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

First Rocking Dog Creative Huddle 2018

Sewing Kit,Rocking Dog

Sewing Kit

Yes, the first Rocking Dog creative huddle for 2018 reconvenes at the kennel tomorrow night ( Wednesday 31st January). Come for homemade cake, warming drinks and creative loveliness. Escape from the grey damp winter outside and perhaps complete any unfinished project. My Kaffe Fassett needlepoint which has been on its frame for the best part of 20 years still awaits me! All welcome, 7pm-9pm.

Donations into the jolly teapot for Fine Cell Work, supporting and encouraging prison inmates to sew and embroider. Please check out their fabulous website.

Rocking Dog is pretty good tempered (most of the time), is eager to please and does not bite!

Look forward to seeing you. Love Liz aka Rocking Dog x

Food For Friends – Ottolenghi Style.

Ottolenghi's Sweet Offering, Rocking Dog

Ottolenghi’s Sweet Offering

After cooking for 160 Haggis eating folk last weekend it was lovely cook for friends this weekend. How very wonderful it was to have my lovely friend sitting at our table, at last able to eat and enjoy food. Her journey is truly remarkable.

On Saturday evening there were decisions to be made as to just what to cook for our guests. I’m afraid dear old Ottolenghi’s tomes came out…. but I did try some new recipes as well as some old favourites.

There was hummus from “Jerusalem” together with Saffron rice with barberries, pistachio’s & mixed herbs. I substituted currants and goji berries for the barberries and totally forgot to put the pistachio’s in! I also did a Spicy beetroot, leek and walnut salad from “Jerusalem”. Very delicious.

Ottolenghi’s first recipe book (“The Cookbook”) supplied me with the main event, Harissa-marinated chicken with red grapefruit salad. There was also a citrus’y sauce to go with the chicken. Time didn’t allow me to make flatbreads, so shop bought versions were given a flash in the oven.

Dessert was Pistachio roulade with raspberries and white chocolate and this recipe came from Ottolenghi’s latest book “Sweet” which he co-wrote with Helen Goh.

All food for this lunch was easy to prepare and cook…. and tasted yummy! If you haven’t tried the hummus, it really is the best i’ve ever tasted and can be tweaked with addition of fresh herbs, a topping of crisply fried onions or toasted pine-nuts.

We drank a lovely red and delighted in the warmth of the wood-burner. However more than anything it was so lovely to share food with amazing friends.

Hallelujah Burn’s Night is over for another year! Andyman has been busy piping and being vocal with the Selkirk Grace over a number of evenings this week. I haven’t done my usual little bit of silliness with the Toby jug folk, so I hope you’ll allow me now to be just a little bit nutty to bring Burn’s celebrations to a close. If you haven’t already met my Toby jug folk there’s tankard swigging Toby who’s just a little bit grumpy and gouty. Then there is Mrs Mac who REALLY is a present from Fleetwood. Toby and Mrs Mac were bought on the same day in different charity shops. Their joining was simply meant to be. Living a peaceful and happy life with no doubt some shenanigan’s when the lights went out there was a fateful day when Wee Tam’ came to join them on THEIR mantlepiece. Mrs Mac is really superciliously fickle and shamelessly has a soft spot for a man in a wee kilt… a menage a trois has developed. What goes on after dark is anybodies guess, but we need to remember Real Live Rocking Dog slumbers there as does Luminous Mary! Enough of this super-silly twaddle, all that 36 kg haggis has gone to my brain!

Have a lovely week.

Love Rocking Dog x

The Rocking Dog Creative Huddle reconvenes this Wednesday 7pm-9pm, all welcome. Over £100 was raised last year for Fine Cell Work, teaching and supporting prison inmates to sew and embroider. Thank you. Donations into the teapot to carry on the work of this amazing charity. Homemade cake, warming drinks, gentle chat and maybe a bit of sewing etc… going on!

