Sunday, 30 October 2011

Despite being a grey and gloomy end to October, Hubby and I went to Bedford this afternoon for a walk by the river.  It has been years since we have been there although it is not that far away.  The swans, ducks and geese were keen to see if anyone had any bread but we were a disappointment to them and they swiftly moved on to check out others.

 It was a good place for a walk with old bridges and new.

The trees were in full autumn splendour.

I was surprised that at the end of half term there were so many conkers on the ground.  There were dozens of them and lots of very busy squirrels who would sit most photogenically right up until the moment I was ready to press the shutter and then they were off before you could say, "bushy tails!"

This majestic fellow was very busy searching for his tea and reminded me of Kenneth Grahame's Ducks' Ditty.

All along the backwater,

Through the rushes tall,

Ducks are a-dabbling.

Up tails all!

Ducks' tails, drakes' tails,
Yellow feet a-quiver,
Yellow bills all out of sight
Busy in the river!

Thinking of 'The Wind in the Willows', is anyone else following the adventures of Mole, Toad and Ratty on their Grand Tour?  Well it all started with a great idea by Pom Pom, and if you want to know more then check it out here.

The boats were not being used today although I would have enjoyed a leisurely trip down the river.  Just as we were about to leave at 4 o'clock, the sun suddenly burst through under the low clouds.  You can just see in the photo that the street lamps were on and twinkly strings of lights were lit but the sun outshone them all.  It was good to have that extra hour today from the clocks going back but it was dark by the time we got home and that is the bit I don't enjoy.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

A fun way to exercise!

Thank you Pat for brightening us up with this link.  When you look at Pat's amazingly beautiful work though you will see why she always brightens my day and inspires me.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

One way to get everyone cleaning the kitchen!

With the threat of frost this week, I thought it was definitely time to harvest the grapes.  I did not want to risk losing them and there won't be many more days of sitting out underneath them.  I have loved having the new arch for the vine to grow over, especially as there is a seat built in.  An ideal place to sit awhile, you can put your feet up and hide away amongst the foliage.

The grapes were smaller than the last few years but even so we picked nearly 20 pounds!  You can eat them as they are, but a high proportion of pips to grape makes it hard work.  We have made wine in the past but other things were planned for this year's crop.

There's always a little helper!

My dear husband very kindly stripped the stalks away and yesterday I set to, cooking them up and dripping them through the jelly bag to extract the juice which of course is not the quickest exercise.  All was going well and one lot was left dripping last night so this morning there was just the final lot to go.  I set the jelly bag back on it's high stand, carefully using a jug I started pouring... the bag got to half full and... well I bet anyone who has used one of these stands before is now starting to laugh.  Why?  Well... the top of the bag has elastic in and you stretch it over the stand,  but sometimes they slip... no warning... just a little bit of redecoration! 

Well in my case it was rather a lot of redecoration!  As I was filling the bag a lot of juice had already run through into the large jug under it. The bag fell down with a good bit of weight behind it and SPLASH!!!  Cupboard fronts had beautiful dark purple streaks, so did the cooker hood, the worktop had a lake which dripped down across the floor and under the island unit.  Clean ironing on the airer was splashed, the cookery book (left open)  got a good coating and so did yours truly!  It was in my hair and dripping down my face!  Good job my top was pink! I shouted for help and fortunately everyone came running, then I couldn't stop laughing, it was so funny, and actually you had to either laugh or cry.

Hubby still cannot believe that the bag falling from the stand could create enough force to splatter the ceiling!

Luckily it did wash off, and luckily for me everyone helped to clean the kitchen. 

Eventually I could carry on, we took the added precaution of 8 pegs to hold the bag in place. So far the grape pulp (left after straining the juice) has all been cooked into Grape Butter, and the first batch of Mulled Wine Jelly has been made.  There's still a lot of juice left to jelly though so I think I shall be busy this week.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Catching up!

Where was I?  Some of you knew that it was good old Ally Pally (or Alexandra Palace to be precise) and why was I there?  Well, lucky me got to visit the Knit & Stitch Show!  My daughter had a school trip to the Show, unfortunately they only had 3 1/2 hours there, but she came back so excited and enthusiastic and desperate to spend longer there.  I didn't take much persuading! 

There are always so many artists, exhibitions and demonstrations there, and they are really encouraging to the youngsters. Everyone was happy to answer questions, talk through techniques and there was no pressure to buy, although my purse was considerably lighter by the end of the day!

We did buy Isobel Hall's new book, and Isobel made a lot of suggestions for materials and techniques to try for my daughter's current textiles project.  She was signing her books which always makes it special.

My daughter also chose two booklets by Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn, which they kindly offered to sign for her.  I  had not expected them to sign the booklets, and my daughter was really thrilled to meet "all these famous people". 

(I am not very impressed with these images from Amazon - first time I have tried this and I am not sure what is going wrong)

It was also good to talk to Dale from Australia and there was a lovely couple from Holland selling Bark cloth.  This was a stall that had to be revisited from my daughter's previous visit and they spent a lot of time explaining about the cloth and other papers they had there, and suggesting lots of ways of using the bark cloth. The gentleman helped my daughter spread out every piece to make her selection and then knocked a third off the price.  Very kind and very much appreciated.  We had a really super day and people like these made it extra special and memorable.  My daughter is also now delighted to be a subscriber to 'Cloth' magazine - despite the huge numbers of visitors they recognised her from her first visit!

Anyway, back to my UFO; for those of you who don't know Ally Pally, at one end of the Great Hall there is a large round stained glass window with bright vibrant colours.

