Wednesday 27 August 2014

Blackberry Time

Here's another gorgeous image from Herry Perry (see my Thimble Tea post below).  It seems the good weather has returned after a very miserable Bank Holiday Monday when the brambles at the bottom of the garden took a real battering from cold wind and rain.  Now the blackberries are not really worth picking but the garden wildlife still seems to be enjoying them so I don't mind at all.

And I've already harvested plenty of other fruits including cherries, plums, tiny strawberries, a few raspberries and of course there are apples to come.

However my favourite garden harvest this year is going to be the nuts from my Cobnut bushes.  I grew three bushes from nuts I'd forgotten about and found at the back of the fridge.  They had started to sprout so I planted them in small pots and three started to grow.

That was four or five years ago now and last year was the first time they fruited (or is it nutted?)  There were just a very few nuts.  But this year I've quite a good crop and I think there will be a bag full.  I've been buying cobnuts from Allen's Farm for years and I'm really chuffed this year I'll be able to eat my own aswell. That is if the squirrels in the front garden don't find them first.

I tried a couple last evening and they seem ready so I think I'll pick them today - sorry squirrels!  However they are already gorging on and hiding away beechnuts, hazelnuts and acorns from the front garden - not to mention the birds' peanuts!

Friday 15 August 2014

Elizabeth Craig's Thimble Tea

A recent post on a favourite blog Shelf Appeal featured the illustrator Herry Perry in Elizabeth Craig's book on Entertaining.  I just had see more and found a reasonably priced copy on ebay.  What a delight!  Published in 1933 it's full of advice for "The Modern Hostess", whether entertaining "with the help of one maid, of a staff of servants, or single handed"!

 There are dozens of entertaining occasions covered by Elizabeth, from "A Bride's First Dinner" to "Tea for Two in Wintertime" and everything else in between.  But my very favourite has to be "Just a Thimble Tea".  Here is just some of Elizabeth's advice:

"Every little while I give a Thimble Tea, to which I ask a few chosen friends.  In the summer-time we sometimes hold it in the garden.  In winter it is held in the cosiest corner of the room close to the fire with ship logs ablaze in blue and purple and fiery red........If you want to start Thimble Teas first count over your friends who are interested in needlework, whether it be simple knitting or embroidery, or fine sewing.  It matters not what their taste is so long as they are of the Sister Susie sisterhood (I've tried to look up what this means with no success).  Then send out invitations to come to tea and bring their work along with them.  I would not invite more that half a dozen at a time.  For a Thimble Tea I usually write "from 2.30 to 6 pm" on my invitations..........As this is a Thimble Tea she (the hostess) must produce her daintiest tea cloth, doilys and tea serviettes.  If she has a hand-worked tea cosy it is a good idea to have a teapot rest to match - a strip of knitted wool stuffed firmly with cotton wool and sewn lengthwise to form a woollen roly-poly.  This must be invisibly joined at the ends to form a circular roll which in turn must be firmly sewn to two rounds of plain knitting with a round of stiff cardboard slipped between to form a stiff base for the nest.......... Boil the water for the tea at table with the aid of an electric kettle or a spriit lamp, have your tea caddy ready beside the teapot and a little plate containing slices of lemon in case some guests wish their tea a la Russe.  Have milk as well as cream for lots of people do not care for cream in tea (too right - yuk!).  Then arrange little plates of dainty sandwiches, shortbread fingers, or jam-jams, almond or coconut macaroons, spiced rock cakes, and anything else you care to have within reach of all.  Provide at least one muffin dish of hot scones and have what is the very latest idea, a plate of tiny canapes of bread rounds the size of crown pieces spread with savoury paste and kept carefully out of sight till everyone has finished with cake, and then brought out and offered as a savoury finish......

.......No matter your menu, tea over have food cleared away if teaing in the sewing room and settle down again to work and gossip.  In the summer-time serve tea when possible in the garden.  If raining have it indoors with the fire lit.  Decorate the room with glowing plants.  In winter-time decorate your room with red flowers or berries and red or white candles, serving tea when possible in a different room to that in which you work or in a room opening off your working room."

Phew, I haven't done that much copy typing in a long time!  Good job I proof read it!  I'd not heard of jam-jams before but there are lots of recipes on line.  Here's a nice one.

