Monday, January 30, 2012

Marmalade Part 1

Every year I forget that marmalade is not a quick process. You'd think I would have learnt by now! So today I started making my first batch for the year. There are lots of different recipes and basically two different methods. One involves peeling the oranges very carefully avoiding the pith ( the bitter white layer between the flesh and the skin) and  slicing the peel  the then cooking the orange. This process is too complicated and fiddly for me so I prefer the whole orange cooking  method. This is my recipe which is a cross between Nigella Lawson's and Pam Corbin's recipes . It can be made all in one day but I find that if I make it in two stages it fits in better with our hectic schedule:

1kg Seville oranges
2.5 litres of water
Juice of two lemons
2kg sugar

1. Wash the oranges and remove the little buttons on the top of the oranges.
2. Place in a pan with 2.5 litres of water , cover and simmer for 2 hours or so until the oranges are tender. Test with a fork to see if tender.
3. Cool and remove oranges. Cut in half and remove pips. ( Do this in container so that you catch the juices and then slice the peel . ( I have in the past  when short of time pulsed the peel in the magimix until roughly chopped).

4.Strain the juice and return with the chopped peel back into the saucepan. Add the lemon juice and the sugar. Stir, cover and leave over night.

 So this is where I am up to. Part Two tomorrow !

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Happy chickens!

This weekend has been a sort the teenagers out and catch up weekend. So sadly I haven't started the marmalade yet but I can see a window of opportunity arising tomorrow morning when everyone is back to work and school.

On Friday I had to sort out my son's dinner suit etc for drama award ceremony in the evening. Saturday there was the hockey run and then a trip to Ikea for a mattress for my daughter's room. The store was so busy - note to self don't go on a weekend again! And today we're sorting daughter's bed, dismantling the old and building the new!
As last night's dinner was chaotic and late I thought I would be organised today, so I have prepared all the veg and even made an apple puff pastry tart for tonight's supper. It just needs finishing off for five to ten minutes extra in the oven until its golden in colour and lovely and warm.

Nikki's Apple Puff Pastry recipe

1 block puff pastry ready made
1 Bramley apple large
3 more cooker apples ( I used some we have from a neighbours tree which don't completely cook to mush
Or 4-5 eating apples
Golden syrup

Roll a block of puff pastry which has  been out of the fridge for an hour or so. ( I once tried to use it straight from the fridge and found it was  impossible to roll out). Roll out to a large rectangle (mine measured approximately 26cm by 33cm).  Run a  knife approximately 1cm in from the edge of the pastry so that when it cooks the edge will puff up to give a crust.
Peel core and chop the Bramley apple ( you can use other apples but they may need to be pureed if they don't break down when cooked) and put in a saucepan with a little sugar. Put a lid on and cook over a low heat until soft. Puree if necessary.
Spread the puree over the base of the pastry ( within the crust edge). Then peel and slice the remaining apples and layer over the puree. Sprinkle over plenty of sugar if using cooking apples, drizzle with golden syrup and shake a fine mist of cinnamon powder over the top.  Brush the pastry edge with a little milk. Cook in a oven at approximately 160 degrees C for 20 minutes or so until golden brown . Keep an eye on it as the sugar can quickly caramelise and burn. Et voila, your tart is ready to eat with cream or custard! My tart will feed 8.

The chickens are very happy ( at last!-  you get round to them, I hear you say) as I have boiled up all the Brussels sprout, parsnip, carrot, potato and apple peelings for them. They go mad for the warm peelings. The black chicken is called Edna and the red one Isla Mai. Funnily they really aren't very interested in uncooked peelings, carrots are just about tolerable but cooked peelings- now you're talking!

The postcard, I brought back from the War museum when we visited London last year and I have it posted on the wall in the kitchen. I love the expectant look of the chickens with their beady inquisitive eyes. Now that we only have two chickens, I have to compost some our veggie peelings as I think there is only so much they can eat! I hope you enjoy the photos.

Friday, January 27, 2012

It's marmalade time

I thought I was too late for the Seville oranges but found some in a supermarket this week when shopping. I usually buy them from the local greengrocers but panicked that they wouldn't have any left and so I bought these just in case.
Last year I made twenty pots of marmalade in January and froze some whole sevilles and made another large batch in September when space was needed in the freezer. Actually my son removed them from the freezer so that he had space for his burgers and icecreams for his birthday party! A fair enough excuse don't you think? I will post about my method for making marmalade over the weekend . Have a lovely weekend........

