Monthly Archives: April 2016

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Signing Off For A Little While

Beautiful Sign, Cuba, Rocking Dog

Beautiful Sign, Cuba

Rocking Dog is indeed signing off for a little while. I hope you’ll understand, but sometimes brain and thoughts and actions need to be committed elsewhere.

I look forward to signing back in soon with some of my ramblings!

Love Rocking Dog x

Rocking Dog’s Woodland Wild Flower Show

Spring Flower Show, Rocking Dog

Spring Flower Show

Yesterday was such a lovely day. The Frome Valley Walkway was resplendent with its magnificent carpet of bluebells. Wood anenomes, wild garlic, king cups, and delicate violets added to the intricate warp and weft.

The river was still, reflective and calm. I spotted a heron, it’s beady eye looking for a fishy morsel. A noise startled him, and he took to the skies. There is something so prehistoric about herons as they take flight. Meanwhile, in a nearby field lambs were gaining independence from their mothers. Every now and again they’d return to suckle and seek reassurance before returning to independent play and socialising.

The hedgerows are now in full white starry bloom, wild plum, blackthorn, damson and cherry. Taking shelter under their gnarled and thorny branches, wild primroses, cow parsley, white bells and budding summer blooms of a story yet to be told.

In the field Real Live Rocking Dog loved a roll in the lengthening grass. The white rabbits have miraculously survived the winter AND the fox who lives in the bordering orchard. Pleasingly the swallows are back from their long winter migration to sunnier climes and have begun their swooping aerobatics. They will continue to show off their flying skills when clover, wild sorrel, plantain, moon daisies and poppies return to the field. They will continue long after the grass has been cut for animal fodder. It will only be when the nights start getting shorter and when there is a chill and stillness in the air that they will think about the long perilous journey back to Africa.

But why think of autumn when delicious spring has just arrived!

Woodland Glade, Rocking Dog

Woodland Glade

Transient Bloom, Rocking Dog

Transient Bloom

Wild Violets, Rocking Dog

Wild Violets

Thorny Branch, Rocking Dog

Thorny Branch

Fresh As A..., Rocking Dog

Fresh As A…

Sentimental Flower, Rocking Dog

Sentimental Flower

Wild Spring Blooms, Rocking Dog

Wild Spring Blooms

Woolly Neighbours, Rocking Dog

Woolly Neighbours

Pretty Mantlepiece, Rocking Dog

Pretty Mantlepiece

So, What Does the Weekend Hold For You?…

Special Cake Delivery, Rocking Dog

Special Cake Delivery

So, what does the weekend hold for you? I hope there are some lovely things to enjoy, be it friends to see, good food to eat or a bracing walk to be had.

Rocking Dog’s weekend is a bit of this and that. A large part of this and that will be clearing our cellar. It indeed resembles a sty and needs a good sort. There are paint tins galore, and enough china to stock a small hotel! Unfortunately, unlike my brother’s big clean out last week there will be no Gucci or Hermes handbags to uncover!

Our cellar was used by the previous occupants as an air raid shelter when the Bristol Blitz was underway (1940). Further back in time the cellar was used as a place to hang and store meat. The hooks remain as do the huge stone blocks with drainage channels. I wish I could say we use the space for storing an exquisite selection of wines, but alas not!

When the cobwebs are dusted from us, perhaps there’ll be the opportunity to see what’s going on in St Nicholas Market. There are always lovely things to eat and drink. Aah Toots and Eat a Pitta are favourites. Maybe a stroll around the harbour will follow with Real Live Rocking Dog.

If the weather allows the moss, oops! grass needs mowing and if time allows there’s a lengthy list of things still to organise for the Tipi wedding! I also really do have to get down to making Christmas stockings for a pitch. (No, no, you are not allowed to come out yet Michael much as I love you!)

