Wednesday, 30 August 2006

Project For Tonight

I started making sloe gin a few years ago- it is lovely to give as a present, and rather delicious to break out at Christmas, or to warm up after a crisp winter walk! Then last year I branched out into blackberry brandy- I liked this even more! This year I am going to make both, and also try cherry brandy. I bought my cherries from the market at lunch time, and am going home tonight to make it. I have saved my clubcard vouchers so the brandy cost me something like 30p! The beauty of this is that you dont need to buy the best brandy on the shelf either- shops own brand will miraculously transform itself into something really rather special...enjoy!

Sloe Gin

1lb sloes
8oz caster sugar
1 litre gin

2 1 litre bottles (use the gin bottle and another bottle)

Empty the gin into a large jug

Prick each sloe (or make a cut with a vegetable knife) and put them into the empty bottles- half in each.

Sprinkle the sugar over the sloes. (I use a funnel for that made out of kitchen roll. Messy otherwise)! Sometimes I use less sugar, so I can taste it and add more later if I think it needs it.

Top up each bottle with gin, screw the lid on and shake gently.

Put in a cool dark cupboard, and shake gently each day for a week.

Then shake gently each week for two-three months.

Put the gin through a coffee filter (a fine sieve will do, but a coffee filter is better) to remove the sloes and any sediment.

Have a taste to see if you want to add more sugar.

Either pour into one large clean bottle, or several smaller ones.

The longer you can store it before drinking the better it will be. It is drinkable this Christmas, but if you can keep a bottle or two back for next Christmas it will be dynamite!

Blackberry Brandy

I lb blackberries
6oz caster sugar
1 litre brandy

2 I litre bottles (use brandy bottle and another bottle)

Empty the brandy into a large jug

Divide the blackberries between the two bottles.

Sprinkle the sugar over the blackberries using the kitchen roll funnel. I find blackberry brandy needs less sugar than this, but you might like it sweeter.

Top up with brandy, screw the lid on and shake gently.

Shake gently each day for a week, then each week for two months.

Strain the blackberry brandy through a coffee filter, to remove sloes and any sediment.

*Keep the blackberries- they are lovely with ice cream, or stirred into crème fraiche or similar- they keep well in a jam jar in the fridge*

Have a taste to see if you want to add more sugar.

Either pour into one large clean bottle, or several smaller ones.

This is great to drink after a month of storage, but does get better with age.

Cherry Brandy

This is my first year making this, so it is a bit experimental. Hence I am only making 750mls!

1 ½ - 2 lb cherries
3 oz caster sugar
750 mls brandy

2 empty 750ml bottles (use brandy bottle and another bottle)

Empty the brandy into a large jug.

I can’t decide if I am going to stone them or not- probably not. But I will slash them like the sloes.

Divide the cherries between the two bottles, sprinkling sugar over them as you go.

Top up with brandy, screw the lid on and shake gently.

Shake gently each day for a week, then each week for three months.

Strain the cherry brandy through a coffee filter, to remove cherries and any sediment.

*keep the cherries- they are really, really nice. You could even give them in a pretty jam jar as a present as well. They keep fine in the fridge, and are lovely with ice cream. Or dipped in dark Green and Blacks chocolate…mmm…*

Either pour into one large clean bottle, or several smaller ones.

I like to make pretty labels using those little old fashioned card tags that you can buy. And sealing wax sometimes. I like to get little bottles with corks from Oil and Vinegar to put the finished product in. There is something really satisfying about pulling the cork out of a bottle of home made blackberry brandy...


Tuesday, 29 August 2006

Today I Am Wearing... of my favourite outfits. This makes me feel good, whatever. A long brown skirt, that has one of those hemlines where it is shorter in front than back. It is full, but not too full. (It used to have a gorgeous brown velvet ribbon belt, with an on-purpose-tatty rose on it, but that got lost a long time ago!) This I am wearing with my cream, cross-over-front 3/4 length sleeve jumper. It is fine knit, soft and snuggly, and flattering. It gives one a good bust, and a tiny waist-hurrah!

I am wearing flat shoes that make me feel a bit like Amelie- they have two little straps that cross over, then buckle. I feel like I should wear them with stripey knee socks!

Today I am also wearing my cup, practically. I need tea today- hot 'proper' tea to wake up to, then gentle peppermint tea after lunch- and a reviving cup of tea before coming up to work late on the upstairs enquiry desk. When I get home I will need a restorative cup of tea. Picture me today, and you must picture me with cup in hand!

A Whole Week Has Just Dashed By!

