27 May 2016

May in Photos

So May, you have been a busy month but a really good one with it, good busyness is the best kind don't you think?  I am ready for a rest now.  I have once again joined in the Photo Scavenger Hunt hosted by Hawthorn Spellweaver so here are my photos inspired by words and words inspired by photos for May.
Path


 A path on a walk we took on one of our Wednesday nature days.  I love this place it is a few minutes drive from my house, close to a busy motorway and yet we never see anyone when we walk here.  It feels like you are in the middle of nowhere.  The forecast was for rain showers all afternoon, undaunted we set off and had a beautiful afternoon in the sunshine with patches of blue sky and big white fluffy clouds.  I could have stayed out till dark, we were late home this picture was taken at 5.30pm and we still had a fair walk back to the car.

Hairy


A daisy flower fairy with slightly mad hair, taking pride of place on our birthday ring.

Edible 


 Wood Sorrel. Sprouting up everywhere at the moment with its delicate wild flowers.  The leaves have a slightly citrusy taste, if you haven't tried one look out for them next time you are in a wood.

Small


Actually make that tiny, or maybe minute!  A Gorse Shieldbug, one of the topics of our nature study  this month.  Cameron remembered a good place to find gorse so we went off on a hunt to find them in the wild, having learnt about them at home.  Our research paid off as not only did we Alice find the bugs themselves we also found the eggs (also Alice), the bugs are 10 - 13 mm the eggs are significantly smaller.  The gorse was absolutely amazing, a feast for the eyes and nose the bushes covered the hillside and were carpeted in flowers, their wonderful scent filled the air, the smell was divine.

Poem


When I have said my evening words,*
And my clothes are folded on the chair,
And mother switches off the light,
I'll still be six years old tonight.
But, from the very break of day,
Before the children rise and play,
Before the darkness turns to gold
Tomorrow, I'll be seven years old,
Seven kisses when I wake,
Seven candles on my cake!

*we always talk about the good parts of the day and share a poem together.

Hands


Alice making labels for her party bags, which we also made.

Vintage


This sign rather amused me especially as the gate itself was padlocked shut!  The observant may notice that it is an old railway sign, so it was a necessary message in its day, owned by the company who included the Mallard and Flying Scotsman in their rolling stock the latter came past our house not so long ago.  We see quite a few steam trains rolling along the line at the end of our garden so we have become a little blasé about them passing, we were eating lunch and could hear it coming from a way off, steams trains have a particular sound, we looked up noted it passing and carried on eating it was only later that we discovered it was the Flying Scotsman!

Shadows


I am blessed to live in a beautiful area, full of wide open spaces some of which are spoilt by ugly electricity pylon lines.  On an early evening walk this month I was struck by the beauty of the sunset reflected in this large puddle not realising that I had managed to capture one of those pylons in my picture too!


View from a Window


I did take several pictures when I took this one but managed to delete all but this one!  This has already appeared this month, but I do love it so I hope you don't mind me including it here too!

Flower (my choice of category)


Remember those gorse flowers I mentioned?  Here are some of them, I can still smell them when I look at the pictures.

My busyness this month has meant that I have had days at a time without getting online.  I know that I have not been visiting blogs like I usually do.  I shall be coming a visiting soon, I am sorry I have been a little absent!

Looking forward to what June has to bring, including the prompts for photos.......

19 May 2016

In My Kitchen


I love to cook, good food is really important to me.  If you are anything like me you spend a large amount of your life in the kitchen preparing good nourishing food to eat, so this is what has been going on in my kitchen this month.  If you would like to join in you would be most welcome, leave a link in the comments section.


