The gifts that keep giving

Just a quick post today. A follow up to ‘Gifted’. Thanks again to my iron casserole and Anna Jones recipe book – ‘One pot, pan, planet’ – here’s what I rustled up for lunch.

Doesn’t filo pastry make cooking look posh?! This ‘Pea, mint and preserved lemon filo tart’ looked pretty good on the inside too.

I’ll let you into a little secret. My kitchen cupboards do not usually store a jar of preserved lemons so I used fresh lemon rind with a quick squeeze of lemon instead. It still tasted delicious. A green-ish salad – I added a few of a neighbour’s homegrown tomatoes – was the perfect accompaniment. All in all a pleasure to cook and a pleasure to eat.

The left overs will be perfect for quick meals on work days.

Mx

Crossing the road

Good news! My lovely MP Tim Farron sent me a copy of the reply he received to his request from our local bus company. Yes there is indeed a request stop on my outward journey (not shown on the website so no wonder the driver didn’t know) and the drivers have been reminded of this. Yahoo!!! I and others can use the bus to get to lovely little Plumgarths on Crook Road from Kendal. No scary, wibbly wobbly walk needed.

Unfortunately there is no corresponding stop for Plumgarths travelling from Windermere towards Kendal. So there will still be a wibbly wobbly walk home. BUT hero that he is Mr Farron has not finished. He is pushing for the infrastructure (I suspect a crossing) to make a safe stop on the opposite side of the road for the return journey. Fingers crossed.

In the meantime I think I may have to dust off these beauties…

No 1 Daughter sent me a congratulations card for the new job. She couldn‘t have chosen a more apt card.

‚Autumn Hedgehog‘ by Linda Richardson (printed by Orwell Press)

The card is both a hint as to my new employer and also a bit of telepathy on No1 Daughter‘s part. I have – unbeknownst to her – registered for a Cumbria Wildlife Trust online event entitled „Why did the hedgehog cross the road?“. I have previously enjoyed a Cumbria Wildlife event on bees and pollinators in Cumbria. It was fab. I am really looking forward to seeing what Mrs Tiggywinkle is getting up to.

Moke x

P.S. for the one reader expecting a cyclist’s rant, apologies for it‘s non-appearance. The rant was long, oh so long, and dull, watching paint dry would be far more exciting. I decided it would have been completely self indulgent to inflict it on the lovely readers of this here blog … but the next time a motorist beeeeps at me for no good reason …. Grrrrr. ….. Mx

Gifted

I have been a lucky person of late. I have been gifted things that have improved my life no end.

During the Covid lockdowns we gained some new neighbours. And great neighbours they proved to be. Ja and So jumped straight into the neighbourhood efforts to keep everyone – especially the more vulnerable residents – in touch by writing and editing ‘The Surreal Times‘ a superb community newsletter crammed with useful contacts, information, good health ideas, book reviews … the list goes on. But sadly for us Ja and So have moved on. You two are already missed! Sob.

Because they moved themselves they found not everything would fit in their car and that they needed to leave a few bits and bobs behind. I gladly gave them a home. This was not a hardship. These bits and bobs were all useful to me and included a beautiful Le Creuset shallow iron casserole. I know. Amazing. Right?

For years I have wanted a hob to oven pan and now thanks to my erstwhile neighbours I have got one. Thank you Ja and So. The casserole has already been put to good use because I have also recently received just the right cookbook.

“One Pot, Pan, Planet“ by Anna Jones was also a gift. A birthday present from my friends AC-K and JC-K. I told you I was lucky!

“One Pot, Pan, Planet“ is actually much more than a cookbook. True it comes with a mouth-watering collection of recipes. The dish in the picture is ‘Broad bean and green herb shakshuka’. It was delicious. The book also brings the reader environmental information – how to eat healthily and sustainably – and gives many ways to help us stop wasting food. It is fascinating and packed full of useful and planet/money-saving tips. I can’t recommend it enough.

They say good things come in threes and sure enough along came gift number three. Good friend JG makes superb small bag sized notebooks from old cartons and postcards.