My my, I do not know where the time goes. One minute I am planning on blogging about how I made a blackberry and apple crumble last Sunday, using the blackberries that I picked and froze on my visit to my Aunt and Uncle- and the next it is the Sunday after!

In this past week, I have been cross stitching away in the evenings. I was browsing through a pile of old embroidery magazines, and one had a pattern for embroidering one Christmas card for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas. I don't do freestyle embroidery so much, and remembered that I had a pattern for something similar in a Jo Verso book- so I am busily stitching away. I am going to send one to dear Carl each day, starting on the 14th of December.

(I would worry about him reading this, and spoiling the surprise but he doesn't read my blog. He said something about it feeling like rummaging in my handbag, which I thought was really rather sweet.)

I have also been decluttering in readyness for my Seasonal Scrub. I have next week off to turn our little flat out, scrub everything in sight, and make it all cozy and lovely for Autumn. We did a Car Boot Sale to this end on Sunday- we made our pitch money back and £4.50 in profit each. I am going to spend mine wisely, on ribbon, or else someother such thing that is pleasing.

I have been reading PopCo by Scarlett Thomas for book club. I must finish it by Friday. I am enjoying it very much- but it is so long. It is not a hard book exactly, but I read what feels like pages for what seems like ages, and seem to move my bookmark very little at all!

I have got a sassy new bob hair cut! I went and got it all cut off on Friday. It occurred to me that more and more I just put it back into a low ponytail, with some tendrily bits. So now I have a cut a bit like Audrey Tatou in Amelie...only without a fringe...and a left parting...and a little longer in the back...and a bit less volume!

Talking of which, I watched Amelie for the first time and fell in love with it. Thank you Alicia, ( for mentioning it in your blog and prompting me to watch it! Carl said afterwards that it is a delightfully quirky film, and it occurs to me that he is very, very right- that is just how I would describe it.

I have been to see Snakes On A Plane- now guess who chose that?! It was laugh-out-loud bad, and we were very impressed to see a corn snake just like ours (only much bigger, Casper is only a baby) slither across the screen. We also enjoyed tutting at how very unrealistic it is-snakes love dark, not light! That snake isnt poisonous! That one is obviously computer animated as they dont move like that! Pah!

I have been busy cooking too- yesterday afternoon I made fishcakes for tea tonight and put them in the fridge, and then made Kofta Curry for Wednesday, and put some in the fridge, some in the freezer. Inpsired by I made some leek and potato soup for dinner- and then I made smoothies to take with lunch today.

I found the recipe in the BBC Good Food Magazine- you whiz up a can of peach silces in juice with a banana and some apple juice- yum!

It comes to my notice how many of my paragraphs here start with 'I'- not a good thing. But this post is about 'What I did in the week I have not posted' so perhaps I can be forgiven?

Saturday, 19 August 2006

Today I Am Wearing... hair in a low ponytail, with pleasing flicky-bits about my fringe. (Yesterday my hair behaved appallingly- all big and fluffy and wonky somehow). I am at work, so I have on my knee-length black skirt, and a purple top with a sweetheart neckline and long sleeves. Despite the blissful sun yesterday, today it is rainy. From my desk I can see the rain dripping off of the side of the library building. I wish I had not left my umbrella at home!

Marrow Boats

Hello Lovelies,

I have had the most amazing break, but I did miss blogging. Just as well that I have plenty to catch up on here…

Stuffed Marrow

Marrow is one of those things that I have convinced myself that I Do Not Like. Perhaps the courgettyness of them? I was pleasantly surprised to find that I do indeed Like It when my Aunt served it while I was staying with her. She gave one to me as we left, so I determined to find myself a recipe. She had cut it into napkin-ring like pieces, and filled them with a tomato and onion mixture which was rather delicious. But this is how I did mine:

Preheat the oven to somewhere about 175 oC.

Take a marrow, and slice it in half, so you have two long marrow boats.

Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and core. Then lightly prick the flesh with a fork. (I am not sure why, but a similar recipe said to do this, so I did).

In a frying pan, brown a chopped onion, and then some lean steak mince. Stir in a goodly sprinkling of dried mixed herbs, and then a tin of chopped tomatoes. Add a pinch of sugar to take away the ‘tinniness’ of the tomatoes.

Spoon the mixture into the marrow boats.

Place the marrow boats on a baking tray, cover loosely with foil, and bake for about 45 minutes (I have a fan oven, so if you don’t, try about an hour).

Whiz together in a food mixer (oh, how I love my Multiquick!) a slice of wholemeal bread, a chunk of cheddar, and a pinch of mustard powder.

Take the marrow out of the oven, remove the foil, and sprinkle this mixture over the two marrow boats.

Bake for a further ten minutes, and then enjoy.

