Wednesday 30 November 2022

Crafty Christmas Creations

As Advent started on Sunday, I helped the children make and decorate angels. I used my Martha Stewart circle punch to make 8" doyleys from thin card. The children coloured theirs and stuck tissue paper on them. This is such a simple idea, and works with pre-made doyleys or paper plates.
Steph asked me for a "1st Christmas" ornament for her tree to match the one I made for George 2 years ago. [tutorial HERE] So that was Tuesday afternoon's activity 
I haven't got any of my decorations up in the house yet - although the Nativity Tableau is outside [pictures to follow] 
Rosie is definitely getting in the mood! 

Tuesday 29 November 2022

Just A Word

Do you do Wordle, the daily word puzzle? I started doing it back in January, and have done it most days since. On Sunday I completed my 300th puzzle
It took me five steps, but I was pretty HAPPY with my result. During the year, I've got the answer within 6 steps apart from 3 times. Twice I was rushing and made a typo, the third time I had two possible answers in my head, but chose the wrong one. 
I always start with STARE, and usually use POUND or CLIMB next. I dislike Wordles which have repeated letters or American spellings, or both [HONOR] and I don't do ANY of the variations [nerdle, quordle, dordle etc]
I have friends who do it as a family challenge, and compete to get the daily word in fewer goes than their relatives - but I solve it by myself. 
Bob is not particularly interested, even though he introduced me to the idea.
I usually do an online crossword and a killer sudoku everyday. If only I could develop the habit of regular daily physical exercises as well as these mental ones! They all have health benefits I'm sure. 
If you are a player, what is your preferred starting word? 
And have you ever "got it in one"?

Monday 28 November 2022

A Profitable Pop Up Shop

I went to bed on Thursday with all my stock boxed up and on the sofa. Then Friday morning we set up shop.
It was not the warmest of days although the sun was bright and the weather dry. Our first visitor was a neighbour who had just gone through the alley to the bus stop and noticed that our sign was pointing in the wrong direction - he'd kindly walked back to the Close to tell us!
I had three tables - the first was covered with sewing bits, and an explanation about our crafts - plus a vintage sewing machine [partly 'window dressing ' but also I'm trying to sell it for a friend] Next table all the items at assorted prices. Finally a large table where everything was £3.50 or mix&match "three for a tenner"
I had made around 200 items as follows
Handwarmers, apple chutney, mini sweaters, tissue holders, notebooks, candle holders, pincushions, little pots, wax wraps, pencil rolls, bird brooches, three sizes of bags, and juggling bags. 
I had a slow and steady stream of customers both days, and the average spend was around £5. 
I sold at least one item from every category. What did I learn? 
  • Wax wraps, mini sweaters and juggling bags proved most popular - but although almost every visitor said how beautiful the bird brooches were, I only sold three.
  • Despite multiple layers of clothing, a heater, and frequent deliveries of hot drinks, I was still very cold by the time I packed up.
  • Putting garden chairs out was a good idea, as many people who came on their own sat down for a proper chat. Bob said afterwards that there had been a lot of pastoral work done! 
  • Planning to have a fish and chip supper on Friday, and slocooker curry on Saturday was a good idea, it meant we could sit down and relax, no cooking to organise
  • The carriage house is a good venue - the ramp made it easily accessible for buggies and a wheelchair. One neighbour was talking to Bob about a charity sale he's hoping to do in the new year. We've offered him our space if it will help. 
I have lots of stock left, but I'm pleased with what I achieved, and money earned. I have got a long way towards the cost of new specs. I'm considering to how to deal with the remaining stock - maybe a table at a local Christmas Fair, or perhaps an online outlet...

Sunday 27 November 2022

Advent 1

 If you want to listen to a good Advent sermon, here is John Bell on the BBC this morning [Morning Worship

Saturday 26 November 2022

I Really Need New Glasses

Well they do say "Never shop when you're hungry" I walked through the "Christmas" display of Sainsbury's en route to the grocery section and wondered why anyone would decorate their home with a sign about those popular chickpea based snacks. Then I looked again

