Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Upon Vanilla Coffee, Spies, Soup and Spooks!

As you know, I am utterly devoted to my cup of tea, but for today, for my catch up, I think that perhaps a cup of vanilla coffee is in order instead. As much as I love tea, sometimes I like a little change, and nothing goes quite so well with shortbread as a cup of vanilla coffee!

Recently, I feel like I am suffering from skitter-brain. Skitter-brain is when you can’t get your mind to rest gently on any one thing. You feel almost in a flurry the whole time, and like you need soothing. I blame the weather, mostly- my mind tells me it should be cold and frosty, and it just doesn’t seem able to decide what it wants to do. The bbc told me it would be warm today, so I abandoned my winter coat in favour of my flowery raincoat- and by lunchtime, I was freezing! Also, I find myself between books, almost. I have been reading The Gentle Art of Domesticity, which is just the most inspiring and beautiful book ever, but you can’t rush it. You need to take it in little doses to really appreciate it. While I have been reading this I have run out of fiction…I always like to have some fiction on the go. There is a bookclub book that I should be reading, but cannot drum up any enthusiasm for, and there is just too much choice on the shelves. There are lots of titles I have thought ‘ooh, I must read!’ but can I think of a single one when I need one? I have ‘I Capture The Castle’ waiting for me on tape, but I want something else, too. A book to tuck in my handbag and take on the bus with me, pull out in the post office queue, and be reassured by, because it is there.

Now if I am not careful I am sure I am going to sound discontent, when really, I am quite merry. But I was just wondering, if I described the symptoms of skitter-brain to you, if any of you know the cure?! I am hoping it might involve hot cups of rose tea drank sitting in a violet scented bath!

One of my dear work friends is expecting her first baby, and has been having soup for lunch a lot. I have been following suit, and finding it really filling and comforting. The benefits of buying some soup for lunch are that I don’t have to make it, transport it to work, or have a whole vat left to eat up. The negative things are that it is expensive (I worked it out to be £40 a month if I had soup and a roll every day!) and I don’t have a vat left to eat up! So I have decided to compromise. I will treat myself to soup and a roll out once a week or so, and buy a few tins from the supermarket for standby, and also experiment with making lots of different soups and breads.

I was chatting to my Monday-Night-Friend about my newfound passion for soups, and she told me about this lovely book… http://www.amazon.co.uk/Soup-Bible-Soups-Inspiring-Collection/dp/075480240X/ref=sr_1_1/026-0260340-2518074?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1193759671&sr=1-1 it makes me want to cook my way from cover to cover!

Now then, what else? Well I am still knitting my pumpkin tea cosy. I am halfway up the second side, then it just needs sewing together, and a stalk and some leaves knitting…or maybe crocheting! Pictures will follow!

I have been baking. I love to mark the seasons and days, and so last night I cooked batch after batch of Halloween Cupcakes. I wanted to make some for Carl to take into his work and share, and considerably more for my work friends (there are only 3 other people in his department, and there are lots of us)! The recipe said it would make 14 cakes per batch of mixture, but it was closer to 9. I am using a chocolate cupcake recipe, and baking them in gold foil cupcake cases. Tonight I am going to slice off the peaked tops, and ice with chocolate icing, and sit one of those pumpkin-foil-wrapped-chocolate-balls on top of each. Oh yes, it is chocolate all the way!

My other Halloween plans include the carving of a pumpkin, by the light of which we shall watch The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I am going to use the flesh of the pumpkin to make pumpkin fritters with, and I want to find a few quiet moments to tonight to make a little card for Carl. It is going to be very simple- a blue card, with a white circle for the moon, and a black bat stuck on top. Inside? ‘I’m Bats About You!’ and it will be slipped into his lunchbox.

I also want to enter the puttery treat challenge at http://brocantehome.typepad.com/brocante_home/the-puttery-treats-challe.html my main problem so far is choosing which treat to post about! I have incorporated so many into my daily life, and they are all so scrumptious!

