Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

30 October: Flapjack

Natalie over at the Yarn Yard has asked about my flapjack recipe. So here it is -

8 oz marge - but it tastes so much better with butter, so I always use butter.
4 oz sugar
4 oz golden syrup - for those who do not wish to weigh it, 2 good tablespoonfuls will do.
4 oz self-raising flour
12 oz oats.

The beauty of this recipe is that it is all mixed in one large saucepan, saving immensely on the washing-up. It has been in use for well over 35 years by me, and I may have got it from my mother - I really can't remember.

The butter, sugar and syrup are all melted over a low heat. The flour is stirred in, and I always leave it to stand for a few minutes so that the warmed raising agent starts to fluff it up. Then in go the oats, a good stir to mix thoroughly (you may, if you wish, add ginger or almond flavouring, though I never bother). Transfer to a tin - my favourite 10" square one is now sadly past it, and they don't seem to make that size any more, so I use a traybake sort of tin, about 10 and a half inches by about 7 and a bit. (That's probably a tidy metric size.)

The oven should already be heated - I forgot to tell you that at the beginning - to about 160 C or 170 C, depending on your oven , and it takes roughly 25 to 30 minutes to cook.

When it comes out of the oven, mark the pieces with a suitable tool, and leave to cool in the tin . If you don't mark it at this stage, it is much harder later on to do so and keep the pieces neat.

For a photo of a tray of flapjack cooling, click on the 'baking' label.

Monday, October 29, 2007

29 October: The end of October

Happy Birthday to Senior Grandson!

The end of the summer time, and the harvest is in -

DH's little apple trees have produced a surprising amount of fruit. Most have come from the Fiesta tree - the Ashmead's Kernel (the more russety ones) have been fewer. I have so far tried only the Fiestas; not that keen on apples, I can make an exception for them. Actually it's probably the supermarket varieties of apple that I don't care for, but others are not widely available round here, as far as I know.

What we do get, though, at this time of year, after dark, is a lot of knocking on the front door. For some reason children seem unable to use a doorbell. They keep on knocking even if you don't open the door. This year DH has put up a notice advising them that they should not even ask.

I can't quite understand how it is that children who are constantly being told not to take sweets from strangers are at the end of October dressed up and sent out into the dark to solicit sweets from strangers.

Friday, October 26, 2007

26 October: Funny how time slips away

Writing a shopping list is always helpful, even if you arrive at the shops and the list is still on the kitchen table.

So I was checking the fridge and then the cupboard for what was missing, and found that the top shelf had collapsed. One of those little doofers that plug into the side and the shelf rests on had broken - plastic fatigue, probably.

All the stuff from the shelf had to be rescued, then the search for a replacement doofer began. Surely we had some in the drawer. Well, the kitchen drawers and the garage shelves have been tidied up in recent months, so nothing was where it was expected to be (I had a terrible job finding a trowel the other day when I wanted to re-point the garden path before the frosts, and it turned up in the box of wallpaper-hanging stuff).

Having failed to find a fresh doofer, the only alternative was B&Q's late night opening. Unsure where to start looking, we asked a homely body who knew exactly what we meant - she had some in her own cupboard; unfortunately she was new in the store, and wasn't quite certain where they were. Eventually we located what we wanted, after much comparison of size and shape with the sample we had brought with us and the transparent items in the sealed bag. Much wonderment at some of the other products on sale - why is it that when you want a particular item, and having searched fruitlessly, then bodged up some sort of substitute, then 3 weeks later, B&Q have precisely what would have done the job, which is now not going to be done again. The exact case with our rainwater butts - but I digress.

Home with the doofers, then faced with the problem of removing the snapped-off end of the old one before the new one could be fitted and the shelf restored to its former glory (and how I loathe that cliche).

So then there was all this stuff to put back into the cupboard. Bags of flour bought recently for more adventurous bread-making, little drums of herbs and spices, some sugar, a small bottle of beer - hang on a minute, we've been teetotal for 13 or 14 years, what's this doing in there? But no, DH wants to keep it; perhaps he plans to sell it one day on eB*y to supplement his pension, as it's a special brew of something. Bottles of vinegar - keep the ones I use for dyeing, but the dusty one that smells dreadful can be poured away. A small box with an exotic mix of spices - the best before date is only July this year, so that goes back on the shelf. A large bottle of soy sauce - that'll be OK, a splash gets used regularly every week or two. Hang on, what does that best before date say? June 2000? How did that escape notice when we moved in 2002?

Is there some sort of wormhole in time accessible only from the back of the shelf? What's going on?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

23 October: Meanwhile, back in the wool basket..

But it hasn't all been gadding about recently. There's been some knitting and related activity going on.

