Sunday 30 June 2019

Sunday Thoughts...

I really like the writings of Joshua Becker. Of all the minimalists whose work I have read, I find his words so often chime with my own thoughts. 
I like that he's becoming minimalist - he doesn't claim to have got there yet. I'm impressed by his determination to be consistent in his lifestyle. He's pursued this for more than a decade now, and become relatively wealthy - but he and his wife have set up a charity to help orphans, so that others may be blessed.
I am by nature a busy person - but not being busy is not a mark of failure, and being busy is not a badge of honour. It is okay not to be busy...
I recently read this piece by JB, and I have found it quite challenging.
Dallas Willard defined discipleship this way, “trying to live your life the way Jesus would live your life.”  I really like that.  It’s a helpful thought for me.  I don’t have to try and relive Jesus’ life exactly how he lived it – He already lived that life.  Instead, I need to take the life that God has given to me and ask the question, “How would Jesus live it if he were living my life?”  With that in mind, I look around my home and wonder, “Is this what Jesus’s house would look like if he were living my life?  Would his closet look this full?  Would his kitchen have this many gadgets?  Would he have spent as much on home furnishings and decorations as I have?”  Most of the time, I answer in the negative.  It seems to me the minimalist life is more in-tune with the life that Jesus would live. 

Saturday 29 June 2019

Threads Of Life

I heard an extract of "Threads Of Life- A history of the world through the eye of a needle" on Radio 4, when it was Book of the Week a couple of months ago. So I ordered it from the library. Clare Hunter is a Scottish textile artist, and this is her first book.
She has divided her book into 16 chapters, with thematic titles like Captivity, Connection, Community, Power, Place, Protect, Identity, Loss etc.
There is much detail of various pieces of stitched work throughout history, and of how many women [and fewer men] have used the language of sewing to make their voices heard, across the world.
WARNING -I was so looking forward to this book -but found it deeply unsatisfying on a number of levels. If you have reserved it at the library [I have to get this copy back promptly, there is apparently a queue of readers awaiting it] then please do not read my review, as I don't want to put you off, you might love it.
HERE'S MY REVIEW- The book is very much the author's story, she has travelled the world with her needle, and so many chapters are her anecdotes about meeting Aborigine women, and Chinese ladies etc. Furthermore, she is based in Scotland - so in her discussion of Mary Queen of Scots, she laments that there is little of the royal embroidery to see in Scotland - neglecting to mention the V&A collection, or the Oxburgh Collection in Norfolk - she writes as if there are virtually no examples extant anywhere. 
Whilst she has covered a lot of ground in her book about "the social, emotional and political influence of sewing" [her description] I was really disappointed that apart from passing references to medieval nuns and the Bible Quilts of American slaves, the huge contribution of the Christian church to needlecraft has been almost completely overlooked [apart from a few rather negative examples of misguided missionaries]
Where is any mention of the great Quaker Tapestry, which gave the world a new crewel stitch, now recognised world-wide?
Where are George Mueller's Bristol Orphans, learning their special redwork embroidery, in order to prepare them for a trade when they grew up?
Or Elizabeth Fry, visiting the women prisoners bound for transportation to Australia, giving each a bag of fabric, needles and thread - so they could stitch a quilt on the long voyage [to use for warmth, or sell, or use as proof of skill, once they got to the Antipodes]?
The woman in Woolwich who set up 4 sewing machines in her church hall, to teach lonely, frightened Somali refugees how to sew, back in the 1990s [sorry, I can't recall her name] and it became a significant support group.
I could list loads more examples - but you get my point.
But that's just me - I see my own stitching gifts as God-given, and to be used to bless others. I'd hoped she might have picked that idea up somewhere from her research.
Here are my general gripes - The very clear lack of proper proofreading. This is her first book, and I think one of the Editors at Hodder/Hachette should have made a lot more of an effort here.
Spelling mistakes - miniscule and sweat pea to mention just two
Basic errors - reference to "the eight corners of a hexagon" and "Pythagoras' Theory"
And as for historical inaccuracies - [many of the Amazon reviews cite her significant errors about the Bayeaux Tapestry] she is 70 years early with the Foundling Hospital, the 17th/18th/19th centuries get very blurred [eg saying 18th century when she means 1800s] and her first reference to the Suffragettes talks about their red, white and green colours.
I got to the point where the number of mistakes over things I did know about made me doubt the information she was giving in her stories of needlework I didn't know about. My frequent mutterings about "that's not right" and "rubbish!" definitely disturbed Bob's bedtime reading.
Because the chapters are thematic rather than chronological, it is hard to go back and check up on things - an index would have really helped here.
But the biggest fault ?
How are we meant to envisage things when we do not really know what they are, and what they look like? Hunter does her best with descriptive language. In 100 words she carefully explains an antimacassar stitched by Margaret MacDonald [wife of Charles Rennie Mackintosh] I sketched my impression of what this would look like from her words. Then I googled an image of it- and my drawing was completely wrong. Illustrations would really make this book come alive - and be very useful for those of us who cannot immediately call to mind what "Cretan stitch" is. I have deliberately avoided putting pictures in this post, which I think makes it less interesting than it might be.
This lady is clearly a gifted textile worker, and feels strongly that stitchery is a silent language which should be used to make the voices of the people heard more loudly, and to keep telling their stories after they have passed on. I admire her for that. But sadly I found this this book a real let-down. 
So it only gets **

