Thursday, 28 December 2017

A Cosy Bedroom on a Cold Night


Somehow I don't think we'll be getting much sleep tonight.     We have our two older grandchildren sleeping over.   They have been fizzing with excitement about this for months; for some reason it was deemed to be almost as exciting as Christmas and we had to have a countdown of the number of sleeps until the big night - since before Christmas.

What makes it even funnier is the fact that these grandchildren live very close to us and spend several hours of almost every day in our house, anyway! 

Our master bedroom has an open fire, we don't often light it, but I think that part of the attraction for these two is to fall asleep to the flickering flames of the log fire - well who wouldn't?

They have a large blow up mattress on the floor while we 'sleep' in our bed as normal, for a few hours anyway.   Almost without a doubt our granddaughter will creep into the middle of our bed during the night, followed by her older brother just before dawn.

There is a large television in the room.  We very rarely use it, but they love to have their breakfast in our bed, while watching cartoons on the television.

It really doesn't take much to make them happy.

I'm pulling the drawbridge up tomorrow though.  😉

Monday, 25 December 2017

Candlewax and Bells



A deep, dark night in the countryside, no traffic, no streetlights.   

Beckoned in by a solitary bell and the flickering of golden light from many candles we stepped in through the porch, past the enormous ancient wooden door and into the nave of the tiny church.   It was looking wonderful, with every deep, deep, windowsill filled with red-berried holly, ivy and lots of creamy-coloured candles. 

It didn't take long for the church to fill up, but that was mainly down to the diminutive size of the church!     Our elderly organist did her best and so did we.  The organ wheezed and creaked as the organist managed to include unplanned random notes here and there, but then so did the congregation.   It didn't matter, we had a wonderful time and those old familiar carols were belted out with such gusto that the organist struggled to keep up with us.

Afterwards we had coffee and hot mince pies, conversation, laughter.   It was a wonderful prelude to Christmas.       I enjoy 'Carols from Kings', but that polished performance cannot compete with the real pleasure and authenticity of that evening. 

Once again we tumbled out into the velvety black of night, clutching our torches, as we made our way back down the lane and home.


Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Respect

I have developed a new respect for film directors.  

Yesterday was a teacher-training day, so I had two of my grandchildren over for the day, while their parents went to school.    

It was great fun, though the grandchildren showed a deep desire to sit on the sofa and watch television all day.

I then winkled them out from their cosy couches and out into the fields, where we roamed about looking for bits of old pottery and then moved on to collecting some of the many delights of this time of year... acorns, hazelnuts, sloes, rosehips, seed heads, helicopter seeds, and whatever else we could find.   They enjoyed themselves and got some fresh air and exercise without realising it.

Seizing upon their good mood, when we returned home with our bounty, I decided to have a bit of fun trying to reproduce another cookery book cover; they were not interested in cooking from it, which had been my original plan.





This one should be a cinch!  Such a simple design...Ha!

We mocked up the outfits, found the props, attempted to get things organised and then got down to the poses.


One got the giggles and the other one froze.


They had fun,


but we didn't really get anywhere near the correct pose - well, not at the same time.

Nevertheless, it kept them away from the television and they enjoyed themselves!


Goodness knows what kind of memories they are going to retain about this crazy gran of theirs.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

A Totem in Owl Wood

A little while ago I was given an old birdbath.
I didn't really want it,
because
it is not a style of garden ornament that I like.


However, because it has owls on it,
and we have Owl Wood,
I decided to accept the gift
and
to place it discreetly away in Owl Wood.


What can I say?
Except that I am overjoyed that I did.

For many years we have gone to sleep at night 
listening to the sound of Tawny Owls
calling to one another.

Not so this last year or so.
The woodland has been upsettingly silent.

Well,
 since I got two strong men to place the birdbath in Owl Wood
I am happy to say that some magic seems to have happened.



The wonderful sound of Mr and Mrs Tawny Owl
calling to one another
has once again become the soundtrack 
I fall asleep to each night.

Magic!

Friday, 25 August 2017

Summer at Parsonage Cottage & Village Life


The tables began to fill up, though we did wonder where everyone was for the first half an hour!



It has been a busy summer, one way and another, but there is always time for some baking, especially bread baking.


This was a wonderful walnut bread, it worked really well with cheese, but for a bread lover like me, it tasted good just as it was.




