Monday, 26 June 2006

Blissfully Prepared For The Week

Sometimes I love to spend Sunday afternoon getting myself ready for the week. Although I suppose technically it is winding up for the new week, but it relaxes me so I feel like I am really winding down for Sunday evening, one of my favourite times of the week.

Yesterday morning we went Pick-Your-Own-Strawberry-Picking at our farm shop. They have ingeniously grown the plants on long thin tables outside, so you don't have to grub round on the floor. Sadly they need a bit more sun, so we only got a few...but enough. And the carboard punnets with metal handles are so cute! So now we have strawberries for the week.

In the afternoon, I made fishcakes ready for tea tonight. So now all that needs doing when I get home is the heating up of the fishcakes, and the making of the minty pea puree. Minimal washing up means that I will have time to make the lemon and rosewater biscuits from Romancing The Ordinary.

I cooked a roast chicken last night, and then picked the leftover meat off and used half for sandwiches for lunch today, and saved the rest for chicken soup tomorrow. I then boiled up the carcass for stock for the soup. I feel more comfortable eating meat knowing that nothing has been wasted-more responsible almost.

I like that feeling of Sunday evening, reflecting on the weekend past, the week to come, and knowing that I am a little bit ready. Last night I was knitting Debbie Bliss booties for my cousin who is expecting twin boys. I am pleased that the first one worked out ok, as there are a lot of increases and decreases in moss stitch, which is a bit tricky to begin with.

I posted on Saturday about how I feel about crafts, but it didnt really flow properly. I read it again today and I worry that it sounds like I think if children can't knit, crochet and sew they will be hooligans. Nothing could be further from the truth and no one has emailed me to suggest it, but I just want to try and clarify my own thoughts here. When I craft, or cook, in whatever medium I create I feel connected to what I have made, to the people who have gone before me who have made similar things. I imagine the other people out there maybe following the same pattern with different, or similar results. I feel really grounded and connected. I also see the value in things more. When I pick up a vintage crochet or embroidered item, I don't just think about how lovely it is, but the person who made it. And I think that if children were given more chances to learn to create rather than just consume, they would be happier. I want my children to be able to have the same good feelings I do about craft. At work a while ago, we had an Easter Crafternoon, doing things like making Easter Bonnetts and Crowns, and tissue paper flowers. Oh, the children were so absorbed in what they were doing, so proud of their creations. It was lovely to see. How wonderful if this gift was given freely in schools.

There, I think that is what I was trying to say.

Oh- and an odd cooking disaster this morning. I was up at six, while dear Carl was in the shower as I wanted to make him a special breakfast. (Just because it is a rainy Monday, nothing more!) The recipe I saw called me to cut the top off a large tomato, scoop out its innards, crack in an egg, season and bake for twenty minutes, then serve it on a slice of hot toast with a piece of ham. A twist on bacon and eggs really. Well we have a fan oven that usually cooks really fast. Twenty minutes- and the egg was still liquid. I checked the temperature and upped it. I checked the oven was on, not just the grill. No, it was on. Another ten minutes. Still liquid. Another five. STILL liquid. So I put it in the microwave...and where the tomato was soft from the oven, it collapsed into a part runny-part solid eggy disaster.....

Tonight, the biscuites will go better!

(And I gave Carl museli for breakfast instead....)

Saturday, 24 June 2006

Myriad Musings

I seem to do my best thinking in the quiet time just before the library closes. Perhaps it is reflecting back on the day leads to deeper reflection?

My first musing is upon making things and crafting. How precious it is to hold something in your hands that someone else has made. To hold their skill, the evenings or afternoons it took them to make it. It means even more if that person is connected to you some how. Now I know that we appreciate the handmade here, but it bothers me slightly that it is not taught in schools. I think that if more children learn to make things, perhaps they will learn the value of things more, too. And feel more fulfilled because they can do more than buy, buy, buy.

Which brings me on to my other musing. The last two weeks I have had little money to spend, and have somehow got used to not spending. And now that pay day is here again, just spending seems odd. This is a good thing, I think.

I also love June. I love the soft fruits that are so abundance, the sunlight, the breeze, the alive feeling that June brings sweeping with her.

We are going to go strawberry picking tomorrow- our farm shop grows them on tables, so no bending down!

Tuesday, 20 June 2006

A Perfect Picnic Recipe

For Fathers Day on Sunday, dear Carl and I met my lovely parents and sister at the zoo. We all took along picnic things, spread out a tablecloth Mum had embroidered with flowers all shades of purple, and shared our picnic lunch. It felt so special, as we had bought the food along in wicker baskets, and I also bought some vintage china plates for us to eat off of.

