For those who like such things – more flowers and bread

I took the pictures for this post a week ago but was too busy to put it together.

So here is some views of my garden recently.

I was pleased to find that my Vagabond clematis had a new flush of flowers. clematisbut less so to see that the slugs had been busy lower down. slug damageI was surprised to find that the fuschia seemed a little more compact than last year, fuschia bushthough I prefer it that way.

The lavender that I planted last year had grown into a much bigger plant lavenderand as this is just next to my favourite sitting place, the smell is quite delightful.

I took another picture today, the flowers have really opened. lavender closerThe golden sage is looking very happy. golden sageThis will mean pruning next winter I think, as I know what sage is like!! (Like the card the leaves are more yellow than this!).

My roses were in full flow. patio rosesI bought them because of the scent but they seem to have far more petals this year which is not so good for the bees I believe.

Now Bread

I made another granary loaf granary loafand photographed it this time.

Next morning I cut some slices for breakfast.

Here are two of them. two slices of breadand here is breakfast.breakfastThree slices covered with peanut butter or fig conserve or honey. Yum!

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And yesterday was …………. Christmas

No post yesterday as it was time for Christmas!

Yes, Christmas transferred from 25th December due to my being in hospital.

I am pleased to relate that I managed to cope with it all quite easily so I am now officially ‘better’! Of course I did spread preparation out over the weekend and had an enforced rest on Sunday afternoon to watch the Monaco Grand Prix, which was good as I get a bit hyper when planning a big occasion.

It started with a Carol at the door from some visitors! “We wish you a Merry Christmas” of course.

Later I managed to take some photographs of the table all dressed up for the big day while having a sneaky Campari and soda with my daughter and preparing vegetables. My daughter helped with peeling and mashing the parsnips to save my wrists!

table laid

I had finally bought a book on napkin folding a while ago when I found a cheap onenapkin folding bookand had busied myself making different designs for each place setting.

The napkins weren’t perfectly square and were so large that for four of the folds I reduced the napkin size by folding the corners to the centre before following the book. However I was still pleased with the results.

Going round the table, widdershins, here is a close up of each one.

My place-setting a pin wheel windmill. pin-wheelGold chocolate coin, extra.

Son: boot bootGranddaughter: rabbit rabbitSon-in law: shirt shirtDaughter: fleur-de-lis fleur-de-lis I can see from the photo that it got a bit squashed when it fell off the table and I haven’t straightened it properly 😦

Family friend: Clowns hat.clown's hatThe crackers were provided by my son who bought them after Christmas when they were being sold off at a much reduced price!

Goldgold crackerand a sort of brown. brown crackerNow I have to admit that once everyone came in and we had crackers, followed by food and wine, I was much too busy to think of more photographs. However I am having a second Christmas lunch today from the leftovers so I will give you a taster from that,

There was chestnut stuffing and bread stuffing and bread sauce. stuffings and bread sauce

Turkey and sprouts and parsnips together with sausage and bacon rolls (but they ate all the bacon!) and cranberry sauce.meal on plate

(I was fortunate to discover that you can get English parsnips even this late in the year: a bit woody in the middle but tasty. I also found frozen sprouts. So all traditional vegetables!)

[Also roast and boiled potatoes, not shown because I avoid them.] And, of course, gravy. gravyGood thick Welsh gravy! meal with gravy

Afters was cheesecake and or strawberries and, if desired, cream. aftersA bit hot for Christmas pud (and it was a very hot day!) and anyway my son ate it all when there was normal Christmas!

All followed by rest, presents (bought by my daughter), a walk and charades!

I think I can say “A good time was had by all”.

April Montage

In April I once more shared a lot of cooking and flowers. There were the Hot Cross buns and Simnel muffins I made for Easter time and a couple of loaves of bread. The same ideal recipe but first as a Farmhouse loaf and then as more of a Bap shape. Now able to get out into the garden, from the middle of the month, I created a few flower portraits.April montageI also managed to fit in some knitting and crochet. I made one of my Celtic Coasters as an Easter present for someone who doesn’t like chocolate. (I know how can you not like chocolate!) And for knitting I made a pair of socks from the wool left over from two other pairs of socks made with similar yarn. I was pleased with how they turned out and aim to make similar socks with other leftover sock wool. Finally I manged to get round to completing my latest cushion.

And although I don’t normally add other things to my monthly montage posts. Since this replaces my normal Monday post, I will add some photographs of things that have made me happy this last weekend.

Here is yet another loaf of bread. Made from my favourite recipe: half white and half wholemeal this time. half and half breadAnd here is my breakfast! breakfast(Interestingly, I realised that although I don’t buy much organic produce, the flour for the bread, the peanut butter and the honey are all organic, either bought because I like it or because it was a good price.

