30 September 2012

Oh No ...... No More Car Booty

Well today was a sad day indeed. It was the last car boot sale of the season. I have no idea what I am going to do without my Sunday morning car boot sales and bacon butties until next April when one of them starts up again. The other, alas, doesn't start up until the middle of July, until the farmer has managed to get his hay cut and that all depends on the weather! I did grab a couple of bargains though. I found a lovely blue woollen blanket for £2.00 from the car boot sale near Looe for Levi, my Dalmation to snuggle up in this winter and a gorgeous hand painted teapot from the car boot sale at Kernow Mill, also for £2.00, which will look lovely on my dresser when I have finished transforming it with the amazing Annie Sloan paint.

There was also an added bonus at the Kernow Mill sale. A lovely old gentleman with his owls. I love owls. At night, when I take the dogs out, there seems to be hundreds of hooting, tooting, screeching owls in the trees all around my house and I love hearing them. I have also seen them on several occasions swooping silently down the valley on the hunt for mice. 

The owls were absolutely gorgeous, so soft and fluffy, particularly the little brown fluffy one sat on his perch with his little grey friend. The owls travel around the county in the back of a white transit van which has been fitted out with perches. 

The little grey owl in the picture above is apparently a burrowing owl! So cool. I was chatting to another old gentleman who told me he and his wife had 3 owls of their own. A barn owl, a little grey burrowing owl and one like the one with tufty ears in the third picture above. Lucky man. I have cats, dogs and llamas and soon there will be chickens and in our time we have a whole host of other animals such as  rats, hamsters, gerbils, ducks and rabbits but nothing so glorious as an owl. 
I have owl envy :-)

One final note. When I nipped back into Launceston yesterday to pick up the rest of my Annie Sloan Paint, I discovered that there are lots of nice charity shops in the town and basically I can't walk past a charity shop without taking a peek. I know it's rather early to be mentioning Christmas but the simple fact is, that if I don't start preparing for it now, it just sneaks up on me and I end up running around like a lunatic getting stressed and frazzled and not very Christmassy at all. Each year, we have a different colour theme on our Christmas tree. Last year year it was gold and silver and the year before it was fuchsia pink, turquoise and Lime green (sounds yucky but it looked absolutely awesome) but this year I was struggling to figure out what colour to do. Until I spotted these in a Launceston charity shop.

I got 7 reindeer tumblers, 8 cotton napkins embroidered with reindeer and a fabulous table runner for the amazing price of £9.50. So, this year, our Christmas theme is red and white with probably a hint of glitter and glitz thrown in for good measure. 

29 September 2012

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint ..... I'm a convert .... Maybe.

I have been blogging on and off for about 18 months or so, and seriously for about the last 8 months and during that time I have read countless blogs, many of which give me loads of inspiration and ideas. Lately, I have noticed the buzz words on a fair few of these blogs is Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. A couple of blogs in particular, Shingle Cottage and One Girl in Pink have some wonderful examples of what the paint can do. Always up for a challenge, and curious to see if the hype is justified, I managed to track down a stockist in Launceston, Cornwall about 20 miles from where I live and yesterday, I hopped in the car and zoomed off to buy some Annie Sloan. I haven't been to Launceston before, despite living in Cornwall for the last 13 years. It's quite a cute little town and has an amazing castle on a hill which dates back to the Norman Conquest and it also has some very cute shops. The lovely shop 'Country Chic' which stocks the Annie Sloan paint is full of lovely shabby chic things which I would love to put in my house.

The first thing I found out about the paint is that it's not cheap. It's £6.25 for a tester pot of 100mls and it's £17.25 for a 1 litre tin. However, having read a fabulous blog post on the One Girl in Pink blog called 'Ten Projects ... One Can of Chalk Paint' I was almost reassured that a little goes a long way. 

Unfortunately, after driving all the way to Launceston, it turned out that they were waiting for a delivery of paint and I had to go back this morning to get the 1 litre cans of Old White that I wanted. I did manage to get some tester pots though, in a variety of gorgeous colours and also a couple of tester pots of Old White. I was very excited. As soon as I got home I grabbed a little table that I had earmarked as my first project and began happily slapping on the paint. I assumed this was the way to do it as this is the way Annie herself does it in the tutorials on the Annie Sloan website. She seems to just slap in on with gay abandon .... absolutely my kind of decorating :-)

The second thing I found is that it is lovely to use. It can be used on virtually anything with hardly any preparation at all. It can be used outside on garden furniture, on metal and on wooden floors as well as on furniture, in fact it can be used on virtually everything and as an added bonus, it doesn't have that horrible paint smell. In fact it actually smells quite nice, sort of like a cross between chalk and clay. 