Friday 28 June 2019

As Nice As Pie

On Tuesday we had a lazy, rather late start, a couple of things to buy...and then lunch. It was already gone 1.30pm. Where? I asked, and Bob's instant response was "The Pie Shop". He explained he followed this place on Facebook.
This little gem is in Pokesdown, which is snuggled between Boscombe and Southbourne. One of the suburbs of Bournemouth which grew rapidly at the turn of the 20th Century after the arrival of the railway station.
We went inside and ordered lunch - pie chips and gravy. Matt, the proprietor, apologised that there was very little left in his hot cabinet as it was late in the day for lunchtime diners. We didn't mind - I chose a beef pasty and Bob had chicken and chorizo.
The chill cabinets were full of an amazing array of pies - meaty, veggie and vegan.
Here's the hot cabinet shown before lunch!
Whilst Matt prepare our chips, Bob popped across the road to check out the junk shop opposite, whilst I studied the pie shop's photo display.
Matt explained that a local History Group had prepared these panels, and asked is he would be willing to display them in his shop, so the general public could view them. 
They are photos from about 1880-1930, plus advertisements for local businesses. Loads to look at!
The Bolton family were key people in the community - he ran a bakery, and was leader of the council etc - that's his wife top left.
Good food was, and is, an important part of local life.
Here's our food - the pastry was tasty, not too thick, the fillings were generous, and well flavoured. The little jugs poured rich gravy just where we wanted it. The chips were well cooked, hot, not greasy.
Matt came and had a chat to us and answered our questions about his veggie/vegan ranges, and the different flavours in ingredients.
He delivers his pies locally, including to OAPs and Care Homes, and provides pies for events. He makes up hampers and pie-boxes for gifting [the Fathers' Day Hamper sold out very quickly] We were generally very impressed. You can read more here on the Facebook Page.
After I had eaten my food, I did a quick review on the FB page, and said to Bob "This will be going on the blog, it is brilliant".
As we went to pay, Matt opened his chiller cabinet "I'm sorry there was so little choice for your lunch pies. As it is your first time here, and I'd like you to come back again, please choose a pie each to take home". We came away with a chicken&mushroom, and a Moroccan chicken pie. How generous is that! Thanks Matt - and yes, we will definitely be going back!

Thursday 27 June 2019

This Craft Rocks! [Almost A Tutorial]

