Thursday, 1 September 2016

1st September

 Well, here we go- or rather here we have gone. We're all back to school. New black shoes have veiled their pristine shine with grass. The alarm clock remembers what it is to ring in vain. Timetables are tacked to shelves filling nicely now with folders and books. The season has turned!
 Would somebody with agricultural authority tell my pear tree that the season has turned. A bit of mellow fruitfulness, please. The poor thing is definitely being rehoused soon in a much more sensible spot.
 Can you see the raindrops chatting to the daisy heads? If I was Pom Pom, they would be bathed in sunshine, despite the rain. End of summer in the Frozen North- chilly mornings and evenings, chilly afternoons now too.
 We love our chestnut tree. Look at all the conkers groaning. There will be a carpet of fun soon to cheer them up soon.

 While we worked with the silks on Monday, some Corrymeela volunteers looked after our children. They were so good at finding dreamy things for them to do too. Jo's dreamcatcher is going up to his bedroom soon- as he is rightly points out, that's where he does his dreaming.
We haven't quite decided where my dream is going. Kitchen or book room? Prince Charming says I should hang it where I do most of my dreaming. Tough choice!

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Dreaming in silk

On Bank Holiday Monday, Catherine and I ran a creative retreat up at Corrymeela. Silk artist, Pauline Edmiston, who works with the Church of Scotland, used the silks to lead us through a reflection on our dreams and prayers in the morning, and then we made our own individual silk piece after lunch. It was an extraordinary day. Lots of photos below, but here is a link to our Hookery blog where Heather writes of her experiences on the day. I can't put it any better.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Crusty Lemon Butter Bake

Mags has asked me to guest blog here, so...

A couple of weeks ago I needed to bring a cake to a friend's. I fancied some lemon cake so I dug out my favourite drizzle recipe. It has to be one of the easiest cake recipes I have and was very kindly given to me 31 years ago by one of the grandmothers of my boyfriend at the time, Gran Caster.

Crusty Lemon Butter Bake was the title of the recipe and although it is a drizzle it will always be a Crusty Lemon Butter Bake to me.

The following week Mags visited and I whipped it up again, and you can tell from her comments in previous blog posts she quite enjoyed it. I'm not sure if Mary & Paul would have been happy to have this produced for the signature bake in this week's GBBO as it is so simple  - but I know they would have enjoyed eating it.

I'm considering a Gin & Lime topping, but haven't tried it yet.

So here is the recipe in all its simple glory:

Crusty Lemon Butter Bake – Gran Caster

6oz /170g  butter
6oz/ 170g caster sugar
2 eggs
6oz / 170g SR flour

4oz / 115g caster sugar
Juice of 1 lemon 

  1. Preheat oven to 180⁰C/ 160⁰C  fan/ 350⁰F / GM4
  2. butter and line 14” x 9” tin (flatter with more crunchy topping) or 8” square (deeper cake)
  3. Melt butter in large bowl
  4. stir in sugar
  5. beat eggs in separate bowl
  6. stir eggs into butter/sugar mix with flour – don’t over mix
  7. tip into tin bake for 40 mins
  8. dissolve caster sugar in lemon juice
  9. spread lemon paste over top of hot sponge
  10. leave in tin til cold, cut into 16 squares

 Happy Baking

A promise of a recipe

The wonderful Niqi has agreed to do a guest post- and what a perfect time to talk about lemon drizzle cake, with that first episode of the new Great British Bake Off series kicking off with all those very extremely interesting drizzles.

Niqi is just as interested as me in the G & T version... She will be with you very soon!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

One Last More

This nicely constructed photo was taken today for facebook, where all is aligned and presentable. To the top right of this shot was a tent with camping chairs, homemade crochet blanket, scatter cushions and Trangia where we cooked our lunch in the hot summer sun. What you can't see are the wasps and boys begging to be allowed back inside to the cool and the X-Box.

One last more day of my summer holidays- I am back for staff days tomorrow."One last more" was what the boys always wanted at the park. One last more run around, one last more climb, one last more go on the rope thing that turns. We still say it now, mostly Prince Charming and I now that they are grown and cool and X-Boxed.

Last week we also experienced some sunny sun. It's not a summer requirement here in the Frozen North, and we do like to pounce on it with shorts and a determination to be outside. I dragged drove the boys all around Strangford Lough last Tuesday, starting our newly re-opened Aquarium. They have cleverly incorporated the area's Viking history into the first few rooms- Strangford is Old Norse for strong fjord. We were all of us, even the teenager, impressed. Exploris is right at the tip of the Ards Peninsula and the best thing to do next is to take the little car ferry across the Narrows to Strangford village.

