Dear friends and fellow bloggers - every packet should carry a warning!
Another dear friend (not my neighbour) once told me how a longterm relationship with partner was almost wrecked by excessive use of camomile tea.
One evening she drank 2 (yes, two) large mugfuls of the stuff prior to bedtime - noticed a glint in hubby's eye whilst preparing said tea - but ignored it (the glint not the tea).
However, hubby's glint was a hint to a romantic interlude that night. Whilst his overtures began with whispered sweet nothings to his beloved, her eyes espied the swaying lampshade above the bed which looked a trifle dusty. What with the soporific effect of the camomile tea, together with the hypnotic effect of the moving lampshade, his beloved fell into a deep coma-like sleep - thus leaving her beloved to his own devices!
Yippee! Guess wot? Have lost 3 pounds since Thursday and I want you to be the first to know.
Dear Hungarian fellow blogger (smilimano) - who left a comment on my Blog, I must tell you that a regime of early(ish) morning pilates works - together with my No Booze/No Bread DIET. It's not easy - but it WORKS.
Been tempted - no doubt about it - could have murdered a large G & T and packet of crisps last night. Was so desperate I ran (well, shuffled) around the kitchen, biting my nails, opening fridge door/shutting it again and drinking a pint of water with a slice of lemon. Not as good as the real thing but fills you up a bit.
However- and this is the good news - dancing around the kitchen to Barry White for 10 minutes not only assuages your hunger/alcohol pangs, but tones you up and helps the weight loss. I challenge anyone not to get off their bum whilst he's singing 'You're the First, my Last my Everything!' I played it this morning whilst washing my smalls (a misnomer if ever there was) - got carried away at one point - did some extraordinary high kicks (for my age) and fell down!
Expecting company today - thus might fall by the wayside this week. But shall try and remain STRONG. Plan to weigh myself each Monday morning, and will let you know how I fare and any tempting slimming recipes I acquire. if you have some - then let me know.
Gales, howling winds and rain belting/pelting down. A truly British Summer. Foreigners thinking of spending hols over here, please note. Mind you this is the Lake District - aptly named. I wonder when the hosepipe ban will be introduced? Pretty soon I guess, judging by the weather.
I spent the day battening down the hatches - and shivering.
"Cast not a clout till May is out" my mother used to say.
Well - it's out, and a thermal vest once again clings to my soon-to-be-sylph-like body. Glad I am of it, too.
Q: How many of you are wearing vests?
Answers on a postcard to the UK weather centre in Birmingham, please.
Wind is still howling outside, so I'm giving up on the day and going to bed. Electric blanket is warming up nicely - have put kettle on for a mug of camomile tea (soporific) and taking Deniece Schofield's "Confessions of an Organized Homemaker" to bed as an easy read tonight, as Richard Dawkins 'The God Delusion' is best reserved for daylight hours!
Whilst you were still abed dreamin' of how many chicken legs and pots of slimmers coleslaw you'll need for this evening's Summer Solstice party - I woke up with a rumblin' tum (no relation to local chip shop). This is a new condition for me - something I've not experienced for a long long time. Must be all the fruit and vegs I'm eating. Could have murdered some chips tonight - but I digress . . . .
Made early morning cuppa - changed into pilates gear - spent 20 minutes on the mat - see pic which reveals me, my legs and bum in what can only be described as a questionable position.
Needed a second big cuppa' after the exercise (Typhoo Tea - 2 packs for 1 at Lidl this week - 99p). Not bad taste - better, in my humble opinion, than Yorkshire Tea which has a deep tannin' taste tho' excellent for dyeing calico - (more of that later when I post pics of tea-dyed patchwork blocks.)
Was greeted by 'armless at kitchen door - so fed birds, filled birdbath - watered tomatoes/opened greenhouse door whilst kettle boiled. Sat and watched the birds as I drank my tea and noticed 2 delightful baby blue-tits feeding on fat balls hung in the old quince tree. I hope they 're my fledglings returned to home base. I really have missed the blue-tits in the garden.
