Monday, 26 September 2011

September Evening Pear Tart

Tonight we are off to visit my lovely friend Lisa. We used to see each other every Monday evening, but lately life has got busy for both of us, so we decided to make it every other Monday evening instead. Then along came a bank holiday, a family birthday and a holiday (the latter hers, not mine, alas!) and it has been a while since we saw each other. So tonight will be an evening of much chattering, crafting and dining. We both love to cook and create, and happily her and Carl know each other from school, so he always feels part of things, which of course, he is.

Lisa is roasting a chicken for dinner, and I have been trying to decide what to take for dessert. Something transportable, autumnal, delicious. Well I had a potter and a play, and this is what I have come up with...I will let you know if it is delicious after we have tried it!

September Evening Pear Tart

Early on a September evening, when the sky is already fading as though it has been swept over with a muslin curtain, set the oven to hot, 200 oC or so. Roll out a sheet of puff pastry onto a baking tray, and trace a border with a sharp knife about 2cm from the edge, taking care not to cut right the way through.

Rummage in your cupboard and find the leftover marzipan from the Ruby Anniversary cake you made earlier in the year. Grate it over the pastry base, avoiding the boarder as best you can. Take two Green William pears, halve and core them. Then slice them so that each half fans out prettily. Nestle them amongst the sea of marzipan.

Scatter over the top a good sprinkling of brown sugar, then grate over some nutmeg and shake over some cinnamon.

Gild the frame of the tart with a splash of milk.

Post the tart into the oven for about 20 minutes whilst you wash up, and boil the kettle for a cup of tea, whilst looking out of the kitchen window and marvelling that already the view has turned to a silhouette.

When the tart is cooked, take it out, then drizzle with some melted bitter chocolate. Spatter about as though recreating a Jackson Pollock painting. Smile and decide that it needs just a hint of gold edible glitter....realise you have run out so give it a dusting of 'disco hologram white' instead.

Enjoy warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or some creme fraiche. Idly wonder what it would be like with roasted figs and mixed spice instead....

Apples and Autumn Leaves

Good was your weekend? I hope it was lovely! Mine was of the best things to come from losing one of my 2 library jobs is that I am no longer working 3 Saturdays out of every 4, which gives me more time to spend with my lovely husband. This Saturday, we made the short walk into town. Sometimes we go 'the pretty way' which is a tiny path that runs along the back gardens of one street of houses on one side, and the back gardens of another row of houses on the other. Although there are fences, there are also garden gates, so you can peek in as you walk. There is one garden in particular that is just so beautiful it always makes me smile. We spotted 3 cats, including one laying in a tree just like a panther! Last week, autumn came to that little path. Overnight, many leaves fell from the trees. The curious thing was that the leaves hadn't really been turning colour along there, yet there were drifts of them in every rusty hue you can imagine. Alas, that night, the rain came, and the next day it seemed that all the colour had washed away, yet happily there was left the beautiful scent of wet leaves, that along with woodsmoke and cinnamon, is autumn to me. The leaves have dried out now, but they are all muted and no longer as scrunchy...I am hoping for another drift of leaves soon!

Having wandered through our little path, we visited the Shire Hall, where a tiny vintage fair was being held. I do love to look round it, although as I say it is small, and it does seem to be the same stalls with the same things each month. But still, nice to look round, and my lovely husband bought me a present! One of the stalls was selling mainly crocheted lovelies (bedsocks and phone covers!) and had garnished their wares with a few vintage books, amongst which was a white tome with a silver spine titled 'For The Bride'. I picked it up, and it was a household guide for the new bride from the 50s! Carl asked me if I would like it, which of course I said yes to, and he bought it for me. Very unexpected and so lovely of him, I gave him a kiss....only I forgot I was wearing my red lipstick, so then I had to wipe him off...which made the lady running the stall giggle!

We then went through to the tea room, which is a pop-up affair run by the Plum Fairy. They have tables laid with embroidered tablecloths and pretty mismatched floral crockery. We took a seat at one laid with a cloth with yellow flowers, and ordered a pot of tea, and a slice of Victoria Sponge each. It was just heavenly to be sitting there on a Saturday morning, sipping tea and nibbling cake. What really made me smile though was that the Shire Hall is also home to our Court, so there were posters up advising you that if you were going to plead guilty, you had to ask a clerk for a particular form!

This morning we had breakfast at our kitchen table, by candlelight. Such little tiny things as lighting a candle make a real difference to the feel of the day, I find. We had a recipe that I have adapted from a book that I got from the library, and it was will definitely be appearing on the menu again!

