Saturday 31 July 2021

American Graffiti

I love word patterns - and especially where you have the same vowel repeated in a word

caraway, bejewel, bikinis, monopod, cumulus. Such a word is rococo - defined as 'architecture characterized be an elaborately ornamental late barque style of decoration, prevalent in 18th century Europe, with asymmetrical patterns involving motifs and scrollwork, and pastel colours'

On Sunday afternoon, Denise and Kevin took us to the amazing Rococo Gardens in Painswick. In 1830, Charles Hyett, a wealthy landowner built Painswick House [now Grade I listed] and on his death, his son Benjamin inherited the estate. Following the fashions of the time, he had an elaborate garden laid out in Rococo style. With deceptive vistas, serpentine paths, and peppered with follies, the garden was a delight to all who visited. He commissioned a local artist, Thomas Robyns to paint his garden in 1748.

But tastes change, rococo was deemed vulgar, and the garden was altered. By 1950, it was abandoned and planted with timbers. In 1984, two men saw this painting in an exhibition of Robyns' work - and wrote about it. The then owners of the House, Lord and Lady Dickinson, were inspired to restore the garden to its former glory. Forty years on, that garden looks like this
The artwork was used as a guide for the replanting. It was such a beautiful afternoon as we walked among the plants. Denise is not only a fantastic gardener, but also a good teacher. Knowing that I am determined to be better at gardening in retirement, she spent ages pointing out plants which would be good to grow [and the difficult ones to avoid] Having an expert guide alongside me was great- but I didn't take as many pictures as usual.

This folly curves round a pond, its intricate columns reflecting in the water. The layout of the kitchen garden shows the fruit and vegetable planting - vivid splashes of colour among the lush green foliage.
I liked the little folly which was almost like a chapel - arched windows and a lovely wooden seat- and the windows etched [in Latin] with quotations from the Song of Solomon. 
The flowers appear o the earth, and the voice of the turtle dove is heard in our land.
I am my beloved's and he is mine, he feeds among the lilies
Arise my love, my fair one and come away. 
There were lovely wooden sculptures in the woods, lots of natural habitats for bees and birds and one very interesting folly
During WW2, the garden was a ruin - and some USAF troops were stationed nearby. They came to Painswick - and wrote their names on the inside of these columns [you can see Bob reading them]
Now this American Graffiti is preserved as a record of what was happening at the garden over 7 decades ago. There is a sign asking people not to add their contemporary graffiti. Sadly it appears that some visitors ignoted the polite request, and have put their names and dates on the wall too. As Kevin said, then it was history, now it is vandalism.
After a reviving cuppa in the tearoom, we moved on to climb Painswick Beacon [aka Kimsbury Hill Fort] The weather wasn't quite good enough to see everything - but it was pretty astounding nonetheless, and worth making the ascent.

What a fabulous day! The beauty of Cotswold architecture, the glories of the gardens- and the awesome vistas across the countryside. And great company, good food, and happy conversation. Our 2 days away felt like our first proper holiday in years! Bob and I felt very blessed, and so thankful for our family. 

Friday 30 July 2021

Glorious Gloucestershire

It is nearly 30 years since we had a family holiday in the Cotswolds. We stayed then at a farm cottage near Evesham. So it was lovely to visit Bob's sister in her new home just outside Stroud at the weekend. Denise and Kevin made us so welcome, and we crammed an awful lot into the two days we were with them. 

I cannot remember the last time we stayed somewhere away from home - and after 3½months living in a bungalow in flat Norfolk, it was fabulous to wake in upstairs bedroom, with a view across the valley to the beautiful town of Painswick. We had a relaxed Sunday morning, driving into town after breakfast to look around the place which calls itself "The Queen of the Cotswolds"
St Mary's Parish church is set in a churchyard with 99 impressive yew trees - each with a number on it! Folktales abound - mainly to do with the devil killings off the 100th tree. 
The outline of a soldier honours those locals who died in the World Wars. - and Tilly the Church Cat has her own memorial tablet. 
We couldn't go inside, as there was a service happening.
This lovely half-timbered building at the end of the church yard had verses from the Magnificat and the Epistles painted on it. It is the lychgate where pallbearers would rest with the coffin as they awaited the priest who would conduct the funeral. The Tourist Information Office is now housed in the old Gravedigger's Hut!

