Sunday, November 22, 2015

Stir-up Sunday

What better excuse to stay indoors now that the weather is colder and the snow from Friday evening's downfall is still lingering across the gardens and pavements around here than to enjoy 'stir-up' Sunday.

 Photo taken from our bedroom window on Friday night

above - what was left of the snow on Saturday morning - the grass is green again today but it is still bitterly cold.

Stir-up Sunday is the day when traditionally puddings and cakes are made for the festive season ahead.  We had the ingredients, we had the time and we had the inclination to cook as there is no better way of keeping the chill at bay than cooking and baking in a warm kitchen filled with wonderful spicy, seasonal aromas.

Firstly we made a cake using the well used and trusted recipe from the BeRo book, the hardest part of this processes is lining and preparing the tin and then timing the baking.

 Then we made a pudding which is still steaming on the hob as I type again the recipe was from the BeRo book.  Stir-up Sunday is a tradition that harks back to Victorian times when the whole family would gather to make the Christmas pudding, each stirring and making a wish and at this point coins or charms would be added to the pudding to be found by a lucky family member on Christmas Day. 

I really have to venture out tomorrow as I lost my mobile phone when I visited the library on Friday;  a very kind person handed it in and I'm so grateful for that.  Whoever you are - thank you.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Monday Miscellany

Just a few photos from our quiet, reflective walk through the woods this morning.

This little one flew at the side of us for a short time as we walked down the leaf strewn, muddy path.

 We left him near the holly tree;  it was as if he was reminding us of the season to come. 

This evening as I popped outside to fill up the bird feeders I felt the cold nip my finger tips, yes winter is on its way - I must find my gloves!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Five on Friday

It's Friday so I'm joining in with  Amy at Love Made my Home for this week's Five on Friday.  Click on the link at the bottom of this post to find others who are joining in too.
Just a few of the birds I've spotted this week whilst out and about with my camera.

 1.  A motley assortment of runner ducks in the walled garden at Sugnall, near Eccleshall, Staffordshire.

2. Black Swans on the lake at Trentham Gardens, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.  They appeared, or at least we first saw them, in the summer and they seem to be staying around.  I'd never seen them on the lake before.

3.  Heron at the side of the lake at Trentham Gardens near the cascade of water that runs down towards the River Trent.

4.  Hens - in the small show gardens at Trentham this pair are called Henry and Barbara.  I don't know what breed of hen they are.

5.  Crow in a tree again at Trentham Gardens

Have a lovely weekend everyone.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Monday Miscellany

Last week was a strange, drifting kind of week with nothing much happening. There were so many things I should have been doing but for some reason I felt disinclined to do anything. We did manage to tidy up the garden a bit, of course since the clear up, the grass areas are covered in leaves again, the top paths near the pond are under water which is a nuisance.  They always are at this time of year and no matter how we try we can't seem to get the drainage right.  The black cat near the bird bath isn't one of ours, he lives across the road but seems to like our garden and is very friendly, he rubs around my legs whilst I'm pegging out the washing and likes to be tickled behind the ears.  Both of our cats are nearly 20 years old and don't go out in the garden as often as they used to.

We did have a lovely walk around Trentham last week, one side of the lake was closed so we walked along one edge and then up around the very top of the gardens.  The autumnal colours were wonderful.

I took the photos below on Bonfire Night (5th November) just as the sun was setting and the light fading.

They were taken about three or four minutes apart.

The change in the colour and texture of the sky in such a short time was amazing.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Soul Cake

Yesterday, whilst Paul was carving a pumpkin and making puree ready for a pumpkin pie, I made some soul cakes.

I was thinking about how times have changed over the last decades especially with the 'trick or treat' visitors but history has a habit of repeating itself and it seems that soul cakes were a forerunner of the requesting of treats at neighbouring doors.

Apparently the Soul Cakes or Souling Cakes were given out, not on All Hallows Eve (31st October) but on All Souls Day (2nd November) which follows All Saints Day on the 1st November.  Children and the poorer people of the town or village would go from door to door singing psalms and saying prayers for the dead.  Each cake eaten was said to represent a soul freed from Purgatory.  This custom dates from the pre-Reformation times of the Middle Ages, when bread was given out in return for prayers and psalms for those you have lost.

I had what lines I could remember of the song running though my head as I baked -
 A soul, a soul a soul cake,
please good missus, a soul cake,
an apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us merry....&etc

In fact these little morsels aren't really cakes but more the consistency of biscuits.  The ingredients are simply flour, sugar, eggs, wine vinegar, butter and spices.  I wonder how much these ingredients differ from the original recipe?