The Best Hummus,Rocking Dog

The Best Hummus

Gift Wrap Beetroot,Rocking Dog

Gift Wrap Beetroot

Unwrapped Beetroot,Rocking Dog

Unwrapped Beetroot

Pomegranate Garnish, Rocking Dog

Pomegranate Garnish

Gorgeous Grains,Rocking Dog

Gorgeous Grains

The Main Event,Rocking Dog

The Main Event

Something Sweet On The Lips!,Rocking Dog

Something Sweet On The Lips!

Nuts For Dessert,Rocking Dog

Nuts For Dessert

Goodbye Burn's Night!,Rocking Dog

Goodbye Burn’s Night!

Blowing Away Some Big Cobwebs!

The Fabulous Dig Haushizzle,Rocking Dog

The Fabulous Dig Haushizzle

After the culinary savagery of the weekend there was still washing up to do on Tuesday. However I decided to throw in the towel and walk! Lovely calm friend and I decided to ditch ideas of a doggy muddy hike and to do something a little more gentle.

We didn’t have very much of a plan, but by the end of our foray I thought our trail was worthy of a blog post. Fellow Bristolian’s or visitors alike would find much to enjoy about our cunning plan. Calm Karen and I can promise walkers good coffee, lovely food, some extraordinary buildings, the historic docks and some quirky independent shops.

1. Parking. We chose to park on Portland Square (pay meter parking, cash or phone). Maximum stay is 4 hours and works out £1 an hour, that’s cheap for Bristol! Do not be tempted to park on nearby Brunswick Square as their maximum time limit is 2 hours. Parking sorted… let the trail begin! Please be aware that parts of this trail would be unsuitable for wheelchairs or prams (Christmas Steps and the possibly the changes in levels around St Nicholas Market) However, St Nicholas’s Market can be visited and circumvented cunningly, whilst the centre can be reached by staying on Colston Street, thereby missing out Christmas Steps.

2. Walk through the Bear Pit, the underpass (much more savoury than it used to be) and head past Loot and then onto Marlborough Street passing the Magistrates Court (Tesco will be across the road from you). Carry on walking, past the Bristol Royal Infirmary (the old bit), without realising it you will then be on Colston Street. Here on Colston Street you will find some eclectic shops which you may want to stop and peruse. Rag Trade is a great dress agency and I have picked up some lovely clothes there over the years. Further on, Makers and Blaze are unique shops to select unusual cards and gifts. A few steps on and you can enter a bookworm’s paradise, Bloom & Curll is a delightful secondhand bookshop and I adore it’s homely and eclectic style. Doug’ and Joe will each benefit from this literary visit. Keep Calm Karen and I then went slightly off piste by crossing the road to visit Dig Haushizzle. A real favourite of mine, I was disappointed that they had sold the lampshade I so loved. It looked as if it had come through moths, flood, fire, and neglect… but it had a certain charm! I know I would have had an uphill struggle to convince Andyman, especially since it had a somewhat eye-watering price tag! Somewhere there is a horror movie-esque lamp shade being coveted….. just not at the kennel! Track back across the road whence you came from.

3. Christmas Steps. You can’t fail to notice the wonderful set of flagstone steps which are the wonderfully named Christmas Steps. They are wonderfully atmospheric and it is easy to conjure up a picture of rather seedy Victorian life. On your way down the steep and worn steps there are a few interesting individual shops. Karen told me about 20th Century Flicks which can be found towards the bottom on the left hand side. Apparently she was invited to a cinema night there with friends. You can hire out the sweet little 11 seated cinema with a vast array of films to choose from. Sounds perfect especially if there is no noisy popcorner or rattly sweet opener sitting behind you!

4. This next stage is a little complicated as the centre is a tangle of road works, cones and taped off crossings (blooming Metrobus!). How ever you manage it, you need to cross to the other side of the road entirely. Try to get yourself into Small Street. Up on the left is a great place to drink lovely coffee (thank you Karen & Joe for the recommendation), Small Street Espresso. They also do delicious cake and serve everything with a smile. After refuelling head up past the Crown Court on your right and you will find yourself on Corn Street, notice the circa 400 year old nails where lots of business transactions were done. It’s where the term “Paying on the nail” comes from. On a Wednesday the Farmers market goes on here and it started in 1998. It happens to be one of the longest running farmer’s and producers markets in the country. You need to pass through the Grade 1 listed Corn Exchange building to get to our next destination.