On Sunday there are races to be run. Andyman is taking part in the Frenchay 10k run, a mightily hilly affair! Meanwhile our boy is doing the London Marathon and raising money for Sarcoma UK (Read why Alex aka Sick Note is running the race on this link). Thank you to all those who have sponsored him, truly appreciated. And…. yes, that is David Beckham with Alex in the photo below! Alex, in the course of his job gets to meet a number of high profile personalities but admitted being quite starstruck meeting DB. Good Luck boys!

Finally, there is indeed a special cake delivery to be made. Two very special people are setting out for new adventures over the channel and cake is such a British way of celebrating absolutely anything. Nigella’s chocolate cherry recipe complete with chocolate ganache is what I chose for the surprise cake. Unlike the icing depiction I’m not aware that the couple are going to be selling onions or life saving anytime soon! Bon Voyage Huw and Selina… happy sunny times we truly wish for you.

Lots to pack in and i’m sure there’ll be many tasks to carry over into another week or weekend…. but we can but hope!

Mowing The Moss!, Rocking Dog

Mowing The Moss!

Cellar Like A Sty, Rocking Dog

Cellar Like A Sty

Walk RLR Dog, Rocking Dog

Walk RLR Dog

Wedding Planning, Rocking Dog

Wedding Planning

Menu Planning, Rocking Dog

Menu Planning

....With Coffee, Rocking Dog

….With Coffee

Stockings To Make, Rocking Dog

Stockings To Make

St. Nick's Jaunt Perhaps, Rocking Dog

St. Nick’s Jaunt Perhaps

& Races To Be Run!, Rocking Dog

& Races To Be Run!

A Rocking Dog Super Quick Sewing Project

Ingredients For The Sewing Alchemy, Rocking Dog

Ingredients For The Sewing Alchemy

For the last two days I have been working on making a coat to wear for The Boy’s wedding. After much procrastination I finally got down to cutting out the pieces. It sounds oh so easy but I am dealing with a pictorial fabric. It needs much jigging and re-jigging on the dressmakers dummy to balance the pattern. Sorry this all sounds very cryptic, and i’m surely hoping it doesn’t end up looking like a lab’ coat! I might be making a mad dash around the shops sometime very soon for an off the shelf creation. There have been painful moments, dealing with darts, un-fathonable instructions and a piece of pattern which went, and remains missing. Strangely though I am quite enjoying the process, apart from the fruitless search for pattern piece number 12!

In exasperated chinks of time I needed a “Keep Calm & Sew Simple” moment. Looking at Material Mountain I picked out some rolled napkin bundles, recently purchased in Sainsbury’s. Found on a clearance shelf, I bought 7 bundles at 80p each (2 napkins in each bundle). I had no plan for them but knew I liked the cream and red stripe. It reminded me of the abundance of red and white that adorned EVERYTHING in Stockholm. (Andyman will hate this link, a fan of Abba he is absolutely not!)

So my calming super quick sewing project turned out to be a replacement cushion cover for a kitchen chair. I timed myself and it took precisely 10 minutes to make from start to finish. With no fabric to cut, and no raw seams the napkins are ideal for a neatly finished cushion.

Instructions for your very own napkin cushion covers:-

1. Put your 2 napkins together right side to right side. Pin.
2. Start sewing just below the napkin hemlines and begin 3/4 way along one side of the pinned napkins. Continue sewing and when you get to the side that you started on leave a generous gap. This will allow you to pop your cushion pad in.
3. Turn the cushion right way out. Poke the corners out using a pencil or chopstick.
4. Pin and sew Velcro along either side of the gap.
5. If you wish you can sew some ties to your cushion so you can secure it to a chair. Place your cushion cover onto the chosen chair and mark in pencil, or pin where you want to sew your ties.
6. Press your cover and snip any loose threads.
7. Ease your cushion pad into your cover and secure with the velcro. Puff up your lovely new cushion.

Without even realising it the cushion really set off chair backs that I remodelled a few years ago. Originally Dutch style window panels, I added ties and used the panels to frou some utilitarian kitchen chairs.

With the cushion made for less than £1 and in less than 15 minutes, i’d say that’s a pretty good result. Eat your heart out Ian Mankin!

Now, just where is that wretched pattern piece………..!