I am getting better at resting in the afternons. Daytime TV is very variable - and I am heartily sick of ads for mobility scooters, equity release, and funeral plans! However I do particularly enjoy Rumpole of the Bailey, How It's Made, and old Agatha Christie stuff. I prefer not to watch the shopping channelsbecause they either send me to sleep, or annoy me [why would anybody spend that much on pointless stuff?]
But if I am having an afternoon resting on the sofa, I like to have a task to hand in case of a burst of energy. "Educational cutting out" is such a  task.  I met a supply teacher once, in my early days, who filled in her timetable with "Afternoon activity - ECO & ECI"  That's "Educational Cutting Out, and Educational Colouring In" If work had not been set for her class, she simply produced some sheets from her bag, and gave them to the children along with crayons and scissors, and that was the afternoon's "teaching" sorted. She maintained that the kids loved it, and no school had ever asked her what ECO&ECI stood for, presuming it to be some new teaching scheme.
My ECO&ECI was Noah, plus animals and a rainbow, and little 'house' shapes. I'd come across a Noah's Ark Craft Idea online recently and it looked so much fun, I wanted to use it in another of our Sunday Morning Storybags
This is another craft based on paper plates. For another plate craft, check out my crowns from last summer.
This time you fold the plate in half. Put the shiny side inside. Crayons and felt pens work much better on the matte underside. 
A semicircular folded plate will balanc eon the table - and rock gently on its curved edge.
Colour in the ark, the 'house', Noah, some animals and a rainbow. Stick everything in place...
You end up with a lovely rocking ark!
I cut out the little houses freehand, but email me if you'd like the animal/rainbow templates to use with your children.
I've realised more of my stuff is getting onto Pinterest - and I've had emails from people in  the UK, USA and South Africa recently, asking for my templates to use in their Holiday Clubs/VBS. How exciting is that?
I have to say a huge thankyou  to the ladies from Ferndown who spent Monday afternoon cutting and counting stuff for our club - less than 5 weeks away now.

Wednesday 26 June 2019

For Nazanin And Her Family

This is the Ratcliffe family, Richard, Nazanin, and Gabriella- a picture taken in happier times.
Gabriella is now 5, her Mum is in an Iranian prison [where she has been for 3 years] and her Dad is on hunger strike outside the Iranian Embassy.
If you don't know the story [and I appreciate many of you do not live in the UK, so may not have picked this up] it is this...
Nazanin has dual Iranian/British nationality. She has family in Iran. She works for Reuters News Agency, and in particular for the Thomson-Reuters Foundation - the charitable wing of the company. She was in Iran for TRF, and visiting her family when she was arrested for alleged espionage.
Unfortunately, the then Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, made some very ill judged, totally inaccurate, remarks- which totally contradicted the words of her defence lawyer. And now Nazanin is facing 5 years imprisonment.
Iran's relationship with the west is not good right now - and the Ratcliffes are concerned things may worsen. Nazinin began a hunger strike 11 days ago - Richard her husband is camped outside the Iranian Embassy supporting her in this. 
I was contacted last week by as I had earlier signed the 'Free Nazanin' petition. They said that many people were visiting Richard to show their support, including children, pensioners, and Iranians. But there had been very few MPs showing up, even though it is very close to the Palace of Westminster.  Change asked us to write to our MPs and politely request they went and showed support for this woman and her family.
I tried to imagine how I would feel if Liz were in prison, and Jon went on hunger strike [and Rosie had to be looked after by somebody else] And so I contacted my MP on 19th June. I had a reply yesterday, 25th June.
Well, I sincerely hope "Current Foreign Secretary and Leadership Aspirant, Jeremy Hunt" makes a better job of things than "Former Foreign Secretary and Leadership Aspirant Boris Johnson"
And I notice Mr Chope doesn't even mention my request about making a visit to the Embassy Encampment himself. He's probably too busy planning his next opposition to a Private Member's Bill. Every communication I have had with my MP since I got to Dorset results in a letter which says "Thank you for your letter - that's somebody else's job, not mine". 
I am desperately concerned for this woman and her loved ones. 
Is it time for me to take up the mantle of such noble women as Norfolk- born Elizabeth Fry  and Victorian Philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts, and work for the better treatment of women prisoners? 

If you feel able, please sign the petition
If you're in the UK, maybe contact your MP
If you pray, then please pray for the Ratcliffe family.
Thank you
UPDATE - THE CORRECT LINK IS HERE [thank you FC for spotting my error]