5. Passing through the Exchange St Nicholas’s Market has an eclectic array of permanent stalls, some good, some tat and some frankly bonkers! Incidentally in the 1960’s the Exchange was a music venue and it saw the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, Cream and  Spencer Davis play here. Carry on through the building and eventually you should chance upon the glorious glass arcade. Bristol was very badly bombed during WW2 and the glass roof was lost in the Blitz. Its roof was replaced in 1949 together with more recent renovation. You can eat food from across the globe here and it all feels very vibrant, fragrant and buzzy. I personally love Eat A Pitta. Close by is  Ahh Toots  a truly cakey spectacle and it sells good bread too. Flowers and fabrics, olives, cheese, lunch to go or to perch, a wheatgrass smoothie, raclette, a pie, the glass arcade is great. After picking up supper supplies head out to the back of St Nicholas Market (in line with the direction you entered the Corn Exchange building). You will probably find yourself passing through the covered market (again you will find the good, the bad and the ugly regarding stalls). You need to be heading for St Nicholas Street.

6. St Nicholas Street is where you’ll find Rag & Bone, another of my favourite haunts. If you aren’t into junk just pass on by! Directly opposite Rag & Bone there is a fabulous and rather regal water fountain set into the wall of the covered market. It looks like a very young Queen Victoria unlike the more matronly version (oops!) found near College Green, Bristol.

7. After dipping into R & B let’s head to the water! You’ll probably find a set of stone steps to head on down to Baldwin Street. You need to use the crossing to cross to the other side of the road. There are choices to be made here. You can walk on through to Queen’s Square and beyond OR you can walk along the cobbled street which is Welsh Back. Unfortunately due to buildings placed at the edge of the river there aren’t any great views along this stretch of water, just the odd glimpse. Eventually which ever way you choose to walk you will end up on a road called The Grove. Turn right along here there are some good places to eat (I love sitting out on the decking with a glass of wine and a platter at the River Station). Unfortunately over the years the Mud Dock has been rather inconsistent with its foodie offerings. Head on down to the bottom of the road (the Arnolfini will be directly in front of you on the opposite side of the road) and take a left turn. A bridge is coming up.

8. The newly renovated Prince Street Bridge will take you over the river Avon. Take a right turn onto the quayside and you cannot fail to notice the massive industrial cranes which make the harbour so iconic. Head past the M Shed  (if you wish you can while away some time learning about Bristols industrial past here). Bristols links with slavery is sadly not very pretty. Very Soon you will become aware of an area on your left which is very new to the harbourside. Wapping wharf is a development of shops and eateries. There are also a number of places to eat and buy art etc.. housed in shipping containers (how apt being a port city). We could have chosen to eat Spanish, noodles, fish, and any number of delicious foodie offerings but decided to carry on walking.

9. Journey’s end! We ate a bacon “doorstep” overlooking the grey water at “Brunel’s Buttery”. Unpretentious, it has been serving up delicious butties since 1980. Delicious!

10. If there was time you could follow the quay along to the SS Great Britain or you could hop on a ferry boat (either to cross to the other side of the Avon or for a leisurely pleasure cruise) Remember your 4 hour parking slot!

11. Our way back. In short, we headed back over Prince Street Bridge and took  a cobbled left then right, taking us past the front of the Arnolfini. Through the centre, through Broadmead shopping centre and into Cabot Circus (new shopping centre). We eventually arrived at House of Fraser (second level of shopping centre needed). Emerge by crossing to take you across the A4044 (Newfoundland Road). Directly across from you is Pritchard Street which will magically take you back to Portland Square and your car (hopefully minus a parking ticket!)

