it’s a bacon and olive sauce. Yum. I usually halve the olives but this time left them whole. The house is full of bowlfuls in various stages of ripeness. I never imagined eight plants could produce so much fruit (or did QI state they are wrongly regarded as fruit, when in fact they are the vegetable we all grew up believing them to be? Or have I dreamt that?!)
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I’ve been wincing at sightings of the C word; usually in relation to crafting for ………… but look at what fell out of the new issue of Country Living. With the change of weather and the end of the summer holidays looming it doesn’t feel too early to contemplate booking tickets. Are you going?

What have you been up to lately?

Did you see the ice cream debacle on The Great British Bake Off last night?

In my next post I’ll show you the shawl I’ve been crocheting from the current Simply Crochet. It’s sweet, though I do have a shawl related question: there are so many patterns for them at the moment, they seem to be on trend but……have you actually seen anyone wearing one out? Anyone?

Summer snapshot

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Eating fresh vegetables from the garden on the same day they’re picked or dug, such a Summer highlight! One day visiting family I came away with peas in their pods, beetroot, potatoes, shallots, carrots, cucumber and courgettes. What a haul.

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Baking lots this Summer; I’ve had a bit of an obsession with muffins. So far I’ve baked citrus muffins, chunky cookie muffins and my favourite: fig and marzipan muffins. Cheese and Marmite scones (see BBC Good Food website for the recipe) my own cheese scone recipe, raspberry and amaretti cake, lemon drizzle cake and my weekly loaves of bread. I usually only bake cakes and other treats when I have guests or an occasion to cook for, otherwise there’s too much naughtiness around, it’s better shared! So far this Summer there have been lunches, teas and picnics. Hurray! I’ve always enjoyed being in the kitchen with the radio on and whipping up a cake etc. It probably stems from a cosy childhood helping to bake cakes and mixing a mug of icing at home when little. We would sometimes mix up three mugs of icing and make ‘traffic light cakes’ – pale green, red or yellow icing to top fairy cakes.
The cream tea was my favourite of all the recent occasions. It included a discussion of whether it should be cream or jam first. Mine is the neater looking scones, cream first, but with the far messier (homemade) jammy plate!

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Nerding and walking a lot; about 26 miles in the last week, some of it Geocaching. I’m not a hardcore cacher and it’s taken me years to reach my very low tally, but when I set out to find some it’s fun. They are all around you did you know? If you didn’t its worth having a look at the official website.

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A few friends and I came across this fine fellow while looking at a lovely Japanese garden, after finding a cache. Aren’t peacocks stunning? Apparently some believe peacock feathers bring very bad luck, refusing to have them on the house. I prefer to see them in situ anyway

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Crocheting rows of the ripple blanket in my friend’s favourite colours. It will be a surprise present at Christmas since I’m also going on with the motifs for the William Morris colours inspired blanket. I’ve put the ripple away in the Little Room as I’ve got to get on with the other. I also have another thing to make nearer the end of the month. I’m partly regretting agreeing to that, but we will see!

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Enjoying The House of Illustration Quentin Blake exhibition. If you’ve read Roald Dahl’s books you’ll recognise some of the illustrations on display. You can also stop and play in the magic fountains of Granary Square, Kings Cross.

Picnicking at Cliveden, a National Trust property which was the former home of the Astor family where I met three other girls. Two of them were my little nieces. They are currently obsessed with doing cartwheels and handstands, so mostly I saw them upside down as they twirled around the gardens, apart from when they were eating lemon drizzle cake and marzipan & fig muffins!

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What are you up to this Summer? Link to your snapshot post below if you fancy sharing.

Food glorious food

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One of the nicest things about coming back from a holiday is seeing how much the plants in the garden have grown. There are tomatoes all over the vines now. I harvested some new potatoes yesterday and just picked the first ripe cherry tomatoes. Hurrah!

Something’s nibbled a couple of the strawberries, but as I’ve already picked a bowlful I don’t mind. Share and share alike. There are runners coming off the plant so I’m starting new – that’s the reason for the smaller pots around it, there are another two behind. I’ve promised a few new plants to friends and family.

The pumpkin plants (one shown) are both coming on in leaps and bounds. I can see where the flower buds are forming. I’ve never grown any before so this is exciting.

There are lots of tiny peppers on the three plants, but as you see only one decent sized pepper so far. It’s a waiting game at this point…

I’ve been searching for light and healthy recipes, after many holiday treats (and a few too many when I was laid up in June with the spider injury) and have started a board on Pinterest if you fancy sharing them with me, if you’d like to send more my way too that would be fab. Googling 5:2 recipes brings up lots of lovely things – whether you’re doing the ‘fasting’ thing or just aiming to eat lighter food. I’m taken with roasted red pepper & tomato and also courgette & watercress soups. I used to make a roasted red pepper soup and can’t think where I’ve put the recipe.

What are you up to at the moment?

Springtime in London

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Spring has arrived, St James park on Saturday was full of swathes of daffodils and crocuses. Beautiful.

