Friday, 16 February 2018

Foraging Lessons - Part I

We had a very interesting speaker at one of our WI meetings last year. I get the impression that most of the women don't follow up on any of these talks, but I have gotten good value by doing so. The speaker was from Wild North Discovery and he talked about foraging for food. I took his card, meaning to look into it further.

I didn't think of it again much until casting about for Christmas gifts for Bill. He has most of what he wants and if he doesn't he just buys it. Unlike me, who makes lists and waits...

I bought a membership for each of us, knowing he wouldn't be keen on going by himself. And anyhow, I was really interested in it as well. We both enjoy foraging for berries and the like and Bill likes being outdoors, so I figured it was worth a shot.

We had our first meeting on Sunday. We gathered at St. Mary's Lighthouse on a day when pouring rain was predicted. He just told us to dress accordingly in waterproofs. Also to bring a notebook, a camera and a stick. 

About 15 people showed up and checked in, about an hour before low tide. We went clambering around on the slippery rocks, following him around. He showed us several kinds of seaweed: I remember bladder wrack and something like serrated wrack, kelp, lavar and perhaps sea lettuce and pepper dulse? Not sure how many of these I'd recognise again, probably the bladder wrack. 

He told us we wouldn't likely find razor shells or cockles on this rocky beach but showed us the shells and talked about how to cook them. He explained the difference between bi-valves and grazers. I was fascinated to learn about limpets. I always thought they were barnacles, but barnacles don't move and limpets do, to feed. He pointed out the bald places on the rocks near the clusters of limpets, indicating they had eaten the vegetation that covered most other rocks. Who knew limpets had teeth? I was just grateful they could cling to rocks so well; they helped me not slide around so much.

Those three bumps are limpets...and perhaps a bit of bird poo?

We got lucky with the weather, with just a light shower at one point. The sun was out for a good while at the beginning and the end, but for all that it was perishing cold! And guess who forgot to bring a hat (Bill - though he had a hood) and who didn't think of running gloves, only that dress gloves would hamper writing and photographing. I made do with stretching the long sleeves on my wool cardigan. I also discovered that a waterproof that covers ones rear end and has stuffed pockets makes navigating through slippery rocks and knee-high crevices very hard for this short person.

That straight edge on the right in the beige stuff has a tiny row of teeth!

Bruce is a mine of useful information. Whether I'd ever get Bill to eat 'squidgy stuff' (his words) like limpets or winkles, I'd bet not; I'm pretty sure we'll go foraging for some seaweed at some point, though! We were told not to gather on that day as there were so many of us we could wipe out the resources there and 'sustainability' is part of our lessons.

Our next gathering isn't until spring and it's somewhere in a forest. I'm really looking forward to it!

St Mary's Lighthouse, built 1898 on the site of an 11th century monastic chapel. 

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Clara, the Clock and the Candles - Part III

So, what about Clara? Well, let me introduce you to her:

Her name is Clara.

She was right next to the clock that I bought and I knew it was love at first sight for Bill. I was rather taken with her myself, but I probably wouldn't have brought her home just for me. I doubted he would purchase her either, but as his 70th birthday is this March, splashing out for something special seemed a good idea.

I asked the man his best price on her before I purchased the clock. He took a bit off both and I took him up on them, feeling quite pleased with the deal. Also, his tables were in aide of a Veterans' organisation, apparently, so that was good as well.

Dancing certainly has kept her fit, hasn't it?

Last month I was darning my cashmere socks, sewing the elastic back on my underwear, we've been eating down the freezers and cupboards and I had a dry January; but I'm prepared to spend a bit on things I really like that I think will hold their value.

When we unpacked our goodies I asked Bill what was her name. He suggested Ola (my Grandmother who was very flapper-like in her attitudes when young, I'm sure) but I thought Ola sounded more turn-of-the-last-century hillbilly country. We tried Olga (Grandmother's improvement on her original name), but that didn't seem right either. My other grandmother was named Clara, and so Clara she became. Still a bit old fashioned, but it seems to have stuck. 

