Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Happy New year!

All best wishes to everyone from me for the new year - I hope it brings everything you would like it to, plus a few nice surprises too.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Sorry, but she's brilliant!

Here she is again!

Drum carding II

Drum carding

Back on the spinning wheel this afternoon, spinning up some white North Rondaldsay I bought from e-bay. Bit disappointed, as the quality of the fleece wasn't wonderful, even if it was only 200g. I spun a couple of small skeins, now drying. I'm not sure what I'll do with them, but something suitably Scottish would seem appropriate. Spinning affords copious amounts of thinking time, this afternoon thinking I really need to get to grips with the drum carder if I'm to have any chance at all of getting through the fleece mountain here LOL. I then went on to alpaca, which I'm not keen on, but in amongst searching for "tips on spinnning alpaca" (irritatingly few and far between :) ), I found this you tube on drum carding - great fun, and very informative. Seems I was doing it right all along, but probably just need more practice. Will dodge up the garden tomorrow and liberate the carder and get it going, I think.
Btw, it's great being able to watch you tube videos, our old computer ran far too slowly to get any sense out of them at all!

Sunday, 28 December 2008

The Christmas that wasn't, really..............

So - that was the Christmas that wasn't! Unfortunately we were all so ill, it didn't really happen for us. We all had this dreaded flu type thing, Bean and I worst I think. EJ got off with just the cough, MrL had cough and aching. I wasn't fit enough to cook Christmas dinner even if anyone had wanted to eat it, and we couldn't have tasted it anyway! So, no cake, no mince pies, crackers, turkey leftovers, none of that. We all sat and read quietly for teh day (new Christmas books), and EJ had a go on his new banjo.:)
However, feeling much better now, so ready to get on with things. We're having a roast dinner today instead, so will make a start on that soon. It's bitterly cold here, very icy and frosty, but lovely to have a proper winter after many years of wet and mild. I've been letting the chickens and ducks out of their run to give them the freedom of the garden - they love that,and come right down to the back door for a nosey around and wait for me to take scraps out for them. It's quite comical to see the little feathery bottoms sticking straight up out of the flower beds LOL
We went to the annual charity book sale yesterday, and I managed to come home with a large box of interesting books on cooking, crafts, gardening, Scotland, a few maps too, so that should keep me out of mishcief for a while. I've already earmarked several projects for the new year..........

Hope everyone had good 'Christmasses, hwoever you celebrated. It's nice to be back!

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Seasons greetings................

....and Yuletide felicitations to you, to quote Margo from the Good Life LOL

I wish each and every one of you and your families and friends a very lovely Christmas, I hope it's everything you want.

Good health and happiness to you all, and a big thankyou for reading the blog, it really is appreciated.



Monday, 22 December 2008

December giveaway

This month's giveaway is a rather ncie pile of hand knitted dishcloths - one of my favourite household items to use! Handknitted by me from reclaimed (but new, unused) cotton ,bought as ends on a stall of wool, etc. There are three cream ones, square and rectangular, and three sage green ones, in round lacey patterns. They are lovely to use, last for ages, can be hot washed in the machine, and when they eventually give up the ghost and go into holes, they can be put on to the compost heap. Couldn't ask for much more from a dishcloth really, could you? To enter, leave a comment or e-mail me.


I hope to get up a picture soon, still having problems with photos, so sorry about that.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Remembering Lockerbie

I light a candle today, to mark twenty years passing, from the terrible events of this day in 1988. I have a lot of personal connections with the town, and extend my wishes for peace and love to everyone touched by the tragedy.



Today, shortest day of the year. It's overcast with thick cloud here, but dry, with a slight wind. I love the solstice, marking the turning of the year and a return to the light. There are all sorts of bulbs peeping through the dark soil in the garden already (plus some still in their bags that haven't quite met the garden yet, but will soon LOL) We're having someriends round later for mulled wine and cider, something I always look forward to.
Today is alsot Thomas the Apostle's Day, giving rise to the rhyme:

St Thomas gray, St Thomas gray,
the longest night and the shortest day.

As it says in Maypoles, Martyrs and Mayhem, whatever teh weather, it is an opportune time for human activities, and a not-so-opportune time for pigs:

St Thomas Divine,
Brewing, baking and killing of fat swine.