Friday 25 November 2022

Harvest Home

There are not many things left growing now. I had three small tubs of potatoes in the back garden. 'Plant now for new potatoes on Christmas Day' said the sign at the Garden Centre. But the foliage all went over a week or so back, and I decided It might be wise to harvest them earlier. I got 1.2kg of very nice looking spuds. I looked online - to buy organic new UK potatoes now would cost me around £2.20, which is what I paid for the pack of spuds at the GC! I am OK with that
A fortnight ago I tidied up the raised bed and emptied most of the rows. A good handful of carrots, ONE solitary turnip [not growing them again!] and a small celeriac [the plant was 50p in the village yard sale] Also a lots of chard/lettuce leaves which wilted away to two portions [see here]

I picked the 5 largest leeks and am leaving the rest to grow on. The leeks made a good quick soup - 4 portions did warm lunches for two days. 
After the kale crop failed, I put in some carrots to fill the space - following advice on a TV programme about sprinkling seed liberally and thinning as they grow. I have been trying to do this - but thus far none of the carrots have grown thicker than my little finger. 
I've been washing these and using them as crudités with hummus. But no sign of any bigger carrots pushing their strong orange shoulders up through the soil. Carrots clearly not going to be my thing this Christmas!

What do you think of the TV Christmas ads this year? I think the John Lewis one is good, not sure about some of the others. Is is fair to major quite so much on huge log fires, and groaning banquet tables, when so many are cold and hungry? 

Thursday 24 November 2022

Cake is Coming!

and Happy Thanksgiving to all friends from the USA
"Cake is coming!" has been a favourite phrase in our family since Rosie was just 2½. I thought about it yesterday when I made our Christmas Cake. This year it is half the size of my previous ones. There will be fewer people around to eat it and Bob and I don't want to be eating it till March [or 'pigging out' with daily slices, to get it eaten quicker] I discovered that quantities in my Good Housekeeping recipe will halve neatly to make a cake in my 6"[15cm] round tin.
I am very traditional when it comes to making the cake - using the method I have used since the 1970s.
I use my best Salter balance scales - and ounces not gram weights. A long time ago, all the family were involved in the making of the cake and stirring the  puddings. But this year I was on my own in the kitchen [Bob was on a Zoom call. I was thinking a lot about my family
  • My Mason Cash bowl came from Steph
  • and my red bowl from SIL Denise
  • The 6" tin was Mum's
  • No brandy, just a tbsp cold tea, for my teetotal forbears
  • I put in a grated carrot- like Nan and Mum [and Marguerite Patten] always did. This year a home grown carrot!
In 1990 I bought a panel of fabric which was printed with two Christmas Aprons. I sewed them both up - and kept one for myself and sent one to Gillian. For the last 30 years I've always worn mine when [right] making my Christmas cake. But this year, I wore Gillian's.[left]
Mindful of the cost of fuel, some jacket potatoes and a couple of rice puddings went in the oven too, to make best use of that heat. One RP will go in the freezer. The other, and the JPs will have a quick blast in the microwave when we are ready to eat them.[Although cold RP is delicious too!]
When will you make your Xmas Cake? Or do you not bother?

If you are looking for inspiration, can I recommend Carolyn's recent post at The 1940s Experiment? She has got some wonderful wartime Christmas recipes there, which will certainly eke out your budget if you don't want to spend a fortune on ingredients.

Now I have to plan how I am going to ice this smaller cake.

Wednesday 23 November 2022

Getting Isaac Ready

Do you remember the child-sized mannequin I bought at a Yard Sale back in July? I decided we'd call him Isaac and he could be the Shepherd boy in the year's Nativity Tableau
When I got him, we sorted out a head, a stand and a suntan. I draped him. In bits of fabric to get an idea about costumes. 
Last month I found a sheep in a garden centre (a plant pot holder suitable for outdoor use) Yesterday I fetched Isaac down, and made him an outfit. 
The Waitrose Weekend newspaper is very useful for making paper patterns! Unfortunately Shelley Sheep will not tuck under his arm as I'd hoped, so may have to stand at Isaac's feet. 
Next I have to make a better arm for Joseph - last year's Tableau was prepared too quickly and I was not happy with the way he looked. 
Friday and Saturday is the Pop-Up Shop*, then on Monday I'll put the Tableau into the Carriage House. 
*a friend asked someone if she was coming to the shop and was told 'no, she'll probably be selling religious stuff'. Oh dear! I hope people aren't thinking there will be votive candles, rosaries and teatowels with Psalm 23 - or maybe embroidered texts... 

Tuesday 22 November 2022

But Do They Speak English There?