I tried her in several places, but Bill thought she looked happiest in the corner where Mom's chiming clock used to be. 

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Clara, the Clock and the Candles - Part II

We went back to the Fleamarket on Sunday, in large part to observe how it might have changed. When I first moved here Saturday's market was more of a yard sale / car boot sale thing. I bought kitchen stuff - plates, cutlery, pots and pans - to use until my possessions arrived from the States. I found an old crockpot, a standard lamp and any number of useful items on Saturdays. 

Sundays were more about collectables: fancy china sets, very weird WWII memorabilia (Nazi stuff even), tons of costume jewellery sellers. There were still book stalls on a Sunday, so that if I didn't get to the library before noon on Saturday, when it - and every other business I needed - shut, I could buy paperbacks for 25p (they are at least £1 now, but still a bargain).

The market has changed a lot in recent years to something much more upmarket. There are very few tables that sell old household goods and I saw none with any old electrical items. There is a wide array of (incredibly tempting) ethnic fast foods. There are up-cycled goods, such as wood items made from pallets or gorgeous bags and jackets made from re-cycled wool, tweed and leather. There are loads of handmade jewellery stalls, funky crafted items, stalls specialising in 'coastal' home decor. There are still some second hand clothing stalls, but the prices are higher than in thrift shops; then again, the merchandise is carefully curated. Bill likes the stall that sells fancy Failsworth flat caps in a patchwork of several Harris tweeds. I like the garden centre in the back corner. 

In short, it's a fabulous place in which to empty your pockets, one reason we don't visit often. So we went mainly to observe the changes (and to look for candle holders). I would say it was about 70% the same sellers. There was a bit more empty space on Sunday than on Saturday - but still plenty to browse. 

We found some glass candle sticks at the first table we came to, but in the interest of observing, made the entire rounds again. When we returned, we gave the lady £7 for the pair and for a small lidded sugar bowl. None are ideal, but will do for the time being. I think these clear glass candle sticks came from a 'bedroom set'. I never saw such a thing in the States, but they are still easily found at flea markets here. These sets consisted of a tray, a couple of glass bowls (with or without lids) and two candle holders. They were meant to be on a ladies chest of drawers or perhaps a dressing table. I'm not sure when they went out of fashion.

I had an idea when we got home and made this arrangement using two seld0m used flower vases (one I gave Mom, one that was Bill's mother's). The two candle holders on those upturned vases belonged to my Grandma and Grandpa. The shortest one came from some previous trip to the market long ago. I added it to the recent purchase to made an odd number. This is something I've only learned since retiring, that somehow odd numbers make a more pleasing design. 

The candle arrangement looks a bit mental, I know, but that's part of the fun. We smile when we see it and the cut glass looks rather nice when the candles are lit. Pity my camera / photography skills aren't likely up to capturing it. 

I'm not really a candle person, actually, other than at dinner. I used to like all the paraphernalia of pyromania but my asthma is not always amenable to perfume-y smells and I'm paranoid about house fires. We probably have a lifetime supply of tea lights for various kitschy souvenirs from holidays on the front porch. I expect tea lights are relatively safe, but I never think to light them.

On my 'wish list' for new skills, however, is to learn to make candles - dipped candles, even, at home (and soap, too!). I'll be sure to let you know if that ever happens...

Thursday, 8 February 2018

10 Years Today!

It just occurred to me to check the date and, sure enough, it was 10 years ago that I started writing this blog. Naturally I am away in Harrogate with only my tablet...

There are so many blogs I have read and commented on (and whose writers have commented here) that are no more.  I am feeling a tiny bit smug at not having given up.

Long ago someone told me the way to stack up experience:  don't quit and don't die.

I shall do my best to follow that sage advice!

Happy Blogiversary to me!