Autumn Apple Breakfast Bowls

For each person, take an apple, core and slice it into wedges (I have one of those lovely cutters that you just press down from the top of the apple, and it does it in one go!). Tumble the wedges into a small ovenproof bowl, and sprinkle over 1-2tsp of brown sugar, and a good squeeze of lemon juice.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the apple is soft. (Don't use a cooking apple, you don't want apple sauce here! Any eating apple you have is fine!)

While it is baking, take a small tub of greek yoghurt and stir into it a generous sprinkling of cinnamon, to your own personal taste.

Take the bowl of cooked apple out of the oven, and generously top with the yoghurt. Then sprinkle over some kind of oaty cereal....granola, or even some oats you have toasted in the pan.

Serve by candlelight for a happy start to the week.

This recipe was inspired by one I found in Vintage Tea Parties by Angel Adoree which arrived from the library on Friday, and I have already devoured. I haven't felt so tingly and excited about a book for a long time, and I am trying to justify the £10 it would cost me to buy on amazon. It is less floral and Cath-Kidston-y than my usual taste but is just wonderful. As well as recipes and menus, there are sections on putting up your hair, making Union Jack flags and other tea-party-ish crafts. The recipes themselves are split into Brunch Tea Parties, Afternoon Tea Parties and Evening Dinner Parties. I don't believe I read a single recipe that I am not desperate to try! There was also a nice selection of tea-based cocktails. The book is beautifully styled as well, and has given me lots of ideas for presenting my cookery at home. If you have pennies to spare, or a friendly local library, I can't recommend this quirky book enough!

I have a very long to-do list today, and I am working the rest of the week, so I must away...but I do hope you are having a beautiful Monday, and if you do try the breakfast recipe, do let me know what you think!


Thursday, 15 September 2011

Savouring An Autumn Afternoon

Two Thursdays in every four, I have to be out and about earlier than normal in order to get the early bus to my library-on-a-hill. This morning I decided to wear a jersey dress in deep green, patterned with abstract roses. When I opened the door I gave a little gasp of pleasure as this has been the first morning with that proper autumnal freshness in the air. Not cold enough to be a nip or a chill, just enough to give a little shiver and a moments thought as to whether it would be wise to pop back upstairs for a shawl. I decided to brave it out however, and I am glad I did. It has been a beautiful day, and as I walked from bus stop to library, I really noticed drifts of leaves on the ground...autumn really is coming!

I find myself with a quiet afternoon and evening to myself. Sometimes it is nice just to potter and think alone. When I have finished here, I am going to bake a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies (recipe via Attic24) and then an aubergine and cherry tomato tart, adapted from a recipe in this month's Vegetarian Living magazine. I plan to stud the mixture with little slivers of salty-sharp feta cheese, and probably introduce some red onion too. That will be dinner ready for tomorrow evening, and perhaps lunch on Saturday too. I have All About Eve to watch on dvd, and I am going to paint my nails while I watch it. I had been planning to change from my current inky purple to bright red, but now I am toying with hot chocolate instead. Then I am going to have an early night with the October issue of Country Living magazine.

What do you have planned for this evening? Looking at the time, perhaps I had better start, or that early night won't be quite so early after all! Oh, but before I go, did you see, I have added to my list of 'scrumptious places and people on the internet'. I hope you enjoy visiting some of my favourite blogs...and I hope you might share some of your favourite places to visit too!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Early Morning

Good morning!

And thank you for your kind comments about the new look of my blog! Autumn is all about fresh new starts for me, so it is nice to have a new start here as well.

This morning dawned cool and very windy but bright and beautiful and crisp. It is cool enough to wear my cashmere jumper but warm enough not to shiver at the bus stop, a perfect combination! I was awake early this eyes opened at 5:00am and it was hard to get back to sleep. Although more sleep would have been welcome, it was lovely to lay there and listen to the wind blowing and watch the room get lighter. I think the reason for my wakefulness was that I had a grocery delivery scheduled to arrive between 6:30 and 7:30am so I knew I had to be up and about on time.

As it happens the doorbell rang at 7:30am but getting up early was really productive. I made a pot of tea using the loose tea we bought at Sally Lunn's in Bath last October, and had time to savour it properly. I made us pear and cinnamon porridge for breakfast, had a shower, made our lunches, and got out in time to catch the 8:30am bus. Now I am at work on my lunch break, and I feel in a very productive frame of mind. I am not sure I want to be up and about so early every day, but it does feel nice to be full of energy.

Anyway, this was just a quick peep to say hello and thank you and to wish you all a very happy Wednesday


Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Pretty Pretty Pretty!