Garden abounds with starlings - 20 young 'uns- plus sparrows galore, blackbirds (including 2 young ones) plus many others. It's wonderful to watch their antics - better than watching telly!
Am presently reading about world religions and general philosophy - came across this quotation by Samuel Johnson:
"If you are sidle, be not solitary. If you are solitary, be not idle."
Now you know.
I'm off to bed with Professor Richard Dawkins and 'The God Delusion' tonight. Not the best thing to read late at night with it's descriptions of the Inquisition and other nasties . . . had to get up and have a Beechams Powder last night - to settle my nerves. Perhaps tonight I'll dream of fluffy clouds and cherubs appearing as I draw near to the end of life's old conveyor belt . . . . . . . .
I see many such touching situations in my garden, known by my neighbour as 'The Casbah' due to the mighty palm tree - bought from Netto as a 10" plant approx 5 years ago - that overhangs her domain. Lucky person.
When the time is ripe and I feel you are ready - I will let you into secrets - into the exciting nooks and crannies of my Secret (Casbah) World!
'Ooh,' I hear you cry! 'Cannot wait.' Well, you must.
I thought my tale of the birdies would be a change from cookin' and quiltin' - they can wait for another day.
Now that I'm on my low carb diet (no bread or booze) have lost interest in recipes. Existing on fruit/yoghurt and salads. Forcing myself to enjoy (did I say enjoy?) 30 minutes of pilates floor exercises each morning before breakfast, followed by a power walk around the block. This regime, together with the diet, should ensure a sylph-like figure in a few weeks time (providing I stick at it!)
Talking of sticks - am going downstairs to chew on a stick of celery and sip a cup of weak camomile tea. Now that'll get the pulse racing . . .
Bedtime reading: Richard Dawkins 'The God Delusion.' That should take my mind off food!
Two bunches of English (the best) asparagus languished in the 'fridge for a few days. Usually serve the spears on a bed of rocket topped with soft poached egg and shavings of parmesan - but the yen to make a tart overcame me as I had all the ingredients necessary (or so I thought) to make a delectable culinary dish.
However, upon delving into the freezer for a pack of wot else but ready made Saxby's shortcrust pastry - I discovered 3 packs of 'all-butter puff' and 2 packs of 'sweet dessert' pastry - with ne'er a sign of a suitable shortcrust for my tart.
Lord luv a duck! Does this mean I had to actually 'make' some pastry? Yes, it did. I had to force myself, too.
So, m'dear here is my grandmother's shortcrust pastry recipe from her Bero book:
This is the oldest/plainest pastry recipe in the world methinks.
4ozs plain flour 1oz lard 1oz butter pinch of salt water to bind.
I mixed mine in an excellent little food processor as recommended by Delia on her latest TV programmes. Just threw in the ingredients and let them whizz about before adding a few drops of water. Jamie would say 'chuck in' of course. Rested the resultant lump in the 'fridge for 30 mins then rolled it out thinly before lining the tart. Baked it 'blind' @ 200ºC for 15 mins. Removed foil and dried beans. Returned denuded pastry case to oven for further 4/5 mins. Filled the case with lightly steamed asparagus (cut into 2" pieces) and a concoction of cream/eggs and 2 ozs grated cheese. Sprinkled the top with grated fresh parmesan. Baked at 180ºC for approx 40 mins - but keep checking so the top doesn't get as overdone as mine!
It tastes - I'll rephrase that - it tasted - much better than it looks/looked. Everyone had seconds and one greedy person (not me) had three helpings! On that note will bid you goodnight as I am hungry and started on my non-carbohydrate diet this morning. Feel like a mug of hot, sweet cocoa and 4/5 Rich Tea biscuits to dunk in it. Having a glass of water instead. Wot I do for England!
