Monthly Archives: March 2015

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Doug And The Legendary Lie Detector

Guardian Of The Little Black Box, Rocking Dog

Guardian Of The Little Black Box

This sombrero’d piece of 60’s kitsch now resides in my sewing room. Originally it lived in my childhood home and never really saw the light of day. Instead, this tourist treasure stood sentinel over my Dad Doug’s little black box. Housed on the top shelf of his wardrobe it shared space with Doug’s Homburg hat (remember everyone but everyone wore a hat to a funeral),and life’s inevitable flotsam and jetsam. There was also more than likely a secretive stash of chocolate. Poor Dad it became ever more problematic to hide Fry’s Chocolate Cream bars, Raspberry Ruffle’s, Crunchie’s and Mars bars from the tentacles of three human gannets! How jubilant were we if we found one of these confectionary hideouts- the garage was a favourite. Dad then had to go back to the drawing board to plot an evermore inventive hidey-hole.

Back to the wardrobe, the little black box was a slightly scary enigma when we were growing up. This was Dad’s Lie Detector. When none of us would own up to a wrong doing, the threat of the little black box being brought out was enough for the felon to come forward! I vividly remember an occasion when I sprayed an exterior porch wall with gold spray paint. I would not own up…so..the little black box was threatened. As per usual the threat did the trick and no doubt I got a smacked bottom!

So what was the little black box? Dad served in the Royal Navy telegraphist in WW2 sending and receiving important Morse Code messages, perhaps this was a relic from his naval days ? Certainly not, for this was a simple door bell box cover! I remember the three of us precariously balancing on a chair on tiptoes trying to reach the little back box, desperately trying to dispel the mystique!

Even little pottery Mexican man had a degree of mystery, full of loose change I always thought he was a Chinaman. Only recently did I really carefully look at him and begin suspecting he was brought back from a 1960’s Spanish package holiday together with some Flamenco dancer postcards.

My Dad Doug, Rocking Dog

My Dad Doug

Hola! Rocking Dog

Hola!

My Bristol..Honest It’s A Great City

Worth Coming To Bristol For...Ahh Toots, Rocking Dog

Worth Coming To Bristol For…Ahh Toots

I know i’m slightly biased but Bristol IS a great city. Yes, in parts it’s very rough around the edges, and like many cities bares witness to shocking examples of post war architecture. But ….Bristol has a vibrant beating heart, and if you know where to look, some gorgeous watering holes, architectural gems, together with green and watery landscapes.

I ventured into the hub of Bristol for sewing supplies on Friday, heading to St Nicholas’s covered market. Haberdashery carefully selected and paid for, I journey’d through the historical Glass Arcade. It was thronging with hungry workers and shoppers, debating whether to eat Caribbean, Moroccan, Mediterranean, Lebanese, Bristolian pies (Pieminister)….. or cake! Wow! “Ahh Toot’s” truly amazingly styled cake stall truly stopped me in my tracks, Sooooooooo beautiful. Their neighbour “Eat a Pitta” does the most amazing portable falafel pitta pockets, I can truly vouch for their yumminess! In short St Nicholas Market is a mere few minutes walk from Broadmead and Cabot Circus Shopping centres with their quota of bland generic eating places. It really is worth the walk to sample the proudly independent St Nick’s culinary global feast! Incidentally, on Wednesday Corn Street (one of the roads that leads into St Nick’s) hosts the weekly Farmer’s Market.

Walking across the centre (You’ll see the Bristol Hippodrome), Cenotaph and some rather non-descript modern fountains (known to some as the pissing men’s fountains!). Somewhat bizarrely I signed on for a career in the army in one of these central Bristol buildings.. but that’s a story for another day! Taking yourself up the historic “Christmas Steps” is very atmospheric and somehow quite Dickensian. The city stages open air film nights on these steps occasionally. Catching your breath at the top there are some lovely independent craft shops Makers and Blaze, a dress agency (Rag Trade) and a TRULY wonderful second hand bookshop, Bloom and Curll. My real favourite is Dig Haushizzle with its mouthwatering range of industrial come gothic come eccentric home loveliness. Thankfully it was closed when I took my photo’s… so my bank balance breathed a sigh of relief! If you want an unusual present the shop offers taxidermy courses, you can go home with a stuffed canary! The wonderful pinnacled John Foster Almshouses are reflected in the window.

Obviously this is a very small and blinkered snapshot of an hour spent in Bristol. The real crowd pleasers are of course The SS Great Britain, Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol Zoo, The Avon Gorge and Downs etc…etc…

Sunday we were down on the Harbourside at the Riverstation – lovely views, yummy food, calm friendly environment and artistic coffee!

