17 January 2015

Scones and The First Signs of Life In the Garden

The weather is cold and gloomy today and as I'm still resting my knee and not really supposed to drive much, I was at a bit of a loss when I had a sudden craving for something sweet. With this in mind, I trawled through my recipes until I found something I fancied making and came across my favourite Mary Berry scone recipe. The perfect teatime treat, quick easy and even better, I had all the ingredients already in my cupboard although, I will have to forego the clotted cream because I don't have any and I don't want to drive to the shops. 

A bit of therapeutic rubbing in of butter, a tad of stirring in of sugar, throw in some eggs and milk and hey presto ......... scones.

I couldn't find a round cutter so I made them in to saucer sized scones and then scored along the top in a cross so I could break each one into four. 


Here is the recipe if you would like to have a go. It's from here 

DEVONSHIRE SCONES

450g (1 lb) self-raising flour
2 rounded teaspoons baking powder
75g (3 oz) butter, at room temperature
50g (2 oz) caster sugar
2 eggs
about 225 ml (8 fl oz) milk.

INTRODUCTION

The secret of good scones is not to handle them too much before baking, and to make the mixture on the wet, sticky side. Either eat scones on the day of making or freeze once they have completely cooled. If time allows, thaw them at room temperature for a couple of hours and then refresh in a moderate oven for about 10 minutes. If you like large scones, this amount of mixture will make 8-10 9cm (3 ½ inch) scones.

INSTRUCTIONS

Preparation time: about 15 minutes
Cooking time: 10-15 minutes

Makes about 20 scones

Lightly grease two baking trays. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas 7.

Measure the flour and baking powder into a processor. Add the butter and process until a crumble, then add the sugar. Or make by hand by rubbing the butter into the flour using your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.

Beat the eggs together until blended and make up to a generous 300ml (1/2 pint) with the milk, then put about 2 tablespoons of the egg/milk aside in a cup for glazing the scones later. Gradually add the egg/milk mixture to the dry ingredients until you have a soft dough. It is far better that the scone mixture is on the wet side, sticking to your fingers, as the scones will rise better.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and flatten it out with your hand, or use a rolling pin, to a thickness of 1-2 cm (1/2 – ¾ inch). Use a 5 cm (2 inch) fluted cutter to stamp out the dough by pushing the cutter straight down into the dough (as opposed to twisting the cutter) then lift it straight out. This ensures that the scones will rise evenly and keep their shape. Gently push the remaining dough together, knead very lightly then re-roll and cut more scones out as before. 

Arrange the scones on the prepared baking trays and brush the tops with the reserved beaten egg/milk mixture to glaze. Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until the scones are well risen and golden. Cool on a wire rack, covered with a clean tea towel to keep them moist. Serve as fresh as possible, cut in half and spread generously with strawberry jam and clotted cream.


There was also another little surprise. Lurking in my planters yesterday, amongst the frozen hail stones were some teeny tiny little shoot of green poking their way out into the frosty air. Not entirely sure what they are, daffodils I think, but I can't be certain at the moment because I found a whole bag full of mixed bulbs lurking in the cupboard and I just bunged them into my pots. They looked a bit past their best and I didn't know if they would actually grow but I guess they were very hardy little bulbs. I can't wait to see what they turn into :-)


16 January 2015

Trouble With My Tits!

At the moment, I'm sat at home resting a very swollen knee, which involves a lot of sitting on the sofa with my leg propped on a cushion and not much else. As a result, I have been very bored. So bored, in fact, that I have moved a chair over to the window and I have been snapping away at the birds on my gate posts with my zoom lens. Ahhhhhh I hear you say, a post about birds, not about boobs :-) Anyway, each morning, I put food out for them and I sit watching them as they hop excitedly around, rootling through the bird food to find the bits they like. Yesterday, on a whim, I rather rashly signed up to do the RSPB bird counting thingy at the end of January and as I was reading through the downloaded instruction booklet, it suddenly dawned on me that, other than the basics, like blackbirds, sparrows, robins and blue tits etc, I know virtually nothing about birds ..... a slight hiccup in my bird counting if I don't actually know what it is I'm counting so I decided to have a bit of a practice run. I uploaded the photos that I had taken over a couple of mornings and set about identifying them with the help of the RSPB bird identification page. I think (hopefully!!) I managed to identify a bullfinch, both male and female, a blue tit, a great tit, a robin, a chaffinch, a jay although he flew away before I managed to get a picture of him and a wren, although again, I didn't manage to get a picture of it. There were also a couple of other little birds that I couldn't quite seem to get the identification of. At first I though it was a great tit but it doesn't have the white blob on the top of it's head and so, after much internet searching and much close inspection of my pictures from as many angles as possible, it seems that the little birds are either willow tits or marsh tits. The only slight hiccup is that the only reliable way to tell which is which is either by seeing a small, pale grey spot on the beak of the marsh tit or by listening to them sing! Luckily, the mother of a friend of mine, who is a bit of a bird enthusiast, has informed me that she thinks it is a marsh tit. Sooooo, many thanks Jo's mum :-) you saved me from looking like even more of a lunatic than I usually do because I had come to the conclusion that the only way to listen to the bloomin' things sing, without disturbing them, was to listen through the letterbox. It would have been just my luck that a passing neighbour would have spotted me and thought I had finally flipped! I'm just very grateful that I didn't have to resort to sticking my ear through the letterbox.

