Wednesday, 6 October 2021

 Last month Bill and I went to Brockbushes Farm, near Corbridge, to pick plums. Even though it was mid-September and their website said plums were available throughout the month, when we got there most were already rotten, with plenty of wasps buzzing around. We did manage to find a few kilos (hint: if you're shaking the tree to knock down fruit, don't look up, look down to see where they fall). The second disappointment was that - even with the discount the guy said he gave us - they cost more than at the green grocer. I don't think I'll do that again. Nevertheless, we are enjoying our plum jams, made with 'zingers': nutmeg and brandy or orange zest, ginger and brandy.




When we were foraging for rosehips (already made into rosehip syrup and put into the freezer), I found a yellow pear tree. There were only dropped pears in reach, but I managed to salvage enough pear to make several jars of jam. I used half the usual sugar to account for their very ripe state. For both Bill and me, foraged food is far more satisfying than bought food. However, I did buy a bunch of green pears, thinking I might need to add them to make enough to bother with. Instead, I ended up making a separate batch of green pear jam, which has an unfortunate colour. If I ever do that again I will definitely peal them first!



I use the jam recipe provided by a book by the author of blog NWEdible, Hands On Home by Erica Strauss. She's not blogging for free any longer, but there are still plenty of great articles at NW Edible Life

I got a surprise gift of a bunch of crab apples which I'm still working on.   


I have another project to re-process some mixed fruit: strawberries (from Brockbushes - a much better deal), red currants (gifted from a friend's allotment) and gooseberries (from our own 2-year old bushes!). I'm still trying to decide whether to boil it down further (as Erica does) or whether to give in and add pectin.  A lot of the strawberries went into vodka, and sloes into gin and blackberries into whisky, mainly for Christmas presents. 

Then to work on the damsons and more blackberries for more jam. I made so much jam and jelly during 2020 that we're quite spoiled to the pleasures of homemade, far less sweet than storebought.  Life is busy here in late summer/early autumn.


Still waiting for our seven apples to be ready to pick!



Thursday, 30 September 2021

September Book List Update-

My reading seems to be slowing down these past months. I think that's a good thing. I'm socialising a bit more, knitting frantically for Christmas, foraging and making jam & jelly!


September - 8 

- Past Caring, Robert Goddard

- The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro

- Young Sherlock Holmes - Death Cloud, Andrew Lane

- *Women's Lives and Clothes during WW2, Lucy Adlington

- The Red Ribbon, Lucy Adlington

- The Offing, Benjamin Myers

- The Dictionary of Lost Words, Pip Williams

- The Sewing Machine, Natalie Fergie

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Things I've Made

I've fallen down the genealogy rabbit hole again. My cousin, John, in Buffalo NY helped me work out another person to test as being my possible first cousin (once removed). The test will be sent off to Duluth, Minnesota soon and then a daughter from Chicago needs to visit to help set up her mother's account. It will be about a month after it is sent off when I know.... I'm very excited!

I thought I'd post about what I've been making, then realised I've told you about the big thing - Isla's cardigan. It suits her well, if it is a bit big (which is a good thing!). I'd love to show you a photo, but her father - who works in IT - has views about his children's online privacy, so I need to respect that. Sarah shares photos with family and I have to say they are gorgeous. Nothing to do with me, I know, but I feel very lucky to participate. I have a blue sweater / jumper on my needles which hopefully will be ready for Struan by Christmas. I hope to do another cardigan for Isla, the same pattern as before but with a hood on it. Struan's sweater will be BRIGHT blue (he's madly in love with blue just now). I found some coral red for Isla's hoodie and I think it will suit her well. 


One thing I don't think I showed you was the green bag I made for Katie, Simon's wife, last spring. I'd started it a long time ago and just got around to finishing it in time for her April birthday.   (I've clearly lost my mind) bag I made for my lovely friend Pat's 75th birthday. I made it in green and purple (Women's Institute colours) and white (which makes it suffragette colours). It has a pocket on the outside and two inner pockets, one on each side.





The other thing was that I finished the knitted blanket I began 2-3? years ago. I can't begin to say how thrilled I am to be done with it. Knitting patterned squares was a much bigger challenge than I'd expected, and I needed so many of them! in spite of having only made a half-sized blanket. This knitted blanket has obvious errors in it - some of the squares got put in sideways - but I'm not prepared to fix them. I think it just adds to the hippy-dippy 1960s look all the more (a bit more psychedelic, man). 



Then there were loads of leftover bits of yarn from that, which I made into my usual granny square type of throw.



Finally, I've been doing a few Innocent smoothie hats for Struan to play with. These are all the rage just now in my WI Craft Group, but I tend to do the ordinary hats. Much faster and Age UK gets 25pence for each hat whether they are fancy or plain. I'll do fancy for Struan, but not for Age UK. If that makes me mean, so be it.


This is a bird called a 'blue tit'. It took me a
long time to get used to that name.

This pattern is called a 'cheeky monkey'. 'Cheeky' seems to
be a word that refers to mischievous behaviour on the part
of children that is being accepted as 'cute'. 