I am really looking forward to Spooks tonight! Captain Wentworth....sigh...I mean Adam Carter! I don't think I would make a very good spy, but I like to think of the spy-gadgets I could have! Knitting needles as defensive weapons? My kettle could be a secret radio transmitter, and my cake tin could hold all my essential spy gear....as long as there was room for my cakes too, of course! My masterly disguise would be a slick of red lipstick and a pair of high heels. Actually, talking of spies, I was working on the enquiry desk the other day, when a customer asked me about the next level of Pimsleur french course on tape. Sadly for him, it emerged that he had borrowed everything published, but when I checked the Pimsleur website, it said that spies use these language courses to prepare for posting abroad, so they can merge in with the locals! How exciting! Sadly my customer did not seem quite so excited as I was about a beckoning career in spy-dom!

Now I find myself with so many letters to write (I haven’t forgotten you Tash!) and so many blogs to go visit that I shall say good evening for now, and wish you all the most scrumptious Halloween in the world!

Monday, 29 October 2007

Cup of Tea and a Catch-Up

Gosh, it has been so long! A week or go I was musing on a post about how a week changes so much, about how a week ago I was looking longingly at my winter coat, and now I really need it, and suddenly I realise that was nearly a fortnight ago!

Mostly I have just been run clean off of my feet in the library with half term busyness. My lovely friend Anna has had her baby boy, and all sorts of little things have been going on that seem to take up an inordinate amount of time.

So by way of making it up to you, here is my recipe for carrot and lentil soup, and I promise a proper cup of tea, sit down, catch up with cake tomorrow!

And for now, tie on your aprons, and prepare to make the most comforting (and healthy, bonus!) soup in the world...

Grate (or whizz in the blender chopper thing) about 600g of carrots, don't bother to peel them.

Toast 2tsp cumin seeds, and a pinch of dried chilli flakes in a large pan.

Throw in the carrot, 140g split red lentils, a litre of vegetable stock, and 125ml of milk. Use more liquid if you have used more carrotts, and simmer for about 15 minutes or so.

I like to add a bit more than a pinch of chilli, and to whizz it with a stick blender at the end, but it is a very adaptable recipe!

It reheats really well and is just scrumptious with sourdough bread or naan.

Oh, and one last thing, you know how I adore pumpkins? Go have some fun with this website! I will be carving mine for real on Wednesday while watching 'Sleepy Hollow'!


Monday, 22 October 2007

Loving Homes Wanted...

I have some beautiful Vintage Stitchcraft Magazines~Beautiful little magazines with lovely colour covers, patterns for all manner of knitting and crochet and stitching. Fabulous 40's fashion, wartime advice, adverts and more

Jan 1943- Blackout material apron, bookends, slippers & more.

Mar 1943-Dig For Victory Belt, jumper, socks, baby clothes & more.

Nov 1942-Underwear, hot water bottle, stockings & more.

Jun-Jul 1944-Summer jumper, sunsuit, sandals & more

Feb-Mar 1945 (cover loose)Gloves, pinafore, tablemats & more.

They need loving homes as I am running out of space in my little flat! Would any of you care to take them off of my hands? Would £1.50 each be to much to ask?

If you fancy giving them some bookshelf space, leave me a comment with your email address and which magazine you fancy and I will email you!

Today I Am Wearing...

...A wrap dress which a dear friend (she of the sourdough bread!) brought with her to Brunch Club yesterday. She had decided that it was not quite right for her colouring, and perhaps it would be better for me. It is divine and I adore it. It has a black background but the print is so dense you would not register it as a black dress. The print is a tiny motif that William Morris would draw if he was crossing a fleur de lys with an oak leaf, with a suggestion of a feather. These are beautiful browns and almost burgundy, and it is so comfortable. I have taken time to make-up this morning, and am wearing browns on my eyes to echo my dress.


Why must it be that when I have the means and inclination to shop, the object of my desire eludes me? It being payday, I decided that I will take my cue from nature, and turn over a new leaf when it comes to my underwear drawer. I was going to cast out almost everything, and purchase two or three sensible bras (oh I do love frivolous undies, but what I really need is a bra I can put on under a t-shirt or little jumper and not have the embroidery, lace and fripperies showing through!) some knickers to go with said bras, and an abundance of tights so I am not forever rummaging for a pair without a ladder. Although I keep a collection of shoes under my desk (all sky-high heels, peep toes, some with bows, all utterly unsensible!) I wear ballet pumps for walking to-and-from work, and most of my away-from-work life. So, a new pair of these was in order, too. Full of thoughts of an abundant underwear drawer, I set off on my lunch hour, full of anticipation.