My new favourite thing to take along to picnics is apple scone ring. It is quite scrumptious, quick and easy to make, and transports well. So if you fancy making it for your next picnic (or just to have with a cup of hot tea, or in the garden for elevenses) here is the recipe:

Apple Scone Ring

Preheat oven to Gas 6/170 oC

Sift 8oz self raising flour into a bowl along with 1tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt.

Rub in 2oz of butter.

Stir in 2oz of caster sugar (vanilla sugar is scrummy if you have it)

Stir in a medium apple grated. (A cooking apple is best, but if you dont have one, an eating apple is fine)

Add enough milk to make a soft but not sticky dough. Sometimes you need a splash, other times I have used nearly a quarter of a pint! It all depends...

Lightly knead it to bring it together- keep your touch light.

Press it out on a greased baking tray to a large round, between one and two fingers high.

Score it into 8, brush with a little milk, and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for around 20 minutes.

When it comes out it should be done but you should find it is quite moist, even when cool.


Tuesday, 13 June 2006

A Knitting Disaster

Oh, oh, oh! I have learned a lesson the very hard way! For all my enthusiasm about tidying up and spring cleaning, it seems that the one thing that must never be tidied away is your most current craft project, a disaster is certain to befall it.

As did to my beautiful wrap shawl thing that I have been knitting. I am about three quarters of the way through. When I took it out of its new home, some (ok, lots!) of stitches slid off the needles, woosh! Happily I caught them, and put them right back on again. Then I held it up to look at it better, and discovered two stitches had made a bid for freedom and were unravelling! Agh!

My wail was spectacular. But you see, it is such a lacy pattern that I cannot see how to mend it, and nor can I think of a simple way to rip back and start from just a few centimetres before the big gaping gap that has formed.

So, all is lost you see. Utterly lost. I can't start the whole thing again. I am desolate. Until I see my Mum again, when I hope she will be able to work some magic on it for me!

Until then, I needed another craft project. I have no crochet on the go at the moment, and am quite out of spirits with knitting. So I rummaged in my craft chest and found an embroidered tablecloth that I bought five years ago. It is a square cloth, with a border of green leaves and curling stems, and beautiful flowers in shades of blue with yellow french knot centres. I had done woefully little before I packed it away, so I have resurrected this.

I had forgotten how soothing it is to embroider; my stem stitch felt a little rusty at first, but is flowing now. I love the satisfaction of completing a whole little flower, entire in itself, but only part of a larger pattern. I like the idea of painting with embroidery silk on fine fabric. So for a little while, I shall be stitching away in the evenings.

This is in fact part of another drive of mine- to finish more that I start. It occurs to me that if I ever want my future children to say 'oh, Mum made this when she was my age' or anything similar, I am going to have to have some finished projects!

I have just finished reading Five Get Into A Fix (the summer brings me out in a rash of nostalgia for Enid Blyton!), Suspense and Sensibility, and have just started rereading The Little Lady Agency. I am in a fortunate position to have a whole stack of reading lined up: Agatha Raisin and the Witch of Wickhadden; On Mystic Lake; The Provencial Lady in America; North by Northanger...and now I am looking for a scrumptious sounding book recommended by a kind commenter.

I spent Sunday afternoon in the garden with a pillow, gin and tonic, and pile of books. Such bliss!

Saturday, 10 June 2006


...was my day off- I rose early, and got to work on (belated!) Spring Cleaning.

And it was wonderful! I had every window thrown wide open, washing flapping on the line outside, and got so much done. Sometimes when the spirit moves you, everything seems easier somehow.

The bathroom is now a delight to be in. I cannot claim credit wholly, as dear Carl did the actual cleaning- I did the going through the cupboards throwing out all the stuff that gets accumulated (five bottles of bubble bath with half a centimetre left in each!) and reorganizing it and making it lovely. All my makeup is in the same place! All the lipsticks are together, all the eye pencils, all the masacaras. It was like playing makeup counter!

Then, the kitchen. I got carried away, and reorganized the dry goods cupboard, the spice-and-herb collection, the crockery, the lot! The kettle and coffee maker got moved, as did the tea making accoutrements; the microwave got moved, all have new homes.

Then onto my wardrobe, everything out! Things sorted and piles made, order gently falling on everything like a soft summer rain. The bedroom- sheets changed, pile of books and magazines and needlepoint that always appear next to my side of the bed dispersed to their homes.

