Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Slow Down For Mrs Tiggywinkle

We have some amazing animal road signs in this country, in order to alert drivers of creatures which may be crossing the road. On average, 7 people are killed on our roads every year because of incidents involving animals in the road, and a further 1000 a year are injured. 
Sadly in the majority of these accidents, the animals are killed.
There are lots of Department of Transport signs warning about larger animals
Horses, cows, deer, and sheep.
...and smaller animals like frogs badgers and ducks
But this year a new sign has been introduced

Slow down for hedgehogs!
The Government hopes that these signs will not only reduce accidents and save lives, but also help the animal populations to flourish.
I visited a friend yesterday, and her husband was busy making a 'hedgehog house' as they'd spotted a hedgehog in their garden. We talked about ways to help hedgehogs - check out Hedgehog Street for more information. Our determination to keep our gardens to ourselves does not help- one average garden is not big enough for a hedgehog to roam and forage properly - a hedgehog can happpilytravel one mile in a night.
Hedges are better than fences and walls - but if you must have the latter, then a hole 13cm in diameter makes a good hedgehog highway. 13cm is too small a hole for almost all common pets to escape through. You can even buy signs [nb I do not think the hogs can read them though] DO NOT leave out bread and milk, whatever your granny may have told you. A saucer of water and another of dogfood is a much better diet
Before you strim, or light a bonfire in your garden, check there are no hogs hiding - but do leave a pile of rotting twigs and leaves in the corner for them to burrow into - or build them a hog-house. Grow native plants, and avoid using slug pellets. These are simple things to do - but will encourage hedgehogs into your garden. Let us hope they are happy and stay there, and do not venture out onto the roads in search of better habitats.

You could also buy a pint of Hobson's Brewery "Old Prickly, Snuffly Hedge Grog" beer. Hobsons are donating profits to the British Hedgehog Preservation Society- in the last 7 years, that has amounted to over £43,000 pounds!
How I wish I had Mrs Tiggywinkle to do all my ironing for me!  Hedgehog, Hedgepig, Tiggywinkle, Fuzzypeg, Urchin, Hotchi-Potchi... did your family use any of the traditional nicknames for these spiky little creatures when you were growing up?

Monday, 17 June 2019

Polly Who? Or The Confessions Of A Vinegar Mother...

If you don't know about Vinegar Mothers, check out this article.
I decided I was going to use some of my distilled pickling vinegar to pickle some garlic. The various articles about it online implied it was a very easy process- and that a jar of pickled garlic is very useful to have in the cupboard. You can use the cloves in recipes calling for fresh garlic -and it is convenient to have them already peeled. I bought a handful of plump bulbs from the supermarket and assembled everything in the kitchen.
Ingredients; Kettle, vinegar, garlic, some mustard seeds, and some saffron strands.
Equipment; Sieve, jug, saucepan, sterilised kilner jar, spoon.
First you need to remove the papery skins. Separate the cloves, put them in a jug, cover with boiling water. Leave for 90 seconds. 
Now tip them into a sieve and run under the cold tap to cool. You will not believe how easily the skins rub off. They looked so pretty, like delicate pink flower petals, 
but I had to put them in the food waste as I couldn't think of a use for them. Put the vinegar in the pan and bring to the boil.
Put I tsp mustard seeds into a jar, with a few saffron strands. Drop in the pristine white cloves. Pour over the boiling vinegar, seal the jar, and wait...
And that's it. The saffron strands should tint the liquid a pale golden hue and the mustard add a little spice to the final result. I felt so pleased. This cost the fraction of a ready made jar from the shop, and I made this in the time it took to listen to The Archers. Later in the evening we went into the kitchen to make a cuppa.  And my garlic had gone BLUE. An alarming bluey green shade. Oh no!!
Bob opened the lid- some cloves at the top, barely submerged in the pale yellow liquid, were a delicate Tiffany blue colour. I love Tiffany blue 
What a waste, what went wrong, do you think? Bob, ever resourceful, googled "Why is my pickled garlic blue?"
And yes, blue/green garlic is a 'thing'. There is nothing at all to worry about. Science bit...when you cut or crush garlic, you create an organosulphate compound called allicin. This is what gives garlic its odour and flavour. When the garlic meets an acid [like vinegar] the allicin reacts with the amino acids in the garlic to form rings of carbon-nitrogen called pyrrholesThe phyrroles link to form POLY-pyrrholes which create colours. Three clustered together make blue, four clustered make green [hence chlorophyll is green] 
It is all perfectly safe, perfectly edible, so do not fret. In fact, at Chinese New Year, the jade-green laba-garlic is greatly prized, considered beautiful and healthy. I guess it won't be noticeable when the garlic is inside a stew or sauce - but I am a little miffed that none of the recipes I read beforehand actually mentioned this possible side effect! [To be fair, the Sarson's recipe uses malt vinegar, and I guess the blue/green tinge wouldn't show up]    Blue garlic - who knew?

