Friday 26 March 2010

a country mouse tries to be good

I do try to be good, but I've always loved the thrill of skipping something that I should really be doing. I'm always looking for a partner in crime too and now I've found one: my daughter. She was only too happy to skip nursery on the first sunny day after the snow to head for the beach at Lunderston Bay. We giggled and guddled and just generally had a ball, then went to the cafe for juice and a biscuit. A golden day.Tea this evening was Sophie Dahl's chicken stew with fennel and green olives, which I have made many times before and written about on this blog. I made it in a spirit of solidarity with poor Sophie, who is being pilloried at the moment for daring to have a cooking show. I haven't actually seen the programme yet but I'm a big fan of her cookery book, Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights. The gripe seems to be oh she's a "big" model, she's not a chef, what does she know about food except for how to eat lots of it, and other such nastiness. Well, anyone who can dream up that chicken stew is a cook as far as I'm concerned. We had it with the homemade bread, below, inspired by the bread baking feature in Country Living this month.
Still on the subject of eating, the photo below shows the wonderful spread of homebaking made by my friend Sally to raise money for Shelter. The event was called Cake Time so there was a good turnout of cake-loving mums eager to do our bit for a good cause by scoffing everything on this table.
I was in the mood for more worthy charity-related deeds when I came across Kiva ( What an amazing idea. You and other charitably inclined people lend a sum of money, at least $25 to "the working poor" of various struggling countries and they use it to fund the set up or expansion of their businesses. They pay it back every month and then once you have your money back (default rate is something unbelievably tiny) you can either have it paid back to your bank account or re-lend it to another entrepreneur. You choose your entrepreneur from a really detailed list so you can choose something that is meaningful for you and that you would particularly like to support.

Country Mouse is now an international financier, having lent to a group of women with a sewing business and a timber selling business. This link tells you a bit about the women and what they do: Humbling stuff.

I promise to stop being worthy now, right after I've reminded you about the WWF Earth Hour on Saturday 27 March, when we switch off our lights for an hour. Sign up at

Is that enough compensating for my Ferris Bueller day at the beach? Back to being a naughty little mouse again tomorrow.

Friday 5 March 2010

a country mouse is snowed in

There is a new florist/gift shop in the next village and I can see already that I am going to have to stay well clear of it. It is one of those beautiful little shops you occasionally get that is full of things you want to buy but know are not exactly life's essentials, like embroidered wool cafetiere covers, tiny knitted mice, candy coloured crockery and those little sets of drawers for bits and bobs with mismatched glass and ceramic knobs for handles. Not to mention the flowers. It was Little Granny's birthday so I allowed myself the joy of a browse and came out with a huge bunch of yellow tulips for her, for an unmentionable price, and also this little posy of snowdrops, above, for the much less adrenalin-inducing sum of £1.50, which fitted nicely into my new bud vase (formerly a cayenne pepper jar).
We were snowed in here at the mousehole for 4 whole days so by day 4 the house was tidy, the washing and ironing was done (see what it takes for me to achieve that state of affairs?) and I could sit down with a crochet hook, some charity shop DK and a clear conscience. The crocheted thing above is a case for my camera as I'm sure it's not good for it to be unprotected at the bottom of my bag or in my sand/conker/old bits of twig-filled jacket pockets. I recently read a blog post in which friends were turning out their bag contents and photographing them but unfortunately I can't remember which blog it was to refer you to it. Anyway, the contents were things like Gucci keyrings and Lancaster sun lotion (the lucky blogger was on some exotic beach - I started to feel ill with envy). I'm looking at my bag right now and it contains a purse full of receipts (no money), a bashed pack of ibuprofen, some stones, a dead leaf, some crumpled drawings done by Little R, Grandado's ipod, lots of hankies and a chocolate ladybird, which chimes nicely with the ladybird button on the camera case, I realise as I write. I got the ladybird buttons from a charity shop cardigan and would have paid almost anything (well, up to my £7 charity shop all-time max) for it because my little brother had the same ladybird buttons on his blue dressing gown when he was a very small boy and I am always in the market for a sentimental trip down memory lane.
I also made this apron, above, for Little Granny's birthday using a pattern that I came across through Pomona's blog, Little Cottage Comforts: It is the second thing I have made using my new sewing machine. The pattern is billed as an apron in an hour but I had a pretty good idea it was going to take me rather longer than that. The pattern is very straightforward but I still managed to make many mistakes. If you have a go at it, the important thing is to ensure that the 3 pieces you cut/tear the half yard piece into must be equal lengths. If you do that and if you can work a sewing machine then it is probably very easy. I will definitely make more and perhaps next time I will try a lighter weight fabric as the machine could not go through all the folded hems and there were two exploding needles and much snarling of thread and snarling by me.
Being snowed in also meant I had to make do with what I could get from the cupboards and freezer for feeding Little R and Daddy Mouse, hence the store cupboard muffins, above. They are apple and cinnamon and didn't last long. Little R is catching the blogging bug too. She arranged her lunch very carefully the other day (that's a slice of the date cake, by the way) then asked for the camera so she could take a photo for her blog. I note that her focus and composition are on a par with mine and look forward to reading her content.
Having just about emptied the cupboards and freezer during those 4 days, the timing was right for me to come across The Kitchen Cure: on Lucy's Kitchen Notebook blog: I really must learn how to put these links in the text. I think I did it once and have never managed it since. Anyway, the idea of The Kitchen Cure is that you and 2500 other followers do four assignments, and at the end of it your kitchen is completely ship shape. The first assignment was to clear out your cupboards of all the out of date/will never be eaten food and it started last Friday so I'm behind already but is seems very worthwhile so I'm definitely going to give it a go. Despite your groans, I will keep you up to date.