This little ferry powers across the  lough. Because we were the lucky last car on, we couldn't see ahead, so we jumped out of the car to watch Portaferry surging away behind us. Prince Charming doesn't usually let us out because the crossing is so short, but the sunny sun was sunny and the holidays were coming to this end, and out we popped. Mattman was standing right in front of me, leaning back into a less and less frequent public hug, and I told him that this would be the last summer when he would be shorter than me. Another one last more!

Then next Tuesday, Jo will join his older brother at Big School. This has been his one last more summer as a Primary School boy. Goodness, how poignant has it all been! One last more cup of tea before bed, methinks- or maybe I should find some of my school clothes...

Sunday, 7 August 2016

My friend, Niqi, and two lemon cakes

I have a very talented friend called Niqi. Only one her most recent accomplishments, meaning those accomplished in the last week, can be seen here. This is a shot from a week or so ago of Niqi working on said shawl. She is surrounded by some of my most recent works in on-going and interminable progress. In the time it has taken her to finish the shawl- completed yesterday just as I arrived for a well needed cuppa, I have made zero, none, absolutely nothing in the way of progress on any of them.

In the time that it has taken her to complete her shawl I have admittedly been away on my parents' annual holiday week. Six of us to be fed, managed and entertained. It was a harder week this week than the last two years. I have decided that the deciding factor is the fact that I am older!

When I arrived chez elle hier for a much needed cuppa, Niqi had bone china cuppas, a pot of Lady Grey, and a plate of Niqi's Non-Grandmother-In-Law's Crunchy Lemon Drizzle Cake. She got the recipe from the grandmother of an ex-boyfriend. This lady liked her so much, and Niqi liked her Crunchy Lemon Drizzle so much, that the lovely lady bestowed upon Niq the recipe. I don't know what happened to the ex-boyfriend. Maybe Niqi will tell us in a comment...

Anyway, Niqi told me the recipe yesterday because, when Niqi makes it, this is the best lemon drizzle cake that you will eat. And because she likes me. So I have this evening attempted Niqi's Non-Grandmother-In-Law's Crunchy Lemon Drizzle Cake. It is not going to be the best lemon drizzle cake you will eat. I think, in fact, that I can guarantee that you will not be eating it, and the non-eating will have nothing at all to do with geography.

Niqi says she doesn't time or skewer a cake. She listens. Now that should have been my warning sign. Only the truly accomplished can listen to a cake. In much the same way as only the truly accomplished whisper to a horse. (Niqi did do dog-whispering when training Blanco.) I cannot listen to a cake. When the cake stops making noises, Niqi says, it is cooked. I couldn't hear my cake over the fan oven, but when I took it out to have a listen the centre caved. So I baked it some more.

It is making noises now- it is hugely noisy now that all the lemon drizzle has gone on and through. And I can smell it now too. For me that is the sign that something is cooked. You can smell it. Excuse me then, as I must cut this rivetting post short and race back to the kitchen. Perhaps I shall brew some Lady Grey...

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

End of an era

 I have been thinking that, apart from the working five days a week thing, and the looking after children and parents thing, and the being as lazy as get out thing, one of the reasons I have rarely blogged for a long while now is because I have allowed my mind to be ruined, ruined utterly, by a dependence on short, preferably witty sentences or sub-titles that require little effort and less thought, and which are usually found on facebook.

But this afternoon, writing this year's series of thank-you cards with my shining suns, it struck me that the place I really wanted to be documenting what is a big milestone for us here in the Meadowplace wasn't facebook at all. Despite the fact that blogs are much more open than social media with their supposed privacy settings, there is in blogging an atmosphere of intimacy and understanding that doesn't exist there. Here in the small nest of sympathetic readers is a small, precious space to lay down a little egg!
 Tomorrow Jo will leave Primary School. He will surge out of the red doors at 12.15 and bounce around for a while with all his friends, high on life and loud as a hoarse-from-a-morning-of-shouting thing can be. I think I started blogging in 2008, when Jo was about to start his nursery year. I was certainly blogging when he started school. He had seven years of hearing that school bell ring, running up and down that playground, doing homeworks, going on trips, walking/scooting/cycling down and up the hill, learning to play violin and protesting his hatred thereof at every pluck of every string! For most of that I was blogging cakes, books, trips, Wind in the Willows, walking down and up the hill- I'm not at all sure what!
I know that I did come to feel that I was eventually blogging all the same things at all the same times of the year. That did make me feel slightly boring! But what is life if not Autumn cosiness, winter lights, Spring emersions into the fresh air, and solo summer surviving when you have two suns and their high octane energy to channel and Prince Charming is safe in work!

Thankfully, regardless of his increasing propensity for teenage attributes, Jo has the living room floor covered in train track. Schools may change, height may change (that's definitely them rather than me), seasons may change- but some things remain to litter the nest a while yet!

Tomorrow our Primary days end, another holiday kicks off, and all will be well in the world x