I love them and use them for shopping and ‘don’t forget to do’ lists. These small hand-stitched notebooks fit perfectly in my teeny tiny handbag along with a pencil. By doing so they bring an element of order to my little old life. But woe is me, I had run out of pages, all the above were full. I sent a plea to JG. And like a book-binding caped crusader (no cape actually worn) she came to the rescue with a new batch.

Phew! The relief. Scribbling can recommence. Toodle-oo for now I feel a shopping list coming on …

Mx

Ripple Effect

Been a busy old week with preparations for my new job rippling as I look into how I will get to my new workplace through the depths of Winter. Shout out here to local MP Tim Farron who has supported my call for a request bus stop nearer to my new employers.

On my way to my interview I discovered that the nearest bus stop was almost a mile from where I needed to be. That would have been great if that meant a stroll along an easy pavement or footpath BUT the walk was along a narrow sliver of vaguely trampled tall grass between a verge and a busy road. It was a very wobbly walk where I needed to step into said busy road in order to walk around the trees. Infact when a police car drove past I thought someone had called me in as inebriated and looking likely to fall in front of traffic!

Walking boots will be needed. It is certainly an unsuitable walk for any less sure footed travellers. Don’t get me wrong I am definitely not calling for the verge to be trampled down or even worse put under tarmac! Eeeek. THE VERGE MUST STAY. It is a wonderful habitat and home to all manner of plants and wildlife. However it should not be ‘home’ to commuters, visitors nor revellers. All that is needed is an extra request bus stop.

If the new stop is possible and is agreed it will benefit not just me but anyone working at or visiting the nearby cafe, small shopping hub and rather splendid hostelry. Never fear I still plan to cycle but when the weather turns nasty – and it inevitably will – it would be lovely to know that there is a snug, safe bus to rely on.

I would not dream of forgetting my trusty steed Hecate, unless of course there are high winds, heavy rain, snow and ice, overwhelming laziness ….

Phew. That was one long, drawn out ripple effect. Here is a much more homely and crafty ripple ready to be picked up.

This is the second baby blanket I have made using this Debbie Bliss pattern designed by Emma Varnam. The first was for my first granddaughter Peanut. It is satisfying to see the ticks appear in my project book as I roll along the rows.

This blanket had to include the colour orange and meant me working with a colour palette I am not used to. I was not sure about it at first but it has really grown on me. It is almost ready for the border and I think that will set it off very nicely.

This is one ripple effect I am pleased to see grow.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

The man who met Yuri Gagarin

Don’t strange and amazing things happen when you travel on trains? Or in my case bus train bus train. They certainly did on my latest trip to Yorkshire to see my family. And here I am curled up in my eldest granddaughter’s bed – rather like Mama Bear sleeping in Baby Bear’s cot – tapping out these few words to tell you all about it.

The journey started in it’s usual peaceful way with me hopping on the 555 Stagecoach bus to Carnforth. I love this bus route, it has to be one of the best in the country. It was comfortingly familiar to be swirling through the glorious green countryside even if the impacts of Covid 19 are still with us. I particularly liked the sign on the open window, got to love a low tech solution to a world pandemic.

Getting off the bus I had a little wait at Carnforth railway station before my train. Time to take a few of my wobbly pics and feel a little sad that Carnforth couldn’t enjoy it’s celebration in 2020 of 75 years since the making of the film “Brief Encounter” in which the station features.

I did notice that Carnforth Station Heritage Centre has re-opened and seemed almost as busy as pre-pandemic. “Brief Encounter” is a film classic adored by many. I have a confession, I don’t like it! I love the station and the Heritage Centre which displays a wealth of social and industrial history. The film however leaves me cold. Perhaps I am being harsh “Brief Encounter” is a creation of it’s time. But controlling men and simpering women do nothing for me.

Moving on before the fans – some of whom are dear friends – turn nasty! I also had a chance to look at some of the posters that adorned the walls of my platform. They have been there a while and I had begun to overlook them. They are really good. Here are a couple. These celebrate the RSPB nature reserve at Leighton Moss. I will try and share the rest next time I am at the station.

