Saturday, 8 March 2008

Cup of Tea and a Catch Up

I feel a little like Mrs Bennett today, breathlessly declaring ‘Netherfield Park is let at last!’ It has been much longer since my last post than I ever intended it to be, and as a consequence I am full with things to tell you!

The most exciting first, then the most recent, and the rest I am afraid will be a delightful jumble! There is some celebratory news, so choose your nicest tea cup for your tea whilst you read this!

The most exciting news is that I received a telephone call at 8:00am this morning from one of my dearest friends, who is expecting her first baby on the 25th. ‘How fast can you crochet?’ she asked (I have been working on a matinee jacket for baby) ‘because baby is on the way!’ she continued! No more news as of yet, but oh, how exciting!

The most recent news is that today was the launch of the Essex Book Festival, and because the library I work in happens to be the Flagship library for Essex Libraries, the launch was held there. So we were all a-bustle with authors and the local radio show, and local dignitaries and senior managers, but I was in a little oasis of calm and utter scrumptiousness in the middle of it all. You see, Nicola Beauman, founder and publisher of Persephone Books was here! She had a stand where, if you wrote a book review or recommendation to go on our postcard wall, you could choose a Persephone Book to take home, free! And because I was not timetabled to be anywhere else, I was asked to help with her stall! I cannot tell you how excited I was, and it really hardly felt like work at all. She had 80 books to give away, and within two hours, they were all gone. I seem to do a lot of happy stumbling, and it was in such a way that I discovered Persephone Books. Jane at mentioned them a year or so, maybe even more on her blog, and they sounded so lovely I signed up for the Persephone Quarterly newsletter. Then I discovered one or two of their titles in the library, and fell quite, quite in love with them. They are delightful books, usually by women authors, and usually rediscovered. My favourite is Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (which has been made into a film and was released today in America…can’t wait for it to come here!) but I am also really enjoying ‘The Making of a Marchioness’ which I have taken to bed each evening. I must borrow someone else’s words to give them the best description- they are books of the hot-water-bottle genre; you want to take them to bed with a hot water bottle and a cup of tea (or perhaps cocoa) and not emerge until you have finished them! It was so lovely being able to chat to Nicola, and I am resolved that on my week off at the beginning of April, I am going to take myself off to Lamb’s Conduit Street, and visit the shop. Do not take my word for it, visit and discover for yourself just how scrumptious they are.

Now for the jumbly bits and bobs that have been keeping me busy and away from my blog! I have been working on a matinee jacket for my friend’s baby. I searched high and low on Friday, my last day off, but I could not find a crochet pattern that I liked anywhere. There were very few to choose from, and were either very boxy or lacy christening-gown style things. I was going to go through my set of vintage Golden Hands magazines in search of inspiration, when my lovely friend who visits me on a Monday evening offered to lend me a pattern that she has, and it was just what I had been hoping to make. I have never crocheted clothes before (although baby clothes are so tiny, they hardly qualify as clothes!) and it has been so satisfying to start a pattern that seemed too complicated, and gradually unravel it. I think perhaps that is one reason why l like crochet so much- apart from the way it grows so quickly- each stitch builds upon another, and they way you group them changes the effect so much. What looks like incomprehensible instructions that I am sure I can not translate into my hook and wool unravel themselves and reveal themselves to be a simple soothing pattern. Now I am on the main part of the body, having done the difficult yoke and making arm-holes, I can do most of the row without having to refer to the pattern at all.

I have also been making Easter cards. I don’t normally make them, but there has been a particular stamp set that I have been coveting for the past eight months or so, and I realised that they would make beautiful Easter cards. There is a bunny, whose nose almost seems to quiver, who I have stamped using pinecone brown ink in the middle of a cream card. Then I took another stamp, which is of a fern-like plant, and stamped around it in green, quite randomly. Then I took another stamp, of a twig, and stamped some in the same green, and some more in pinecone brown. I finished by stamping some little clusters of flowers in deep violet. The different layers of stamps make a really pretty border around the rabbit. Of course, I will post a picture here of them soon!

I have been reading and reading just recently. My most recent book is The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and it is not what I thought it would be at all. For some reason I had half formed the idea that it might be a children’s book, but it is not at all. Emily Fox-Seton, the main character is poor, although well born, and lives in a little bed-sitting room, which she has made cheerful and bright with turkey-red curtains, and a tea set, and such little niceties. I wish I had the book at my side so I could give you the exact line, but there is one very early on, about how lovely it is, when you are a damp, exhausted lady with tired feet to return home to a cup of tea!

Last night, I made an apple pie. There was no particular reason, except that I suddenly took it in to my head that it would be really nice for Carl to come home to a nice apple pie! Once upon a time, and not so long ago really, I would feel that I had to have a recipe to follow in the kitchen. Gradually, I have started to find my own feet a bit, and to have a play and an experiment when cooking, and I have to say that I was rather pleased with how it turned out!

I turned the oven to 200 oC (it is a fan oven….how I long for a gas oven!) and rolled out a packet of ready made puff pastry into a large circle. I draped it into my pie plate, but did not trim it to fit the plate. Then I took a bag of bramley apples and peeled and cored them. Four of them were sliced, sprinkled with sugar, scattered with a few cloves and put in a saucepan on the hob to cook. The remaining two were chopped into little cubes, and put in a bowl of water so they didn’t brown. When the apples on the stove were pulpy, I mashed them up into apple sauce with a sprinkling of mixed spice, a shaking of cinnamon, and a grating of nutmeg. Then I mixed in the apple cubes, and turned the lot into the pastry-lined pie dish. Then I folded the excess pastry up and round the edges to make a kind of border, leaving the middle quite open. I baked it for twenty minutes, turning half way through.

Considering how I followed no plan but what I thought might be nice, I was ever so pleased with the result! Carl is having dinner in London tonight with his work friends, so I am planning on a hot bath with my Liberty bath oil, then tucking myself up with The Making of a Marchioness, and a slice of apple pie. Oh, and of course, a cup of tea!

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