Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Springstep Goat Farm

Once upon a time, I used to read a great many magazines indeed. Now I am not sure if I outgrew them, or if they became stale, but I don't read nearly so many now. One that I still adore and cannot wait to read each month is Country Living. When I have finished each copy, I like to go through and cut out pictures and articles to make a scrapbook.

Imagine how pleased I was to find an article about my own little corner of the world! Each month they have feature a place and the food that is produced there- and this month it is the turn of the Dengie Peninsular, and the main part of the article was about Springstep Farm. If you drive out of the bottom of the town that my Mum lives in, and head into the countryside for 5 minutes, you end up at the end of a twisty turny lane, and just as you think that you must surely be lost, you find yourself on Springstep Goat Farm.

We spent a very happy Sunday afternoon there, and if you get a chance to go, do. Half of the goats are outside where they enjoy the sunshine. The other half are in a barn, which you can wander around and look at. Then there is a large pond, and some lovely garden to walk around. We found a little path that led into the dappled shade of the woods, and followed it. To our surprise, we came out in front of a tiny, tumbledown church. Although it is not used any more, it is still consecrated. I love the idea of farm workers walking through twisty paths from nearby farms to go to church, over a hundred years ago. For a picture or two, visit here:

After we had explored there, and I had planned weddings for all my single friends to Mr Darcy, taking place at the church, bedecked with candles, we wandered back to the farm. The farmhouse has two lovely cool rooms in which you can take tea, but we opted to sit outside under a leafy tree instead. You can have cows milk instead, but unless you ask for it, all the dairy products served are goats milk based. You really cannot tell! We had pots of tea, and delicious soft goats cheese and tomato sandwiches, followed by another pot of tea, and simply enormous scones which were still warm from the oven, served with pots of jam (which tasted suspiciously like Wilkin and Sons jam to me!) and cream. All that for under £6!

After our delicious leisurely lunch, we had another walk to see the goats. Imagine how delighted we were to realise that one of the goats had given birth only moments before, and then went on to have another baby while we were there! We made a quick trip to the farm shop before going home. They do the most wonderful ice cream- I chose a tub of coffee because it is slightly bitter rather than sweet, and makes the most wonderful drink if you blend it with a cup of cold coffee and a splash of Tia Maria, Rum or Brandy!

Cup of Tea Catch Up

Sometimes when I sit down to write a post, I have a specific topic in mind, and it feels almost like I am writing a mini-essay. Sometimes though, I just want to get out my tea pot, pour us a cup of tea, set out the cupcakes, and catch up on all the little things.

The first thing isn't such a little thing really, but a big one- a big thank you to all of you who are kind enough to come and visit me here, and especially to those of you who leave such kind comments for me. I really feel like I know you from our little writings here! Please, if you havent already, do leave me a comment with your email address, as I have been busily putting together some little thank you packages to send out!

Now, on to other things- and some forthcoming pleasures. I am really looking forward to a trip to our local theatre soon. It has a cinema screen, and they are showing 'houswives choice' which is a programme from the BFI which includes cinemagazines, documentaries and adverts from the 20s to the 50s. We are not sure if they are going to serve refreshements or not, so I shall be taking along a flask of tea and some battenburg to hand round. A litte more information (and booking details should you live close enough!) here:

Talking of tea, have you seen the lovely adverts for Twinings recently? There are tea leaves scattered about, and a pair of hands draws patterns in them, to gentle music. My favourite is the Lady Gray one. You can see them here, on youtube:

I am also looking forward very much to next week- because I have my first proper break from work since Christmas!I have the whole week off, and am planning some adventures- I am having a lovely friend visit for lunch, and I am going to make bread, sew and apron, bake cupcakes, go swimming, and play!

Tonight I am going to have a little adventure in the kitchen, trying a Rose Eliot recipe for Red Bean Lasagne. I am going to tweak it a little bit, using taco seasoning, and then have a violet scented bath before bed.

Mimi Cocktail

One of my best favourite things in the world are cocktails. Not nasty cocktails that I see advertised in Wetherspoon's window, made with dubious things such as red bull and reef, but proper, grown up, Miss-Pettigrew-Lives-For-A-Day cocktails. One of the loveliest blogs that I have found recently is which is a lovely, glamorous exploration of tipples that have me reaching for my cocktail shaker.