This might not make any sense at all, and I apologise in advance. My map reading has always been a little below par especially when I mistook a river for a road whilst on a journey with Andyman! Please let me know how you get on if you decide to walk this trail and i’d be grateful if you could share with any Bristol walkers, foodies or junkophiles!

It was a really lovely walk and many thanks to Karen for taking all the cobbled twists and turns with me. It certainly blew away the cobwebs.

More Dig Haushizzle!,Rocking Dog

More Dig Haushizzle!

Bookworm Paradise,Rocking Dog

Bookworm Paradise

Christmas Steps,Rocking Dog

Christmas Steps

St Nick's,Rocking Dog

St Nick’s

Pretty Cakes &...,Rocking Dog

Pretty Cakes &…

...Pretty Flowers!,Rocking Dog

…Pretty Flowers!

Regal Fountain,Rocking Dog

Regal Fountain

Love R & B!,Rocking Dog

Love R & B!

A Favourite View,Rocking Dog

A Favourite View

My Week Defined By Vegetables

Chelsea Potatoes,Rocking Dog

Chelsea Potatoes

Indeed last week was rather dominated by all that was vegetable.

MONDAY. A relaxing lunch with friend at The Pig near Bath. As ever it was gorgeous to have a wander around the walled kitchen garden after eating some delicious plates of food. There is something rather special about a garden in winter. The stillness, quiet, and the silent anticipation of shoots and leaves forcing their way through frost crested earth.

TUESDAY. I went on a Social Media course at the M Shed, Bristol. Discussing the merits and problems of different social media platforms I felt somehow rather disillusioned. However, I feel I have a better understanding of feed, engagement, traffic etc… but i’m still a slumbering pumpkin!

WEDNESDAY. I participated in a healthy eating session with a small group of young adult carers. They were great, and we cooked enthusiastically together. Chicken and vegetable wraps together with vegetable laden pizzas were cooked and eaten together. Instead of feeling like a slumbering pumpkin I definitely felt more like a dinosaur trying to explain the concept of seasonal food! It went a bit like this “as a child growing up in the 60’s we only saw strawberries at the start of June through to the start of August, and then we didn’t see them until the following year”. It was quite a revelation to them, as was the tip to “peel” root ginger using a teaspoon. I aim to please….. even if I am a Tyrannosaurus!

THURSDAY. 36kg of haggis was delivered to the kennel from over the tartan border. There was the traditional offal’y variety, there was the vegetable variety, some to suit gluten free guests and of course the ceremonial chieftain haggis for the Selkirk Grace. Fridge space was rather tight with all these wee beasties taking up temporary residence.

FRIDAY. Sorrel, baby Doug and I headed out to pick up 50kg potatoes and 30kg swede. Thank you to Bob at Eastville Market for super fresh produce. I have to say though the potato type, Marfona sounded like some type of mini pill or Intrauterine Contraceptive Device! After our vegetable buying trip we headed to nearby St Werburgh’s City Farm for a coffee. Doug was fascinated by the goats, ducks, black hairy pigs and a large rook. The cafe is definitely worth a visit. We shared Beetroot, chocolate & beer cake gloriously eaten with some good cappuccino’s. We were fortified ready for the mammoth two day peeling and mashing session!

SATURDAY. 50kg potatoes peeled & mashed. Tick. 30kg swede peeled & bashed. Tick. 9 trays of brownie baked. Tick. Let the Rock Pipes Burns Night begin. It was a culinary killer. Thanks to lovely, lovely friends who pitched in to help get hot food out to the 160 paying guests. Everybody seemed to have a fabulous time. I even managed to summon up the courage to hit the stage to promote the raffle which raised an amazing £341 for Young Carer’s “Christmas in a Box”. Rock Pipes did their final set with everyone on the dance floor for an Abba medley, 500 miles and of course YMCA! Auld Lang Syne sent everyone on their way with 50 kg chappit tatties, 36kg haggis, 30kg bashed neeps and a wee dram of whisky in their tummies.

