Thursday, October 28, 2010

Our house

We closed the door of another chapter in our lives this evening. Our very first family home. The house where my twin babies learnt to eat, to walk and to be part of a community. It is the house where my handsome boy put on his whistle, dusted down his shoes, trimmed his beard in a wing mirror, before dashing with his dearest oldest friends, to church, to meet me; his future wife.

It is the house where we conceived our final baby - Betty-Blanche, whose first cries filled the house the very day she was born. As I pushed her out my screams and her cries still hang in the soul of those walls. She curled up and suckled as we lay in bed together and her twin brother and sister raced to meet her for the first time hours after her arrival. Toasted with champagne by her grandmother, and lemonade by the twins.

It is the house in which we have danced and laughed with so many friends, old and new. Within which meals have been lovingly made and shared, drinks toasted, cigarettes smoked under the stars and giggles felt until way into the wee early hours. It is the house we filled with love, family, friends, champagne, and hand-made delicacies in the honour of the christening of our littlest baby girl.

It is the house we left forever tonight, it's slugs in the front garden and unstoppable vine in the back garden. It is the home whose brass door knocker I shone, whose fence I painted, whose windows my husband replaced and I cleaned, whose floors we sanded and walls we painted, whose bathroom we plumbed in and kitchen we designed, shelves we put up and books we filled, is the house, now of someone else.

May they love it as much.

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Apple and Blackberry Jelly

An Autumnal delight of a sweet translucent scarlet jelly has seen me, this week, constantly dashing to the bakers to buy bread so that I may continue to hoover it up without actually having to resort to sticking a spoon in the jar and sucking on that, which, believe me, I have been pushed to do on several occasions.

After lamenting a lack of fifty thousand grand, much needed for us to purchase a new home for our family, my pops bought me my very own jam pan, a jelly bag and stand, a thermometer and the River Cottage book on preserves. He thinks I can make the dough by selling my home-made hedgerow elixcir off the street - I think he's right.

So, last week we hunted out the very last vestiges of the blackberries, the recent rain has all but rotted the lot, but we managed to bag enough to do several batches of this most alluring and tasty jelly. The apples, also at the end of the season, needing rescuing from their lofty perch and so Felix climbed up and recovered the last blushing few.

A jelly is slightly more time consuming that a jam, but I prefer it, finding it easier to make, and the extra time allows you to sort out jars and the subsequent sterilising process that goes in hand.

Joyously the process begins with nothing more than cutting up the apples - mishapen, home-grown organic beauties, who's sweet crunch leaves you thirsting for more - you simply remove the stalks but leave the core and peel, just evenlyish cutting them all up and bunging them in the pan with your glistening dark berries. Add to your pan a good litre or so of water making sure the fruit isn't covered but is nicely nestling in a good bath of eau. Bring to the boil and gently simmer until it turns a deep crimson and the fruit is all soft and squishy - an hour or two should do the trick - don't forget about it though.

Gently place your pulp and juice into the jelly bag and leave overnight for the juices to slowly drip down. Your patience will be well rewarded as you return on the morrow and find a jug full of dark fruit juice.

When you are ready to make your jelly pour the juice into a jam pan and slowly bring it to the boil, when it is boiling add 450g of sugar for every 650ml. When the sugar has melted boil your crimson brew as hot as you can for about ten minutes. Test the jelly for setting point using a saucer (store it in the freezer) if it wrinkles when you push it then it is ready, remove it from the hob and immediatly fill up your jars.

I find the best way to sterilise my jars is to wash them and the lids in a bowl of hot soapy water then allow them to completely dry out in a warm oven. Add the jelly to the warmed jars and screw on the lid straight away - eh voila - your perfect apple and blackberry jelly.

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Friday, October 1, 2010

Piano Grande

The old man has bought for himself an electronic piano, that is; a keyboard. I didn't know I was snobby about these things but I was like: "a bloody keyboard?".

Anyway, so it arrived this week and hell it is a beauty of a keyboard and I have totally turned the corner, changed the page and so on. It is HUGE. And it's keys are weighted to resemble an ordinary piano, it sounds as beautiful as a piano. And, well, we have been listening, online, to some LA-based American dude who, in his soft silk shirt, has been trying to describe and teach us how to play the piano. Truth is I have kind of given up already - I prefer to sing.

But each evening as I sit in bed and read the papers, catching up on three Sundays ago, I can hear, my boy, tinkling away and, actually tinkling is entirely the wrong word - because the sound is soft, melodic, pulsating and oh, so calming. It is gorgeous and has changed the entire beat of our home during these Autumnal nights, the children fall asleep listening to him practice his chords, and I feel a great sense of peace and strength listening to the undulating rhythm float along the landing - it is blissful.

But mostly I am excited about Christmas - I adore the idea of showing off and singing something super classic for folks. Of donning matching spandex outfits, creaming our barnets down across our foreheads, sipping on some eggnog before launching into, Let It Be, I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas, or something equally as brilliant.

I love music, I love people singing and making songs go together at the end of an evening it is bonding and it is fun, it brings laughter and tears and it strengthens your very soul.

Bring on the keyboard.

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Orchard Studio meets Hopetown

Designers, wannabe's, the style set and artists flocked to the East of the city last weekend for a chance to see a selection of Blighty's contemporary designers. Selected by Tent London and billed as: the best in contemporary and vintage design, architecture, interiors and the world of digital...

Sadly I missed the entire thing, putting three children to bed then dashing to catch the train to town, flying over London Bridge, down to Monument and then waiting for the one measly service London Underground had running, left me running up the stairs as the hordes poured down them.

Tent was held in London's Brick Lane, our own answering call to New Delhi, the long road is crammed full of Indian restaurants, sari shops, wholesalers of halal meat, Indian tooth powder, guavas, all kinds of chillies, chick peas and chapatis. It is a feast for the senses. Outside each restaurant a hawker prowls tirelessly, teasing you, tempting you in with the secret specialities his particular eating house serves. They endlessly out-bid each other up and down the street to snare a handful of the many, many Londoners who come to gorge themselves on the sub-continents finest take-out; taka dahl, sag aloo or jalfrazi.

Bath's answer to Eva Zeisel, Daniel O'Riordan from Orchard Studios swung into Tent with his striking collection of contemporary ceramics and furniture using amongst other simple textiles reclaimed rubber bands. Dan and his exclusive and bold range of stylish flat-pack chairs, low-hanging ceramic and rubber-band lamps received plenty of well-deserved attention from the press alongside many other of the Tent exhibitors.

Reclaimed, recycled and low-carbon products at the event made the greatest impact and rightly so and Orchard Studios is one to look out for.

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End of the summer

Following a beautiful year in France, a winter so cold our lives were reduced to huddling endlessly around a big smoky kitchen fire and longjohns were de rigueur. a summer of sultry heat, dusty stone farmhouses, soft pungent fromage and delicate vin rose. I wanted to post a few photos to remember our sweet French sojourn. The chateaus and villages around were simple and stunning in their grandeur and peaceful colours.
The weekly market was full to bursting with glorious seasonal fruit and vegetables. We feasted on bread and cheese, wine and prawns, melons and glutinous saucisson.