Monday, 21 September 2020

World Alzheimer's Day

Hello Friends

Today, September 21st is World Alzheimer's Day.  I lost my darling  mother to this dreadful disease not once, but twice, as she mentally and physically slipped away long before her body finally gave up the battle.

By now, most of us probably know someone who has been, or is affected by some form of Dementia.  The numbers affected, sadly, grow each passing day and many have the beginnings of it long before it is even noticed as a problem.  

One thing I find everyone, without fail, says to me as they sadly have a loved one diagnosed is that they now understand what we were going through with Mum.  You see, one of the biggest problems with Alzheimer's is that the person looks so well, usually up until it is Stage 3.  They are far from well, and we need to raise awareness of this fact so we can all make their lives more bearable.

I once had it described to me thus:

Think of your mother's memory as a bookshelf.  The bottom shelf is when she was born, and each shelf going up is a fresh decade in her life.  As you reach the top, suddenly, a book falls out and too the floor, and no matter how hard you try, you cannot pick it up and put it back.  Slowly, the books all begin to fall out, and with each book that falls, so do the memories fade never to return.  Eventually, there will be no books left on any of the shelves, and the book case is empty.

My mother had the most beautiful smile, and it could light up a room.  My cousins gave me a rose in her memory; it is called Betty's Smile.  Mum's smile continued to light up her face with it's precious light, right up to the end.  It is my most treasured memory.

Please, become aware of the signs of the beginnings of Alzheimer's Disease.  Although there is no cure, yet, there are medications and assistance available to help people cope, to maintain a good quality of life and independence for longer, and that is so important.

I miss my Mum each and every day, and I pray for those of you who have loved ones going through this dreadful journey, which at the time of a pandemic, must be unthinkably difficult.

Until next time
Stay Safe, Stay Well

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Facing up to Face Masks

Hello Friends!

It's a sign of the times, I haven't been out since my last trip to the hair dresser in early March, the time is here that I must gird up my loins, as they say, and start going out again.

As we know, it is now de rigueur to be responsible and respectful by wearing a face mask in public places, so I thought it was about time I made some.

If you want to make your own, there are more than enough instructional video links on YouTube, and it's well worth looking at them, then pick and choose what will work best for you, and a few of them generously share their discoveries and solutions to problems, such as gapping, and misting up of glasses.  I looked at several before deciding and mine will be the machine washable at 60* triple layer masks, rather than the type with a disposable filter, which you still have to wash.

I have a stash of suitable cotton fabrics, and suitable linings. To begin with, I picked an inexpensive fabric with a pretty and delicate purple print, and after measuring my face, across from mid point between my nose and ear, and from the bridge of my nose to my chin, I cut two 9 x 5 inch rectangles.  I cut the same from a piece of old towelling sheet, and two 7" pieces of soft, 1/4 inch elastic. 

I worked through the construction process, made a few mistakes, but then, et voilĂ !  One reusable, washable face mask.

After trying it, I found the fit was not to my liking, if it covered my nose and tucked up under my glasses it sat too high up on my chin and barely covered my mouth, so I made another, cutting my rectangle 9 inches x 7 inches, and that has worked just fine.  It's the larger version I am showing in the {dreadful} photo, above, of my model. 

I now have to work out how I will add the Prym metal nose bars which I bought from Empress Mills, link below.

Lots of places sell pretty fabric, or you can use old cotton sheets, pyjamas, in fact almost any fabric is good as long as it is a close weave.  I did buy some fabric to make a special cat themed one for a friend, and I also got matching elastic.  Of course, I couldn't resist the pretty floral print at the time either.  I found the quality and service from Empress Mills exemplary. They have a lot of lovely fabrics too!

The seemingly white elastic is actually pale lilac and perfectly matches the cat pattern fabric.

I am now thinking about making a little matching bag for each of my masks to help keep them clean and tidy in my handbag or pocket while out and about.


If you are wearing disposable, one time use, masks, please, please dispose of them responsibly.  Already, photos of birds and small mammals injured or trapped by the elastics are flooding the internet.  A simple snip to split the elastic loops is all you need to do, and then bin it.

Moving on.  

My first outing was a very short walk along a nearby lane.  Normally it's deserted.  I've walked it for years and hardly ever see a soul!  That particular day, I met seven people, and no, I wasn't going to St Ives.  Seven! We were all very respectful to each other, but I was the only one with a mask.  Not that one is required in such places, I was testing it out.

I was shocked to see such a huge amount of Ragwort liking the path.

The lovely view at the end of the path  How I have missed it! đź’—

Continuing to use the new style Blogger and discovering and playing with some of the new features, today's play is with the new fonts option, which I like, and discovering access to my Instagram photos via a Google App I didn't know I had, and thanks to Ragged Robin telling me about it, I've inserted a quirky emoji!