I am going to try this with pork mince and stilton cheese….and perhaps turkey mince and Cajun spices also. I like it when a recipe is open to interpretation!

A Scrumptious Visit With My Aunt And Uncle

There are some homes that are blissful to visit- the people there are a delight to be with, and you feel all satisfied and rested and just better for being there, really.

And so it was, that I visited my Aunt and Uncle. I have not visited them on my own before- that is to say, with Carl, but without other family, since I was a little girl and went to stay for a week (many years ago). The journey down was rather good- we survived the M25 even though it was raining. I crocheted away while navigating- I started a handbag from The Happy Hooker by Debbie Stoller.

I won’t go into all the details of our visit, except to say it was bliss. Sitting in the conservatory, listening to the rain drum, drum, drumming away on the roof, while just chatting and catching up. My Uncle is one of those people who is just really, really interesting to talk with. He used to fly for British Airways, and so has a lot of travel knowledge, and a love of gadgets. My Aunt tells me stories of our family, which I love as I feel really connected. We went on a blackberrying walk which was just beautiful- wonderful countryside to look at, rambling along with good company, and filling a bag with delicious things to eat.

Things I took away, in my mind – visit more often. There is nothing like that connected feeling that family can give you. Buy feather pillows- I slept so very well. Having a glass of sherry to sip before dinner is really rather nice. As is taking a mug of Horlicks to bed. And one day, when we have our house, I should ever so much like to have carpet in the bathroom that is all soft and squishy to bare toes. And in that same house, I shall finally have my dining table and chairs out of the loft at my in-law’s house. I shall lay out breakfast, and we shall have a Sunday Morning boiled egg.

A Visit To Longleat

It was with rather bleary eyes on my part that we departed a little after 5am for Wiltshire, and Longleat. Did I mention that I came into some tickets, from my lovely Mother-In-Law-To-Be? It was quite a drive, but, by leaving early we made it to Wiltshire for about half past nine. I never fail to be amazed by the changing landscape as we travel. Essex is so flat, that hills just mesmerize me. I love it when the view looks like it is a patchwork blanket draped over someone snuggled up in bed.

I could blog for a very long time indeed about the infinite delights that greeted us in Wiltshire. For the sake of you all though, so you can read this before your tea goes cold, I shall try to be brief.

We first did the Safari Park element to the Longleat estate. It truly is amazing to be so close to the animals. And even more amazing to see them just roaming about in the fields. I felt so privileged to be there amongst them. We had a camel jump almost across our bonnet, I believe he was showing off his long legs, and reminding us that we were his guest, and there for his amusement- and most definitely not the other way around!

The highlight for me was the Fallow Deer Park. We bought a cup of deer food, and stopped the car- by the time we wound down our windows, these beautiful inquisitive heads were nudging at the windows. There were so greedy! But so noble too. I was able to gently stroke the velvet on the antlers of one, while he was gobbling away. If I ever should find myself transported to being the Mistress of Pemberley, I shall be sure to make sure I have a Fallow Deer Park of my own!

The house and grounds were amazing too- we knew there was going to be much to see, so we booked into a nearby farmhouse bed-and-breakfast so we did not have to overstretch ourselves. That in itself was amazing- a wonderful view of Cley Hill, and scrambled eggs for breakfast that had been laid by the hens in the garden.

Highlights of the house and garden for me were the tea rooms in the vaulted cellar, the slippers-for-horses-so-they-wont-mark-the-lawn, and the boat trip. There is a half-mile lake that you can go out in a boat upon. We went there early on the second day, having seen the queues on the first! It is quite an experience- there are sea lions who will jump out of the water to show off next to the boat, and at one end, some hippos. Despite being as ponderous looking as they are, they are actually really vicious dangerous animals. The only reason you can be in the lake with them is that they have been there since they were little hippos and are used to it- in the wild it would be a very different situation. There is an island in the middle of the lake which is home to two gorillas- one of them a silverback. We saw them- just there in front of us. They really took my breath away.

It was amusing to learn that the very low fence around the island is not to keep the gorillas on the island- they cant swim- but to keep the sea lions off. Apparently they are so cheeky that sometimes they try and get on the island and scare the gorillas- and sometimes even ride the hippos!

A Most Wonderful Parcel Of Delights

A most wonderful parcel arrived for me, from the lovely Donna. (To visit her, go to One of my pleasures in life is taking part in swaps; this was the seasonal swap with a Summer Goddess theme.

I don’t know about just Goddess- this parcel made me feel like a Princess, Goddess, and more! When I opened it, the most amazing smell greeted my nose- lavender and roses, mixed together. I discovered that the box was filled with a delightful myriad of pink tissue-wrapped packages, polystyrene packing beads, and wonderful, wonderful dried lavender and rose heads from Donna’s own garden.