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Beautiful cherry blossom too.

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After a good walk in Green Park, coming across The Changing of the Guard and oohing and aahing over the flowers in St James Park we played the adventure bus game. Our rules are you get on the first bus that comes, pick a number each (we used coins in our pockets; on the count of ‘3-2-1 show!’) combine them and get off the corresponding number of stops later. Have a look around the area, then get on the first bus which comes to the stop nearest to you (try not to inadvertently catch the next across the road from where you arrived as you’re in danger of ending up exactly where you came from. I know this…!) One of the first stops was right outside Borough Market, at lunchtime. What great timing. Mmmmmmm.

Sunday was a day of rugby at Twickenham for some, I went to Spitalfields, East London. The weather was glorious and unseasonably warm at around 19 degrees.

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There’s been a market on the site since 1638 when Spittle Fields was a rural location on the outskirts of London. King Charles I licensed it to sell flesh, fowl and roots. Doesn’t sound too appealing put like that does it but it’s been a thriving marketplace since. It was latterly known for being a wholesale fruit and vegetable market before the business moved to the New Spitalfields market in 1991. Now mostly clothes, accessories and homewares are sold on the original site. The area has been refurbished and there’s many cafes, bars and restaurants where you can still purchase flesh, fowl and roots accompanied by a latte, beer or glass of wine.

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Brick Lane smelt very pungent with all the curry restaurants and food stalls in and around the old Truman Brewery. People browsed rails of goods and buskers, street artists and gamers lined the edges of the lane. The chess player was playing 2 games with space for another, rolling from side to side on his chair.

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I’ve seen this busker before, he’s really good and always attracts a crowd.

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The street art around the area is wonderful. Here’s a link to an excellent blog about Spitalfields which features information about and work of Roa, the street artist.
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Eleven Spitalfields have an interesting exhibition showing the photographs of C.A Mathew, who took a series of pictures around the area one Saturday in 1912. If you can pop in then I recommend you visit before it finishes on 27th April.

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I had a mooch around the Petticoat Lane market and then a wander around the square mile, which is the original financial district of the City of London, admiring the old and the new.

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Apparently England beat Wales in the rugby, I began a new crochet make and everyone was happy. All in all it was a very good weekend.

Did you have a good one? I hope the sun was shining for you too.

Try this yummy salad

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Tomato & avocado salad

:: Toast some pumpkin seeds in a dry frying pan over a medium heat (keep an eye on these, keep tossing them to turn, as they can pop and jump out of the pan after a while!)
:: Use your potato peeler to make courgette ribbons, add halved baby tomatoes and cut up sugar snap peas.
:: Mash half an avocado and toss that in with a bit of salt. Sprinkle in the seeds
:: Enjoy. It’s gorgeous.

Food & Fabric

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Today we had a magnificent lunch at The Crooked Billet, Newton Longville, Bucks. I was tempted to photograph all of our four courses but decided to restrain myself and just took the puds. But oh! the food, combined with speedy but unobtrusive service in an oldy woldy village pub. Gorgeous. I highly recommend you visit if you’re able.

I’d be wondering what it was you ate at this point, so if there’s anyone really nosy like me:

  • Pan Fried Scallops, Chimney Smoked Crispy Bacon, Deep Fried Shallots, Pea Puree
  • Duck Breast, Duck Sausage, Crisp Confit Duck Leg, Fried Duck Egg & Pan Fried Duck Liver, Spinach & Quince, Potatoes & Onions en Cocotte
  • Warm Carrot Cake, Orange & Carrot Puree, Butter Icing

Oh mama the food was good. The other three had completely different choices, so between us all we sampled a fair part of the menu.
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The text above the fire reads: ‘Wine is the visible proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.’ Amen to that.

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The fantastic cheese selection.  The one oozing all over the slate is a Corsican cheese, it was herby and delicious. That was the eater’s overall favourite from his choice of six.

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This hasn’t completely morphed into a food porn blog, so here’s the craft bit…

After lunch we waddled to our cars and popped to Threads and Patches in Fenny Stratford.  The Jammy Dodger was warned by one familiar with the shop that the guys might prefer to chill in a nearby canal side pub, but he came in and ended up talking about, what I call, boy-craft with the owner. It’s actually a good suggestion he made; if craft shops sold fly fishing materials they would see an increase in male shoppers.  Do you remember when he reused my yarn scraps? 

He’s caught 9 rainbow trout in the last week. Family and friends, plus one of the neighbours are very happy. The village shop-keeper has set up a bartering system with the JD:  a trout for a very good quality, expensive artisan loaf of sour dough. Suits me.

After watching all 4 episodes of The Great British Sewing Bee I’m resolved to refresh my dress-making skills. Just look at all this fabric, it’s a tiny taste of what T&P sell…

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I could see myself in a skirt made of the second fabric. Anyone fancy offering free sewing lessons in return for homemade cakes, scones or bread?!