Sadly I only got to plan the living room- that comes tonight or tomorrow. I did put a vase of bronze chryanthemums with orange tips on each end of the living room window, and a small glass of them on the living room table though. Next will be the bookshelf, and the craft pile.

I feel so much better for it. I feel like having stirred everything up, our sweet little flat is really breathing again.

I also found a cute little picture of dear Carl as a baby- you can really tell it is him. On the subject of photos....should I post one soon? Well, perhaps. There is one picture I like, but it is four years old now and not very true at all to how I look now- but I do love how straight my hair looks in it! Perhaps a new photo needs to be procured, then I can wrestle with the scanner at work, and introduce myself properly to my fellow lovely bloggers!

Inspired By...You, and You, and You!

Hello lovelies

It is simply the most blissful June afternoon that there ever was- I hope you are enjoying it!

I treated myself to the new 'She' magazine and read this on the first page:

Long, hot days and langurous, balmy evenings are what we look forward to this month in SHE. Relax, kick off your shoes, and take it slow, as novelist Rachel Billington suggests. Dress easy from our selection of summer frocks, eat light from our luscious berry recipes and appreciate the glory of grand British Gardens. Enjoy your month, for summer comes but once a year.'

Now this just sums up summer for me, and how I am feeling. Langurous, luscious, are they not wonderful words? I do want to kick off my shoes to walk on soft warm grass! I do want to feast on berries, and float round in pretty frocks, I do!

It occurred to me yesterday afternoon, while I had the entire contents of my wardrobe strewn over the bed, divided into piles ('charity shop' 'skirts' 'dresses' 'tops' 'party clothes' 'winter clothes' 'when I lose a few more pounds' and 'ooops, Carls, how did that get in here?!') that the blogs I read really do inspire me. This bout of wardrobe organizing was inspired by who has summer clothes and winter clothes, and a wonderfully organized wardrobe. This is the blog of a friend, and she always looks stunning and so well put together, so I have taken a leaf out of her book.

Since reading http:/ I have read a few of the Persephone books- oh, the unutterable bliss of Persephone books! I have started taking the Persephone Quarterly newsletter, which always makes me smile. Through yarnstorm, I read Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day which I thought was one of the most wonderful books I have read- right up there with The Enchanted April.

I have also made yarnstorms rock cakes that she posted a recipe for back in the autumn- scrummy! has such wonderful pictures, and has me plotting to make pretty floral covers for the arms of my sofa from Cath Kidston material. And to use the leftover scraps to make some bunting for high days and holidays... today has me bound and determined to go home and make a blackberry and apple crumble-pie.

So many other things you have all posted have sparked off some thought in my mind, led me to read something new, try a new recipe, so many things. Brocante Home and sweet Alison have helped me find my feet and puts words to so many feelings I have had.

So thank you all for your lovely blogs and the inspirations I continually find there!

Now lets get out there and enjoy this gorgeous weather while it lasts!

Thursday, 8 June 2006

Scarf Signature

One of the first 'Mimi Says' pieces that I wrote for the wonderful Alison at Brocante Home was about finding your personal signature- be it a particular colour, recipe, item of clothing- anything that is just you. I often think back to my scribblings- and just recently I have been noticing a new signature evolving for me.

Over the last few weeks I have taken to wearing scarves more often. I never used to be able to carry them off- I always felt a bit clumsy in them. But suddenly, they make me feel good, and when I wear them, I get compliments on them. Most of my scarves have been presents (a shocking pink pashmina from dear Agnes at work; a pink net scarf embroidered with tiny clusters of rosebuds with a green scalloped edging from lovely Carl's parents, and a thai silk scarf in the most wonderful sky blue from Carl's kind sister). I also have a cream pashmina, and a stole that I crocehted for myself.

So perhaps other people see me as a 'scarf' person, and now I am beginning to 'grow into them' as it were.

Today I am wearing the long pink scarf, tied around my head almost like an alice band. The knit is under one ear, but hidden by my hair, and the lengths trail over my right shoulder. I have my new side swept fringe loose, and the rest of the hair flicking out. I am wearing a long pink flowered skirt (one of those tiered ones), a white vest top and flowery flip flops.

Wednesday, 7 June 2006

Abundant Seasonal Riches

Oh, the utter bliss of the fruit and veg man on the market!

We had not been able to get to the farm shop this weekend, so I popped into our market at lunch time. Everything came in brown paper bags with the tops twisted over, and was, I think, rather good value.