One interesting local custom I ahve learned about concns the village of Thornford, some 8 miles distant; today is the day to leave their annual five shillings tithe in the hollow of a certain gravestone in the graveyard. If it was not in place before noon the Lord of the manor could claim his ancient right to a hay tithe. Not taht the Digbys need it these days .........:)

Computer problems - apologies

My computer is still playing up in the graphics department I'm afraid; it's not the graphics card, seems to be something else, but we're not sure what. In the meantime, I hope to do something startlingly clever with a laptop and soem bits of sellotape and string LOL (Not really............)So, for the moment, my posts will probably be pictureless, so sorry about that, I'll see what I can do.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

I have the cutest elf slippers to show you.........

.....but I can't until I get the grpahics card looked at; I think it's been shoogled out of position, so MrL needs to get the back off the computer and check it out for me. I found the pattern on the net and knitted them last night whilst I watched TV - River Cottage Christmas Special was on, very enjoyable too. What a contrast to the appalling Nigella travesty of a cookery programme I watched on Tuesday night lol I've also done two pairs of fingerless gloves for an order, so I'll show you them too soon, I hope.
Tonight we are off to see Bean pick up her award from college; we're not sure what it is or exactly what it's for yet, but no doubt we'll find out LOL. Should be a good evening.
Cold, dreary and wintry here today; got the cards finished off, and need to start wrapping some family presents soon, so I'm not all in a rush on Christmas Eve :)

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Friendship blanket

This is the lovely lap blanket I finished last night; the squares were knitted by my lovely ladies over at Creative Living Forum. A group of us got together and made squares for everyone. Each square was pressed and the ends sewn in, then crocheted around in green and red to even up theh sizes, although they were mostly very accurate. The whole was then edged in the red. I had a Christmas theme in mind all along, and I think it looks nice and festive to snuggle under with a small glass of something and a bit of knitting!

Anyone like a mince pie?

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Couple of Christmassy photos

I like to decorate the front door too at Christmas, but try and have something other than a traditional holly wreath, just for something a bit different. This is this year's offering - a simple twig star with mistletoe, looks pretty.

Here's the mantlepiece in all its finery; I like the natural holly and ivy for here at this time of year, with plenty of candles - these are the recycled ones I posted about a wee while ago.

O sapientia

December 16th is known as O Sapientia (I read in my much loved Maypoles, Martyrs and Mayhem), after the anthem traditionally sung today. It heralds, apparently, the start of the Mince Pie Season (to everything there is a season..........LOL).

Listen to the Gregorian chant here:

Foundn thisi interesting, as had never heard of it before; lovely to listen to, albeit very short. Will therefore be making mince pies today :)

Chinese lanterns

These lanterns are one of my all time favourite decorations - I love the bright clear colours, the effect of a mass of them, the sheer pleaty crinkliness of them ! I have had a few old, secondhand ones I have found voer the years, but hey are quite tatty now, so I treated myself to a dozen new ones, and have put them up in the hall; they look lovely, and make me smile every time I catch sight of them.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Christmas card 2008

This is my card for this year; I like simple ones, as I usually have quite a pile to make. Pleased with this one, just need to write them all now!

Friday, 12 December 2008

A couple of quick and easy makes

These are a couple of things I made for selling on WI stalls; the encklaces are quick and easy, and very pretty - I'm going to make myself a few when I get some more beads. The children's fleece scarves are even easier, no sewing and very quick - I made 8 in an hour.

For the scarf, take a piece of nice fleece, double sided if possible; cut a rectangle 80cm x 18cm approx and snip each end into a fringe. Use sharp scissors to create neat and even edges. Scale up for an adult size and choose an apporpriate fleece. If you have odds of fleece, you could make a nice patchwork one too.

For these, you need wooden beads, about 2cm or so across, and some pony beads in a suitable colour; ten of each bead per necklace. Choose a fine fabric, and cut a rectangle 30cm (or longer; 30cm makes a choker style necklace, so lengthen the fabric to suit) x 7cm. Press well and fold in half. Sew from one folded corner to the other, curving the ends; leave a gap of about 3 cm close to one end. You should end up with a curned elipse shape with a gap; trim the seams. (I'll try and get a picture of this when I next do some). Turn to the right side, using a knitting needle to help, carefully. thread on one pony bead over the fabric (the pointed end should enable you to push the fabric through the bead easily), down to about 15cm from the other end. Insert one of the wooden beads inside the tube through the gap, and push down until up against the pony bead; repeat this until you have ten wooden beads and eleven pony beads. Slip stitch opening shut.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Not quite an Aga saga..........

