Friday, 30 September 2011

Blue is the colour.

It seems we are rather surprisingly swathed in blue at the moment. I looked up yesterday as I was sipping a nicely chilled glass of rosé with my Mother and Father and could not see even the tiniest wisps of clouds, the sky was clear blue all the way. I could feel the tips of my ears going pink and wondered aloud if I was was going to become sun burnt in September. Last week I was rummaging through my box of knitted scarfs to find one to wear with this cardigan as I was feeling as chilled as the rosé I was drinking.

This cardigan remains unblocked. I was blaming the weather and now I am blaming lethargy, its far too nice to do anything other than play. It can become blocked when it needs its first wash.

The pattern is a free pattern from Ravelry, Basic Black by Glenna C. and I chose to knit it from Sublime Yarns Organic Merino Wool DK in colourway Sailcloth 118 which I bought for £1.99 (normally retails £5.50) a ball from Get Knitted in one of their sales. I feel I got a bargain and have safely tucked away in my stash another colourway for future knitting. The knitted fabric feels lush and very cosy and I feel this will be my turn to cardi this winter.

I am still not sure about the buttons, they seem a bit heavy for this cardigan, I may well change them in the future, but they will do for now.

And todays job? Finding my bottle of sunscreen, my ears feel a little bit pink and there are a few bits and bobs to be pottering about with on the plot.

Monday, 26 September 2011

It is all about the food.

Just to let you know that son no.2 is recovering nicely from his surgery, his tummy has settled down and is at long last working properly so he is able to eat small amounts again. His scar is healing nicely apart from the one hiccup on Saturday where it came apart in a small area but that is healed together again and the drain site is doing very nicely too.

And he is getting his appetite back, I knew we had cracked it when on Saturday I was preparing a mainly vegetable but with some chicken curry and just as the vegetables were nearly ready, he pottered into the kitchen, looked into the preserving pan (I do big batch cooking in that) and enquired (and I am sure I heard his tummy rumble) as to when it would be ready.

It was a good sign and when it was ready I put it with sticky Thai rice which I had steamed, (we are currently in love with this rice, it can only be bought at the Thai supermarket in the next town - we buy it by the sack!) and he ate the lot without any dire consequences. This curry was so sweet, it almost had the flavours of a sweet and sour, because of all of the lovely homegrown sweet vegetables that were in it. I have a nice big bag of it in the freezer marked up with the directive, 'chicken and veg curry, delicious'.

Sunday came and it was time to prepare the runner beans. I have been treating myself to a few cookery books of late, not least because both WHSmith and Waterstones have had some good offers on of late. I picked up Valentine Warner's What to Eat Now, Spring and Summer and had been flicking through it recently, admiring recipe after recipe. Val cooks roughly about the same way that I do, - although he has more finesse, (I know my place!) using simple home grown fruits and vegetables at the peak of their season. On seeing his recipe for Runner Bean Chutney I came to the conclusion that this would be the perfect time to try it. I do love a sweet piccalilli, and this recipe was a very near approximation of that but just with runner beans and onions.

As you can see it was a great success, although I did increase the amount of mustard and turmeric, I do like a bit of potency to my piccalilli and by the time it has matured, it will be lovely.

On Sunday night I had just enough energy left, I call it a second wind, does anyone have that saying?, and at some ungodly hour when one should be settled down for the evening with their knitting, I baked a cake. Well I had Carie and Kitty coming the next day and as I had missed Kitty's birthday I thought it only fair to share a cake with her.

I had been inspired by The Great British Book of Baking which accompanies the BBC series. This television series had passed me by for some reason, but from the talk on Ravelry and seeing what an absolutely fabulous book it is, I am catching up with the series. It is a long time since I've seen a baking book which has inspired me so much.

I had all the ingredients to put together a Victoria Sandwich cake whilst hubby popped to the shop for a pot of cream. I even cut out a special wedge for Kitty so that it wouldn't be overloaded with jam and sugar. My cake is thinner than the photograph of the cake, I think my tin's are slightly larger than are called for, however,

Son no.1 thought it had exactly the right ratio of cake to cream. And to be honest, and it took a second tasting this afternoon, I think I rather agree with him.

And after a lovely lunch with Carie and Kitty we all went blackberrying. It was great fun and wonderful to have such good company on what these days is most often a solitary activity for myself. (what with the boys having other activities that fill their days) I can almost smell the blackberry and apple crumble wafting over from Miss Kitty's home, I am sure she is going to have a delicious supper.

Friday, 23 September 2011

"You say tomato, I say tomahto"

Last time I was up the plot seems to be a long time ago, I am hoping to remedy that this weekend if only for half an hour or so. But last time I was up I had fully intended to talk about the merits of buying tomatoes that had already been grafted onto a vigorous root stock. I am sure you have seen them in the nursery magazines or on the internet and have wondered whether it is worth it compared to growing them your selves from seed. So this year we decided to throw caution to the wind and buy a few plants in. It was the best decision we have ever made. For the last two years I have grown piccolo tomatoes (which are absolutely divine) from seed and have noticed they tend to produce quite weedy plants and have a very poor germination. They fruit well enough when they get going so I can forgive them almost anything.. But then we tried these..