So far so normal journey to Yorkshire. Things began to change when I got to Skipton and I hopped aboard my second bus of the day the 64 to Ilkley (the X84 no longer seems to run from Skipton straight through to my daughter’s village. Grrr). It was full of people and happy chattering filled the air. My phone rang. It was a call I really really had to take.

“Pardon? … What?” I mumbled to the caller, muffled by the face mask I was still sort of trying to wear. “Sorry I can’t…quite…hear you” I continued with my finger pressed in my free ear trying hard to concentrate on what the caller was saying. “ I HAVE THE JOB?!!!” I almost shouted with glee (frankly I am surprised that the bus didn’t give me a cheer as I was so loud everyone must have heard). Well I had got the job and I said YES straight away. It was a marvellous moment in the strangest setting.

What I am up to and who I will be working for will have to wait. But hopefully the coming months will be filled with wonderful information about my new employer. Don’t worry it’s not MI5 … although I would say that wouldn’t I?

This journey was definitely out of the ordinary. First the job offer then I met a man who had met Yuri Gagarin. Honestly I am not with MI5. Or am I?

As I got off the bus at Ilkley to catch the train to Burley In Wharfedale I got chatting – as you do – to a lovely man. He told me about how he had met his wife. For my money this was a much better romance than that in the aforementioned film. It all started when he met Yuri Gagarin.

In 1961 at the height of the Cold War Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin – the first person to travel in outer space – was visiting Britain. He crossed paths with my gentleman when they were both visiting an art exhibition.

Gagarin was a huge celebrity at the time and attracted very large crowds everywhere he went. During this visit he was threatened with being crushed under the weight of people wanting to touch the man who had been in space. My fine fellow had linked arms with the cosmonaut’s KGB guard to protect the spaceman. Gagarin had been pushed against him and thankful for his services had shared some time with him and even pressed into his hand his medal for space travel so my gent could have a good look at it.

Where’s the girl? We are not quite there yet. My friendly chap told me that meeting the Soviets made him realise that, despite the propaganda, the Russians were just ordinary people not the monsters they were portrayed as being. He became curious. But it was hard to find out anything positive about the Soviet Union in those chilly days so he decided he would have to visit Russia. Ah so he met a Russian girl and they lived happily ever after. Not so fast my friends.

Why did he share his tale with me? It was because of my connection with the Lake District. Didn’t see that coming did you? Before going to Russia this charming friendly man had gone hill walking in the Lakes and been talking to fellow hikers about the lack of information on the Soviet Union. He was pointed in the direction of a young woman. Unusual for the times she had spent some months in Russia learning about the people and culture.

Yes you are right this was ‘the one’. They met and after what I gathered was a whirlwind romance he proposed to her on Cat Bells (a popular fell to the west of Derwentwater in Cumbria) and they did live happily ever after. Poignantly his lovely wife died only a short time ago. I think this is why he told me their beautiful story too. It was a way of remembering happy days and passing on his wife’s memory.

We did not exchange names and I hope that anyone who may recognise this tale will forgive me any errors I have made in the re-telling. It was a heart warming story of love and also of gaining understanding through learning about those we have been led to fear. This kindly man’s story further lifted my already high spirits. I hope it lifts yours too.

As I relate this I realise I had my own brief encounter! And on that bookend I will bid you adieu.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

PS I may have been ‘tipped the wink’ about the job offer as one of my fantastic references KC had text me while I was on the Skipton train to say she had been contacted by my new employer. Big thanks KC for what must have been an amazing reference. Mx

Where have all the flowers gone?

This used to be what my entire garden looked like, at least the bit that had previously been covered by a very scrappy lawn. Two years ago inspired by Alys Fowler of “Edible Garden“ fame I thought that I too would love an edible garden.