And this is Elizabeth's 1933 recipe:

Rub 4oz butter in 7oz flour, stir in 4oz castor sugar, half teaspoon baking powder, half teaspoon ground cinnamon and moisten to a rollable dough with yolk of egg.  Roll out on a lightly floured pastry board, cut into rounds with the top of a wineglass or a fancy cutter, bake till crisp and golden and if by any chance through incorrect management of the oven the cakes spread out of shape you can recut them again with the same cutter as soon as you take them out of the oven.  But don't wait till they cool at all or they will break in the cutting.  Put two rounds together with jam then sprinkle with castor sugar.  Apricot or raspberry jam is best for jam-jams.  If liked you can use ground Ginger for flavouring instead of cinnamon. 

Of course there were no oven temperature gauges then - today bake at 190C (375F) for about 12-14 mins.

Lastly, these are Elizabeth's suggested Tea Menus:

Bread and Butter
Cucumber Sandwiches
Layer Cake, Strawberry Filling
Strawberries and Cream
Petits Fours

Raisin and Nut Bread
Cheese and Pimento Sandwiches
Hot Buttered Tea-Cakes
Spiced Fruit Cake
Iced German Biscuits

Bloater Cream Sandwiches 
Ham and Cress Rolls
Buttered Crumpets
Chocolate Eclairs
Tangerine Layer Cake

Note - Make Bloater Cream Sandwiches with brown bread.  Use bridge rolls, split for Ham and Cress sandwiches.  Hot buttered teacakes can be substituted for Crumpets and Cream Buns for Chocolate Eclairs.  Fill Tangerine Layer Cake with tangerine honey and cover with tangerine icing.

If you enjoyed this I might share a few more gems in future posts.  What about "Tea in Heather Time" or "A Scramble Party" ?

Sunday 10 August 2014

In the Good Old Summertime......

Its hard to keep blogging at this time of year.  And with so much good weather this summer I've found it difficult to make myself sit down and share what has been occupying my days over the past month or so - apart from work of course.  Fingers crossed there will be more happy excursions to enjoy before the shorter darker days arrive, and before Summer 2014 blurs into one sunshiny memory, I thought I'd share a few photos with you.

Last Monday was a glorious day here in North Wales and my sister and I were lucky enough to have picked that day to go shopping in Llandudno.  We were tempted to linger on the promenade on our way back to the car and decided to take a walk on the pier.

As you can see above, the pier is of typical Victorian design and with the mountains of Snowdonia in the background, in the perfect setting.  We took our time enjoying a bag of fresh donuts and a stroll to the pier end - it was almost 8 o'clock before we got home!

The week before had been occupied with my usual last minute frantic preparations for the Vintage in the Vale Fair at Trelawnyd Memorial Hall.  As always "it was alright on the night" and I had a happy day catching up with old crafty friends and being inspired by the craftsmanship of the stallholders both old and new.  I'm already thinking about plans for the next fair at the beginning of November - did I really say that!!!

In July I'd been lucky enough to grab a bargain offer on this beautiful cottage near Dolgellau - Tyn y Simdde (booked through Under the Thatch).  Three of us spent three happy days pretending we lived in this heavenly spot deep in the forest, high up on a hill - if that makes sense!

The simple cottage interior has been beautifully restored, providing every comfort you could wish for and the wonderful views from the garden, and indeed every window, made for perfect peace and quiet to read, watch the birds in the garden or, as in my case, get crafty.

Located only an hour or so from home, I'll definitely be keeping an eagle eye out for further bargain offers.

And finally, you might remember a few weeks ago I was making preparations for my sister's fund raising afternoon tea party.  I'd like to report a resounding success with about £480 being raised for the Oswestry Bone Cancer Centre Appeal

My sister took the prize as star baker but my small craft stall proved popular too and I was very happy I could add a good bit to the total raised.

And everyone liked the pompom 'thank you blooms' they were presented with to take home.  We're planning another event in the future.

Well I think I'd better stop here!  There have been other pleasant days out and hopefully I'll be reporting on a few more before we have to start hunkering down to preparations for autumn and Christmas.  I do hope all my readers have enjoyed their summer so far - I think it will go down as a good one here in the UK even if there have been a few wet days here and there..... apparently there's one on the cards for tomorrow.  Keep dry all!


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