....... more of a Rayburn saga, sadly! We have been having a few problems with the Rayburn the past few weeks, with it keeping going out. We thought it was a different type of coal we were trying, and couldn't seem to keep a fire in, especially overnight. Mr L wanted to check the grate; it went out again last night, so he hoiked all the coal out and got in there (well, not literally) with a torch to have a look. Seems there is a leak int he boiler, where it joins on to the firebox - fairly major, and probably not repairable for a number of reasons. When the fire is running low, or banked up for the night, it's not hot enough to evaporate the drips of water coming through, so they were getting down on to the fire and dampening it rgiht down, resulting in a soggy mushy unburned coal which put the fire right out. So, it looks like a new stove is required, sadly. This one must be heading for 40, though, and we've been using it for 11+ years with few problems. Funny, we were just talking about buying an extra grate for it next time we're in town, so we woul always have a spare one. It's a vital piece if kit in our house - does the cooking, heating and hot water. I think we'll probably have to go for anothr one the same, so we can just plumb in the hot water, but this Esse Ironheart has really taken my fancy.

Lots of research required, which could be interesting. I would like a woodstove for environmental reasons, although it would be hard work keeping a good, steady supply of wood. Not impossible, though. In teh meantime, it's usable if we keep teh fire hot enough; MrL says it's safe, so I'm off to bake cheese Christmas trees for the WI party LOL Might put the kettle on too. :)

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

I will use it up - I will, I will...........

I *STILL* have odds and ends left form the jumper and tea cosy, so made a Christmas pudding tree decoration for a forum swap I'm taking part in. I reckon, though, I still have enough for another two at least, so will do some for the WI Christmas bazaar thingy tomorrow. That should see it off LOL

Another sepctacular winter sky here this morning, couldn't resist trying to get some of the colour with the camera. Cold outside again......... big rain clouds lurking too.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Of wax and wool

Yesterday was a day of catching up on lots of little jobs, so there was enough time to fit in some other things that could get on with themselves, or be picked up and put down.

Someone on RC forum kindly sent me a box of candle ends and broken bits to melt down into new candles

I knitted a Christmas tea cosy too, with the leftovers from the jumper I was re-doing. As I knitted it two sizes smaller this time, I had enough for a hat to go with the jumper and enough spare to knit this up -

The other wool came from bits left over from other projects.
I also made a big pot of chilli for the freezer, two trays of flapjacks, a chicken casserole for supper and a huge pot of pumpkin soup. So, there were lots of opportunites for sitting down with a cup of tea or two in between! LOL

Monday, 8 December 2008

Mrs Smith's cottage

Someone over at Creative Living mentioned this, so I went off for a shufty:

I find it very heartening to see that something deemed as so "ordinary" (if a life can ever be ordinary.........) is seen as worth preserving and of interest to future generations.


Cold, cold, cold.............

This is they sky I got up to this morning - pretty spectacular! Now, half an hour or so later, all the drama has receded and teh sky is back to cold, icy blue/grey, heavy with clouds. Thick frost again, nice and cold - outside. Itwas lhere the sun didn't hit. I don't mind being on the inside looking out at it! LOL I have to venture up to the Post Office later. Teh animals and birds don't seem to mind it too much, at least it's not wet for them.
The weekend seemed to whizz by - held a jumble sale for Hall funds on Saturday which went well; I came back with various bits, including a box of t-shirts to make into a rag rug. Yesterday was pottering and finishing off a jumper I had to re-knit for a friend. I did it ages ago, but the pattern isn't a good one - the jumper was HUGE, although, knitted to tension, and the sleeves were about 6" too long; so I unravelled it all last week, and it's now done, but 2 sizes smaller. I've just teh sleeves to sew in, but it looks much more wearable. Must be the week for sewing up here - at the beginning of the week I finished off another jumper for a friend - she likes teh knitting, but not the sewing up, so I did that and the neck for her. A pile of knitted cardigan bits arrived in the post from my sister for the same reason too, so I've that to do too. I'll get MrL's jumper finished one day!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

It wouldn't be Christmas without..............

.......balloons! Or it wouldn't in our house, anyway. My only grumble about them is their environmentally unfriendliness (for want of a better expression). However, I have now discovered balloons made from 100% latex, which is biodegradable, so they can go on the compost heap. However, having thought further, I will tie them with string instead of knotting them, then they can be let down and re-used next year.