Tuesday 25 June 2019

Ang Can Cook

I've just got a copy of Jack Monroe's latest book; Tin Can Cook, and it has been a fun read.
Now I know not everyone gets on with Jack - certainly in her early days, she frequently came across as a mouthy, aggressive feminist, angry with the world.
But she had reason to be angry, and she was [and still is] fiercely determined to protect her son, and to make the world a better place for him as he grows up. She has no time for mealy-mouthed fat politicians who have made no effort to understand the needs of people trapped in genuine poverty. Having pulled herself out of that situation, she generously gives time and money to help those in need. I respect that. 
She describes Tin Can Cook as 'an entry level' cookbook. Having lived for 6 months on handouts from foodbanks herself, Jack wanted to create easy to follow, simple but tasty meals using stuff-in-tins. In conjunction with the Trussell Trust, Jack has set up a crowdfunding page so people can actually donate a copy of her book [plus three cans of food] to a foodbank in the UK. The Trust will ensure donations are distributed fairly across the country. Being given a food parcel is great- but many recipients look at the contents and wonder what to do with them.
I've boxed up the donations after countless Harvest Festivals and Christmas Collections. There is always a high proportion of baked beanz, canned toms, corned beef, sweetcorn and tinned fruit. If your family is depending on the Foodbank, this selection must get a little monotonous sometimes. Jack's inspired recipes provide easy ways to serve up these basics in an interesting, tasty way. 
This book begins with an introduction, shopping notes for novice cooks and a section wittily entitled "Cansplaining" Then eight chapters on different dishes, from breakfasts through to puddings [passing beans, potatoes, pasta, meat etc on the way]
Jack doesn't want to be a Masterchef, or expect her readers to aim for that either. She wants to create affordable, nourishing meals which are easy to prepare and enjoyable to eat. I applaud her for that.
Her 'cheeky corn fritters' uses a can of corn plus just 2 eggs and a few other bits to make a decent breakfast for a family of 4. Red Lentil and Mandarin Curry is the weirdest recipe, with a crazy story behind it [I shall definitely be trying that one out on Bob soon] Corned Beef Chilli is another with a clever twist.
Not everyone has access to a farmers' market, or Waitrose, a veg box delivery, or even a cheap and cheerful street market, where fresh, good quality meat, fruit and veg are available. Many people rely on tinned food because they cannot get out to the shops easily. 
If you believe eating canned potatoes will kill you, that it is always better to spend more on fresh carrots than open a tin, or that canned sardines are only fit for OAPs, then this is not the book for you. 
If your beloved granny got through WW2 and rationing with a diet full of canned foods, and you always have a can of tomatoes and some mandarins at the back of the cupboard just in case of a National Emergency**, and you enjoy food writing which is laugh-out-loud funny, and not pretentious oneupmanship, then read Tin Can Cook. Borrow it from the library, or buy your own copy - and then donate one to somebody whose budget is so tight they can barely afford ingredients, let alone a cookbook.
[**at some point you will have to eat your way through the contents of that Brexit Box, you know, whatever the outcome of the next few weeks]
I will be posting about my adventures with this book once I have the energy to try them. For now I'll just point you to this Guardian Article which includes some of Jack's Recipes [Liz rates her Crabby Pasta highly] Great book, with good principles behind it *****

Monday 24 June 2019

Not Longer Teaching, But Still Learning

My friend from the Teaching Agency rang in Friday, to ask how I was. After a chat about my health and the pattern of my days [most of which involve a mid-day rest] we agreed that I'm still not strong enough to do a full day in the class room. "I shall de-activate your file, until you are fully recovered" she said "so you won't feel under any pressure". 
I think it was a wise decision.
I told my friend I'd been deactivated - and she said "You are like a robot who has been switched off!"

I was hoping to be considered something a little more glamorous than an inert robot - 

like a  sleeping Wonderwoman, perhaps?
But I acknowledge the reality of the situation - I need to recharge my batteries fully, before trying to get back to being busy every day.

Friends continue to be so kind- thank you E&A for the lovely card last week, you know who you are [I nearly typed A&E, but then people might worry I was back at the hospital!]

Bless made a very helpful comment yesterday - whilst waiting, and resting for renewed strength, it is important to 'live in the moment'. We knew Saturday would be tiring [our annual Ferndown Fete on the Field] and then Sunday morning Church isis usually wonderful, but exhausting. So we decided to treat ourselves to Sunday Lunch at a local carvery. It was really lovely to be able to enjoy a good meal together, prepared by somebody else, and relax and chat with no external pressures. 
I am determined not to fall into the trap of constantly regretting the things I am currently unable to do - that way lies depression and misery. Rather I shall revel in the good things, the little achievements - the small moments as my dear friend Elizabeth has entitled her blog. The Old Testament prophet Zechariah urged people "do not despise the day of small things"
One step at a time, and I shall get there eventually. And I will take my time, and enjoy the journey!