And lastly a photograph of my apple tree full of blossom. apple treeThis is maybe my favourite time of year: seeing the apple blossom and the forget-me-nots and, in my previous garden, the bluebells, all at the same time.

Past and future!

Had a bit of a funny week. On Monday I saw the consultant prior to my fourth and final chemo cycle. He decided that I should not have the infusion this time, only the tablets which left me both relieved and anxious. Relieved that I wouldn’t have to face the increasingly unpleasant side effects and anxious in case it lowered my chances of survival. I was just coming to terms with the fact that this meant I could eat cold food and go out walking when I began to go down with a virus. One of those funny viruses where there aren’t many outward symptoms but you just feel rotten.

Anyway in spite of all this I have put a post together for you.

You may have noticed that most of my posts lately have included crafting and bread and flowers. This is because these are the three things that keep make me happy and keep me smiling!

I will start with the bread this time, but scroll to the bottom if you are not interested in this part.

I decided to make a loaf like last time but to make it like the bap loaves I remembered from childhood. However I was so anxious that it didn’t get as flat as a pancake, because the dough was so soft that it was actually not quite flat enough. bap loafHowever the bread was good. here are three slices for my breakfast! 3 slices of breadTwo other things that have been lifting my spirits are the fact that when I do go out I come home to these forget-me-nots in some pots in the front garden (or front step as my younger daughter would have it!). forget-me-nots in potsThey are not really meant to be there but I haven’t had the heart to uproot them.

forget-me-notsso pretty – and an arty version. arty pictureAnd when I look out of the sitting room window when sitting on the settee, I can see the buds coming on my apple tree. apple tree in budHere’s a close up. buds openingI haven’t been feeling up to doing much crochet and haven’t any knitting but I have been thinking about future projects.

There are these slippers to make for James. slippersAnother thing I am planning to do is to buy some plain sock wool when I buy the yarn for the slippers.

I made these socks – socks for daughterand thesesocks for granddaughter

for my daughter and granddaughter. Since they like short socks, I reckon I have enough wool left to make another similar sized pair if I use different wool for the toes and heels.

More long term projects

I also have an idea for using up my scraps of yarn by making a cover for my cloth shopping bag.

It’s the one you can see in this photograph, though more grubby now! It will more than double it’s weight but will make it look pretty. So do I do it?

cloth bag

I used a scrap of yarn to make this piece of corner to corner crochet.corner to corner crochetAnd have used it to work out how much yarn I will need for the project. However I may still decide to use the idea for something else as I am not sure if I have that much scrap yarn.

I have also been working on an idea for another blanket. There is something very soothing about making a blanket. I just love ripples, so this is another ripple blanket in Autumn colours. I have been playing with different colour arrangements: something planned this time, not random. The idea is to make one the same size as my sea and sand blanket; i.e about 2ft x 4ft.

I have come up with two ideas, though I have not decided exactly which yellow and greens I want to use, especially as Stylecraft seem to have added quite a lot of new colours.1st colourwayThis was the first one, though of course I can’t get the colours spot on, yellow seems particularly hard to reproduce but maybe I just don’t know the right setting.

Later I wondered if this would be better. 2nd colourwayBoth pictures started out as a photograph of actual wrapped pieces of Stylecraft yarn. I suppose it was the lighting when I took the photographs, but the second one has a different texture.

Which colour way do you prefer?

Finally my hybrid socks!

I have finally manged to finish the hybrid socks I started after finishing the rainbow ones. Hybrid because I used the left over yarn from my recent mini mochi socks and that left over from the pale rainbow ones I made years ago. mini mochi 2 sorts of yarnHere they are. hybrid socks

I was rather pleased that they came out so long as I wasn’t sure how long that would be. You can see from the odd orange part on one sock that because there was, for some reason, more yarn left over on one ball, I decided rather than waste it to use if for the other sock. This of course adds an extra half inch.

Here is one of the socks laid over the earlier ones. sock length comparison

Unlike the ‘Rainbow Socks’ I feel I can start wearing these right away!

And, for anyone who might be interested, I can’t resist sharing a photograph of my most recent and possible ideal, at least for me, loaf of bread. latest bread

I have always preferred soft rolls to crusty ones and in fact my favourite bread when I was a child was a bap. The artisan bread I have made tends to have a crust that is lovely straight out of the oven but later just seems rather hard, especially for my bread knife. Now the milk bread I made had a much softer crust but the texture was a little cake-like, so I thought I would try the same recipe but using half milk and half water. The result had a thin easy to cut crust and a proper bread like texture.

