September Reflections


Tuesday, 30 September 2014

September is a month of transition. It begins with summer and ends with autumn. I feel I too am transitioning from summer to autumn. George has embarked on his own life, Katie and Tom are making plans. I no longer have children who need to be looked after, the hard work is done. I'm approaching my fiftieth year and I welcome it. In fact I positively relish it.

September's sampler for 2014. You might like to see all of the photo samplers I have made for September over the last five years, you can do so here.



Sunday, 28 September 2014

Today was quince-picking day, a day earlier than last year, but much the same photographs. There were no quinces in 2012 but in 2011 I picked them on the 25th September on a much gloomier day than today, and in 2010 I waited until the 4th of October before harvesting.

This year has been a poor year for my quince tree. I have picked just twenty-five fruit with a handful left on the tree out of reach. Lots have fallen already rotten to the ground. Last year I had ten times as many and gave away hundreds for pig food. Twenty-five is an ideal number of quinces to have though. I need five or six to make around five jars of jelly and two to make a bottle of quince vodka. I shall bake some, stew some into a delicious purée and still have plenty to spare.


Thanks for all the good wishes for George as he embarks upon university life. Two trips from the car to his room was all it took to unload his stuff. We had a quick look round his room (a box just big enough for a bed, a sink and a desk) and the kitchen before heading to the welcome centre for lunch and then home. We were there less than an hour. No point hanging around so we left him to it. 
Interesting fact - Hull has cream coloured telephone boxes.

Student Provisions


Friday, 26 September 2014

Thank you to everyone who left a comment on my last post I really enjoyed reading them. Such mundane domestic tasks may seem unimportant and perhaps we feel a bit silly to have rules and methods for performing them efficiently but I don't think so, consider this; 'the ordinary acts we practise every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest'.*


Tomorrow George leaves home. He's heading to the University of Hull to study Physics and drink beer. This is a Good Thing, he has spent the last year at home doing not very much and is in dire need of occupation and we are all looking forward to this new chapter in his life.

He is spending his first year in semi-catered halls of residence which means he will be provided with an evening meal but will have to find breakfast and lunch himself. This is also a Good Thing because as I said in this post his ability and enthusiasm for cooking is limited.  Although he won't actually need to cook anything I have equipped him with some basic kitchen equipment so that he can make eggs, cook bacon, heat soup and beans, and make pancakes on Shrove Tuesday (I don't suppose he will for one minute). I have also packed him a box of provisions to keep him going for a couple of weeks.

Student Provisions for Breakfasts and Lunches

I limited fresh stuff to things he will need immediately. Sandwich fillers such as ham, hummus, eggs,  he can buy himself later. He may even buy himself some fruit and veg**.

A loaf of bread 

A pint of milk
A packet of butter
A block of Cheddar
A carton of longlife orange juice
Small packet of sugar (for tea)
Huge jar of Nutella
Huge tub of peanut butter
A jar of homemade apricot jam
A jar of homemade blackcurrant jam
A bottle of sriracha hot sauce
Salt and pepper
Small bottle of oil
3 tins of baked beans
4 tins of soup - the kind with lots of veg and beans in
2 tins of fruit
2 bottles of beer
A ginormous bag of homemade granola
A homemade fruitcake
A 4lb bag of apples

Equipment for a semi-catered student hall of residence

Most of these were my cast-offs, things marked with an asterisk were bought new.

A small non-stick frying pan*

A medium sized saucepan
A baking tray
Tin-opener/bottle opener* (he has a corkscrew on his Swiss Army knife).
Slotted spoon/serving spoon*
Wooden spatula
Fish slice (turner)
Cook's knife
Pint glass
2 small tumblers
Dinner plate, medium sized plate, side plate, bowl
2 forks, 2 knives, 2 spoons, 2 teaspoons
Set of plastic food boxes*

Miscellaneous items

Large packet of anti-bac wipes (apparently there are cleaners so no need for bottles of Cif etc)

Washing powder

It's very tempting to try to provide everything he might need and to tell him Everything I Know About Life, but I have to remind myself that the boy is now a man and will be able to sort his own stuff out. The work part of being his mother is done, now all I have left to do is worry.