In one of the Hamish Macbeth novels that I have been devouring lately, one of the characters has a shock when she really 'sees' herself for the first time, and I have often thought that there are two versions of ourselves- the self we see, and the self that the world sees.

Now when I think about the Mimi that I like to think I might present to the world, even if only in glimpses, I realised that I am inspired by a veritable cocktail of women! So here is my recipe for a Mimi Cocktail!

Take a shake of Nigella and a dash of Sophie Dahl, and stir together with a splash of Sophie Ellis-Bextor. Sprinkle over some Kirstie Allsopp, and swirl together with some Honey Blennerhesket (from The Little Lady Agency novels!). Pour into a martini glass, and garnish with a little Dita Von Teese, and serve with a tray of Puppini Sister chocolates!

Do tell me what goes into your own wonderful cocktail!

Household Routines

One of my favourite books (well, series of books really) when I was younger was Little House on the Prairie. I still have the set now, for those times when a comfort read is the order of the day. In one of the early books, Laura describes the rhythm of life in the little log cabin which she lived in with her Ma, Pa, and sister Mary:

Wash on Monday
Iron on Tuesday
Mend on Wednesday
Churn on Thursday
Clean on Friday
Bake on Saturday
Rest on Sunday

The lovely Alison over at has often blogged about her housekeeping rhythms and rituals, and I love to read about them. I have been trying to get into some rhythms and patterns over here in our dear little flat, particularly with our shopping and cooking.

You see, dear Carl works up in London and is not often home before 7:30pm in the evening, and I am working quite long hours commuting to my own little library- add into the mix that I don't drive, and you have a little housekeeping challenge. How to keep on top of the shopping without using up too much of our precious puttering time?

I did go through a period of doing our grocery shopping online, but I always felt vaguely irritated by it...I still had to do a menu plan, write out a shopping list and sit down to order it, as well as try and book a delivery slot.

Well, no more! We have been changing our eating habits slowly over the last few months, and all of a sudden, everything has come together. We have always taken the view that we would rather eat a little bit of meat that has lived a good life than a lot of cheap nasty meat, and gradually, gradually, we have got to the point where we are eating very little. I have found a fantastic WI market near where I work, and there is also a Co-Op right next door, a prime location for lunch hour shopping.

So now the shopping-and-cooking rhythm is like this. Once a month, I do a big online shop for staple provisions- everything from loo roll to tinned tomatoes, risotto rice to stock cubes. Then, each week, I pick some dishes to make- 2 vegetable soups (made in my wonderful vitamix machine) 2 vegetarian dishes, 2 fish dishes, and 1 meat dish. I then go to the WI market and the Co-Op to buy perishables such as milk and eggs, and any ingredients that I need for my weekly meal plan.

I am making a lot of things which really are more delicious than they sound- smoked mackerel pate, lentil dahl and veggie curry- and saving leftovers in the freezer. I have taken to making batches of spelt-and-pear muffins, and homemade yoghurt too. Later today, I am going to try my hand at home made hoummous later!

One of my favourite domestic pleasures is my monthly turn out of the fridge, freezer, dry goods cupboard and provisions cupboard. I like to make a list to see just what I have got, and then sit down to make my big once-a-month-shopping-delivery-list. I have been doing that today, and when it is all done, and the monthly shop delivered and put away, I always have a glow of domestic bliss about me!

Another thing that I like very much to do in the kitchen is to decant nearly everything into pretty storage jars. I have those hexagonal glass jars with screw on lids for my various kinds of flour, and a kilner jar of vanilla sugar. There is a beautiful bulbous jar for tea bags which somehow always reminds me of the Taj Mahal, and a little vintage tea caddy for my herbal tea. Somehow everything looks more organized once it is decanted! One little project that I do have in mind for future days is to find a source of pretty spice jars, and have a good turn out of my spice cupboard. At the moment they are all of a hodge-podge of different style of jars, depending on if I have bought Schwarz or the shop's own brand, and even a few plastic bags where I have bought them from the market. Most of them have nasty plastic lids, and I would so like a nice set that matches. I forsee a little internet shopping in my future!