Tuesday, 31 August 2021

August Book List Update

2021 Total to Date: 79 (67 / 12); *18 non-fiction

New Books; re-read books

 August - 9

- *Respectable, Lynsey Hanley

- The Pull of the Stars, Emma Donoghue

- The Architect's Apprentice, Elif Shafak

- *Who Owns England? How We Lost Our Land and How to Take it Back, Guy Shrubsole

- Ghosts, Dolly Alderton

- Heidi, Johanna Spyri

- Pretties, Scott Westerfeld

- The Shadow Sister, Lucinda Riley

- The Clockmaker's Daughter, Kate Morton




Sunday, 15 August 2021

Mom's Birthday

I'm posting this on the right date, but admit to being rather late on this, which sort or surprises me. If there is any birthdate I'm ready to remember, it's Mom's. But life has been rather busy lately and much of it has had me thinking of her.

I always think of her when I'm sewing, but also when knitting. She taught me knitting and crochet when I was very young - 7 or 8 years old. I remember making a crochet poodle, named Pierre when I was 8. I'm sure I had loads of help. 

I also remember one Christmas in my 20s when she gave me a dozen sweaters she'd knitted for me in the previous year. I was astounded. I'm sad to say I can only recall a few:

a grey cardigan

an oatmeal coloured dolman sleeved sweater (jumper)

3 vests (waistcoats) in baby blue, light pink and purple

short sleeved sweaters (jumpers) in cranberry and another a red

I know I still have the first two and the blue waistcoat up on the attic. I'm sad I can't remember the other five sweaters, perhaps they'll come to me in time. They were all made with acrylic yarn except the dolman sleeved thing which was cotton. They weren't exactly up to date styles either, but I wore them as much as I could. Perhaps the other five were just too unfashionable, I don't recall. I remember the red short sleeved top was a bit scratchy and I wore a cami underneath to make it tolerable to wear.

My roses didn't fare well this year after we ran off to Scotland for a couple of weeks (to see Sarah and her young family) when they most needed dead heading. When I finally tidied them up there wasn't much left. These white roses were hanging down, droopy, so I cut them and put them on the dining table. I didn't know if the buds would bloom, but they did and I've just caught them before they began to drop petals. When thinking about this post I remembered that white roses are a symbol of eternal love. The words 'white rose' are engraved on Mom's wedding ring, which I now wear as mine. 




I've been busy working on a sweater for 3 month old Isla, Bill's newest (and probably last) grandchild. Since her mother, Sarah, has Isla's brother Struan calling me 'Grandma Shelley' and has been quite positive about the idea of my knitting and sewing for her kids, I guess I can say I'm knitting a cardigan for my granddaughter, Isla. It feels a bit weird to say that, but it's lovely at the same time. 






I also managed to crochet a frog for Struan. He named him Gordon. I'm still working on the dinosaur pattern, I may need to consult with some other knitters who managed this one.



I found this pattern on a blog called Oliver Boliver. I can see there is a lot more there to explore.

We had a wonderful weekend, in spite of the rainy weather. We had barbequed chicken, potato salad and carrots and broccoli in the tent, after I toasted/microwaved Struan's dinner: beans on toast. He sat in the motorhome quietly entertaining himself while I cooked dinner, careful to instruct me he needed butter on his toast. 

We had a lovely walk in the woods at Kielder Forest, taking in all the sites and signs. It rained quite hard at one point but as I was very warm and mostly waterproof, I loved it. It wasn't warm rain but it did feel like being a child again and playing in the rain. The raindrops on all the different plants sparkled beautifully after. We walked past the first really dark forest I believe I've ever seen - completely black and impenetrable. Sadly, I didn't think to bring my camera.

Saturday night it was raining so we all crammed into the motorhome - my covid red flags all seemed to have evaporated somehow, but then all the adults are fully vaccinated. We had barbequed ribs, rice and ratatouille (leftover from another meal at home). Sarah and Gareth provided wine and desserts for both meals and I got to 'cook for company' for the first time in ages. 

Struan came back to supervise my making his dinner again Saturday and watched me packing up Sunday morning. It may have been that he enjoyed being in a new space, one without a baby sister, but he let me cuddle him a bit and help him on and off with his waterproofs. I felt wholly honoured by his company. I'm grateful Sarah is a generous woman to give me 'granny rights'. My Mom would be so pleased for me. 

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Reading List 2021

Blogger often does have its little (or big) hitches. I'm a bit fed up of not being able to update my reading list. If I finished a book and put it on here you can generally consider it a general recommendation. Exceptions have (?) after the listing. I accept they may have been widely acclaimed, but I didn't much care for them; that said, I managed to finish them. I've finally given myself permission not to waste hours of my ever-shortening life on things I really hate that are completely voluntary (what took me so long?) 

So I guess that will be at least a monthly update here about what I've read during the month.  

