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Friday, 31 October 2014

If you go down to the woods today....

Yesterday afternoon I was en route between two destinations, and the sun was shining through the car windows. I had 20 minutes to spare, so I took a detour along a tiny country road and stepped into the woods. I often go to these woods, but for some reason, I've never noticed this particular footpath, running through some silver birch trees. It was late afternoon, about 3.30, and the light was incredible. There was no wind, either, it was pretty magical.

I did not have my big camera with me, so phone had to do. 

I recently spent time with a friend who is very poorly. It sounds like a cliche, but it does make you think, and appreciate. 

So that is why I turned off the main road and took 20 minutes out to watch the sun go down.

Monday, 27 October 2014

An autumn celebration

It was my mum's birthday yesterday, and as eldest son is home from uni for a few days, I thought it would be nice to have a family gathering. I had a leisurely day to cook. The main course was rib of beef with all the trimmings, and I also made a chocolate fudge cake with frozen berries and a plum and apple crumble with amaretti topping.

The chocolate cake is a family favourite but only makes an appearance on very special occasions. The crumble is a delicious new discovery, made with apples from our tree.

It was good to get everyone together. 

The chimney has been swept and we're all ready to light the fire, but it's been so warm! We'll wait for colder weather....

Saturday, 25 October 2014

A taste of autumn

Last week I had to drive to Norfolk to do an interview. This wasn't the pretty Norfolk by the coast, but deep into the Fens. The landscape is completely flat but it's not featureless. Once you start to appreciate the big skies and the sweep of the flat fields, it is very atmospheric. Lining the route are various farm shops, small holdings, and fruit and veg for sale by the side of the road. This is prime agricultural land. The road followed the old River Nene.  

Long ago, before the Fens were drained, Fen folk got around in punts. You can imagine the network of waterways if you stand and look across to the horizon.

Once I'd finished my interview, I drove home, stopping off occasionally to have a look more closely at the landscape.
I found a fantastic farm shop, The Orchard Tea Room at Wisbech.

I bought some Comice pears which are the best I've tasted. They are from an orchard nearby, and came in all sorts of shapes and sizes, no supermarket uniformity here. I made them into a salad with blue cheese and walnuts and they were just the best.

Then I tried painting them as they're so pretty (didn't really do them justice but sketches don't always work, just have to keep experimenting). I'm still trying to keep a journal, although it's hard now I haven't got a deadline. But it does happen from time to time. A bit like my blog! I don't want to stop writing the blog, and I will aim to be back here more regularly. Thank you if you still stop by sometimes. 
You are much appreciated.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Apple pressing

I've been away from my blog much longer than intended. I've been busy writing my journal and that is finished now, so hopefully, I can be back here on a more regular basis. One thing we did recently which I wanted to write about was this apple pressing day at The Kings Arms, Polebrook, a local pub. We had so many eating apples from our tree, and they taste amazing but they don't keep. We really didn't want to waste them this year as it just seems so wrong. So, we took them along to this community apple pressing day. It was one of the last really warm days.

Lots of people arrived with apples. We pooled them and set to the task of juicing them. First, they had to be washed. 

Then the apples need to be roughly chopped and put into a 'mincer' to break them down before they're pressed. They come out broken down and mushed up.

You have to chop fast to keep up!

Into the mushing machine. Husband enjoyed this part!

These two were operating the apple press. It's an old one, but it did the job perfectly. The juice trickles out in a steady stream.

Ready to be decanted into the bottles we'd brought with us. It's not an appetising colour, but the taste is simply amazing. Sharp and tangy. We had about 10 litres to bring back. We drank some, gave some away, and popped a couple of bottles in the freezer to be mulled in the winter. Some people were planning to make cider with theirs. 

After all that hard work, we settled down to some butchers sausages, chips and apple sauerkraut  at the pub. Just rewards...

Sunday, 21 September 2014

An autumn day out

Yesterday felt like a good day for a trip. We were heading for Saffron Walden in Essex. It's only about an hour's journey from where we live, and there is an art gallery here which I've wanted to visit for a few years now. Once again, it's thanks to Twitter and the fact that I follow various artists and galleries, that I was galvanised into action as I read that it closes in October (until April). No time to lose. So off we went.

I had no idea that Saffron Walden would be so old - or so pretty. But it's both. There was a small market in the old market square, very busy, and with some beautiful flowers, fish, fruit and vegetables.

We bought takeaway coffees and had a good mooch around. I found a small bouquet of home grown dahlias from the community garden stall and Perry bought a sea bream to cook later. There was even an outside space to sit down and have some oysters and wine! But the art gallery was calling me. Here it is: The Fry Gallery.

