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.
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.
It is sunny today, so I was inspired to get out the proper camera (so easy and lazy, having the iPhone and Hipstamatic) and investigate various corners of the garden. Our Japanese maple tree is currently ablaze, and the pink hydrangeas have turned a gorgeous shade of deep magenta tinged with dusty green and hints of purple. I have cut a few and dried them, hoping they’ll last through the winter as a reminder of warmer days. There are a couple of apples still on the tree which we couldn’t reach, which continue to cling bravely to their branches. The lavender is also having a final hurrah.
This whole having to go to work business does interfere with my ability to mess around with my camera and crafts… I may have to start a series entitled ‘views from my desk’ to try and multitask!
I can’t promise (or threaten?) that this will turn into a series, but I am lucky enough to have an office with two big windows through which the afternoon sun pours, should there be any. This afternoon it was pouring more rain than sun, and blowing a gale into the bargain. Just before sunset, though, the clouds parted and the sunlight caught the raindrops on the window, to stunning effect. Whilst still concentrating the full weight of my legal mind on the matter at hand of course, I managed to snap these.
As a sort-of-American transplanted to the UK, Thanksgiving isn’t really a holiday I have time to do much about… but I have made pumpkin pie this year in an attempt to educate my colleagues about a traditional American delicacy. No messing around making pie from an actual pumpkin, puree from a can is the ‘authentic’ way. I did manage to make the pastry myself, however, and will maintain that any imperfections in appearance were deliberately included to emphasise the pie’s rustic nature.
This little heart didn’t go anywhere, I was just messing around.
My sister Lizzie came to visit this weekend, and on Sunday we went for a walk part way round Chew Valley Lake. I, of course, raced out the door without my camera (you would think that as I profess to be a budding photographer I would get better at not doing that!) The light was so lovely that I had to try what I could do with my iPhone, so dawdled behind messing around with Hipstamatic and took the following shots.
I quite like these- although it does feel like cheating in a big way. Note to self- remember camera next time!