This was the question once asked by my friend's son when she told him they were having a family holiday in Norfolk. A couple of things I've spotted lately have made me wonder about the literary skills of some folk in this county...
Firstly in the market town of North Walsham. The main market street is being resurfaced. Everything closed to traffic, to the annoyance of many shopkeepers whose customers and deliveries are being inconvenienced. Trade is suffering. Many shop windows carry posters expressing their anger. But there are Council signs explaining the situation
Sadly we didn't see any bussiness. Or any buses either.  And the 8 weeks are well past. No wonder the tradesman are frustrated.
Then I read a headline in the Eastern Daily Press. I think it could have been phrased better.
Deliberately killing a pigeon is sad - but to kill a bird who can ride a mobility scooter is really criminal!
The cruel driver was videotaped by a Norwich vigilante who looks out for, then reports, cruelty to birds. He goes by the name of Peck Savers! 
I must get on - this is proving to be a rather 'bussy' week. 

Monday 21 November 2022

Nutcracker Sweets

This week, the Northern Ballet are performing Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite at the Theatre Royal, Norwich - the ultimate Christmas ballet, I guess. Tickets are almost all gone [and at £50 a pop, I'm out]
Meanwhile, at the nearby Assembly House, they are serving a Nutcracker Afternoon tea. Adrian and Marion invited us there to celebrate his birthday last Wednesday. It was gorgeous.
A cleverly designed menu, with a good variety of sandwiches, and warm savouries, using local Norfolk produce [Like ham, turkey mustard etc] along with freshly baked warm scones and a tempting array of Nutcracker themed sweets- Clara's Cupcake, a Nutcracker Chocolate Soldier, A Gingerbread Man from the land of sweets...
We sat in the Dining Room - beautifully decorated ready for Christmas, with lights, foliage, baubles, and the ubiquitous large wooden nutcrackers.
Afterwards we stood in front of the large Christmas tree and an enthusiastic and helpful waiter took a family picture
A great afternoon, and when we left, it was dark and the lights were twinkling beautifully. Some people were having their tea in the glass 'igloos' outside. Across the road, workmen were setting up the Norwich 'Tunnel of Light' ready for the 'Christmas Switch On'
As a schoolgirl, I went regularly to the Assembly House, for the Norfolk Festival of Spoken English. I took part in competitions for choral speaking, and also reading my own poems. My Mum kept the certificates [and my poetry] but I have no idea where they are now - and I really cannot remember them. Which is probably a blessing all round. Marion has sung in concerts there since then. 
But now the Assembly House, whilst still a venue for special events, also has bedrooms, the restaurant, and the Richard Hughes Cookery School. A lovely place to celebrate a significant birthday. Thanks Adrian, for a wonderful afternoon- a memory to treasure.

Sunday 20 November 2022

Flicke And Collect

"That's a very famous painting" said Bob, looking at the picture on my screen "Do you know who it is by?"
"Flicke" I replied. Gerlach [aka Garlicke] Flicke was a German portrait painter, who came to London around 1545 [after a time in Antwerp]  and was a painter at the Tudor court. This is his most famous painting- Archbishop Thomas Cranmer.
I was thinking about TC this weekend because of his famous collect. That word is coll-ect, not coll-ect. When the stress is on the first syllable, it refers to a prayer. Specifically, a brief prayer which is supposed to gather/collect together the thoughts of the worshippers as they assemble for worship. Cranmer is the guy who put together the "Book of Common Prayer" - a prayer book first published in 1549 in the reign of Edward VI, out of favour in Mary Tudor's time, but re-instated by Elizabeth I and in regular use in Parish Churches up and down the land until the 1980s, when the CofE introduced the ASB [Alternative Service Book] and then in 2000 'Common Worship'.
And all this is floating in my addled brain because today is "Stir Up Sunday", which many people regard as the day on which to stir up your Christmas Pudding. 'Stir Up' comes from the first words of Cranmer's "collect for the day" 
STIR up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
As usual, there are articles in food magazines this month about making Christmas puddings, and a few will mention 'Stir Up Sunday'. Poor old Cranmer, his desire for "the fruit of good works" has got somehow lost in the recipes including dried fruit and candied peel!
In other news, my brother recently noticed that our local Tesco Car Park has some new designated parking spaces. Further investigation has revealed that we are getting a new Click&Collect point in Dereham. I wonder why the Scandi giant has chosen our nearest town ? [I have all the furniture I need, thank you!]

