Monday, 30 July 2012

What's for tea?

First an explanation: tea is northern-speak for an evening meal. If you live in the south, it's dinner. If you're posh, it's supper.

And this is the first in an occasional series showing what I've been making for tea. So, to start us off, it's Sunday 29 July and a recipe from the July 2008 issue of delicious magazine, though the recipe was taken from Ottolenghi: the Cookbook.

My courgette plant is in overdrive so I've been searching my recipe books and magazines for ideas. This is chargrilled asparagus, courgette and halloumi salad. The original had manouri cheese but halloumi is easier to find.

The recipe includes two of my favourite ingredients, rocket and asparagus, so we were always onto a winner. However, I think it was the basil & garlic oil which really lifted the flavours. It was very simple to make and absolutely delicious. Looks very pretty on the plate too.

For afters, it was Rhubarb and strawberry cobbler which is a firm favourite of ours. The recipe is from the June 2009 issue of BBC Good Food magazine. I really like their web site, particularly if I have a random ingredient and need to find a recipe.

The cobbler recipe is also very simple and has my favourite method of making pastry - chuck it all in a food processor!

So, a thumbs up to both and will definitely be making them again in the future.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Pictorial meadow

Every morning on my way to work, I drive past a patch of waste land. Last summer, something magical happened.

I hadn't even noticed anything was growing until, one day, there was an explosion of colour, and the waste land was transformed into an old-fashioned meadow. 

It turns out it was part of a new gardening movement called the 'Pictorial Meadow' developed by Nigel Dunnett. Well done Nigel, I say, as it was one of the highlights of my day.

And the good news is that it's back again this year! I was thrilled when, a couple of weeks ago, the flowers emerged. According to the web site this is the 'Candy' mix: poppies, lupins, toadflax, tansy, cornflowers, corn marigolds.  At the moment, the poppies and lupins are at their peak but the scene changes on a daily basis. This week, clouds of white flowers have started to appear. What will it be like tomorrow? I can't wait!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Crochet in reverse

Today I thought I would be blogging about my new round crochet cushion which I've been excitedly making over the last couple of months. Instead, I'm staring at a pile of undoings. Sigh.

I should have known there was a problem when the second side was smaller than the first despite having the same number of rows. At first I thought it was a problem with tension. However, when I came to join the two sides, it eventually became obvious that there were fewer stitches in the second side. 

I could have fudged it and made the sides join, but my perfectionist streak won over. I checked each row starting from the middle and found the fault in the third row. So, only twenty rows to undo then...

With several balls looking alike, I had visions of getting halfway through a row and running out of yarn. So I carefully labelled the mini-balls so it's clear which round to use them in.

Oh well. At least I got another blog post out of it! The Ta-dah! moment will have to wait.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Banana, maple syrup and sour cream muffins

I love baking and don't get to do it as often as I'd like. There is usually far too much from the average recipe with only 2 of us in the house, so I end up taking some round for Dad. Not that he complains: he's only too happy to help out!

These Banana, maple syrup and sour cream muffins were a real hit. Chickpea usually only eats one slice/muffin etc of anything I make but she actually asked for these every day until they'd gone!

The recipe was from the book Cupcakes though I made mine muffin size as cupcakes are far too small! I've also made a coconut, ginger and lime loaf from the same book and that was equally as delicious. No doubt I'll be using some of the other recipes as it's making my mouth water just flicking through the book writing this post. However, next time, like the good blogger I'd like to be, I'll try to do some work in progress photos too.

PS There is a very similar version of the recipe on the Maple Syrup World web site.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Blue snood

I've recently started knitting again after not doing any for about 20 years! This was a free pattern, Lazy Lace Snood, which was part of a Deramores Knit Along, though it no longer seems to be available.

The pattern specified Rowan Alpaca Cotton but, as I wasn't able to source any in the shops around here, I used Wendy Osprey instead (shade 2684, Stonewash). I find the Deramores web site really useful for finding alternatives to different yarns or for details of the yarn content and weight.