SUNDAY. I woke up feeling as if every bone in my body had been broken and then had been reset really badly! How can vegetables do that?! I’m simply too old for this catering malarkey.

So yes, that was the week that was. After a day of washing up yesterday I am trying to be kind to myself and to let my burnt and chapped hands recover. Still on a vegetable theme I have some lovely vintage fabric titled “Sweetcorn” to be made into a blind for Sorrel & Pete. Some quiet therapeutic sewing should get my aching bones sorted.

A million thanks to my lovely girls who were magnificent in the kitchen and to all those who helped without asking. I have some truly gorgeous friends. Thank you.

PS I picked up a great tip from Sorrel (old dogs really can learn new tricks!) To strip Thyme of it’s leaves poke the woody stalk through a hole in a wire sieve. Pull the stalk and voila the leaves are left in the sieve. Have you any canny tips to pass on I wonder? Please tell all.

Table Veg',Rocking Dog

Table Veg’

Greenhouse Veg',Rocking Dog

Greenhouse Veg’

The Pigs' Pigs,Rocking Dog

The Pigs’ Pigs

Seasonal Fruit &..,Rocking Dog

Seasonal Fruit &..

Seasonal Veg',Rocking Dog

Seasonal Veg’

Veggie Cake!,Rocking Dog

Veggie Cake!

For Chappit Tatties,Rocking Dog

For Chappit Tatties

Let 'em Eat Haggis!, Rocking Dog

Let ’em Eat Haggis!

Vintage Veg' Fabric,Rocking Dog

Vintage Veg’ Fabric

Who Do I Think I Am?

Who Am I?,Rocking Dog

Who Am I?

In my next life apart from coming back as a Scandinavian I will study History, Archeology or Geneology! I have always loved history and my poor family have become accustomed to withstand the latest information excitedly gleaned from Ancestry. Poor damp children have been tramped through muddy graveyards in Yorkshire and sent on their way to visit distant relatives in New Mexico! Meanwhile long suffering Andyman and I  have taken a trip to New Zealand knocking on the doors of Scottish ancestors. In for a penny in for a pound we looked up folk whose ancestors lived and baked in the Rocking Dog Kennel in the 1800’s and now reside in Rotorua.

Who Do You Think You Are? is my sort of TV viewing. I really can understand those tearful Jeremy Paxman moments. During my own family research I found a relative who had died in a bakery accident. His wife and children were shipped off to America, i’m certain to relieve the state of maintaining the families welfare. There was the relative who was in a Scottish workhouse, and the poor woman with four daughters who was cast aside by her husband to marry another who produced sons. There are large families, many child deaths, an illegitimate child born to a servant girl. There is TB, war service, widowhood, drudgery, a judge, global travel, philanthropy, entrepreneurism, farming the land and Chalmers gelatine!

With all this ancestry nerdism my girls chose well with their Christmas gift, an Ancestry DNA kit. Today I will spit in a tube, add the stabilising solution and post my DNA in the prepaid box. As the meerkats say…Simple! In approximately six weeks I will be e.mailed with the results. The test gives insights into ethnicity, where ancestors were from and what migratory journeys they went on. Ancestry has a huge database and can connect with 90,000000 family trees. It can help find long lost relatives or even prove that you are related to an important historical figure. I’m certainly not expecting to be linked to Richard III, William Shakespeare or the like! My mothers family worked the land in Yorkshire and I have gone back (with the help of other Ancestry subscribers) to around 1550. Regarding my Scottish fathers ancestry there were always mootings of a French connection. Very possibly they came to UK as persecuted Huguenots. We will see!

Still on an ancestry theme I have been continuing to do some research for the Remember Me Project. I have set myself the task of researching in depth the lives of the 53 World War names on the Whiteshill Common Memorial. Though not my ancestors, the census’s and other documentation does give one a real sense of these local lives.

Have a lovely week and stay cosy!