George's Cake

*Attributed to the poet Thomas Moore although I cannot find the source.

** He won't

Pegging Out


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

To 'peg out' is one of the many British euphemisms for dying* but it also refers to drying, the drying of laundry on a washing line outside. Ali wrote a wonderful post about pegs and other domestic matters. She has an enviable collection of pegs. Mine is simpler, wooden pegs only for me. If I had coloured pegs I might be tempted to colour match them with the items to be pegged out, and as Ali says that would be taking matters too far and I am already enough of a laundry control freak as it is. I am reminded of my control-freakery every time I ask someone else in my family to hang the laundry and ten minutes after they have done it I'm out there re-pegging it properly.

You wouldn't believe the number of rules I have about proper pegging out behaviour.

1). Items must be thoroughly shaken before pegging to minimise the need for ironing. This particularly applies to tea towels.

2). Items must be turned the right way out. Exceptions are for jeans and other bulky items which must be turned inside out half-way through drying to ensure all the pockets dry properly.

3). Items must be folded over the line with the bare minimum of fabric to ensure quick drying.

4). Unless it is a really good drying day duvet covers must be looped on the line, ie a peg at each corner so that air can circulate.

5). Tops are pegged at their bottom edge and bottoms are pegged at the top edge. There is no reason for this other than because I say so.

6). Socks must never be pegged in pairs. They will take ages to dry. We don't have issues with missing socks in our house and I have never understood why people do -put them in the washing machine, take them out of the washing machine, where else are they going to go?

7). Take items down as they dry to prevent overcrowding on the line and consequent slower drying.

8). Be very happy when there is a warm breeze and blue skies and all three loads are washed and dry before 3pm.

You'll be relieved to know that I don't impose my pegging out rules on my family, I am properly grateful when they help, but I do find it hard to understand why they can't see the logic and sense of my method. Sigh. Tell me I'm not the only one.

*To kick the bucket
  To fall off your branch
  To rub out (this one may have been peculiar to my father-in-law)
  To pop your clogs
  To shuffle off this mortal coil
  To join the choir invisible

Just Now I Am......


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

~ Picking a messy tangle of sedum, black-eyed Susan, rose hips and michaelmas daisies.

~ Forgetting to take photos of the things I have cooked recently. If you are interested though, recent delicious things have been this chicken, my version of Salisbury steak, ham and pineapple pizza, a Thai-ish fish and mango curry and good old roast chicken.

~ Baking scones, lots of scones. Scones, I find are the perfect teenager-filler, quick to make, easy to make, cheap to make and sugar-free (although the teenagers do cover them with jam or honey). They have to be a decent size, at least four inches in diameter.

~ Chucking my hodgkin away. It had developed a nasty looking grey mould on its surface. My damson gin is fine though and soon it will be time to make the quince vodka.

~ Wondering whether I shall wake up on Friday morning in a different shaped country.

~ Hoping not.

Cake of the Month ~ Blackberry Crumble Muffins


Saturday, 13 September 2014

It's been a great year for blackberries round these parts, and judging by my instagram feed a great year for blackberries all over the UK. Blackberries it is then. Blackberry crumble muffins, which are not strictly speaking a cake of the month but rather cakes of the month.

This recipe is based on a blueberry muffin recipe in How To Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson. I replaced the blueberries with blackberries, added some cinnamon and a crunchy crumble topping.

First make the crumble topping.

Rub together 50g butter and 50g flour. I used Neill's wheaten flour which has a lovely nubbly texture but you can use wholemeal or plain white flour.
Add about 20g of porridge oats and 40g of demerara sugar (or whatever sugar you have to hand) and mix. You could also add some chopped nuts at this point. Set aside.