Sunday 23 June 2019

Those Who Wait,

    find new strength
        be strong
            walk and run

Learning to trust and to wait...

Saturday 22 June 2019

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

My friend has a beanbag. She has had it for fifty years, since her teens. It has been repaired, and patched an awful lot of times. Her two [adult] children still come and sit on it. But the fabric is splitting and really it is beyond repair. So she asked if I could help. 
We took out the inner bag, and she said she would get some new beads for it. I took the outer bag home, and dismantled it. It wasn't too hard to make paper patterns for the top, base, and side panels.
To ensure this new cover will last half a century, I seamed the panels, then overlocked the raw edges, then top stitched the seams down, to give extra strength. 
She wants to pass on the bean bag to her son - but bearing in mind that the outer cover will be completely new [and the beans are new too] it will hardly be the same beanbag. 
Do you remember Trigger's Broom?
I decided that the best thing to do was to take a largish piece of the original fabric, and strips from each of the patches. I made a panel which is now sewn on the bottom of the beanbag, and added names, and dates [in the photo below, I have covered the names- they are at top and bottom of the panel]. 
This project has worked out well [do you think they will give me a job on the Repair Shop?] The bag needs a few more beans- but once they are added, it should be ready for sitting on again.
Do you think Jay Blades will give me a job on The Repair Shop?

Friday 21 June 2019

Water, Water, Everywhere

Sunday - The Baptismal Service was amazing! Lots of visitors, and a wonderful atmosphere. Bob always asks another member of the fellowship to help in the water. Sarah's friend Nadia was her supporter- Mike and Ann shared in each other's baptism, which was lovely.
Monday - it rained quite a bit
Tuesday - I was busy with laundry, and being eco friendly with my washing water.
Wednesday - more water -
Bob went to have a quick shower  - and I suddenly heard a plaintive voice "Ang, I need some help!" I dashed into the bathroom, and found one very wet husband, standing in the baptistery  pool of water. A pipe had cracked and as Bob showered, water had been pouring down onto the floor. Fortunately it did not seep through to downstairs. I grabbed towels from the airing cupboard and flung them down to absorb the water. So we are currently without a shower - but we still have the bath.
Thursday - I knelt by the bath and washed my hair using water in a plastic jug. I can't remember when I last did that!
Today- David-The-Deacon is coming round to fit a new shower for us.
Bless has commented about laundry in her youth - and I remember my Mum, boiling the copper, and turning the mangle. And then handwashing clothes at Uni, and putting them through a spin dryer. Newlywed I had a tiny secondhand machine which had to be filled and emptied with a jug - and then rinsing was done in the bath. 
And as for bodies - in my childhood, it was a bath once a week, and a 'strip-wash' at the basin on the other days. And sharing the bath with my baby brother. In 1979 we had a rubber shower attachment which pushed onto the taps- but I think I was in my 30s  before I lived anywhere with a proper plumbed-in shower.
A hundred years ago, my grandmother was in service to Lord & Lady Gamage.  As Lady's Maid she was responsible for preparing the daily baths. She said she was lucky - her employers had hot water plumbed in, it was simply a matter of turning the taps - in many other great houses, maids had to carry many buckets of hot bath water up the stairs from the kitchen in the basement. 
How times have changed!

Thursday 20 June 2019

Swishing Well

So how did I do at the Swishing Party? I got two black and white tunics, which I have been wearing over the past few days with black leggings and boots. They are comfortable, and easy to pull on. I shall get a lot of use out of these.
My third item was an unexpected choice. I'd seen this dress when we were putting things on the rails and been attracted to the shape, and the fabric. But it said "Size 20" both on the inner label, and on the inside of the matching floral fabric belt.
I'm a 12/14 in most ranges.