But sometimes, it just isn’t going to go your way. There were lots of sensible bras that I liked, but only two in my size, so it was those two I had to have. There were others I liked more, and these will do….but it takes the fun out of the choice when the choice is ‘this…or nothing’! The shoes were successful…I managed to get exact replacements for the ones I was wearing. I like my play shoes to be varied, but once I find a comfortable pair for everyday, I want to stick with them! And the tights, alas, were a complete no-go. There is only one shop in town that sells tights that fit me (no sagging, wrinkling, or inching down during the day) and I like the shade ‘natural’ and take size 1. They had none on the shelves, and none in the stockroom. And, had no idea when they would get a new delivery. And no size 1 tights in thick black opaque to keep me warm under my jumper dresses.

I felt pretty vexed on the way back to work, until I remembered what I had waiting for me for lunch! Nothing soothes the soul quite like a bowl of home-made carrot, cumin and lentil soup, with home-made sourdough bread. The soup I can take credit for, and give you the recipe for, but the sourdough bread was made by a sweet friend who visited for brunch club yesterday. The soup and bread together were really quite delicious. Sourdough bread is something I am going to try my hand at one evening. Nestled in my handbag is one more culinary treat, waiting for afternoon tea break- a drum of peppermint hot chocolate powder from Whittards. Bliss!

Upon Posting

I rarely sit down at my keyboard and just type out a post. My posts are fairly spontaneous in that I don’t agonize over them…but they are percolated in that thoughts bubble through my mind for a while before I swirl them round and tip them out upon the page.

The advantage of this is that when I sit down to post, I have something to post about, rather than logging on and thinking ‘ummmm’. It also means that I use my morning walk to work to good advantage. This is my time to mull things over, turn over thoughts that have gathered, spot things that inspire me, and test out flavours of ideas.

Sometimes I even find a sentence forming, which, if it pleases me, will be tucked away safe so I can post it here. But, there is a downside. You see, sometimes, because I have had a thought, and turned it over in my mind for a little while, and perhaps even found a few words to phrase it…somehow…I think I have posted it!

And although I read through my posts before I publish them, I don’t often read old posts. When I do, I sometimes find that I have forgotten to mention the very thing that sparked the idea for the whole post!

So it was with my post about my trip to the Knitting and Stitching exhibition. I was going to start by asking you to imagine: what if, when someone is staring at you, you KNEW it was because you look great, and not because you have a ladder in your tights or a stain on your top?! What if you just walked round as sure in the knowledge that you are lovely to look at as you are in the knowledge that you have blue eyes, brown hair and size seven feet?!

Because at K&S I saw a lady, and although I know it is rude, I could not stop staring at her because she was so lovely to look at! She was one of the exhibitors, and I really must go through my show guide to work out just who she was, but she was lovely. She was sitting in her booth, knitting. She was a young lady, I suspect in her twenties, but she could have been in her thirties, and she was wearing a tailored suit. The pencil skirt showed her knees, and the jacket was really nipped in at the waist, and it was made of dark material patterned with tiny cherries! Her hair dark hair was pulled back, and perched on top was a pert little black hat, with a veil! She had cherry red lips and nails, and was wearing nude fishnet tights. Fascinatingly, she had a large tattoo on one of her shins, but it looked very lady like. She looked like she had stepped out of a fashion plate from a 40’s magazine, and all I could think was that she must know the pleasure of having people stare at you, and knowing it is because she looks great!

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Pumpkins, Pumpkins, Everywhere!

I love pumpkins. Adore them! I have so many pictures of pumpkins that I have torn from old magazines or newspapers, squirreled away in the pages of other books. I love it when they print a picture of a whole wheelbarrow full of nobbly oddly shaped squash, in a myriad of shades of orange. Every year we have a pumpkin carving party, and every year I am sad when I finally have to throw mine out.

I love how cool they are to the touch, and I find it so hard to choose which ones to take home. They all call to me, and they all seem to have their own personalities somehow.

Imagine my delight, when ahead of the shelves-crammed-with-pumpkins season, I discovered an unprepossessing box of petite pumpkins with dull orange mottled skins, rather than the bright crayon-orange that you usually see; the box was labelled ‘culinary pumpkins’.

