Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Catch up from across the water

Today in London I had coffee with a friend that have known since we were both 13. We met at boarding school in Toowoomba! She is visiting from Australia. Now well aged and lovely with it(!) we are both on second marriages and the mother to daughters...she has one. Great to catch up and we had one of those moments when one realises that amazing things happen in life.

Then had lunch with Big J - news about his trip was not so promising at lunch time, but that had changed by dinner time....mmmm

A quick trip to see Ava and her lovely mum. At six weeks (Ava - not her mum) she is alert and more stable! Lots of squeezing went on.

Home on the train to whiz the hoover around, a bit of child collecting then my sewing bee friend and I sat and worked for a couple of hours. Lots of sewing in threads on the back of the blanket, some last minute blocking and I am thinking, as we hope Ava and family will stay with us in just over two weeks, that there is now a deadline.

Also changed the blog background a bit, the colour lends itself to the warm days we have been having.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Apple tea cake

This cake is so nice, I thought I would share it with you. I have a number of recipes with this name, but this one is the best so far. Great for using up windfalls as the apples don't have to be perfect.

Allow me to type it out for you while one of my own is baking in the oven!

2 apples
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp ground cinnamon
250g caster sugar
250g butter (unsalted is the guide here, but I use what I have)
250g self raising flour
4 eggs
icing sugar to dust - never had time to do gets eaten too fast!

1. Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line base of a 23cm springform cake tin.
2. Peel, core and slice apples, (not too thinly). Toss in lemon juice and half the cinnamon and set aside.
3. Take 50g of the butter, sugar and flour, put it in a bowl with the remaining cinnamon and rub together with finger tips. (I don't add cinnamon here as some folk aren't too keen on too much of it).
4. Place eggs and remaining sugar into a bowl and beat until light and fluffy...use a mixer, this is exhausting otherwise. Melt remaining butter and pour into egg mix. Sift in the remaining flour and fold carefully until combined.
5. Pour into cake tin and carefully lay apple slices all over the top. Sprinkle with crumble mixture and bake for 50 mins (or until a skewer comes out clean). In my oven it take a few minutes more of anxious waiting to make sure the centre is completely baked.
6. Cool in tin for 10 minutes before putting on a wire rack. Even better the day after baking it.

Let me know if you try this and if you like it and if you do use it and blog about it, please link back to me here.

And here is the finished product. It smells divine.

Thank you.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Escape to Dorset

Big J and I have been away for a few days, to chill, to walk and to hang out with each other. Important time together because we are waiting to hear about when and if he goes away and for how long. Any day now we will know. We don't know if we (the girls and I during the week and with Ads at the weekends) are going to be holding the fort for a few weeks, or a few months. Will he be here at Christmas? Will we? Anyway, to clear our heads of the questions that have no answers, we took off.
To Weymouth. A port, a fishing port with boats and seagulls and fantastic fish and nice shops and even nicer tea rooms.

For 50p the ferry man will row you across the port

If you want to travel further afield, this beast will take you to Jersey

Nicknamed the vomit comet....mmmm

Crustaceans rock in this part of the world

It is fun to hit your food with a hammer.

We did the French Lieutenant's Woman's walk along the cob at Lyme Regis, and then did a Mary Anning fossick on the beach and found a (very) small ammonite, a fish bone fossil and a worm like thing.

It was a good few days, culminating in a visit to Cerne Abbas to see the Rude Man....indeed! Don't look if you are shy!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Enough already

Ok, no more wallowing in self pity about the imminent departure of baby and family. Time to snap out of it and get on with life, the blanket and (whisper) the garden. I had not ventured out there for ages. Only to pick raspberries of which there are many. The tomatoes are slumped against the fence, cross looking, twisted, resentful. The raspberry canes are bent to the ground heavy with fruit but sorely tempting to the odd slug, and the acanthus,
it had to go. (And it went thanks to Big J and his Spears and Jackson fork!). It is pervasive, it is everywhere. I love the tall spires with the little bonnet like flowers, but the whole thing needs space and is prickly. So at the weekend I started, weeding, digging, removing and tidying my space. Joy. I love the garden. The best bit? I found a frog living in a clump of geraniums:

A common frog, but the fact that it lives in the front border is testament to the fact I will not allow any chemicals in there, and that the soil is good enough for free range worms and slugs to live in which provide food for this little creature.

Today, I have stitched some squares together. Good sign. Only a few rows from completion.

Can't wait for my first ever blanket Ta-dah!