Until next time
Be responsible, stay safe, stay well
Deborah xoxo

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Vintage Cookery Books and Pottery

 Hello Friends!

Thank you to those of you who have clicked on the Follow button lately.  The more, the merrier!  It's lovely to have you here.

Before I forget, those of you who asked about the Kitchen Sink cake I wrote about here, you might like to know that it freezes very well indeed.

On the subject of baking, I found some old, vintage cookery books and pamphlets.  Look at the first one, 2/6d {two shillings and sixpence} pre decimalisation!  I wonder if Woman's Weekly is still in print? I remember that magazine, and also Woman's Realm as regular, weekly purchases Mum made from the little newsagents on the bottom of the Cross Square in the village.

The newsagents, called Gwalia, was run by two spinster sisters, the Misses Williams, who lived above the shop.  During the Second World War, my grandmother delivered newspapers for them, and, apparently, they would swap their coffee and tea rations.  Later, the business passed into the hands of Mr and Mrs Hurley.  My mother worked there during the 1960's and 70's. 

My own memories of Gwalia are the wonderful window displays at Christmas, filled with books, annuals, quality toys and other seasonal things to tempt the village children. Standing on our tippy toes, we children would press our eager faces up to the small windows for a closer look, in excited anticipation that Father Christmas would bring us at least one lovely thing in our stockings on Christmas Eve.  

The owners, rather sensibly, ran a Christmas Club, and Mum always saved, putting in a regular, weekly amount, so come Christmas week, the house would slowly fill with sweets and treats as she spent her Club. I recall, fondly, the boxes of chocolates: Milk Tray, Dairy Milk, Black Magic, and Terry's All Gold, along with chocolate covered Brazil nuts, and Turkish Delight. A proper, old fashioned Cadbury's Selection Box for Daddy and me to share on Christmas morning, and always a book that would suddenly appear, half hidden under the tree after Christmas dinner was over. 

Since then, the premises has expanded into what was once the downstairs sitting room, and has been a number of things, including a cafĂ©, a grocery shop, and it is now a tourist style gift shop occupying all the former living quarters.  In the annexe there once was a small clothes shop; it is now a tempting chocolate boutique. 

I digress, but it shows how things change over the decades.  Nothing remains the same.

Here are the books and pamphlets I found.

This one came with our very first electric cooker.  Great was the excitement, and Mum was even encouraged to join in a evening class in the local school on Cordon Bleu cooking.  We ate very well!

This tickled me, I had never heard of Brochette Cookery, and all I can hear is Hyacinth Bucket saying Brochette in her own, inimitable style.

These have some interesting recipes, and I may try some out in the future. They are fairly basic, but it might make an interesting project for the Winter months. The Hartley's Book of Interest is full of tips, puzzles and games.

Final booklet for today, How to Decorate a Cake.  This is a skill I have never mastered.  My rosettes and shells always increase exponentially in size as I go along.

What do you do with a sweet little teapot, slightly chipped and missing the lid?  Why, plant it up with a tiny piece of cactus that fell off a plant, of course.

I am slowly going through boxes of belongings which have been packed away for ages.  I live in fervent hope of finding another "Ollie the Owl" {fans of the Antiques Roadshow will know what I mean} so that I can retire, but no such luck, yet.  The treasures of my forebears may not yield much in money, but they hold the memories of life times of love.

I remember these!  Every Christmas, they would come out of Mum's box of decorating bits and bobs. There were always two Christmas cakes, as well as a Chocolate Log.  One was painstakingly decorated with patterns of perfectly and patiently drawn, delicate lines of royal icing, embellished with rosettes, shells, and swirls, all in white with silver dragees.  Nothing short of pure elegance.  Then, just for me, a small cake with a frosty, whipped snow scene of robins, snowmen, holly, a Santa with his reindeer and sleigh, and these two, tiny pottery ornaments.

Then, I found this jar, possibly a honey pot or jam pot for the breakfast table.  No markings, just "Foreign" stamped on the bottom, but a quaintly charming, bucolic scene of haymaking in delicate colours.

Finally, for today, someone at one time must have collected Toby jugs, for there are many, some quite tiny and would only hold an ounce.  They aren't my cup of tea, but here's an unusual one, and as a seamstress I suppose I feel a connection to this fun little Toby of a Tailor.  It is Made in Staffordshire, England, numbered 781 TAILOR, and is marked Roy Kirkham Pottery.  

I Googled the name and apparently the company was established in the early 1970's, producing character jugs and figurines.  What they produce today, which you can see here, is very different, and very pretty and desirable.

I love the knowing way he peers over his spectacles, don't you?  It's there whichever angle you look at.

Until next time
Stay safe, stay well
Deborah xoxo

Monday, 31 August 2020

A Hybrid Bake

 Hello Friends!