The small gallery was built in 1856 by Francis Gibson, a Quaker banker and amateur artist to hold his personal art collection. It was then inherited by his daughter Elizabeth Fry. Since the 1980s, it has housed a collection of the works of the Great Bardfield group of artists which includes Eric Ravilious, Edward Bawden, Kenneth Rowntree and John Aldridge, whose work I really love. Their pictures evoke England in the 1930s. They work in print and paint. I am particularly keen on Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden and there are many examples of their work here. You can even see Edward Bawden's beautiful sketch books.

Wow, wouldn't mind having a few sketches like that in my book!
We spent a long time looking at the pictures and then browsing in the little shop which has a brilliant selection of books and cards. 

Next, we popped in on a small contemporary gallery in Church Street, where print maker Celia Hart has an exhibition. I had seen Celia's work in Country Living, and again, I follow her on Twitter. Some gorgeous prints here, and I am now saving up for one....(although actually her prices were very reasonable but I'd already spend my funds at the museum shop :) )

After a ploughman's lunch in the pub, we explored a bit more. Plenty of antiques shops and antiquarian books too, all in these gorgeous pale old buildings with timbers and decorative plasterwork.

Some lovely stuff in this one. 

I've never seen houses with this kind of embossed decoration before. 

It's the kind of town where I thought 'I could live here.'

Will definitely return. Hope you enjoyed this short tour. 
The Fry Gallery is at Castle Street, Saffron Walden. Open April - October.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Seasonal pleasures

I've been ticking off tasks on a list that has been sitting around for far too long. Last weekend, we launched an attack on the messy hinterland of our garden. It's here that nettles and brambles abound. We make half hearted attempts to tame it, but we're always defeated and it grows back (our garden backs on to a field so it's hard to stem the tide of nettles). It is amazing how much you can achieve in a day. We also picked up the windfalls, and mowed the grass.

By the afternoon, Perry had had enough so he went to a football match, while I drove some of the green waste to the local dump. While I was throwing it into the skip, I spotted this huge flour bin in an area marked 'please take.' I snatched it up and popped it into the boot of the car. I have never before found anything interesting at the dump, so I felt quite delighted that I'd  made this discovery!

Now on a roll, I picked some blackberries from the field, froze some and made some into crumble with some of the apple harvest. On Sunday, I did something else which I've been promising myself. I  volunteered to help out at the arts festival in Peterborough. I worked in a pop up cafe for a few hours, washing up, serving cakes, coffees and teas. I met some lovely people, heard some live music, and it was a joyful occasion.

Next on my list, I will go to some of the talks, readings and music events that I say I will attend, and never do. The Cafe is in an arts centre, and a lovely garden has been installed there. They had some very pretty yarnbombing going on, and some great ideas for planting.

This yarn bombed peacock hued bike was a picture.

Tomorrow, I'm going to interview a textile artist in Kent for LandScape magazine. I am so looking forward to it. I will report back with a few glimpses of what she does, but I probably can't show too much until the article is printed. Already I feel that I am climbing out of my rut and making lots of new plans.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

A season sneaking in....

The season is on the turn, although I think that summer may be returning next week. I hope so, I'm not ready for autumn yet. When I walked over the field to the post office just now, the bushes were full of berries, and there are hazelnuts in the trees and oak apples too. 
Sorry for the blog break, I've been busy with work, and it has taken a long while to catch up after my holiday. Last weekend we had friends to stay, which was lovely, and we took full advantage of the sunny weather on Sunday, taking our new canoe down to the river.

Then it was the village horticultural show, which went ahead despite the rain.

These are not my prize winning vegetables (definitely not!), but I did get a first prize for some yellow damson jelly and a second for raspberry and redcurrant jam. 

I did not do any cookery competition classes this year, as I was baking for our friends, but there were some lovely entries to see in the marquee.

So, nearly time for a new term, eldest back to uni and youngest starting sixth form.

It always feels like a good time for a change in September. As a freelance, I have to make my own luck, so I'm trying to work out where I go next.

Wandering around the fields with flowers in my hair isn't going to get anything done, so I need to get my focus back.

I do have one lovely assignment for a national magazine lined up for early September, and the local magazine takes plenty of my time but still....

I feel like a new journey should begin....

About Me

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I'm a freelance journalist living in a village in East Northamptonshire with my husband and youngest son. I love visiting car boot sales, auctions and markets and writing about my inexpensive finds, and also some small craft projects and my attempts at watercolour painting and patchworking. I'm the editor of a local magazine, so I find out about loads of interesting things that are happening in my community, some of which I share here, too.