I sat with a cup of tea, and spent a happy hour discovering the many pleasures within. (This is not a boasting post, but I wanted to show how wonderful people are- and here in particular, Donna). Each package was a joy to undo- they had been tied with ribbons of varying shades of pink (or rick rack!) and some had a silk rose slipped in the bow. I loved smoothing out the paper into piles, and winding the ribbons around my fingers to make little bundles. My treasures had a rose and lavender theme- there were my favourite rose tea bags from Whittard (of which I had just run out!) and a beautiful rose-pink cup and saucer from which to enjoy them. There were scrumptious chocolates, and a rose candle to burn. There was lavender soap, and a wonderful little plate with roses on. A handmade lavender heart to hang on my bed, and also a handmade handbag and corsage. The treasures did not stop there- there was also a Shirley Hughes book- Alfie- that was once belonged to Donna’s own little boy, Alfie. And some rose scented burning sticks, which I love. And more…more…I felt so very, very spoiled.

Thank you lovely Donna!

Saturday, 5 August 2006

Today, I am wearing... pink-and-white monsoon a-line skirt with pink ribbon belt. I have on my simple white vest top, and am wearing my hair down for the first time in what seems like ages. It has repayed my by being pleasingly bouncy!

This morning I got a makeover before work at the Benefit counter- so my skin is pleasingly glowy, and I am wearing pink eyeshadow. I know! I thought I would look like I have hayfever too- but it actually looks...oddly ok!

After I have settled the books on the shelves here to sleep tonight, and the library sighs and gently is off home for a quick all-change, and out to a wedding reception.

Tomorrow is more than likely to find me in my white Victorian Style nightie for much of the day....oh the bliss!

Where Has Mimi Gone?

Oh, joy, joy, I am going to be away from work (and hence the computer, and so my blog) for a whole week.

Now I will miss blogging it is true, but I will not miss having an unfettered mind for eight whole blissful days. I have not taken a full week at once this year yet, and finally I realised, I need it. Hot on the heels of this week, I am going to book another week in early September for my seasonal scrub.

But that is then, and this is now. I have some delicious books to read. I am going to putter and cook things that require long simmers on the stove. I am going to try out some patterns from Debbie Stollers marvellous new book, The Happy Hooker (crochet!)

Dear Carl and I are venturing out of Essex, all the way across England to go to Longleat. We were going to stay in a Travel Inn or similar anonymous hotel overnight- but I pulled myself together, and we are now going to stay (for fewer pennies!) in a delightful nearby farmhouse, in the scrumptiously named village of Upton Scudamore. (Sounds to me like a Midsomer Murder town!)

So I will not be about to blog this week. But when I come back I will, I hope, have much to tell...

Tuesday, 1 August 2006

What Are You Wearing Today?

A terribly stylish friend of mine was musing to me a while ago how interesting it would be if there were blogs of what people are wearing. Not in a nasty-panting-down-the-phone way, just in a what a wonderful world of clothing it is out there!

So, today I am wearing a white short sleeved t-shirt that is quite lycra-y and so fitted, but thankfully thick enough material to be flattering! I have one of my favourite skirts on- just below the knee, it is black with a white print pattern on it. It is cut on the bias, so it hugs in and then flares slightly. This I have teemed with red toenails and my hair just pulled back into a low pony-tail.

What are you wearing today?

Paring Down For Summer

This coming Saturday, I have to work all day, and then go from work to the wedding reception of dear Carl’s cousin. And really, truly, in my wardrobe, not a thing to wear!

I am sure you will appreciate the horror of that situation- and I have tried, I really have, to rectify it. I just could not find a thing, anywhere. I have been out every lunch hour for a week, and been thwarted at every turn. So at last, I appealed to Carl to take me to Mattalan- I had never ever been before, but a friend suggested it, so away we went.

Oh, I am so glad I did! I got a new dress for the wedding, a set of new underwear to go with the dress, a fabulous pink enamel colander (somehow the pasta tastes better!) and a gorgeous ironing board cover- all for £26!

I was also really excited by their homewear section. Wonderful vintage floral style duvet covers, a good Nigella-a-like kitchen range…and all…so cheap!

I don’t know if it is the horrors in Lebanon, or just the few cool crisp mornings I have been lucky enough to enjoy, but my nesting instinct is kicking in right now. I find myself planning my Seasonal Scrub. For anyone who doesn’t know, go to and look in the archive for round about last September. It is the most marvellous spring clean in that you do September time to get yourself all ready to nest up for the autumn.

