I am still catching up on blogs I meant to do in 2012!
This year we had some brilliant blackberry-picking adventures. Living out in the countryside, blackberries in hedges are as common as, well, blackberry hedges, so it was not difficult to find a field in which there were more blackberries than we could carry home with us. We also have a bramley apple tree in the garden. So there was much jam-making, all of it done by Mark, and a little bit of pie-making (by me).
The pie below is a simple blackberry and apple pie, with an all-butter crust (half the weight of butter to flour, rub in, add ice water to bind etc) and about equal volumes of chopped up bramleys and blackberries, with a generous sprinkling of sugar. Doused in cream, it was very good indeed.
I should confess now that whilst I did an extraordinary amount of Christmas baking this year, I took no photos of any of it. Oops. I was extremely proud of my mince pies, though, particularly as the pastry finally actually worked out. I put this down to a combination of tips from Nigel and Nigella (Slater and Lawson), who suggest, respectively, chilling the liquid used to bind the pastry with ice, and placing the bowl full of flour and small cubes of butter into the freezer for 10 minutes to chill once you’ve measured it all out and before you rub the butter into the flour. I did both, and the pastry was consequently very easy to work with. I also followed Nigella’s tip to use 00 flour (that’s 2-1 Nigella to Nigel, if you’re counting.) I may need to make another pie shortly to be sure I’ve cemented my skills from this festive season.
Sunny days at home have recently been rare indeed. A little while ago on one such day I dug out the camera and decided to see what I could see just lying around the house…
It appears our house contains quite a number of dairy-related objects, appropriately enough since it was once a dairy farm. We get our milk delivered by the local milkman, which is fantastic (not having to constantly say to myself ‘ooh I must remember to pick up some milk on the way home’ is a revelation). Continuing round the house, we found a small milk jug in France this summer which we now use as a kitchen-top compost bin.
(There is also the large milk churn outside the door which I’ve previously written about.)
Next to the milk jug on the kitchen windowsill is a pot of succulents which, despite neglect and ignorance on my part (they seem to sprout new bits randomly and spontaneously, how do they do that? How can I make one big one instead of lots of small ones, and vice versa? These are questions I do not currently know the answer to, although I am aware, as ever, that they are just an internet search away) have been alive since some time in 2011.
And, in turn, next to the pot of succulents is another find from the brocantes of France- an earthenware jug in which we keep washing-up paraphernalia. I like containers.
My mum has just retired, so naturally she is busier than ever. One of her many current projects involves honing her skills as a potter, and thus I am the grateful recipient of an increasing (but not yet large) number of pieces of pottery.
She gave me this bowl for Christmas, together with a dish and a little pot which are also very lovely.
I have been doing lots of knitting recently. It is calming and meditative, a counterpoint to a busy day spent in front of a screen and piles of paper, speaking to people and reading and writing. I love the feeling of the wool in my hands, and watching progress being made (sometimes veeerrry slowly, sometimes surprisingly quickly!)
One recent project was a little hat for a newborn, which I will shortly send to my colleague who has just had a little baby boy. It has a bit of lace in it, which might be slightly ‘girly’, but I’m sure we don’t need to be so gender-prescriptive at this stage (or indeed at any stage).
The pattern is here: the story of a hat. I used Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, a lovely soft washable wool blend. I might scale it up and knit it for myself…
Christmas has come and gone, and it’s a new year. We went for a walk along the top of the Mendips in between downpours the other day, and found a new route. Now if we can just live here and explore for the next 20 years, we might have as many walking routes as my uncle Tim has in North Yorkshire!
We found a crumbling stone barn, a field of sheep, and lots of puddles.
This sheep was remarkably clean, considering the weather we’ve had.
Mark patiently waiting for me to finish taking photos…
These roses are long gone, but they were beautiful- so dark and rich in colour, and the scent was amazing. I love having a garden.
More summer memories… in late August I went to Paris for work and the meeting times were so arranged that I actually had a few hours spare to explore the city a little bit. This never normally happens on work trips, so I made the most of it! I have not been to Paris for years and so asked my very good friend Emily, who lived there for a time, where I should go to occupy a couple of hours in the sunshine. She suggested the Rodin museum and gardens, which was a wonderful idea.
It was difficult to photograph the sculptures while avoiding everyone else who was doing the same, and in any event I would never do them justice, so I humbly photographed my ice cream instead. (This was more to record my wonder at the fact that, on a work day, I was in Paris eating lavender ice cream, than any aspirations to photographic excellence.)
I also came across one of the bridges with locks attached to it- a new custom sparked by a recent Italian novel, I understand. They were quite unexpected and picturesque, glinting in the sun.
I walked to le ‘Relais de l’Entrecote’ for dinner (another Emily recommendation) which, apart from the company, was as good as I remembered it being when I went there with her a few years ago.
After dinner I walked back along the Seine to my hotel enjoying the late-evening warmth (not a common occurrence in England) with a stop to take the obligatory photo of the Tour Eiffel. A good day at work.