Sunday, 16 June 2019


A really busy day today- because we have a baptismal service at Church - the first one since we arrived here.
Sarah [a teenager] and Mike and Ann [a married couple, both pensioners] are the three lovely candidates. Praying this will be a truly special day for them.
I haven't forgotten it is Fathers' Day as well - I am grateful for all the good and loving fathers out there.
May your day be special too, whatever you are doing.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Of Vinegar And Virgins

Bob's Belgian roots means that he dips his chips in mayo - my Essex roots mean I liberally sprinkle vinegar on mine. As a child, that always meant Sarson's. The company has been around since 1794, started by Thomas Sarson. In 1884 his grandson Henry registered the name "Sarson's Virgin Vinegar". This was from the bible story [Matthew 25] of the wise women who were prepared. This is the year after Abram Lyle put Samson's lion on his syrup tin. Why don't manufacturers do this nowadays? Millett's could put Jael and her hammer on their tentpegs [Judges 5] Silentnight could put Abishag on the electic blankets [1KIngs1] Velux could have Eutychus [Acts 20]...but I digress
The vinegar debate started because my shaker-bottle was empty. I usually remove the top and refill from a larger more economical bottle. Here's a helpful video to show you how to get the top off...

However, this time I ended up buying a new shaker bottle in the supermarket. It appeared to be good value. When I got home however I  compared the old and the new. No wonder it seemed good value - the new one holds considerably less than the old. 
Bob came downstairs in the middle of all this activity and said "There's a bottle of vinegar on a shelf in the garage"
I said I thought it was pickling vinegar and he went off to find out. Yes, it was!
I have no idea how old it is. All my chutney making of late has been in Norfolk - I suspect this bottle came with us from the cupboard in Kirby Muxloe. But there seems to be no best before date. It does seem that vinegar doesn't need one, as white distilled vinegar will remain essentially unchanged over a very long period of time.
I decided to have a look at the Sarson's website and see if there was anything I fancied pickling. 
The jar says on the side "This will hold 1kg of winter veg or 12-15 eggs" which is sort of useful. [Once you realise that not all the vinegar will go back into the jar once it is full of eggs, so another container will be needed] But I do not like pickled eggs, and I prefer to malt vinegar for pickled onions.
You will just have to wait till Monday to find out what I did next
[one final anecdote- back in the 1960's  I remember my Dad had to mark some Boys' Brigade Bible Exam Papers. One lad had written "And when the foolish virgins came back, they discovered all the wise virgins had married the bridegroom" 
If you don't know the story, find a Bible and look it up!]

Friday, 14 June 2019

Last Night I Dreamt I Went...

...to Poundbury Again...
We had to go to Dorchester on Tuesday, to see the Registrar [long story, involving change in the law re Church Marriage Registers] and we decided to drive a few miles up the road afterwards to look round Poundbury.
This is the new 'model village' conceived by HRH Prince of Wales 30 years ago, which is on the Western side of Dorchester. There are all sorts of interesting things about this village - it is designed to be sustainable[biomass generator, electric buses etc] and the inhabitants have to sign a strict covenant, ensuring that they only repaint their front doors from a given range of shades, and follow other rules about community life.
The place has the craziest mixture of architectural styles- a Guardian article in 2016 said
From flint-clad cottages and Scottish baronial villas to Palladian mansions and miniature pink gothic castles, Poundbury is a merry riot of porticoes and pilasters, mansards and mouldings, sampling from the rich history of architectural pattern books with promiscuous glee. The Butter Cross bakery is dressed as an early 19th-century brick gazebo, crowned with a gilded orb. It looks on to a little market square, where cast-iron verandahs face off against a creamy rendered terrace, watched over by a neoclassical office block that is raised on an arcaded plinth. It seems grand for a village square.
The first phase, built in the early 90s, was based on a villagey “Dorset vernacular”, the latest piazza has cranked up the dial to full Greco-Roman. A doric colonnade marches along the front of a new Waitrose…Across the square. Strathmore House, a palatial pile that could have been airlifted in from St Petersburg, contains eight luxury apartments beneath its royal-crested pediment. Next door stands the white stone heft of the Duchess of Cornwall, Poundbury’s first hotel, based on Palladio’s Convento della CaritĂ  in Venice.