Yes I know it is far too hot and early to be Autumn yet, but….I have a lot of clutter. And the one rule of the Seasonal Scrub (apart from pouring oneself a large gin and tonic at the end) is that it is about cleaning, not decluttering. Magazines are my own downfall. Of course there are some (Martha Stewart Living) that I cannot part with, but a lot of the others, I am going to be ruthless with, and tear out pages that I want to keep, and get rid of the rest. Then come autumn when the nights are for cozying inside, I am going to trim them nicely, sort them out, and make myself lovely scrapbooks of articles and recipes and interviews.

So August for me is going to be my month of decluttering in preparation for the seasonal scrub. Nothing too strenuous, it is too hot for that. Just a gentle paring down, which I think suits summer somehow. I shall also plan my Seasonal Scrub, and even better, start to plan my post-scrub treats.

You see, once all the scrubbing and cleaning is done, each room gets some kind of tiny lovely treat. Last year the bedroom had a new scented candle; the kitchen a week’s worth of new tea towels- fresh flowers for the living room, and a luxurious bubble bath for the bathroom.

This year, I know I fancy a slow cooker for the kitchen (more of an extravagance than usual I know, but I love the idea of coming home to dinner cooked) and also a new oven glove. I have those fabulous tea towels that are blue with pink roses on, and I want an oven glove to match. For the living room, perhaps a throw and some cushion covers for the sofa, in soft snugly shades of cream and chocolate brown. (Mattalan here I come!) For the bedroom I am not too sure yet- perhaps I will find a soft old blanket to make hot water bottle covers from. And for the bathroom, a soft new math mat.

These, along with my glass of gin and tonic will be my ‘carrots’ to get all the work done. My little treats to save up for and source and look forward to.

Serene Sunday

Sundays are such unutterable bliss. They are the one day a week I never have to work, and although I can never decide if I want to see it as the last day of one week, or the first of a brand new one, I love the day just the same.

This Sunday just gone illustrates so well the perfectness of Sunday. Upon enjoying my first cup of tea of the day, I took a mind to colour my hair a little. (I am a particular shade that is most difficult- light brown with enough blonde in it to look not quite dark brown, and enough red in it to look not quite blonde.) So I went a little darker with a sachet of 3-wash stuff, that being all I had to hand.

I spent much of the rest of the day wafting about in my Victorian style nightie, and bare feet. I watched Pride and Prejudice (The BBC version) on dvd; I baked a Caribbean Tea Loaf; I crocheted a gorgeous hexagonal mat for my table, made up of seven smaller hexagons.

We went for a stroll around the park, and amused ourselves a lot by talking in the style of Mr Bennett. We played with our gorgeous little pet snake, and I read the whole of Rebecca Shaw’s A Village Feud.

I really do love Sunday.

Fabulous Friday

Oh, the joy of a week ago Friday. It was a lovely, delicious day- the only improvement possible a cooler breeze and lower temperature!

I went back to the little town I come from to spend the day with a lovely girl with whom I did history ‘A’ level. She is one of those fabulous people who you might not see or speak to for a while, but when you do it is as though you only spoke yesterday. She loves all things vintage, and is a most wonderful mine of information when it comes to the best cosmetics and skin care too.

The bus deposited me outside the church in the High Street-I had a few minutes to wait as my bus got in first, but happily I had both my little handbag fan, and my delicious new novel ‘Little Lady Big Apple’ to pass the time. I have to say, it made me smile so much to look at us. There was I, in my pink sundress with a pink felt flower in my hair, and my wicker basket on my arm. There was she, with her fab black hair flower in, and her bright pink shopping trolley.

We had such a wonderful time- some times shopping just seems to flow and all the treasures in the charity shops throw themselves into your fingers! As well as the charity shops we also did the lovely boutiquey shops, the Emporium of homestuffs, a wonderful little deli, and the organic green grocers.

Despite the heat, we had the most marvellous fish and chips I have had- a lovely place that, most importantly, takes the skin off the fish!

Anna being lovely also bought with her a book list for me- and I ordered this fabulous book (Sew Easy) from the library. It has since arrived (I am catching up with my blogging!) and is quite, quite delicious. It has many wonderful (and easy) sewing projects for the home. And there are so many extras- after the tablecloth section, there is a lemon buttercream cake recipe! I want to make hot water bottle covers (I know, I know, but come autumn I will want one!) and a slip-style nightie, and cushion covers, and so much more!

I bought some lovely treats from the deli, including an organic beer for dear Carl, who sweetly answered my distress call, when I realised I had bought more shopping than I could reasonably carry home, and needed to be rescued from the bus stop…