Monthly Archives: February 2018

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A Trip To Deepest Darkest Wales

The Gower, Cornwall But Without The Crowds!,Rocking Dog

The Gower, Cornwall But Without The Crowds!

Once upon a time a long long time ago we started our married life in deepest darkest Wales. Andyman was in the RAF and we lived in a little married quarter in St Athan. As he wasn’t an officer we didn’t have the privilege of fitted carpets but a very large carpet piece. If my memory serves me correctly the lounge “mat” was orange with lime green rings. The arm chairs were equally attractive, with stretch nylon covers in purple and green camouflage pattern! Farrow & Ball had yet to be developed and the walls were RAF issue antique gold. In spite of a very challenging colour palette Andyman and I were very happy in our first home together. After qualifying as an army nurse I then spent a year showcasing Wrangler jeans and corduroy’s in a large Cardiff department store.

In time I was accepted for midwifery training at the University Hospital of Wales. Four days or so after starting my course Andyman met me from the bus stop to tell me he was being posted to Germany, perfect timing…not! There was the dilemma as to whether to go with him to Germany or to complete my 18 month midwifery course. Sensible head told me to remain in Wales. So that’s what I did. There were frequent flights, ferry crossings and even one or two hovercraft journeys over that next year and a half. Eventually I joined Andyman in Germany and that’s where my link with Wales ended.

However… a midwife who I trained with have kept in touch. We went over to see her and lovely paediatrician husband at the weekend. We always have such a wonderful time with them and enjoy yummy food, wine and chat. There is always a great walk on the cards when we visit. This time we headed out in the car on a short car journey from their house to Llanmadoc on the north west Gower peninsula.

I can see why people say that the Gower is like Cornwall….. but without the crowds. The scenery is truly spectacular with huge sweeps of white sandy coastline, sand dunes, wooded areas, craggy outcrops and a multitude of flora & fauna. We were literally the only folk on the beach on Saturday and the skies were impossibly blue. It was widely reported that Wales and the South West experienced an earthquake on Saturday. Though walking close to the epicentre of the earthquake we felt absolutely nothing!

There were shells to find, plastic flotsam and jetsam to moan about, and hills to huff and puff up! Real Live Rocking Dog loved having the beach to himself, but i’m sure in his little heart wished for a ball to play with. We stopped briefly at a bench in Hansel and Gretel style woodland to watch the skeleton. Well done Lizzy and Laura.

Five miles of walking ended with a drink and sarnie at the characterful Britannia Inn. Next time we must taste the Salt marsh lamb which the Gower is famous for. Sheep feed on samphire, sorrel, sea lavender and thrift.

It was time to say goodbye to our buddies and to promise not to leave such a big gap before the next time. It was wonderful, truly wonderful and there really isn’t anything better than sea air and good friends. Thank you xx

Rocky Climb,Rocking Dog

Rocky Climb

Seaside Treasure,Rocking Dog

Seaside Treasure

Beach To Himself,Rocking Dog

Beach To Himself

Sand Dunes & Salty Air,Rocking Dog

Sand Dunes & Salty Air

Tall Pines,Rocking Dog

Tall Pines

Hansel & Gretel,Rocking Dog

Hansel & Gretel

Skeleton Bench,Rocking Dog

Skeleton Bench

Lone Pine,Rocking Dog

Lone Pine

Dog Tired!,Rocking Dog

Dog Tired!

Enjoying A Bit Of Baking On A Lazy Sunday Morning

Sweet Infusion,Rocking Dog

Sweet Infusion

I hope the weekend was enjoyable and that you were able to stay snug! My weekend was one filled with lots of bits and pieces. I started on a Roman blind for the kitchen (I thought it was about time I made something for myself!), I looked for a new bathroom and nipped into see a friend. There was also an afternoon tidying the garden whilst coping with a prolonged hail storm. Poor Real Live Rocking Dog decided he did NOT like hail!