If anyone ever wants a little custom made tour, i’d be happy to show you around My Bristol, especially if it involves foodie or vintage trails!

Naughty Ahh Toots!, Rocking Dog

Naughty Ahh Toots!

More Ahh Toots Style, Rocking Dog

More Ahh Toots Style

Glass Roof, St Nick's, Rocking Dog

Glass Roof, St Nick’s

A Favourite Haunt!, Rocking Dog

A Favourite Haunt!

Reflection, Rocking Dog

Reflection

Coffee Artistry!, Rocking Dog

Coffee Artistry!

Hot Cross Bread & Butter Pudding

Recycling Hot Cross Buns!, Rocking Dog

Recycling Hot Cross Buns!

“Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns! one a penny, two a penny, Hot cross buns!” I had some hot cross buns that were not the soft moist buns they should have been. So… it was time to make some simple wintry comfort food. My trio of hot cross buns would once again taste wonderful!

For this Eastery version of Bread & Butter pud’ you will need the following:-

200ml milk (preferably whole milk)
150ml double cream
2 free range eggs
4 tbsp caster sugar
Butter for spreading
2 tbsp sultanas or other dried fruit
Vanilla pod (optional)
3 or 4 hot cross buns

Set oven to 180 degrees. Slice each bun horizontally into 3 and spread each piece with butter. Place bun slices (reserving the cross tops) into an ovenproof dish (hope you noticed my Egg shaped Nigella Lawson one!) and sprinkle with 1 tbsp sugar and the sultanas. Top with the reserved tops.

Break the eggs into a jug, whisk with a fork. Add milk and cream together with the seeds scraped from the vanilla pod and 2 tbsp sugar. Stir well.

Pour egg mix over the buns, they may float until they become saturated with the custard.

Pour some water into a baking tin and place the pudding dish in the tin. This is a Bain Marie and helps to stop the custard from overheating and separating. Cook for about 25 minutes until deliciously golden brown. Serves 4.

Variations- after spreading the buns with butter, spread with some marmalade for a lovely citrus flavour* Grate over a little nutmeg or mixed spice* Add in some chunks of dark chocolate in place of the sultanas* For a lower fat version, make the pudding with skimmed milk and a buttery low fat spread.

Admittedly this isn’t the healthiest of sweet treats, but with March looking springlike, but feeling rather raw, it gives your being a pleasing warm glow!

Carb Fest, Rocking Dog

Carb Fest

Uncrossed Buns, Rocking Dog

Uncrossed Buns

Creative Ways Of Dealing With Junk Mail!

Sweet Wrapper, Rocking Dog

Sweet Wrapper

Rocking Dog loves recycling creatively! I hope no-one thinks i’m miserly not wrapping gifts in proper commercial gift wrap. The recent John Lewis “Cook” supplement and “Anthropologie” brochure that dropped through my letter box were simply too pretty to put in the recycling bin.

My future daughter in law was the recipient of these latest recycled wrap gifts, and as ever I hope she didn’t think me too mad!

I have an ever growing box of pretty brochures, Chinese newspapers, interior design magazines, comics and books, gorgeous fodder for future gift wrapping projects. Yes, I am a self confessed hoarder, or, more positively an effective creative recycler!

Too Pretty To Bin, Rocking Dog

Too Pretty To Bin

Exotic Junk Mail, Rocking Dog

Exotic Junk Mail

A Jewel Of A Gift, Rocking Dog

A Jewel Of A Gift

Fiery Pickle Not For The Faint-hearted!

The Magic Begins!, Rocking Dog

The Magic Begins!

Finally I got around to making some very fiery pickle from some rather forlorn Seville Oranges. They have constantly made me feel guilty every time I have ventured into the fridge. So today was the day my guilt would finally lift, I loosely used Shropshire and Edges Permaculture Network recipe for Seville Orange and Apricot Chutney. Never a strict recipe follower I threw in more chilli, additional spices and dates. Only time will tell whether it was a good call!

I have to say that at the present time, only a Vindaloo would make this pickle seem mild in the heat stakes. However, left for a few months to mellow in a cool dark place it may prove to be a little less fiery. I love pickle or chutney with a great Cheddar and some freshly baked bread, such simple pleasures!

One year we decided to go against tradition and we served up an elaborate Indian feast on Christmas day. The boys (grown men) as ever decided on true laddism by eating the hottest pickles, chilli’s and sauces. Why does ultimate machoism and one- upmanship need to be displayed and revelled in, by eating such unpleasantly hot delicacies ?!

Does anyone else get a thrill from seeing a stash of homemade pickles and preserves, all neatly labelled and stacked ?