Two coats of paint later and I haven't even finished one tester pot of Old White paint. I was very impressed. Two coats of clear wax and a light sanding later and voila ...... one gorgeously transformed table.

From this .....                                                                To This ..... in about 3 hours.

I wasn't brave enough to try the dark wax, which basically looks like brown boot polish. Although you can apparently lighten it and darken it by using the clear wax to adjust the colour, I think I will leave that for my next project, some cute little shelves that I had already painted with undercoat many months ago and never got round to finishing and which now has a top coat of fabulous duck egg paint. Watch this space .......

23 September 2012

The Great British Bake Off and The Scone Saga

Well, the car boot sale that usually takes place on a Sunday morning has been cancelled due to bad weather and I was left wondering what I could do to fill the time. Having just watched my recording of this weeks The Great British Bake Off, I decided to take inspiration from the Queen of Baking and make some scones. I love The Great British Bake Off  and this season has so far been really fantastic, not to mention gory! I don't know what it is about the program but after I watch it makes me want to bake. Weird right?!  lol
Now, in the past, I have tried several different recipes for scones, mostly ending in 'things' that were .... shall we say ...... less than fluffy and light. Last year, for instance, I was riveted to the TV whenever Kirstie's Hand Made Britain was on and in one of the programmes she made the most delicious looking scones to enter into a local show. I carefully copied down the recipe and rushed off to buy the ingredients. Several attempts later I had 4 trays full of something that can only be described as hockey pucks! I don't know what it is about the recipe it just seems like too much flour and not enough liquid .... but hey ..... who am I to say?! Anyway, boredom looming, I decided it was time to give it another go and this time using Mary Berry's recipe. Surely the original domestic goddess wouldn't let me down? On the plus side, Mary's recipe has no frivolities such as buttermilk but on the negative, the mixture is much stickier, like some kind industrial, super-strength, sugary adhesive that could be used to wallpaper walls .... although the taste, I'm reliably told, is much nicer :-)
30 mins later Et voila .... scones. I'm thrilled. They taste fantastic. they aren't stodgy, they're light and fluffy........ although I did have one minor panic attack when I peered into oven and thought I had burnt them. Turns out it was only the glass on the oven door that needs a jolly good clean ........ something best left for the next rainy day methinks :-)

So, here is Mary Berry's awesome scone recipe:

Makes 8 to 10

450g (1lb) self-raising flour
2 rounded tsp baking powder
75g (3oz) butter
50g (2oz) caster sugar
2 large eggs
about 225ml (8fl oz) milk

To serve
raspberry jam
clotted cream or double cream, whipped

Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7. Lightly grease two baking-sheets.

The secret to good scones is not to handle them too much before baking, and to make the mixture on the wet, sticky side.

Put the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Add the butter and rub it in until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar. Beat the eggs together and make up to 300ml (10fl oz) with the milk, then put about 2 tbsp aside in a cup for later. Gradually add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring it in 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 out on to a lightly floured surface and flatten it to a thickness of 1-2cm (½-1in). Use a 5cm (2in) fluted cutter to stamp out the scones by pushing it straight down into the dough (as opposed to twisting it), then lifting it straight out. This ensures that they rise evenly. Gently push the remaining dough together, knead lightly, reroll and cut out more.

Arrange on the prepared baking-sheets and brush the tops with the reserved beaten egg mixture to glaze. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until well risen and golden, then transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool, covered with a clean tea towel to keep them moist.

Serve as fresh as possible, cut in half and spread generously with strawberry jam. Top with a good spoonful of thick cream as well, if you like.

Recipe Taken From 'My Kitchen Table: 100 Cakes and Bakes' by Mary Berry

22 September 2012

Who Stole the Seaweed?

