Saturday, 4 October 2008

So...........what can you buy for 50p?

Not much you would think - just about get a small bar of chocolate, or a bag of crisps, maybe? One apple? A newspaper? Depends what you look for, and where you look. For 3 x 50p yesterday, I found these treasures. The first is a very pretty porcelain cup, I estimate quite old, and beautifully repaired; you can see daylight through the porcelain it's so fine. I love the repairs - a good honest repair, and I am pleased to think I now own something that someone loved and took enough pride in to get it mended so. The brooch is of one of my favourite flowers - the blue Tibetan poppy. This is from the 1930s, and belonged to the mother of the stallholder I bought it from; it's well worn, the paint is rubbed off in parts, the colour fading. Very unusual, I love it, and will wear it often. The third is a crochet runner in white cotton; I'm hoping it will fit over the pine chest of drawers on the ktichen when I move it about next week to another part of the kitchen.
Treasures for small outlay, the best kind, and things with soul too. So, a lot for my 50ps. Thrilled to bits with my finds.

How to clean a rag rug

Found this in a book I re-discovered in one of my bookcases, by the wonderful Lillian Beckwith, on how to go about restoring rag rugs to their former glory:

"Doormats which had been caked with winter mud had been beaten and were now lying well wighted down with boulders in the burn. Upstream of the doormats lay the hearth and bedroom rugs, similarly weighted, and there I intended they should stay until the swift-flowing water had restored the doormats to their normal ginger-brown shagginess and the hearth and bedroom rugs looked as if they had just come back from the cleaners."



Sadly, my tree produced not one little quince this year - may have been the frost that got the blossom. I will give it a good mulch soon to see it through teh winter, and keep fingers crossed for the spring.
So, I had to buy quinces; there is a lovely stall in the market that sells really good fruit and vegetables - named varieties of apples, unusual squashes, etc. I bought a few quince from him, and have bottled some with brambles to add to apple pies over the winter. I may get another couple to make some quince brandy with, if they are there next week.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Fingerless gloves

Bean wears these all the time, and I remember making them whilst I was at school, called "miser mittens" back then. She came back form college in the first week with a request for three pairs for some of her fellow students. I've got them done now, ready to go in with her tomorrow. They're a good, quick, easy project, and you can put various odds and ends to good use.
Double knitting wool (worsted weight in USA), on 4mm needles/size 8 UK/size 6 US. Cast on 42 stitches and work required length in K2 P2 ribbing - about 7"/17cm. Easy to make longer if required, just keep working rib until length required is reached. Cast off in rib. Fold in half and sew up seam, leaving enough room for the thumb to go through. Weave in ends. Look cool (so I'm told......... ;0)
Might have to do myself a pair now.......

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Chocolate and chestnut cake

I've just made this particular piece of cake heaven this morning - you've got to try it! Chocolatey and moist, soft and buttery................

4oz butter
4oz sugar
2 large eggs
4oz self raising flour
2 - 3 tbsp good cocoa powder
1 small tin sweetened chestnut puree (200 - 250g)
milk to mix

Cream butter and sugar, beat in whisked eggs; add chestnut puree, beat well, then add in flour and cocoa. Beat well to mix thoroughly, adding enough milk to give a soft dropping consistency. Turn into a prepared loaf tin and bake in a hot oven for about 35 - 40 minutes until well risen and firm to the touch. Turn out on a wire rack to cool, if you coudl wait that long. Would be lovely as a pudding with cream..........

Autumn photos I

Autumn photos II


Where did September go, then? Mine went by in a flurry of birthdays, outings, apples and new college course, baking, preserving, harvesting, jamming, tidying, cutting back, it should be really.