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Clara, the Clock and the Candles - Part I

This last Saturday Bill suggested we visit the Tynemouth Fleamarket. We used to go quite often but haven't in months. Bill's kids seem to enjoy browsing there, but I don't tend to go unless I'm looking for something specific. [Warning, this post rambles...]

A few months back we fell into the habit of eating breakfast in the dining room (as opposed to in the kitchen or in bed), using the 'good' Noritake china (which we use for dinner every night of late), our wedding silverware and some silver metal tea/coffee pots that belonged to Bill's mom. The cereals are decanted into glass jars, milk served in jugs (we each have our own) and other foods into non-commercial containers. I got this idea years ago from a blog called Like Merchant Ships. This lady stopped blogging abruptly, but posts occasionally on Tumblr. I thought she'd taken down her blog - I grieved it for months - and now I've found it again! The links don't work and some of the photos are gone, but the basic ideas are still there. She calls this decanting idea part of 'living on less'; I call it 'living better'. Beats the heck out of any fast food breakfast experience I know.

Anyhow, because of setting a fancy breakfast table - it looks great on the days when the sun streams in the window - with silver items, Bill decided the brass candle holder we bought years ago in a Whitby thrift shop didn't look right any more.

We went shopping to see if we could find any silver (glass, ceramic?) candle holders. We were also looking for a sugar bowl with a lid to hold coffee granules. Bill drinks tea at breakfast and I drink instant coffee. We both love improvising (a fancy word for 'making do'). He came up with putting my instant coffee in a short cocktail glass I bought at a brocante in Bourdeaux about five years ago. He provided me with an Apostle Spoon to dish out the small amount of coffee required for a proper cup instead of my usual mug. I always think of Mom when using a cup and saucer; mugs weren't something she ever had. I think they must have taken over after she was gone.

Never heard of Apostle Spoons? Me neither. I still forget and call them Pilgrim Spoons for some reason. Apparently the idea of a set in a nice little case has been around for hundreds of years and these sets are very rare. We seem to only have two...  You can read about Apostle Spoons here, if you wish. [I donated to Wikipedia when they last had out their hat, did you?]

Anyhow, the cocktail glass was only amusing for a few uses and with our damp climate coffee left in it absorbed moisture and hardened. The to-ing and fro-in of coffee between coffee jar and cocktail glass became tedious. So a sugar bowl with a lid was on the shopping list; the one we have actually contains sugar...

I was also looking for a small clock to put on the landing, where we watch TV. I don't own a functioning watch anymore, but we are trying to stop watching the telly and start getting ready for bed at 10 pm sharp. I may be slightly more determined than Bill but it was a nuisance to keep asking him the time. So I wanted a clock.

We found no suitable lidded dish or candle sticks on Saturday, but I did find a clock I loved. It is a French 8-day, Art Deco clock that actually requires winding, possibly the only 'real' clock in the station that day. The website below recommended winding it once a week, on the same day of the week. I let my clock wind down and then re-set it on a Sunday. It was odd, winding it up, as there was increasing resistance with each turn of the key. It was a bit scary! One thing I did notice, it is a solid lump of wood, with space for the clock works carved out and the marquetry added to the front. 

It needs a bit of cleaning, the inside looks a bit grubby and the back plate might look better if polished up (or perhaps that's just worn, I'll find out). Not sure what I might do with the wood, but this amazing website recommends beeswax polish, which we likely have (according to Bill).  If this horologist wasn't all the way down by London I'd be calling in with Mom's old clock.

I'm guessing this is brass, no idea if it will polish up... or not; I'm not fussed. Love the shape of the clock!

Writing this led me Google clock repair near Newcastle and I found a couple of possibilities - who says blogging is a waste of time?

Bill wants to put the clock in the living room, as since Mom's clock quit working we have no time piece in there. I follow his logic, but I'm enjoying the clock where it is now, on the book case. I'd rather have Mom's chiming clock repaired and replaced downstairs. I'll let you know if that happens in my lifetime.

Needs a bit of cleaning, but NO BATTERIES in sight! Only something about '2 jewels'.