However, on Sunday morning it was all about a gentle spot of baking. I cooked another recipe from “Sweet” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh. The latest sugary concoction was a Chocolate tart with hazelnut, rosemary and orange. Quite unusual for me I didn’t “go off piste” and followed the recipe almost to the T. Saying that I didn’t have enough hazelnuts for the praline/brittle so made up the shortfall with almonds and pistachio’s. I also chose to make the pastry by hand rather than in the processor. I’m sorry but pastry done with light handling cannot be surpassed by a swanky machine!

Pastry made, Rosemary sprigs brushed with egg white and dusted with sugar, cream infused, it was all gently enjoyable. I loved how the praline/brittle was approached in this recipe. Praline can be notoriously difficult and you can land up with a sugar crystal’y nutty heap. This brittle was made by placing the syrups and sugar into a pan, heating until the sugar dissolved and then transferring it into a lined baking tin to bake for 7 minutes.

With all the preparation done for the tart and The Archer’s sadly at an end I headed out into the garden.

With leaves gathered, steps brushed, little wild violets marvelled at, it was time for a bath and the return to my baking.

Whilst the tart was blind baking I melted chocolate, made a sabayon (egg yolks and sugar), chopped my brittle and read my recipe! The crisp tart base was given a layer of chopped nut brittle and awaited its chocolatey cloak. The chocolate, sabayon and strained cream were folded together and spooned into the tart case and baked for 12 minutes or so.

After cooling, the tart was given a generous dusting of cocoa and embellished with shards of brittle and the crystallised rosemary sprigs. I’m sorry about the finished picture, it honestly looked better in real life.

It was DELICIOUS! I LOVE Yotam, but then I think you already know that.

I hope you have a good week and stay cosy!

Love Rocking Dog x

Read The Recipe,Rocking Dog

Read The Recipe

Handle Carefully,Rocking Dog

Handle Carefully

Blind Bake,Rocking Dog

Blind Bake

Crystallise Rosemary,Rocking Dog

Crystallise Rosemary

Praline For Idiots!,Rocking Dog

Praline For Idiots!

All Dressed Up & Ready To Go!,Rocking Dog

All Dressed Up & Ready To Go!

Being Creative With The Lovely Julie Arkell

My Workshop Brooch,Rocking Dog

My Workshop Brooch

Almost a week has whizzed by and I haven’t talked about the wonderful workshop I attended last weekend. I headed to Highgate, London on Saturday morning to meet a textile (papier mache and mosaic) hero of mine. Julie Arkell was in residence for the last workshop at Selvedge’s old premises.

Twelve or so of us sat around a huge square work bench whilst Julie demonstrated in little chunks how to make a woolly brooch. The inspiration for the brooch had come to Julie from a wartime picture of a child wearing a pretty simple little piece of jewellery. We cut card (never ever use scissors destined for cutting fabric), we chose a fabric scrap and complementary wools. We delighted in tales of Julie’s career path, the angst of American customs, Julie’s heroes and making craft pay. It was all very gentle, chatting as we sewed, cut and deliberated. Very soon we had sweet brooches that had been embellished with felt flowers and french knots. My brooch was very much a homage to wartime, with a striped blue, white and red fabric together with simple poppies. I want to eventually complete it with a transfer print of my dad in his WW11 naval uniform.

A delicious lunch broke the morning and afternoon’s sewing. There was more textile talk and it was interesting to hear how Julie’s work had changed over the years. I became aware of her work in the 1990’s when I was given some money to choose a piece of jewellery in Bristol’s now defunct Ginger Gallery. I selected a paper mache and mosaic heart which I still adore wearing. Over the years I have been fortunate to have been gifted other pieces.