"The woods never look more beautiful than from the close of last month to the middle of October, for by that time it seems as if nature had exhausted all her choicest colours on the foliage. We see the rich, burnished bronze of the oak; red of many hues, up to the gaudiest scarlet;every shade of yellow, from the wan gold of the primrose to the deep orange of the tiger lily.... and all so blended and softened together in parts, that like the colours on a dove's neck, we cannot tell where one begins and teh other ends" (Chambers Book of Days, 1864)

"In October, dung your field, and your land its wealth shall yield"
"Dry your barley in October or you'll always be sober"

That's my work for today sorted then............:)

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Things with soul

I love second hand stuff. I love used stuff. I love stuff with marks on where you can see it has been used, by a real person, and used well. I love stuff with a history, whether I am privy to its history or not. If only the things in my house could talk! Who did it belong to? Cherished gift? Bought from new? Handed down to them? Where was it bought? How old is it? I love the thought of my hands using tools and equipment, especially kitchen utensils and bowls, plates, rolling pins, etc, that have been lovingly used by others. Nothing thrills me more at the recycling centre than finding a big selection of kitchen stuff - perhaps sadly from a house clearance after a family death or house move, maybe they just wanted something new........not me, I'll sort through it, give it a loving home where it'll be well used and loved, looked after and repaired, and do sterling service for many years, hopefully. The quality is invariably better than modern equipment - nice wooden handles (worn by busy hands over time), good edges to the blades, you can see where they've been sharpened; good honest repairs, no airs and graces. Their workaday utility is their attraction. The little apple peeler above became mine a few weeks back, and has been pressed into service this autumn, to peel and core mountains of apples for bottling and cider making, stewing and pies. The quality is beautiful, the colour perfect. Cost pence at the tip, given me priceless pleasure already.
Books too - the thrill never lessens when you find torn scraps of notebooks with recipes, instructions, opinions on, often in recipe and cookery books; forgotten postcards used as bookmarks with pre-decimal stamps on them, elegant copperplate writing. Things of the home, things of the heart. Beauty in the everyday, a constant pleasure for me.

More knitting to give - Innocent smoothie hats

I've done little hats for Innocent smoothie drinks for a couple of years now, I think; great fun to do, nice small project, uses up odds and ends, and of course for a good cause. Innocent put the hats on to their bottles, and for each one sold, 50p goes to Age Concern.

These are my seven for this year, part of a group effort at Creative Living forum. I have a great deal of respect for the Innocent company too - if only more businesses conducted themselves like they do.

Monday, 29 September 2008

The "C" word.............

I enjoy Christmas - there, I've said it! I enjoy the season - the midwinter celebrations of whatever folks choose to celebrate at that time of year, whether Pagan, Christian, something in between or nothing, just having a good time! I enjoy it because I make the celebrations my own. I don't buy into others' ideas of how or why the season should be marked. For us, it's not just a one day thing; we love the anticipation of the discrete parts that go to spreading the feasting and celebrating over a couple of weeks. We have a gradual build-up, starting in October with the traditional puddings and cake to be made, plus mincemeat, and anything else that needs time. After that, it's time to start on gifts (although these are usually started earlier as I make most of them) and cards. The advent of Samhain/Hallowe'en and Bonfire Night in amongst it all gives a break from thinking too far ahead into midwinter, and ofcourse, gives another couple of excuses for feasting and fun. Long dark evenings give time for making and thinking ahead too, beside the fire with a glass of what you fancy, or a cup of hot chocolate or tea. As usual, there's a lot to do around the house and garden, so seasonal preparations are fitted in around these. December brings the winter solstice, then it's time to decorate the house for the three days I see as the centre of the celebrations - Christmas Eve, Day and Boxing Day. This is followed by a few days of seasonal normality, then, being of Scottish extraction, it's into the New Year's celebrations, more food and fun. After that, it's time to face a new year, new beginnings, resolutions made, good things for the coming year anticipated, reflections pondered upon for the year just gone.
Like most things, preparation is the key - if you celebrate Christmas or another festival/turning point of the year, there are always preparations to be made, things to make, food to organise. For me, it's half the fun, the anticipation of good times to come. Lack of preparation amkes for frazzled and ultimately unhappy times.
For some folks, especially those who are family oriented, it's the main event of the year - they enjoy the present buying, the cards on the mat, the sparkly liveliness of the towns and shops, the cheesy music, the rush to "get ready for Christmas". Not so for me, but who am I to detract from their enjoyment? I'm happy for them to celebrate in their own way, do their own thing, and enjoy time with those they love and like. OK, so maybe in an ideal world, we would all enjoy giving and receiving eco-friendly presents wrapped in recylced paper, or not sending too many Christmas cards, or not plugging in quite so many lights, or choosing a real tree from a sustainable source over a plastic one. We don't live in this ideal world, though; indeed, a lot of folks wouldn't see it as ideal for them themselves. A lot of people find the middle of winter hard enough to cope with, and having this to look forward to gives them a real fillip and genuine joy.
As I said, it's not for me, I have carved out a way for us to celebrate what we believe in, what , to us, is worth celebrating, and letting the rest go by. We don't buy into it all, we don't want to and don't need to. We do our own thing, like we do for the rest of the year.
As for me, I'm off to the larder to check up on the dried fruit situation in there.........