I got them from these people, 1.99 for ten:

December garden

These were sown at the end of october (I think) and are looking good and healthy in a sturdy sort of way. I've pinched out the little tops to make them branch out (thus more flowering stems), and given them a good drink this morning.

This little pot sits on the front step - I actually bought one this year, as it turned out cheaper than buying the plants and filling one of my own pots; I love the cheerful colours at this time of the year.

Don't laugh - I took a photo of the washing on the line! Backlit by the winter sun, the colours were lovely, reminding me a bit of Tibetan prayer flags...........

This is what is still left of the apple mountain, but another couple of buckets of cottage cider and a couple of gallons of apple wine should see it off LOL

This stunning bark is on one of the betuals (birch) but I can't remember the rest of its name; a tall and slender tree, lovely in summer when it's in full leaf, and very very beautiful in winter, as this picture demonstrates.

So - that's wahat's happening in my garden today. :)

Christmas pudding!

The traditional ending to the Christmas meal, and I make one every year. I don't make one and keep one, as I think it tastes just as nice with a couple of weeks maturing as it might with a whole year. besides, I would only lose it, or someone would eat it!LOL
Above is my 2008 version; I use the same basic recipe, but add in adn take away according to whim or what's in the larder. For instance, this year, there are no nuts in it, but there were last year. Other additions over the years have been various types of alcohol, both home made and bought, a spoonful of marmalade to add a zing, lime juice, different types of flour. They've all tasted good, although a far cry from the original Christmas puddings which were a type of gruel or broth with fruit and meat in them. One indispensable ingredient for me, though, is a scant teasoopnful of cocoa - just a little, it adds a real richness and rounds out the taste fo the pudding completely. No more than that, or it willt aste a bit chocolatey.
I have an old silver sixpence which goes in it, I think George VI, wrapped in greasproof and slipped in before steaming for the second time. I like a sprig of holly on top too, nice and simple. Lots of cream, though............

The curious medlar

It certainly is a cuiosity these days, which is a real shame. When you see it written about, it's always attached to "long-forgotten" or "not much grown now" or "the forgotten fruit" or somesuch. Not in this house! I always wanted a medlar and a quince when I had room, and I now have both. The two above are, sadly, two thirds of the total crop this year; it wasn't a good eyar for top fruit, including the medlar. We had a good crop last year, and I made medlar jelly. I say jelly, but after reading an article by Linda Luard (great fan of hers here!), turns out I made medlar honey, which is fine by me. Teh Rayburn is difficult to get to a high heat and keep there, so my jelly-making is a bit hit and miss, but if I call them fruit honeys instead, problem sorted! They still taste as good, just a little runny honey-ish.

Back to the medlar - it's a lovely, small, slightly eccentric lokking tree with exquisite blossom in the spring of a pale pinky white. The fruits form over the summer, and are left on the treee to "blett' - turned soft and mushy by the frosts, when they are deemed fit to eat. To me, they taste fig-like.I can't remember teh exact translation, but the French word for them is soemthing to do with a dog's bottom, which I feel is very apt, given their shape! Always makes me laugh.
I'm optimistic that next eyar will be a great eyar for fruit, and I'll get lots of medlar honey made LOL.

Nowhere near as curious, but just as nice in the kitchen is one of my favourite herbs, the rather gorgeous parsley - I use huge amounts of it; this bunch was picked on Tuesday, and it stands well right through the winter before going to seed in the early summer.

There's an old saying that parsley will only thrivve in a house where the wife "wears the "wife wears the trousers". Mine always does very well, can't think why LOL.
Always use fresh seed to sow, and cover the sown seed with a little boiling water before covering over with soil or compost. Prick out in groups of two or three seddlings. If happy, it will self seed, and hoveflies love the flowers. It lsoes a lot of its oomph if it's dried, but freezes well, like I did teh basil, in ice cube trays with a little water.
Parsley makes and excellent wine, crisp and light. There are quite a few varieties available, my favourite is the Moss Curled one, dark green and full of flavour.
Also good in savoury baking - try it in cheese scones, cobblers, vegetable crumbles, etc. Indispensable for teh top of winter soups too, and in white sauce for broad beans or white fish.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

My dream home.................

And the winner is.....................

The winner of the November quilt giveaway is:

Lizziedripping (entered by e-mail)

Congratulations to her, and big thankyou to everyone who took time to enter, and thanks for reading the blog. I enjoy writing it and working on it, and it's nice to see lots of people stopping by to take a look.


