Wednesday 22 December 2021

Wishing you all a very happy and peaceful holiday. If you are travelling do take care, and keep safe.
 
To you allπŸ’™

Monday 13 December 2021

Christmas Whirligig

Memories were rekindled for me by a lovely post from Gina showing some traditionally hand carved wooden figures from the Ore Mountains, an area that spans south-eastern Germany (Saxony) and north-western Czechia

It reminded me that we too had some similar carved figures. I am not 100% sure that ours were made in the Ore Moutains. They were purchased by us at an outdoor Christmas market in Hamburg many moons ago. But where are they now? The hunt was on. Eventually I managed to located the box in which I had hidden them away. It was a delight to rediscover and see them again, especially as I uwrapped each item carefully from the many layers of protective tissue paper.

When the candles are lit the sails twirl around which then revolves the navity tableaux inside the stable which is being visited by the three kings whilst shepherds stand guard around the outside with their sheep.

The choir sings

The sheep wait patiently

Mary & Joseph watch over the crib, 

and then the three kings arrive bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Wednesday 24 November 2021

Tagine

The preserved lemons that I made over 4 weeks ago are now ready to be used in a new to me recipe - Date and Chickpea Tagine.

Ingredients

1 tspn oil, 2 red chopped onions, 3 grated cloves of garlic, 1 grated thumb size piece of root ginger,

1 tspn cumin, 2 tspn paprika, ½tspn ground cinnamon, ½tspn ground coriander

½tspn of cayenne pepper, 1 tblspn tomato puree, 1 aubergine cut into 2.5 cm cubes,

1 carrot cut into 1 cm half moons, 300g sweet potatoe, peeled, chopped into 1 cm cubes,

2 x 400g tinned chopped tomatoes,

400g tinned chickpeas rinsed and drained,

300ml of vegetable stock,

200g of whole pitted dates cut in half

2 preserved lemons, peel cut into thin strips

Pinch of saffron, parsley to serve.

Heat oil in a large ovenproof pot over a medium heat. Add onions, garlicand ginger, cook for 5 mins, stiring often. Add all spices and tomatoe puree and cook for a further 5 mins until tender. If the spices stick to the bottom add splash of water. Stir in aubergine, carrot and sweet potatoes, then tomatoes, chickpeas and stock. Lastly add the dates, preserved lemons and saffron. Stir, and bring to the boil, Cover pot, transfer to medium hot oven (160℃ Fan) for 40 mins. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve with rice, spicey falafels and Greek yogurt dressed with chopped mint. 

I was delighted with the intense flavour achieved by the preserved lemons. 

Tuesday 16 November 2021

The Trees are............

............slowly turning golden. 

Because we have had such a very late autumn season I really hadn't given much thought to Christmas, which I now suddenly realise, is just over five weeks away.

Time to hastened to our local wood and enjoy autumn's golden splendour before the trees finally do turn bare. The woodland sits on the side of a high Cotswold escarpment immediately below where we live and overlooks a small hamlet down In the valley. A valley that is thought to have been occupied by a Roman General called Vespasian, who eventually became the 9th Emperor of Rome. He built himself a magnificent villa in the valley with one of the finest mosaics ever discovered north of the Alps - The Orpheus Pavement. Today the mosaic still lies exactly where it was crafted and conceived, hidden away, safe but intact, beneath the local churchyard.

A pathway leads us into our beautiful, predominantly, Beech woodland.

On entering it feels akin to stepping inside a cathedral. The soft grey trunks of the Beech trees soar upwards not unlike stone pillars which then form a delicate archway overhead.

The fallen leaves feel crisp and rustle beneath our feet bestowing a sense of peace and calm as we make our way below the trees. There are now two choices - a high or a low pathway. We opt for the lower.  
As the late afternoon sun falls it lightens up the lower canopy, but it is now time to retrace our steps and make for home.
The shadows lengthen,
and the leaves glow even brighter.

Friday 5 November 2021

Out of the Window........

all is calm and serene. The two Sorbus aucuparia - rowan or mountain ash trees display their autumn colour as they have done since the beginning of October. The horse chestnut tree stands tall and proud but bereft of it's leaves, and the other trees continue to wear summer green stippled with hints of colour yet to come. 


Rowan trees are steeped in legend and mythology.