I've made complicated aran sweaters before so this was an easy make for me and I found the rhythm of the simple pattern very soothing. I did make one change in choosing to make the snood much shorter - more of a cowl than a snood - so that it just pulls over your head instead of needing to be wrapped around.

I was also pleased with my yarn choice as the Osprey turned out to be lovely to work with: very soft and nice stitch definition.

All in all, I really enjoyed my journey back into knitting and have already started another project. But more about that another time.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Strawberry Thief

One of the rooms at Kelmscott Manor was decorated with the strawberry thief fabric designed by William Morris. A few years ago, I made a quilt based on that design using a pattern in Floral Abundance by Rosemary Makhan. The border is my own design using the elements from the rest of the quilt: the one in the book is much more complicated.

The quilt is machine appliqued (using the bondaweb technique) and machine quilted.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Kelmscott Manor

On one of the few sunny days of the summer so far, we visited Kelmscott Manor, the former home of William Morris. The Oxfordshire Cotswolds visitor guide describes the village of Kelmscott as 'remote'. Maybe in William Morris' day, but now it's close to lots of other tourist destinations. However, it is reached via single track roads which I'm not too keen on, being a townie and not used to country lanes.

The car park is about a 10 minute walk away, though this is not too much of a hardship as it simply means you have to walk through the lovely village with its picture postcard cottages and flower-filled gardens.

Once inside the house, you can see why William Morris and his family loved it so much with its flagstone floors, beamed ceilings and large fireplaces. It has that indefinable 'feel' which makes you feel warm and welcome. Many of the rooms are decorated with wallpaper and fabrics designed by Morris and they still look fresh and contemporary. I wouldn't normally choose such busy patterns myself but, having seen them used in a room, I was surprised by how much I liked them.
The gardens are equally lovely and the only part of the site where you can take photos, though there are interior photos on the web site. Well worth a visit and we overheard several people say they were combining it with a visit to the National Trust propery, Buscot Park.

We walked back to the car park via the churchyard where Morris, his wife and daughters are buried. The grave is tucked away behind a bush so is difficult to spot, and the writing on the tomb is slowly being worn away by the weather.

On the way home, we called in at Aston Pottery which has a large range of pottery decorated with plants and wildlife.

I treated myself to this chicken mug which I love and have been using every day since!

Friday, 13 July 2012

Crafting at the Whitworth

Me and my friends, Bernie and Rachel, are always looking for interesting things to do in Manchester other than shopping. We've tried afternoon tea, art exhibitions and the theatre.

Last year I went with Bernie to Crafternoon Tea  at the Whitworth Art Gallery. For the bargain price of £5, you get a 2 hour craft session and a cup of tea. We decided it was time to pay a return visit.

Zoe James led the session and showed us how to create a wreath from foam pipe insulation. We covered our wreath with strips of paper cut from old books and magazines, then decorated them with paper flowers, old stamps and buttons. I loved it! What can be more fun than an afternoon spent cutting and sticking? I'm sure we'll be back to try other crafts sometime soon.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Mystery guest

I was sitting outside one morning enjoying a cup of tea and noticed this beauty emerging from a pot of hostas. I didn't recognise it as something I'd planted and it looked wild rather than cultivated. Intrigued, I consulted my trusty Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of Britain & Northern Europe and was surprised and delighted to find it's a Common Spotted-Orchid. I have no idea how it got there but am so glad I've neglected the weeding lately!

PS. Loving my Aldi garden spike in the background.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Duckling hunt

Me and Chickpea are lucky enough to live near a small lake and every spring we eagerly await the arrival of the new season of ducklings. The broods vary from just a couple to over twelve. Sadly these large broods don't survive very long and each day the numbers dwindle: foxes, cats, seagulls, who knows? A few weeks ago we noticed this lovely little yellow duckling who stood out amongst his (still cute) but normal coloured siblings. We've been walking round the lake on a regular basis to check on his/her progress. I'm pleased to report that it's still alive! And slowly turning grey-white - I wonder what colour s/he'll turn out?