It's been the kind of weather that has felt better to be in the kitchen rather than outside of late, so I have been busy with my pots and pans, baking up a storm, no pun intended, with all the windfall apples.

My neighbours and I have one thing in common right now.  We all have huge amounts of windfall apples. We have tried offering them to each other, but we are all politely declining as we have mountains of our own.

One thing I dislike, and I know many of you do too, is food waste.  So, the other afternoon to use up the some of windfall apples I have, I baked an Apple Cranberry Crisp and an Apple Mincemeat Pie. After all, there's only so much apple sauce one can make, and it  was inevitable there would be something left over.

It turns out, it was the smallest piece of pastry and a tiny amount of crisp topping, so what could I do with them? Not enough to warrant freezing, and the oven was still hot.  I pulled out an individual serving size loose bottomed tin, rolled out the pastry and there was just enough to line it. I peeled and thinly sliced a small windfall and layered it in the pie crust, and gently patted the left over crisp topping over the apple.  I baked, on a tray, for about 25 to 30 minutes in a moderate oven until it was cooked and cooled in the tin. 

Et voila!  A hybrid apple pie crisp, or apple crisp pie.  it was delicious with a smidgeon of Greek yogurt, but will go equally well with your choice of sauce, and is good warm or cold.  I think it shows promise, and I shall make a larger one next time. I now have to come up with a name for it.  Maybe Hybrid Pie?  Do you have a suggestion?

The small, deep fluted tin I used was bought to make individual quiche.  I have yet to use the set for that purpose, maybe I will make some this week.  Quiche is always acceptable for lunch or supper in my cottage, and useful to have in the freezer.

As an aside, I am shocked to learn that almost all the shops in my nearest town have, apparently, done away with social distancing, have no staff on hand to guide shoppers, and now allow entire families in to shop.  It is, by all accounts, as if we turned the clocks back to early March and Covid never happened.

Until next time
Be responsible and stay safe
Deborah xo

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

A Leap of Faith

Hello Friends!

I have taken a huge Leap of Faith and now the border in front of my patio and French window that looks out over the lawn sports a gaping gap, almost end to end, where the Pieris, buddleia, and Frances E Lester rambler bloomed of late.  They are still there, but greatly reduced in size as they were getting out of hand, blocking my view of the garden and keeping all the late afternoon sunshine off the low, raised borders that mark the edges of the patio and the lawn restricting planting choices. 

It's a risk I've had to take, a Leap of Faith, for I needed to open up the space so that I can find the original edges to the lawn border to enable me to get in and clean it.  It's hard enough weeding on your hands and knees to begin with, but even more difficult when you can't see what you are doing because of leaf laden branches on shrubs, or worse, being impaled on dagger like rose bush thorns. 

I know the rambler will be fine.  Most roses, delicate though they appear, are tough as old boots and respond well to a good pruning.  

The buddleia, well, we all know that they are nigh on impossible to kill.

It's the Pieris that worries me.  It was a gift from Dad's niece.  I have researched it well, and apparently they, like camellias, can take hard cutting back, almost to ground level.  It was getting leggy, all top growth and woody stems, so I've made the Leap of Faith and cut it right back, hard.  Very hard.


Now all that's needed is to clean around them, feed them, and tidy up the remains to make good shapes as they regenerate and regrow.

I had planned on making the borders deeper and having a little less lawn, but now I have found the stone edging, which has been hidden for years, I realise it's the original edging put in place by my Mum about thirty eight years ago, and I like it more than I remember, so am leaving it as it is.

Finally, the small, raised border will have better light and fair play for me to plant out the potted and patio roses and lavenders that I so long to see from my window.

Storm Ellen battered us, followed by an unprecedented second named August storm in under a week with Storm Francis. On the day in between I got out and did as much post Summer tidying up as I could manage, and picked another 2lbs of blackberries.  That's four pounds in two picks.  I have already enjoyed an apple and blackberry pie, and turned the rest into juice for making jelly.

I successfully avoided walking headlong into these lovelies and although I doubt they survived the recent weather I know more will have already taken their place.  It might be time to cut those seed heads if I'm going to use them this Autumn.

One of the great comforts during lockdown life has been rediscovering bread making. What a joy it is, to create something so simple yet so immensely satisfying as a loaf of bread.  Here's one I baked the other day, a rustic Farmhouse loaf.  Perfectly crusty on the outside and delightfully light and soft on the inside.  Absolute heaven toasted and slathered in unsalted Welsh butter with Marmite and slightly softened cheese on top.  Of course, you may prefer a different topping.

Then, there have been several bowls of windfalls after the storms.

Sometimes, these apples are Snow White red all the way through.  So pretty, and often the applesauce turns out quite pink, but not this time.