I got:

1 lb cherries, all bursting ripe and juciy
1 lb apricots, soft and tender
1 lb new potatoes
1 lb granny smiths
1 lb golden delicious
2 lemons
2 onions
3 bananas
2 punnetts local strawberries, lush and fragrant

all for £5! It seems so luxurious to just sit and eat and eat and eat cherries and apricots. Such an abundance of cherries- they had a big wooden crate heaped with them- the shades of red make such a beautiful picture. They are fleeting though- a month or so and they will be gone, so enjoy them while you can.

(Of course the supermarkets will still be selling them come December as they do strawberries..there is something unnatural about such fruits in the winter. And just because they will sell them to you at a vastly inflated price is no reason to buy them, and no guarantee of flavour whatsoever. If you must have cherries in December, buy a glut now while they are cheap, and make them into cherry brandy, as I will be doing this weekend. Then you will have cherry brandy to toast the new year with, and tipsy cherries to eat with ice cream. V. good indeed!)

Tuesday, 6 June 2006

Recent Books

I have had a little more time than usual to devote to what dear Carl would describe as the devouring of books with unseemly haste!

I felt like a comfort read, so I read first 'What Katy Did At School' mainly for the wonderful description of the Christmas box they receive from home- it is just what a good parcel should be!

Having read that, I moved right on to 'What Katy Did Next' and luxuriated in the descriptions of her European travels- and enjoyed seeing England through her eyes.

Our bookclub is reading Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee by Meera Syal. For some reason I have never wanted to read it before now- but it was so good, I really recommend it. I have fallen asleep with it for several nights, and awoken to reach out and feel for it on my bedside table so I can read just a little more.

When Alison mentioned the Provincial Lady books, it struck me how much I had enjoyed it. Imagine my bliss when I discovered there were more! And that the library holds some of them! And even better, when my copy of The Provincial Lady In Wartime arrived, and I realised it was an original copy from 1940, with a faded set of library rules pasted into the back of the book, and has date stamps from the 1950's in it! Such bliss!

Scrumptious Weekend

It's a funny thing, you know, this summer business. I have always delighted in most of the seasons. I love the scrunch of autumn leaves and the dull nip in the air; I love the dark velvet sky and icy puddles of winter; I love to welcome spring in by filling my little flat with hyacinths and daffodils. But summer...well that has always been the hot bit between spring and autumn!

But this year, perhaps as we have had such glum weather for so long, I am really enjoying it. The sunshine! The blue skies! Being able to go out with bare arms! It is such bliss, for the soul as much as the body I think too.

This being a rare Saturday off, and an even rarer beast, a sunny Saturday off, Carl and I decided to go back to the Gardens of Easton Lodge that I mentioned a post or so a go. We walked around the lush green abundance of the gardens, talked to the peacocks, took tea, luxuriated in nature really.

Then Sunday was brunch club, an altogether delightful affair. The host this time was quite nervous as his previous brunch club theme was Chinese Takeaway for the Chinese New Year which was really fun- but this was the first time of his cooking for us. And, he did fantastically (despite his worries!) we had a salmon starter on a bed of green beans, followed by a from-scratch chicken curry with two kinds of rice to choose from (divine yellow pepper and onion rice!) and the dessert besides.

Oh, the desserts! One lovely girl bought individual key lime pies she had made- so light, and good with creme fraiche. Another lovely girl bought along the most divine, sweet, scrumptious white chocolate cornflake cakes. And as if that was not enough dessert, I bought along a chocolate cake, of which I was inordinately proud!

Made to a Rachel Allen (who I worship!) recipe, you melt chocolate, butter and sugar in a saucepan, then beat in some eggs and ground almonds, scrape into a lined cake tin, and bake until just set. It comes out of the oven all puffed up, and you worry about how it looks- but as it cools, it sinks back down, and goes dense, and fudgy and gooey. All good qualities in a chocolate cake, I feel!

Little and Often

The best trick I have discovered in my recent strivings to become more healthy, is the magical key of little and often. I get so much more water, fruit and veggies inside me this way, and am feeling better for it already.

Musing upon this leads me to think that perhaps this could be the key to better blogging for me too. Although I am really proud that I have made it this far into the year (oh, how many diaries have been long since abandoned by me not even a month into the year!) I do think that I need to post more often. Too many of my posts recently have been updates on a weeks worth of silence.

I have favourite blogs to visit, (my newest find is scrumptious- and when I read them I come away feeling uplifted and inspired. And selfish though it is, I do feel disappointed if a blog is not updated for a while- I hope that is a compliment to your lovely blogs really!

So my point was that it is hardly fair of me to feel glum when blogs lay silent without and update while adventures are being had, but I do the same! So, a new month, lovely June, and a new resolution- blog little and often.