Friday, February 26, 2010

A London Girl of the Eighties

I know what you're thinking. Why is there a picture of a sink, lovely though it may be, accompanying a review of a book by M Vivian Hughes? Well, if you type 'London girl of the Eighties' in Google images you will see girls with big hair dressed like Madonna. Totally wrong century. My favourite part of this book takes place in Wales and after looking through ten pages of holiday ads for cottages in the Welsh countryside, I gave that up as well. So here on offer is a gorgeous traditional Welsh country sink. Moving right along... In this next book of a trilogy, Molly Hughes finds success as a teacher and love with Arthur, the man who would become her husband after a ten-year engagement. I loved the spirit with which Molly embraced her future in-laws and the Welsh countryside despite the twenty-six hour journey and seven trains it took to get to Aberdovey. One of my favourite stories was when Arthur's brother, Llewelyn, suggested they take the Torrent Walk. Asking an inn landlord for the shortest road to take they were told they could take the landlord's dog as he knew the way. 'Be sure you don't speak Welsh' shouted the landlord after us, or he won't take you. He thinks Welshmen ought to know the way.' 'All right, we'll remember,' answered Llewelyn, laughing, for we naturally thought this was one of those 'dog-stories'. All went well for some way, the dog duly trotting ahead, til one of those showers so common in Wales caught us suddenly. Spying a cowshed we went into it for shelter, dog and all. Presently a farm labourer came in for shelter too. Llewelyn, parson-like, began to chat with him about the weather and what not, of course, in Welsh; and Arthur joined in. 'Look there!' I cried, and pointed to the dog, who was fast disappearing along the road to the inn. We put it down to his impatience at the delay, but the labourer said that every one knew the dog, and that it was true that nothing would induce him to show Welsh people the way. Growing up with three brothers served Molly well as she explored rugged hillside on light lunches and flasks of lukewarm tea with Arthur. Having to get dirty and wet whilst pushing a rowboat off of a sandbar to get back home didn't faze our girl a bit! Reading that Molly and Arthur never tired of Keats made me smile and that they could never resist spending money on books made them even more dear to my heart. Then Molly laughs off an offer from another man who offers to escort her from Gower Street to Kensington after a Guild meeting. The B&B that I like to stay at when in London just so happens to be on Gower Street so I took joy in imagining that I've strolled past the very Georgian townhouses that Molly may have admired on her walk. This second book ends on as sad a note as the first which caught me off guard. But with her indomitable spirit I'm sure that Molly will be able to deal with any challenges she may face in the future.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mrs Beeton Ruffles

Perhaps it was the influence of Fanny Brawne's flounces in Bright Star, yes I'm obsessed, or the fact that the pattern was named after Mrs Beeton that was the appeal. I just had to make these when I spied them on Ravelry. They are cuffs which add a nice detail to your coat or sweater and a fairly quick project. It was the first time that I've knit with the cobweb-like Rowan Kidsilk Haze. That was a bit of a nightmare and most likely should have been avoided at all cost. In the end, the result made the frustration worthwhile and I'm proud that I kept at it when I really wanted to just bin the whole ball. I look forward to running some errands this afternoon as it's warm enough to leave the gloves at home and don my ruffles!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Adventures in Baking

Inspired by Verity's baking posts, I decided to try my hand at baking flapjacks. Now for those of us on this side of the pond, they don't resemble anything close to our flapjacks, also known as pancakes. Flapjacks are made of oats, brown sugar, butter with a bit of cinnamon. Some recipes call for golden syrup so there are several versions out there I'm sure. Whilst reaching for the brown sugar, I spied some chocolate chips and thought 'why not?'. I apologize in advance if I've made some of you cringe! The taste reminds me a bit of an oatmeal macaroon that I used to make. When R and I were first married, I made a batch which he took to work for sharing. He came home that day asking nonchalantly where I kept my recipe. 'Why?' was my response. In a sheepish manner, R told me how one co-worker said that he enjoyed the cookies so much that he would happily pay for a dozen. In the truest sense of miscommunication, it went through work that R was a part-time baker and was taking cookie orders! Not wanting to disappoint, R promised to return to work the next day with something like twelve dozen cookies. We worked together to make enough cookies and R was instructed to let everyone know that these cookies were on the house as the baking business was no longer in service. It wasn't so funny at the time but it makes me laugh to remember it now.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

S'no Haven Scarf

This alpaca has waited a very long time to appear as a useful item. It was purchased over twenty years ago. On New Year's Eve, I was was standing in a wool shop, trying to decide between three colours. The shop owner made an announcement that she would be closing in ten minutes! A woman cannot make a decision in such a short least not this one. Later that evening, putting away some Christmas decorations, I found a bag with six balls of lovely soft alpaca. Too little for a sweater but perfect for a generous scarf. I call this one S'no Haven as I adapted a pattern called Haven but it's not quite exact. Serendipity is a lovely thing.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bright Star

With a wet tissue clutched in my palm, a sniffy nose and weepy eyes I've just searched the library catalogue for a biography on John Keats. May I also mention that my chest aches, yes aches from what I'm not sure is a broken heart or sitting cross-legged, three feet from the television and yet leaning ever closer for the past two hours. I have been waiting for ages to see this wonderful movie starring Ben Whishaw (whom I have admired since Brideshead Revisited) and Abbie Cornish, written and directed by Jane Campion. It came out on DVD today (it made a fleeting appearance in Toronto) and like the lovely and thoughtful man that he is, R bought it for me and left it on the counter for me to find when I got in from an all day seminar at the library. Thank goodness he had gone off to work for watching this gloriously beautiful, heartbreakingly painful love story is best done in private. It should take a further three or four viewings before I can keep the sobbing to a minimum. Browsing over the nominations for the Academy Awards, it would appear that there is a single nod for Costume Design. That there isn't more for the acting, cinematography or direction is a travesty in my eyes but I won't bother ruining my evening with a rant. Being that I am now emotionally wrung right out, I'm off to bed with a copy of Keats poetry, rescued from the library's discard bin and a fresh tissue. Good night.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Almond Gingerbread

Now that the indulgence of Christmas and all things yummy is well behind us, I was ready to get the mixing bowls out again. Leafing through the delicious recipes in Marguerite Patten's, 100 Top Teatime Treats, I chose to make Almond Gingerbread. Now my modus operandi is to make a recipe exactly as stated the first time and then make any adjustments required for next time. So in one bowl I had the flour, baking soda, ground ginger and ground almonds. On the stove to melt was some brown sugar, butter and golden syrup. The recipe said that when these ingredients were melted they were to be poured over the flour mixture and to stir briskly. Nothing was said about letting it cool, so in it went. How can you stir briskly when you're now faced with a bowl of hot glue?! This called for drastic measures to be taken. Getting out my speed mixer, I got stuck in...literally. The mixture wrapped around the beaters and worked its way up the stems pulling one of the beaters right out from its connection...mon dieu! There was smirking coming from R who stood close by watching what was fast become an episode of I Love Lucy. Not expecting much, I pushed and prodded the mixture off the the beaters and spread it in the pan as best I could and in the oven it went. In amazement, I watched this lovely cake start to appear! It puffed up and filled the house with a lovely ginger aroma...all was not lost. It looks a bit funny, I suspect due to its dramatic beginning, but tastes wonderfully old-fashioned, perfect with a cup of tea. This recipe, and Marguerite Patten, deserve some justice and I should have know better so I will definitely be making this gingerbread again soon.