Monday, 1 December 2008

New cushion

A new cushion probably isn't high on the excitement list for a lot of people, but I thought you all might understand! This isn't just any cushion, though - it's teh first cushion cover I have ever bought:O LOL. The past twenty years has seen me make them, recycle them, buy from jumbles and car boots, charity shops and the tip. Mostly home made, quite often the pads for the insides too.
However, I saw this one on Friday in a local shop, and it just *had* to come home with me for my rocking chair. :) It turned out to be a bargain, as it was the last on the shelf, it had a cushion pad inside it, so I got that included in the price too. At 8.00, it would have cost at least that much for the fabric alone. It's very pretty I think, and looks lovely in the chair. The dog had better not widdle on that one.............LOL

Moving swiftly on - thought for the week! I read these wise words in an article in the Edcuation Otherwise newsletter:

If you take care of the now, the future takes care of itself.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

St Andrew's Day

Today, 30th November is, ofcourse, St Andrew's Day.

St Andrew the King, three weeks and three days before Christmas comes in - traditional saying

The commencement of the ecclesiastical year is regulated by the feast of St Andrew, the nearest Sunday to which, whether before or after, constitutes the first Sunday of Advent, or the period of four weeks which heralds the approach of Christmas. St Andrew's Day is thus sometimes the first, and sometimes the last festival in the Christian year.

Chambers book of Days, 1864

So, in honour of the Patron Saint of Scotland, we are, in good old Scottish tradition, having curry for supper. My granny would be ashamed of me........LOL :)


O Winter! ruler of th'inverted year,


I love thee, all unlovely as thou seem'st,
And dreaded as thou art! Thou hold'st the sun
A pris'ner in the yet undawning east,
Short'ning his journey between morn and noon,
And hurrying him, impatient of his stay,
Down to the rosy west, but kindly still
Compensating his loss with added hours
Of social converse and instructive ease,
And gath'ring at short notice, in one group
The family dispers'd, and fixing though,
Not less dispers'd by daylight and its cares.
I crown thee king of intimate delights,
Fireside enjoyments, home born happiness,
And all the comforts that the lowly roof
Of undisturb'd retirement, and teh hours
Of long uninterrupted evening, know.

William Cowper, The Task, "The Winter Evening' 1785

I love that piece; my favourite line is "Fireside enjoyments, home born happiness," -
sums it all up for me. I love winter.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Christmas cake

I made the Christmas cake today. Now, I like traditions, and every year over the past 20 years I've made almost the same type of cake. Thi syear I decided on a change, and dug out a very old cookbook I have. It belonged to my paternal grandmother, possibly her mother before her. They lived in Cornwall, and this is "the first printed Cornish Recipe Book" according to the preface of the first edition; it's a book compiled in 1929 with contributions from Cornish WIs.. Sadly, it is minus a cover, but I aim to get one made for it to keep it in good condition to pass on eventually. There are some fascinating recipes for it, some written in dialect, covering teh normal range of cakes, meat dishes, etc, plus pasties, remedies, wine and HUGE cakes - take 5lbs of butter, 5lbs flour............. There are recipes for good old Cornish dishes in it - pasties, heavy cake, Cornish splits, saffron cake, etc. I was lucky to be given free choice of my aunt's cookery books when she died, and this was one of them.

I'd love to think my grandmother, and possibly my great grandmother, used this recipe for their Christmas cake - there are a couple of the stains on the pages, so it could well be.
Teh cakes are in the oven now - I have a large one and a smaller one; we'll try the smaller one out over teh weekend. If it's not Christmassy enough, I can make something else in plenty of time. :)

I love this time of year..........

Mother nature

Mother nature is indescribably amazing. I say indescribably because I have no words adequate to even begin to write about it. I'm not one for slushy pseudo-sentimental writing as it doesn't come from my heart, so that's it from me - Mother Nature is amazing!
Heading for the beginning of December, thoughts here are turning towards the winter solstice, midwinter, getting ready for cold and snow, rain and ice, should they happen. Getting in stores of fuel, both for fires and bodies, adding extra layers physically and mentally to better get through the winter months. But not Mother Nature - she is constantly on the go - the garlic I put in a while back has grown strong roots, the sweet peas are 4 " high now, there are lots of vegetables for ahrvesting in the garden, even some fruit still - the last of the raspberries, the medlars.........There are even flowers, all the more precious for their scarcity. One of my favourites is in the picture, the winter jasmine, brightening up the east wall of the house, always with generous amounts of flowers from mid - November. Creatures are about too - this moth paid a visit to the kitchen window last night; I don't know the species, but he stayed on the glass for a good few minutes before darting off somewhere else. The garden is full of birds, large and small, helping themselves to the feeders I keep well-filled. The shoots underground on the spring bulbs will be on their way too, although we can't see them. That last bit sums it up for me - it all carries on whether we are outside in amongst it, or inside looking out at it. It's a rare day when I don't stop to look or listen to soemthing that catches my attention outside. As I said, truly amazing.

