Thursday, 15 May 2008

Tolstoy and the Joneses........

"There is a small piece of cinematic footage of Tolstoy taken near the end of his life by an intrepid film-maker. Tolstoy wouldn't let him in theh house, but bounced up and down on his doorstep crying: "Just live right!"

Henry Shukman

Forget the Joneses - one of the soundest pieces of advice I have read on the net so far. :0)


One of my favourite quotes on simplicity from the incomparable John Lane:

"A life of simplicity is always relative; friends who have chosen to grow most of their own food and live a frugal existence are affluent in comparison with the austerities of, say, a landless Indian peasant or a medieval Celtic saint. They own furniture and books, suffer no shortage of food, and may even go on holidays. So in proposing the importance of simple living I am not referring to a life of penury but one that hs has turned its back on the wasteful consumer lifestyle, one that seeks to avoid the sense of dissatisfaction and unrealised potential inherent in a life of purely material excess, one that takes the middle way between self-indulgent opulence and a distressing material poverty. "Voluntary simplicity," I wrote in Timeless Simplicity, "is a pathway towards the maintenance of a life that is comfortable but not luxurious, frugal but not pinching, decent but not boring: one that seeks to discard the specialist's divisions between work and life, art and everyday activity."

I read that and feel inspired to do more towards living a simpler life, although I am doing much more than a lot of people towards downshifting, simplicity, spiritual awareness and living lightly on the earth - it's not enough, though, and I feel a sea change is imminent in my personal endeavours towards a simpler life.

Sea change - A radical, and apparently mystical, change

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

The perfect sponge cake recipe

Thought I would share this, as a recipe I have perfected over the years, and now I don't use any other recipe for sponge cakes. The one in the picture is a coffee sponge, but this versatile recipe can have anything added that you like, and can be baked as a sandwich cake or in a loaf tin; the other cake I made this morning was a caraway cake in a loaf tin.

6oz butter, softened

6oz granulated sugar

3 medium/large eggs, beaten together

6 oz self-raising flour

milk to mix if required

flavouring - strong diluted instant coffee, cocoa, dried fruit, vanilla, cocnut, spices, etc to taste

Prepare your choice of tin - I butter and flour mine, trying to avoid the use of greaseproof paper if I can. Cream butter and sugar together until well mixed and creamy; gradually add beaten eggs, then the flour. A dropping consistency is required, so add a little milk to soften the mixture if necessary, then add your choice of flavourings if using - the plain recipe with nothing added is very good. turn into prepared tin/tins and bake in a fairly fast oven until well risen and golden brown. Turn out carefully and cool on a wire rack, decorate/ice/fill as required. Eat large piece with a good cup of tea. :0)

Abbotsbury Garland Day today, 13th May - they have lovely weather for it today too, bright sunshine, but a cool breeze. Celebrated for many,. many years in Abbotsbury here in Dorset, the flower garlands were originally made by theh fishermen's children, blessed, then taken out to sea on the boats. Nowadays, the garlands are left at the war memorial in the village, but still made by local children from wild and garden flowers.

Also today in 1995, Alison Hargreaves became the first woman to climb Mount Everest alone and without oxygen. Sadly, she died a short while after, on an expedition to K2, but still a very memorable achievement for a brave and courageous woman.

We'll gather lilacs..........

Picked the first of the white lilac today, the scent is pervading the kitchen, mingling with the aroma of just baked coffee sponge cake and caraway cake........... A lot of people are superstitious about bringing lilac into the house, viewing it as a portent of a death in the family - my paternal grandmother held this view. Not one of the superstitions I am careful about, being seduced by its thick , heavy perfume and perfect flowers.......... Also nice in the garden and at their best are the granny bonnets or aquilegias; I love them all, the fancy hybrids, the little wild-looking ones, the self-seeded ones, all of them.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Firsts asparagus of the season...

.....we had it last night in a flan - home grown asparagus, our own eggs, and homemade goat's cheese, with lovely crunchy fresh mixed salad leaves from the greenhouse. Hoping to be picking again tomorrow. Interestingly, I was reading about this yesterday in a book, where the author recommends snapping the stalks off, so as to avoid damaging any spears still under the ground with said knife. I've always cut mine, which is the traditional way. Doubly satisfying for me, as I grew the plants from seed a few years back; last year we got about 4 1/2lbs all together from them. I'm on the hunt for some wild asparagus to grow round the edge of the garden - I did find some plants last year, but didn't get them, so will be a-Googling later on, I reckon.

Morning tea break

Sometimes it's just me and a mug of tea, other times I do something whilst I'm drinking my tea; this morning, I sewed in the ends of the new knitted washcloths that are finished, and appliqued the little frogs on to the quilt block - too hot to go outside at the moment, but hope to get out later in theh afternoon for an hour or so to finish clearing one of the raised beds and set out some squashes and other things that are almost climbing out of their pots :0)
Hens must be enjoying the weather - I have eggs coming out of my ears.........They might slow down with all this hehat, though, so I can catch up!

Tulips and quilt blocks

Still soldiering on with various quilt block projects from variosu forums. These two are for an American forum, making a total of 6 done for this one; I think there are another 6 to go. I then cut out for another 4, but these are to catch up with another forum's BOM project - there, there are two per month, so you can choose your preferred one, but being me, I seem to have undertaken to do two a month, so should end up with 24 quite soon. I have another 6 to catch up on after these 4 ared one, but so far, not bought any fabric for any of them. Today, I have a little applique to do on a Friendship quilt block and get it ready for sending off.

The tulips I am especially pleased with - I was sure they were plain red in thepacket, but look what came up - striped and fringed. Reminiscent of an 18th C Dutch painting, they are truly gorgeous.

Old May Day

Today is the day when May Day used to be celebrated in England; traditionally the time for putting out cattle to pasture, and heralds the start of the cheese-making season, and was once a widespread holiday. It was/is also believed that horses, pigs and cats born in May are particularly troublesome; May cats are said not to kill rats and mice, but will bring in toads, adders and slow worms. May farrowing pigs are said to be mroe likely to devour their young. I'm not sure whether any of these beliefs are still held, but would be interested to find out. (source - Maypoles, Martyrs and Mayhem)

Saturday saw a visit to the annual Turnworth in spring event, held on a local estate in near to Bulbarrow Hill, on the edge of the Blackmore Vale. Lovely, gentle, quiet event, with ltos of animals, traditional country crafts, etc, raising money for two local churches. Pictures are of some of the interesting things going on.

The weather has been very hot, but have got some gardening done, trying to avoid the very middle of the day - still lots to get in the ground and tidy up and around, and the front badly needs attention too, but I might get there eventually.