Sunday, 28 November 2010

One of those birthdays ...

Where you usually get comments, or are thrown a surprise party. But not in this house, well not the party anyway!

So yes, my name is Dawn and today I am 40 ... say it loud and proud. Do I feel different? Heck no, it's just another year, another birthday, another 365 days travelled around the Sun.

I quite enjoyed my thirties, having our daughter and rediscovering a creative side, continuing to grow my own food and living a sustainable lifestyle, continuing to have environmental and ethical standards. I'm not perfect, but I do my best and will continue to do so in my 40's.

So what was in store for me today. Lovely handmade cards, with fabulous writing from my beautiful girl. A lovely little handmade needle felted sheep, although I did do most of the needle felting on this for Imogen the other day when "she" was making it for me - with me not guessing what it was of course.
My cards and sheep

I love that she thought about wanting to make me something, like I enjoy making things for her. I also had a lovely picture she did for me at school the other day about the story of Cinderella which they have done lots of activities on this week as part of a book week.

My parents are down too and my clever Mom who I bought some lace making stuff for, for her birthday in September made me a bookmark - she has only been having lessons for 2 weeks - impressive hey, I think we've tapped into a new talent here.

My lace bookmark

So having a good day, have had some money so thinking of putting that towards an upgrade of a spinning wheel if the right one comes my way. There's a medlar tart in the oven with a meringue topping this time for my birthday "cake". The only downside is Imogen isn't very well, having had a cold and cough recently she has been lifeless in the last couple of days but on the upside she is wanting lots of hugs and cuddles. I can do that for my birthday.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Medlar jam ...

It is lovely, and as we have many, many more of these delicious fruits (did I say how much we are loving these?) more jam and more pies in the making. We have got to make one of the pies for Christmas, it has that festive smell and fragrance. This was just a small batch to check it out and it worked out lovely, there must be a lot of pectin in them as it has a great jelly/jam consistency.

Medlar jam and fruit

In the picture above is the jam and two medlars - the one on the left is still hard and needs to be stored somewhere warm and dry to blet, the one on the right at the front is bletted and ready to use. Having sorted through the ones we have there are a quite a few bletted so more baking or jam making over the next few days - yum!

A big crate of the fruits has gone to a local independent bookshop that also sells other fairtrade items to see if people would like to buy them. We suspect they may not go too well, and maybe secretly thinking we could get some of these back too. But for now I have a large shopping bag of them to get through.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Medlar ... where have you been?

The Medlar
Align Centre
I've seen pictures of medlar trees, I've read about Medlar trees, I've seen a medlar tree, but until yesterday I had never eaten a Medlar.

Wow, what can I say - they are truly wonderful to eat. So sweet, and a lovely texture, like chestnut puree when the are ready to eat. We are now absolute Medlar lovers. Alex wants to buy a tree, well actually he wants to have a Medlar orchard but that's another story, maybe a tree for now.

So what are they? Why don't you see them around?
The Medlar is an ancient fruit that was native to Iran, records show it has been cultivated since the 2nd Century BC, grown by the ancient Greeks and Romans. They were popular in the Victorian era but have since gone out of favour, although there must be many of them still around in old gardens.

"Medlar fruit are very hard and acidic, only becoming edible after being
bletted (softened by frost), or naturally in storage given sufficient time.
Once softening begins, the skin rapidly takes a wrinkled texture and turns
dark brown, and the inside reduces to a consistency and flavour
reminiscent of apple sauce."

So why don't we see them often? Well as it says above, they need to become bletted to be edible, which means they go brown and soft and don't look all that attractive ... but get beyond the look and they are delicious, trust me. Commonly they are made into jelly, jam, fruit cheese (nothing like dairy cheese!), and wine. They have another common name, but I shan't repeat that here, it's too lovely a fruit to lower the tone of this post.

The Medlar tree heaving with fruit
Picking and sorting

So yesterday we spent a couple of hours at a local community garden which just happens to have a lovely Medlar tree for a "Medlar picking event". The tree was heaving with fruit which we have seen growing over the year, and we all got to work with baskets, crates and whatever else we had to pick and store them. An hour later, after much laughter, and some comic moments up ladders (nobody was hurt!), we had picked this little lot.