Monday, 19 September 2011


Work has ground to a snail like pace on the baby blanket. It is hard to look at it at times, because baby and my brother and his lovely wife are leaving London in about 6 weeks to live in Asia. His dream has finally come true and it is wonderful news, but so, so sad. I have never lived with my brother in our family home. He was born when I was away at boarding school, in another country. By the time he started boarding school, I had graduated from uni and was working. It was up to me to watch over him as our parents were so far away. I went to cricket and rugby matches, took him and his friends for weekends. Took them to the movies, fed them and gave them tuck to take back to school. I then left for Japan and he felt abandoned. When we arrived in the UK, he was already in London, so we have had more than four years of sharing good times like Christmas and weekends and even a trip to France.
I am going to miss him and his little family so much, and once more, I will be living on the other side of the world to my parents and all my siblings....

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Friends far away

A long email this morning from someone very dear to me who lives far away. I count myself lucky to have such a wonderful friend and would love to have her near. She is having a bit of a rough time and there is nothing I would like more than to sit over tea (it is morning after all) and talk.
I love you girl and just want everyone else who reads this to know that too.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Seasonal food

I have set two bottles of sloe gin, that gorgeous pink juice is slowly colouring the clear liquid. I gave them their first shake today and a woodlouse floated gracefully to the surface....somehow I missed the little blighter. The recipe I used this year advocated a drop of almond essence in the miz...although no mention of bugs! Em suggested I label the bottle "Woodlouse Blend 2011". Bet no one notices the difference.

Other foraged food this week has been blackberries and apples, which became a blackberry and apple crumble, yum. Love crumble season.

Next will be damsons, for vodka amd jam....

I heard a great thing to do with sloes once the gin has been decanted off them. Top up the bottle with a mild sherry and leave it for about 3 months for another fruity liquer.

I noticed lots of small perfectly formed pine cones on the ground on the way home from a walk to town today....I am thinking of wreaths already, and we picked some almonds from a tree in the road. The fruit had split, revealing the nuts (in their shells). A few days drying in the conservatory might yeild some yummy kernals. Not so lucky with some hazelnuts recently, but it is worth giving it a try.

I do love a good forage.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Oh those sloes

Well, as I write, with a chilled nip of umeshu (plum wine) beside my laptop, Japanese Granny is cooking up a storm in the kitchen. She is making croquets for her last night here. We are spoiled.

We have had a whirlwind of time with her. On Saturday we went to London to see Ava, bearing gifts of raspberry cake, flowers and biscuits from Japan. How gorgeous can a baby be?

We then all trooped to LIBERTY to oooh and aaah over the delights inside as well as the building. Japanese Granny bought a dashing pair of Liberty wellies, which the good old British weather gave her the opportunity to try out before taking them home!

On Sunday, all those keen were up early for the Pease Pottage Boot Fair, which was CANCELLED, so we traipsed across to Horley's version, which is smaller, but because we were all up early to get to a Boot Fair we had to get to at least one!

Em bought BUNTING for her newly painted room.

The girls looked after her on Monday and as you know, we went blackberrying in the evening, so on Tuesday Japanese Granny made jam.

Today Japanese Granny and I went to Tunbridge Wells and did all the kitchen shops. I had a plan, a plan to buy a bottle, a bottle for SLOE GIN. Also to buy small loaf tin shaped disposable cake moulds. Success on two counts.

We then raced home and grabbed bags for fruit picking and went in search of SLOES. I got a tip from someone at work that this season is a good one and in a certain part of the town, sloes are abundant. It took some time to find them, it took a great deal of dexterity to dangle over a stream, the bank waist high in brambles and nettles, to gather the first few. But then we got the bug and before long we were in ditches, over gates and under hedgerows. We got a few more blackberries too.

But this is some of the sloe haul

Got the gin, got the sugar, looks like it might be a very merry (hic) Christmas!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Manic Monday gets mellow

This is where I would like to have been today.

Or here:

Pottering around these smooth lovelies would have been nice as well.

Much as I love my work, there are days when it can be a load. Some unhappy folk today who needed to tell me how unhappy they are and how things are 'just not acceptable'. Some are worried about healing - and they are not. Some have stashed all their drugs and have no idea what they take and when. Some are not themselves, literally. There are those who become different people, with different names and different histories. A colleague is very ill.
I was happy to get home to Big J and the girls. They are all a flutter about school starting tomorrow. We had a favourite dish for tea as well, more joy...chirashizushi
All of us then took Poppy for a walk and went blackberry picking. Japanese granny will be making jam to take back with her.
The evening more than made up for the day.

The other things that cheered me up were all the photos taken this weekend with our lovely girls and granny in London. To be published later...

Off to crochet and stitch together more blanket...