The wild plum trees in Owl Wood have been giving us a bumper crop.  We have enjoyed them simply cooked and served with our lunchtime bowl of yogurt, sharp and delicious.     They have added a fabulous shot of colour to many dishes, including this windfall apple and wild plum crumble, the crumble crust having the addition of chopped hazelnuts to add to the autumnal notes and goodness.


The barley fields have already been harvested and the straw baled, which means that the fields are vast and empty and we have the pleasure of roaming through them at leisure.  It always feels like a summer holiday destination during this magical period which the grandchildren, dog, and I enjoy to the max!

We have just been along the old railway line and picked about a pound of blackberries.  We acquired a number of nettle stings and scratches along the way, but that is all part of the fun.  Frankie took her revenge by stomping on nettles, thereby forgetting the stings.  Emergency field medicine, but it works.

Our next door neighbours have kindly brought round a(nother) bag of plums and a(nother)bag of windfall apples, which is fabulously generous of them, but we have reached the point where my smile becomes fixed and my heart despairs.   I make, bake, pickle, share and pass on the fruit...and still it comes.

Right now I am busy dealing with a glut of huge and beautiful tomatoes and the courgettes have all decided to really kick in at the same time.   Hedgerows are glistening with the deep, dark elderberries and the rosehips and hawthorne berries shine out like Christmas lights, all of this at the same time - oh, and let's not forget the sloes!

I am grateful, don't get me wrong, and it is a wonderful feeling to be able to put down so much food ready for the hard winter months...does all this bounty mean that we are going to have a really harsh winter?

In other news, although it, too, saw me chained to the kitchen stove for quite a while, we have just had the Annual Village Show.    The committee numbers have diminished again, so have the number of helpers, but more of that another time.

The show was a success and it was wonderful to see people come into the hall, proudly bearing their cakes and bakes, fabulous flowers, and magnificent marrows, etc.  


This cake was made by possibly our oldest village resident, it was her 'Summer Celebration Cake' all the decorations are made from rice paper.   Makes me think of a pretty summer bonnet - tasted very good, too!


Herbs. flower arrangements, paintings, photographs, eggs, fruits and vegetables all helped to transform the hall, for a few hours.  

The refreshment stall was filled with home bakes as well as tea and coffee.   Once the hall filled up, after judging, I was too busy to take any more photographs but, trust me, it was full to overflowing and people sat outside at the tables and chairs we had provided, to drink tea and chat with old friends.

Now, I must get back to the kitchen and I may be some time.
x

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Book Cover Fun

During this summer, over on instagram,  I have been having a little fun with book cover art.

It began slowly, then grew, as these things do.


This is one of the most recent, easy to do and great fun.


This was the idea in its' infancy.  It shows a cake and the recipe book it was taken from, the leather chair and the brandy are there because the cake is one which was made at Boodles Gentlemen's Club in London.


Here I was just exploring the thought of mustard with bits and pieces from around my kitchen.


...and in this one I just pulled out certain images from the cover.


This one happened very spontaneously, so it could have been done better, but it was assembled and cleared away all within the space of 10 minutes.  Great fun to do.


This was done to show a friend, not possible to copy the cover, so I just went for a couple of relevant elements.


This one was pure fun!


This one came about after a bread-making session with my grandchildren.  Very simple cover, but it took ages to set up to get things set up so that the whole thing worked.

Bits of nonsense, lots of fun.

I hope you have found some fun this summer.


Monday, 21 August 2017

The Village Show



Our Annual Village Show.

For a full report follow the link to my other blog...https://oldcooks.blogspot.co.uk/2017/08/village-show.html ... sorry, but I am too tired to type it all out again!

It took some effort, but we managed to put on another show.  Hurrah for village life!

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Summer Quarters

So, the sun has come out to play!   We can remove a few layers of clothes and abandon the thick socks - until next week, probably.   We'll enjoy it while we can.


This is the view as I take my daily walk up to the dovecote and through the farmyard.   It is like walking through a John Constable painting.


Meet Bill, he belongs to a friend in the village.   He is a lovely old dog (about 11/12 years old) but his owner can't walk him at the moment due to health problems, so I have the pleasure of taking him out.   It is like walking a feather on the lead compared to walking my big bruiser,


Dobson who is doing his best to look slim in this photograph.    He is sporting his favourite neckerchief and wearing yogurt on his nose - he loves sneaking a lick out the empty yogurt pot!