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Vintage, reclaimed crochet square blanket

So here it is - the blanket I started making last summer when we were going through difficult times. It's going to be a longish process as I tend to make the squares when  sitting  down in the evening, usually when the family are watching something with a bit of suspense. I'm a bit if a wuss these days regarding scary, tense moments and funny enough the more scary and more tense  the film is, the faster I work!

I have used mainly natural pure wools but I did use one wool which I am sure has some manmade fibre in it and I think you can tell which one from the photo.

There were several blogs I followed particularly at that time (and still do). They were a source of inspiration to me. One of these bloggers was Lucy at Attic 24. Her crochet projects are so colourful and I used the pattern she used in one of her projects to make the squares. I think she described them as like a garden of flowers. She also has talked about a method where the squares are crocheted together as you go along which means that there is no major sewing together at the end. This I much prefer although I may regret it nearer the end as the blanket gets more bulky.

So lastly here is the back.  This is for Christian who kindly posted a picture of the back of his  beautiful quilt for me to see. Although I have crocheted the squares together as I have gone along, I haven't tidied up my ends yet on some of the squares. What do the crocheteers among you do.? Do you sew in your ends as you go along or do you have a magic formula? I'd love to hear from you....

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Reclaimed, vintage wool- I can't help myself!

I have a confession to make - I'm a bit of a sucker for wool. Especially the pure stuff with nothing manmade added. So I have been collecting from charity shops mainly but anywhere where I can find previously loved pure new wool as I have this urge to give it a new home!

I have recently taken up crochet again and  I am making a multicoloured square throw for my daughter using my re-homed wool and I just love the idea that I'm making it from wool that has had a previous (if unused) life. I'm sure this must sound odd but somehow I imagine that all these wools will be brought to life again in the lovely multicoloured throw. The colours of the pure wool are softer, richer  and have a more natural feel as opposed to the harsher and brighter colours of the manmade fibres. 
 I got fed up rummaging around in my large bag for the required colour, when I remembered that I had this basket tucked away in the garage  and it works beautifully - I can see all the colours easily- as long as I keep the colours in their allocated areas!
 One one of my recent purchases was for llama wool- how cool is that!

Monday, January 23, 2012

New Blog Format

I thought my blog needed a bit of a change so have spent some time trying all sorts of variations and now I am confused so think I will leave it as this one for now. What do you think?. No doubt I will get up tomorrow and change it all again but until then this is how it will be.......

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Thomson and Morgan seed bargains

These have just arrived. What great bargains . Fiona from Diary of a cottage smallholder posted on her blog about the bargains to be had! We also like Sungold tomatoes and when they were listed for sale at 20p I had to have them . The salad leaves were a snip at 49p! And ihad to have the giant sunflowers as these are my younger daughters favourite.To be honest I didn't need to buy all that I did but I think I spent a total of 6 pounds odd including postage. I love this time of year planning what to grow.....

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Allotment view

As you can see the allotment is pretty overgrown and neglected . For one reason or another I didn't get down to the allotment as often as I wanted last year. One of my resolutions this year is to visit more often and spending more time there . I feel so replenished when I visit . The atmosphere is calming , the birds singing , and in the past a visit by someone's escaping chickens. There is nothing better than getting your hands dirty in the soil, a getting back to nature a feeling that all is right with the world . No matter how stressed I feel when I arrive, I am at one with the world when I leave . All my troubles being absorbed by the earth and the plants. A happier and calmer me!

Allotment January

Well I made it down to the allotment but only to take photos as I had forgotten I had a number of errands to do including a food shop - pretty important if want to have a happy family over the weekend!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Happy cat sleeping on his back - is this unsual

Happy cat sleeping on his back - is this unusual?

Hi this really is a happy cat! There has been some talk on Radio 2 (started by Steve Wright) regarding the fact that only humans sleep on their backs. I think this photo shows that this isn't the case! I often think that our cat thinks he is human. He is certainly large but is a real softy!
Plans for today?
I think I will pop down to the allotment and start clearing last years mess.Hopefully I will have some photos to post later so see you then. ( I have had such trouble posting today so if this works hurrah!!!!)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Damp day and exercise!

