The Very Sunny Blustery Day


Wednesday, 30 January 2013

In which my laundry dries. Outside. Before lunch. In January.


The first of this year's samplers featuring snow and comfort food. 

Sunday Observations


Sunday, 27 January 2013

Katie's snowman has died.
I went for a walk in the sunshine. 
The birds were shrieking their heads off.
I like walking with the wind behind me.
Andy Murray's feet are in a shocking state.
Timbuktu is a real place and it is in Mali.
I made steak and kidney pies for supper.
Katie and Tom picked all the kidney out of theirs.

The Quince Tree Graduates


Thursday, 24 January 2013

Now The Quince Tree is three years old I think I can say with confidence that I have gained my Bachelor of Blogging (B.Blg). I'm not sure whether I have achieved a Geoff but I'd like to think I've done better at this blogging lark than I did at my actual degree -just a Desmond for that*.

Here follows my dissertation on blogging which true to the spirit of the occasion I finished at 4am this morning having left it until the last minute, Thank goodness for Powerade and Mars bars.

What I Have Learnt About Blogging ~ a self-indulgent reflection on the business of blogging

Naming of blogs
When deciding on a name for your blog go for something which does not tie you to a particular subject unless you are certain that you will want to write about that subject forever. 

I very nearly called this blog 'Playing Hooky' because it was going to be all about my crochet projects. Fortunately I realised I was being over-optimistic about the amount of crochet projects I would complete. I then thought of something food related as I was pretty sure I would always want to include recipes but it occurred to me that I might want to write about all sorts of other things too, so I decided to think of a name which didn't tie me to a subject but evoked a pleasing image. I looked out of my window and saw my beautiful quince tree. 

The Quince Tree is, I think the perfect name for my blog. It allows me to write about a multitude of different things while at the same time giving me something specialised to write about. Not many people know about quinces. Also I just love the word Quince, especially when written in the font I have chosen for my blog title -such a lovely Q (it is Sorts Mill Goudy by the way).

Finding Your Blogging Voice
This seems to happen quite naturally. When I wrote my first post I remember thinking that I was copying other blogs I liked at the time. My early posts felt very contrived and derivative. Looking back at them today I'm not so sure. I think my blogging voice was there from the beginning. Shame the photography skills weren't up to scratch then. 

My advice to new bloggers who are scared of hitting the publish button for the first time is to just do it. Be yourself and your unique voice will follow. Besides the first post will only be seen by your mum.

How to build a readership
So, you have published your first post but nobody knows it is there except your husband and he couldn't be less interested. Visit blogs you admire and leave a friendly comment about what they have written. When you leave a comment be sure to fill in the relevant spaces with your blog's URL. That way the blogger you have visited will be able to visit you and maybe leave a comment. Other commenters will click on your name too and visit. 

Including a list of your favourite blogs somewhere on your blog -a blogroll or a list of links on a separate page is a good idea. It doesn't have to be a long list. Those bloggers will notice from their stats when traffic comes their way via your blog and might reciprocate.

SEO, Monetising etc
Search Engine Optimisation. This is where if you write a post on blogging tips you should not give it an obscure title like 'The Quince Tree Graduates' nor should you fail to include the words blogging and tips in your opening paragraph because folks searching for blogging tips will never find it. I couldn't care less about SEO.

Monetising. This is where you have lots of annoying advertising all over your lovely clean blog. Not that I'm averse to linking to a product or shop I like, heaven knows I link to Amazon often enough. I'm not interested in making a living out of blogging at all. That includes writing a book. Why turn something fun, creative and which I have complete control over into hard work, deadlines and demands?

Blog For Yourself
Blog when you like, about what you like and as often as you like. I think of my blog as an extension of myself. I think it reflects my personality; organised, tidy, opinionated, honest and practical. I definitely don't put on a persona when I write my blog although I swear a lot less on the blog than I do in real life.

Blog Friends
This is the thing I love most about blogging. First you make friends virtually which is wonderful, but if you are really lucky you get to meet those friends in real life. I met several blogging friends last year and it was fantabulous. 