I am hoping you will be able to see just how densely fruited they are. I was staggered to see how they developed and am completely bowled over by them. I don't think I will be growing tomatoes from seed again, the price for the plants is definitely worth it.

It is difficult to show you density on bigger tomatoes but I am hoping you get the idea. We have one and a half greenhouse's full of tomatoes, if you remember, I like peas, but I like tomatoes even more.

These are a few chillis that are still green

and peppers yet to ripen. This was all a month ago and since then they have transformed into beautifully glossy richly coloured fruits which are so very pretty.

This was hubbys pickings of the day. This was the first of the sweetcorn so were testing one this evening, it was the sweetest corn on the cob we have ever tasted. We will be picking some more of these tomorrow.

He also came home with these,...

beautiful piccolo's, even if they are a little overripe, son no.1 seemed to have been a bit over zealous with the watering can, which can make a tomato split, but no matter we had plenty to choose from that were completely useable.

and a variety of beefsteaks, Italian (which I have forgotten the name) and shirleys. (because they were going at an event we went to)

And this is only one day's supply, I've just about caught up with the tomatos, the runner beans are next on the list. Since we have been back from the hospital I have probably processed about fifty pounds in weight of tomatoes. And the greenhouse is still pretty full, it gives me a good feeling, from now until next summer we shall have lots of lovely tomatoey dishes to boost us up when the days are dark and the vegetables can get a little samey. And let us face it the tomatoes just aren't worth buying come December onwards, so I have little pockets of sunshine to share with my family.

So what have I been doing with them I hear you ask. Well I have been using them for cooking and we have lovely dishes of meatballs in tomato sauces with spaghetti,

some lovely aubergine parmigiana was a great success. (although that may well have been a sneaky bit of cheddar added to it, but hey, that is how I cook)

I have cooked tray after tray of oven roasted tomatoes, so many I have lost count,

some of which I have left in the fridge as tasty additions to sandwiches or salads or just to pick at whilst waiting for supper to cook.

I have finally found the answer to what gives you that zingy taste from the sun blushed tomatoes one buys from the supermarkets. And as I am a generous soul I shall share it with you, it is vinegar. If you drizzle a little white wine vinegar, along with finely chopped garlic, a drizzle of olive oil and a little salt and I add a shake of oregano, it seems to work very well.

I tried it with balsamic but I think white wine vinegar has the edge as it doesn't give you any discoloration and gives you a cleaner tingle on the tongue. I have also started to speed up on oven times and tried them in a hotter oven than is normally used and you've be surprised at what you can get away with. They have been fine at 170 centigrade for an hour, turn the oven off and then take them out an hour later. I got bored with the six hour on a very low lite recipe.

And rather than give myself or my family botulism, and if one is preserving in oil, or without the use of a lot of vinegar, one should really read that one up, its quite scary, I bag a tray's worth at a time and then freeze them. They will be made into pasta sauces or soups or whatever cookery sorcery I desire as and when the time comes.

And some I have skinned and chopped and pulped down and frozen which will then in the fullness of time make my meatballs with tomato sauce, lamb tagines and other gorgeousness to titty-bait the taste buds.

At the moment I am living in a very tomatoey world, I am having great fun, its wonderful.

But I must show you this,

Aren't they wonderful. Sadly they are not mine, but I know whose they are and will be asking him for advice, now we have two greenhouses its time to start off my grape vine in one of them.
It would be lovely to have an old gnarled grape vine just like Grandad's was in a few years, and let us not forget the delicious Greek Dolmades that are made from the leaves, I used to make this dish regularly but only with packet vine leaves. So my winter homework will be identifying which grapevine has the combination of sweet grapes and edible leaves.

And this photograph of me was taken in August, note that woolly attire was needed. We have had a funny old year weather wise. And I hear that it is going to get colder very quickly, I must help hubby do some more picking, before the frosts come.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Stitch Perfect.

Seeing this for the first time was a bit of a shock.

I didn't think the scar would be that long, I think the surgeon cast off beautifully.

And out of all of our war wounds in our family, son no.2 most definitely wins the prize.

He really has been a very brave soldier.

He is still poorly, he's not right, but has made fantastic progress in the last few days.

Extra points for counting how many staples there are, he wouldn't let me count them!

Friday, 16 September 2011

A little light levity


A fellow crafter in our newly formed crafting circle in the hospital accommodation for visitors found a good use for a sick bowl. I was seriously impressed.

Son no.2 continues to make good progress recovering from his operation, thank you for all your messages of love, prayer and support, they are very welcome at this troubled time.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Desiderata

We are finding this poem very supportive at the moment.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Son no.2

There is no easy way to say this, it was confirmed today that son no.2 (who still wants his identity protected) has pancreatic cancer.

At the moment it is operable and we are heading towards him having the 'Whipple procedure'

thank you for all your best wishes and offers of support and prayers, they are very much appreciated at this very difficult time.

thank you.