Saturday 19 November 2022

Biker Chick Barbie

Bob really has been working hard of late, not just making, but also mending. Liz found a Barbie Doll Moped for Rosie in a CS - but the handlebars were missing, as was the stand. Having checked pictures on the Internet, Bob's recreated the missing parts. 
He used some white plastic electrical conduit cut to shape, and another piece for the top of the headlight. The headlight bulb is a clear plastic button - with the back "silvered", and the indicators are two stick-on orange gemstones, from my cardmaking supplies. The handlebars have "grips" made from heat shrink sleeving, and two small black rubber O rings. The prop stand is an old orange plastic 4mm knitting needle, warmed and bent to shape, with more heat shrink sleeving. So his electrical bits and my sewing/cardmaking stash have supplied all the parts. I think it's good repair and Barbie can continue to ride happily. 
"Make Do And Mend" is a good principle, and it will be fun to show Rosie how we used the stuff we already had to do the repair. Less waste, more recycling, less expense, more fun... 

Friday 18 November 2022

Hot Stuff!

We had a reasonable crop of peppers in the mini greenhouse- some from seed, some from my SIL's plants. Bob planted a few chilli pepper seeds, but they did not germinate. The writing on the greenhouse labels all washed off. I had no idea which ones were which. 

The hot weather meant that some got burnt when they touched the glass, others, desperate for water, grew into odd shapes. Not one grew into the traditional fat 'bell-pepper'. We ate some, and I froze some. I made a big salad with lots of my veg back in September - lettuce, tomatoes, peppers - supplemented with canned sweetcorn, spring onions and cucumbers - topped off with chunks off ham and a good dressing. We sat down to eat, and I busied myself pouring the tea etc.

I looked up to see tears pouring down Bob's face. "Whatever's wrong, darling?" I asked, and put a forkful of food into my mouth. Then I felt my mouth burning and my eyes watering. We realised that not all his chilis had failed! "But I thought you like hot peppers" I said "Wasn't that why you planted them?". Bob explained, as he sipped some cooling milk, that he does like chilis, but he prefers to be warned that he is about to encounter them. I don't like them at all.
I have tried hard since to check the peppers used in my cooking. And given him clear warnings if the meal might be unexpectedly hot.
Maybe putting the fire extinguisher on the dining table is a little OTT though...

Thursday 17 November 2022

Heads Or Tails?

Happy birthday to my wonderful brother, Adrian, who was 60 yesterday. Bob turned a bowl for him, and we found a 1962 penny to go into it. Then I said it was a shame that if it was fixed with Britannia and the date displayed, we would not see the Queen. Bob solved that problem!
In the bowl, the date, under the bowl, there is the Queen. E2R was on our coinage from 1953 - 1972, Britannia has been there since Roman times. Here is the 2023 1oz Gold Bullion coin, available now - from £1625.06 [it is 
, 999.9% gold] Much as I love my brother, I am not going to buy this for him. I'm afraid the value of the pre-decimal coinage in his bowl is < 10p!
[In case you were wondering - there are two coins involved, set in recesses on either side of the wood]

Wednesday 16 November 2022

Three To See

Just a quick review of three films we have recently enjoyed. NO SPOILERS HERE - and my apologies to those who do not have access to streaming services like Amazon, Netflix and Disney +

The Courier, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, is based on the true story of British businessman Grenville Wynn, who was recruited by MI6 and worked for them in Russia in the 1960s. This was a clever film, and BC was excellent. Period 'sixties' details seemed pretty accurate to me. Not exactly a cosy, comfy story. But interesting nonetheless, to see how an ordinary bloke could get caught up in international espionage.****

Enola Holmes 2 is another escapade for Sherlock's younger sister. Millie Bobbie Brown and Henry Cavill reprise their roles as siblings., Helena Bonham Carter is Mother [in her usual HBC style] and Adeel Akhtar is once again the wonderful, slightly bemused Lestrade. The plot cleverly  centres on a genuine historic event. A bit OTT in places, but a great romp for all that. The last scene clearly sets things up for film #3. ****