A couple of days ago, the weather was lovely and sunny and, thinking I should make the most of it before the weather turns cold, I decided to go beachcombing at my favourite beachcombing beach. Now it's not a particularly attractive beach, it's not massive stretches of golden sand and picturesque seafront cottages, it's greyish sand and pebbles and modern looking bungalows, but it is a fantastic beach for gathering shells and driftwood. When I used to make handmade cards, I used the tiny shells I collected as embellishments for my cards along with tiny pieces of  sea glass and pottery worn smooth by the ebb and flow of the tides and I used the pieces of driftwood I collected from the high tide line to decorate my house and garden. It's been a while since I have been to this particular beach, about year or so, and I was in for a big shock when I got there. Not only has a brand new cafe appeared in the carpark, but someone has moved all the seaweed! The weather hadn't been particularly rough or windy and the tides hadn't been particularly high, which could have washed the seaweed back out to sea so I suspect that now the beach is getting popular, the tourists have complained about the seaweed and the council, ever a slave to tourism, have decided to scrape the beach clean of anything that remotely resembles wildlife! The problem is, not only has all the seaweed gone (along with my driftwood) but the wildlife that lives in and on the seaweed has also gone, making the beach a sterile, barren place. There are no small crustaceans or sand hoppers for the birds to feed on and no dark, damp shelter for the creatures that get stranded at high tide. I realise that most people would prefer a seaweed free beach but I do think that before the council go scraping away with their tractors, (if indeed it was the council, I could well be maligning a totally innocent council, although I secretly suspect it was) they should spare a thought for the creatures that live there all year round, unlike the tourists who go home at the end of the season.

18 September 2012

Photo Montage Envy

I have long admired the beautifully put together blogs that I have come across on my web-wanderings and in particular, I love the beautiful photo montages that appear on some of my favourite blogs and I have to admit I have photo envy! I assumed that it was some magical programme that either costs an arm and a leg to buy or is something that is a Mac only programme (oh how I miss my MacBook). Being a stubborn kind of a person, today I set myself a goal of mastering the elusive photo collage even if it drove me to the brink of despair ...... which it almost did. Now, I'm not brilliant with computer technology but I am capable (although one of my friends used to call me Luddy ..... short for Luddite!!) and after reading a gazillion tutorials on the subject, downloading a programme which I had to immediately un-install because it started playing music at me (not cool!!), and drinking about 20 cups of tea, I finally found a tutorial buried in the depths of Google which told me I could create my masterpiece in Powerpoint. Yay, I thought, I have Powerpoint ..... I can do that ...... but it couldn't possibly be that simple ..... or could it? It turns out it is. I now have a lovely photo collage which I have used as my new blog title and I'm so thrilled. However ....... an even bigger epiphany occurred when I discovered that in the depths of my laptop I actually had Publisher. It took me about 60 seconds to produce another stunning montage, this time using publisher, and now I just can't seem to stop ...... you have been warned :-)

8 September 2012

The 109th Liskeard Show

Today, I spent a fantastic morning wandering around the Liskeard Show which takes place each year in July. Except this year, when it had to be postponed due to the fact that it has rained in Liskeard since April and has hardly stopped. 
It's only the second time I have been to the show, despite living in Cornwall for the best part of 15 years. About 5 years ago I took some of my llamas to the show and had a fabulous time chatting to everyone but I didn't get a chance to have a wander round and every other year I seem to have been working but this year I have been able to go and have a really good look around. 

I was under the impression that the lanes around the show get very busy very early, country folk being early risers and all that, so I decided to get there reasonably early. Having checked out the opening time ..... 8am ......  I decided that getting there at 9ish would be a sensible time to arrive. Not too early so I was the only person there but not too late so I had to queue for ages to get in. Well, at 9am the place was like a ghost town! It was almost empty. The people on the gate were falling over themselves to help me, take my entry fee, point me in the direction of wherever I wanted to go and generally be as helpful as they possibly could. A nice change from the troglodyte tourist contingent that inhabits much of Cornwall at this time of year. I started in the domestic marquee which has all the competition entries for things like the cake baking competition, the craft section and the flower arranging. It was fabulous. I have never seen so  many Victoria sandwiches, fruit cakes or scones in one place at one time, nor have I ever seen so many different types of jams and pickles. There were crafts galore, cooking demonstrations, gun dog displays, show jumping events, falconry, shire horse displays and even a carriage driving event.