Interestingly I have a recipe in my bread book for a Scottish Bap and that is half milk and half water. I am making some pizza bases as I write this and next would like to try some foccacia!

And finally a few photos from my garden.

I was delighted to see that the one bed was full of scilla siberica scilla sibericaand the primroses were also coming on nicely. primroses

There are some more, not yet in flower, further along.

I was also pleased to see that the Lenten Roses are doing very well even after all that snow. Lenten roses

Crosses and coaster

Been quite busy really the last few days.

On Thursday I decided to make some Hot Cross Buns.

[Now this third cycle of the chemo is not much fun and I am struggling a bit so don’t be surprised that things I have been making are not up to my usual standard that is rather far from perfection anyway!]

I decided to use the food processor to save time and effort and therefore to make my usual dozen in two lots. One all white flour, with sharing with my son in mind, and one lot my normal half and half.

I had a bit of a hiccup with the first (white) ones as I forgot all about the sugar until I had mixed in the fruit. So not wanting to leave it out I them added some and kneaded it in.

You can see the resulting buns have a slightly uneven look. crosses on first lot of buns

I have yet to master making the crosses perfectly and although I made a cross shaped dent in the buns before piping on the flour and water cross, which I think is an improvement, I decided the mixture was too runny!

Cooked first lot cooked and glazedThey look a bit odd but do taste okay.

The second time I remembered the sugar! crosses on second lot of bunsBut I added more flour to the piping mixture and this time it was too thick and didn’t want to let go of the piping nozzle!

Cooked buns cooked and glazedthey look a bit more respectable and also taste fine, though have a firmer texture than shop ones, that I like. Is this ambiguous? I mean I prefer the home made ones!

I bought lots of Easter Eggs for family members but one person doesn’t like chocolate, (I know how can you not like chocolate!),

so I made them a Celtic Coaster in colours I though they would like. first attempt at coasterPreviously I had made them some bunting. buntingLooking at it now (writing this post in advance on Friday!) I didn’t realise I had used red as well. When I made the coaster I thought the purple was the best colour to blend with the other three. So I pulled out the purple strip and replaced it with a red one. amended coasterPersonally, from an aesthetic point of view, I prefer the purple but this hopefully will co-ordinate with the bunting and so be much better!

Happy Easter

A Happy and Blessed Easter to all my followers!

Christ is Risen AlleluiaThe photograph is one I took while staying in Taizé many, many years ago. Then later I added the text to turn it into an Easter card.

I always feel that Festive Food adds to an occasion, so for Easter I made some ‘Simnel muffins’. 

Not perfect, I forgot to add spice! and I realised since I have cutters that have a smooth and a crinkly side that I should have cut the circles for the top crinkly, so at least I added a bit of crinkle with a smaller cutter. However otherwise I think they were a success and will probably make some more next year.

I found a recipe for something similar I made a couple of years ago from a Waitrose recipe that I had totally forgotten about. The ones this year are based on my normal idea of a Simnel cake recipe. The Waitrose recipe removed the cases, so the tops could be placed under the grill, but that makes them look a bit naked!

See my photo. previous cakesWhich do you think look better?

Yet more bread!

Ever since I weaned myself off white bread in my forties because I believed wholemeal to be more nutritious, I have found white bread a little insipid and prefer the more robust flavour of the wholemeal. However I am now having to have less fibre in my diet so white bread is best.

I noticed that my Food Processor book has several more recipes for a variety of different breads including a plain “Country loaf”,  using just, flour, salt, yeast and water.

So thinking that I could definitely do with some more white bread I decided to give it a go!

The recipe only uses 250g (80z+) which is about half what I would normally use when making bread by hand. (If I had the larger sizes of food processor I could use twice as much apparently). But since this bread is just for me and so easy to make it does mean fresh bread more often! though a greater expenditure in terms of electricity.

Now when I first use a recipe, unless it seems obviously wrong, I like to follow it exactly. The only thing here that I can’t copy is that it uses fresh yeast and that seems almost impossible to buy these days, so I am using instant yeast, I substituted 6g of instant yeast for the 12g of fresh yeast specified.

I was pleased to find that this time the food processor mixed the ingredients into a neat ball near the top with hardly any residue on the rest of the bowl!

[I would have taken a photograph but I was making myself my pesto version of spaggetti bolognese at the time. Not that taking photographs of bread as you make it is very good for the camera as it tends to get floury!]

I put the dough in the airing cupboard for the two hours specified and found that even before the time was up it had risen very well. dough in bowlInterestingly the recipe actually specified flattening the dough and folding it just like the recent wholemeal loaf I made.