For reasons I cannot quite put my finger on to explain, this tickled me immensely. And it got me thinking…although I do love a handful of pumpkin seeds to snack on, and I do make a nice pumpkin and sage risotto, I don’t really cook with pumpkin. And really, I should.

Perhaps it was serendipity then, that at the food fair at Cressing Temple this weekend, I walked into a little room all draped with black cloth, and filled with pumpkins, and tasters of delicious treats such as scones and muffins…there in the middle of all this pumpkin-ness was a table of pumpkin recipe books, and the author there to sign them!

Even better, the recipes were all in English measurements…perhaps it is unspeakably lazy of me, but I always find myself daunted when I have to convert from cups to ounces!

I snapped one up and the lovely lady signed it for me, then I took it home to dream of all the pumpkins I shall be cooking. Pumpkin scones are a must, I think, as well as Pumpkin Juice, straight from the pages of Harry Potter!

As I re-read this post, I feel that I have not properly described pumpkins. Smooth, but gnarled is perhaps one way of sketching them for you, but I feel sadly let down by the thesaurus when it comes to their colour. It suggests ‘apricot’ ‘coral’ ‘salmon’ and ‘tangerine’ as alternative words for orange. Not one of those is even close! Perhaps ‘pumpkiny’ is the best word of all?

In the continuing spirit of all things pumpkiny, I have nearly finished one side of my pumpkin tea cozy. When it is finished, I shall post pattern and pictures, and be sitting down to a nice hot pot of tea, and a plate of pumpkin scones.

Before I must say goodbye for the evening, I must tell you how utterly scrumptious it was to pop out at tea break time this afternoon, and scrunch and scuff my way through a whole pile of fallen leaves that were all dry and brittle and gloriously autumnal! The scuffling-scrunching reminded me of the sound the chocolate chips made as they were stirred into the cookie dough on last nights Nigella Express!

Saturday, 13 October 2007

A Book...

...some of you (Flossy! Chris!) have been so kind as to tell me that you enjoy my writing, and that you would read a book if I would write one.

Well, I will share a secret with you. It is one of my dearest dreams in the world to write a book. And since Flossy's comment, I have been mulling ideas over in my mind. I have an idea....for a book. A Bedside Book. A book of scrumptious ideas, recipes for hot milk and 'z' shaped biscuits (to send you to sleep, you see....zzzzz...get it?!) and pages for you to scribble your dreams, and short stories and so many things!

I just wanted to share this particular dream with you to say thank you for your kindness! I just wish I could sit with you all and share a nice afternoon tea to say thank you for visiting!

A Bad Case of Popcorn Brain

You know how when you get a good idea, or inspiration strikes you, it feels like your brain goes ‘ping!’? Well a day at Alexandra Palace at the Knitting and Stitching show results in so many ‘pings’ that it makes you feel like your mind is a popcorn maker!

I often get a mild case of popcorn-brain when reading my favourite blogs, or reading comments left for me here. Tash at www.vintagepretty.org gave me a big ‘ping’ when she left me a comment to say that she makes two Christmas cakes- one to eat and one to slice up to give to visitors so they have a little bit of Christmas to take home with them.

Yesterday I had a case of extreme popcorn-brain. There is so much to see at the Knitting and Stitching Show. Not just the stalls and the exhibitions, but the people too. I saw so many examples of hand-knitted clothes, jewellery that had been made by the wearer, home-made clothes, or even shop bought things that had been put together beautifully. I also saw far more younger people there this year- although I usually go on Sunday, so I don’t know if the school girls are there every year and I miss seeing them, or if it is a newer thing. It is great to see though!

One of the best things is that you don’t have to like a particular craft or project or work to be inspired by it. There were so many things that Mum and I said that we wouldn’t want to make ourselves…or perhaps have it in our homes….but it had given us a great idea for something else using a similar technique, or colour, or almost anything!

The thing that made me smile most was a stall that was selling glitter. Rather than having it in tubs, it had giant plastic champagne glasses, and each glass was filled with a different colour of super fine glitter. Even better they had beautiful, unusual colours, and you could buy it by the scoop. I have found myself really being drawn towards orange recently, so I came away with a scrumptious little bag of pumpkin-coloured spangly treasure!