I had visions of supplementing neighbours’ larders by sharing my copious harvests and of cycling along with hair flowing (cycling helmet only abandoned for the visualisation not my actual journeys you understand) carrying bunches of herbs and flowers to any poor soul needing the solace of rosemary, bay and lavender twined into a beauteous fragrant rustic bouquet and requiring a swig of home brewed elderberry wine (medicinal purposes of course).

Scratch all that. The harsh reality was a lot of kale – please God no more – but only 5 potatoes and a handful of rather pitiful looking beans. The garden was not the abundant source of produce (except for the kale) I thought it was going to be. For why? I hear you ask.

It couldn’t possibly be my total lack of gardening knowledge … could it? I have religiously watched “Gardeners’ World” every Friday night surely by some osmosis all that green fingered know how should have seeped into my very being … shouldn’t it? Obviously not.

Apart from my lack of ken (knowledge that is, not the chap) the biggest clue to my gardening limitations is very obvious to anyone that has seen my garden. It is a limitation that I am more than happy to live with. My garden is dominated by a very large tree.

And she has several smaller friends.

I really do count myself lucky. My nearest neighbour is a sycamore – I call her Cyra – who must be at least 150 to 200 years old. When you look up into her branches there is a whole planet of life – including the occasional woodpecker – and there will be another in her sturdy trunk and yet another in her roots.

Thankfully nothing grizzly appears to have happened around Cyra. She is a field marker tree – planted at the junction of several fields – who lived a quiet rural life until the 1980s when a housing estate was built around her. I sometimes feel sorry for Cyra but I think she maybe likes the company and if she doesn’t she gets her own back in autumn by burying us in her leaves (don’t tell her but they are very handy as a mulch) and hurling the occasional small branch on very windy days.

Despite my love of this marvellous tree SHADY is the best way to describe my garden. So what am I and the mud patch beneath her to do? Trumpet fanfare!!!! Friends and family to the rescue. Thanks to JG and the Kendal Conservation Volunteers I have been donated several woodland loving plants: red campion, foxgloves, violets, forget me nots and primroses.

Brace yourselves and if you are in any way prudish look no further. [whispers] PF and AF brought me some [hushed whisper] … titter (unfortunate word) … naked ladies … Oooh er missus! Alright I will stop now, we are all adults here. Aren’t we?

I popped a few of the gorgeous russet coloured bulbs in a small trough. I didn’t think they would appear until next spring but as you can see they are making a valiant attempt. Slightly wonkily I admit. Those pesky blackbirds had scratched out most of the soil. Is it wrong for a vegan to shout at birds?! But these brave little bulbs are illustrating the reason for the nakedness, they don’t have any leaves. Ooh er …

In case you think I have contributed nothing to the moonscape that once was lawn brace yourself. I managed to propagate some english lavender. Yahoo! Now along with my home grown sweet marjoram, thyme and chives the lavenders have been popped into terra firma. As you can see fallen leaves are a constant in my garden.

To be honest my veg have not been a total disaster this year. I still have some tomatoes struggling to ripen – I stripped away most of the leaves to help them – and I have had success with chillies. The lesson here is I am much better at growing vegetables in pots. In addition the rhubarb that I thought I had killed off last year because it was planted under too much shade seems to have crawled along the bed and like a phoenix risen anew.

Nonetheless what the last couple of years has taught me is that the flowers needed to be in first and then the veg could follow … maybe … perhaps. Friends and family have helped me along the road and with a bit of judicious purchasing the ex-lawn – still bare in places – has many new inhabitants: anenomes, geraniums, salvia, echinacea, asters to name a few (you guessed it I can’t remember the names of the rest). These latter were all delivered in beautiful condition by Crocus Garden Centre and are all pollinator friendly.

Crocus’ website gives full information on the height and spread of the plants, where and how they like to live and what they will get up to over the course of a year. I have planted as best as I can by their instructions but any failures will of course be all mine. I could not afford to buy them all at once so the planting may be a little higgildy piggildy. Just how I like things.

But what’s this? Some new arrivals?

Hellebores and oriental poppies

Better get planting. I am sure the aches and pains from the bending and digging will be washed away by the thoughts of how the garden will look this time next year. I can but dream … and weed …. and hoe … and rake … and mulch …. Where’s that elderberry wine?!