At the Woolfest (seems ages ago now), one of my purchases was some Socka sock wool. It came with us on holiday, and began to be a sock patterned with a chevron stitch design. It looked awful and felt uncomfortable, so it was unravelled, and another start made with another lacy sort of stitch. By the time the foot was complete, it was again obvious that it was all wrong - the stitch pattern didn't show up, and the colour changes in the yarn didn't show up properly either.

So it became a pair of excellent plain stocking stitch socks -

All other sock knitters seem to produce fancy patterned socks, often in multi-coloured yarn, but it never seems to work out for me - *sniff*.

On the needle at the moment is a first attempt at intarsia -

This is most of the back of a jersey in Shetland wool. The black and grey are natural colours, the rest are home-dyed (some of the yarns were just recently dyed in the fibre and spun afterwards), and the yarns are not all a uniform thickness, but in small areas they seem to go OK together. To use one of my mother's pet phrases - it'll be all right when it's pressed.

The original plan was to knit a long-sleeved jersey, all in the same sort of squares. But I'm already bored with it, so it might just be a sleeveless tank-top. It's my current TV knitting - and even though the knitting is boring, it's more interesting than the TV programmes. The other evening I switched on what looked like a gardening programme, only to find it was actually an extended advert for a stately home; one that we have visited, and thought was rather dull for the huge entrance charge (all the interesting bits are "Private"), and which continues to bang on about a film made there a generation ago, which some of us have never seen, and now never want to. It made an ancient edition of "Anim*l, Veget*ble, Miner*l" look fascinating in comparison.

(Other personal views may be available.)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

21 October: Thorp Perrow Arboretum

A perfect autumn day for a visit to an arboretum.

Thorp Perrow Arboretum was a popular destination for many people yesterday. A father kindly moved his pushchair so that this view was unobstructed -

The leaf colours glowed in the sunshine.

There were plenty of places to sit and admire the colours.

The light through the trees was magic; piles of dry leaves positively insisted we kick them up; berries and other stranger fruit were attracting much insect attention; there were fungi to see as well as next year's buds already waiting for the longer days to return; the lake had a swan and at least one 2-foot trout - perhaps the metal heron in the shallows kept the real ones away.

One area is devoted to trees with interesting bark. This is a plane tree (requested a few days ago) -

And DH's favourite Acer Griseum -

There was a Hallowe'en Trail, ghouls, ghosts, witches, skeletons, and this chap in the lake -

The tea room provided us with coffee and lunch. As we returned to the car, we spotted something different -

A 1929 REO (American?); the sign in the window asked that the vehicle be treated like somebody else's wife - look but don't touch.

Back home for tea and cake - a brilliant day out.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

18 October: In my garden

The back garden here is just a little standard modern estate plot, about 35 feet wide and about 40 feet long.

But it's pretty busy, functioning as an outdoor room (paving by the house, with a bench and sunshade), food production (raspberry canes, apple trees, and an occasional tripod of runner beans), pastime (lawn to mow, shrubs to prune, borders to weed), recycling centre (compost bin, shredder, water butts), intermittent playground for the grandchildren (the lawn and the paths to run round), and wildlife haven (birds, butterflies, insects, the odd small mammal).

Now that the house is 5 years old, and plants have had some time to grow, the garden is changing. Some things grew too big and were dug up; a number of things inexplicably died; other things fell out of favour or failed to thrive and were changed. The trees planted in the borders are having an effect on the moisture and light around them. In previous years, time spent in the garden was mostly maintenance, but now it's mostly relaxation.

There's a basic framework to it, with the paved area and a paved path all the way round, then borders around the lawn, but the planting is a joy-jumble of trees, shrubs, perennials, and bulbs, with annuals self-seeded and added in any spaces that can be found. It could never be described as "designed", more "evolving", and the style, if any, could only be called "individual".

The flowers are always a delight, and foliage (or foilage, as it was once memorably described as by a policeman giving evidence in a trial) provides extra colour. And there is always something of interest, even if it's only the spiders nesting in the corners of the conservatory windows.

This morning when the kitchen blind went up, the garden was alive with birds. Several blackbirds - they like the water in the 2 birdbaths - a small flock of dunnocks, a robin, blue tit, coal tit, and most gloriously, a wren!

Immediately outside the kitchen window is a potted variegated holly tree, about 5 or 6 feet tall, and the wren was darting about in its branches, picking up tiny insects. She wasn't bothered by my presence, less than 3 feet away, but continued her breakfast, moving on to the oak tree, the border, and back again. There may have been a second wren, as a fierce chase of another bird took her zipping out of the garden once. She returned for a further forage, though. So it seems that we provide a food supply worth visiting for a number of little creatures, including mouse/rat/possible hedgehog or stoat.