Put 12 muffin cases in a muffin tin.

Next melt 75g butter and set aside to cool slightly

Mix in a bowl
200g plain flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
75g sugar -granulated or caster
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of cinnamon

In a measuring jug measure
100 ml milk
100 g yogurt - just add yogurt to the milk until it measures 200 ml*
the melted butter
1 egg
Beat with a fork so the the ingredients are well combined.

Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix so that there is no dry mixture but be careful not to overdo it.

Fold in most of 200g of blackberries (fresh or frozen) keeping about 30 to put on the tops of the muffins.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases to fill them about half way.
Put 2 or 3 reserved berries on the tops of each muffin, then sprinkle each one with about 2 teaspoons of the crumble mixture .

Bake at 200°c (180°c fan oven) for 20-25mins.

*you could use 200 ml of buttermilk instead of the yogurt-milk mixture

The Year In Books ~ Thin Air by Ann Cleeves


Friday, 12 September 2014

Published yesterday Thin Air by Ann Cleeves has been earmarked for my September read for The Year In Books  for months. I think this is possibly my favourite detective series. Set in the Shetland Isles (currently the most northerly part of the UK but may not be this time next week) it is the location which I love most about these novels. Shetland is somewhere I'd love to visit, all that sky, wonderful.

 I love the detective too, Jimmy Perez who comes from Fair Isle (like the sweaters). His decidedly un-Scottish surname and Mediterranean looks are due apparently, to the fact that El Gran Grifon part of the Spanish Armada of 1588 is wrecked off Fair Isle.

This book is the sixth  in the Shetland series. There is also a tv series based on the books starring Douglas Henshall. I enjoyed the tv dramatisations despite the fact that Douglas Henshall looks nothing like Jimmy Perez and that characters and plots and even murderers were changed extensively. The one thing that wasn't changed was the beautiful location.

And look, I have flowers to match my book. Now that's something you can't do with a kindle

Life is good when things match.

Kitchen Tour


Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Following your positive response to my fab new kitchen floor I thought that maybe some readers might like to see a bit more of my kitchen. It is after all where most of the material for this blog happens.

I like my kitchen a lot. I don't dream of 'the perfect kitchen'. I love old farmhouse kitchens with stone flagged floors, agas and big scrubbed tables and doors which open onto heather moors but I do not love them so much as to be discontented with the one I've got. I am always mindful of how bloody wonderful it is to have running water, electricity, refrigeration, and cupboards full of food.

Our house is twenty years old and we have been in it seventeen years. We have replaced nearly all of the original kitchen, the  only 'original features' are the door to the utility room, and the tiles which I would not have chosen but do not hate enough to put up with the mess of having them replaced. I do hate the utility room door though and that is next on my list to be replaced or renovated.

The kitchen units, cupboards and worktop were bought from Homebase about ten years ago (or was it before Katie was born? might be as much as fifteen years ago). Charlie fitted them. He can do stuff like that. The drawer unit in the picture above was originally a space for a dishwasher but I have never wanted a dishwasher, I'd much rather have the storage space.

This corner of my kitchen (above) is my baking centre which I wrote about in more detail in this post four years ago. There is a light under the wall cupboard which I find tremendously useful. This is where I keep all my baking tins, mixing bowls and measuring jugs. My baking ingredients live in the wall cupboard and I also keep my electric gadgets here. My Magimix is always ready to use, I love my electric beaters, my stick blender, my yogurt maker and my ice cream maker. I wouldn't want to be without any of them. In the past I have tried out a breadmaker, a slow cooker and a deep fryer but found them all wanting and not just because they all took up so much room. A subject for a future post perhaps.

I am very glad the sink is underneath the window, washing up is so much nicer when you have a view. This is the business end of the kitchen where the cooking happens. I chose a hob kettle to reduce clutter on my worktops. 

