Monday, 26 July 2010

a country mouse gets hooky in attic 24

I've been a follower of the famous Attic 24 blog for some time now and have finally given in to my wish to crochet a granny stripe blanket. I've been wanting to make a really big blanket for ages now, ever since Grandado Mouse swiped the one I made on holiday in Findhorn last year, and have just been waiting to find the right wool. This wool is Lucy's recommendation: Stylecraft Special DK. I'm on row 48 at the moment and am finding it hard to put it down. The colours are so vibrant and the pace at which it grows is very satisfying. It doesn't take much concentration so it's possible to watch lots of Sky Plus-ed Project Runways at the same time. Simple things make me happy!
I'm also being made very happy just now by these beautiful gerberas, brought by a thoughtful friend when she and her wee girl came over recently for a playdate. She also brought some caramel shortcake. I like visitors like that.
I have not yet posted about Little R's 5th birthday, which took place during my prolonged blogging dry spell. She had asked me to make a very particular cake and told me exactly what it should be like - a triple layer cake, lots of cream, one layer with blueberries, one layer with cherries and raspberries, thick chocolate icing and a princess on the top. And five candles. Under the thumb as I am, I duly delivered the goods, and here is the photographic evidence.
Now that my baby is 5 she will be going to primary school in August. I am putting a brave face on it but I know I am going to feel like my right arm has been cut off. I will miss her so much. I'm very glad now that I did blog some of the things we did together during those short pre-school years. The first hurdle is going to be dressing her in BROWN school uniform. I have bought most of it now and my goodness it has not been cheap. While stocking up on little blue polo shirts in Marks and Spencer this afternoon I comforted myself with the purchase of a measuring tape with roses on it and a Mrs Beeton book about making jam. Both were in the sale and so fell within my charity shop levels of price sensitivity. We have a lot of blackcurrants in the garden at the moment and my next project will be to make them into something yummy so I can feel smug when I look at jars of glowing jet black blackcurrant jelly instead of defeated, as I feel when I catch sight of the jars of gooseberry sludge. Maybe I should hide them behind the gerberas.

Friday, 23 July 2010

a country mouse gets sticky

Some friends came round last night for cake, chat and crochet. We get together every couple of weeks to do this and having eaten some superlative cakes at other girls' houses I felt obliged to rustle something up for my turn at being the hostess. It was a great excuse to get out the charity shop embroidered linen and play tea parties, too. I made sticky toffee cake and here, as promised to the girls last night, is the recipe:
Oven 180deg, grease and line an 8" square cake tin. Chop 6oz stoned dates and gently heat in small pan with 6 floz boiling water and half tsp bicarb soda for about 5 mins, without boiling, until the dates are soft. Cream 3oz butter and 5oz caster sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in one beaten egg, half tsp vanilla essence and the date mixture. Fold in 6oz self raising flour using a metal spoon, mixing evenly. Pour into prepared tin and bake for 40-45 mins. Then make the best bit - toffee sauce. Heat 3oz light muscovado sugar, one and a half oz butter and 2tbsp single cream or milk in a saucepan and simmer gently, stirring, for about 2 mins. Remove cake from oven and prick all over with fork then pour hot toffee sauce evenly over the surface to sink in. Leave to cool then cut into squares. I'd say be generous with the toffee sauce quantities as the more the better, really.

The previous day, Little Granny, Little R and I visited Greenbank Gardens, using my newly acquired National Trust for Scotland membership. It's £5 a month and easily pays for itself with just one visit somewhere. We had a really lovely afternoon, kicking off with coffee and cake (of course) in the converted stone barn tea room then setting off for a wander round the grounds. We came upon this fountain, above, inside the walled gardens. The statue is called Foam. Fortunately for Foam, the sun soon came out. Little R had a rare tear, dipping her toes in the water, running in circles round the edge, crouching down and guddling for terrified goldfish and taking photos of the flowers with her all time favourite toy, her birthday present Kidizoom camera. All of this was done with Little Granny's hand firmly clamped on her arm lest she join Foam in the pool. I had a nice relaxing time sitting on a bench observing the fun from a safe distance.
We started with a forest walk around the grounds, led by Little R ("I'm an expert on nature, follow me"). Lots of amazingly tall trees and unusual specimens. We then spotted the walled garden but could not figure out how to get into it.
And then we found the way in - GASP. It was a physical shock to the senses to go from the forest to the manicured straight lines and curves of this garden. It looks a bit wonky in this photo, and I can see some bald patches on the lawn in this view, but once inside it was absolute perfection. Not normally my sort of thing in a garden, and certainly not in my own, but the grass was so lush and velvety that I took off my shoes for the sheer joy of walking on it. It was a memorable day, having gone from a rainy morning to a glorious afternoon and from a shadowed forest to a secret garden. Well worth the direct debit.
Finally, here is my attempt at gooseberry jam using the gooseberries from our garden. Having spent a hot afternoon topping and tailing 3kg of gooseberries I came out with 5 jars of gooseberry sauce. I didn't have any preserving sugar and thought that as gooseberries were high in pectin it would be ok to use ordinary sugar, but it wasn't. Oh well, we'll just have to eat it with ice cream instead. It's a hard life.

Monday, 12 July 2010

a country mouse goes to the farm

Little R and I are just back from a lovely weekend at our friends Lynn and Annie's farm. We had an empty as their menfolk were in Norway, throwing snowballs in the blazing sunshine. It was so good to have lots of time simply to be together and talk properly, rather than the rushed catch-ups we usually make do with. We also managed a trip to Portobello beach where, hardy sons of Scotia that we are, we were thoroughly exfoliated by the wind-whipped sand as we ate our picnic. We then retired to the Beach House cafe, above, to eat cake.
Like many farmers, our friends are diversifying. Their latest venture may be to cold press, bottle and sell oil seed rape oil using the crop in the field above. Apparently cold pressed oil seed rape oil is incredibly high in omega oils 3,6 and 9 and, unlike extra virgin olive oil and other cold pressed oils, can actually be used for cooking as well as salads without losing its omega properties. I think I've got that right. Anyway, it sounds like pretty amazing stuff and I applaud their entrepreneurship. The photo below shows the farmhouse nestled amongst the fields and trees. It's such a peaceful place. If they could bottle the atmosphere they would make a million.
And here are their hens, who gave Little R and I a parting gift of six freshly laid eggs. Buck buck.
Some horsey people stable their horses on the farm and we were thrilled to meet this handsome specimen below. As we approached he lifted first one front knee and then the other. Sadly I didn't have so much as a polo mint for him. His grumpy old face says it all.
We also got to pet and feed carrots to Jimmy, a miniature shetland pony the size of a labrador, and a year-old pony. Hens, horses, dogs, cake, beaches. We did not want to leave.

It has been a very long time since I posted on this blog (life has been busy and complicated) and I hope not to leave such a long gap in the future. Apologies to anyone who has been checking for updates, and thank you for your patience.