Until next we meet,

Moke x

P.S. Before you worry. I am a peat-free compost gal and have used Dalefoot Compost’s wonderful Lakeland Gold to mix with the top soil and mulch around the new plants.

Jolly Janome is busy

Hello All

Over the last couple of years I have been sewing more and more. I’ve made clothes for me and the girls, bags for gifts, bags for medics clothing and of course many, many masks!

Weirdly I have no photos of the masks, but I reckon you have all seen enough of them over the last 18 months or so. I don‘t need to show you any more.

My favourite pieces however were two quilts. One was made for Munchkin when she was born and the other was sewn for Shrub when she arrived.

Munchkin‘s was made by creating appliqué panels based on the ‘Woodland Critters’ quilt pattern. I tweaked it ever so slightly. There had to be a robin! Then I had great fun deciding on the fabrics to make the blocks before sewing the completed panels together, adding the surround, batting, backing and quilting.

When it came to Shrub’s quilt I chose a simpler method. I bought cloth with pre-printed panels. I cut out each panel then framed them with different coloured fabrics before once again sewing them together, giving them a border, batting, backing and quilting. I must say I was particularly pleased with the border and backing materials that I bought – like a lot of my fabrics – from Reticule here in Kendal.

If you are wondering where Peanut’s quilt is, truth be told I had not ventured into the wonderful world of quilting when she was born. For her birth I made a crochet ripple blanket.

The time has come to work on a special quilt for P. But it is hush hush as Mother Christmas is busy working on it …

Until we meet again,

Moke x

The Tribe of Doris

Hello All,

When I left .. deserted … you in 2019 I had one amazing granddaughter, Peanut. P is now the magnificent and all-wise age of 5 years. Five?! Yes 5! She keeps us straight on all things vegan – “Omi, is this vegan?” – is an animal welfare activist and a budding expert on bears. A perfect bundle of eco-warrior and caring human being.

During my long blog-sleep Peanut was joined by a brilliant cousin and gorgeous little sister. Collectively the three girls are to me The Tribe of Doris (psst this was the name of an fabulous all female drumming band … don’t tell them I stole it).

First to join the party was A, daughter of No 1 Son and No 1 Daughter In Law.

Munchkin is over 18 months old and as you can see is very happy to be donning her welly-bobs for country walks and splashing in mud. I have missed her sooooo much during the various lockdowns and was really pleased that No 1 Daughter In Law’s parents were near at hand and able to be there as part of her childcare bubble. As things have eased I am getting to know A again and it is wonderful to meet the beautiful, reflective and intelligent little girl that has blossomed from the newborn I remember pre-pandemic.

In case you wondered, Munchkin is sporting a Clothkits jacket I managed to smuggle to her during the Christmas lockdown lift. Yes a tad on the big size… but she looks adorable and she will get her wear out of it. I was happy to find that Clothkits are still very much alive and kicking as I loved them when my own two were children and they continue to make gorgeously printed kits along with complete items and fabrics that are irresistible. One word of warning the binding was a devil to get right. Although this could just be me and my cack-handedness.

Then there were … three. Earlier this year P got her wish of a baby sister. Shrub was a bump through much of the pandemic and arrived as a little ray of sunshine in a year overcast by the clouds of Covid. It seems she knew this because I swear she was smiling by 2 weeks old.

Now you have met the tribe. It is a wobbly old world they have arrived into but as with all children they are our hope for the future and they make me even more determined to work to rectify the problems we have so far bequeathed them. After all I don’t want this fearsome bunch coming after me in my dotage (not long off) asking “WHY?!”

Until next we meet,

Moke x

Return of the native

Hello All

Wow! That’s what I call a sabbatical. Over two years. Now the native of these here posts has returned and is hopefully here to stay.