Yes, exactly - it is truly the stuff of psychedelic fantasy. If you watched Philip K Dick's "Electric Dreams" last year, starring Timothy Spall, you will have seen Poundbury
We parked our car in the rain and walked towards the Buttermarket.
On street parking is free. I was relieved that our car was clean [due to heavy rain] and had a National Trust Sticker. No Delboy Trotter Reliant Robins, or rusty old Fords with Dale&Marlene windscreen stickers here!
We went into a few shops [sorry, emporia - 'shop' is far too mundane a term] but were not tempted to purchase anything.
It was midday so we had a snack in the Cafe - very eco-conscious [bring your own cup/avoid plastic straws/etc] and the menu listed the local sources used for ingredients.
The prices looked OK so we ordered soup & sourdough [Bob] beans on toast [me] when the dishes arrived I thought they were pitifully small portions.  After eating, we wandered around a bit - but it was surreal- a cross between a ghost town and a film set. There was no happy village atmosphere...The rain had stopped, but there was hardly anybody about, and it was all alarmingly silent.
We strolled back past the fountain [erected to celebrate the wedding of Charles & Camilla] and drove back into Central Dorchester.
Here was life, with bustling, happy people - and cheerful orange campervans
[Yes I did ask permission to take the photo] "It's orange to make people happy" said the owner. We went into Oxford's bakery and had the Biggest Belgian Buns I have ever seen - only £1.40 each!
Look at these!

3000 people live in Poundbury - by 2025, they hope to have the final target of 4500. Prices are 30% higher than those in nearby Dorchester. Despite the 'sustainable/eco-friendly' aims, car use in Poundbury is considerably higher than in the surrounding West Dorset. Are the residents just eager to get away, or driving off to earn their living elsewhere?
It just didn't feel real.
OK, I may be an uncultured pleb - but I felt that despite Poundbury's interesting architecture, and colour co-ordinated front doors, I was much more at home with the chatty shoppers and hotchpotch of cheery shop fronts in Dorchester.
Poundbury felt like an upmarket set for a British version of The Truman Show. I felt like an outsider, I understood Mr Spall's anxiety - and could see why the place was picked as the film set for this SciFi piece.
Have you ever visited Poundbury?
What did you think of it?

Thursday, 13 June 2019


Every so often, we host a "Girls' Night In" Event at church, and last Saturday, the GNI was a "Swishing Party"  There were a few raised eyebrows when this was announced.
Guests each brought 3 garments [according to strict rules- ladieswear, in good condtion- no holes, stains, broken zips etc. No nightwear, swimwear, lingerie, accessories, jewellery or shoes]
These were all put on a rail and everyone paid £1.50 and received 3 tickets.
We had time to eat cake and drink coffee,
Time to look at the different garments on the rails
Then the tickets were drawn at random, and everyone got an opportunity to go and grab a new garment. We had a lot of laughs
No I didn't choose either of these for myself. I ended up with two black and white tunic tops to wear with leggings and a pretty summer dress.
The latter needs 'a little bit of work' but I shall post pictures later.
Good things - it was great fun, people made new friends, and much cake was consumed.
Best things - we raised £49 for Christians against poverty, we 'rehomed' 75 garments, and sent another 25 to Charity.
It worked way better than I could have imagined, the teenagers who'd come along with their Mums were surprised to go home with new clothes they really liked - and quite a few who'd come along just for the social event [and an opportunity to clear out their wardrobe] found new stuff too.
People are already speaking about doing another Swishing Party next year! [if you want to do one, email me and I will send you a copy of our explanatory flyer]

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

More Cake Is Coming!

I do love looking at the skilled work of miniaturists - and have just discovered a new one; Matteo Strucci, a young Italian in his twenties makes delightful compositions using model people and cake! I listened recently on Radio 4 Extra, to a dramatisation of Gulliver's travels and his Lilliputian Adventures. Matteo calls his work "I Dolci di Gulliver" - the desserts of Gulliver. You can read about this here, but I have selected some of his creations [he puts them on Instagram regularly] to whet your appetite.
Kayaking round a creme caramel
Taking a LandRover across a parched landscape
Using a crane to construct a langues-de-chat multi storey carpark
Rowing across the chocolate lake to the landing stage

Cracking hazelnuts for the roof
Dastardly Dean Men's Fingers
Rowing out of the chocolate cave
Chocolate Mines

Undersea Croissant Submarines
Pistachio Harvesting
Apartment Waffle
Tiramisu Quarrying

Assembling a Lemon Layer cake
Practising your swing
Snowy Mountain Activities
Mathematical Croissant Assembly
This last one with the brioche reminds me of the Christmas Song "bumping up and down on a camel". Aren't these clever? Who do you think gets to eat them after the photos have been taken?