I always start off the Spring with good intentions to forage for wild food throughout the growing season, getting excited when the wild garlic puts in an appearance and never really going much further until the rosehips and blackberries appear in the Autumn.  I do hope that I manage better than that this year!  But I have been out picking wild garlic leaves this month and whizzing up batches of pesto, I used almonds this time.  I always pick a good quantity of leaves, from several different places to ensure that I am not compromising the plants in one particular place, and freeze some of the batches for use during the year.  We don't eat huge amounts of pesto but it is much nicer to eat your own.  There were a few leaves left over so I just had to make some scones with them as I had been seeing recipes for them all over the web in April.  I made a small batch as scones taste so much better the day they are cooked and I don't think they freeze terribly well.  We ate ours with a bean spread.  Delicious!


I think we may well have eaten salads every day this month, certainly my children would have you believe so, not salad again I hear them cry whilst they tuck in and eat every last mouthful!  They have been a mix of made up recipes with anything I had to hand, they are often the best and the most impossible to recreate as I never have the same bits to use up from one week to the next, and recipes that were both new to us or tried and tested.  The one on the far right above has tofu in it which I thought was delicious but the rest of the family decided they preferred the smoked tofu salad I make, this one was marinated and baked.  The rest are all grain based with rice at the top and pearl barley and couscous at the bottom.  I have been adding nuts and seeds to the made up salads, particularly toasted ones.  I soaked a big batch of pumpkin seeds overnight and toasted them on a low oven, sprinkling a bit of chilli powder over them first, until they were crisp, they don't last long round here.  They have been enjoyed in salads and as a tasty snack.  The first picture in the post is a beetroot and feta salad that we all adore and would eat every week of the year, I do make this every week we get beetroot in our veg bag.


I mentioned in my March in my kitchen post that I was on the hunt for tasty recipes for breakfast.  I tried two this month.  A Banana Bread with Millet in it, which got eaten so quickly that I failed to take any pictures!  It was delicious with yogurt and/or apple puree.  It was one of those recipes with a very long list of ingredients which usually that means they take forever to make, but not in this case. It required some forward planning as the millet needed to be cooked first before adding to the mix, but it was a two bowl method, one dry, one wet, mix together, spoon into tin and into the oven.  The other recipe was a Breakfast Bar.  It was from a book I was given earlier in the year, one that I thought was going to be great but has actually turned out to be a disappointment and is rather hard on the wallet.  Again these were banana based this time with oats and a few other ingredients, they were ok but I don't think I would make them again however I may use the recipe as a basis to have a go at coming up with my own take.  I can see that these would be really useful when camping or out walking as they were good and solid and didn't fall apart like so many of this type of bar do, so watch this space I might be sharing my results at some point!


We have entered the, very short but rather lovely, Asparagus season here in the UK.  We get a handful of spears in our veg bag each week for about a three to four week period.  Each year I try to add a new recipe into my repertoire and this year I found a salad that I thought sounded good and it was, so I thought I would share it with you.  It is based on a recipe I found in a book from the library, I have tweaked it slightly but if you would like to see the original it can be found here

Lentil and Couscous Salad with Almonds and Asparagus  

100g Green Lentils (I always soak mine overnight)
360ml Water
200g Wholewheat Couscous
8 Asparagus Spears cut into approx 3cm sections
1 Small Red Onion, chopped fine
45g Capers
2 Large handfuls of salad leaves/watercress
40g Almonds thinly sliced

Vinaigrette
5 tbs olive oil
3 tbs apple cider vinegar

Put the lentils and water in a saucepan and simmer until cooked, if you have soaked them overnight they will cook quicker.  If needed, drain, then run under cold water and transfer to a large bowl.

Cook the couscous by your preferred method, I always melt some butter and gently fry a crushed clove of garlic in the butter for a minute before adding the couscous and coating with the garlicky butter then add the water and simmer until cooked.  Add the couscous to the lentils.

 Steam the asparagus until just tender, rinse under cold water, drain and add to the lentils and couscous.

Add the red onion, capers, salad leaves and almonds.  Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together and drizzle over the salad mix together and serve.

11 May 2016

Daybook



Outside my window are fluffy white clouds and patches of blue sky, the birds are flitting backwards and forwards to our bird feeders and the trees have suddenly burst with green and blossom in the last couple of days.