The Unwritten Law of Blogging
When you see a robin in the snow you have to take a photo of it and post it on your blog

* What on earth is she going on about? -
Rhyming slang for British degree classification in common use when I was a student 25 years ago.
A Geoff Hurst (famous footballer** from centuries ago) or a Damien Hirst (artist) is a first class degree.
An Attila the Hun is a 2:1
A Desmond Tutu is a 2:2
A Douglas Hurd (famous politician from centuries ago) or a Thora Hird (beloved character actress) is a third.
In rhyming slang the first word only is used, hence a Geoff, a Desmond etc.
**Soccer player

501 Not Out


Sunday, 20 January 2013

My last post was my 500th post. I missed it, and I was going to do something stupendous for the occasion. 500 essential recipes, 500 crochet blankets or 500 lovely flower photos. Ah well. How about 500 more posts instead?

The snow continues. Katie made a snowman. Tom still hasn't been out in it.

I made some Welsh cakes and a rice pudding. Both were well received. There was also a roast chicken.

It is falling again, though very lightly. I really hope the schools will be open tomorrow. I have an appointment tomorrow which will mean a car journey. Charlie assures me the roads are fine.

This is what it looks like now (9pm). A sparkly moon surface..

Snow Day


Friday, 18 January 2013

It did snow. As you can see.
We have about seven inches of the stuff now.
Katie has been out in it all day.
George has walked to college to find it closed. Now he is building a snow mountain on the front lawn.
Charlie went to work as usual and came home at lunch time.
I have been in the garden to take photos.
Only Tom has remained firmly indoors. He says he will build a snowman tomorrow.

Let It Snow


Thursday, 17 January 2013

There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth if it doesn't.
Katie has talked of nothing but the impending snowfall since she got home from school yesterday -
'I'm going to wear five pairs of socks under my tights, and jeans, and a vest, a t-shirt, a long sleeved top, and a hoodie as well as my coat, I'll wear my thin gloves under my mittens and my ear-hat, oh! but my wellies have a hole in them! '
'You'll have to stay inside then'

Earlier in the week George had mentioned that his coat was too small and that it was too cold to cycle to college without one.
'Oh surely not, haven't we just bought you a coat?'
'That was Tom. The label on mine says 'age 13-14'
'And you're.......?'
'17 Mum' he replied rolling his eyes.

So today I took George to buy a new coat and a pair of wellies for Katie ('can I have pink ones?', 'no you can have cheap ones'). As I entered my pin number I reflected how you never get a break from having to fork out large sums of money for boring stuff- stuff such as essential clothing for children, car MOTs, road tax, house repairs, new parts for the pc, driving lessons for 17 year olds, and dental work.

Good grief but dental work is expensive. After telling Tom that we would have to save up for a new drum kit as £400 was far too much to spend just like that, I find I will have to spend £465 just like that on another crown for my tooth. Fillings I had thirty years ago are acting like wedges in my teeth and cracking them. If only I hadn't been allowed to put sugar on my Frosties when I was a child.

Spending money on food is considerably more fun. This morning my weekly delivery arrived bearing lots of little sausages, brisket of beef, a chicken and some fine looking half-price cod loins.

The little sausages were tonight's supper tossed in honey and mustard and roasted in the oven. I roasted some carrots, parsnips, potatoes and red onions too.

Tomorrow we will have the cod, possibly bread-crumbed and served with homemade oven chips or maybe simply roasted and served with mash.

On Saturday I will cook the brisket slowly in red wine with some carrots and parsnips and we will eat it with mash. And on Sunday we will have roast chicken. Hopefully there will be leftover beef and chicken for suppers on Monday and Tuesday.

There will be puddings too. It's too cold to only have pudding on Sundays, we need ballast. Rice pud with strawberry jam perhaps, and another mincemeat galette des rois (it was so good), or maybe mincemeat pancakes. Mugs of cocoa may also feature and possibly gingerbread or cinnamon rolls. What do you mean I said no more cake? That was when I was stuffed with Christmas food and clearly not in my right mind.