Oh if only you knew how often I have had blog envy! Other People's Blogs (OPB) look just so beautiful to me, with hand designed banners and pretty layouts and fabulous photography. But you see, I took up blogging because I love to write, and sadly I do not have technological talent. (I use the terms 'ipodpadtouchpokething' and 'mp3podmusicthing' which gives you an idea what you are dealing with!)

So it is little surprise that this is the first time I have changed the layout of my blog since I began blogging back in 2005! I wish I could claim ownership of the prettiness, but it is all down to someone else. I don't even know who to say thank you to, as it is a predesigned template from blogger! But to whoever you are out there, with far more talent than me, there is a cup of tea and a dark chocolate covered ginger biscuit waiting for you any time you choose to claim them!

I have wanted to pretty things up a bit for a long time, and it is still my long term plan to share more photographs with you. What prompted the change today though, was boredom! I have been stuck at home all day long when I would rather be outside. I had an electrician here 'mending' the shower from 9:00 this morning until about 3:00 this afternoon. Since then I have been waiting for the plumber to come and finish mending it...he only arrived ten minutes ago, so you can imagine it has been a day of waiting about. I was lucky enough to have a visit from a dear friend and later on her children, my godchildren, but much of the day has been spent in waiting, and not being able to settle to anything.

Although that in itself was rather frustrating, it has meant that I have brightened up my blog, which perhaps I would not have got around to otherwise (well, no change in the last six years rather suggests I wouldn't!).

I do have a slight headache from rather too much internet time today. I couldn't settle to my novel...I am trying to read Jane Eyre as I would like to see the film at some point, but I found it very dispiriting. I know that it is not a happy novel, but it just put me on edge somehow. I think I need something a little more soothing this evening.

So, back to work tomorrow. I plan to clean out my handbag later, something I always get a great deal of satisfaction from. There is something about having new little package of tissues, some mints and a lipstick and everything just so which is very pleasing. I was hoping to colour my hair this evening, but since I did not get a chance to go to the shops for some colour, and the shower still is not working (after a day of attention from two different men, it will work only if you hold the rest of the shower in when you press the button. It then may or may not work at all. And we can't use it at all tonight as the sealant needs time to seal!) so that puts paid to that. I think perhaps I shall paint my nails instead, and plan my outfit for my first day back at work tomorrow.

I have a meeting with my new line manager tomorrow. I am finding the situation slightly tricky. I really do need a full time job, so I know my days there are numbered. Whilst I am giving it 100% while I am there and will be very sad to go, I am finding it hard to be planning paperwork for reviews next year, when I will probably not be there any more. Did I mention, although I still do not know what it is that I want to do, I do feel ready to put myself back out there and look for full time gainful employment again? I know in one way my situation hasn't altered, but I do feel better about things!

Let me leave you with one last discovery from internet radio! Who would have thought? And even better, free internet radio which plays fabulous bombshell music. Visit here and hopefully that will take you to the right station. You need to sign up with an email address to listen, but it is free, and worth it. I have had my toes tapping away for an hour or two now!

Wherever you are, I hope you are having a lovely evening.


Monday, 12 September 2011

Crafting Changed My Life

Well isn't that a dramatic title for a blog post? But I read this lovely post over at Attic 24, and towards the end she talks about her blankets that she has made, and how she taught herself to crochet after being inspired by two other blogs (both of which are long time favourites of mine). It made me pause and think yes, yes, crafting has changed my life too. Not in any dramatic way, but it is as though part of the pieces of the puzzle that is me fell into place as I learnt to craft.

I remember teaching myself to knit. It was ten or so years ago now, and I wanted to make my sister a scarf for Christmas. I had had a minor operation on a toe, so I knew that I would be stuck in a chair for a few days. I had been reading Martha Stewart Living magazine, and there was an article on how to knit in there. It all came together at the right time for me really. I remember buying some fabulous yarn, not expensive by todays standards, but at over £4 a ball back then, it was dear. It was soft and luxurious and fuzzy and purple. Perhaps an odd choice for a beginner, but by choosing a yarn I could fall in love with it made me feel better about learning to knit and it made it a pleasurable experience.

A few years later I taught myself to crochet. I don't remember really how or why or the project, but I vaguely think it was a magazine article, but I do know that I was pleasantly surprised to find how easy it was.

When I learnt to cross stitch, it was earlier still, I was probably just in my teens. I learnt that from a book, a Jo Verso if I remember correctly.

The thing I have found with all the crafts I have ever learnt is to start at the beginning, let yourself be a beginner and enjoy getting to grips with the basics. Take everything just one little step at a time, and have confidence in yourself. I have gone from knitting scarves and anything square to socks on four needles, all manner of things with increases and decreases or lace patterns I would have taken one look at the pattern for and turned away from. But the secret is, take that long complicated pattern and break it down, take it one little bit at a time and it is surprisingly easy.