Cunning Plan!, Rocking Dog

Cunning Plan!

Scandi' Inspiration, Rocking Dog

Scandi’ Inspiration

& The Clock Begins!, Rocking Dog

& The Clock Begins!

Velcro In The Gap, Rocking Dog

Velcro In The Gap

Optional Ties, Rocking Dog

Optional Ties

Plumped Up, Rocking Dog

Plumped Up

Window Panel Back, Rocking Dog

Window Panel Back

Kitchen Chair, Rocking Dog

Kitchen Chair

& Garden Bench, Rocking Dog

& Garden Bench

An Unashamedly Pink Post!

Knitted Pink, Rocking Dog

Knitted Pink

An unashamedly pink post from Rocking Dog this morning. At the weekend I was given an exquisite bunch of deep pink peonies, and suddenly I wanted to gather some pinkness together to celebrate my beautiful blooms.

A tableaux evolved with vintage pink gilded plates, knitted asparagus brooches and pretty vintage tea cups. A gilded plastic mirror, diamante buckles, and mother of pearl, together with glass domes were added into the mix. I love the combination of pink and gold. The little gilded coffee set trinket box is Limoges and a bargainous May Fair purchase.

A few years ago I picked up a book in Waterstone’s and knew I just couldn’t leave the shop without it. Carolyn Quartermaine’s “Unwrapped” first published in 1997 (£35) is a real style bible and has inspired me for various food styling, paper collage and script projects over the years. So, the pages from this delicious book provide some of the backdrops for my photo’s today.

When I ran “Heaven’s Cake” I was asked to cater for an art exhibition “And Miss Carter wore pink” by Helen Bradley. Held at the Holburne Museum, Bath, I took inspiration from the naive paintings to create and style canapes for the event. I can’t remember the food, but I can remember serving everything on pink straw wide brimmed hats and in pretty pink evening bags. I always loved doing the styling as much as cooking the food!

I love pink, and always want to create a predominantly pink and mauvey tone garden. Unfortunately there is a predominance of garish but lovely Dandelions, so the plan for pink loveliness is alas a bit of a dream!

Pink Peonies, Rocking Dog

Pink Peonies

Plastic Gilt & Pink, Rocking Dog

Plastic Gilt & Pink

Pink Tableaux, Rocking Dog

Pink Tableaux

Hot Dahlia Pink, Rocking Dog

Hot Dahlia Pink

Variegated Pink, Rocking Dog

Variegated Pink

Rose Pink, Rocking Dog

Rose Pink

Heavenly Pink, Rocking Dog

Heavenly Pink

Coffee Time Pink, Rocking Dog

Coffee Time Pink

Pink Prezzy, Rocking Dog

Pink Prezzy

Lazy Sunday Springtime Lunch At The Kennel

Rocking Dog's Springtime Sunday Roast, Rocking Dog

Rocking Dog’s Springtime Sunday Roast

A sunny weekend gave Rocking Dog the inclination to do a springtime take on the traditional Sunday roast.

An English leg of lamb was marinated for an hour or two with a mixture of chopped rosemary, garlic, lemon zest, freshly ground pepper, salt crystals and olive oil.
Meanwhile I prepared some beetroot cubes and baby new potatoes to roast, both were given a sprinkling of sea salt a drizzle of olive oil and the potatoes were sprinkled with some fresh sprigs of Rosemary.

A dressing was put together using finely chopped fresh mint, a little sugar, good quality red wine vinegar, salt and olive oil. Put to one side this would be used to drizzle the assembled ingredients.

A lamb joint weighing 2kg will need to be roasted for 1 1/2 hours at 180C (this is for rare meat). Allow time to let your meat stand for at least 15 minutes. Meat juices which have been driven into the centre of the meat during cooking will gradually redistribute throughout your meat if you allow it to rest. The result will be that the meat is more tender to eat.

I roasted my beetroot and potatoes for approximately 45 minutes and cooked some British asparagus spears ( each spear being divided into 3 pieces ) fleetingly.