So I spread it out dough spread outand then folded it. dough foldedThe loaf in the book was much rounder so I realised I should have done it a little differently.

[I may not be suffering from chemo brain exactly but tiredness and several nights lack of sleep does mean that my little grey cells are not as nimble as normal.]

I can now see that I should have made the pre-folded piece longer. Though what I did did look similar to the photograph in the book!

I then returned it to the airing cupboard for one hour as instructed. This time I was not sure if the bread had risen enough but decided to cook it anyway as the oven was now on. dough ready for ovenThe photograph of the finished loaf had multiple slashes and not the one cross that the instructions suggested. So I decided to follow the picture. dough scoredNote that I had difficulty with the slashing (none of my knives are especially sharp!) and I obviously should have done them deeper as you can see from the finished loaf. bread cooked

When I peered into the oven after twenty minutes the bread looked very pale but I now wonder if giving it the full time specified was too much.

I actually followed the instructions to put a tray of water in the bottom of the oven before heating but I did find it was a bit dangerous as every time I opened the oven I was met with a cloud of scalding hot steam! Not sure I will do that again.

The texture of the bread is quite dense. slice of breadBut more even than that in the photograph in the book.photograph from bookThere is also a recipe in the book for a plaited brioche with butter and milk but no egg. I might try that next. Though I am making Hot Cross Buns today!

Making more bread

I decided last Friday that I would try and make one of the bread recipes in my food processor recipe book.

One of the recipes said it made a sandwich loaf, so I thought that I would try that.

Unlike most bread recipes the liquid used was milk. Now the first bread I had made were some ‘morning rolls’ when I was in school. That recipe used milk and we had to mould the dough into various twists and plaits and mini cottage loves. Later I used the same recipe to make an ordinary loaf shape and I remember that the bread had a different sort of texture, closer to cake.

Using the food processor it was very easy. No hand kneading, just using the dough blade in the processor for one minute and then allowing the dough to rise followed by shaping and putting in a tin and allowing it to rise for another thirty minutes while the oven heated up.

This was the result. (These days I have to admit I am not editing my photographs as much as I once was. Not sure the colour balance is quite right in this one.)sandwich loaf

Unlike the ‘artisan bread’ I have made, this had a much softer crust and was very easy to cut with my fairly cheap bread knife. The texture was softer too.

Not being an especially large loaf, I manged to eat it all over the weekend so on Monday I decided to make some more bread: a wholemeal loaf this time.

Since I am avoiding kneading because of the arthritis in my wrists, I remembered a Delia Smith recipe for a no-knead wholemeal loaf that I had made in the past.

Basically, you mix the dough then spread it out into a rectangle three times the size of the bottom of the tin. (I am not being so picky about how I make food either! being rather tired all the time.)dough spread outYou then fold a third into the middle and the other third on top and put it in the tin. dough in tin

I then put it in the airing cupboard. When I took it out it had risen nicely and this is how it was when I put it in the oven. loaf ready to be cookedWhen it was cooked. finished cooked loafThe texture is quite dense, denser than if the bread had been kneaded but still very tasty and just as edible because it is wholemeal. I can see I should maybe have taken a little bit more trouble putting the loaf together but nonetheless it was quite delicious!

Hope this isn’t getting boring!

Last week I finished the cables. I decided to stop after five repeats. As it seemed to pull in so as to be narrower I cast off loosely but had to undo the cast off and redo it as it was then too wide at the top as maybe you can see. five repeats of main cable pattern

I thought that I would crochet round it if I needed more width or length but when I pinned it to the piece I intended for the other side other side

It seemed to fit reasonably well.sides pinned togetherI tried fitting the cushion inside. fitted over cushionAnd it was about right. I am thinking of buying a new cushion pad so I will wait until I know what will be inside before finishing off and sewing the two sides together.

I have also started the second sock. part sock

As I want to use every bit of the wool, I didn’t even think of trying to make the socks match but just started at the end of the yarn.

And I made a brioche.

I am rather fond on brioche though I don’t buy it very often and have long wanted to make some but the recipe in my bread book uses 13oz of flour and five! eggs and this always seemed a bit extravagant. However I now have a food processor and in that it has a recipe that uses 250g (about 8oz) of flour and two eggs. You also have the advantage that the processor does all the mixing/kneading. So this last Friday I mixed up the dough and made this. I think next time I may cook it a little less but it is very tasty!

It doesn’t shine because I left off the egg glaze. I had meant to save a bit of egg for this purpose but forgot and getting a whole egg just for a bit of glaze always seems wasteful unless you have plans for omelettes later.