Sunday, 15 October 2017

Taking a Little Comfort as the Days Draw in ...

From Wilhelm Busch, who was rather fond of puddings

The days are getting shorter, and - occasionally at least - colder, so naturally one's mind turns to steamed puddings.  Steamed puddings with suet, naturally.  

I recently managed to find a supply of real suet - not the dry long life variety, but fresh from the butchers.  I just bought two kilos of the stuff and froze it, so I am all set for the winter.  Today I decided to try out my new Quick Cooker pudding bowl.

I achieved good results, and the pudding cooked within 1,5 hours, twice as fast as usual. However, the funnel in the middle also needs to be coated with a layer of pastry, so the relation of pastry to filling came down decidedly on the side of pastry!

I made beef and mushroom pie, which was good but needed a bit more gravy.  With the leftover pastry I also made an apple pudding, in an old Oxford Blue Cheese container.  It worked well, but the pastry lid stuck to the pot lid.

With regard to the string I used to tie up my pudding containers, the kitchen string I used for the large bowl worked OK but needed to be discarded after use.

For the small pudding container I used some Hermes ribbon, the sort they use  to tie up the box their scarves come in, and it was excellent!!!  If I think of all the things I use this ribbon for (see also orange pomanders below) I have to conclude that buying all those scarves was an excellent investment, even just on the basis of the many uses I find for this ribbon...

Steamer pot - it has an insert, very handy for resting the pudding basins on
Beef and mushroom pudding

Turned out of the form very easily

Cut open - not enough gravy!

Apple pudding in an Oxford Blue cheese jar, tied up with Hermes ribbon

Top stuck to lide

Again, turned out of the pot easily

Too much pastry versus fruit?

Yesterday I also involved myself in a comforting activity - making orange and cloves pomanders! Basically, you stick cloves into oranges, dust the result in a mix of different powdered spices like cinnamon and cardamon, and hang them up to dry.

The string I used for tying around and hanging up was, you guessed it, Hermes ribbon!

It is very a restful activity, sitting with a bowl in your lap, poking cloves into oranges! I did seven oranges and felt quite mellow afterwards.

In my house whatever needs hanging and drying inevitably ends up on the chandelier. What else are they for? In the kitchen things get moldy more easily, so the parlour is the natural place for this.
I think this is what our ancestors did, too - one reads in old novels about visitors being put up in the parlour or 'best chamber', where they made themselves at home amongst hanging bacon flitches and sausages and hams, and drying bunches of herbs and garlic and onions, and even Christmas puddings and cakes.....

Well, why not? The parlour is the least used room of the house, usually unheated, and less prone to dust and creepy crawlies, given the lack of use.

Resplendent and useful chandelier

Newspaper rack also pressed into service

Orange and cloves poander

Parlour window looking good, with thyme and hyacinth

Sunday, 8 October 2017

The Door Project - Part 6: Adding the Panes and Hanging It

All done - ish ....

Well, I spent another weekend on the Door Project.  But I am not complaining - I am almost done, that is, if I can control my perfectionist instincts.

The thing is, the new door is head and shoulders above the old door - but it isn't quite right.  For example, one side of the frame has moved a little since it was built 30 years ago, so my perfectly proportioned door is a few millimeters too narrow for the door gap on the top right hand side; I will probably add a piece of plywood to reduce the gap.

Another problem is the remains of the previous door, which I couldn't completely pry off the frame, and which constricts the movement of the current door somewhat.  But I didn't have time to yank it off since it was getting dark and the new door had to be installed - one has to be sensible about timings.  Anyway, the door fits pretty well and can open about halfway, so is perfectly servicable for the time being.

Right.  I laboured much of the previous weekend attaching the plexi-glass panels.  Not as easy as I had hoped - they don't attach as well as I had hoped, but curved about disgracefully.  I may add a thin rail around them to ensure that the panels are completely waterproof.  My cunning plan of bridging the gap with paint didn't work - too much movement.  Never mind, the rails once added can be painted a different colour - red? - and will look like a special feature and improve the overall appearance of the door.

Now that the Door Project is almost complete, I cannot honestly say whether ti was all worth it - it was a hell of a lot of work, and counting all the tools and whatnot wasn't cheap, either.  On the other hand I now have access to my garden again, and didn't have to get irritated by incompetent handymen who would almost certainly have charged me a fortune, ruined the carpet, and settled me with a wonky door. 

So right now I am contemplating my assorted blisters and aching muscles, and suspending judgement....

'Course, there are all sorts of similar jobs that need doing around the house, painting the front door and grouting and painting the windows, and refurbishing the Mouserleum ...  Well, at least now I have my little workshop, and a few good tools!

Watch this blog for other riveting D-I-Y jobs!

In due course ...

Like Christmas ...

Door frame with plexi-glass panels

Close up

Adding paint under the panel to bond to the frame - didn't work!

Old door almost dismembered - the top to bottom plank on the left hand side didn't come off!

The bottom plank came off last

The garden is a total mess

Bolt and handle attached - door open, thus the gap on top

Door in place - one or two millimeter space all around, to allow ease of movement

Bolt and handle

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Picking Sloes on a Peaceful Sunday Autumn Afternoon ....

Having a milk pail is essential - you pick the sloes into the lid, which you decant occasionally into the pail

Today I went sloe picking for the third time.  It was a lovely afternoon, and I needed another pint or two to fill up my two large sloe gin bottles.....

Lovely area of Oxford

A full pail!  About 2 litres worth

To prevent the cows from escaping, I shouldn't wonder!

The Canada Geese are congregating - soon it will be time to fly off again. I once watched a fox trying to ambush them here - it was fascinating, I kept watching until it got too dark.  The fox kept trying to sneak up on the geese, but they were vigilant, and flew at them en masse, so he had to re-treat.  Ten minutes later he would  try again, from another direction.  He kept this up for hours, but the geese always spotted him!

Spot the punter (boat stalker)

Hawthorn berries in good shape, too.

And from another angle ....

A lock - can be lowered or raised, depending on how much water there is

The old mill

This is a popular walking area for families and dogwalkers

There used to be a waterwheel, but it disappeared a few years ago

The old mill pond - probably contains massively huge sturgeons!

Oxford is surrounded by a girdle of college playing fields - most have their own,though some do share.