This picture was taken on my daughter's first visit.
At the opposite end of the Great Hall, there is a cafe and whilst getting a coffee I spotted the reflection of the stained glass shining outside above the trees.   I am not quite sure how it reflected out there as the lighting didn't look quite right and the ordinary window is not even in line with the stained glass, but it made a magical moment, and a lot of people were commenting.  I have been to Ally Pally a number of times but have never seen this before.

Friday, 14 October 2011

A definite cake day!

Yesterday did not start well, with my son missing the bus to college and my daughter feeling too ill to walk to school. With friends my daughter walks with I ended up with 4 teenagers squashed into my little car and an unplanned 10 mile round trip.  Now the reason I don't normally take them, apart from independence is the time it takes to get through the traffic, and I have to say this is the first time this term I have needed to go to the college.  I knew the traffic would be bad but it seemed to be exceptionally so and it ended up taking almost an hour.  At that point I still had things to do at home and then get to work which naturally had to be at the furthest of the locations I work at!

As soon as I sat down and wrote the date I thought, typical, it had to be the 13th!  Anyway after a suitably busy day I felt a need for cakes.  Far more important at that point than housework or cooking dinner!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Unidentified Flying Object!

Well it might be a UFO!  Although it definitely wasn't.  I bet you will guess what it was but the question is, where was 1?

All will be revealed, but not today!

Saturday, 8 October 2011


I have enjoyed watching the 'Great British Bake Off' on television, and Jo Wheatley was a worthy winner and one of my favourites from the start.  Mind you Mary Ann, and Holly and Janet were all fantastic bakers too.  All these last four were so good, although in different ways, that it was impossible to tell who would get it until the last minute.  Now I have to say that I rarely watch TV without doing something else, like ironing, sewing, or at the moment crocheting, but with this programme I have sat down every time and although I may have some work on my lap, I haven't actually got very far with it.  So many delicious recipes you always end up rather peckish!

Someone thought a lap wrapped in the cosy patchwork quilt too good an opportunity to miss!
Now the Bake Off is over but this week we were treated to a Masterclass from Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. I liked Mary's way of rolling the pastry for her lemon tart straight onto the base from the loose-bottomed tin, then folding the edges loosely in so you can lift the base into the tin, an excellent idea.  Having then raised the edges up and pressed gently into place, it was interesting too how she baked it blind and then cut the surplus off so that it didn't shrink whilst baking.  I can see that I shall have to try this.

However, I know you are all wondering what this has to do with the title of this post - 'Disaster?'  Well, in the Masterclass Paul made Focaccia bread and I have to say it was quite different from mine, sshh, don't tell him, mine always starts in the bread machine!  Anyway, as I went to make my normal Focaccia this morning I suddenly had a moment of madness and decided to alter the recipe.  After all I remembered (have to say that I didn't check) that Paul had used almost equal quantities of flour to water and 2 teaspoons of salt.  My recipe has 3 cups of flour but I did think that 3 cups of water would be a bit excessive and after all the machine does only work with a certain amount of ingredients.  I started with all the flour in, and the normal one cup of water then whilst the machine did the mixing I very, very, slowly added more water.  I chickened out at an extra 3/4 of a cup!  The mix was definitely very wet!  After the normal dough making cycle look what I got!

Glad I remembered that Paul oiled his worktop rather than using flour! Sticky doesn't begin to descibe it!

How to knead this?  I had a go then gave up and scooped it onto the baking tray.  A further proving and then you are supposed to poke dimples into the top - ha, ha, totally impossible.  I did wonder whether it was worth baking but decided there was nothing to lose but didn't bother drizzling olive oil and sprinkling sea salt on.

Here it is, fresh out of the oven.  Doesn't look too bad from the top but...

Ah, now you see what I was thinking with 'disaster'.  My focaccia is much higher than this.  However, when I managed to prise it out of the oiled tin and cut it, I have to say it did have Paul's required uneven air holes in it, and it tasted alright too, served with carrot soup for lunch.

Having sat at the computer I looked up Paul's recipe and found he didn't use sugar whereas I added a teaspoon as in my usual recipe.  Perhaps I'll have to try that next time.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Celebrating Harvest Festival

It was Harvest Festival at Church this morning, a Family service with all the Scout and Girl Guide groups, and as the Primary school had already had their service the church was full of produce.    I was so pleased that we had lots of my favourite hymns and especially, 'We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land'.  There seems to be so many modern hymns these days and for several years this wasn't sung in our service which always seemed a real pity.  I know the Church has to keep up to date to attract a younger congregation but there is a place for the traditional too, especially those hymns that always seem so timeless, and personally I can never see a ploughed field without wanting to burst into song.

We went gathering our own Autumnal harvest this afternoon, suncream was needed as it was so hot and sunny and I cannot remember needing suncream in October before!  We soon found what we were looking for.

Blackberries, but why is it that the best ones are always just out of reach!


We had a wonderful walk, the hedgerows were full of hips, elderberries, sloes and huge numbers of haws. 

 When I was looking in a recipe book later I found a recipe for Hedgerow Jam that uses haw berries, I haven't ever tried cooking them and had always thought they were only suitable for the birds.  Has anyone else cooked with these? 

We walked by a lake with a wonderful wooden bridge crossing over the stream and then later on went alongside the canal, where someone decided he had picked enough blackberries!

The geese in this field were happily 'chattering' away, "gobble, gobble, gobble".

Home with our harvest, some stewed, some frozen, and suitably refreshed from his rest, my dear son volunteered to make some into blackberry and apple crumbles.


The extra items in the basket are now added to my Autumn plate, can you see the hazelnuts?  They are the total harvest from the twisted hazel in the garden.  Just one each, perhaps I should save them for a special occasion!