Now that Spring has well and truly sprung I am thinking about activities to do outside.

Over this past week I am thankful (even more than I usually am) that we can home educate when all the school children of both Alice and Cameron's ages are undergoing tests.

In the kitchen is the beginnings of a rice salad for dinner, an empty box that needs granola making to refill it, some pinto beans cooking for tea, the breakfast washing up in the sink and on the side, pumpkin seeds soaking in a bowl, milk cooling in a pan for yogurt and a musical instrument waiting to be repaired.

It is Alice's birthday in just over two weeks and I am creating presents for her, party bags and contents.

This evening at the end of a busy day, Tuesday are usually full days, I am going to Orchestra practice, even when I am tired I find this a great way to wind down.

I am reading, planting seeds by Thich Nhat Hanh a book on practicing mindfulness with children.  We visited a Buddhist monastery with a home ed group a few weeks ago and since then I have been meditating regularly with Cameron.  I mentioned this to a friend and she has lend me three books written by a monk on mindfulness and meditation.

I am looking forward to our Wednesday walk to find gorse shield bugs for our nature project.

Around the house the children are drawing together at the table, books lie abandoned on chairs, the floor, tables and beds, lego bits are strewn in bedrooms a hazard for unshod feet, a pile of bits waits patiently to be moved up to the loft, two dice, two beanbags and a songbook on the living room floor the physical remains of learning with Alice and the windows are all open letting in the Spring air.

The secret to having it all is believing your already do is my favourite quote at the moment as I go through the house decluttering.

I am learning to go with the flow and not resist it.

I am wearing blue linen trousers with ribbon sewn round the bottom of the legs, my own addition, a blue linen tunic top with a pale pink flower, green leaf and stem pattern and bare feet.

As I sit and write I am listening to the quiet chatter of Alice and Cameron and the birds singing outside.

A peek into my day.

05 May 2016

Drawing a Perspective


I had intended to publish this post earlier in the week, my intentions and reality don't meet that often at the moment.  There have been days lately when I have felt like I was in a room with no obvious way out and whilst I search for the door my panic levels rise, but inside me there is a small voice telling me all will be well.  It is not lost on me that this time last year I stopped blogging for a while, I thought I was doing a better job at managing my busyness levels this Spring but I guess my report card would say 'could do better'.

It is all too easy after the cold of Winter to want to be out and about all the time and saying yes to every invitations we are offered, forgetting the bigger picture whilst doing so.   I write 'the cold of Winter' as if we are now in the throes of a warm Spring, but Winter is clinging on here as it seems to be in many places in the Northern Hemisphere, we had as much snow last week as we did in the Winter months.  My busyness has frustrated my garden plans some what, but with hindsight this has been no bad thing, the few seeds I have sown have have yet to germinate, there is always next week.  My leeks that overwintered and survived the deluge of Winter rain are growing well as is the purple sprouting broccoli and kale which are providing enough for the odd meal and smoothie.

I am not much of a radio listener these days.  The news, which is what I most often switch it on for, is rarely appropriate for small ears, I did however catch some snippets last week.  There are a few days in my life when I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing.  One of those is the afternoon of 15 April 1989.  It was a Saturday and I was at work and, like every Saturday, there was a steady stream of colleagues dropping by to catch the football scores on the radio that was always burbling away in the background.  Most weeks it was drowned out by conversations, this was the staff canteen, that afternoon there was a hushed silence and no one moved, not even when someone came into the room.  We lost two colleagues that day one just sixteen years of age.  For 27 years the fans were blamed for what happened, vilified by the press with lies fed to them by the police and politicians until last week when finally the truth has been uncovered.  It is important to remember that the world was a different place in 1989 but even taking that into account lies are lies, and lies to protect your mistakes, your job and your profession cannot, ever, be condoned.

