Sunday 28 August 2016

Apple Sauce and Wasps

Hello Friends!

Oh, dear, there has been a mishap!  I'm not really sure what happened, but I managed to delete all my photos of the process before I uploaded them ~ sighs ~ so, my friends, only one photo of the ingredients and process today ~ sorry ~ but these things do happen ~~~ as I don't know what happened, I can't say 'lesson learned' can I?

As an aside, do you think we are more protective and precious about storing, and the possible loss, of our photographic memories since the advent of digital images and The Cloud? I make back ups of my back ups, but in the heady, good old days of real film all we had was our set of prints and our negatives and if something happened, well, it happened and they were gone. Today, if I lose a photo I wail and mourn it for days on end ~ we are a peculiar lot, we humans!

I digress.  In the garden there is an apple tree. I do not know the name of the apple, or the number of the dwarf stock upon which it is grafted, but I do know that it produces some of the most delicious rosy red apples worthy of The Wicked Queen's basket in Snow White {which just so happens is my favourite fairy tale}

During Springtime, the tree is a bridal bouquet of purest white blossoms with a delicate tinge of pink, then as the blossoms fall and fade, tiny hard green marbles appear, and slowly, over the Summer months they swell and grow, gradually changing colour as they aspire to the warm and rich candy apple red of the mature fruit.

For those of you who have not read it, I wrote a Haiku {actually, my first and only Haiku to date} about the apple blossom.  Here it is, superimposed on a photograph of the tree ~~~

and here are some images of the tree, the earlier blossoms, and the harvest of the fruits ~~~

Now, I have competition in the garden for my apples, the birds love them, and also the horrible wasps that nest in a neighbour's bird box, and which home in on the fragrant scent and nibble away at the tops, hidden from view, so that very often I pick an otherwise perfect looking apple only to find it is spoiled.  Wearing long sleeves and gloves is a must when picking these apples, as is exercising great caution and care not to be stung by the competition ~~~

Half eaten by the birds, the wasps come in to finish the job

Help yourself, please, do!

This year, however, the apples ripened a lot earlier and I got to them sooner so the damage is minimal compared to other years. Sadly, probably due to the unseasonably cold Spring and Summer, the fruits are not as big as they normally are, nor are they as many.  I am grateful for what I have harvested and now the time for putting the fruits up into storage is here!

Here is this year's harvest ~~~ about 20lbs or so ~~~

I love Apple Sauce, I use it a lot in yogurt or cream; poured over ice cream; on my porridge or muesli; or stirred into red cabbage; stirred in a warm mixed fruit compote for breakfast.  It's a quick and easy way of getting an extra portion of fruit, especially if you lower the sugar, as I do.

With a lot of apples to process each year, about twenty years ago I invested in a gizmo that peels, cores, and slices my apples at the turn of a handle. It has more than paid for itself as the wastage is minimal and it speeds up the process a lot.  Apple Master Peeler available at Lakeland Ltd.

And, yes, I buy my cinnamon in big bags! I really do use a lot of cinnamon in my cooking and baking, and buy it in bulk from Steenbergs.

So, I am making up lots of delicious Apple Sauce for the freezer as there are a lot of slightly under ripe and damaged apples that won't keep and are unfit for eating raw, but with the damage cut away they will be just fine made into delicious apple sauce. Here's what I do ~~~

3 1/2 to 4 lbs of apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 cup of brown sugar {you can use white if you prefer}
300 mls of good quality cloudy apple juice, such as Copella
1 tablespoon {or to taste} cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon {or to taste} ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon {or to taste} freshly ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Put all ingredients into a Crock Pot and cook on low for 6 hours, or until your preferred consistency is reached. I like mine chunky, so keep an eye on it after about 4 1/2 hours.  Cool and spoon into freezer containers.

Of course, you can always make it more quickly in a large saucepan, but I find I like it better from the Crock Pot ~ I don't know if it is the stoneware pot or the slow cooking process, but the flavour is deeper and more apple~y.


One thing I love about working in the garden is the company of the extra little helpers, and here is one of my regulars who always pops up for a beak full of juicy bugs and worms ~~~

Until next time ~~~

Thursday 25 August 2016

Just a Trifle ~~~

Hello Friends!

Isn't it glorious at this time of year? The morning air has that certain feel that I just cannot put into words, but my heart knows what it is ~~~ it is Autumn, arriving in all her glory as the year shouts a last Hurrah before Winter comes upon us again ~~~

The Earth breathes gently as she winds down, the air is cooler, the sun slips slowly lower in the sky with each new early morning sunrise, the daylight softens, all is mellow, and the ripening fruits of the hedgerows beg to be picked and stored for the lean days ahead. Blackberries ripen on brambles, shiny, glossy jewels of deliciousness, and the apples are ready for picking; this very week I plan to make Crock Pot Apple Butter. This soul~soothing activity will happen here in the cottage in the next few days, photos and words will follow ~~~

There was company at the cottage this lunchtime, and I made my favourite Mary Berry's Three Fish Pie which I served with simple Braised Red Cabbage and Petit Pois.  Of course, I have already started playing with, and tweaking, Mary's recipe ~ when don't I play with my food?  A small handful of prawns and a tablespoon of grainy mustard into the sauce gives extra flavour and bite.  I also use a mature Cheddar instead of the Gruyere suggested by Mary Berry.

I also made individual trifles in jam jars ~~~ this way, I was able to give a couple to my guests to take  home with them for a treat to eat tomorrow ~~~ very useful if you don't like plastic and the lid keeps everything in place ~~~

My Nigella hardly returned this year at all, normally they are very freely self seeding, but were strangely absent this Summer. However, a few put in an appearance and they were the most delightful pale purple colour I've not seen in the garden before ~~~ seed harvesting will be on the agenda very soon!