I really like how this new little domestic routine feels like it has 'clicked' for me. I feel like it is my routine...perhaps that is why it is so satisfying? Anyway, I must away to my kitchen and start decanting, for the monthly shop has just arrived!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Finding Comfort, And A Naughty Magpie

As I mentioned in my earlier post, life has been a little challenging of late, and as I have finally settled down to catch up with you and share some sips of tea, I have been thinking of the things I have been doing of late, and realizing that I have subconciously been craving comfort.

I have been taking a lot of warm baths in the evening. Sometimes I have more or less come in from work, made the dinner, and hopped right into the tub. I have been hoarding a Bathos Bath Bomb from Lush, which is purple with green glitter and scented with violets, and other such treats. I have a pink candle which I light, and as I lay back in the hot water, I can feel my whole body release the tension I have been holding, like a sigh.

I have been voraciously reading the Hamish Macbeth series by MC Beaton. I devoured the Agatha Raisin series a year or so ago, and always resisted Hamish Macbeth. I took one home to read (I must have something to read on the bus!) and was hooked. The gentleness is just what I need to soothe my mind. They are not great literature, but they are cozy and comfortable, and they are helping me turn over another idea in my mind. Last year, when we went to Lyme Regis, it was a hazy day, and I decided that the sea looked so beautiful, I wanted to crochet a ripple stitch blanket inspired by it. The colours that I saw then are echoed very much in the Hamish Macbeth novels, they are full of twilight, gloaming, mist, heather, and such beautiful muted tones of blue and grey and mauve. I think now it might be a granny blanket after all, but I am nearer to narrowing done my colours!

We have been nesting in our dear little flat, too. We spent Monday doing just little things to make it more cozy. We used to have a roller blind in the living room (not our choice, the landlord put it in) but we have never really liked it, not least because it is not quite wide enough...we now have a very simple pair of calio curtains hanging, and it makes the room look entirely different, much more peaceful and homely somehow. On the windowsill is a little white tin lantern that I bought the other day. It caught my eye and was only £3, so it had to come over with me. It has glass sides, and the white tin makes the pattern of a little bird sitting on a branch. We have a new bedside lamp in the bedroom, and we feel snug as bugs in rugs!

Of course, I do have to venture away from our little home to work, and Saturday was one of those days. The weather was glorious, and we had the doors to the library throw wide open to let in the air (needless to say I was in the little branch library, not the big County library!). I was chatting to the lady I work with about rearranging some of the shelving, when we heard the most awful squawking coming from outside. I went to the window to see what was wrong, and saw a magpie pecking a baby bird to death. Well I wasnt having any of that! I rushed out and smacked him with the rolled up envelope I was holding! Away he flew, and happily the baby bird was ok! Enid Blyton had led me to believe that magpies just stole necklaces from pixies!

Back Again...Again

Well hello and good evening. I feel of late that I only ever come here to post to explain why I have been away for so long. I really hope that this is the last time I have to do this! A month ago, I had a phonecall from Mum to say that Dad was not well again. Those words make my blood freeze in my veins (those of you who have been sweet enough to stick with me for a year or so will know that he was very ill in hospital for several weeks one winter, and it was terribly straining) but this time, it was not the trouble of old, but a new one. The doctors believed that he had a small stroke, a transient one.

He had a scan, and while we were waiting for the results, he had another stroke, and this one put him in hospital. Thankfully, thankfully, he is home now, but waiting with him in A&E last Monday night with the family all gathered round was terrifying. Just to look at him you could see that something was very wrong- he was bright red in the face, lopsided and dribbly, and very out of it.

Although he seems much more himself now, I have been very scared about how fragile we are. Really, for all our physical presence, we are as fragile as the china cups from which I sip my tea, and are just as easily smashed. One slip, and gone. Don't worry, I am not planning on this being a gloomy gloomy post, because I am very pleased that he is so much better, but the whole episode has had me pondering the fragility of life, the fleeting nature of it.

It makes me more and more determined not to put things off, not to save things for best, to do things now, not later. To start that blanket, write that novel...carpe diem, seize the day!

So, that is me, that is where I have been. Dear Carl jokingly admonished me earlier as he heard me tip tapping away, saying that I will have nobody left if I dont keep up with you. I hope that is not true! And I will try hard to deserve those of you that are left!

In the spirit of thanking those of you who do visit me, leave me a comment with your email address, and I will send you a little parcel of a few of my favourite tea bags (Lipton's Yellow Label!) and such bits to say thank you.