Monday, December 29, 2014

Frosty Morning Walk

We had a lovely walk around the lake at Trentham this morning.  It was very cold, slightly slippy and crisp underfoot.  The winter sun was blazing behind the trees and everything looked stunning in the frosty, morning light.

 The lake was almost all frozen over.  The birds were all together in the still watery bits around the edges.  Below are some more of the photos I took.

 The willow snowdrops are new in the garden

You can see the area that is roped off at the moment as this part of the garden is being restored to how it was when it was first designed by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown (1716 - 1783).  This is in preparation for the 300th Anniversary of his birth in 2016.  Capability Brown worked on the landscape at Trentham between 1759 and 1780.  We are hoping to join a tour later in the year which will explain more about what is planned so I'll write more about it then.

We stopped for a break at the far end of the lake and had a steaming hot chocolate at the Lakeside cafe.  It came in handy for warming my fingers which had got very cold on the way round as I kept taking off my gloves to take photos.  

This young heron was just sitting at the side of the lake and didn't seem to mind all the people taking photos of him or her.  I love the way he was using one leg.  I always think herons look quite prehistoric in their strangeness.

Robins always seem happy to pose for a photo too

A new tree sculpture called Diving Otters

Lastly, not a willow snowdrop but a real one - I don't think I've ever seen them in December before.  I actually took this photo at Trentham on Christmas Eve a couple of days before the snow came down and the frosts set in.   I didn't see it today!  Maybe it was still there under the snow.  We can hope it is.

All my very best wishes for a Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Seasonal 'must do'.....

Our favourite 'must do' for this time of year is a visit to Little Moreton Hall in Cheshire.  It's less than 30 minutes away and it always 'kick- starts' our Christmas Celebrations.  We love the way it is decorated, the wonderful events taking place in and around the hall and the wonderful music from Piva.   Here are a few of the photos I took today.

The Hall is always such a delight at any time of year and as you know from previous posts we visit often.  You may remember my post from earlier this year about the mid-summer celebrations.

We wandered around the outside first

Watched the jolly japes of the jester

The interior was as always beautifully decorated

The tables groaning with seasonal Tudor food - not real, of course

 Highlight for us is always the performance of festive songs by Piva

I hope this little resident spotted in the main bedroom was able to escape - I think he'd found his way in through the glassless window in the nearby garderobe.

He's suitably festive with his little red/orange breast. 

Have a lovely weekend everyone.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Wreath

Yesterday we made a Christmas wreath for the front door

 Out into the garden to forage for all the foliage needed - hazel twigs to make the circle.

 Holly - this bush has variegated leaves.

 A few small branches off the Leylandii

 The wreath base was made by winding and criss-crossing the twigs

 Then it was ready to to start layering up and attaching the foliage

 After this was done it was time to add some little red hearts and the bow

Once that was done we tried it on the front door - it looked ok in a home made, rustic kind of way which is what I wanted.  Just one thing though, we'd forgotten to add the pine cones I'd collected so they will go on later.  It's back inside for the moment to have the cones put on and the pine smell from the Leylandii leaves is wonderful.  Suddenly everything seems very festive.  This weekend the tree and trimmings will come out of the roof space.  It is finally feeling a bit like Christmas is getting closer.

Have a lovely weekend everyone.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Five on Friday

A few weeks ago the lovely Amy from Love Made my Home had the idea of opening up her 'Five on Friday' posts to other bloggers and quite a few of us wanted to join in.  For the moment we are split into groups for each Friday of the month.  I'm in the group for the second Friday so here is my first post for 'Five on Friday'.....

Five things that have come out of the kitchen over the last few weeks

A chocolate sponge - inspired by having been given, quite unexpectedly,  a free small selection bag of chocolate bars when we bought our local paper at the newsagent's shop at Trentham Gardens when we walked there last week.  They were all miniature bars and were eaten over the next few days but the little bag of chocolate buttons was lurking so I decided they needed to go on top of a cake.  The recipe came from the trusty BeRo book but I don't actually take it off the shelf as I can make the cake from memory.  It's the Victoria sponge recipe with 1oz of flour substituted with cocoa powder and I always use 6,6,6,3 instead of the 4,4,4,2 amounts to make a slightly bigger cake.  (Four ounces of flour, sugar and margarine or butter to two eggs - I still use pounds and ounces but I think 4oz is 100 grams.)

Paul made a batch of loaves over the weekend, as I've probably mentioned before he makes all our bread whereas I'm the cake and pudding maker.  He's been busy over the last few weeks learning about how bread was made in WW1 and helped at a day long seminar about food in WW1 amongst other things at Keele University.  Here is a - link - to his website where you will find many recipes all made at home and tested - even the very early and medieval breads.  His latest 'test' was making Soleil et Lune or Sally Lunn buns.  We took them to friends to share.  It is best to eat them asap as they do go dry quickly but I had one toasted and it was very nice.  You will find the recipe and photos on the website I gave you the link to above in historic breads - 18th century.

Cheese Scones - we just fancied them for lunch one Sunday as we were having a cooked meal in the evening and very tasty they were too.  Again a BeRo book recipe was used.

We had one orange left in the fruit bowl and a jar of marmalade just opened so I decided to make an orange marmalade cake.  I used the recipe from Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries as it is always moist and extremely tasty.  One of my favourite cakes.

On 'Stir up Sunday' I made a Christmas pudding.  This time the recipe was from Rose Elliott's book 'Vegetarian Christmas' which we also use every year for our Christmas dinner meal of Chestnut and Red Wine Puree en Croute.  Sometimes we make it on Christmas Eve sometimes a week or two earlier and then it gets frozen until needed.

I am joining in Five on Friday, taking five minutes from our day to enjoy five things.  Please go and visit the other people who are also blogging about Five on Friday this week.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Stafford Delights

Yesterday we spent some time in the town of Stafford.  As we had an hour or two to spare we decided to visit the Ancient High House Museum as we hadn't been inside for quite a while.

There are three floors up above the ground floor entrance and hallway.  At the very top is the museum of the Staffordshire Yeomanry Regiment and the other two floors are room settings.

You can see more from the photo above how high the house is.  The building was started towards the end of the 16th century and its owner a wealthy merchant of the town took possession of the property in 1595.

Inside staff were preparing for this coming weekend's Christmas activities and there was a wonderful aroma of oranges, lemons, cinnamon and cloves from the displays on the staircases.  From one of the landing windows we could see the church and decided as we'd never been inside before to go and have a look.

The church of St Mary is a beautiful building and the shadows across the grey stone were spectacular, but not half as spectacular as what we found inside.

As we entered we could hear Christmas music being played

 We'd happened upon a concert to celebrate the start of the annual Christmas Tree Festival.

The atmosphere was warm and welcoming with some people sitting to listen to the music, others wandering around looking at the displays and even more sitting in the refreshment area and enjoying themselves around the craft stalls.  Below are some of the photos I took in and around the church of all the wonderfully decorated trees.  The display runs until 7th December.

Hope you enjoyed them.