The future of the potted trees has been in question - they take more upkeep than the other trees, needing watering, feeding and trimming. And with 9 of them - 2 hollies, 2 gingkos, oak, black pine, hornbeam, yew and bay - they take up a fair bit of space. But when they provide food for the wren, then they have to stay.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

14 October: Beningbrough Hall

A recent outing to Beningbrough Hall, near York, was rained off, so DH and I went there yesterday.

This is the imposing front, which you come straight towards up the drive, before turning aside into the car park. The National Trust have planted a new avenue on either side of the drive.

The house itself is very interesting. Apart from the impressive size of the rooms, the symmetrical layout, and the suitable period furniture, the place is stuffed full of portraits on loan from the National Portrait Gallery. A surfeit of late 17th century and 18th century faces. There are also interactive rooms, where the visitor can dress up and be photographed in a suitable 18th century attitude, and join the computer projected series of portraits; and where a story can be made up about a rather strange family portrait involving various classical gods.

The volunteer stewards are all very well-informed about the items on show and the people who lived in the place.

And there are gardens.

The flower gardens are not extensive, but the small scale makes them very attractive places to linger on one of the many outdoor seats. This hedged area on the terrace contained a small fish pond, with little fountain -

There is still quite a bit of colour in places in the borders. This was a good combination -

But the star of the garden show is the walled garden. There are over 20 varieties of apples and pears, and a display of many varieties was laid out in a room over the old stables. The walled garden also has many vegetables, plus soft fruit, vines, nut trees, herbs, and flowers. Again, lots of places to sit, and on one of the lawns were children's toys (we didn't visit the woodland adventure playground, but could hear that it was fun for the children who were exploring it).

This picture shows the way into the walled garden from the gardens at the back of the house -

Add to all this an excellent tea room, with an outdoor area of paving, sunken lawn, and a row of plane trees shading a further terrace, and it all made a pretty super day out. We got a bit lost on the way there, but then that meant we had to thread our way through some Yorkshire villages that we wouldn't otherwise have ever visited.

A grand day out!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

10 October: Autumn

Autumn is here - the time for walks in damp woods -

And it's always been a time for making changes, as the plants change from the plenty of summer and the winds blow away the fallen leaves.

So, some changes afoot here. And that's not just new socks.

The soap- and shampoo-free lifestyle is well under way, and my skin and hair have never looked better. It took a couple of weeks for the hair to balance itself, but now it's shiny and thick, not flat and lifeless like for many years. And my skin has lost that "oily and dry" effect, and looks much smoother.

Other changes will be mentioned in due course. Meanwhile, I can recommend the ditching of all shampoo and conditioner (anyone want mine?), and nearly all the soap; some is necessary for hand hygiene. All you need is water.

Friday, October 05, 2007

5 October: A little navel-gazing

Tagged again by Granny J - about blogging.

Far too much to post again (you can always see the full thing over at hers), but a few of the "rules" struck a chord.

*Blog about what you're interested in, and what you want to share.

*It's your blog - you make the rules.

*Keep the blog simple.

Other than that, there's not much to add. Pictures often add to the interest, though some blogs don't have them, and are still interesting. And personally I find comments important. (Diamond Geezer covered comments very well on 3 September in his series about his 5th blogging anniversary.)

The comments can inform, amuse, and delight. I find I return frequently to some blogs purely to read the updates to the comments. But on certain blogs, when you arrive and there are already 279 comments, oddly enough you already know what they're all saying, and don't bother to read them.

And it's good when commenting is made easy; although the word verification is clearly necessary if there's a lot of spam, it can be irritating (especially when you've typed correctly twice already). And when it requires your e-mail address to make a comment, that's a definite bar to me commenting.

Mind you, comments like "me too" and "wow, fantastic" are not nearly so much appreciated as ones that add something to the topic. Having said that, sometimes "beautiful picture" is all that's needed, or - perhaps the highest praise - "highly amusing".

And there are new blogs coming along all the time, but you only find out about them when their bloggers add a comment somewhere and you idly click on the link.

But how often does it happen that you've just found a new (to you) blog, and you've popped in a few times to get the hang of it, and you're just thinking you'll de-lurk and make a comment, and they stop.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

3 October: Spinster of this parish

The laundry's up to date, so now it's playtime!

Not enough spinning recently, so I've made up for that by spinning 200 gms of beautiful hand dyed superwash Blue Faced Leicester from The Yarn Yard -

And, after having disappointing results with dyeing yarn, I have been experimenting with dyeing fibre. This is some merino I dyed a few weeks ago -

Which spun up into this -

And this, which reminds me of sugared almonds -

The dyes seem to be stable when put into the fibre before spinning, so I think I shall carry on with that method. There are several ways of mixing colours, in the dyeing, in the spinning, and in the making up.

It might never all get knitted, as I can spin 100 gms in an afternoon, but it usually takes several days to knit up that much. But hey, the spinning is what I enjoy. And when I can't move for skeins of handspun, I might try weaving it into blankets.