Friday, 24 April 2015

Extremely Useful Smily Bag - the next chapter

A long time ago on a crazy rock far far away I made a bag. I called it the Extremely Useful Smiley Bag. It had a place for my stuff and a place for the stuff I still needed to carry for Big Trouble who was almost 3. I have used that bag EVERY SINGLE DAY for almost two years. It has been half way round the world with me. It has been extremely useful and made me smile. In short it has delivered everything I could have wanted and more.
But now I don't need to carry stuff for Big Trouble very often. He is almost 5, at school most of the time and more than capable of putting his most prized possessions (usually sticks and stones) in his own pockets. And, my bag is disintegrating before my very eyes! Very soon it will be decidedly less useful.  

So I made a new one - Ta Da!

No large wet-wipe-packet-sized pocket this time. But pockets for pens and my mobile phone in the hope that I won't have to grub round in the bottom so often. No popper either because it just got on my nerves. It is a little smaller - mostly because this is how big the fabric was. But it definitely makes me smile and I have high hopes for it's extreme usefulness.

So, what's a girl to do when she has made a new bag. Hang it up around the garden and admire it of course!

But never fear, the first bag will not go to waste. After a good wash it will move on to pastures new and hold a crochet project extremely usefully, and continue to make me smile.


Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Sour dough: a false start with the starter

Before we went off on our island adventure I used to make Sourdough bread. It was ok. Quite sour but ok.
A few weeks ago, I thought I'd have another go. I needed to start again from scratch. I used Hugh FW's method which I used last time. You start but making a starter -  a flour and water mixture that you leave somewhere warm until it starts to bubble. The theory is that the naturally occurring yeasts in the air get into it, have a feast on the wheat and start to grow. 

Well mine started to froth up after about 24 hours. You are not supposed to use it straight away but feed it more flour and water every day or so for a week. Well, by day 4 the smell was invading the whole kitchen. It was strongly acidic and frankly smelled of vomit. There was no way anyone was eating it! So I washed it down the plug hole and tried again.

I didn't do anything different, but this time nothing happened, at least, not at first. I dutifully fed it each day and after a few days bubbles started to appear. And it started to smell. A delicious yeasty, bready, slightly appley good smell. Hurrah!

Btw, I just love the illustrations in the River Cottage books.

So, Ta Da, one starter! The next step is to make a sponge. You take some of your starter (reserving the rest to keep feeding and using in the future) and mix it with lots of flour and water to make a paste. You leave this overnight and it should get all bubbly and fragrant.

The next day you make a dough by adding flour and salt to your sponge, kneed it, leave is to rise, make a loaf, prove the loaf and...

Ta Da! Yummy bread. This one is half and half brown and white flours.

This one is white with seeds in.

Then you watch it disappear in seconds!

They were a little dense but completely delicious and not sour at all.

I have since tried making rolls using a conventional recipe and converting it to sourdough. They ware the best yet but sadly they went so fast I didn't get any pics!

Next up, a plain white loaf for Little Man.


Friday, 17 April 2015

Lions and tigers and buses and things: the world according to Big Trouble

Give a small boy a camera and you get a lovely insight into the world as they see it...

How does the world look where you are?


Sunday, 12 April 2015

Hercules and the Farmer's Wife

On Friday I did a very unusual thing. After applying myself properly to some work (you know, the kind where they give you money in exchange for doing stuff), I read a book. During the day.
In fact, I read the whole book in one day. I haven't done that in years! It helps of course that it was a fast read and extremely enjoyable.
The Smalls were playing in the garden and I took myself out there too, found a sunny nook and read. I often intend to do this but rarely manage more than a few pages before I get sucked into weeding or mediating or nursing a graze, but on Friday none of those things happened. It was lovely!
So, the book? Hercules and the Farmer's Wife by Chris Wadsworth...
Well it says on the cover that it is about a woman who opened an art gallery in the Lake District, and it sort of is, or rather, more accurately, it is BY a woman who opened an art gallery in the Lake District. It is really about the colourful cast of characters she met along the way. It is about the artists she wooed, the egos she smoothed and the friends she gathered.
She almost glosses over the big events in her own life, losing her husband to cancer and finding a new relationship, but instead, enthrals us with details of the lives of a reclusive, transvestite ex-postman, and the Cumbrian beauty befriended by LS Lowry. 
I know nothing about cutting edge contemporary art or the world of galleries and art dealers, but Chris Wadworth's descriptions are so engaging that she draws you in and makes you feel like you are joining her at the kitchen table along with the friends and colleagues that frequent her gallery.

I know that next time I am in the Lake District I am going to seek out the Castlegate House Gallery and have a look for myself.


Thursday, 9 April 2015

Easter holibobs

This school holiday has been all about doing the little things.
New bikes have been ridden (don't you just love hand me downs and gumtree?)

Seeds have been sown.

On Easter Sunday we went to the beach.

Big Trouble did a bit of this

while Tall Girl and Little Man did some of that.

But really, it was all about these.

We needed one of these. Construction was far too important to be left to the Smalls.

Left to right: J, Tall Girl, Big Trouble, Little Man, Grandma, Me.

It is a very simple game. You roll an egg from each end of the track, aiming to hit them together. The last unbroken egg is declared champion. Big Trouble declared that on no account was he going to play. Fair enough! The champion, unbroken egg belonged to Tall Girl.

Then they all did some of that

while I did some of this

and wished I hadn't forgotten to bring these.

I hope you had fun in the sun!