A stall selling hand-knitted tea cosies then made me think that if I were to knit one in orange, then crochet a stalk and some leaves in green, I could make a pumpkin tea-cosie! So I have been to the market today to procure some double knitting wool in different shades of orange, and I hope to cast on tonight when I am home from work and snuggled on my sofa in front of Strictly Come Dancing!

We had perhaps the most unusual picnic, but it really was utterly scrumptious! There were no seats at all, so we decided to go to the champagne bar, buy a glass of bubbles each, and eat there. Alas, although there was champagne a-plenty (don’t think us toooo decadent! We took our own lunch which paid for the champagne which was £5 a glass!) the seats were oh-so-high barstools, which is no good when you are little ladies like us, and your feet won’t reach the foot rest! We would have just slip-slithered off, so we took our glasses, and perched on the edge of some steps in the Palm Court, and sipped our drinks beneath some enormous Palms! Not very unusual so far? Well consider our sandwiches- cold liver and bacon! I am sure there must be plenty of nose-wrinkling going on now, but really it is our favourite! We finished off with slices of ripe pear, fig, and Satsuma segments, then headed back into the fray.

There was a truly amazing silk and velvet flower stall, where I splashed out on the most amazing bunch of violets, tied together with green ribbon just the same colour as their stalks. I adore violets, and these look so real that you just have to bury your nose in them in the hope you may catch the hint of their scent!

I also chose out a pattern book to make decorations out of red and white felt, with a little embroidery and blanket stitch, embellished with a button or too. That and some craft magazines were what filled my shopping bag, but my brain was overflowing with ideas that I had gathered!

When we got back to the coach, we made ourselves cups of tea! Mum had packed her thermos full of hot water, and a bottle of milk (in a cool bag!) and I had bought along the teabags, cups and a teaspoon! Never has tea been so reviving! We had one cup each while we were waiting for the others in our coach party to return, then another poured before we set out for home. Utter bliss!

I hope you are all having a really lovely weekend. I am looking forward to posting all about the food fair tomorrow, and hoping that I can say I have cast on my pumpkin tea-cosie! I am also hoping that my copy of ‘The Gentle Art of Domesticity’ will have finally arrived from amazon. A week overdue, and two phone calls….and they didn’t use Royal Mail! I really do need it, you see- it looks so divine! And Jane who wrote it, also writes one of my favourite blogs. Why not make yourself a nice pot of tea and pay a call to www.yarnstorm.blogs.com

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Morning of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness

Last night was not a good night. Every now and then, from out of the blue, I just can’t sleep. I was too hot, and also too cold. My feather pillow felt like lead. I couldn’t settle. All I could hear were my thoughts rushing round and round…

So this morning when I got up, my eyes were heavy, and I felt…muffled almost. Imagine my delight when the weather man said that it was misty outside…foggy even! How perfect that the weather should match my mood!

I love foggy mornings. I feel sorry for the commuters who will be stuck in traffic, but I love to watch it swirl about, see the silhouettes of trees blurred against the sky. That hazy sunshine, the scuffly leaves. Clouds of breath in the nippy air. Everything seems a little softer in the mist.

The weatherman also tells me that it is going to be turning chilly next week-perhaps we shall even have a visit from Jack Frost! Cool evenings mean snuggling up with a warm blanket, a good book and some comfort food. And what can be more comforting than utterly sweet and scrumptious Pineapple Upside Down Cake?

I love pineapple, partly for their beautiful knobbly exterior, partly for their heavenly scent and sweetness, but also because once upon a time, they would have been an exotic treat at the tea table. I like to think of the far away land where they have ripened to sweetness under a baking sun, even if I am just using a tin of pineapple rings! I first made this recipe when I was at school. The recipe says that the golden syrup and glace cherries are optional….but I think of them as rather a necessity!

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake- Perfect for a Snuggly Sunday Evening

First tie on your favourite apron, then put on a cd that makes you smile (the Puppini Sisters for me!)

Preheat your oven to 180oC, and lightly grease a 6-7 inch sandwich tin.

Arrange a small tin of pineapple rings prettily in the bottom, adorn with beautiful glace cherries (I usually buy the natural ones, but I find the brazen red of the dyed ones against the pineapple irresistible!) then drizzle over 2 tablespoons of golden syrup.