Look what I got!!

Yes, I finally did it, and four days ahead of schedule too! 50,690 words officially, which is a few more than my own wordcount LOL So, it's done, and put away in its folder for now, but I think it has the makings of a book. I need to work on the meat of the book itelf, there's a lot that could be expanded on, plus the finishing touches, title, illustrations, cover, etc. A title is proving very elusive to me for some reason.
It's a book about what I know, and features rare breed chickens, spinning, lots of tea drinking, Scotland and a huge amount of wool. :) LOL
I actually enjoyed the whole thing, although MrL can't see the point of all that work "just for nothing"; ha, we'll see LOL

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

The novel

As you may have read, I'm taking part in NaNoWriMo - a month-long challenge to produce a novel (first draft type thing) of 50,000 words in the month of November. I am doing quite well, I think, and better than I thought. I had the outline of the story mapped out in my head before I started, which helped enormously - I had a beginning and an end, and all sorts of middle bits. I also have the back of the proverbial envelope/s, scribbled all over, making sense to only me. Turns out this book is an amalgamation of lots of bits that were milling around in my head waiting to be written down. It's a book I would like to read myself, and I'm writing about what I know - so, I've followed all the theories, and have now arrived at 42,084 words this morning, which I'm really pleased about. I even managed to find and insert into the right place the 2,000 odd words I lost in "My Documents" somehow, so it was a bit depressing last night to find my word count down by quite a bit; it's alright now, though, and I'm back on track. If all goes according to plan, I'll work further on it after the end of the month, add illustrations, add in the extras (can't tell you about them yet LOL) and get it ready for publishing. Oh yes, I need a title too...........:)
Whether anyone will actually want to read it I'm not sure, but, all things being equal, I'll have proved to myself that I can do it.

Edited to alter terrible typing..........LOL

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

More tea (cosies) Vicar?

My friend rang up Friday night to say all the tea cosies had been sold from the WI stall - any chance of some more? LOL I spent the weekend's knitting time on these, and I've now a green and white one half done. She was delighted with them, and hinted some more for next week would be good........LOL I've tried various tea cosies - cottages, flowery ones, stripey ones, but these are always what they want. I've done so many now, I don't need the pattern! I thought of a slight adaptation to make last night, though, so might give that a go to ring teh changes. All that tea-related knitting prompted more biscuits, so here's my recipe for peanut butter biscuits - quick and easy, very tasty.

Peanut butter biscuits

2 oz butter, softened
2 oz peanut butter
4 oz plain flour
1/2 beaten egg
spice of your choice, pinch of, eg mixed spice, ginger

Mix the two butters together well, then add sugar, then egg and spices, and lastly the flour. The mix should be softish, but not too soft. Roll inot balls the size of a walnut and space apart on a baking tray. Flatten the backs with a wet fork and bake for 10 minutes or so in a hot oven until lightly browned, but not ahrd - they will crisp up on cooling. Cool on a wire rack.
I make a hazelnut version of this too, with hazelnut butter, but it's not so easy to get hold of as the peanut one.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Soup from a hat............

Well, not really, but you knew that! This is my recipe for Turk's Turban soup, one of the culinary treats of early winter; a lovely, rich velvety textured soup, economical and filling.

1/2 large Turk's Turban squash
1 large onion, finely diced
2 oz butter
1 1/2 pints of stock - vegetable or chicken are best

Melt the butter in a pan, and add the onion; cook over a medium ehat until soft, but not coloured. Meanwhile, peel and dice the squash, cutting into 1"dice or so - add to pan when onion is cooked. Pour over stock, place a lid on the pan and leave to simmer until the squash is soft. Remove from heat, leave to cool, then whizz in a blender, or push through a sieve or mouli. Reheat, season if required, and serve with cream and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Serve with bread or rolls.

