Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Monday, 30 December 2013

On the Sixth Day of Christmas

I made progress with my tea cosy.  I adapted the pattern, using double pointed needles to fashion the side opening, which gives it a neater edge.  I fear I may need to swap my double knit for a thinner yarn for the bunting, which will require a visit to Vicky at  Paper Village, but I'll give it a go with double knit first, given the size of my stash!

I also said goodbye to my elder daughter who is on the first of two trains heading back to Glasgow for her final semester.  A lot rides on the next few months and I hope they bring her the success for which she has worked so hard.

PS  I apologise for the dismal quality of the photograph.  There are so few daylight hours at this time of year.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

On the Fifth Day of Christmas

I've started knitting a tea cosy for my daughter, who shares my belief that a cup of tea solves (almost) everything.

I'd like to have posted a photo of the pattern I've bought from Ravelry but I note that it's copyright so if you want a sneak preview then you're going to have to click here.

I'm knitting it with wool from my stash.  The pattern's easy enough but I'm not concentrating as well as I  should as I've had to unravel it several times already!

Saturday, 28 December 2013

On the Fourth Day of Christmas: In Praise of Woman

This evening we saw The Patience Stone at the Watershed.  It is a moving account of a young woman released from the legacy of her sexually oppressed life by pouring out her secrets to her wounded comatose husband.  He becomes her syng-e-saboor, the legendary patience stone, absorbing all her suffering before finally exploding and delivering her.

Don't be put off by the seemingly depressing description.  It is in fact a very uplifting film, illustrating the triumph of a woman's spirit against incredible odds.

Friday, 27 December 2013

On the Third Day of Christmas: In Praise of the Natural World

A visit to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition has become a Christmas/New Year holiday ritual.  Today we managed to squeeze it in during a sunny spell between a hail storm and drizzle.

The photography is always breathtaking (particularly when you learn of the conditions endured by the photographers to obtain their prize winning shots).  I was reminded once again that we live in an extraordinarily complex and beautiful world.

To view all the exhibits click here or, if you live in Bristol, you can catch the exhibition in the M Shed until 23 February 2014.

And do let me know which are your favourites.  Mine included Showdown (white vulture), Travelling Companions (dugong & golden trevallies), The President's Crown (a 3,200! year old sequoia tree), Primate Moments (rhesus monkeys) and Camouflage (ptarmigan) - but I could go on and on. 

Thursday, 26 December 2013

On the Second Day of Christmas: In praise of Boxing Day

I love Boxing Day.  True, it lacks the excitement of Christmas - the midnight mass, the hanging of stockings, the Bucks Fizz, Nigella's Christmas Morning muffins, the ripping of wrapping paper, the candlelit dining table, the silly cracker jokes, the sparkling wine, the flaming pudding, the Christmas specials on the telly ...

But there's joy in waking up (late) the day after, that even a pile of unwashed dishes cannot dampen.  It's a slower gentler sort of day.  There's a fridge full of food to be eaten, a mountain of books to be read, CDs to be listened to and DVDs to be watched, a jigsaw to be started, boxes of chocolates to be explored - and all the time in the world to do it.

Less expectation.  More enjoyment.

PS  I may get round to posting a photo later on today.  But then again, maybe not.

PPS  In case anyone was wondering, the confit turned out alright.  A touch salty, as I feared, but no one seemed to mind.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

On the First Day of December ...

... I made Duck Confit for our Christmas dinner.

We stopped tucking in to roast turkey on Christmas day several years ago.  It's an awfully time consuming  meal to prepare on a day when you want to spend time with the family, and none of us go a bundle on it anyway.  So we've tried a variety of other festive dishes including biriani, chicken with chorizo and crispy duck with plum sauce and pancakes.  This year it's duck confit, by special request from my daughters.

It's not the first time it's featured on the Christmas menu.  The girls were introduced to it by the family they stayed with on their French exchange trips to Bayonne and have enjoyed it ever since.  Apart from tasting exquisite, it has the added advantage of being a doddle to serve on the day.  All the hard work goes on weeks in advance ie this weekend.  I've been marinating, stewing, sterilising and bottling and now it's slowly maturing in the fridge.

I used Diana Henry's recipe which I found here.

The process has not been without it's stressful moments.  The roast duck we had for dinner last night didn't provide nearly enough fat so I had to dash down to the high street in search of jars of goose fat.   Aldi came up trumps but the 6 jars I bought only just sufficed.  I've been panicking that, despite having wiped the marinade off twice, they'll still be too salty.  I've had to squeeze them into the jars which may mean they'll fall apart when I try to get them out. Only time will tell.

I'm hoping that peace and good will, and Bucks fizz and chocolate for breakfast will compensate for any lack of finesse on the plate!

Thursday, 31 October 2013


I don't really do Hallowe'en but I like to have something to offer to any children who knock on my front door.  So I spent this afternoon baking and icing and now have a plateful of these to hand out.

I heard on Radio 4 this morning that the average UK family spends £65 on Hallowe'en (whatever do they buy for that sum?) but I am pleased to report that these ghoulish biscuits only set me back a couple of quid.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Enough Food If ...

Once again the sun shone brightly on us.  Last Saturday we were on College Green in Bristol.  This Saturday it was Hyde Park in London.  Two quite different events but united in their subject matter - food.  The first involved feeding 5000 people with food destined for landfill, the second demanding that the G8 take action to ensure that no one goes bed hungry.


For more information about this Enough Food If ... campaign click here.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Feeding the 5000 2013

On Saturday I helped feed 5000 people with food which might otherwise have landed up in a landfill site.

FareShare South West, who organised this event, works with the food industry, relieving it of its unwanted yet still edible food, and distributing it to people who really need it.  It's a perfect example of not just identifying a problem, but doing something about it.

The event took place on College Green in the shadow of the Cathedral and the City Hall.  In addition to a field kitchen serving vegetable curry, rice, spicy coleslaw and raita, there was a stall selling fruit and vegetable goody bags and bread, a children's activity tent, a cookery demonstration tent and a music stage.  The sun shone, the queue snaked around the site and up Park Street road and the good people of Bristol ate and laughed and danced.  

Most of the photographs were taken before service began because, once it did, we didn't stop for hours.  It was hard work but well worth the effort to spread a little happiness and maybe even change attitudes towards waste.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Glorious Gates

As part of this year's Southbank Bristol Arts Trail, Paper Village organised a Decorate Your Gate Competition.

Here are some of the entries.



This is why I love living in Bedminster.

Eurovision 2013

I love the Eurovision Song Contest.

There, I've admitted it.

It's not the greatest competition from a musical point of view but it's not the singing that attracts me - it's the spectacle.  (That, and the belief that coming together to sing and play and dance is infinitely preferable to declaring war on each other!)  And last evening's performance did not disappoint.  The Greeks extolled the virtues of free alcohol while prancing around in a black and white rugby shirts and kilts.  The Romanian, in operatic leather and diamonds warbled in falsetto as near naked dancers emerged from the cover of a red plastic sheet and writhed around at his feet.  Finally the Azerbaijani danced on a box containing a acrobat mimicing his every move and and was reunited with a woman in a short red dress with an impossibly long train.

There is a growing tradition of throwing Eurovision parties with fancy dress, sweepstakes and drinking competitions.  I wasn't anywhere as well prepared as this.  However I did rise to the preparation of a three course Swedish feast in honour of the host nation.

We ate:

smoked salmon served with mustard & dill dressing and rye bread
Jansson's frestelse served with runner beans
saffranspannkaka served with sylt lingon and cream
I now have a whole year to plan a Danish menu to accompany next year's Eurovision.