My favourite way to use these up is to make applesauce, but think I'd like to make another applesauce cake again, or an apple topped cinnamon cake. Delicious.  This time, I kept it chunky.

In clearing some corners, I found these.  Mum and Dad were given some garden centre vouchers about twenty years ago, and picked these garden ornaments.  I had forgotten all about them but am so happy to have found them, and I love how they are weathering.

It's funny, I have never been a fan of garden ornaments, but now I cherish these dearly.  I've cleaned them up, not too much, for I love the aging affect of lichen growing on things, and now they adorn the lawn, along with my Ddraig Goch.  I wonder what he dreams of?

Do  not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup!  

He needs a small make over, and I think we can arrange that.

In honour of the turning seasons, I have brought out my Autumn Sunflower socks.  They're ever so comfy as well as looking pretty.  Almost too pretty to wear shoes with, but in the cottage of a seamstress, going barefoot, no matter how comfortable, is not a good idea at all.  

My Happy Socks! How can you not smile when you see Happy Sunflower Socks?

Until next time
Be responsible, and stay safe
Deborah xo

Friday, 21 August 2020

A Retrospective of Summer Flowers

Hello Friends!

As I wrote nothing during the last month, I thought I'd take a retrospective look back at some of the photos of flowers I took while I was away. That's away as in not blogging, not away as in on holiday. Chance would be a fine thing.  I had actually planned my first holiday in over fourteen years this Summer. So much for that!  After this look at the Summer garden, it will be time to move into Autumnal focused writing.

We have had a few days that gave a promise, a gentle whisper, that Summer was here, but then she backed away allowing the all too familiar cold wind and rain, more reminiscent of Winter, to rampage across much of the United Kingdom.  April and May were dry, but oh, have we made up for the lack of rain?  Wind and rain, that familiar marriage of garden destruction followed in abundance, yet, nature never fails to amaze with resilience, and the most wonderful way of bouncing back, so in a few days all was on the mend as new growth burgeoned forth.

For the last fortnight, almost all of the United Kingdom has baked, roasted, and melted in scorching, record breaking heat, while in my corner of the world we have shivered, sitting under a blanket of heavy sea fog that kept us cold and wondering what's happened to Summer.  

As I type this, we are coming to the end of three days of an early Autumn storm, Storm Ellen, which lashed us, unexpectedly, with brutal winds and torrential rain.  Little is left in bloom now, and these are all photos I took before the storm.

What little food crops I had left are strangely flattened, even my strawberries succumbed, and there has been a basketful of windfall apples which have already been turned into applesauce.

I am thankful that I brought in the last of the Betty's Smile and popped them in a sweet little vintage, decorative, porcelain vase.

When I look at the corner where the Crocosmia are growing, it is a gentle reminder of the Summer that should have been.  All is not lost, for September and October can be fine months.

Lucifer stood bigger, bolder and brighter than anything else for weeks.  Sometimes, I look at the flowers and see fire breathing dragons with long, flowing tails where seed heads will soon appear.

In the same corner is my white lavender.  It is in need of much tlc, so I think once this flowering season is done I must take cuttings, for although small, it has good merit, is delightfully fragrant and a perfect addition to a tussie mussie.

Another Crocosmia, more orange than fiery red, and much smaller, but no less stunning sits in another corner, bringing flavours of Summer to the border.

Here's a particular favourite photo of mine of Lucifer

Nearby, the buddleia's purple flowers pop brightly, contrasting against the red hot orange, with a flourish of lime green from a nearby shrub. 

As the season slowly turns, so the turn of the Japanese Wind Anemones arrives in the border. Their long, elegant stems sway gracefully, even in the fiercest of gusts; the pristine, white flowers with their bright yellow centres looking like fried eggs atop the bamboo canes of a plate spinning act. I love this flower in my late Summer border.

Turning a corner, there are a few rich, buttery lemon yellow Evening Primrose in and around too, having chosen their own spots to flourish.  Seeds to be harvested soon, I hope.

The clematis finally put in an appearance, but I am sad to say that something has helped itself to bites of both leaf and petal.  Here are a couple of the better ones.

Well, I want to delete that last photo, but cannot find where to click! Piffle. {answers in the comments, please, if you know how!}

The mints are in full flower too, and I really wish I could share the heady, minty fragrance that scents the air in this corner, where Morning Glories also flourish.

A very pretty combination. I love purple, green and white together.  Simple and clean looking, and very pleasing to my eye.

I'm happy to say at the moment, although there are a few blips every so often, and there's a lot of stuff to work out and discover, I am getting on with this new Blogger platform better than I expected, especially given some of the things I have read.  I'll get there eventually, and will not be moving over to WordPress {which I find particularly tricky to use} but hope Blogger leaves things be for a good, long while now.

Until next time
Be responsible, and stay safe and well.
Deborah xoxo