In the British Isles the rowan has a long history in folklore as a tree which protects against whitchcraft and enchantment. The tree itself was said to afford protection to any dwelling by which it grew. To this day rowan trees can be seen growing besides rural dwellings in the Scottish Highlands. I wonder whether the person who planted our trees knew of this tale - maybe we have a double dose of protection.

Greek mythology tells how Hebe, the goddess of youth, dispensed rejuvenating ambrosia to the gods from her magical chalice. When, through carelessness, she lost the cup to demons, the gods sent an eagle to recover it. A fight ensued and the eagle shed feathers and drops of blood. These fell to earth where each of them turned into a rowan tree. Hence the rowan derived the shape of its leaves from the eagle’s feathers and the appearance of its berries from the droplets of blood. 

The rowan is also prominent in Norse mythology as the tree from which the first woman was made.

The news here is dominated by the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow, but will the countries of the world finally come together? There are some notable government leaders that are absent from the major decision making. 

There have been some very alarming reports shown on the TV, one of which was done by the highly regarded BBC Panorama team investigating this past year of wild weather from around the globe. Most of which we had been aware of but without knowing the final outcome or details. Happenings which are becoming increasingly common place, but changing the life for millions. I was aware of the record-breaking high temperatures in the Pacific Northwest of Canada but did not know that a small Canadian town called Lytton had been totally overcome and completely devastated by the wildfires caused by the heat. The town was completely destroyed and burnt to the ground. Floods in Germany and Belgium swept away entire medieval villages and towns, places that had withstood storms and tempests for hundreds of years are now no more. Rural communities in the Australian state of New South Wales have been battling a plague of mice that struck the region. Thousands upon thousands of mice have been invading grain silos, barns and homes and infesting the farmers' bumper grain harvest. The harvest has had to be totally burnt in order to get rid of the mice. I have never seen so many mice, it looked like a horror film. The mice numbers boomed following the unusually heavy summer rains and floods which produced bountiful crops when it fell acrosss eastern Australia after years and years of drought. 

South Korea has been blanketed by massive yellow dust storms blown in from China. The Korean Meteorological Administration said that practically all parts of the nation were affected by high levels of yellow dust that originated in the Inner Mongolian region of northern China and the vicinity of the Gobi Desert. The dust storms have become more deadly each year as they pass over China's industrial zones picking up toxins. South Korea, blames hundreds of deaths each year on the storms, especially to the elderly. Children have to wear special masks to school because it causes respirator problems. 

The people of Madagascar are on the brink of the world's first climate change-induced famine. More than a million people need emergency food and nutrition, with 14,000 already in 'catastrophic' condiitions. Starving Malagasy people are forced to eat insects and old dried roots buried deep in the ground.

Saturday 23 October 2021

In Rememberance

John Gohorry, revered poet, and fellow member of the same poetry society as our eldest son, died unexpectedly last Sunday. 

The following poem has been written by our son and dedicated to John.  Depicting a typical October day whilst reflecting on the soul of our country - poignant feelings that continue to resonate up and down our small kingdom.



I'm just going out to post some poems


the leaves are falling with the breeze 

 as I walk along the familiar path

under the strong, archival trees

and the scattered clouds.

It's October and I feel a slight chill

Imagining the winter to come.

In my mind all is snow, white on the ground

and flakes are turning around and around

whispering as they fall.

Anger and calmness flutter inside me

debating the soul of this country - 

a brittle chunk of land, now snapped away.

 
I pick at the snowfakes, looking for rhymes

for crystal, needle, delicate and symmetry.


Besides the path, colour catches my eye.

I lean down to touch a fuschia flower

thinking their clusters like tiny lanterns

warm and bright, loving lights,

put there to guide the way. 

RIP John Gohorry

Sunday 17 October 2021

Preserved Lemons

Many of us enjoy making Moroccan and North African dishes, but often the recipes mention using preserved lemons.  The cost of buying ready preserved lemons is ridiculous i.e. £4 - £8 for a fairly small jar when you can very easily make your own for less than £1.

Use a sterilised jar, four washed, unwaxed, lemons, and some sea salt. If you can't get unwaxed lemons then soak your lemons in a solution of warm water and vinegar and give them a really good scrub to remove all the wax.

Cut off both ends of the lemons.

 Cut each lemon into four segments but don't
cut through to the base, and place a small teaspoon of sea salt into each lemon.