They really like their art here- the former public toilets now house a small gallery, wittily named The Loovre.
Nearby the Painswick Centre, a turn of the century building in Arts and Crafts style, was one of the first to be built in reconstituted stone.
After our walk, we went to The Butcher's Arms in Sheepscombe for lunch.  This pub claims to have the 'most photographed sign in England' - the man with the beer in his hand, and a pig tied to his leg. We enjoyed a brilliant roast lunch, sitting outside in the sunshine. The men had roast beef, whilst Denise and I enjoyed a splendid nut roast. When I went inside for the loos, I was very taken with the beautiful wooden clocks on the wall, set to different times around the world. I wonder what the one bottom right [SOLD] was like!
And after lunch we went on somewhere even more interesting - but that's a whole other post

Thursday 29 July 2021

One Finger, One Thumb, Keep Moving

When I finished my weather scarf back in May, I mentioned what I might do with the leftover yarn. I mentioned making some gloves. 

I had made Steph a pair of 'texting gloves' for her birthday ages ago, using self striping sock yarn. I checked back on the blog*, and found the post - but unfortunately there was no note as to where I'd got the pattern. 

Then, quite unexpectedly a coupl e of weeks ago, I found a folded piece of paper inside a craft book- and it was the very pattern I had used back in 2009. I had modified a free pattern I'd found on the net- but [foolishly] not noted the original source.  I rolled my remaining oddments into 2 gram balls [a little smaller than a ping-pong ball] and dropped them into the sections of an eggbox to keep them separate and manageable. I didn't count the rows of each colour, so the two gloves aren't quite perfectly symmetrical [but almost] The pattern has a single seam up the side, and a short seam on the thumb- but it's a simple 2-needle job [no dpns if I can avoid them!] 
These have gone away in the drawer with the scarf and will wait there until it turns chilly. There is still quite a bit of yarn left. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with that. I worked hard to finish these on Friday evening as I wanted to get them out of the way before we went away for the weekend. 
Bob had a Wedding Preparation Session with friends down in Wiltshire, then we were going on to Gloucestershire for 2 nights to stay with his sister Denise, and her husband Kevin. And in the wonderful way these things work out, Denise had a pattern for a baby jacket she was hoping to knit for her grand-daughter. The middle section of the pattern was really complicated and she had struggled to make sense of it. So the pattern and yarn has come back to Cornerstones, and I shall attempt to decipher it. 
Another challenge to enjoy! And I like babyknits - they grow so quickly. Watch this space.
[*do you use your blog as an archive for your crafting/cooking notes?]

Wednesday 28 July 2021

A Time Of Reflection

For twelve years, I have loathed the light fitting in the main bedroom here. It had a chrome triangular plate, three spotlights, and three spiral wires with little plastic prism things at the end. These wires collected dust faster than you can say "Good Housekeeping".

If we came for a weekend, I would whisk off the cobwebs with a feather duster on a Friday night- and when we came to leave a few days later, they'd be back again. "When we live there permanently, it's going!" I said 

And now it has gone. But in the strange way of things, a couple of nights before Bob removed it, I saw a strange pattern on the wall. My hand mirror was face up on the dressing table and reflecting an oval patch of light - but there was a bright white trefoil too. I moved the mirror round and the pattern changed.

I spend ages twisting and turning it - getting all sorts of patterns, and I finally realised it was something to do with the plastic cones deflecting the light.

The light show has finished now...but I am much happier with the simple glass dome which replaces the cobweb catcher [thank you Bob]

Tuesday 27 July 2021

It's Norfolk Day!

Yes, for the last 4 years, on 27th of July, people have celebrated Norfolk Day. This event is sponsored by the Eastern Daily Press and BBC Radio Norfolk, and promoted by the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce. 

But I do not know why they chose this particular day [July 27 is National Sleepyhead Day in Finland!] The main aim of the day is to promote local businesses and Norfolk companies.

Woodforde's Brewery, in Broadland, produce a beer for this day called "Break's Birthday Brew" in support of Break, a great charity which supports vulnerable children and families across East Anglia.

Sadly a number of events have been cancelled because of the pandemic. The EDP has given a list of activities here

I decided I should try and do something to acknowledge this lovely county which is my home. As we were going away at the weekend, I decided to take a 'hostess gift' featuring local products.