I am also a sporadic listener of a radio soap that is popular here in the UK.  One of the current storylines is tackling domestic abuse and has made for difficult listening at times.  I know how hidden this world can be as a friend of mine was brave enough to reach out to the authorities and only then did I find out what had been going on for years.   This programme has sensitively bought this world into the public domain, donations to support charities have increased as has reporting of violence in the home.

If Alice was a school she would be taking tests this month, every school child who is seven or will be by the end of August has to sit them.  They are tests built round right/wrong answers, an input/output assessment, you would expect then that all the tests be factual?  No.  The English paper is based on grammar, punctuation and spelling.  Some of the questions have several parts to them, all of which have to be right to gain a single mark, so even if the child has grasped the premise, one spelling mistake will mean no mark.  I cannot think of any way to make a test more demoralising and pointless.  My heart goes out to all those children and parents who are enduring this, it makes me immensely grateful that we are able to live on one income and home educate our children.  This week Alice has, amongst many other things, been building a circus out of lego, attended a Steiner French group, had many books read to her, recapped her alphabet learning, visited a local Bird of Prey centre where she handled a hawk and played ludo with two dice.

The busyness has meant less thinking time, thinking ahead is vital for our rhythm and I have been clinging on with finger tips with the minimal of thinking and planning, hoping that all will be well which it has, mostly.  It has meant far less time online,  I apologise if my visits to your blog have been sporadic but now you know why!  I haven't managed to post here for nearly a week, I think for the next few weeks, maybe longer, I will be posting less often and my visits to blogs may continue to be sporadic for a while, I do hope you are ok with that.   But, we are all happy and safe and that is the most important thing.

29 April 2016

April in Photos

It has been a month of contrasts.  Quiet times, busy times.  All seasons of weather, but most definitely April showers.  We have soaked it all up and noticed: 

Orange


Lichen on a rock in a drystone wall.  I haven't been able to identify it............

Feather



I have to admit I struggled with this category.  We didn't find a single feather during the month, or something that resembled one.  Taking photos of birds is really difficult and not something I am particularly good at.  I then had the idea of taking some photos of our bird feeders when this little Robin came visiting.  You would be forgiven for thinking, given my difficulty with this category,  that I took this photo months ago and have sneaked it in here but I can assure you that this was taken yesterday afternoon (28 April) it snowed on and off all day!

Something Fresh


...as a daisy, which have grown in their wonderful carpets this month.  Did you know that Daisy's get their name from day's eye as they close their petals up at night and spread them during the day?  Hence the expression as a fresh as a daisy, you have had a good sleep and are a full of energy just like the flower.

Horizon


The view from the spot where our singing/nature group meets on a friend's farm.  The hills in the distance are the view from my house (I live on the other side of them).

Wet


I could have used this for feather but it was much more about wet, a scrape at a bird reserve we visited for the day when my parents came for a visit.  The Avocets were back for the summer and feeding in the water.  They were one of 53 species we saw during our visit. 

Craft


You are probably wondering what on earth it is?  A craft on two counts, a canoe shed built by my husband in our front garden.  It is empty at the moment but will eventually house two open canoes (scroll to bottom).  We have a large garage/workshop at the back of our house, but with two open canoes, two sea kayaks and a general purpose kayak the garage bit was getting a little full (not to mention a chest freezer, seven bikes, scooters and all the gardening equipment) we have been doing some building work at the front our house and decided that part of the garden would make a good place to store some of our boats.  It will have a green roof, we also have one on our garage roof (again scroll to the bottom), hence the slight tilt so that it can be viewed in all its, eventual, glory from the house.

Growing


My garlic is shooting!  I planted this in mid January, normally I plant in late October/ Early November but it was so wet then and for the rest of the year I decided to wait.  I am not sure whether they would have survived the 9.3m of rain we had in November and December!

Memories


April is the month when the wild garlic is ready for picking in my area and a huge carpet of them grows in one of our local woods.   We lived in the village nearest this wood when we got married and would visit often for a short walk at the weekends.  It was the place I took both of my children for the first big walk of their lives it took about six hours with lots of stops, now we can walk round in a couple.  We have spent two years, one when Alice was a baby and last year visiting every month to observe the changes in nature.  We always visit a this time of year to pick the wild garlic to make pesto.  It is one of my favourite places to take a walk and is close to where I live now.