Put a thin layer of sea salt at the bottom of your sterlised jar then pack the lemons in very tightly by putting the open ends of the lemons in first. I use a pestle that goes with my mortar to push them down as hard as I can. As you press lots of juice will begin to ooze out of the lemons. Seal the lid tightly and place the jar in the fridge. The juice from my lemons completely filled to the top of the jar, but if necessary, you can use a small amount of cooled pre-boiled water.

The lemons need to remain in the fridge for 4 weeks. Tip the jar upside down and give it a good shake from time to time. 

In four weeks I intend to make, a new to me recipe, called Date and chickpea tagine using these preserved lemons - so stayed tuned.

To use the lemons: rinse and dry however many quarters you need. Discard all of the flesh & pips and just use the skin. Slice this into whatever size you prefer. If the lemon liquid does not taste too salty it can be added to olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a little sugar and then made into a salad dressing.
 

Monday 11 October 2021

Sunday

Was a special day for us as we had arranged to meet one of our lovely granddaughters for lunch in Cheltenham, having not seen her for a year. She was attending various events at the Cheltenham Literature Festival currently taking place for the first time in two years. It was such a beautiful day that we decided to catch the bus, especially realising that parking could be difficult with so many visitors attending the festival. Buses are few and far between on a Sunday but the timetable revealled a couple that would suit us.

Whilst waiting for the bus I took a few images of our surroudings. 


Having not lived here for all of my life, I never cease to be delighted by the lovely architecture and stonework that can be found all around this area.


The bus arrived exactly on time - it was empty apart from two other people, and within half and hour we had arrived and met our granddaughter. We enjoyed a lovely lunch, and spent a very happy time together catching up with each others news, before she then headed off to her next festival venue. 

The bus stop in Cheltenham is situated outside the retailer "Anthropologie" so we popped in to see there latest acquisitions. Something that immediately caught my eye was their new range of pottery. 

The pottery had a familiarity to it so I called my husband over to see if he too recognised it, which he did.


This tale now takes us off along a completely different road - so let's head off to Bulgaria. It is a country that we visited many, many, years ago at a time when it was still firmly behind the iron curtain. Very similar pottery to that in Anthropologie was used in their restaurants and it is where I fell in love the design. But could you buy it? Yes, but with great difficulty. It was only available in the Communist co-operatives which seldom if ever opened, and if they did, the workers appeared reluctant to remove the pots from their window display or pretended to misunderstand what you were asking. In the end I did finally suceed and returned home with just one small piece as a souvenir.

A small wine/water goblet

Apparently pottery is one of the oldest crafts in Bulgaria and its very distinctive hand painted designs are based on their Thracia and Slavic traditions. 

How do I know this? well! when I looked at the bottom of the pottery in Anthropologie it said made in Bulgaria and on returning back home I found the rest of the information on their website. The designs today, however, are far more sophisticated than my simple little pot.

Should you wish to learn about a rather odd encounter that we experienced in Bulgaria all of those years ago you can read about it here:-          

Thursday 7 October 2021

Autumn Days

 "What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness"

John Steinbeck

A sharp drop in the temperature had us hauling out the winter duvet along with warmer clothes. However, it now appears that we could be set to receive some tropical warmth courtesy of the fallout from Hurrican Sam.

I love the zesty vibrancy of the leaves on our Catalpa Auria - Golden Indian Bean Tree,  especially now. 

As yet there are very few signs of autumn's gold appearing on the trees, and still the late Hydrangea flowers continue to flourish.

Even though most flowers are on the wane, there is still a bountious yield of attractive seed pods to be seen.
Next year I am intent on having more succulents in the garden. There are so many extraordinary specimens to be found today.
These Aeoniums, seen in a local plant nursery, caught my eye. Previously I have only ever seen Aeoniums about the size of a small saucer similar to the ones sitting at the bottom of the pot. The big ones were each the size of a large dinner plate.

"Winter is an etching, 

Spring a watercolour,

Summer an oil painting,

and Autumn a mosaic of them all."

Stanley Horowitz

Friday 1 October 2021

Ode to

 

The golden-rod is yellow;

The corn is turning brown;

The trees in apple orchards

With fruit are bending down.


The gentian's bluest fringes

Are curling in the sun;

In dusty pods the milkweed

Its hidden silk has spun.

The sedges flaunt their harvest,

In every meadow nook; 

And Asters by the brook-side

Make asters in the brook. 

Helen Hunt Jackson 

Helen Hunt Jackson was an American poet and writer who became an activist on behalf of improved treatment of Native Americans by the United States government. She described the adverse effects of government actions in her history A Century of Dishonor.