I have no good reason for the long absence. I just puttered out of steam and didn’t feel I had anything relevant to say in a world in such turmoil. As we know the turmoil has not gone away but has worsened tremendously. My heart went out to all who suffered through the Covid pandemic, war and the effects of climate change. What use cosy pictures of my sedate life cushioned amongst the Lakeland Fells?

Then I hit the age immortalised by the Fab Four. “When I’m 64!” is here. I am not losing my hair (my teeth are another story) and I am just about clinging on to my marbles (my memory is again another story). Still I do sit beside my metaphorical fireside crafting, cooking, reading and seeking better ways to live. Most importantly I have after two years of hand wringing got over myself. At 64 I realised that if just one of you is interested in my ramblings I am more than happy to share them.

So what’s occurred in the intervening years … where to begin? Make a cuppa, curl up in a favourite chair while you await further bloggage. Here’s a clue to some of the goings on.

Until next we meet

Moke x

Cover Up

Hello All

Today I share with you a guilty secret. Brace yourselves for some hideousness.

In the room I like to call my study (well I do read in there) is this ….

Ermm disintegrating heap of an old sofa. But wait you have not seen the full horror. Close your eyes if you are of a nervous disposition and cue music from ‘Psycho’:

Before you disown me for the lush that I obviously am let me explain. First the sob story: this was my mother’s sofa (aaaaaahhh) however she died almost 20 years ago … and she gave it to me before she died (tut, tut). Next the pragmatics: the sofa was until ‘fairly’ recently covered and the covers had (after a fashion) withstood the rigours of children and two elderly spaniels. But enough was enough and in a moment of madness/cleanliness I donned a nuclear fallout suit and whipped the covers off and disposed of them. Don’t worry you are safe.

I couldn’t however get rid of the sofa: it has sentimental value, a good solid frame and it provides a cosy nook to curl up with a yarn-y project or a good book. So recently – ok, several years ago – I decided I would re-cover it. In my head this was a perfectly formed LITTLE endeavour. The project even had a boost when super friend JG donated me some old curtains.

Plenty to cover a small settee. Surely an easy weekend make would follow in which I could sing the praises of re-cycling and making do and mending. Yet even in my pea brain something told me that this was going to be trickier than my original vision of up-cycled loveliness allowed. I stalled.

But now only three years later – I am not the Procrastination Queen for nothing – I have started creating loose covers for Omi’s sofa and here I am describing the makeover, part one of it anyhoo (let’s not go wild!). As with all good 21st century projects I started by trawling the internet. Now I don’t want to say that other’s have had it easier but every similar sofa recovering I watched seemed either to involve box type cushions and/or staple guns.

Omi’s Sofa has ‘nobbly’ shaped seat cushions and recessed arms meaning more shaping would be involved. I also did not want to staple the covering to the sofa. I want to be able to remove it for washing. I have a granddaughter! and she is second only to me as a ‘dropper’. Finally I have ‘previous’ for being lethal with a staple gun…don’t worry that child’s limp is barely noticeable now….

Suffice to say Jolly Janome and I were going to work this together with a little bit of tacking and hand sewing thrown in for good measure. I even moved my scene of operations downstairs. Ironing board too.

My first objective was to cover the seat cushions. Not being one for maths I worked by covering the foam with the fabric inside out and cutting and tacking then sewing around the ‘L’ shaped corners.

I am still using the original seat cushions and wanted to keep the covers loose enough to remove easily when, at some point in the next century, I get new foam. For this reason I put vents into the side seams.

This called for some tricky pinning and tacking but I am pleased that the vents afford easier removal.

The almost finished cushions are a wee bit lumpy bumpy thanks to the old foam but I am happy that they turned out a matched pair and I hope you agree that already Omi’s old sofa is vastly improved.

For now (another three years?) I have thrown the remaining curtaining over the settee and as I had already crochet covered the back cushions by adding a row of patchwork cushions (thank you KS for the beautiful blue one) the sofa has a new lease of life.

But I must dash. I have a cosy nook to sit in and that Ann Cleeves thriller will not read itself.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

PS the rug was knitted with jumbo needles using selvedge yarn. In case you wondered. Mx