Forlorn Fruit, Rocking Dog

Forlorn Fruit

Let's Get Cookin'!, Rocking Dog

Let’s Get Cookin’!

I Went To The Shops And I Bought…

£2 Madonna, Rocking Dog

£2 Madonna

Do you ever remember on long car journeys playing “I went to the shops and I bought….” The first player would say “I went to the shops and I bought a £2 Madonna”. The next player would then say “I went to the shops and bought a £2 Madonna and a jar full of buttons”, and so it went on. The list would get so long that you wouldn’t remember items from the list without a lot of prompting. It often got very silly with items such as rubber girdles, mouldy fish and American Tan tights on the list. The smutty innocence of a 60’s childhood!

So I went to the Vintage Jumble on Saturday and indeed I did buy a £2 Madonna (destined for our bathroom), a big jar of buttons (which I promptly smashed on our kitchen floor), a whizzy scarf and some fabulous fabrics. It is always such fun, and in a lovely venue, Rangeworthy Village Hall. Cakes and teas lovingly made as always by the WI.

I had a great chat with a smallholder who had bought a job lot of corsets in Brussels. They were so similar to the ones I remember my grandmother Nellie wearing. Laced, boned, suspendered and in that notorious corset pink colour, they represented functional rather than beautiful lingerie. Never worn and made in the 40’s/ 50’s they were a bargain for a mere £5 each. In hindsight I should have bought one for my nude mannequin housed in the bathroom together with £2 Madonna! Maybe there’ll be one left when the next Jumble comes around (27th June Box), but before then there’s the Spring Fair at Chipping Sodbury on 23rd May.

The question is what am I going to make with the fab’ fabrics. Would it be really wrong to make a baby dress from the wine bottle fabric?!

Button Jar, Rocking Dog

Button Jar

Whizzy Scarf, Rocking Dog

Whizzy Scarf

Fab' Fabrics, Rocking Dog

Fab’ Fabrics

Doggy Invite, Rocking Dog

Doggy Invite

Floral Spring Gifts

Garden Mix Milk Bottles

Garden Mix Milk Bottles

Rocking Dog presents a little collection of floral gift ideas. These charming arrangements can all be done very inexpensively, especially if you can raid your garden for little sprigs of this and that!

The photo above consists of a tiny wooden crate, lined with fuchsia tissue paper and containing three mini milk bottles (£1 each from Ikea). I printed out a verse from Gerald Manley Hopkins’s “Spring” on translucent parchment and attached it with a jolly gingham ribbon. The flowers were from my garden (Japonica, Daffs’ and Hellebore)

I love to hoard jars with pretty labels for vases or pencil pots. These Tiptree mustard jars are simply lovely to my eyes! Camelia, Soldiers and Sailors (Pulmonaria), Spurge and Tete de Tete make a sweet little arrangement.

At the moment you can pick up some lovely Daffodil bunches for a £1. Tied with ribbon, and a verse from William Wordsworth’s poem “I Wander’d Lonely As A Cloud” they would be so enjoyed by a lucky recipient.

The Vintage Violets consist of little violet plants and “Mind Your Own Business” set into a pretty vintage cup.

Tete de Tete have been picked put into a small glass jar and then placed in a handmade paper bag (this one was kindly bought back by a friend from Delhi)

These have got to be much more charming than a bunch of flowers purchased on a petrol station forecourt.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend, happy floral foraging!

I wander’d lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

William Wordsworth. I Wander’d Lonely as a Cloud

Message On A Bottle, Rocking Dog

Message On A Bottle

Mustard Pot Posy, Rocking Dog

Mustard Pot Posy

Poem Tied Bunch, Rocking Dog

Poem Tied Bunch

Vintage Violets, Rocking Dog

Vintage Violets

Tete de Tete Gift Bag, Rocking Dog

Tete de Tete Gift Bag

Beside The Lake...., Rocking Dog

Beside The Lake….

Winning Ways With Wonderful Wallpaper!

Fandabidosi Table Runner, Rocking Dog

Fandabidosi Table Runner

Yes, by now you will absolutely know that I adore wonderful wallpaper! I love using it for a whole range of different projects, though some inevitably ends up on the walls!

I am always on the look out for end rolls to stock pile for exciting future projects. John Lewis, Laura Ashley, DIY stores and interior design shops are always worth a forage! I pay between £3 and £10 a roll and many retail normally in excess of £50.

Uses for the paper booty include, table runners, party hats, gift wrapping, decoupage, covering storage boxes, paper chains etc…etc…

The photo above shows a glimpse of a Cole and Son “Woods” table runner. Incidentally this was a Russian themed charity Burns’ Night in aid of a Russian orphanage. Somehow the food ended up a little more Bavarian, but hey ho! The beautiful silver paper with bare silver birch imagery certainly helped set the scene.