But we had got to round 3 of drawing the tickets and it hung forlornly on the rail. I was near the end of the 3rd draw, and decided to take it and try it on. Maybe I could alter it- or make something of all that fabric in the skirt? I went off to the side room and tried it on. My friend Dani, who assisted with the zip, said "It really suits you!" I have to say it fitted comfortably, on bust, waist and hips. 
"I'm not a size 20!" I said. But I took it anyway.
Getting home I hung it on the wardrobe door. I didn't like the way the blue lining drooped below the hem [I think that's deliberate, Dani had said earlier] I measured the bust and waist - it was in fact a size 14/36". I wonder if it had been mislabelled, and the original buyer didn't realise and couldn't be bothered to change it?
I googled the label and found the website. This is the Audrey Divinity 50s dress- normally retailing at £38, in sale at £33. But the pretty pictures on the website, showed a dress which appeared to be more ...swish...than mine on the hanger.
Aha! small print says "for maximum volume and full effect, we recommend a 20" organza petticoat, sold separately" [this is normally £25, currently £23] 
How does one get the full effect, and turn my ho-hum 50p bargain, into a perfect Audrey Hepburn frock, without spending a further £23 [plus shipping costs] ? Answer; investigate online tutorials for making petticoats, and rummage in the Great Stash for some netting, and elastic - and in the back of my drawer for a black nylon petticoat from the 1980s. Then spend Saturday evening, crawling round the floor pinning three tiers of ruffles together.
This all seemed to work - but 
1-Forget the bit on the tutorial which said "I ran this little number up in about an hour". I consider myself a fairly competent needleworker, and I'm pretty fast at this sort if thing. It took me almost 3 hours to complete!
2 - The nylon underslip is essential, to stop the net scratching your legs!
3- Be aware that pinning net is difficult- they fall through the holes. Bob was till finding pins on the dining room carpet 3 days later!
The final result was as swish as I could have hoped for. Thank you to all those people who made kind remarks when I wore it on Sunday morning [I was amused by those who said "If I'd known things like that were going to be at the Swish Event, I'd have come"] Final result [please note, she is 5'6", wearing size 78, I am 4'11" wearing size 14 - her legs are much longer, her waist much smaller]
Definitely a bargain.
And yes, we will be having another Girls' Night In Swishing Party at UCF next summer!

Wednesday 19 June 2019

Mrs Tiggywinkle Was A Washerwoman

I'm still thinking about hedgehogs...Beatrix Potter made her jolly little hedgehog a busy worker- she was the laundress for the other animals. She washed and ironed for them, and BP illustrated her work with old fashioned tubs, and "dollies" and flat irons. She was deliberately harking back to 'the old days' before electric irons and washing machines [both already in existence by 1905 when the book was published]
The washing machine has revolutionised life for women - and yet 50% of the world's population do not have access to one.
In Hans Rosling's TED talk, he explains powerfully what a difference it can make to a family, if the washing no longer must be done by hand. In his own childhood in Sweden, it meant his mother had the time to take him to the Library, to read him books, and to teach herself English. For him, it is was and is a miracle machine. It takes less than ten minutes to watch this...

And yet - 50% of the world doesn't have a washing machine - women [and the majority of laundry is done by women] have to carry water, boil water, and physically scrub their clothes. They spend hours every week on this most basic of tasks. So they do not have time to learn to read or write...or to teach their children. Things I take for granted.
- however, the Climate Change Scientists say "Stop! We cannot let everybody have washing machines, they will use so much energy" 
- and the Pollution Experts say "Stop! we mustn't pump more detergent into the oceans, it is killing the wildlife!"
but the washing machine manufacturers, and the detergent companies say "You need to be clean, your shirts must be whiter than white, how lovely to climb into a bed made with fresh sheets every night - with our products you can do those things, and have a better life..."
What can one person do? Well, not much alone, but 

  • I can make sure I don't wash my clothes on long wash-cycles, using hot washes, with multiple rinses. 
  • I can ensure that clothes are worn more than once [or twice] before they go in the laundry bin. 
  • I can ensure that when I do use the machine it is an efficient full load
  • I can avoid using too many 'products' [I gave up fabric conditioner donkeys' years ago, and haven't missed it at all] Drying can be done outside on the line, or on a rack indoors [not in a tumble dryer] 
  • I can investigate using "washballs" instead of powder.
And I can support charities like Water Aid, and Myra's Wells which work to give regular supplies of clean drinking water to the millions who are rightly more concerned about the water their children have to drink than whether their clothes are spotless.

Have you any suggestions about lifestyle changes in terms of laundry? and has anybody any good recommendations for washballs, please?

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?