Now, I'm not one for betting (had strict presbyterian father) but I happened to meet jockey Jimmy Quinn and his little family in Lanzarote. They sat for meals at the adjoining table in the hotel restaurant, so we got to know them really well. Got a tip, too - and won! Jimmy has been riding at Ascot this week but not sparkled - or perhaps he's riding old nags. He's a great little bloke - full of himself but very funny. Strutted around as tho' he owned the place.
I understand one or two of you are making Elderflower Cordial according to my old recipe handed down from my Welsh grandmother, and are concerned about the smell. People, the smell is that of muscat (as in wine) not tomcat!
Yes, the mush does look a mite 'green' and no, I don't add the stalks. I do add a couple of lemons (chopped roughly) plus grannie's secret ingredient - quarter teaspoonful of Citric Acid powder/crystals (think sherbert dabs) which add flavour and improves the keeping properties. Use GLASS bottles - not plastic - and make sure they are sterilised (in dishwasher) and warmed in oven for 10 mins before filling with the hot liquid, right to the top. Tighten lid and store bottles in cool, dark place for 2 weeks before drinking.
I also have the recipe for Elderflower champagne which is quite nice and sparkly for interested parties.
For folks new to this Blog - or can't be bothered to rewind to the beginning- will explain position regarding 'armless.
Last winter 'armless was a whole (organic) bird with 2 wings. He was very cocky and strutted around the garden as if he owned the place. One day he turned up looking very sorry for himself with his right wing hanging on the floor (obviously broken).
Wot could I do? I gave him some water and food, left the shed door open. After 2 weeks with very little improvement in his wing - couldn't fly - waddled - decided it would be kinder to take him to the vet the following day to be 'put down.'
He must have heard me for there was no sign of him the following morning or the next 4 days when he suddenly flew down from the garage roof. There must have been JOY in pigeon land as he rejoined his flock.
An injured blackbird - 'legless' - is a newly wounded visitor to the garden. Has a broken leg by looks of things but is a gutsy bird (male) as he gathers large beakfuls of food for what I assume is his family in some other garden.
He looks bedraggled and I feel sorry for him. Will keep you posted.
Had a lovely restful day - visited a garden centre - tackled a pile of ironing. Early supper - ate the lamb rogan josh I made from Saturday's left-over roast lamb - served it with rice, a salad and cauliflower in delicate white sauce. Plus usual accompaniments: chutney - hot chilli pickle, home-made raita consisting of (yoghurt/cucumber/cumin/coriander.)
Jumped on scales - no weight loss, yet. Wonder why as am sticking to diet of healthy breakfasts - fruit lunches and normal suppers? Oh, did have 4 lumps of Cadbury's chocolate whilst watching the news.
Will post a pic of the healthy yogurt I eat for breakfast for those who want to join me on this diet!!
Whilst my fan and friend were out enjoying themselves I had a cooking afternoon.
Made some white (naughty) bread plus a very nice asparagus tart (Delia's recipe) for tomorrow, as am going out for the day and want 12 hours freedom from cooking. Will serve tart slightly warm with something and salad.
Expecting guests for early supper or high tea whatever takes your fancy at 6pm this evening. A rolled shoulder of local new lamb with rosemary from garden is presently roasting in the oven - 200ºC for half an hour - then reduced heat to 150ºC for another hour (or a bit) followed by a rest for 25 mins (lamb not me). Juices - with some madeira - will be delicious. Have scrubbed some local new potatoes, made onion sauce, fresh mint (from garden) sauce, and a cauliflower awaits my attention. Think I deserve a rest and a nice glass of hmm . . . G & T? Sparkly wine? No . . . . . . .
Ah, will have a large 'Horses Neck.' For those not intiated into the ways of the British Upper Middle classes - this is their favoured pre-dinner drink and consists of a large glass into which is put plenty of ice, a very large shot of brandy, topped with proper dry ginger ale (NOT the Canadian sort, it's too sweet). A couple of slices of lemon complete the concoction.
Having had healthy breakfast, watered the tomatoes, and fed the birds - am ready to tackle the world!
