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Monday, 26 November 2012

Wet Weather

The rain has slowed a bit so it might be stopping soon. All the rivers round here have burst their banks and many roads are cut by flood waters. We are fine chez nous and not quite as much water is running down the wall as it did before we had the chimneys fixed. However, there still is ingress so there is still some fixing to be done up on the roof.
I have been painting quite a bit but nothing is finished yet. A lot of it is a bit experimental and not always a success. I have been using a painting knife and trying to be freer.
This is a mixture of brush for the sky and knife for the land.

And this all knife and still unfinished. I'm trying to get more streams of sunlight through and add more texture to the foreground.
Last Friday was a lovely day at a place called ArtiSon. They do an enormous variety of art day courses and I signed up for "Industrial Landscapes" I had great fun playing with watercolour and ink washes, over-painted with industrial icons.
It's difficult to find an existing pithead around here now. They have all been demolished but the tutor had some old photos so I used one to copy this silhouette.
And here's my favourite local industry, the steelworks at Redcar on a watercolour and sepia wash.

Apart from that I've been slaving away at making blancmanges. It was Jubilee Party at the WI and because I was last to fill in the food-to-bring clipboard, I got "blancmange". I entertained myself by making a mixture of the original Pearce and Duff packets, white chocolate panna cotta and a free-from coconut milk dessert with blueberries.
I arranged them in a RED WHITE & BLUE display and off I went. The white chocolate panna cotta was a hit, the red berry blancmange went well too, but the blueberry and coconut milk was not popular. DJ warned me that it was too alien a colour. I had made it dairy-, gluten- and sugar-free but loaded with E122 to give it a fine blue hue.
I ate a couple and the rest went in the bin.

Guess who's hiding in the basket on the fridge!
Cheers Gillian

Sunday, 11 November 2012


My Father died fifty years ago on the 10th of this month. We were all young. I was the eldest and 14 and a half. He was buried in the cemetery at Wealdstone in the same grave plot as my sister, Alison, who had died six and a half years before.
We all returned there yesterday.
Luckily the weather was better than it had been 50 years ago. My sister, T, had prepared a lovely timeline of events, a collage of pics and a speech; which was left on the side while she spoke from her heart. There were many smiles and reminiscences, brave tears and much moving around into groups to take pics of  us all.

And then we went back to J&A's place in Barnet for a get together. We came from all over... from Bishop, Manchester, Brighton, Bournemouth, Pimlico, Mudeford, Glasgow and Barnet. We feasted and talked and drank and reminisced more. 
I haven't been party to any of these hot air paper balloons before. They are great fun, particularly if there is a perfect evening for their uplift. There were many fireworks going off and our small efforts should not have made too much mal-impact on the environment.
I returned home this morning.

Since the last blog we've been baking again. DJ started with some apple, sultana spice mix and some flaky pastry. I did the lattice-work wrap-over and then we cooked it. Fabulous!
This week we are not doing such cookery. We've bought the new "Jamie" book and there are quite a few ideas I want to follow.
Cheers Gillian

Saturday, 3 November 2012


Some time last week I was watching a cookery programme on More4. It was HFW teaching celebrities who "don't cook" how to make simple, successful items. I jotted down some notes whilst watching Ruby Wax make a lovely sponge sandwich.
Hers looked every bit as good as this.
This is my first successful cake, cooked from scratch, in goodness knows how many years, if ever. Whenever I've been asked if I can cook I always respond "Yes, but I can't bake!". Even packet mixes made with chemistry-experiment-exactitude fail. I am prone to *sinking-in-the-middle, *volcanic-uprisings, *catastrophic-crumblings, *denture-danger-denseness and even *"are-you-sure-you-read-the-instructions?".

So much advice is available for the unsuccessful baker that it would take a dozen batches of scones before I could determine whether the fault was caused by ...oven temperature, too dry/moist mixture, wrong/old flour, slap-happy measurements, recipe faults and even being called Gillian etc.

Anyway, this one was a bit dry in the mix so I added a splash of milk. There is something in my well-aged experience that made me feel it was better for the added fluid. It also took about 4 minutes longer to cook because I used smaller tins and the mixture was therefore deeper (I'm quite clever sometimes!).
We managed about half of it for arvo tea. (It is smaller than it looks!). I filled it with the some of the raspberry jam made from the raspberries from Brusselton Woods, over the road from us, and added plenty of whipped cream.

I'm so proud of it that I had to blog it.

I've done some other interesting things this week too, like cook a ham hock for the first time, take DJ to a Tex-Mex dinner in Darlo for his birthday at a fabulous cafe called "The Imperial", get the boiler fixed, unpick the oversized cardigan which I never wore and start a new jumper with the yarn, and have more goes at painting with a painting knife.

G and D (DJ's granddaughter and new husband) spent time with us last weekend before returning to the Midlands to move into their new home. We had the snow, some great steaks, fabulous fish and chips from "The Almighty Cod", fish and chip shop at Seaton Carew, and a great afternoon sitting around the woodburner in the snug. Also had  good news tonight that more rels will visit us soon.

The cat has been a bit strange lately. She has always been reckless and dashes around bumping into furniture. Recently I heard her tumble. I suspect that she fell through the banisters and down a flight of stairs. She was hiding under the table when I found her and so I treated her to some poached chicken to coax her out. She was so keen to get to it that she got trodden on by me as I stepped backwards!

She now runs away when I come near her, but follows me from room to room if I move away from her. But she has found refuge in the little basket on top of the fridge. Well at least until I decided to get up and go into another room.
Straight out of the basket and back down to floor level again! She is now at my feet in the snug.
Cheers Gillian