Just out of shot is another doorway at right angles to the one you can see, it opens onto our front room and the one you can see opens onto the dining room. There are actually five doors in the kitchen as it is a thoroughfare to the garden and the garage (it's no wonder we needed a new floor). I like being able to stand at the cooker and feel part of what's going on in the other rooms, this was particularly useful when the children were little. The central position of the kitchen and its connectedness to the other rooms makes it feel very much the hub of our home. It's my command centre.

The door in this picture is to an understairs cupboard (also with a lovely new red floor). I wrote about my fridge here, and yes, it is still tidy. I like order, it's so much easier to accomplish things when you have order. The door in the corner leads to the garage. Our garage like many others is home to everything but a car. In it we have five bicycles, one motorcycle, an entire wall of shelves full of tools, cupboards full of empty jam jars, shelves full of full jam jars, a large chest freezer and a Sylvanian Family treehouse which Katie has finally conceded she has outgrown.

The area connecting the garage door and the utility room door was dead space until Charlie constructed a drying rack across it. As it is above the radiator it's ideal for drying clothes when they can't be hung outside. Clothes stay surprisingly free from cooking smells, I don't go in for a lot of frying and the window is invariably open when I cook. I also keep my ironing basket in this part of the kitchen.

The utility room (below) is tiny. There is room for a dryer, which is another appliance I have never wanted. We use the space to house a little set of drawers which is full of cleaning cloths, hats, gloves and scarves. The microwave lives in the utility room and is used almost solely for heating up wheat bags to ease aching muscles. The toaster is also kept here so that it doesn't take up valuable work space, it's on a tray so we can just carry it into the kitchen when we want to use it. The utility room also acts as our cloakroom, but I wish we had somewhere else to hang all the coats, they prevent the back door from opening fully. You can just see my herb patch through the door, near to hand when I need a bay leaf or a sprig of rosemary.


My kitchen noticeboard is where the only existing example of school artwork by one of my children is displayed. The chalk drawing of daisies in the bottom right hand corner is by Tom aged five. I did not save every offering brought home by my children because otherwise we would be living under a sea of crap made out of the contents of my recycling bin. My policy was to display the offering for a week or two before saying 'do you still want this?' to which the answer was always 'nah'. Tom didn't want this drawing but I think it is charming and, more importantly, takes up no room.

The thing in the bottom left hand corner is a job wheel. Made by George at my request to end arguments at dinnertime about who's turn it was to do various jobs. When George leaves for university in a couple of weeks we will have to merge two of the jobs (laying and clearing the table) and alternate them with drying up. This, theoretically, should be easier to implement.

Also on my noticeboard we have a collection of beer bottle tops, a picture of Charlie doing a wheelie, various postcards depicting wartime posters related to the kitchen front and some stamps.

I look at this poster every day and think about what it means. Sometimes I think I should get a nice frame for it, but buying unnecessary stuff isn't really living simply is it?

Our hot drink station. The real coffee is kept in the fridge, that is decaff for after dinner, the sugar is for the kids, I dread to think how much Katie puts in her cocoa which is kept in the fab London Underground tin.

Cooking friends next to the hob; flaky sea salt, peppermill with black peppercorns, olive oil for drizzling, garlic in a garlic pot and a bunch of utensils.

My recipe box, made for me by lovely Diana and in constant use. The biggest section is the baking section. I may need to subdivide.

The following four pictures illustrate my taste for retro kitchenware. I like Cornishware, but not too much of it, old tablespoons, Golden Syrup tins, enamelware -old and new, vintage cutlery and Mason Cash pudding basins. That's enough though, no more, I don't want to cook in a museum, neither do I want vintage florals all over the blimmin' place.

Naturally I have shown you all the nice details. They are not the whole story though. Look closely and you will see the horror story that is my kitchen radiator, my garage door and the utility room door. Aaagh!!

The Quince Tree All rights reserved © Blog Milk - Powered by Blogger