Monday, 20 September 2021

Fifty Shades Of Red

 Pink, Coral, Cerise, Scarlet, Vermilion, Crimson, Ruby, Burgundy, Maroon, Plum...

This Is Just To Say
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
[William Carlos Williams]

My friend Anne gave me some plums fromt  he tree in her garden [Thanks Anne] Liz reminded me of this WCW poem, which I typed out and stuck on the fridge when the girls were tiny. [note 'typed' - it was a long time ago!]

After a hard day of work outside, I slung my red overalls in the machine- unfortunately Bobs tee shirt and sports socks were in their too. 

The pink colour is very even - and he says he is still OK wearing them [Thanks Bob]

Sunday, 19 September 2021

Matthew 17 ; 20

The raised bed is in place! Bob has been working so hard to get it ready for me to start the gardening adventure in earnest. I've been reading this book avidly, and drawing up plans, and working out what I do first. The book takes you through the year showing exactly what to do and when is you have a raised bed.

The author, Huw Richards is an enthusiastic gardener - aged just 22, he has 500 or so gardening videos on YouTube, and has been described as the greenfingered wunderkind. 

The instructions for September are to sow spinach and mustard [or rocket] seeds directly into the bed. These should give us salad leaves in November. I purchased my seeds and carefully marked out the tiny little trenches with bamboo canes as instructed. These paper packets have a plastic plant label attached to the outside for marking your row, and inside a foil packet of seeds. [99% of you now this stuff already I am sure - forgive me, it's all new to me] 

I decided to do one row of rocket and one row mustard [Huw recommends 'red frill' variety, which 'add a colourful kick to salads'] I was concentrating so hard. Checking the book, marking the row, opening the paper outer very carefully and snipping the corner of the foil pack. 

The spinach rows were fine. Then I did the mustard row, and finally the rocket - only somewhere in the process, I muddled the two packets. These seeds are so tiny, they were really difficult to separate out and plant in the trenches and instead of one row of each I realised I had a half-and-half row. So then I did another mixed row. I guess it will be ok once [if] they grow - as the rocket is green and the mustard is red. But I am cross with myself for making such a mistake at an early stage. - there are mustard seeds all over the place!

In Matthew 17, Jesus says to his disciples Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move.

There are days when I feel that my faith is like my mustard seeds - very tiny and all over the place. I don't need any mountains moving right now - but I do believe God honours our faith, however weak, and he hears our prayers, however softly we whisper them.

I have to leave those seeds in the compost now, trusting they will germinate and grow. And I leave my prayers with God, trusting him to answer. 

Saturday, 18 September 2021

Five Minute Mum

 I've been doing Grandma Duties this week. On Monday I looked after baby Jess whilst Liz collected Rosie from school [they cycle together] I set up a simple afterschool activity on the kitchen table using Ro's vast collection of tiny plastic animals, some Duplo, and some Kinetic Sand

Rosie worked out what to do and happily found all the cars and dogs and put them in their allocated places. And didn't really notice she was getting extra practice at reading and counting 

I made this game up myself. But if you need inspiration for activities with young children, Liz recommends this one. Daisy Upton is a mum of two and former classroom assistant. Her principle is that even a five minutes activity spent with small children will give them joy [and a few moments of  peace for their busy carers] 
This book is teeming with great ideas and simple activities - and most just need simple stuff already in the toybox or the kitchen. Daisy is a great encourager, assuaging the unnecessary guilt which some young Mums feel [she says - remember this is NOT a competition, you ARE NOT a teacher]
Daisy's  second book is aimed at children who are at school - with clear explanations of phonics terminology for confused parents, so they can have a clear idea about the projects involving words and reading. 
I am aware that doing such activities with children has been a huge part of my life - but never think that because you aren't a "professional" you can't make a significant difference to the way the children around you learn and grow. 

I know Liz and Ro have really enjoyed trying out the ideas in this book - and I'm happy to endorse Liz's recommendation - a good present for parents, grandparents, and anyone else who has to keep the children occupied sometimes!

Three days in London is always fun - on Tuesday I pushed the buggy to school in the afternoon, and found one area cordoned off, as they were filming the new 6-part TV series "Trigger Point" starring Vicky McClure [Line of Duty etc] I didn't see VC herself - but many of the cast were inside The Ship pub, having their make-up done, and there were loads of "police cars" getting ready for "an incident" to be filmed. This looks like it should be worth watching

Friday, 17 September 2021

You Wood Enjoy This!

I was so busy posting about ZeroWasteWeek, that I completely forgot to post about our visit to The workhouse. We last visited ten years ago
I'd read that their Summer Specials were concluding with a demonstration of woodcraft, and I figured Bob would enjoy this

The woodworker was still preparing when we arrived, so we went inside and had a good look round the Museum. Some displays had changed since our last visit, others had been re-organised during lockdown and were one-way or distanced. All the 'hands-on' stuff for children had temporarily been put away.

I shall post more about the Museum itself later. Ithas some great hostorical artefacts. After seeing all the inside stuff, we had a snack lunch in The Mardlers' Rest CafĂ©, then looked round outside. There's a fantastic new outdoor play area. And we spent ages talking to Adam the woodcarver.

He was working at a pole lathe, and had also been carving spoons.

All sorts of lovely items on sale - spoons, dragonfly tops for garden canes, butter knives with colourful handles, plant dibbers, honey dribblers ...

And don't you just love his leaf bunting? That was the safety line to stop children getting too close to the demo. The little flags were made by banging the leaves into the fabric. A collaborative project with his son and his wife. 

I was fascinated by the way a 'blank' of wood is shaped and carved into a smooth spoon, so tactile, so lovely to handle.