Sticks


A stick lady puppet made at our singing/nature group.  She has a rather Barbiesque waist which was not intentional I can assure you, luckily my children don't know who Barbie is.

Flower (my choice of category)


A beautiful camellia flower from a small tree, covered in these wonderful blooms, in the grounds of a the buddhist temple we visited with our home ed friends.   I will hasten to add we didn't pick it, we found it on the ground next to the plant.

Joining in with the Photo Scavenger Hunthosted by Hawthorn Spellweaver.  I have really enjoyed this challenge.  I have seen photo scavenger hunts on other blogs but the categories didn't pull me in to take part, but this one did.  I loved that all these categories were a catalogue of our daily lives and I wasn't take pictures for pictures sake if you get what I mean?   I am looking forward to seeing the categories for next month.......

24 April 2016

Ta Dah!





It's a long time since I finished off a big knitting project and posted about it.  Over a year ago, in fact. I finished off several projects for Alice last summer but as I was on a blogging pause they passed by without notice.

After my knitting failure on my last cardigan, I decided on a jumper to knit whilst I pondered the future of my lovely blue yarn*.  I have mentioned before that I have no idea how this pattern made its way into my favourites but I have been wanting to knit it for some time but there was always another project ahead of it in the queue.

It was a great knit.  Those endless rows on the body made so much quicker because there was just enough interest in the pattern to make it feel like it was going faster.  I had real difficulty when I came to join the front and back under the arm (it is knit top down) there was a basic chart provided for front and back but it didn't show how to bring the two sections together.  After two failed attempts I decided I needed to write out a chart and bingo it all came together.  This is a free pattern so this is not a criticism at all, I immensely grateful for all knitters who share their patterns for no financial gain to themselves.

So there we have it.  My first big knit of 2016.  Here's to many more!

Ravelry notes Here
Joining Nicole

::::::::::::::::::::

*in the end I ripped the whole body out and have cast on another sweater, I am knitting from the bottom up, and will join the arms in which I haven't ripped out!

20 April 2016

In My Kitchen


I love to cook, good food is really important to me.  If you are anything like me you spend a large amount of your life in the kitchen preparing good nourishing food to eat, so this is what has been going on in my kitchen this month.  If you would like to join in you would be most welcome, leave a link in the comments section.

I mentioned in my last in my kitchen post that I had been making toothpaste and deodorant and many of you asked me to share my recipes, which I did in my last post along with many other cleaning products I make. Thank you to all who commented and shared your own cleaning 'recipes'. I didn't mention why I make my own, aside from the fact that it fits neatly into my efforts to live sustainably, I do so out of necessity. About four years ago I started experiencing hives like symptoms on my hands over the course of the year it got worse and worse as I couldn't work out what was causing it. It was when I started to wake up with a swollen face and eyes swollen shut that I realised it might have something to do with the cleaning products I was using. So a new journey started into making my own, I haven't dared buy them again I really don't want to repeat that awful experience.

It has been all about baking in my kitchen this month.  There has been lots of salad making too, old familiar recipes and a few new ones too, but it is the baking that will be the content of this post.


I have made Hot Cross Buns for Good Friday for a few years now using the recipe from Nigella Lawson's Feast cookbook.  I have been wanting to make other types of bread with my sourdough starters and thought that Hot Cross Buns would be a good place to start.  They turned out really well and didn't last that long.  They were definitely from the slow cooking avenue of baking, the recipe started twenty four hours before baking day.  They only needed a little attention each time, I do like that kind of baking fitting it in around other jobs be done.  You can find the recipe here.  I haven't tried making anything else but writing this has reminded me that I want to, if you have any suggestions or good recipes I would love to hear about them.