Optional extras - add in some garlic with the onion; fresh or dried herbs; curry powder/garam massala; use milk or yoghurt in place of the cream;top with grated cheese.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Cranbrie tarts

Another nice seasonal one! I made these for a function this weekend, quick and easy.

I bag frozen cranberries
shortcrust pastry
freshly ground black pepper
knob of butter
optional seasonings - orange, herbs, etc

Place cranberries in a pan; leave to simmer - you'll hear them pop as they burst! Stir regularly to prevent sticking; when softened, add in butter and pepper, and leave to stew slowly until berries very soft. At this point, you could add orange juice, or a small spoonful of marmalade, herbs, whatever you fancy. Add sugar to taste - they will be very sour without it, but I add in just enough to take the sour off, but leave the sharp. Meanwhile, line patty/tart tins with the pastry, and chill for 20 minutes or so in the fridge. When chilled, and the cranberry sauce thick, but spoonable, put spoonsful into each pastry case; dot the tops with small bits of Brie. I use Someerset Brie, but French is good too - we love both in this house, and use a lot of it. Bake in a hot oven for 10 - 15 minutes until pastry golden and chese bubbling. Remove from tin, and cool on wire rack. Serve at room temp, or warm through. You could alos make a big version of this, in a quiche pastry case.

More gorgeousness..........

When we were wee, we had quite a few of these dishes; we had trifle in them, Instant Whip (remember that?!!), tinned fruit salad, ice cream, etc. At the tip on Friday whilst I was looking about, a woman came in with several boxes of dishes and plates. To be honest, I was very restrained - I could have brought the lot home for a couple of pounds LOL. I chose 4 small ones, 4 larger ones (all different patterns) and the two pink ones. Nostalgic gorgeousness at its very best. Talking of which, I needed something to carry the dishes in so they arrived home safely. I found a rather nice sea grass basket, quite big, rectangular, dark brown with good elather handles, like a shopper-type basket. I loaded my spoils into it (included a plumb bob (I might just need one one day, it's just a lovely old functional piece of brass) and a rather nice glass topped tray which needs attention, but will appear on here at some point soon, I'm sure); the smell was pure nostalgia and took me right back to my school days. The late seventies were quite hippy oriented for a lot of us at school, and the "in" bag to carry your books in was an over-the-shoulder basket, with long handles, made of plaited sea grass; this basket smelled exactly like that, and transported me right back, there and then in the middle of the tip LOL. They say smell is one of the greatest triggers of nostalgia - maybe they're right. That and music for me.

This was my other treasure for this week:

Cost - one British pound. Be honest, you wouldn't have left it there for that, would you? LOL. We (Bean and I, we share) now have 5........

One Singer treadle on proper table and treadle; one very old hand machine, needs further investigation, kept in loft for now; one old German machine; one 1940s /50s Jones; this one. I should be able to find a date for it, it has a unique number on the front, so will look into that this week. It seems to work fine, and there are a good number of bobbins (round, like a modern machine) in the side box, along with lots of attachments, reels of cottons, etc. I haven't looked underneath at the spool holder yet, but hope to get to it this week. Looking forward to having a go with it soon. Soem say you can never have too many handbags; you can guess what I say..............LOL

Normal service is now resumed!

Apologies for the eratci postings over the last week or so. However, teh play is now over and done, so it's back to the more mundane and earthly delights of home life!
It all went well, and I enjoyed the experience, but wouldn't want to do it all the time. I need now to catch up on the house - there is a mountain of washing in the bath, the ironing's all over the place, stuff just needs sorting and tidying, dusting and the rest. I'm hoping it shouldn't take more than a couple of days to catch up, interspersed with getting the book done - I have another 25,000 words to write before next Sunday - I like a challenge........:O.
The weateher here is wintry today - very blustery, the wind cold and unforgiving. MrL desperate to light the woodburner, so might go for it later, I've some baking to do, and ofcourse, knitting, and there's a potentially rubbish film I want to see, set in the 1950s in rural America. I was trying to explain to MrL about how I watch a film; often, the story doesn't interest me at all, but I like looking at the sets. I find the historical/period detail fascinating, and will rewind a film just to get another look at a quilt, or a shot of a garden, or someone's dress. Surely I can't be the only one who does that? LOL
Now - shortbread or flapjacks? Both?

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Don't put your daughter on the stage, MrsL............

Whoops - too late! This is Bean in one of her costumes for the play, which is opening tonight, for three nights.