And (I know, I know!)  here is home, Parsonage Cottage, seen from a distance,  across the barley field.      I am stepping back from the world of blog, just for the summer.

Life is busy and time is short.

Instagram is something I have been exploring and I think the short and snappy format will probably be easier for me at the moment.   I'll still be reading blogs, dropping the occasional comment.   Back in the cooler months, when life has settled down a bit.

(For anyone who does do instagram: this link should take you to my IG page  otherwise known as parsonage_cottage_kitchen)

Have a wonderful summer.
xx

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Quiet Thoughts



Little Bunting is a very small village, with a population of around one hundred and eighty people, if we include the neighbouring hamlet of  Lush  Meadows.

Even small happenings send out a ripples which are felt by almost the whole community.     Well, we have been hit by a tsunami of sadness and loss.

One of the first people I got to know when we moved here, eleven years ago, was a farmer's wife.   She was in her early 70's then and we would watch with awe as she spent long days helping with the farming, driving tractors and trailers, harvesting and working the land with the rest of them.    I never saw her drive a car but usually saw her driving through the fields and surrounding lanes in a red tractor or, failing that, on her motorised pedal bike.

We got to know each other a little better as we talked and waited for the mobile library to arrive at the village hall;  we were determined to keep the van coming to the village, if at all possible.    We would continue to talk as we made our way home.    Her home being about a quarter of a mile further along from ours, our nearest neighbour on that side of the road.

A few days ago we learned that she had fallen from her tractor and has subsequently died.     Shock, disbelief, sadness, especially for her family.     The funeral is tomorrow.

At the other end of the life scale, and even more shocking, was the loss of a young man in his teens.     He was greatly loved but sorely troubled by dark clouds.   Unbearable sadness.  My heart goes out to his family.   At the weekend about sixty young people walked from the village to a place where he used to play, a place where he was carefree and happy.     We all hope that he is in a happier place.   

These two losses, plus a potential threat to the safety of someone we hold dear, have weighed heavily.    No doubt the sun will soon come out and life will trundle on.


Meanwhile, my back spasms subsided after ten days, thank goodness.    Thank you for all your good wishes, they were much appreciated!

This  morning I heard my first cuckoo of the year and I also discovered a big patch of wild strawberries - something I have been watching out for for many years.    

Life goes on.    

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Meet my Best Friends...

Arnica
Frozen Peas
A Hot Bag
A Soak in the Bath
Massage
Pain Killers
and
my Chiropractor.




Can't sit, can't lie down, can't stand for long
and worst of all,
can't sleep.
Some muscles in my back keep going into spasm.


Chiropractor worked some magic today.
Slightly less pain now.
Thank goodness.




Saturday, 22 April 2017

Done at the Gallop

We visited the small market town of Louth.   It was a brief visit - Max only bought a one hour parking ticket - so everything was done at a gallop.  

The town is tiny, so it wouldn't have been so bad if the shops I wanted to visit hadn't been as far away from each other as it is possible to be.   Just as well I am reasonably fleet of foot, for an oldie.

Photograph borrowed from remembering the old ways blogspot

As I was making my way to the Health Food Co-op I saw two very smartly dressed little girls with their parents, they were just leaving the market place.   Something clicked in my brain and before I'd reached my destination I had the answer... I remembered where I'd seen these twins and their mother.   The mother writes the Remembering the Old Ways blog - which is filled with beautifully evocative photographs.

The twins were dressed in beautiful matching winter coats and their mother wore a lovely vintage jacket and skirt.  

Louth Market Place


As I walked back to the other end of the town I fell to thinking about how beautifully turned out the girls were.   I know that my own children would have fought against being dressed like that, my grandchildren would definitely rebel.   They like to choose their own clothing each day.



Thank goodness for school uniforms.   No arguments on school days!

I didn't have time to take photographs yesterday.    These photographs of Louth are some I used in one of my previous blogs, years before I began 'Parsonage Cottage'.


Nothing much changes in Louth.   Shops may relocate, others go out of business, new ones come in.

The market is held on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with a Farmers Market on the 4th Wednesday of the month, Food Market on 2nd Friday of the month, and Craft Markets 3rd Saturday of the month through the summer.    Then, of course, there is the cattle market and that is held once a week 'up the hill'.

Truly a market town.