But I have to confess that although I love the crafts and the competitions, I love the animals the most. Oddly enough, after the horses and alpacas, which I absolutely love, I really love the cows. I have no idea why but there is just something about them that I find very appealing. The people at the show who are exhibiting their animals are, for the most part, extremely friendly and although you get one or two who are a bit precious about their beloved animals, most of them are happy for you to get up close and hands on (my favourite part). The only downside to this is that the owners  can be slightly obsessed and once they start talking they don't stop but that's  ok, I have been know to wax lyrical about my animals too on occasion :-) 
Here are some pictures form the 109th Liskeard Show. I can't wait for next year :-)

This cow felt as soft as velvet

Young Handlers Section. 
10 day old alpaca cria

Mother and Baby

Gorgeous bull

This guy really really wanted to get to the other bulls in the show ring
Hunter Class Prize Giving Line Up

My Favourite Cow

Time to Start Knitting a Scarf.

While indulging in my secret obsession a few weeks ago, on a beautifully balmy Sunday morning, I was startled to see a whole flock of birds, in a classic V shape formation, heading out over the sea. About three or four years ago, when we had a really bad winter, I saw a similar thing. Hundreds of birds in V shape formations flying South to sunnier climes in August. At the time, I mentioned to some friends that I thought it was going to be a really bad winter and they just laughed at me and told me I was insane. Lo and behold, snow! It snowed and it snowed and then it snowed some more and the whole country was brought to a standstill and I was snowed in for 10 days. It happened again the following year. The birds flew south in August and once again snow, ice and a two week lock-down in my snow covered valley. Last year however, the birds were still here in late September and they didn't pack their bags and leave until early October and we had a really mild winter down here in Cornwall with hardly a flake of snow to be seen. Typical really because last August, in anticipation of a bad winter, I bought Chuck the Truck, an ancient 4x4 Pajero built for Cornwall in the depths of winter in a blizzard!
Since writing the above bloggery, about 3 weeks ago, I have also noticed another curious thing happening, which, in my humble opinion, points to the coming winter being particularly harsh. My house is being invaded by spiders! And when I say spiders, I don't mean the ones that are small and dainty with a delicate little web in some distant corner, I'm talking about spiders that are mean and menacing and look as if they eat small cats for breakfast! They are at least the size of a saucer (well at least 3cm) with huge hairy bodies and giant hairy legs and they appear in the middle of the night so that when I wake up in the morning they are looming over my head giving me the fright of my life. Understandably, the first few times I awoke to find a giant spider eyeing me as if I was a tasty morsel, I freaked out and much leaping and bed bouncing would follow as I attempted to squish the little bugger with a book while attempting to avoid the inevitable panic as the spider falls off the ceiling onto the floor and begins making a dash for my ankles. However, there have now been so many spiders over the last few weeks that I have refined my spider squashing technique and it is now down to a fine art. Firstly, I grab a can of hairspray. Any kind will do but I find the cheapest brands have to best sticking power and I give the spider a quick blast of super-strength, hold-your-hair-in-place-in-a-hurricane hairspray, rendering the evil spider immobile and glued to the ceiling, thus eliminating the ankle biting scenario because the spider can no longer fall off the ceiling. I then grab a long piece of wood, which I find useful for squishing from a much greater distance, and voila ...... no more spider. The downside of all this squishing, of course, is that my once pristine white bedroom walls are now liberally covered in squished spiders that need scraping off on a regular basis ..... in my opinion, a small price to pay for spider free sleep.
Anyway only time will tell whether this winter is going to be a bad one but I for one will be stocking up on coal and logs and stuffing the freezer full of food just in case!

Here are some snowy facts for you courtesy of the good old Met Office. 

• On 25 September 1895 snow was reported to have fallen at London and Wallington in Surrey making it the earliest fall of snow on the capital.
• On 2 June 1975 snow showers forced the abandonment of several cricket matches across the country.
• The snowiest winter of the twentieth century in the United Kingdom was 1947. Between 22 January and 17 March snow fell every day somewhere in the country.
• The most disastrous avalanche in the United Kingdom occurred in Lewes, East Sussex on 27 December 1836. Eight people were killed and several houses were destroyed.

Cornwall in the Snow 18th December 2010