Wednesday, 23 April 2014


When Andrew's sister kindly invited us to stay with her for a couple of nights over Easter we jumped at the chance. Living in the country is wonderful but it's nice to get a city fix now and again. Being the season of chocolate gifts we thought it would be the perfect excuse to make the pigs in mud cake, something I'd beem dying to do  since I first saw photographs on the internet.

I won't give a recipe as there are dozens out there and basically it's just a chocolate sponge with a layer of ganache. Andrew was chief pig maker although I was responsible for wielding the cocktail stick for nostrils & navels.

Making the pigs
The hardest part was getting the kit kats to stay upright. You have to smooth the outside of the cake with ganache, not too much that it oozes through but enough to make them stick. It was easier with two people and eventually we were happy and tied the ribbon. The ganache is then poured on top, if you gently push it to the edges, when it hardens it helps the kit kats stay in place. Then in go the pigs.

Not bad for a first attempt
Mortimer and Dexter were delighted at being reunited.

Back in the pond
Dexter's swimming has come along in leaps in bounds but Mortimer had the most reach when it came to shaking.

Advanced doggy paddle
Who needs a towel?
Saturday afternoon we went to Liberty. When I worked in central London, many years ago, this store was a regular haunt and it hasn't changed much. Opened  by Arthur Lasenby Liberty in 1875, it sold objects and fabrics from Japan and the East. Hugely supportive of both the Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau movements, Liberty still specialises in antiques of these periods as well as carrying beautiful stock from the Far & Middle East.

Timbers from HMS Impregnable & HMS Hindustan were used in the 1920's rebuild
The store is built around three light wells
Andrew & his neice lost in admiration
I nearly succombed to this beautiful Middle Eastern pottery...

but Andrew's sister did buy some of these stunning glass dishes.

Relunctantly I left the store empty-handed, as I did after a look round Choccywoccydodah's. Forget the elegant chocolatieres of France, this shop is a full visual onslaught. First the decor.

And then these fabulous, over the top chocolate creations.

Rachael (our neice & Andrew's god-daughter) has many skills but our favourite is that she is a trained mixologist (she can make great cocktails). So in need of a pick me up after walking the pavements of London, she volunteered to make us mojitos. There was a bit of a discussion between her & Andrew as to the ingredients of the aforementioned cocktail, you should have seen the look of disgust when he said he uses soda water. Oh how wrong he is! The 'lengthener' (what I would call the mixer element) is not soda or tonic but crushed ice. I have to say they were the best mojitos we had ever tasted.

We took an extra day off over Easter to celebrate Andrew's birthday and went to Holt for the day. Holt is a beautiful small town in Norfolk, known for it's art galleries and independent shops. We had a lovely lunch in The Folly Tearoom and next time will definitely indulge in their afternoon tea. They are building a conservatory extension which will open on to their beautiful courtyard garden.

Courtyard at The Folly

And finally home, where Mortimer helped Andrew to unwrap his presents.

Expert unwrapper

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Why I love bloggers

I probably spend too much time reading blogs, it is not uncommon for me to get up really early on a Sunday (5.a.m. early) to catch up on my reading list. There are two main interests: France & design although there is a form of serendipity as bloggers share their own favourites. For example bloggers who live in France have their own passions, not just related to being in France, which is how I found Mimi who writes a food blog and who is unbelievably stylish, writes beautifully and has a blog  illustrated by wonderful photographs taken by her Icelandic husband. It's blogs like 'Manger' that make me try harder with my photos.

Then it's the kindness of people to help strangers. Fairly recently I came upon Rob & Rosie's blog about their garden in the Dordogne (where they also have beautiful cottages to rent) and remembered a dilemma I had last year. As you may recall I am a prolific jam maker and one of our favourites is rhubarb but last year there was panic in the camp.

A thing of the past?
Margaret posted that in her (ex-)part of France rhubarb was a rarity. OK I thought it's easy to grow, but no, Kalba chipped in that she had little success and she and her partner are great vegetable growers. Knowing that Yorkshire has a golden triangle of rhubarb growing I was beginning to think that there could be a rhubarb demarcation zone that we couldn't live south of. I scoured the internet for information. There came back none. So back to Rosie, I left a comment on her latest post and asked if she knew, after all her area of the Dordogne is a stone's throw from our favoured Quercy area, and within a couple of hours I had a reply:

"We've got rhubarb in Belves, Dordogneshire. I heard the other day that it was one of the things, like swede, that was all there was to eat in the war, so no self-respecting Frenchman grew it. No idea if that's true, but it's certainly not common."

Bless you Rosie.

The other wonderful thing about reading blogs is the fascinating snippets that fall into your lap. As I said earlier my other all consuming interest is design, but I favour blogs written by people who enjoy doing their own thing, there are some hugely talented people out there. Take the chap at The Urban Cottage who has beautifully restored a Gothic Revival house near Boston. In his last posted he posed a question - what was this in his garden?

From An Urban Cottage blog
Now at first it looked like a manhole/sewage cover - but why the foot pedal? Andrew and I had a think but nothing sprang to mind so we scrolled down his comments. Well apparently it was for garbage, it's not that deep and appeared to be quite common in parts of the U.S. Some places it was just collected as part of a normal refuse collection and was for 'wet garbage' but in other areas it was for food scraps and the pig man came regularly. A fascinating snippet of social history.

So that's why I spend so much time reading other people's blogs. Visually and intellectually stimulating and with people happy to share with strangers. Thank you all.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

The Shirt Project

No this isn't the post I mentioned last time, that's still not finished. This one is to spur me on to finish another project!

Way back when, Andrew used to work in a real office and meet clients on a daily basis, which meant he had to wear a proper shirt and smart trousers. Now he could work all day in pyjamas and no one would know...

Anyway, over time the shirts would fade and collars & cuffs fray but I hated to throw them as there is nothing like the feel of well washed,worn cotton and linen. At the time I used to do a lot of quilting and had the idea of making a shirt quilt. Roll forward a decade and a half and I still have the unfinished project. Part of the decluttering plan made at the beginning of the year was to finish a number of projects and this was a good start. I dragged the pieced pieces out from a drawer under the bed and had a good look, coming to the conclusion that I probably didn't need another quilt (not sure I should have put that thought out into the world - I may regret it). But I could do with some cushion covers for a couple of Lloyd Loom chairs we have and it would use some of my fabric collection up, also assisting the declutter process.

So this is where we are now, and before you say anything I was deliberately aiming for a vintage, handmade look which is why the squares are uneven size and don't line up.

Pieced shirt squares
So I'm now committed to the project. It will get finished,

Meanwhile an update on the bedroom which is making steady but oh so slow progress. My easy 'it will be done by Easter' deadline is beginning to look decidely shaky.

Andrew finished plastering the walls and ceiling.

Plastering finished

Then fixed the picture rail and skirting boards so I could start painting.

Hopefully next time I'll have something that's finished to share!