Earlier in the year, I found the most unusual poppy in an abandoned corner, it has all the attributes of a Field Poppy in respect of leaves and size, but is much paler in colour than the usual deep red, but more unusually is a double, like a poppy tutu dancing in the breeze ~~~

If this comes true from seed then I shall be very happy indeed!

Lastly, today, I'll show you a lovely envelope that arrived in my post the other day from my favourite book store Much Ado Books.  I bought a new treat to play with in the lengthening evenings, a book on making art from maps which arrived with a small packet of old and vintage maps with which to get started, and some other lovely things to make the package special ~~~ including a tea bag for a hot drink to sip while reading ~~~ I love a parcel thoughtfully put together, don't you?

Until next time ~~~

Thursday 18 August 2016

Tiny Spider and Egg Sack

Hello Friends ~~~

~~~ you have had the warning in the title of this short post. It contains images of a tiny spider. Read on, and peek, at your peril ~~~

I will take a moment to clarify, for those of you who don't know, I am arachnophobic, so I do go to great extremes of bravery to capture pictures of spiders, and sometimes the barrier of a lens between me and the creature helps immensely!

For some of us, Summer simply never made the grade ~ we had a total of possibly five days where we broke the 70 degree mark and even hit 80 degrees, but for the most Summer stayed in a comfortable low 60's, or an uncomfortably chilly mid 50's ~~~ nothing we can do, what we get is what we have to put up with ~~~ still ~~~

The next few days are going to be unseasonably stormy with forecast winds of in excess of fifty miles an hour, with some very heavy rain, and generally miserable days for the poor holiday makers who have come here for our beautiful sandy beaches and stunning coastal walks.   It is not often I have to apply Winter Storage Mode to the garden in August, but this morning I had to scurry around putting under cover anything that could blow over, or away, in the coming days ~~~Sighs~~~

While I was emptying a bin of garden waste that had been set to one side to dry, I saw two tiny blue balls, with a soft, fuzzy, felt~like texture, suspended between the drying brambles. What were they?  They were very tiny, only about 4mm in diameter, and quite a bright, almost duck egg blue, so they stood out against the drying foliage. Upon closer investigation, I found the tiniest of spiders clinging on to one and straight away I realised these tiny blue spheres are egg sacks. I have never seen the like before.  The spider itself is also rather "cute" in the loosest sense of the word, as it is bright green with some orange markings ~~~

So, if you've read this far, you are probably going to look, so here they are ~~~

I hope you braved the tiny spider and are as fascinated as I am!

Until next time ~~~

Monday 1 August 2016

Closing Out ICAD 2016

Hello Friends!

Well, it is August 1st and ICAD is now officially over, so here are the remainder of my cards for July. Lots of different subjects and techniques, all lots of fun.

Here is what I wrote on the {closed} ICAD Facebook page this morning ~~~

Feeling kinda odd today ~ who isn't? ~ even though I still have five catch ups to do by mid month it isn't quite the same this morning somehow. Still, this year has reignited my spark and now I can't wait to get started on watercolour paper {it's been in the cottage for about six weeks waiting in the wings ~ how good am I?}

ICAD saved me this summer, truly it did, and I am so happy and grateful f
or the chance to reconnect with old friends and make some new ones along the way. It makes the experience so rewarding.

Heartfelt Thanks to Tammy and her Wonderful Team of moderators who make ICAD possible.
Enormous Gratitude to everyone for the inspiration, the comments and likes, the camaraderie, and just for making ICAD a unique experience for all of us to escape to for two whole months of Summer ~~~ without you it just wouldn't happen!

As before, I'll put the daily prompts in the caption, and please remember that, although I painted, drew, and collaged these myself, some of the images are not my own original art but used as they fit the daily prompt. So, here are my favourites from July, with a montage of all the cards at the end ~~~

A bonus card and background card

100 so I did a rendition of AA Milne's Hundred Aker Wood



Statue of Liberty ~ I reiterate, as I have done constantly on FB and other social media platforms, this is NOT a political statement but the Statue of Liberty as a Weeping Angel from Doctor Who.

Meditation ~ I guess eating a pomegranate is sort of meditative or annoying!

Folk Art

Bonus card beachscape


Lens ~ using my own photography cut in circles ~ as seen through a lens


Rainbow Making Machine

Play on Words
A Woolly Jumper

Lighthouse ~ this is the Smalls Lighthouse 21 miles off the coast


Aurora Borealis

Superhero ~ if the competitors taking part in Invictus Games are not Superheroes, then I don't know who is


Cloud ~ oh, look, yet another Doctor Who reference!


Aquarium ~ a dendritic print from which a Weedy Sea Dragon emerges

The Olympics 

Graffiti ~ oh! look, another Doctor Who obscurity! 

Hopscotch or Tic Tac Toe {Noughts and Crosses}

Sorbet ~ a sorbet sunset over the lamp-lit village

Path ~ as a personal homage to Beatrix Potter during the week we celebrated the anniversary of her 150th birthday, I copied one of her little watercolour paintings.

July 2016

June 2016

So, it is over and it feels strange to wake up and not have half an hour before my day starts looking at all the wonderful miniature pieces done by all the members of the group as I drink my coffee, but my creative spark has reignited and I am eager to start making small compositions using watercolour paints and other mediums as soon as I can. There are several in this collection that I want to work on a slightly larger scale and on good quality watercolour paper.

Which is your favourite? I'd love to know!

If you want to see my entry for June's ICAD you can read it here.

Until next time~~~