Cream 2oz of soft butter with 2oz of caster sugar, beat in an egg and then sift in 4oz of self raising flour.

Pour over the pineapple rings, then bake for 20-25 minutes.

Turn out upside down, and settle down to eat it with a steaming cup of tea and a jug full of custard…

I hope you all have some scrumptious things planned for the weekend. Tomorrow I am off to Alexandra Palace for the Knitting and Stitching Exhibition, Saturday I am working, and Sunday it is the Cressing Temple food fair, where I am hoping to buy some locally produced Calvados. A lot of recipes that have caught my eye recently seem to involve Calvados! And then of course, I shall be scurrying back home to make my pineapple upside down cake. Have a delicious weekend!

Friday, 5 October 2007

I Forgot The Caterpillars!

Deary me, how could I do such a thing? But I meant to tell you that on my walk into work yesterday, there were conker cases fallen on the ground, and they looked for all the world like great big fat spikey green caterpillars!

My walk into work this morning was half an hour earlier due to my early-friday-start, and it was the first real-and-proper-and-not-just-me-wishing-for-it-and-imagining-it-to-be-so autumn morning! It was cool, much cooler than it has been, and the light was bright and hazy, and all the colours slightly muted as it is when it is cooler. Quite beautiful. The light and shadows through the tree branches falling onto the leaves on the grass in the park made me wish I am better at painting. But at least it is all there to be breathed in, enjoyed, and framed in the mind forever.

Now I think this post is going to be one of those rummage-in-the-biscuit-tin jumbly sort of posts, but as long as you have a cup of tea to hand, I hope you will forgive me! I wish I had you here with me so I could offer you a biscuit, perhaps even a still-warm madeleine, to say thank you for the lovely comments you leave for me. To know that people out there choose to spend a few minutes of their day to visit me and read me, and enjoy it, that really makes my day. I don't think blogger has a way of counting how many of you visit me, so it is only when I read your kind comments that I know for sure I am not alone here! So really, thank you all!

I did manage to pick a Christmas Cake recipe the other evening. I was trying to choose between a Jamaican Rum Cake recipe I had found in a library book, Nigel Slaters cake from 'Kitchen Diaries', the new gingery recipe from this month's Good Food magazine, and Nigella's chocolate fruit cake that she made during her Christmas mini-series last year.

The gingery cake won! It sounded really nice- light and moist- and has a recipe for zesty orange marzipan to complement it. I got the dried fruit at lunch time, and I am going to steep it in ginger wine tomorrow, then make my cake on Sunday.

I love this time of year, the planning, the happy secrets, the mysterious parcels, the notebooks of lists, and pleasures anticipated.

I am really looking forward to a snuggly weekend. The plumber is coming (after three weeks!) to mend our shower. Although it has been wonderful to have so many scrumptious baths, washing my hair is so difficult as I just can't get water in my ears. He is to visit nice and early, leaving me plenty of time for puttering about, watching 'The Umbrellas of Cherbourg' on dvd, steeping my Christmas cake fruits in ginger wine, and maybe doing a little light baking.

Dear Carl and I are hosting 'brunch club' for our friends in a few weeks. I am going to be thinking about my menu for that as well. Our theme is 'Autumn' and I am going to serve an oven baked sage and pumpkin risotto, pea and parmesan risotto, and carrot, red lentil and cumin soup. For dessert I am planning baked chocolate and frangelico pancakes. To drink there will be cider or apple juice, and I am thinking about making some marzipan and chocolate acorns to hand round with coffee. Oh, I just love having people visit!

Now, I am off for some visits of my own, to my favourite blogs!

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Natures Jewellery Box of Wonders

It is another grey, wet, drizzly day here. But oh, what a scrumptious walk into work I had, anyway. Perhaps it was a good thing that I did not realise it was raining until I stepped out of my door, or maybe I would not have been as receptive to it being a lovely day!

I hurried into my pink flowery raincoat, put up my favourite purple umbrolly, and set off for the library. The first thing that took my breath away was a spiders web. It was just opposite what has been a builders site for the last year, and it was caught in the spokes of a bare twig. Where it had been raining, every strand of web was shimmering, alive, highlighted and glistening, and it looked like the most precious necklace imaginable.