Medlar harvest 2010

Not so little, and many of these have come home with us as we had the transport to move them and the interest in using them, others did too so hopefully nothing will go to waste.

Basket of delight

So last night after looking through some books and websites we settled on making Medlar and Lemon jam which has been dripping overnight. Many other jams, jellies, chutneys to follow. The other thing we made last night was a tart - bit like a pumpkin tart, and oh it was so lovely, here it is - if only you could smell and taste it. Sweet, delicious, soft and rich. With the addition of cinnamon and ginger this smells and tastes of the Christmas festive season - taste of a rich Christmas fruit cake but without the dried fruit (bonus for me as I can't stand fruit cake).

Medlar tart

So if you ever get the chance, please try this lovely fruit, a lost treasure. Have you got an old garden, know of an old garden or village green with a medlar tree maybe? Don't be put off by the looks, try it ... you won't regret it.

Monday, 15 November 2010

And now for something completely different ...

Not the usual thing I post on my blog, but I just wanted to share this here for anyone with an interest in musical talents, alternative news and something to make you smile and laugh a little (hopefully).

I've been wanting to post this on the blog for a while but it always gets put to the back of my mind, so today I will share with you a talented man, a relative of Alex's - Hugo Farrant and friends who have created Juice Media: Rap News.

Taken from the website, Hugo

"fills the role of the amiable Rap News anchorman, Robert Foster -
as well as all the guests who appear on the show.
Hailing from Branksome in the UK, Hugo is a prolific rhymer and orator,
MC and spoken-word poet who regularly graces the stages and
festivals of Melbourne. Having spent six years rhyming and rapping, he now
co-writes ~TheJuiceMedia: Rap News."

"TheJuiceMedia Rap News - the news source for the discerning viewer,
delivering a bulletin to restore your faith in the fourth estate; make you nod
your head to the beat, even as you shake it in disbelief"

"TheJuiceMedia also broadcasts key Indigenous views from Australia,
providing a valuable and growing archive of otherwise-marginalised Aboriginal voices."

For a while now we have enjoyed watching these rap news videos online, they really do deliver an alternative look at some of the crazy stories you read about or see in the news. The latest one features the recent Wiki-leaks news story with a very special guest appearance later in the video! It's now reached an audience of over 112,000 mostly by word of mouth, twitter, etc, etc

He lives and works in Australia now, but is from Dorset and also did a very funny rap about Branksome a couple of years ago.

Please check them out if you like alternative news, rap music, poetry, or just to see a real talent. Hope you like them too.

Here's the latest video on YouTube

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Oops ..... a woolly dilemma?

So, if you saw my last post you know we picked up some sheeps wool yesterday. Well here is one bag from the one farm visit, we are going back in a couple of weeks to pick up another one - although it's slightly less full.

Oops, what have I done!

And below is the bag in the back garden (excuse the garden mess), and the additional black bags (although you can't see them all in the picture) are what we picked up from the other location, a rather beautiful house and 2000 acre estate not far away (I wasn't quite expecting that). We passed their lovely Hebridean and Manx sheep as we entered the long drive to pick up the fleeces.

Fleece awaiting sorting

So I spent some of the afternoon skirting the fleeces to remove the worst bits (to be used at the allotment, mulch, deep trench beds for beans (great moisture retention), compost, etc. 13 bags sorted and stored, but the white bag hardly touched!

Light fading, and family needing feeding, Alex and I just bagged the rest separately to be properly sorted today - couldn't leave it outside as it was due to rain early this morning. So where did we have to store these bags? I think there are about 17 ...

well lets just say the downstairs toilet is out of use at the moment as it looks more like this.

Our downstairs toilet

Some gorgeous wool there, varying breeds, varying colours too. The black Hebridean is just wonderful, can't wait to use some. Lovely, full of lanolin, just need some good weather, space and time to sort the rest and get some washed and ready to use.

So yes, for those that have worked it out already, there are 30 sheep fleeces currently in my home. Some I shall keep for spinning myself (felt inspired to do some last night unsurprisingly), some for peg loom rugs (Alex started a new one last night), some to the Guild next weekend and some for maybe another future venture. Then I can go and pick up the rest from the first farm and we can do it all again ...