The recipe I used is one originating on the Cheshire/Welsh borders and I found it here

340gm of plain flour, 170gm each of sugar and butter, 1 beaten egg, 2tsp white wine vinegar and half a teaspoon each of nutmeg, cinnamon and mixed spice.

Set the oven to 200 degrees centigrade (I cooked on 180 degrees as our oven can sometimes burn when too hot)

Mix the flour, sugar and spice together. Slice and dice the butter and rub into the dry ingredients.  Then using a wooden spoon mix in the beaten egg and the wine vinegar.  It makes a stiff dough which should be rested in the fridge for about 20 minutes.  Roll out the dough and cut into rounds, marking the top with a cross cut.  Place on baking trays and cook for 15 - 20 minutes until light golden brown.  Mine were ready after 14 minutes.  I didn't have quite enough plain flour so I added a little bit of self raising to the mix to make the quantity right and I also added a bit more beaten egg (about one and a half) than suggested as the eggs I had, although labelled medium, seemed quite small.

Although the cakes look quite plain they are sweet and spicy and quite tasty.  They also, quite pleasingly, snap into four little pieces for eating purposes.


It would have been nice to give them out at the door but I'm sure they wouldn't have been appreciated so we had a bowl of mini chocolate bars at the ready.

 We had quite a few groups of small children with their parents waiting at the end of the drive and some older children too, all very good humoured and enjoying themselves, every bar went.  We had three girls dressed as clowns knock at the door, when asked why clowns they answered that they had read that some people find clowns quite scary, I can relate to that.  Another boy on his own said 'Trick or Treat' in quite a fed up, monosyllabic voice so Paul said that isn't very scary, lets try again and he shut the door and opened it again, the boy said 'Trick or Treat' in a far more animated way and took his bar.  I had a boy yell out 'Oh, I love Snickers' and then as they left he ran down the drive shouting 'Mum, they have Snickers at that house'.  It seemed like great fun but it is such a far cry from the days of the Soul Cake.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Photo Scavenger Hunt - October

Where has October gone?  It has been a lovely month, wonderful seasonal colours and mostly quite warm and dry but I was halfway through the month and realised that I hadn't thought about taking photos for the hunt. Last week I managed to get some photos locally at Middleport Pottery where we called for refreshment after a canal side walk and also a few at Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire on our way to visit someone in hospital. So I'm happy to be 
 joining in with the October Photo Scavenger Hunt kindly organised by greenthumb at Made with Love  just click on the link  to find other participants.


There is a question at the bottom of this information board near the Pater Noster lift at Middleport Pottery, Middleport, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.


A piece of Leeds Creamware in the shop at Middleport Pottery


We sat at table number five for our coffee in the cafe at Middleport Pottery


A lattice pattern on the staircase to the 'little castle' at Bolsover Castle, Bolsover, Derbyshire. 


Smoke coming from chimneys is a familiar sight from my childhood, you don't see it often these days.  This is the little station at Consall on the Churnet Valley Steam Railway, Staffordshire.  I could also have used the photos of Bolsover castle as familiar because I grew up in a village just a couple of miles away and the castle on its hill is a familiar site.


In the visitor centre in Middleport pottery they have telephones on the desks that ring as you approach them, you can answer and press numbers to listen to the memories of people who used to work there.

 A wet garden as seen through our kitchen window - this is my view as I stand washing the pots.


Looking down
 from the castle walls into the garden at Bolsover Castle.


Lovely handwriting on the notes and receipts in the letter racks at the visitor centre at Middleport Pottery.


There were lots of little fallen crab apples on the ground as we walked locally  at the Consall Nature Reserve.


A broken tree at Consall Nature Reserve

Whatever you Want

Beautiful Copper Beech tree at Bolsover Castle, Bolsover, Derbyshire. 

I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone else has been taking photos of this month.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Five on Friday

It's Friday so I'm joining in with  Amy at Love Made my Home for this week's Five on Friday.  Click on the link at the bottom of this post to find others who are joining in too.

Spotted this week whilst out and about with my camera

 1.  A lovely row of autumnal trees in the local park last Saturday.

 2.  Swans pulling weed out of the lake at Trentham Gardens, we wondered what they were going to do with it. 

 3.  Kestrel on a post at Consall Nature Reserve, spotted as we were on a walk there on Sunday.

4.  An unusual creation which is part of the 'Home Ground' exhibition at Middleport Pottery, Middleport, Stoke-on-Trent - we called in for a look around and a coffee after our walk along the canal on Monday. 

5. A steam train running along the line on the Churnet Valley Railway as we walked in the Consall Country Park on Sunday morning.

Have a lovely weekend everyone.