The paper cone is made using a discontinued paper from Laura Ashley. The cone is based on ones that I remember from holidays in Brittany in the swinging 60’s and 70’s. These enticing cones would grace patisseries and boulangeries in sleepy little Breton Medieval towns. Usually decked in colours to denote fille and garçon, they always appeared much more inspiring than the glassine bagged surprise bags of 60’s Britain!

My cones would make great alternatives to party bags- so much more lovelier than commercial Disneyfied plastic ones. I have added a simple homemade ribbon rosette to decorate and personalise the cone. Obviously contents could be themed to complement the wallpaper design (think pirates eye patch, chocolate coins, a treasure map, transfer tattoos, cutlass etc..). Pretty treat filled cones could be presented at a baby shower, hen party or for yummy Easter goodies!

The Admiral hats can be made from a sheet of wrapping paper or a piece of wallpaper. If you have forgotten this folding skill of childhood take a look on YouTube to reacquaint yourself.

Here endeth my eulogising sermon on wallpaper (well at least for now!)

French Style Cone, Rocking Dog

French Style Cone

Ribbon Rosette, Rocking Dog

Ribbon Rosette

Ahoy!, Rocking Dog

Ahoy!

Fly Me To The Moon- Travel Bags

Made With Love By Rocking Dog, Rocking Dog

Made With Love By Rocking Dog

Rocking Dog is once again busy sewing. The latest project is a delicious pile of lined travel bags, made from dog tooth gingham and appliqué plane patches. Hellicopter’s will soon join the fleet! These little bags would be great for stowing toys and treats for a voyage. Of course it wouldn’t need to be a plane journey, but personally I rather fancy a flight to Cuba before it changes forever!

When the Ferguson brood were little we used to do some endlessly long car journey’s to Scotland. Part of the packing preparation was given to wrapping distraction parcels to break the journey. Of course there were the games too, the picnic and the music. How I remember us all belting out “Proclaimers” songs as we headed through the Cairngorms and beyond. It was definitely “I will drive 500 miles” rather than “I will walk 500 miles”!

What would you fill your Rocking Dog travel bag with? My dream bag would contain some Cowshed or L’Occitane travel products, a World of Interiors magazine, a bottle of Purdey’s, my Moleskine to write notes, lipstick and a BIG bar of Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut!

Plane Sewing, Rocking Dog

Plane Sewing

Choosing Buttons, Rocking Dog

Choosing Buttons

Chocks Away!, Rocking Dog

Chocks Away!

2015 Pop Up Restaurant Being Plotted!

Andyman's Dough!, Rocking Dog

Andyman’s Dough!

My 100th Post! Gradually getting used to this Social Media malarky but still need to know how to make more friends!

Yes, bubbling up in the pipeline are plans for another pop up restaurant event. This will be our third, and once again it will be a sparkling event in aid of another great cause. Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Southmead benefitted from our last Pop Up. Our lovely little neighbour spent a few weeks in this wonderful unit following his birth. I am pleased to report that today he is an energetic, chatty and charming little two year old !

At this Autumn 2013 Pop Up, guests were treated to a warm welcome, a glass of Prosecco and Italian inspired canapés. Guests were then seated and the serous eating began! Andyman made fantastic Focaccia bread which included basil, roasted cherry tomatoes and peppers. The bread was served with antipasti, together with Umbrian olive oil (the olives having been picked by us). Main courses included Sicilian sausages with Cannellini Beans and Red Onion Marmalade, Aubergine Parmigiana and Calabrian Seafood Lasagne. Dolce (puddings!) were Panna Cotta’s, Tiramisu and Fig Frangipane Tart. Coffee followed, together with homemade Chocolate Salami.

The guests certainly appeared happy and went away feeling reassuringly full. Thankfully we had no difficult customers and people gave incredibly generously to the charity. As a family we really enjoyed hosting the event.

Currently I am uncertain which country we’ll be visiting for this years menu, but as ever everything where possible will be cooked from scratch using seasonal, local ingredients. I am looking forward to planning the menu and the decorative elements, but can’t say I ever get desperately enamoured with the thought of the furniture shuffling or the washing up!

Please Be Seated, Rocking Dog

Please Be Seated

Antipasti, Rocking Dog

Antipasti

Ambience, Rocking Dog

Ambience

Scaffold Clad Restaurant , Rocking Dog

Scaffold Clad Restaurant

Welcome Bubbly!, Rocking Dog

Welcome Bubbly!

Banter And Bubbly, Rocking Dog

Banter And Bubbly