I don't know who I would be if I did not create, did not craft, did not make, did not blog, did not write. I don't think that we necessarily ever find every single piece to the puzzles that are ourselves, but I do know that I am on the right road, and I hope you are too. Whatever it is that you wish you could learn or have a go at, do. You never know, it may just become part of who you are.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Make, Do, And Mend

One of my favourite magazines is Handmade Living. I like it because it has a nice mix of crafts and cooking, and usually has several projects or pages that make my heart beat a little faster. My heart did the little skip when I read about Make, Do, And Mend; a place that has opened that runs craft workshops and also sit-and-knit nights. My heart did a double skip when I realised that it is located in the very town where I live! So I made a date with a lovely lady I used to work with to go to their sit-and-knit night on Friday.

But before I got there, I spent the day with another dear friend. We met in history class at sixth form and have been friends ever since. We both love everything vintage, and like me, she can identify Ruby Woo red lipstick at 100 paces. Whenever we see each other we just fall to chatting like we had seen each other only the day before, even if it has been a few months, and we are usually still chatting when we say goodbye. We met in a village between mine and hers to visit a vintage shop I discovered but was new to her called A Little Bazaar. It is a glorious shop, not at all trendy or modern or styled. Down the centre of the shop are rails and rails of clothes, and round the outside are shelves filled with knickknacks and trinkets, tea pots to pearl necklaces. You really need to go round twice, once to look and the second to decide what you want to take home with you. I got the most utterly fabulous bargain! A cashemere wrap-over jumper in soft pink for £4! And when I looked up the label at home on the internet, the very same thing was retailing for £140! So I consider myself very lucky and look forward to some crisp days ahead so I can enjoy wearing it!

From there we went into town for some lunch, and worked our way through several charity shops and also a beauty wholesalers. I got some velcro rollers and setting lotion for under £3 so it was a very thrifty day! Now my hair is longer I really feel that it needs attention to look its best. It looks good freshly washed and dried, but I really do feel that it needs to be 'done'. In October I am going to be doing a workshop on Victory Rolls and the like at the aforementioned Make Do And Mend, but until then I plan to experiment with my rollers. I have set my hair with hotsticks several times (using the tutorial on Fleur de Guerre's Diary of a Vintage Girl blog) but want some variety. My look is definitely taking a more vintage direction, and vintage hair is just the thing I need, I think. I will report back with progress!

After that, she dropped me the other side of town so I could explore Farm Foods and Lidl. As you all know, I am now working to a stricter budget, so I thought these could be good options for stretching my housekeeping. Lidl I did not get on so well with. I don't think you can really go in with a list, it is more a case of get what you can see that you need. Not everything was cheaper than in the 'normal' shops, and some things were actually dearer. I did get some things in there, such as rye bread and red onions, and a few other bits and bobs as well, but on the whole I did not really enjoy it. I wasn't expecting luxury but I did find that many of the customers left a bit to be desired, and while there were some good bargains to be had, there are some things that I just can't bring myself to buy. Now I know that I am lucky to have enough in my budget to have that kind of principle, and I don't judge people who are not in the same situation, but really, if they are selling a lasagne for two people for £1 what does that tell you about the quality of life the cow led? But anyway...I am glad I went, but I don't think it will be part of my regular shopping life. Farm Foods though, I had more success with. Lots of frozen veg, and some big packs of frozen fish to stash in the freezer. It seemed better value for money to me, and a nicer shopping experience too. To be honest though, I think with the menu planning and shopping online, using leftovers etc I am stretching the budget well.

So, after all of that, home for a quick dinner with Carl, then off to Make, Do, And Mend. What a lovely place, and what a wonderful evening! I had a quick wander around the shop, as they sell work by local artists and craftspeople, as well as a few things like jars of buttons, jumbles of ribbon and balls of wool. There was a lovely choice of chairs to settle in, including a pair of rocking chairs. Tea came out of a pot into lovely cups and saucers, and we sat and crocheted and sipped the night away. Hannah who owns the shop, and her husband Joe were just lovely. We talked crafts, weddings, all sorts of things, and even planned a companion club to sit-and-knit for our lovely husbands. I don't know where the time went, but before I knew it, it was time to go home.

I am pleased to report that on that evening I was crocheting flowers to go on the tea cosy I am making for a birthday gift, and hurrah, it is finally finished! It has been only a week and three days in the making, but 31 little flowers are a bit repetitive to crochet! I am really pleased with how it looks though, and as soon as I persuade my lovely husband to download the photos from his phone I will share with you what it looks like!