Then, a few minutes and splashes further down the road, amongst a background of gloriously sludgy greenery were the most acidic orange berries possible. I could swear that they were not there yesterday, although they must have been, but tiny as they are, they just command your attention as you walk by.

The walk was paved with fallen leaves all so many hughes, but just past the school there were some that were the most beautiful yellow. They reminded me of a ripe pear, somehow.

Walking through the park was special too, all the trees were dripping, and all the colours were faintly hazy. Even the ducks thought it too wet, as one scurried across the path ahead of me looking most disgruntled!

It seems to have stopped now, so I am going to take home with me the most delicious library book that arrived for me this morning-'Christmas Crafts' isbn 9781905825332 it is Scandinavian, and utterly lovely. It has a whole chapter on Christmas cakes, so tonight I am going to settle into bed early with a steaming cup of tea, this book and my other Christmas recipe books, and choose which cake I shall make this year.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Rainy Monday

Oh, have you seen it out there?! It is gray and hazy and damp and wet....a real rainy Monday. Hurrah! For tonight it means you can settle down in your favourite corner, snuggle up, and be cozy and really enjoy the evening. Sometimes just hearing the tip tappity tip of rain on the window is all you need to make yourself feel that bit extra snuggly!

And what better to do tonight, than to crochet something lovely to snuggle in, while breathing in delicious baking smells coming from the kitchen? Here for you, just as I wrote them way back then (2004!) are my recipes for a scrumptious shawl, and a delicious iced banana loaf. Enjoy!

Saturday May 15 2004

Oh yes, and I made the most fabulous banana cake ever. This is going to be my whip-up-in-a-minute-use-up-the-elderly-bananas-cake!Iced Banana LoafCooking Time: 1 hour 10 minutesOven Temp: Gas 4, 180 C or 350 F200g/8oz Self Raising Flour1/2 tsp Salt1/4 tsp Mixed Spice100g/4oz Butter or Margarine400g/1lb Ripe Bananas150g/6oz Caster Sugar100g/4oz Chopped Mixed Peel50g/2oz Roughly Chopped Walnuts2 large eggs, beaten lightlyFor the Icing:100g/4oz icing sugarAbout 1tbsp hot water1) Grease a 600g or 1 1/2 lb loaf tin.2) Sieve the flour, salt and spice into a bowl.3) Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.4) Stir in the remaining dry ingrediants.5) Peel and mash the banans, and add to the bowl.6) Add the eggs.7) Stir well until all mixed. A fork is good for this.8) Pour into the tin.9) Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes. 10)Check by sticking a skewer into the middle, or a knife. If it comes outclean, the cake is done. If not, keep giving it ten minutes more untilit is.11)Allow to cool.12)Mix the icing sugar and water, pour over and allow to set.Yum! Give it a go, it is really nice, and it slices well. Had mine with a cup of tea and ER.

Friday May 21, 2004

By coincidence, Lisa who I salsa with, and I have both been looking for crochet patterns for shawls. We both decided we wanted a triangular lacey one, so we can not get sun burn but dont have to cover up too much. Well I discovered a pattern, and tried a few stitches, and before I knew it I had the beginnings of a shawl, which is growing ver quickly. I am using a pale blue sparkly yarn which I had bought for a scarf, but it did not look good as a scarf at all. It seems to be making a good shawl though- hope to finish it over the weekend so I can wear it to salsa Monday. I now have visions of all different coloured shawls, some beaded....Here is the pattern. You will need several balls...so make sure you can buy more if you dont get enough the first time. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I have enough!You need a 3.5mm or 4.5 mm hook.Start by chaining 8 stitches, and joining with a slip stitch to make a ring. Make 7 chain, double crochet into the ring. (The space in the ring) Make 3 chain, double crochet into the same ring space. Make another three chain, and this time treble crochet into the ring space. Now turn the work, so you are starting the next row from the right, working towards the left. At this point you should have a ring, with three rings along the top of it. You follow this pattern now, to make the shawl as big as you like. Each row:chain 7, double crochet into the first ring space. In each of the remaining ring spaces, chain 3, double crochet. Into the last chain space (the one you just double crocheted in) chain 3 then treble crochet.It grows really quickly, is nicely triangular, and looks like lots of little scalloped shells. It looks like it should be easy to add beading, fringing etc to.

Happy Rainy Monday!