I thought I would get some much needed exercise today. The last few days have been caught up with various teenagers needs. So I planned my return to exercise to start today. I have to say I wasnt entirely looking forward to starting as I know the initial stages are very taxing so when I looked out of the window and saw the damp morning I was not impressed . However you will be proud of me - I took the bull by the horns and went out for half an hour. It was more of a walk / trot but at least it's a start! And I am pleased that I braved the weather! So now for the best bit a cup of coffee and a biscuit...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Making a laundry bag for my daughter

My daughter and I went shopping recently to Southampton and spent a lovely time in my favourite shop John Lewis? One of my dreams if i won the lottery is to have a spending spree there. The store has so many lovely things and the staff are respectful and helpful, a lovely shopping experience. We visited the haberdashery dept and found some lovely Amy
Butler fabrics on offer. Such fantastic colourful patterns. I had decided that making a laundry bag for my daughter might persuade her to put her dirty clothes in the bag rather than on the floor! We choose three fabrics two for the outside and one for the lining. Aren't they lovely. I used the pattern from the Book 'Sewing in no time' by Emma Hardy. What do you think?

Gardening by the moon!

I have often thought about gardening or planting by the moon and thought that at some point I would research and find out more about it. It seems such a romantic and mystical way of gardening , something that Joe from the book Blackberry wine (Joanne Harris) would have incorporated into his magical way of gardening.
So I was really excited to see an article in the Telegraph on Saturday in the Gardening section entitled 'Moon planting: just a passing phase' so I read it with intrepidation. Why? Well the romantic side of me loves the idea of these mystical and magical practises but I am scientifically trained and so there's the juxtaposition. Where's the scientific proof? Well Ken Thompson wrote his informative piece with enticing moonlight picture of an allotment and basically there is no scientific proof to show it works and in fact 'Which' tested planting calabrese, beetroot and lettuce under the optimum days for planting and also on the least optimum days and they found there were no differences in the yield! Disappointing!
Well at least I haven't spent time trying to plant at the 'right' times and at least I don't have to worry about how I have missed the right time for planting with the moon as I think this may be one thing too much for me to have to fit into my schedule. But........ There still is a little part of me that wants it to work just like there still is a little bit of me that believes in Joe's specials!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mudeford quay

Today I was lucky enough to work for the day down near Mudeford. I love visiting there. The light is lovely, often dramatic in winter and bright and almost Mediterranean in the summer. 
I always have a lovely day there- the staff I work with are a lovely bunch and we enjoy catching up on news of our craft projects, chickens  veggie growing and cooking. We always have lots to talk about!

At lunchtime today I went for  walk at the quay and took some lovely photos. Although its seemed reasonably bright, it was a typical wintry day which  the photos  luckily show. Funnily an hour or so later the sun shone brightly but I think these photos show drama and a certain moodiness that wouldnt have been there later. How I love how changeable the weather can be here.  I was able to return to work for the afternoon rather wind swept and invigorated and very happy for my bite of fresh air!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

And now for me time!

I have finally managed to find time to sit down and restart my blogging again after the Christmas break.
We had a lovely New Years Eve at friends in the local village. It was all the more special in that our younger two came with us and had a lovely time too - even taking a dip in the outdoor hot tub before the midnight fireworks and a torch lit walk back home afterwards.

Every ones out today or still in bed and so a have a few minutes to myself. Hurrah! My other half (OH) has moved out of the home office and set up a new office in the town -  still within walking distance but it means we have another family room( desperately needed) and he gets some time away from home ( also needed). Both younger people are back at school where the dreaded pressure is building for their GCSEs. Eldest son has been back at work for at least a week and elder daughter is about to go back to Uni but not sure for how long - that's another story!

What have I been up to? Before Christmas I started making some cushions for one of the shops in our town. I have been experimenting with using vintage blankets and using embroidery to embellish them. These were the first that I made. I also had a commission to make two wool cushions with a London theme and so I made the cushions with images of Big Ben and a London bus what do you think?
 I made a number of other cushions as presents for nieces etc and I hope to be able to upload pictures of them as long as I haven't lost the photos.......

Thursday, January 5, 2012

So we are into 2012!

Apologies for not blogging recently. We had a lovely Christmas and new year and will be back blogging again in the next couple of days! I have been reviewing our year in 2010 and look forward to chatting again to you all......