This is 'greenwood' work - unlike Bob's use of 'seasoned' wood on his lathe.

Adam and I spent ages discussing the teaching of manual skills in schools, the virtues of 'make do and mend', and the joy of creating something from scratch - be it a spoon, a sweater or a sourdough loaf.

I could have spent the whole day watching him working, 

It turns out that Adam only lives a few miles from Cornerstones - and he runs training workshops . Not only in spoon carving, but also in axe throwing, archery, paddle-boarding and more. I cannot throw dice reliably, but suggested Bob might enjoy throwing an axe. 

Adam gave me a leaflet and told me to check out his website. He kindly said I could use pictures from the site on the blog too. [thank you!]

Do check out his site - there are all sorts of lovely little gifts on sale, and courses to sign up for.

My next retirement adventure? I shall be going to a spoon carving workshop at the end of the month! Not Bob, ME - maybe I won't have the knack of carving, but it will be lovely to have a go. Watch this space...

"Spoons By Adam" - turning the humble spoon and more into beautiful objects for the home

Thursday, 16 September 2021

All Your Eggs In One Basket?

 Our language is full of egg phrases

  • she's a good egg [or a rotten egg]
  • can't boil an egg
  • the goose that lays the golden egg
  • you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs
  • the curate's egg
  • to egg someone on
  • egg on your face
I'm sure you can think of others. I love the fact that it is so easy round here to find fresh, free range eggs. I usually get mine from the farm at the edge of the village. But on Sundays, the cottage near the chapel has this sign outside
I love the idea of eggs being described as fruit, drops, or berries. I'm not sure I've ever eaten duck or quail eggs though - have you?

When I was making my terrine of summer fruits for dinner with Adrien and Marion, Delia instructed that "strawberries must be halved if they are larger than a quail's egg" How big is that? I wondered.

Here you are - hen's egg at the top, quail is smaller, duck is larger. Average sizes of these [height/diameter] as follows
duck 65/44 mm
hen 58/40 mm
quail 35/27 mm
Quail is clearly a lot smaller. I didn't want to spend an afternoon with a tape measure, checking every piece of fruit - so I worked out a quick solution.

top tip of the day - 
 if your strawberry will sit neatly inside an upturned bottle cap, that meets Delia's size requirements
I still have not eaten a quail's egg though [you don't seem to get much bang for your cluck buck] 

UPDATE thank you to Anne, who graciously emailed me to point out I'd put cm not mm in my egg sizes. Oops! She gently suggested that the idea of a hen producing an egg 2 feet high is a bit eye watering. Do you remember the Good Life and Margot's Cracker Joke?

Wednesday, 15 September 2021


At the end of July, we visited my SIL &BIL in the Cotswolds. We had such a great time. Denise and Kevin were gracious hosts, and it was so good to chat, see their new home, and visit local gardens. While we were there, Denise presented me with a challenge - she had begun knitting a hooded jacket for her granddaughter Polly, but it had gone wrong. She'd unpicked and tried again. Same result - so please could I fathom it out? Denise is a competent knitter but an even better gardener. Over the weekend she gave me so much help with my garden planning - this seemed a fair exchange of skills. I brought the wool and pattern home.

You see the garment is knitted in garter [plain] stitch throughout, and it says "Easy knit design"?

Well we were both hoodwinked. It was surprisingly complex. I did my usual thing of going through and circling the specific instructions for the 4th size. Three inches in, I realised I'd gone wrong. I 'frogged' it -that's where you remove the needles and pull out stitches to the point of the error. Allegedly "Rip it! rip it!" sounds like a frog, hence the name.

I tried again. And again. The back was knitted in a T-shape - with increasing on both sides to get the sleeves. The fronts were inverted L-shapes and instructions for the sleeve increases, neck decreases and buttonholes were written out in a way I found totally confusing. So I went through the pattern and rewrote the whole thing, row by row - but only noting the specific instructions for the 4th size. At the 5th attempt, I ended up with a finished jacket.

It is not the best garment I have ever knitted, but it will keep Polly warm and comfy when her grandparents take her out in the buggy. I will say that Stylecraft Bambino is pleasant to knit with. A soft, 'anti-pilling' yarn,100% washable,[useful for childrenswear] - and not too expensive. 
Denise and family are pleased with the jacket - and she apologised [quite unnecessarily] for "Inflicting the pattern" on me, saying "If it challenged your Bletchley Park genes, it must have been hard"

Denise and Kevin celebrated their Ruby Wedding recently - so I posted off the jacket along with a card I'd made. I'm so grateful for my loving family.

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Fruits Of My Labours

Apologies about the odd behaviour of comments box yesterday - not sure what was happening. Further news of my adventures in gardening

Convinced that when the man came to collect the skip, the apple tree would get knocked, and the rest of the fruit would fall, I harvested what remained of the crop. I got just 500g of fruit, but it tasted good, even though the apples were small. Next year... 

I picked 3.5 kg of pears from the tree. Their skins were rather blemished - but I have peeled, blanched and frozen them to make pies and puddings later.

I bought some tomato plants from B&Q but they shrivelled and died. I paid 50p each for some more plants, which a village resident had left outside their house on a table, with an Honesty Box. 

I may have grown my first ever successful crop of tomatoes! I am greatly heartened by this progress on the gardening front, and hope that in 2022, when I can concentrate properly and not have builders, skips, and diggers around - and the path and lathe palace are completed - I shall be able to grow much more. Fruit and flowers...

Bob is being so encouraging - I shall post some pictures soon of the amazing raised bed which he is building for me as part of my gardening adventure. 

I'm so grateful for his support [but a bit scared it might all fail] I tried vegetable gardening back in 2009, it was not exactly a resounding success.