Reading List 2021

Finished - 72 (61 / 11) *Non-fiction: 16; Orange titles new, black white titles re-reads)

July - 11

- Eliza Rose, Lucy Worsley

- The Dutch House, Anne Patchett

- The Hunting Party, Lucy Foley

- *Elizabeth David on Vegetables, compiled by Jill Norman

- *Mary's Household Tips and Tricks - Your Guide to Happiness in the Home, Mary Berry

- *Cute Clothes for Kids, Robert Merrett

- *RHS Vegetables for the Gourmet Gardener - old, new, common and curious vegetables, Simon Akeroyd

- Get Shorty, Elmore Leonard

- The Paris Library, Janet Skeslien Charles

- Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain

- Uglies, Scott Westerfeld


June - 11

- Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens

- *The Miracle Pill, Peter Walker

- Turn on the Heat, A.A. Fair (Erle Stanley Gardner)

- The Bigger They Come, A.A. Fair (Erle Stanley Gardner)

- *A Life on Our Planet, David Attenborough

- Raven Girl, Audry Niffenegger

- The Sweetness of Forgetting, Kristen Harmel

- The Day of the Storm, Rosamunde Pilcher

- The Forgotten Seamstress, Liz Trenow

- Y is for Yesterday, Sue Grafton

- X, Sue Grafton


May - 11

- W is for Wasted, Sue Grafton

- V is for Vengeance, Sue Grafton

- Shuggie Bain, Douglas Stuart

- *There is No Planet B, Mike Berners-Lee

- Shadow and Bone, Leigh Bardugo

- The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark (?)

- The Storm Sister, Lucinda Riley

- Phoenix Rising, Bryony Pearce

- *Murder on the Home Front, Molly LeFebrure

- Rodham, Curtis Sittenfeld

- *Penelope Fitzgerald - a Life, Hermione Lee


April - 11

- Enola Holmes - The Case of the Missing Marquess, Nancy Springer

- The Rose Code, Kate Quinn

- Tehanu, Ursula K. LeGuin

- The Farthest Short, Ursula K. LeGuin

- Simple Genius, David Balducci

- The Tombs of Atuan, Ursula K. LeGuin

- 1st to Die, James Patterson

- A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. LeGuin

- The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison

- Anne of the Island, Lucy Maud Montgomery

- Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi


March - 12

- A Time of Fire, Robert Westall

- The Mermaid of Black Conch, Monique Roffey

- The Violets are Blue, James Patterson

- Skellig, David Almond

- Dark Hollow, John Connolly

- *How Bad are Bananas?, Mike Berners-Lee

- Hour Game, David Balducci

- S is for Silence, Sue Grafton

- Mrs. Lincoln, Janis Cooke Newman

- The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker

- *The Moment of Life - How Empowering Women Changes the World, Melinda Gates

- R is for Ricochet, Sue Grafton


February - 10

- *A Life on Our Planet - My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future, David Attenborough

- Split Second, David Baldacci

- Roses are Red, James Patterson

- *Threads of Life - A History of the World through the Eye of a Needle, Clare Hunter

- Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout (?)

- The Christmas Train, David Balducci

- The Giver of Stars, JoJo Moyes

- Q is for Quary, Sue Grafton 

- *Permanent Record, Edward Snowden

- *Sew...The Garment-Making Book of Knowledge, Barbara Emodi


January - 6

- Every Dead Think, John Connolly

- Pop Goes the Weasel, James Patterson

- The Thursday Murder Club, Richard Osman

- M is for Malice, Sue Grafton

- N is for Noose, Sue Grafton

- *Born a Crime, Trevor Noah


Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Roses and Gooseberries

Having started a Garden Group for my WI, I've had to up my game in this area. I've learned a bit but of course still have miles to go. I deliberately didn't call it 'Gardening' as I thought some would be put off by this: taking pleasure in someone else's garden or in visiting a garden centre counts in my group!

I knew some time ago that the least harmful way to fight aphids on one's roses was to wipe them off with a rag and soapy water - bathe them in a manner of speaking. Up until now I've left it with Bill who sprayed them with some sort of chemical, with only moderate success. So I did the bath thing a couple of times and it's worked a treat. 

Another thing I read somewhere was to soak banana peels in water and pour this on the roses' roots. Apparently this feeds them potassium, which they crave. I've no idea if this is fact or fiction but I've done it this spring and now have loads of buds.





My roses seem to come out much later than most, but they do hang about for quite a while. I see loads of potential there and just the first few pink blooms.

Also, I kept reading that gooseberries came in June but we saw none on our two youngish gooseberry bushes, in spite of having had a small crop last year. Then one day I lifted a branch - prickly things they are - and saw a neat row of pale green berries underneath! But they were tiny, no bigger than peas. So I did some internet research and found the advice to pick alternate berries and leave the remainder to grow and ripen into July and August. So that's what I've done.



In a very old book, Every Man His Own Gardener, by John Abercrombie (published in 1782), I found the advice to prune gooseberry bushes in the shape of an umbrella. I can see how this would make everything a lot tidier, which is very useful when dealing with something as prickly as this.


I found this book at Berrington Hall a few years ago when we were down sound for Simon's wedding. I have been working at indexing my digital photos of late. This is a wonderful way to re-discover what you've done with your life, also to find new topics never before blogged about.