This was the best of the three. A classic whodunit, using the 1952production of Ms Christie's "The Mousetrap" as a framework. The play celebrated its 70th anniversary last month - but you do not need to have seen it to enjoy the film. [This is the world's longest running play - and at the end, a member of the cast speaks to the audience and asks them not to tell anyone else whodunit. I saw it in 1977 - and I haven't ever blabbed.] The original cast included Richard [Dickie] Attenborough, and he's played very convincingly by Harris Dickinson. Saoirse Ronan is an amazing  WPC Constable Stalker. She loves old movies and her impersonation of Katherine Hepburn is flawless. The whole thing is full of tropes, and clever word play. We laughed so much. It's the sort of film you want to watch again to catch up on jokes you missed first time round. Filmed in fab 1950s locations. *****

If you are not into sport, and you have no interest in 'Celebrities' in the jungle, these three make for pleasant TV viewing. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did. 

Tuesday 15 November 2022

Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick, Slow

This was the catchphrase of Victor Sylvester, who had a "ballroom orchestra" [slightly more genteel than a 'dance band'] If you are too young to remember him, his story is here. He was on the TV when I was a child, and everything was black and white, and his dance programmes were a million miles away from "Strictly" [no I don't watch Strictly, not my thing]
I was thinking about his phrase [SSQQS is the footwork timing for the foxtrot] at the weekend, after a discussion over lunch about slow cookers and airfryers.

Aldi's airfryer [Ninja copy] went on sale this weekend, and apparently sold out in minutes. I have considered getting one, and continue to be of the opinion that I just do not need it. I fully understand why Liz and Steph love theirs - and if I were working full time and had small children to feed, the speed and convenience is something I would really appreciate. And I get that they use a lot less power. But I am not under such time pressure, and I do not want another item on the worktop. And after considering the sort of meals Bob and I eat, I don't think it is right for us. But I fully acknowledge that they have their place in many kitchens and I am not judging you if you buy one. But my cooking of late has definitely been slow slow rather than quick quick.
I have three slow cookers- a tiny one from the 1980s [a free gift with another purchase] a middle sized one [3.5l] from around 2000, and a humungous one [6.5l] bought in a sale just after we got to Dorset. And they all get used at various times.
Two weekends ago I made a chicken and chorizo casserole when Adrian and Marion came over. It was so easy, I put the ingredients in the 3.5l pot in the morning, and by the evening everything was cooked beautifully. And it uses a small amount of power - around 5p an hour. It cost me 30p to cook my casserole, and it keeps the kitchen warm.
Last weekend I used my littlest one to make the dessert for lunch as we had Liz and family with us.  I loaded it up after breakfast, before I went to church and it made the creamiest rice pudding with no fuss at all. I had a carton of UHT whole milk in the cupboard and it took no effort to make this. Rosie had seconds, and then thirds! 
After the family left, Bob stripped the remaining meat from the chicken, and the bones and a few leftover veg went into the pot to make some stock. Again another fuss free recipe.
I'm not making a Christmas pud this year - but slow cookers are a great way to do steamed puddings. No boiling dry, and the kitchen is warm but not steamy, and again, it is cheaper than a pan on the hob.
In our lunchtime discussion, we decided that air fryers are good at 'dry' and slow cookers good at 'wet' recipes [altho if you have one like Stephs, that makes casseroles etc too] Air fryers are brilliant for a small portion of chicken and nuggets for a 6 year old's tea, or a baking a couple of frozen croissants without putting on the oven. Ad doing them quickly. Slo cookers do casseroles and puddings and soups and are very forgiving if you are late getting home, or don't have time to watch over them. And both are more economical than using the oven. 
Back in 1976, when we were having strikes and power cuts, the blessed St Delia advised us on how to "Save It" by efficient use of our ovens - and her wise words are still useful. [I had a haircut like that and a brown V necked top too, back then] I'm definitely using the slo-cookers and my microwave rather than the oven, this winter. 
What is your best energy saving tip in the kitchen? 
Do you use a microwave, slocooker, or air fryer?