Friday, 12 November 2010

This weekend, I will be mostly ............................

... obtaining sheeps fleeces.

Opportunities just come your way sometimes and you have to grab them. In the space of just a few days I have spoken with two different sheep owners who are looking to pass on sheeps fleeces for very little (and I mean little!).

So this weekend we shall be picking them up, there are Hebridean, Manx, Suffolk, Welsh Mountain, Portland, Zwartbles .... (maybe some others that I can't remember right now!). Just don't ask me how many there could be.

I think I'm going to be busy for a while, although I must add I am taking some to our next Guild meeting so no doubt some spinning friends will take some off my hands. Either that or our roof will get some added insulation soon in the form of safely stored and boxed fleeces - they will come down for spinning!

Alex's last words to me yesterday morning when he left for work were "please don't arrange to pick up any more fleeces today", although he was smiling, and said he didn't mind really. I' won't be picking any more up though, probably! He may need to help me get through the wool too over the winter and make some more pure wool peg loom rugs, so cosy under the feet.

Happy weekend all, whatever you're doing.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Remembrance Day (knit and felted poppies)

Poppies for Armistice Day

Just a little project I wanted to do for Remembrance day or Armistice Day if you prefer. Knitted and felted using up small bits of pure wool yarn so that I could felt them. Very pleased with the results, sewn a piece of felt on the reverse holding the safety pin. So much nicer than the paper ones, maybe I'll make some more for next year.

Front and back of the knitted and felted poppies

Imogen's red top and poppies for Remembrance Day

So we all have one of these today, above is how Imogen has gone to school today - they are wearing red too and having a special remembrance assembly this morning. The officially sold poppy is one I've kept from a previous year, I don't like to see them wasted and thrown away. I don't buy them year after year but make a donation to the charity instead.

Another wonderful way to commemorate those lost and those still in need of support is to download the 2 minutes silence single DVD, a moving tribute, and a wonderful idea.

Single cover for the British Legion single

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Crafty projects

I feel like I am thinking about lots of crafty projects to do now and for the coming weeks, but don't seem to be getting started on many. Maybe my brain is being overloaded with wanting to do them all at once.

Needle felting supplies

I have been needle felting some winter goodies for myself and for others, they are my first priority this week I think to get finished ready to go to new homes.

Sneaky peek - more done since this but you'll have to wait!

I then want to make some little dolls for Imogen perhaps for Christmas, she has lots of animals but not people except for a family in her dolls house, so I think she would appreciate a few more. I have lots of ideas and have seen some projects online for inspiration too.

Dishcloths and a little extra surprise for a lovely mama

I have knitted some dishcloths lately for a lovely mama on the GP forum, they will be posted this week, as will some alpaca fleece for stuffing to another lovely mama making a doll for her daughter for Christmas. I'm also knitting some simple hand warmers for Imogen - a request from her after she saw these I made for myself.

Mama's knitted hand warmers

Other projects include more felting, I have recycled some plastic balls and hope to use them to felt around for Christmas decorations or other seasonal decorations. I want to make some more felt food, and other sewn felt things.

More knitting will no doubt be done, and more spinning - really must get on and do more spinning - have some lovely bits of fleeces to spin, such a wide variety and am picking up some more fleeces (yes, plural!) at the weekend - hopefully others at the Guild will take some off my hands or my loft is going to get fuller this weekend! Having ashed some of the alpaca, I now want to spin some of this lovely soft fluff. Have washed some of the Angora goat too but it still needs more washing - it is filthy, smelly and quite felted in parts (but it was free) so really need to separate it into stuff that could be spun, and stuff to use in felting. The good parts are beautiful, soft, shiny and with a lovely curl.

Right, now it's all written down, here and in one of my numerous notebooks (I like notebooks), I think I need to make a plan of what I'm going to do when, and then just get on with it.

A little project for tomorrow, now felted and drying ...

knitted poppies

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Fireworks and procession by flame torchlight

We've not been to a fireworks display for years, in fact Alex recalled we went to one in the city for the millennium New Year which would be the last time. Imogen hasn't been to one at all, mind you it is usually awful weather to be standing out there. A bonus is that where we live it is on a hillside overlooking the City so when there are fireworks for bonfire night, New Year, and other celebrations (cruise ships, festivals), we can see the fireworks display (and they like their fireworks around here) from the comfort of our home through the windows or standing in the porch (which we did Friday night). But this year the weather was lovely, perfect for this ...