Here's hoping for a day of snowy fun free from travel difficulties and stress. Keep warm. Unless you are in Australia. If you are in Australia keep cool.

Conquering Kale


Tuesday, 15 January 2013

In which I demonstrate how the application of butter, cream and bacon makes even a pile of weeds taste nice.

Thank you for all the wonderful kale suggestions. 
In the end I decided that colcannon sounded the most appetising way of eating it especially on a cold January day.

I made some mashed potato to which I added a slug of cream, a lump of butter and some fried spring onions. I used five biggish unpeeled spuds.

My kale was a 200g bag of British kale which cost £1 from Waitrose (it's £1 from Tesco and Sainsbury's too proving once again that Waitrose isn't always more expensive). It comes ready chopped but there were quite a lot of thick stalks which I snipped off and put aside for Billy Guinea Pig who lives next door.
I snipped the leaves up a bit more and threw them into a pan of boiling water for 9 mins.
Then I stirred them into the mash and seasoned well with salt and pepper. It was looking and tasting very good indeed.

I had enough for three or four lunches. Yesterday I had it plain, today I cooked some bacon to go with it and then reheated some of the colcannon in the bacony pan. Yum.
Tomorrow I might have it with a poached egg.
Colcannon is a delicious way to eat dark leafy greens, I might even buy some more.

Billy's tea.

Failing and Succeeding


Sunday, 13 January 2013

Failing at food photography.
I intended to write a 'wot I ate for my tea this week' post with lots of pictures but I only remembered to take photos of three meals and they all turned out really orange. A combination of harsh electric light (unavoidable at teatime in winter) and too much beta-carotene rich food. You will have to use your imaginations.

~Roast sweet potatoes and carrots with feta and fried eggs was a success -at least it was with me. 
~Falafel and harissa mayonnaise with carrot and orange salad stuffed inside a pitta was also good. 
~Char sui-ish pork tenderloins slow roasted and served with noodles and stir-fried veg was a hit. 
There must have been other meals but I'm blowed if I can remember what they were.

Failing at estimating how much seasonal winter veg my family will eat in a week.
While we have eaten sweet potatoes and plenty of carrots we have a back-log of parsnips, beetroot and kale. Kale? Why did I buy it? I am the only one who will eat it and I wouldn't bother if it wasn't so damn good for me. I foresee a week of kale soup lunches when what I would really like is a week of cheese and butter filled jacket potatoes.

Failing at not baking.
I made scones. And ate some. And today I have made flapjacks but not eaten any.... yet.

Succeeding at learning the periodic table. Got to keep the brain working.
Slightly outraged to find that at least 30 elements have been added to it since I last studied it in 1982.

Succeeding in finding something interesting to photograph. This lichen was bright green when I picked it up from the path on Friday but it has dried out to this lovely gold (Gold -chemical symbol Au, atomic number 79).

January Posy


Tuesday, 8 January 2013

This morning whilst engaged in a spot of gardening, or as I think of it- housework with mud and slugs, I found the makings of a little posy.

Perfect for this lovely little smoky glass vase.

Really the only way to see the snowdrop's pretty green markings is to pick one and bring it inside. You could always lie down in the mud but I prefer my way. The flower opens rapidly once brought inside. Of course they look gorgeous  flowering en masse, but mine do not seem to be reproducing at the rate I had hoped.

The flower above is, I think, a variety of pulmonaria. Unlike the snowdrop it does not take kindly to being picked and is now drooping over the side of the vase looking unwell.

I found this campion hiding beneath a blanket of quince leaves.

A little posy during the first week of every month this year will make a pleasing record of the year's turning. It may even make up for the lack of cake.

Yesterday I bought my traditional post-Christmas daffs. 'Don't they look jolly?' I exclaim forgetting that by the morning they will have filled the front room with their pollen and bring on my traditional post-Christmas hayfever. Aachoo!

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