Monday 14 November 2022

Vested Interests

 Vest, gilet, waistcoat, jerkin, bodywarmer, weskit or doublet*...whatever you call it, this item is so useful at this time of the year. Something which covers your upper torso, and adds an extra layer of warmth, but is sleeveless - so doesn't restrict arm movements, or prove impossible to fit on underneath a coat or jacket. You see a lot of them round here - popular with gardeners, stablehands, market traders, and members of the hunting-shooting-fishing brigade. If you are working outside, they are an invaluable part of your wardrobe. 
Ten years ago, when we lived in Kirby Muxloe, Liz sent me a link to the Joules catalogue. Out of my price range! but I picked up a navy fleece gilet from a CS - originally Edinburgh Woollen Mills - and it has served me well for a decade. 
But it has worn very thin and had some stains. I looked again in my wardrobe
I have two fleece jackets with sleeves. In the years before retirement, I kept one here for cold days. It was my official jacket when I was involved in the organisation of the Baptist World Alliance Centenary Congress in Birmingham in 2005. But it is good quality and warm. I decided I could cut off the sleeves and hem the armholes. 
That would have been the easy thing - but I decided to go one step further. I had some great floral IKEA furnishing fabric, leftover from making covers for my mate's garden furniture in 2017. 
I cut out a lining, folded under the edges of top, bottom and zip, and handstitched them in place inside. Then on the outside,  I used the machine to 'stitch in the ditch' along existing lines [including side seams] to hold everything firmly. I folded the inner fabric out, over the edges of the armhole to make a 'self binding' finish.
It fits well, and is long enough to keep my bum warm when I'm bending over the Raised Bed. The pockets are big, and zipped, so hold keys, phone and purse safely. And the edged armholes, and pretty lining are a special detail. I spent an hour or so outside on Friday and was warm and snug all the time. Upcycling at its best!
*Nobody wears doublets any more. Ancient Tudor joke "did you hear about the court minstrels? they were so poor they had to pawn their doublets and sit around in their singlets". A doublet was a double thickness [ie lined] garment, usually worn with "hose" [tight fitting leggings] I have altered and lined my fleece jacket, and now it is a doublet!


Sunday 13 November 2022

Today We Remember

It will be so very different this year - before we left Leicester in 2015, the service at the London Cenotaph was led by the Queen laying her wreath, followed by her children and grandsons laying theirs. 
This year King Charles will lead the ceremony, and one brother and one son will be absent.
I was woken early on Remembrance Day last year, with the news that my dear cousin Gillian was about to leave this earthly life. Now her memory will forever be a part of this day for me. 
In Proverbs 10;7, it says The memory of the righteous is a blessing
Whoever you are remembering today - a loved one who served in war, and no longer with you - or a precious family member or friend who was a good and loving person - may you be blessed in your remembrance, and find comfort in those good memories.
And may all those who have returned home after serving their country, especially those scarred physically or mentally, be loved and supported as they seek to move on. 
We will remember them, and honour the sacrifices they have made.

Saturday 12 November 2022

Greenwashing -And Washing Greens

Like you, I am hoping those people at COP27 make some good resolutions then return home and keep them. But I am also finding it increasingly difficult to be personally consistent about 'Green Living' and things are not helped by companies which engage in greenwashing

I read an ad, and the company promises to plant a tree for every item sold, or they tell me that buying their coffee beans will help third world farmers employ more sustainable agricultural methods, or the wrapping on the product is recyclable...But can I believe their claims?
Apparently 73% of consumers say they would change consumption to reduce global impact - so companies say 'we are offsetting our carbon footprint by planting trees'. But scientists tell us  that less than 5% of carbon offsets actually remove CO₂ from the atmosphere -so planting trees is just a tiny part of the solution.
And whilst we are being urged to 'pod' our laundry, and told that these easy-to-use things are covered in "biodegradable plastic" called PVA, it seems that up to 75% of this is entering the environment without  breaking down, as it needs specific conditions to do so. 
We need to read labels really carefully. I think sometimes there has to be a trade-off. Often products from companies which are really ethical and eco-friendly come at a premium price, and I would rather pay a little less for a slightly less 'green' product and then support environmental charities directly. 

Back in the spring, I went with Liz to a BCorp shop. I think the principles behind this system of certification are helpful. This takes a holistic approach, not focusing on a single social or environmental issue. As Kermit the frog said, "It's not easy being green"
...And washing greens? well, I was growing these 'winter lettuces' as Huw's book suggests. Tbh we didn't actually like their taste in salads- they were a bit 'tough, and worthy' said Bob. However, rinsed and gently cooked off in a pan they softened and became wilted greens rather like spinach. A splash of balsamic vinegar or mushroom ketchup enhanced the taste too. I decided that I would precook some and freeze them to eat later. I went out and filled a big plastic bowl, and washed my greens carefully to remove dirt and bugs.