Torchlit parade from the Guildhall

So Saturday night we ventured to Winchester for their torchlit procession through the City and fireworks display. It's a charitable event run by the WinchesterRound Table. It was great fun, a really lovely atmosphere walking through with all the flames, and the fireworks didn't disappoint either. We even bumped into a couple of Imogen's friends so that was lovely too.

I'll let the pictures speak for themselves ...

Parade up the high street

Imogen with her dynamo torch

Imogen with the flame torch

Bonfire behind the trees
Imogen with a sparkler

Imogen with friends


Lovely fireworks

I think we have found an event to add to annual family traditions for the future, maybe having other family members to stay to join in the fun too!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Meeting with childrens authors is fun and inspiring ...

For two afternoons in the half-term holiday, we went to Winchester Discovery Centre to attend some of their performances for the Wessex Children's Book Festival. They had some fantastic authors and illustrators booked for the festival, but we chose two favourites.

The first was on Thursday where we went to meet Axel Scheffler - illustrator most famous for The Gruffalo, and many other books written by Julia Donaldson. Before the performance, there were activities going on in the library and a chance to meet and hug the Gruffalo himself.

Meeting the Gruffalo ... many hugs were had

We had a great time, we sat at the front and found ourselves sitting next to his wife and daughter. He read Zog and then drew Zog on a flip chart which Imogen was just mesmerised by his drawing. He went on to read Stick Man and answer lots of questions, and then drew the Gruffalo.

Axel drawing Zog

We then went to see him and he signed Imogen's Gruffalo book that she has had since very young, a well read book. He drew a little picture with his signature too. Imogen had drawn this picture the previous day of the Gruffalo which we took to show him, he was rather impressed and said he would draw the mouse next to it so he could sign it. This is on it's way into a picture frame now.
Imogen and Axel's drawing

Imogen came away declaring that she wanted to be an illustrator. All that evening all she did was draw, draw, and draw some more. She was so inspired. What do you think of my budding artist ... sorry illustrator?

On Friday, we went to meet Emily Gravett, author and illustrator of many great books, a few of which we own. Emily put on a completely different performance, really engaging and involving the children in the stories she read and then they all wrote a new story together based on the Monkey and Me story.
The story they all wrote together
and read out loudly!

It was great fun for children and adults alike. She also did a few illustrations within her talk. Again we met her afterwards and Imogen had her copy of Wolves signed by Emily.

Imogen came away declaring that she was going to be an author and illustrator. Emily had said that being an author and illustrator was the best job in the world.

Since both of these performances, Imogen has drawn so much, she is re-creating the pictures of the book Zog, and has drawn so much more and been writing a fair bit too. They were both very inspiring, and inspired she has been - so lovely to see her creative side shining through.

How long before she creates her own characters and writes a story? Mind you, it wouldn't be the first, she wrote one earlier in the year, but her drawing and writing have progressed so much since then.

"The aim of the Festival is to enthuse and excite children of all ages
about the pleasures of reading and writing. "

Tick, you certainly have.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Happy October 31st ... for yesterday!

(A bit late as I wanted a photo of some knitted toys but Imogen took them to bed with her so I had to wait until this morning)

I don't really go into all the halloween (commercial) stuff and Imogen isn't into all the spooky scary either, but some of the crafting is fun to do, and we have had a lovely day at the local community garden for a pumpkin party.

Imogen's Spider carving, lit up lovely last night

There was more of our delicious pumpkin soup on offer which sold out once more, and pumpkin carving, here is Imogen's which she had a little help with from a lovely new friend as they only had large carving knives to do the carving - a bit too big for her little hands on a pumpkin.

I have also recently knitted and made up some new toys for Imogen which she loves and took to bed with her on the 31st. Note the pumpkin needed a smile, not a scary face!

New knitted friends

So however you celebrated it, if you do/did, Happy 31st October, Happy Samhain, Happy Halloween, Happy Harvest-time ...