This post was prompted by a post on Creative Living this morning; I had intended to write one on winter celebrations shortly, but now it's done, I've one less thing to remember! I'd love to read others' thoughts on this, so feel free to comment below.


Monday morning again :) I quite like Mondays, although I know a lot don't. Fair enough, I don't have to out to work, or spend the day in a place I'd rather not be in (as a rule), but I always see Monday as the start of the week - five days of activity around the home and garden, making, baking, cleaning, general work to keep bodies and souls together. I think I was born to be a house-bod! :) Weekends are for going out usually, visitng the library, foraging, things away from the house; I'm usually ready for a weekend after 4 or 5 days at home (I don't drive, through choice), so I enjoy both the weekends and the weekdays, they have their separate rhythms.
Having a new start to the week also gives you a chance to re-invent yourself, should the need arise! For instance, you could say "This week, I will try and stick to a routine for housework, I will catch up on the ironing, I will spend at least an hour a day as "me" time", or whatever needs to be addressed; Sunday to think about it, then from Monday to put it into action. If it doesn't quite work out, there's always another Monday along a week later to try again. An added attraction of Mondays for me is that it is knitting group in the pub in the evening - two hours of knitting and yakking, over a beer, and just over the road from the house. An excellent end to a Monday, I always think!

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

The winner of the lace scarf, first out of the hat, for the first birthday giveaway is:

eco gites of Lenault

Congratulations to her, and thankyou all for taking the time to leave a comment, and continuing to read the old blog. Here's to another year........:)

If you could e-mail me your address, eco gites, I'll get this off to you with my love and thanks.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

New spinning wheel

It was Guild day on Saturday, and the sales table was laden with goodies. Sadly, a member of the Guild had died fairly recently, and her granddaughter had cleared out her workshop; there was a huge amount of wools and equipment. I bought various bits of wool, lovely new pure wool, Jacob and Romney Marsh for 20p per skein of 100g or so; star buy, though was this lovely Schacht Matchless wheel. The Guild wanted 50.00 for it, so it came home with me. It's a very nice looking wheel, made of honey coloured maple wood, with a double treadle and double drive. It came with several bobbins and an instruction book. I haven't had time to have a go yet, but I've treadled it to get a feel for it, and think I'll be very happy with it.

Cider making

I spent a large part of today, helped along by Bean, making cider. I got a new fruit/cider press last week, to replace my old one which is in need of parts and mending. Three scrumpy-less years because of it has proved too much to bear, so I bought the new press from Ascott Smallholding. Lovely piece of equipment, cast iron, in red and white, with a wooden-slatted barrel on it. It's only a small one, which meant extra work, but it works very well. I had gathered up a lot of free apples - some from a friend up the road, others found in baskets and buckets outside folks's houses where they had a surplus. First step is to wash the apples, then crush them' I don't have a proper apple crusher attachment, so got the hand shredder out and put them through that. After a while, we found it better (higher juice extraction) to put them through twice, after chopping them first; then into the press, to drip into a barrel. Lid on the barrel, then it's left completely alone for about three months until it's ready to drink - should be ready by Christmas. We didn't get a huge amount, but it's all ours and it was free bar the hard work! Plenty of crushed apple pulpy bits for the compost too. I've got some crab apples in the freezer to try them out next; some folks swear by this, saying it is much easier to pulp them after being frozen, and greater juice extraction is achieved. Must be worth a try, if it makes it easier. There are still lots of apples to be had for free, so we'll undoubtedly be doing more soon, despite the sticky kitchen floor :)