Jam from Norfolk Garden Preserves in Dereham

Marmalade from the Garden Pantry at Spooner Row, Wymondham, 

Salad Dressing from The Norfolk Sauce Company Downham Market

Goat's Cheese from Fielding Cottage, Honingham

Goat Herder Beer [Mr Winter's Brewing Company, Norwich]

But in case you think I went all over the county to fill my basket, I actually purchased the whole lot at The Goat Shed Farm Shop and Kitchen, only 8 miles up the road. 

We're growing quite fond of this place- so much good produce, a pleasant place to eat, and there are goats and their kids to watch! The meals are served beautifully, and the portion sizes good. 

So I am doing my bit to support the county's producers. Not just today but all year round, I hope.

Does your town or county have a special day? 

Monday 26 July 2021

Bean There, Done That

Another brown paper bag  of broad beans from CCWells came home last week. Then I saw that Nigel Slater had a recipe in the Guardian. It looked like the right sort of light lunch for a hot day.

Really easy - boil the beans, then remove them from the water. Pop the pasta in the water [with extra salt] Reserve a few beans for garnish, then puree the majority with olive oil, basil leaves, black pepper and a little cooking water. Drain pasta and toss with puree. Garnish with reserved beans and watercress.

How easy is that?

NS says he sometimes reduces the pasta, and increases the veg [eg adds courgette or asparagus] and puts some salty ricotta on top. And substitutes land-cress for watercress.

I added emerald garden peas, and garnished with regular cress*, and some crumbled feta** It was very tasty, and exactly the right thing when the temperature was so high.

*I thought land cress was the sort of cress you grow on a flannel or buy in a punnet. I now know it is something else entirely

**after years of avoiding all cheese because Cheddar, Red Leicester and Cheshire cheeses made me sick, I am now experimenting with softer 'farmhouse' cheeses. Feta is now on my 'OK list'

And the pods? Well Tom Hunt's Waste Not idea is to fry them as snacks.

Do NOT try this at home!
They are truly horrid. Chewy and stringy, and consigned to the bin. Up there with Hugh FW's Slug Stew. A Zero-Waste-Failure.

Sunday 25 July 2021

Bee A Blessing

I treated myself recently to a new piece of costume jewellery. Not expensive - and not quite as flashy as Lady Hales' spider brooch. But whilst mask-wearing means my earrings are restricted to just simple inexpensive studs, this is something to pin on a summer jacket of simple dress. A little bee, about 4cm long.

I love bees. The worker bee has been the symbol of Manchester for 180 years - the city was, and is a 'hive of industry'.  When I visit Steph, I see these insects in artwork all over the place. 
This creature works hard, and lives in community - helping not just the others in the hive, but producing sweet honey, pollinating the flowers, and helping the crops grow.  

The bee is a good role model for us as Christians - we should be working hard, living in community, serving others...

Here is a prayer I wrote a few years back. Have a great Sunday - bee blessed & bee a blessings

    Father God, 

you made these tiny creatures, as part of your wonderful creation, 
and they are a blessing to me, 
and we need them if humans are to survive on our planet. 
 Scientists have studied their colonies 
and are still learning more about them 
the way they serve their queen, 
the way they work in the hive, 
their construction of the beautiful hexagonal waxen cells, 
all the properties of their honey to nourish and to heal, 
their amazing flying dances which tell other bees where to find the nectar,
Help me to learn from the bees – 
to serve you, my King, 
to work alongside my brothers and sisters, 
to build your Kingdom, 
to feed the hungry, 
and to help others to find your love.
As I am bee-blessed, so may I be a blessing


Saturday 24 July 2021

Rainbow Ride

My neighbour asked if I could collect her prescription, so I decided to go on my bike. I haven't ridden it since Jess was born. It is a 5 mile round trip from Cornerstones to the Theatre Street Surgery. I rode along the country road that links our village to the town - so I passed fields, then up over the level crossing and into Dereham.

I was very conscious of how beautiful everything was looking - despite the heat, there was plenty of lush greenery - and once into the town itself, people had kept their gardens well watered.

So many different flowers- both wild and cultivated; cornflowers, poppies, dandelions, columbine, thistles and more edging the fields- and in the gardens buddleia, begonias, marigolds, roses, hollyhocks etc. It was a real rainbow ride.

I took lots of photos of the glorious colours. The top left picture is the old RSPCA water trough - a relic of the days when horses and riders came in to the market. Nowadays it is well maintained and full of flowers. It is opposite the War Memorial, situated on a traffic island at the end of the Market Place. One end of the area now has a bed of yellow and orange marigolds.