These are just a couple of the old terraced houses.  Lovely, characterful places.

Purchases made, I was back at the car with ten minutes to spare.



We were soon heading home.
x

Monday, 17 April 2017

The First Flaming Parrot has Arrived!

Our gardens are fairly quiet.
Soft undulating borders, pretty flowers
plenty of lawns.
Space.
Old stone.
Old people.


Drifts of cream and green tulips.


Purple beauties
and
lots of weeds!

Each spring we are visited by some very noisy parrots.



The first one has arrived and is unfurling his petals.
Loud, clashing colours.
Totally outrageous!
They screech across the garden, refuse to be hushed.
I love them!

Their name?  Flaming Parrots.
x

A Rare Sight

I adore seeing all my family together; it is a rare enough event to have them all in the same country, never mind in the same house, at the same time.   This weekend we all came together for a family meal and the annual Easter Egg Hunt in Owl Wood.







Normally I manage to avoid being photographed.   Phone cameras are sneaky, Poppy caught me on hers.  

So here I am.   No makeup, scruffy jeans and jumper, dog walking coat, Wellies.    The real me.     It was the closing stages of the great Easter Egg Hunt.





Three trails had been laid, three maps handed out.   The routes were graded for difficulty, according to the age of the child.   Two children like chocolate, one doesn't.   Nothing is ever simple in our house!


The children had a great time, so did the adults.



Afterwards, the young ones had a celebratory drive around the wood.


Our second-youngest grandson achieved one of his ambitions.   He got to drive the little green car.   His legs were just long enough to reach the pedals.   The centre bottom picture in the collage shows his Mama hanging on to the back of the car, terrified as her speed-merchant three-year old ran into tree after tree...  

She hung on to the back of that car like a superhero!   A mama hen protecting her chick.   (Grandpa had it all in hand, there was no danger.)
The youngling thought he had driven like a proper driver and wanted to drive their real car home to London.   Luckily, his legs don't reach those pedals, yet.


Next year this little one will want a basket and some chocolate eggs, but just for now he is content to sit on Grandpa's knee.


Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Discovering the Queen's Hoard


It has been an exciting week here at Parsonage Cottage.   Our vegetable garden was sadly neglected last year, because we were so busy helping to renovate our son's cottage.     Now that those cottage renovations are almost complete we have been able to turn our attention to our vegetable garden.


 

This has involved lots of digging, plenty of soil shifting, hoeing and raking because we have decided to remove three of the growing beds, leaving us just four large beds, the greenhouse and the polytunnel - more than enough work for us, especially given the size of the other gardens and Owl Wood.

The low brick wall will sweep around and enclose the vegetable garden with a lavender hedge.

We do ok for a couple of oldies, but we just don't have the same energy levels as we had 11 years ago when we established the original vegetable garden.  




Not much baking has taken place this week, though, due to a lack of eggs.    Our girls seemed to have stopped laying.    After five or six days, and still no eggs, we decided that we needed to investigate further.    Could someone be 'borrowing' the eggs, or perhaps the rats were eating them...




No, Queen Mab, leader of the flock, had taken up part time broodiness and had somehow managed to get the other two to lay their eggs in the same place as her - under a mountain of sticks and fallen branches which will soon be used for making chippings.   She was well hidden but young Eagle Eye found her.

Last year she went broody a couple of times, but on those occasions she simply hid herself away with her own eggs, not turning up for food  or bedtime.    The other hens continued to lay as normal.






Poor Queen Mab, she was a tad grumpy when we took the eggs away.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Over the Garden Gate

I have a busy day ahead of me.   However, there is just enough time for a bit of a gossip, 'over the garden gate'.



I met the new neighbour, she is very nice indeed.  So are her animals.   This is just two of her four beautiful dogs.

As you know, I don't use real names on this blog, so I'll call their owner 'Arabella'.   Now let's hope I don't do this by mistake, next time I meet her!



Arabella is an excellent horsewoman, she used to compete at a very high level.   Her beloved horses are 'Lady' (for blogging purposes) and



this one is 'Sir'.

I was a little perplexed by small bundles of animal hair which I kept finding in Owl Wood.   I began to think that murder was being committed there,  on a nightly basis.

Eventually it dawned on me, birds are stealing the hair which comes out when Lady is groomed.   I imagine it makes for a very cosy nest lining!   Mystery solved, thank goodness.