To assemble my “roast” I laid a bed of raw baby spinach leaves and baby salad leaves in a large serving dish. I quickly added thickly carved slices of lamb, the beetroot, baby potatoes and asparagus. I drizzled on some of the dressing and took my roast to the table. Simple!

A variation of this dish could be to cook Sirloin or Topside of beef. A dressing of fresh horseradish and creme fraiche could anoint this springtime salad roast.

On Sunday I served a starter of arancini, something I had never made before. Basically risotto balls, mine included saffron, buffalo mozzarella and a hidden homemade pesto centre. I used bay leaves from the garden to embellish them. DIY bruschetta ingredients were also laid out, just in case the arancini were a disaster!

Pudding i’m afraid was an old faithful – roasted rhubarb, because we have a pleasing glut, and homemade vanilla ice cream.

Easy preparation, simple ingredients and lovely friends. Lazy Sunday springtime lunch Rocking Dog style!

Spring Has Arrived, Rocking Dog

Spring Has Arrived

Saffron Arancini, Rocking Dog

Saffron Arancini

Saffron Blooms, Umbria, Rocking Dog

Saffron Blooms, Umbria

DIY Bruschetta, Rocking Dog

DIY Bruschetta

British Lamb, Rocking Dog

British Lamb

British Asparagus, Rocking Dog

British Asparagus

Salad Components, Rocking Dog

Salad Components

Garden Crop, Rocking Dog

Garden Crop

Freshly Churned, Rocking Dog

Freshly Churned

Hen Party Filled Picnic Bags By Rocking Dog

Labelled & Ready To Go- Picnic Bags By Rocking Dog, Rocking Dog

Labelled & Ready To Go- Picnic Bags By Rocking Dog

Saturday saw Andyman, myself and an enthusiastic Real Live Rocking Dog driving over the bridge to the Forest of Dean to deliver picnic bags for a certain hen party!

I made individual hen food bags for each of the “hens” and then stashed them with delicious goodies. Choosing fabrics from the infamous Material Mountain, ideas for the bags began to take shape. I decided on a hen appliqué and began by finding a hen image on Google. Enlarging the image I used the computer as an ad hoc light-box, directly tracing the image from the screen onto tracing paper. I ironed a piece of Bondaweb onto my chosen hen appliqué fabric and similarly used Bondaweb for contrasting fabric for the wings. Bondaweb is great for adhering fabric to another fabric, minimising fabric movement and wrinkles.

The hens were then pressed to the centre of the main bag fabric. I used zig zag stitch to sew the hens in place and added stitched legs and button eyes. A veil was added to the bride to be’s hen. Worryingly I thought that many of the hens resembled Lisa Simpson, not my intention! Hems were sewn at the top of each bag before the seams were closed, firstly the central back seam and then the bottom seam. Turned right way out, handles of wide candy stripe ribbon were attached. Finally the bags were pressed and loose cottons snipped. Voila!

Now for the filling of the bags. Not a sweaty cheese and tomato sandwich in sight, nor warm yoghurt, grey sausage roll or wrinkled chicken drumstick! A buttery croissant filled with Pastrami and Emmental, Tyrrell’s crisps, freshly baked Rocking Dog sausage roll and a salad box inhabited each bag. The salad box contained pasta, roasted mediterranean vegetables, Mozzarella pearls, homemade pesto and toasted pine nuts.

Sweet offerings included some Rocking Dog cherry amaretti (continuing thanks Yotam Ottolenghi for the recipe), and the naughtiest ever Billionaires bars A few weeks ago whilst posting a letter, I bumped into the lovely Alison Atherton. She said “try this”, and handed me a mysterious foil package. Inside was the most amazing sweet offering. So enthused about the sweet loveliness I said to my neighbour “try this”. So said neighbour VERY hesitatingly took a small piece and loved it. She then told me she’d started a diet that morning! Oops! What a bully I am! Anyway when I came to the hen food bags I just had to try the recipe myself. It has got to be the naughtiest recipe I have ever encountered.