Anyway, here are a couple of pictures of the little blighters and some of the other birds I spotted. 

Please feel free to weigh in if you have any other theories about the species :-)

 Bullfinch ....hopefully?

 Marsh Tit .... probably 

 Great Tit ..... maybe, Female Bullfinch ...... possibly 
and 
another cute little birdy on the left of the photo that I can't remember .... Chaffinch but possibly not?? ...... you can see my dilemma :-)

(A massive thank you to Christine who has left a very helpful comment saying that the bird on the right is a male chaffinch and the one on the left is a female one .... many thanks Christine)

 Blue tit .... definitely .... phew

Robin .... positively ..... thank goodness :-)

On a much more exciting note, there has been a wonderful development since I last posted anything .......

I'm going to be a granny :-)

Baby ....... Absolutely, Positively, Definitely a Baby :-)

My eldest daughter and her husband are expecting their first baby, my first grandchild and my mum's first great grandchild ..... Haha mum, does it make you feel old? It does me slightly but then again, next month I will be reaching a BIG birthday age .... one with a zero on the end so I might need therapy!
I am so happy for them. The baby is due at the end of May and it's very exciting. 
Congratulations to you both XxX


3 December 2014

A Little Bit Of Seasonal Craftiness and a Bit of a Bargain

Well, my printable fabric arrived and I finally managed to have a play with it. It's amazing! It's so easy to use and the results were fabulous. I printed off a little picture that I found on the internet and added some wording to it and made a cute little sign to hang on the bedroom door on Christmas eve. It's for a friend's grandchildren. 


It's hard to believe that this picture is actually printed onto fabric! The other good thing is that the fabric still feels like fabric, it doesn't have any of the stiff, plasticky feel to it that you seem to get from the iron on sheets that you can print and you can even hand wash the fabric once you've printed it. I have actually read on the internet that you can wash it in the washing machine, although it doesn't recommend this on the instructions. So, after Christmas, I think I will do a little bit of experimenting with a couple of printed pieces of fabric to see how they stand up to being machine washed.... it's always good to know. I have to say, though, I am so impressed with it. Just print, leave to dry, peel off the paper backing, rinse under a cold tap and then dry. It's so simple. I will definitely be ordering some more. The only limitation is the size of the paper. It's A4 width and it comes in either A4 sheets or, like the stuff that I bought, on a roll so you can just cut however much you need. 


I also nabbed another massive bargain this morning. I was rushing around Liskeard posting parcels and running errands when I saw a sign for a craft sale at Stuart House, a lovely old building in the centre of Liskeard. Of course it was totally impossible for me to ignore the prospect of a sale so, off I went to seek out some crafty bargains. 20 minutes later I emerged triumphant, with several lovely pieces of fabric for between £1 and £4 per piece and considering some of those pieces are at least a metre in length and some of them are pieces of cotton velvet and silk, I was incredibly pleased with myself. 


I also discovered that Stuart House is actually rather old. King Charles stayed there in 1644 and Liskeard is in fact over 1000 years old and is mentioned in the Domesday Book. 



I think I shall be exploring this in a bit more detail over the next few weeks .... I find it totally fascinating. 

1 December 2014

It Never Rains But It Pours!

You remember my post yesterday which stated, in a very irritatingly philosophical manner, that things could be worse ....... well ....... they got worse! I went to the kitchen about 8.30pm yesterday evening to put the kettle on for a nice hot cuppa, only to find that I had no water. I have been having a problem with my water treatment system, which is used to purify the drinking water we get from our borehole and when we investigated on Saturday, we fused something in the loft while we were trying to figure out what the problem was. After checking all the lights and plug sockets in the house and not finding anything wrong with them, we concluded that it must have just been the treatment system itself that had fused and that it was not a big deal because we will have to have a new system put in after Christmas anyway. Turns out, it wasn't just the treatment system that had fused, it was the water pump as well so after several kettle-fulls of water for tea throughout Saturday and Sunday and several loo flushes, the tank was empty because the pump wasn't working to fill it up. I was in a panic thinking that there might be something seriously wrong with the electrics because it's an old house and some of the wiring is a bit dodgy. It was done by the person who converted it from foundry cottages into a house about 30ish years ago and he was, shall we say, a bit of a cowboy. I was hoping and praying that it was just the fuse because I don't have the money for an expensive wiring job so I set off this morning to try and find a shop that stocked fuse box fuses of the right size in the hope that it would sort out the problem. When I got to town, I realised I had a flat tyre! I had put some air in it on Friday lunchtime because it was looking a bit deflated and it had seemed fine but by this morning, it was getting flatter by the minute and I was forced to drive to my local tyre supplier and camp out and wait for them to open so I could get them to have a look at it. It certainly looked as if today was shaping up to be a really expensive day. Fortunately, the good luck fairies were smiling on me and it turned out that my tyre didn't have a puncture, it just needed resealing around the rim of the wheel and I managed to find an awesome little hardware shop that sells absolutely everything, including ginormous fusebox fuses, which has fixed the problem of no water. I am beyond relieved. Now all I have to do is figure out a way to fix the hole in the roof that we discovered when we went into the loft at the weekend, keep boiling my drinking water until I can afford and new treatment system and keep all my fingers and toes crossed in the hope that nothing else will go wrong this week!