As part of our Spring and Easter project/traditions we observed Purim and we made these Haman's Purses for tea, a traditional dish to eat for this Jewish Festival.  You can fill them with any filling you like, ours were made from dried apricots soak over night and then pureed in a blender they were delicious!  I also made a stew using Carlin Peas which are a North of England speciality at this time of year, I had never heard of these peas before but they were selling them in my local health food shop just before Easter so I just had to give them a try.  They are also eaten around Bonfire Night in November.



I stopped eating anything with refined sugar in about six months ago it wasn't particularly difficult as I don't really have a sweet tooth.  I realised quite by chance that it was giving me stomach ache.  I stopped eating it for a few weeks, then started again, and repeated a couple of times as I wanted to be sure it was that, and not something else, before I stopped eating it completely.  As I have Crohn's Disease, which I manage through my diet, I kept a food diary too I didn't want to exclude yet another ingredient without being sure.  I have been experimenting with other sweeteners in baking to see if they cause a problem too, but so far so good.  I have made two cakes sweetened with honey (the recipes call for maple syrup which is incredibly expensive in the UK so I have been using honey instead) and apple puree.  It makes a tasty moist cake and is really easy to make, definitely my kind of recipe.  If you want to give them a go you can find the recipe here, and thank you to this lovely blogger for putting me onto the recipe.


I made my sourdough starters some months ago now. We don't eat a lot of bread, but I make it most weeks and have got a good rhythm going. Every Friday morning I get the starters out of the fridge (I have one rye and one spelt) where I store them in glass jars. I leave them to stand for day to warm up to room temperature. If you need to make bread more often you could probably just leave your starter on the side all the time it I haven't tried that so don't know if it will work. What I have found with making sourdough bread is that you need to find what works for the flour you are using and your climate, recipes are a good starting point but bear in mind where the author lives! There is a huge amounts of advice out there some of which will work for you and some won't, but even when it doesn't work it is never, usually, a complete disaster. So having warmed up my starters, in the evening I make the sponges combining the starters with flour and water which I leave to stand, covered, overnight. The more you make bread, the more wild yeasts you will have floating around, the more you sponge will bubble, mine looks good now but it hardly bubbled in the beginning. On the week I took these pictures the rye sponge (on the left) was more lively than the spelt, some weeks it is the other way round. In the morning I remove some of the sponge into back into my jars to become the next starter, the rest is mixed with more flour to make the actual loaves. The rye does not need any kneading as it makes a wet dough that you slop into an oiled tin to rise. The spelt I knead for a short while, if you knead it for too long it makes for a very dense chewy loaf, so until it is smooth will do. I leave it to rest for around fifteen minutes before dividing into two loaves and placing on a floured baking tray to rise. The flour stops the loaves sticking to the tray. How long I leave it depends on the temperature. The warmer the place the less time you need, a maximum of three hours if it is cool, again this is something that is best worked out for your own house. If the loaf is starting to flatten slightly it is ready for the oven! I freeze these loaves and always have a good supply in the freezer ready for those occasional weekends when I am too busy to fit in making any bread.

We have been enjoying a new to us salad recipe this month.  It has many ingredients and takes time to put it all together, but I know that the more I make it the quicker I will get.  It is really tasty so it is worth it!

Apricot and Chick Pea Salad

200g bulgar wheat
150g cooked chickpeas*
50g sprouted mixed pulses
50g dried apricots soak overnight and chopped
25g toasted flaked almonds
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp crushed dried chillies
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
pinch cinnamon
pinch ground cloves
to taste salt & pepper

Pour boiling water over the bulgar wheat and leave to stand for 30 minutes then drain. Fluff the grains up with a fork.
Mix together the bulgar, chickpeas, sprouted pulses, apricots, almonds and parsley in a bowl.
To make the dressing, heat the oil in a pan, fry onion until soft. Add spices, cook for 2 minutes, season and stir into the salad immediately.

*if you are using dried chickpeas this equates to approximately 75g.

Based on a recipe from the Vegetarian Society Website.