To counteract the chocolate naughtiness I added a clementine and strawberries into the bag. I put the strawberries into single use piping bags (£1 for 20 from Poundland) and tied them with pretty ribbon.

A can of San Pellegrino Limonata was stowed together with a pretty hen printed napkin. The bags were then tied with calligraphed and stamped name labels. Another bag gathered together, dips, crudites, clotted cream, wet wipes and rubbish bag. It was time to head to the hens!

A beautiful sunny morning in Bristol, 3/4 of an hour up the road at the hen cabin it had been snowing overnight! Picnics delivered to the lovely girls, there was time to walk Real Live Rocking Dog and there was even a flutter of snow!

Hen Template, Rocking Dog

Hen Template

Hen Applique, Rocking Dog

Hen Applique

Hen With A Veil, Rocking Dog

Hen With A Veil

Salad Box, Rocking Dog

Salad Box

Cherry Amaretti, Rocking Dog

Cherry Amaretti

Cake Bags, Rocking Dog

Cake Bags

Piping Bag Strawb's, Rocking Dog

Piping Bag Strawb’s

Luggage Labels, Rocking Dog

Luggage Labels

Hen Picnic Bound!, Rocking Dog

Hen Picnic Bound!

The Rocking Dog Vintage Laundry!

Looking For New Homes, Rocking Dog

Looking For New Homes

Earlier in the week it was all about pickling and yesterday it was all about sewing. Beloved Bernina was rattling away on a secretive project, but NOT the wedding coat. I did however take the pattern to bed with me to gear myself up for what lies ahead. In truth I have never made a coat before and setting in the sleeves is somewhat bewildering. I really was going to make strides with this ominous sewing task this week…. but alas it hasn’t happened. I sometimes think life is rather like a doctors surgery. You start off with a good plan but things rarely stick to time! So lots of jobs on the daily to do list simply end up being carried over to another day or indeed another week.

I have very finally hung the Roman blind but think it needs some pom-poms or other decorative frou to over-gild the lily!

I have enjoyed laundering my Italian vintage stash. The pieces need to be sorted into little textile categories. Some will remain whole such as some pretty embroidered tablecloths, whilst others will be remodelled into “new” pieces. Cushions, lavender pillows, drawstring bags and decorative kitchen cloths are past makes.

I love the linen nightdress with its cheery monogram. I’m tempted to make this into a pillow sized cushion. Naughty Real Live Rocking Dog is rather partial to some vintage nightshirt pillows that I made a few years ago. I hand sewed the linen garments onto a backing of red and white striped material and filled the cases with soft feather pillows. Real Live Rocking Dog is so like the Princess and the Pea. He chooses the softest, plumpest places to sleep and we quite often have to shoo him off one or other beds or sofa’s.

Back to my textiles, one of the hardest decisions is which ones I am going to keep and decide on those I can bear to part with. The shelves of Material Mountain are cram packed and I need to do some serious sewing to reduce stocks!

The weekend beckons and I hope whatever you are doing you’ll have a good one. Love Rocking Dog x

Prince & The Pea, Rocking Dog

Prince & The Pea

Hung Out To Dry, Rocking Dog

Hung Out To Dry

Ship Shape & Bristol Fashion, Rocking Dog

Ship Shape & Bristol Fashion

Monogram Nightdress, Rocking Dog

Monogram Nightdress

Pretty Stitches, Rocking Dog

Pretty Stitches

Kitchen Cloths, Rocking Dog

Kitchen Cloths

Planet Wedding-Rocking Dog Gets Pickling!

Rocking Dog Giardiniere Pickles, Rocking Dog

Rocking Dog Giardiniere Pickles

Rocking Dog has been busy getting pickling! With a certain wedding only seven weekends away preparations are clocking up for the couple and the two families.

Giardiniere Pickles, also known as Italian Garden Pickles are now snugly packed into jars ready to be served with salami’s and other antipasti goodies.