As I stopped to take these pictures, a lady asked "are you photographing the flowers or the restaurant?" I said the flowers- and that I thought the restaurant was looking rather sad "I remember when it was called The Cabin" I said "I worked there one summer, when I was at the High School". It turned out she had been 3 years ahead of me there.

We stood for a few minutes talking about our teachers and classmates - and although we did not recognise each other now, we'd had friends in common, half a century ago.

I started the ride home. I stopped at the crossing, to take a closer look at something which had been puzzling me when we drove past in the car recently,

I think it is a piece of guerilla artwork - it looks like rainbow stripes woven in teeshirt yarn through green garden netting.

No idea what it's for. Is it Pride thing? Or [more likely] one of the "Thankyou NHS" rainbow flags. Either way, it is rather tangled up in the railway wire fencing now.

I enjoyed my little ride- but was quite hot when I got home. If this heat continues, I shall try and cycle as early as I can. I'll leave the midday sun to the mad dogs and Englishmen!

Friday 23 July 2021

Hot Wheels!

Since retirement, we have really enjoyed having less responsibility on a Sunday. We have been to walk round Castle Acre, we have sat in the garden with our books...and last Sunday after church we went to an "Italian Bike and Car Day" down at Old Buckenham. It appears that the owners of the Ox&Plough pub on the green host a bike meet most Tuesday evenings. 

Occasionally they put on a bigger event. It was a blisteringly hot afternoon, and the chrome and polished paintwork gleamed [as did the pride on the owners' faces] 

Not all of the 600 vehicles were cars or 'regular' motorbikes - there were some huge three-wheeled beasts- and some cute little scooters. I was quite taken with a red scooter painted with the Liverpool Fab Four. The pillion on the huge green one looked very comfortable. They say that the great American knitter Elizabeth Zimmerman used to ride pillion behind her husband and knit at the same time - maybe if Bob had a bike like this, I might manage a few rows of stocking stitch. But what if I dropped the ball of yarn halfway up the M11? Or if he braked suddenly, poked him with a needle? Too risky imho

The refreshments on offer were excellent too - we'd taken bottles of chilled water, and each had a delicious hot [huge] dog from one of the catering vans. There were plenty of benches, and shady brollies. Other people were having lunch in the pub on the edge of the green. A number of people sat in their own chairs beside their vehicles.

We had a lovely time looking at the bikes, deciding which we liked [or didn't] We noticed that the majority of the expensive, highly chromed beasts were owned by blokes aged 50+. In the car section, there were some immaculately dressed folk in Alfas, Ferraris etc - but bikers were divided between those in new fancy leathers, and old guys in teeshirts and jeans with wild grey hair and flowing [or weirdly plaited] beards. But the atmosphere was so good and people were so friendly. I love community activities like this.

We got home in time for Bob to enjoy the Grand Prix on TV

I found a video on YouTube - if you like bikes, you may enjoy this [if not, ignore it!]

Thursday 22 July 2021

Sources for Sauces

SPOILER ALERT - this post contains a lot of sugar. Do not read it if you are trying to lose weight, or eat more healthy food!

What happened to the remaining evap? 

I made some salted caramel sauce. This recipe is quick, and easy - and I like being able to make a small quantity at a time. Alwaysood on ice-cream. Or mixed sliced banana, plain yogurt and crumbled digestives and top with the sauce for a 'deconstructed banoffee tart'

Easy Salted Caramel Sauce

Ingredients [serves 2 - multiply up for more servings]

  •          1 tbsp butter
  •          1 tbsp brown sugar
  •          ½ tsp salt
  •          3 tbsp evaporated milk 


1. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, add butter, and brown sugar,
2. Bring to a full boil for 2 minutes while stirring occasionally. 
3.  Once the mixture has been boiling for 3 minutes, remove it from the heat and slowly pour in the evaporated milk. It will bubble up like crazy but just keep stirring until it all comes together.
4. Return to the heat, cook for 2 minutes stirring continuously
5.  Sprinkle in the salt, and leave to cool
6.  Make sure to cool it down before serving so it's not piping hot! 
7.  If left in the fridge in a covered glass jar it will thicken
Now, sauce number two
Thank you Rosie, for introducing us to Chocobee Spread, from Rowse. Just two ingredients- honey and cocoa. Gorgeous on toast Ideal for people who cannot manage the ingredients of Nutella  [Sugar, Palm Oil, Hazelnuts (13%), Skimmed Milk Powder (8.7%), Fat-Reduced Cocoa (7.4%), Emulsifier: Lecithins (Soya), Vanillin] The Chocobee website is great fun and very informative.
I've also discovered it makes a lovely sauce - one heaped teaspoonful, heated in a pyrex jug in the microwave on medium power for just twelve seconds . [No hotter,no longer!] The spread will go just liquid enough to make a runny topping for one pud, [I'm mean, and make that amount go on two]
Sauce number three is savoury not sweet. I have mentioned Stokes Coronation Sauce before. In hot weather, nobody wants to spend ages in a hot kitchen. 
A spoonful of this over some cooked chicken will make a good filling for a jacket potato. Chop the chicken more finely, and it will make a sandwich spread. 
It's good and thick - you can make it go further by thinning with a little mayonnaise or yogurt.
Finally, thank you Steph.
We were discussing the problem of recipes containing a lot of chilli when people like me just don't/can't manage that level of spiciness in the sauce. 
Steph suggested that you can leave out the chillies- but if you want a hint of heat, substitute smoked paprika and a squeeze of citrus. I've done the paprika thing - but Steph said the added citrus [lemon, lime or orange] adds a little kick to the flavour. I shall have to try that one.

Wednesday 21 July 2021

Just A Can Of Evap...

In my childhood, there was always a can of 'evap' in the cupboard - evaporated milk [
usually Carnation brand]. Mum would whisk it up till it thickened, and pour it over tinned peaches for a Sunday Tea treat. Or she'd dilute it, to make a creamy rice pudding, or thick custard for her suet roly-poly pudding. 

If we ran out of regular milk [very rarely] she would dilute evap and pour it into the milk jug for tea or cereal. If I see evap on offer in the supermarket, I occasionally pick up a tin to go in the cupboard.

Last week, they had some beautiful raspberries on sale, when Bob and I went to buy our veg. He loves these ruby red fruits. I bought a punnet - then came over all 'retro' when I got home. I decided to make a milk jelly. M&S have a good recipe.

135g raspberry [or strawberry] jelly
150ml just-boiled water
175ml evaporated milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
fresh raspberries [or strawberries]

Snip the jelly into small pieces. Chill the evaporated milk.


1 Measure the just-boiled water in a jug from the kettle and immediately add the chopped jelly cubes. Stir well and set aside for 5 minutes to melt completely, stirring now and then.

2 Add 150ml cold water to the jug, stirring well again, and put the whole lot in the fridge for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until almost (but not quite) set.

3 Whisk the chilled evaporated milk and lemon juice together in a mixing bowl until thick and frothy. Add the not-quite-set jelly and whisk again until the mixture is smooth and frothed.

4 Divide between eight glasses or cups and chill for at least an hour or up to 24 hours before serving. Top with the berries to serve.

I garnished each dish with a spoonful of thick blueberry Skyr and a raspberry. Very cool and refreshing on a hot day. 

These keep well in the fridge [ungarnished] in small screwtop jars. 

Mum never added the lemon juice - but I found it really helped thicken the milk when I whisked it. You will have to wait to find out what I did with the remainder of my can of evap...

Tuesday 20 July 2021

A Cool Cup Of Water

Bob and I greatly enjoy strolling round the local Villages when they hold Yard Sales. Foulsham, where we are now members of the little chapel, had its sale on Saturday. The day promised to be a real scorcher. Bob went off on his own to check out the sales- and I stayed outside the chapel.

The parking area in front was in cool shade all morning. I took 4 garden chairs, an impromptu 'table' made from the work platform in our garage, a flipchart sign- and a bag of supplies. [as well as a couple of library books, and a sunhat]

I was busy all morning, as people strolled past, hot and tired - and were really grateful to be able to sit down and have a free drink of cool water.

It was such a simple thing to arrange - and yet clearly appreciated. I had some lovely conversations with people too.

Bob did remarkably well, finding a large IKEA Ribba frame in the same style as the others on our photo wall, ready to receive a load more pictures. 

Normally £20 or so, he paid just £3 - and it was still in its plastic wrapping! He also got three tools to refurbish for £3. 

Bob covered for me at the Water Station for part of the time. I zipped round fairly quickly - and  found a lovely white linen Boden shirt for £5. It will look good with my new white trainers and a pretty skirt!

I much prefer a Village Yard Sale to a Boot Fair, what about you?

Matthew 10;42 - "This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true disciple."