Well, my Singing Garden quilt to be exact. Have started 'anchoring' the quilt around the alternating pinwheel blocks that form the trellis. Looks OK up to now - no distortion of the quilt or puckering on the back. Am undecided whether to vermicelli some areas around the motifs or crosshatch across the quilt. Both methods will make the motifs stand out. My horoscope says I have to be bold and do things today I wouldn't normally do. Hmm . . .
The blocks I rejected - some of which you'll see above - are being used as practice blocks. Will keep you posted, but I always put any new blocks on the Popular Patchwork Magazine website first. (www.popularpatchwork.com)
Take 1lb Bramley apples. Peel/core/chop - put in pan. Add knob of butter (up to 1oz) and up to 2oz sugar, depending on sweetness of tooth. Cover with lid and cook over gentle heat until lovely and soft and mushy.
Must admit I add a 'few' drops ( a good tablespoon - or two) of Apfel apple liqueur or Pear liqueur to pan for than extra zing or 'frisson' whilst cooking. Do not drink same myself. Have large glass of white sparkly wine from Booths to counteract heat from stove. Well, that's my excuse.
Here's the latest Autumn 'Pretty Petunia' Block (#4)as seen on BOM forum of Popular Patchwork website. (www,popularpatchwork.com). A number of people are making the BOM (Block of the Month) quilt - in various colourways. The blocks look amazingly different. Instructions can be found in Popular Patchwork Magazine published monthly.
Attended a Linus workshop yesterday and made a lively quilt for some young hospitalized person. Linus is a very good charity and thousands of quilts are made by quilting groups all over the UK. The hospitals can use up to 250 quilts a week in some instances so there's plenty for us to do.
Have put first machine quilting stitches into the Singing Garden Quilt. Used walking foot and 100% silk on top and in bobbin. Will take my time as the finished quilt will be not be displayed in the Pop Pw magazine until the end of the year. Looks nice and fresh and better in the flesh. Made every excuse under the sun not to start.
You will be forgiven for wondering wot the 'eck is THAT?
'Tis Elderflower Cordial m'dear - in early stages of production. Now is the time to pick 'em. Take some freshly picked elderflower heads (do not wash) and place in large bowl. Cover with a solution of 1lb (or less) sugar to 1 pint of water. Boil till sugar dissolves. Pour boiling mixture over the elderflower heads until they are covered and throw in a couple or three cut lemons. Stir well and leave for at least 24 hours. I left mine for 48 hours covered with a clean tea-towel.
Drain well into a clean pan. Boil and reduce liquid by a third. Pour into scalded bottles (wine bottles with screw tops are ideal). Wait 2 weeks before drinking. Dilute in a large glass with ice cubes and sparkling water. Wunderbar!
PS. Had enough of cockle pickers - trust same will not be said of elder de-flowerers. Leave some more for me.
Here I am with loads of stuff for you to digest/peruse. Have had two large glasses of sparkling wine so my spelling may be a tad awry.
First - FOOD: Still have AR visitor thus cooked English style roast loin of pork today with new potatoes (again, you cry?) and remaining half of cabbage. Added some carrots for colour. Gravy made with juices plus madeira wine/redcurrant jelly and a bit of dijon mustard. Delicious. PORK (two and half pounds with skin intact but slashed) kept at room temperature all day - cooked at 220ºC for 20 mins - reduced to 180ºC for another hour and half. Rested for 20 mins whilst vegs cooked and I made the gravy.
Pud was same as yesterday and will be same tomorrow until lemon cake has had its fling. Cheeses - a good variety from local farm shop - including a strong Lancashire to burn your tongue plus slim crispy biscuits and celery. Proper ground coffee from Aldi - 99p served with fresh cream and chocolate mints. All proper 1950's stuff you'll notice. At this rate will be making Black Forest Gateau. Those were the days!