Delia’s recipe which appears in her Delia’s How To Cook (Book 3) provided the blueprint for this latest batch of Rocking Dog pickling. This particular recipe involves chopping a variety of vegetables and layering them with salt and water. The vegetables are then left overnight before being drained and rinsed. They are then spread out to dry for a few hours ( how I appreciated my large workbench!). Popped back into a large bowl the vegetables are tossed in some olive oil. Garlic cloves and cherry tomatoes are added in to the mix, together with some black peppercorns. Jars are sterilised in a warm oven and left to cool for a moment or two. Finally the vegetables are packed into the jars along with fresh herbs. I used Bay leaves and Rosemary from the Rocking Dog garden, together with some Lemon Thyme. White wine vinegar is then poured in over the tightly packed vegetables. Lids closed, the pickles need to be stored in a cool dark place to mellow for at least a month before eating.

A less attractive pickling proposition now awaits my attention. 2kg of shallots sit on the kitchen table awaiting peeling. They will be pickled in spiced balsamic vinegar to be eaten with cheese. I’m hoping I can recruit Andyman for peeling duties, and then we can cry on the task together!

Pickling and Jam making are excellent ways of using gluts of fruits and vegetables. Andyman is particularly partial to Dee’s lemon marmalade especially when made with lemons from Capri. Yes I really have got to step up to the plate with my lemon marmalade making and flat sock folding (don’t ask!!)

Umbrian Vegetables, Rocking Dog

Umbrian Vegetables

Use Me!, Rocking Dog

Use Me!

Delia You're Fab'!, Rocking Dog

Delia You’re Fab’!

Vegetable Prep', Rocking Dog

Vegetable Prep’

Herbs & Spices, Rocking Dog

Herbs & Spices

Salami Loves Pickles!, Rocking Dog

Salami Loves Pickles!

Umbria’s Spectacular Floral Cloak

Poppies In The Olive Grove, Rocking Dog

Poppies In The Olive Grove

We literally gasped when we saw Umbria’s spectacular floral cloak. Drifts of wild poppies adorned the hedgerows together with other spring flowers with names that sadly allude me. Blue skies, soothing warmth, butterflies and birdsong completed this gorgeous picture.

In November there are yellows and rusts, mists, the distant barks of hunting dogs and of course …the olives. Winter brings a very different landscape, with different smells and a particular hazy stillness.

In our hosts’ garden the Wisteria with its gnarled branches was showing off it’s spectacular aromatic blooms. Soon the flowers will be no longer, in their place a plethora of limey green fronds. The pergola’s leafy canopy will soon provide dappled shade to those seeking respite from the heat of the day.

The welcome spring sunshine saw lizards lithely scuttle up sun baked walls and into the dark mysterious crevices of the dry stone walls. Meanwhile the olive trees were given a brutal pruning, all of us debating whether there was enough time to get olives growing on their branches.

A trip to a talented home baker to buy fresh breads from the wood fired oven, and then on to buy eggs from an owner who knows all her hens by name, all help to make this place feel simply idyllic.

As ever there was the inevitable trip to a market to buy vintage textiles. I left behind the beautifully embroidered piece which in German read “I am not worthy to have you under my roof”! Pleased with my stash these embroidered pieces are currently being laundered and will be sold at a later date. The market also supplied me with sun blush tomatoes, Pecorino (Ewes milk cheese) and salamis for the boys’ wedding. I SO wanted to bring home artichokes, wild asparagus and other perishable market treats.

Prosecco was quaffed and cicci little morsels were gobbled at Michele’s and very sadly the weekend came to an end.

Short, sweet, but oh so lovely to witness the spectacular arrival of spring in the Umbrian olive groves. Grow little olives, please grow!

Olives, Rocking Dog

Olives

Wisteria Pergola, Rocking Dog

Wisteria Pergola

Tulip Festival, Rocking Dog

Tulip Festival

Market Tomatoes, Rocking Dog

Market Tomatoes

.....Salami, Rocking Dog

…..Salami

......& Artichokes, Rocking Dog

……& Artichokes

Arancini, Rocking Dog

Arancini

Turmeric Bread, Rocking Dog

Turmeric Bread

.....& then Cake!, Rocking Dog

…..& then Cake!