Small Delights (v)


Monday, 31 March 2014

The cherry tree continues to delight not only me but bumble bees and yesterday several peacock butterflies.

A small posy of spring flowers from the garden are looking particularly delightful in my Blue of Devon jug. This little jug was a Christmas present and I love it so much that I think I must start a collection of Blueware.

A cluster of 'day's eyes' among the cherry blossom petals.

An improvised plum and almond tart made with leftover puff pastry and some frozen September plums. The filling is the same as the one used in this  tart. Small, but delicious.

Three particularly nice cards for Mothering Sunday yesterday from my offspring. The freesias were from Tom, there was wine from George and chocolates from Katie. I knew there was a good reason why I had three children.

And here is March's sampler. This March has truly marked the beginning of spring. Here's to more of it, bluebells in the green woods, long evenings, bright mornings and lots of sunshine.

Knit Kit


Tuesday, 25 March 2014

 Non knitters might assume that all you need to knit are sticks and yarn. That's true up to a point but when I decided to become a proper knitter last year I discovered that there are several other items necessary to knitting happiness. I realised I would need some sort of container in which to keep those items, something that could be thrown into my knitting bag and which would open easily and allow me to find what I needed without having to turn the entire contents out first.

This tin was perfect. It is 13cm by 20cm and 4cm deep. It's one of four in a set

It is the perfect size to hold all my kit which consists of;

A tape measure
A row counter. This Clover row counter is much easier to use than ones which fit on the end of your knitting needle.
A Grössenskala von Stricknadeln or, as I like to call it, a needle gauge.
Crochet hook for fixing dropped stitches
darning needles (in the green bullet) for sewing in ends
Thin thread for lifelines (useful when you are knitting a lace pattern)
Lots of stitch markers
Small tin to keep stitch markers in to stop them messing up the rest of my stuff
A set of dpns (because I am going to make some socks soon)
Instructions for Kitchener stitch (because there is no way I will ever commit it to memory)
Leftover yarn (not essential at all)

In my knitting bag I have my yarn and needles, the pattern I'm following and a small notebook and pen although I think these last two could also go in my tin.
What do you have in your knit kit? Is there anything vital I have forgotten?

Yarn for the socks I am going to make soon. Two pairs.

Lots of Pictures of Cherry Blossom


Thursday, 20 March 2014

It's been very windy here this week so they aren't quite as sharp s I'd hoped. Out of the dozens I took these were the best. I've found that cutting branches and bringing the blossoms indoors is not worth doing. The flowers look drab very quickly, besides they look so good against the blue sky.

Knitting news ~ I finished the shawl I begun in December. It's Ravelled here. I'm wearing it now and loving its usefulness.

A Jolly Nice Chocolate Cake


Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Searching for a chocolate cake recipe which didn't require seventeen ingredients including 625g of sugar I turned to my trusty Good Housekeeping Cookery Compendium (first published in 1950) and found this recipe, simple yet rich enough for a birthday cake. Blimmin' easy to make too. I iced it with chocolate buttercream which brought the sugar total to around 335g. Then I added an entire box of Maltesers, so, yeah, more sugar. It hit the spot though, celebratory but not excessive. It's called rich chocolate cake but compared with modern recipes it is far from rich.

There's a lot to like about my old 1960 edition of The Good Housekeeping Cookery Compendium. The recipes are straightforward, well written and well tested. Ingredients are few, familiar and easy to buy. My mum has a well worn copy and as a child I used to pore over the pictures of cakes (there are lots) for hours thinking how beautiful they were.

Names do date date one so...

But they aren't beautiful are they? They're terrible. Pick up any baking book published today or read any baking blog (I mean a proper baking blog, not this one) and you will see how the standard of cake decoration has soared. I don't just mean in terms of design and artistic taste but in skill too. The snowman cake below is clearly botched and the marzipan fruit dreadful. But I love them for their rubbish decoration, they're attainable aren't they? Yep, I could definitely make a snowman cake like that.

  I wonder whether the whole baking craze has set impossible standards, can amateur cooks really produce some of the things one sees in books or blogs? So many recipes are headed 'the perfect....whatever' and I can't help thinking, why? Why must my chocolate cake be the perfect chocolate cake, why can't it just be a jolly nice chocolate cake?

We are constantly being told perfection is what we should be striving for, and I don't just mean in our cakes but in our homes, our bodies, our faces, our hair, our lives. But how do we know what is perfect? Who is making the rules?

 Maybe bloggers are helping make those rules. Maybe the little snippets of their lives that they choose to show on their blogs create an impression of a perfect life being lived in a perfect world. I once had an email from a  reader who said I was everything she wanted to be. Flipping heck! I thought, or words to that effect. But perhaps she meant she wanted to be imperfect, that she didn't want to be made to feel her house, her cooking, her family had to be perfect and that I was showing her that it was ok to be a jolly nice chocolate cake rather than a perfect chocolate cake. I hope so.

A jolly nice cake for Katie's 14th birthday.

Talking of perfection, my cherry tree is taking its time to reach it, I was clearly over optimistic when I said it would be in full bloom by the end of last week. Maybe it too has decided that jolly nice will be just fine.



Tuesday, 11 March 2014

We have had a dismal winter, it's been relentlessly wet and grey. For the first time I have longed for winter to be over. Usually I enjoy it but lack of proper wintry weather has made it seem longer than it actually has been. But spring is most definitely early this year. Below are links to my cherry blossom posts over the last four years. Today it is poised on brink of perfection. By the end of the week I am confident she will be at the pinnacle of pinkness and of course I will be back with more photographs.

7th April 2010
18th March 2011
25th March 2012
19th April 2013

Ingredients For A Sunday


Sunday, 9 March 2014

1. Sunshine and flowers. Lots of both.*

2. Gin and tonic. Just one.

3. Roast chicken. Two if you have teenage boys.

4. Bread and butter pudding.

5. England v Wales at Twickenham. It's an important match. May the best team win. As long as it's England! Scotland, you were robbed yesterday.

* If you look at this post from 21st March 2012 you will see spring is twelve days earlier this year.



Friday, 7 March 2014


She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.
She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head
And whispered to her neighbour:
"Winter is dead"

AA Milne

Today I am declaring winter dead.

Shrove Tuesday


Tuesday, 4 March 2014

We are a bunch of heathens in our house. A catholic education (chosen for its proximity rather than its faith) has had little effect on my children, if anything it has strengthened their disbelief. However, the church year has a strong resonance for me. Doing a thing because it is the right time to do it, doing that thing as an expression of spirituality speaks to me of a balanced life, a deliberate life whether it is a life of faith or not and that is a positive thing. I may not believe but I embrace the opportunity lent brings for reflection, restraint and silence.

But mostly I embrace the opportunity it brings for eating pancakes. Religious festivals with food attached are my favourites. So later this evening we will be tucking into the pancakes I made this afternoon. Rolled up with sultanas, sugar, butter and lemon juice. Meanwhile Katie is complaining about having to sit through an Ash Wednesday mass tomorrow.

My March read for The Year in Books is A View of the Harbour by Elizabeth Taylor. It's my first Elizabeth Taylor and so far I am enjoying it.

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