Time to go now. I can't believe another week has gone already and a new one beckons. It is my Mum's birthday tomorrow, so I am spending the day with her. On Tuesday a man is coming to finally fix our shower. Tuesday evening I am going back to Make Do And Mend for a vintage paper doll workshop. Can't wait!

Hope you have a lovely week


Ps if you want to look at the lovely workshops on offer, just visit

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Blowing Away The Cobwebs

I woke up this morning with a slightly fuzzy head. I have an ear infection which has layed me a little bit low. Often I can get on with things and just have a sore ear, but yesterday I had a bad headache and felt very under the weather and sorry for myself, and spent much of the evening curled up crocheting, with a hot wheaty bag on my sore ear.

A peek between the blind slats revealed that it was a damp blowy morning, but I actually find that kind of weather invigorating at times. I decided to take an early-ish walk to get some wool for the tea cosy I am making as a gift for a friend. It is cream, and the top is to be covered with flowers, so I needed some pinky-purpley colours. As soon as I stepped outside, my hair was whipped about my head, my shawl caught in the wind, and I felt invigorated.

Until I got a text message from a nearby library asking if I was on my way. I texted back to say no, I was having a week off, and why would I be going there at all? Numerous text messages back and forth revealed that on the strength of a 'would you be interested in some work sometime in September' had transformed to me being timetabled...but not told...and for the rest of the year! Now I am not turning my nose up at work, but I found the entire episode very stressful, the thought of being expected but not knowing about it, committing to the end of the year when I have just got used to being at home and using that day for looking for work...I got home with my wool but felt very antagonized, and I haven't really settled since.

Still, I have another chance to fill my lungs with air in a bit. I am going to visit the friend for whom I am making the tea cosy, having lunch and some afternoon with her, then my lovely husband is collecting me and we are going to a beer festival in Chappel with my in-laws for father-in-law's birthday. We are going to stay at their house which will be lovely. Tomorrow we plan to go for a nice long walk around the village where they live, and perhaps forage for blackberries or rosehips as we go. Oh, and I may be coming into some pears this afternoon as well, which are destined for pear and vanilla jam.

I do wish I could shake the snarls out of my mind though. Perhaps a nice long walk is just the thing I need!

Wherever you are, I hope the breeze is blowing away your cobwebs!


Sunday, 4 September 2011

A Sunday In September

This morning started as so many of my mornings do, with a cup of tea in bed. There is not a better way to start the day, to my mind! Then a walk into town in glorious September sunshine so that Carl could keep his appointment with the barber. A walk in the fresh air home, bumping into a friend at the bus stop, and settling down at home with Poirot and the Sunday papers.

The window open, then suddenly, a cool breeze bringing with it first the scent of rain, and then as soon as that had registered, the soft hiss of rain teeming down from the skies. The light faded and smudged with rain, so the lamp on so I could see to knit on the glove I am making as a gift for my Mum. The soft purple yarn from baby alpacas whisper soft in my hands.

A bunch of dahlias looking like glorious autumn fireworks against the cream of the wall. Bell ringing practise at the Cathedral being carried to our ears on the breeze. Skies that are suddenly blue again. Carl reading whilst I am reading and

Pondering when to go and take my bath. Wishing I had remembered to buy more bubble bath but pleased to remember a small stash of bath crystals from Christmas. The C word! The Christmas craft magazine that I could not resist buying whilst we were out and about earlier. Wondering if this evening would be a good evening to make some of the cards with the free kit that came with the magazine.

Wondering how it can be September already, but feeling pleased as I am ready for it. Dark chocolate with orange, spices and figs. More tea, always, more tea! Thoughts of menu plans to write and order the wherewithall for later. Butternut squash, aubergine, ginger, feta, pumpkin, spice...all those will be featuring on it.

Feeling very connected to other bloggers out there, and friends I have never met. Smiling at kind comments left by lovely readers, wondering how I get so much spam. Wishing I could find out who keeps sending me odd spam comments, and deciding if I could find out, I would send them a giftwrapped tin of spam, with a polite note saying please stop!

Excitement at seeing Kirstie Allsopp has a new craft book coming out soon! Remembering I am meant to be finishing a tea cosy for a birthday gift which needs to be given soon. The body of the cosy is crocheted, it just needs stitching up. Oh, and 30 or so flowers to be crocheted to be sewn on top (pattern from Cute and Easy Crochet by Nicki Trench, via the library).

Off to sip more tea, and crochet flowers using oddments of wool. Oh, and take that bath. Mmmm, and read that first Christmas magazine too!

The bells are still chiming and ringing. September Sundays are just perfect.