Julie’s jewellery now is much more textile based. She told us how her mother’s death six years ago had definitely influenced her recent work. Without consciously thinking about it her creations had become darker and included much more black, a colour she’d not gravitated to before. Julie also told us about her fascination with crows and a number of her brooches indeed had references to these birds. She also mentioned that inadvertently her wardrobe had gained more dark pieces and she wondered whether this was a subconscious form of mourning. It wasn’t all dark, there were the lovely floppy multi-petal’d flowers which she’d made as something she could fiddle whilst waiting in the queue at the Post Office! It really was so lovely to hear her talk so warmly of what made her tick.

We went on to make another brooch, this time using fabric scraps, lots of stitches and lots of imagination! My rabbit like creature is still very much work in progress, needing a mouth, limbs and embellishment. It was wonderful to see the wide variety of creations made by the group. More than anything it was lovely to fall back in love with hand stitching again.

Julie was so very generous with sharing her techniques, fabrics and textile know how. Thank you so much Julie.

It really was a wonderful day and it was my own form of a Spa Day, my own indulgent textile spa!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend and that you are able to indulge in something lovely.

Love Rocking Dog x

Textile Hero,Rocking Dog

Textile Hero

Woolly Suitcase,Rocking Dog

Woolly Suitcase

Charming Badge,Rocking Dog

Charming Badge

....& Another!,Rocking Dog

….& Another!

And There's More,Rocking Dog

And There’s More

P.O. Floral Fiddling!,Rocking Dog

P.O. Floral Fiddling!

Julie's Woolly Blueprint!,Rocking Dog

Julie’s Woolly Blueprint!

My Kitsch Beastie!,Rocking Dog

My Kitsch Beastie!

My Julie Arkell Baubles,Rocking Dog

My Julie Arkell Baubles

Celebrating 100 Years Of Women Being Able To Vote

Celebrate The Vote For Women,Rocking Dog

Celebrate The Vote For Women

Yesterday marked the day when exactly a century ago SOME women were given the right to vote. The Representation of People Act gave the right for women over the age of thirty who owned land to vote. Additionally if a woman was married to a man who owned property she too could vote. The Act also saw the voting age of men dropped from 30 to 21 years (19 years for service personnel). It would take another decade for the Equal Franchise Act (1928) to give women the same voting rights as men.

Last night on a slight whim I picked up my keys and rushed into central Bristol to join a Lantern Parade celebrating a century of the start of women being allowed to vote. Understanding a little of the struggle of the Suffragists (peaceful campaigners) and Suffragettes (more militant campaigners) I have always robustly encouraged my children to use their vote, especially for women it’s been so hard fought for.

It was good to stand by side people celebrating this landmark date but at the same time appreciating it was only the privileged few on 6th February 1918 who were actually eligible vote. Bristol had one of the highest levels of suffrage action outside London and so it seemed only natural for the city to commemorate the date somewhat flamboyantly. During the research of “my” Memorial soldiers I came across articles relating to an arson attack on a house more than likely firebombed by a suffragette.

In excess of 1,000 people took part in the lantern parade. Most lanterns were made of white paper bags and utilised a phone with attached selfie stick to illuminate them. So simple and yet so effective. Most lanterns carried thought provoking messages, personal favourites were Vote Wisely, Equality Street, Women Give Birth To All voters, Here For Nan. One or two lanterns were extreme and caused consternation. A lantern with the wording “Skin Men” was regarded by many as plain cruel and unnecessary.

We headed past landmark buildings which had been lit in Suffragette colours for the occasion. The Wills Memorial Building looked particularly spectacular. The parade ended on College Green with a choir of 100 voices. It was bitterly cold with sleet, snow and rain to contend with, but I am pleased that I took part in this event, I certainly won’t be around for the 150th celebration!

Light The Sky, Rocking Dog

Light The Sky

Suffragette Colours,Rocking Dog

Suffragette Colours

Plain Message,Rocking Dog

Plain Message

Paper Bag Gratitude,Rocking Dog

Paper Bag Gratitude

Dressed For The Occasion,Rocking Dog

Dressed For The Occasion

Absolutely, Rocking Dog

Absolutely