Entertained a visitor to lunch. Don't serve any of that 'foreign muck' were his instructions. So, like a good 'girl,' I did as I was told and the above is the result. Had to put aside Raymond, Gordon and co. It's got to be brisket, spuds and cabbage. Well, what else can you serve a slightly anal-retentive Englishman but a 'modern' equivalent of boiled beef and carrots? I had to cook that piece of brisket for FIVE hours. Yes, that's right! 5 whole hours at 130ºC in a pot covered tightly with foil and a lid. It's no secret how I cooked the cabbage. English-style I'm afraid - chopped, with plenty of butter and black pepper.
Pudding was warmed-up lemon cake (in M/W) with wot else(?) but custard and ice-cream.
I'll pop off and let you digest these pearls of culinary wisdom whilst I have my healthy breakfast. See you later with much more interesting stuff.
Look ye and weep at the sad end of my wonderful but unloved Rhubarb Tart.
Hungry young birds were not tempted. Instead, they jumped on my lovely tart and used it as a trampoline! So much for Jus-Rol cordon bleu pastry. My humiliation is complete. I must go and lie down in a darkened room until I recover. . . . .
Couldn't face the old tart (pardon the expression) - so had strawberries, huge ones which I dipped into a little side dish of lemon juice and sugar. Brought out the flavour. No cream as am now on diet having eaten so much rhubarb tart. Will offer remains of tart to neighbour - ha! ha!
Hope she doesn't read this before I make the gesture.
Now then - I imagine you'll all (assuming there's more than one of you) be dying to know what I served with the sardines this evening?
The sardines were delicious - so please don't go rushing into Iceland before I do 'cos I'm going back tomorrow to buy three more boxes. At £3 a time makes a cheap, nourishing and delicious meal for two. I baked them @ 180ºC for 30 mins total.
Served creamed potatoes - sounds so much posher than mashed don't you think? Plus string beans and a side salad of thinly sliced red onion and tomatoes in a light dressing.
Pud as mentioned.
Made up 2 blocks (parts 2 and 3) this afternoon in wintery colours for 'Winter Singing Garden.' Blues and silver. Look good. I'll post pics of them when completely finished.
Made a start machine quilting the original Spring/Summer Singing Garden using pure silk thread.
Iris Murdoch's "The Sea, The Sea."
About to toddle off into bed with above book for half an hour of sheer delight before lights out.
Here you are. Rhubarb Tart in person so to speak. Have had it hot, warm, cool and chilled.
Did I hear you say 'and there's enough for another 4 days?' Will keep you posted.
Meanwhile am deciding what to have for 'supper' (posh) tonight. Bought some fresh (frozen) sardines from Iceland (shop not country) for £3 which I intended to grill on the BBQ to save smelly kitchen - but as rain has stopped play will have a rethink.
You'd be forgiven for assuming I cannot cook. However, since quilting took over my life, have put cordon bleu ideals on hold.
Moi, who actually worked with le great Chef himself - namely Raymond Blanc - am considered a cook second only to Monsieurs Heinz and Chef Boyardee! Watch this space . . . .
Hoorah! the 1st of June. Not exactly 'flaming' as it's raining cats and dogs here.
Thus a day of domesticity - using up the remains of the turkey crown (a la king or curry) and bringing all my creativity to bear on the ever present huge Rhubarb Tart. Have had it (excuse the expression - no offence intended) with custard, ice cream, double cream and am now running out of ideas. Catering College did not educate us on the various options of how to serve 4 day old Rhubarb Tart which now languishes in the refrigerator, it's dark crust looking distinctly unappetising as the days progress.
Please excuse me whilst I trot downstairs for a cup of coffee and peruse my Leith, Fanny Farmer and Delia Smith cookbooks for inspiration.
Am primitive cook.
Enjoy quilting/appliqué but seeking to break out of my comfort zone - starting with feathers aka Patsy Thompson..
Like gardening, studying birds, drawing.
Relaxing and pottering about are high on my agenda.
Love music, play the ukulele and sing my heart out with local choirs.