This is when you realise just how much these leave wilt. One huge bowl of leaves reduced to just two small portions!.
I have a few 'regular' lettuce left in the raised bed, and Bob is agitating for me to harvest my leeks soon. He and Rosie emptied one of my tubs of new potatoes at the end of half-term [she insisted on wearing my Summer Gardening Hat!]

Friday 11 November 2022

Jigs And Jumpers [And A FREE Pattern}

Years ago when I belonged to a knitting group, I made a few mini Christmas sweaters to hang on the tree. I decided to make some for the pop-up shop this year. But I simplified the pattern so I could knit one up in half an hour. Having sorted out some oddments of wool in white, red, green and cream [suitably Christmassy colours] I made a whole batch. 

Bob, who is a very clever chap, made some mini coat hangers with 1mm² copper wire. He created a jig with three screws in a piece of wood, and wrapped the wire around. I think they finish off the decorations beautifully.

For some of the jumpers, I knitted 2 colours into  the pattern as I went along - but for most I stitched it afterwards and added beads or sequins for festive sparkle.

Here is the pattern - using DK wool and size 2.75 needles [old UK 12 or US 2] You need just a few grams.

Mini Christmas Sweater Pattern

  • Leave 20 cm of yarn at the cast on/ cast off for sewing up.
  • Cast on 13sts
  • Knit 4 rows in K1P1 rib OR knit 4 rows in moss stitch.
  • Working in stocking stitch from here on
  • Knit 10 rows 
  • Knit 1 row, cast on 6 sts [19sts]
  • Purl 1 row, cast on 6 sts [25 sts] 
  • in st st work 5 rows.
  • Purl 10 sts, cast off 5 sts, P to end [20sts]
  • Knit 10 sts, cast on 5 sts, K to end
  • st st 5 rows
  • cast off 6 work to end [19 St's] 
  • cast off 6 st work to end [13sts]
  • st st 10 rows
  • work 4 rows in K1P1 rib, OR moss stitch
  • Cast off.
Add contrast stitching and trimmings before sewing up side and underarm seams. The neckline looks neater with a row of blanket stitch round it

Note 1; These are ornaments NOT toys [small beads, sharp wire] and will not fit dolls [neckline way too small to go over head.

Note 2; This is MY pattern, I made it up - and it is free to anyone to copy and use. [But please acknowledge that you found it on this blog]

I think they are rather cute. Thank you Bob for the hangers!

Thursday 10 November 2022

Livres De Cuisine

Back in 1989 I read Peter Mayle's best selling memoir about how he and his wife moved to a property in France and spent a year trying to do it up. This was before Brexit, and before Escape To The Chateau. At the time his idea seemed crazy, and his gentle self-deprecating humour was a popular and easy read. At that point I had only been twice to France [day trip to Calais, and 3 days in Paris on a City-break in 1981] but I loved the country and its food. 
This book is based on fact
Then in 2011, I stumbled across "In and Out of the Kitchen" - a radio 4 sitcom written by, and starring, Miles Jupp. He plays Damien Trench, a fussy, perfectionist cookery writer and his laid-back partner Anthony. Each episode features dialogue, Damien's diary entries, and his description of one of his recipes. I find it really funny [his mum played brilliantly by Selina Cadell [sister of the late Simon of Hi-de-Hi fame] This is fiction - although the recipes are almost all genuine

Crossing the line between the two is a book which Liz just lent me. "L'appart" is the story of an American guy moving to Paris, and deciding to do up un appartement. The author, David Lebovitz, is, like Damien, something of a perfectionist cookery writer. And 
like Mayle, he's quite unaware of the meaning of the French term normalement, as used by builders when asked to say when a job will be finished. [he obviously has not read AYIP]
Here is David [right] and his laid-back French partner, Romain. The book is full of 'delights and disasters' - and more than two dozen [all genuine] recipes.
I don't know DLs other books [he's written loads] I really liked reading the recipes - and have successfully made IKEA style meatballs using his method. Full marks for having a good index for the recipes.
I did get slightly frustrated ¾ of the way through - I began to think "nobody is this stupid. Why doesn't he change builders?" but on the whole it was a fun read. Based [mostly] on fact. 
Rating**** But I think Damien Trench is funnier [and you can find him here on Radio 4 Extra