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20130424-185248.jpgThere’s an upstairs room with a selection of yarn and haberdashery, plus a few light and airy rooms used for workshops. The above is for two bloggers with whom I’ve been exchanging some *!?*^&%$ type messages about a forthcoming ‘thing’. I can’t even bring myself to link to it because we might start a little rant on the comments form below! I also don’t want to alienate the p-p lovers amongst you. *Pressing lips tightly together*.

There’s also a small yarn shop in Fenny Stratford which I  naturally needed to dive into briefly. The JD waited outside to the amusement of the mechanic next door who shouted; “Your missus in the wool shop is she???!” He ought to set up a beer stand, he’d make a fortune!

How’s your week going? Talk to me.

Lazy Sunday, happy Sunday

What a lovely Sunday, eating Thai food then browsing for spices, exotic drinks and foods at the Asian Supermarket next door. Then home for a bit of cosy crochet and to read my new Mollie Makes mag. It’s -1 degrees here today, with some snow covering the hills after the snow-storm yesterday. It’s hard to believe we had brown grass in the garden from the dry, warm start to Spring this time last year! (Isn’t it funny how every blogger will, at some point, mention their local weather wherever in the world they are; I always thought this was a purely British obsessive topic of conversation.)

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There’s been much rain and snow that there’s even flooding in parts of the city now.

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I think most are staying warm at home as this is usually a buzzing restaurant.

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Mum has asked me to crochet her a scarf. I like the circularity of this as I grew up wearing and using home-made knitted, crocheted and sewed scarves, hats, mittens, gloves, cardies, jumpers, dresses, gym bags for my plimsolls and much more.

I chose shell pattern 2 from the Vogue Crochet Stitchionary I won in a giveaway last year. 

I trebled the stitch count and hey presto it’s just right for a scarf. The scalloped sides are really pretty, I like the pattern a lot.

I’m using Lang’s Tosca Light which is 55% new wool with 45% acrylic, a really warm and soft mixture. I can vouch for this yarn as I used it to knit myself a lacy purple scarf a couple of years ago, and wear all the time. I also knit a green one for my sister-in-law which she loves. I’m using  a 4mm hook, though think a 3.5mm would also work nicely.

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I hope you’ve had a lovely Sunday too.

Warming

It’s -2 0c today, it’s snowing steadily (The blobs on the top photo are snowflakes sailing down close to the camera lens) and we’re expected to have 6″ inches by the end of the day, with it continuing to snow over the weekend. 60 schools, and counting, are closed  with announcements that many are to finish at lunchtime. I love the drama!

I also love the warming winter food. This is today’s menu so far:

Porridge with apricots for breakfast

Carluccio’s Florentine hot chocolate for elevensies

Bacon sandwiches later for lunch. YUM.

What’s the weather doing where you are?

2012

It’s my blog birthday today !

A year of crochet, a little knitting and embroidery, people, places, food and quite a lot of  chat.  I’ve enjoyed making bloggy contacts, having a peep at what you’re making, reading about your favourite things and getting to know your part of the world.

I look forward to maybe meeting some more of you in person next year for some social crochet-knitting-sewing-whatever get togethers. :-D

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HaPpy NEw YEaR EvERyOnE!

Ed’s Easy Diner

This is Ed’s Easy Diner Rupert Street, Central London. We’ve been going to this one and the Soho diner for years. The burger are yumalicious and ohhhh the shakes! I just can’t remember if mine (pictured) was pnb or banana & pnb, but whatever it was mmmmmm.

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If you go I defy you not to end up singing along to the classics and bet you (also) end up doing a bit of chair dancing!

Chilli & Lentil soupyness

It’s grey and rainy today. In the middle of our wonderful summer! Yes. This is irony.
I wondered about salad for lunch and then decided what I really craved was lentil and chilli soup. I just felt the need for something warming. It’s a BBC Good Food recipe that I’ve used time and time again, usually in the winter months!
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Do you fancy making this too?

Lentil & tomato soup

Heat a pan and dry-fry 2 tsp cumin seeds and a good pinch of chilli flakes until they smell nice and pungent.
Add a tablespoon of oil and chopped red onion, cook for five minutes.
Stir in 140 g of split red lentils with 850ml of vegetable stock and 400 g can tomatoes. Simmer for 15 minutes until lentils have softened.
Whizz in a liquidiser or use a stick blender until its chunky. Put back into the pan and add a few tablespoons of chick-peas. Makes 4 portions. Serve garnished with chopped coriander and a swirl of yoghurt/creme fraiche/double cream.

Yum!

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Martha’s school dinners

Have you heard about Martha (aka ‘Veg’) Payne’s blog NeverSeconds?

There was an item about it on the Radio2 news this afternoon and intrigued I logged on to look at Martha’s blog (along with hundreds of others; I’ve never seen a blog counter increase as fast!) You must look too. Read and look at the pics from her first post at the end of April to today…. and beyond….

If you are also impressed with what this clever girl has accomplished then make a donation to Mary’s Meals.

What a girl!