Love Rocking Dog x

Box Full Of Surprises,Rocking Dog

Box Full Of Surprises

DIY DNA,Rocking Dog

DIY DNA

My Ancestry,Rocking Dog

My Ancestry

Sepia Ancestors,Rocking Dog

Sepia Ancestors

Someone Else's Ancestors,Rocking Dog

Someone Else’s Ancestors

French Blood?,Rocking Dog

French Blood?

Gosh It’s Been A While. Happy New Year!

 

Come & Sit At The Table,Rocking Dog

Come & Sit At The Table

It’s been a long old time since Rocking Dog signed in. Christmas has hurtled in and whistled out. New Year was celebrated very merrily on foreign shores and now 2018 has begun in earnest. So where do I begin as the famous song goes?!

Perhaps it’s just best to firstly wish all who are reading this a very, very happy 2018. I hope this shiny bright year brings lots of joys, challenges, good health and wonderful times spent with friends and family. Having just spent eleven days or so with friends in Umbria there isn’t anything quite so lovely as having nurturing friends who enjoy caring for each other, noticing when a glass needs topping up (!) and sharing wonderful plates of food and lively conversation. Andy and I feel very blessed.

It has been amazing how many folk have said to me how quickly 2017 came and went. So how do we make a year feel as if it actually lasts twelve months? Perhaps not allowing Christmas to filtrate shops in September might be a positive start! Setting goals and learning new things, visiting new places, and rather than saying “we must get together sometime”, just let’s do it, perhaps they’ll all help extend our perception of a year well spent.

I have one or two things penned on the calendar which I am looking forward to and perhaps one that fills me with apprehension! There are 24 massive Haggi to tussle with a week on Saturday. I am using my long drive brain tactics… if I don’t think about the drive- or in this case the 160 mouths to feed I am ok! Breathe, breathe, breathe Rocking Dog! After hopefully coming through the Rockpipes Burn’s Night in one piece I can then look forward to a workshop with a hero (sadly it’s a bit un-PC to say heroine) of mine. The artist Julie Arkell is running a sewing workshop and i’m debating whether to wear ALL my papier mache brooches and the watch made by her! I think i’ll leave off the one that alas has been the victim of a vicious wash cycle on two occasions. Sooooo sad.

Rather conveniently I have put to the back of my mind a social media day next week. I’m going to be queen of the tweets, retweets and insta’s by all accounts! I have felt a sense of inertia about blogging recently, apparently instagram is the way to go. I post a photo of scaffolding and get “followed” by a construction worker from Tehran, it’s a whole new world. Umbria saw me post one photo a day on instagram. It was rather liberating not thinking about what to write for a blog and just to seize the moment with a snap of a nativity, stunning view, plate of spaghetti etc… However, here I am writing.. and then I remember that I write so much of the time for myself. A few years ago I had a fairly crippling bout of depression which left me pretty much incapable of holding a pen, let alone writing. Many of you will know that if I can write I am doing just fine.

It seems a bit late to look back on the year that was. It was certainly a bit of a roller coaster! Lovely bits were the arrival of Doug’ and what a privilege it was to be in the delivery room to see my new grandson emerge. It has been gorgeous to witness Doug’s doting parents nurture him. I just wish I could take away some of their tiredness! There is another little baby due in May and i’m sure Alex and Kylie will be fabulous parents too. Exciting times.

We have had great times in Umbria in 2017 and have enjoyed sharing our tiny piece of paradise with friends, family and rental folk. Olives have been picked, hill top towns scaled, wood burner installed, stars gazed at, the cool of the pool gloried and the peace truly adored. I really do pinch myself, so very lucky.

Also on a positive note Andyman’s corporate legal case finally came to a conclusion. Basta, basta adesso! (Enough, enough now!) It’s all been pretty tedious, long winded and rubbish. Where’s Judge Rinder when you need him?!

Lastly I have immense admiration for so many friends and family who are travelling very unpredictable roads regarding health, relationships and difficult work situations. You are all SO amazing and thanks must go to the wonderful NHS staff, carers, and charity organisations together with the support of unstinting friends and family members.  Wishing all who have mountains to climb and rivers to cross a very fruitful and happy 2018. You know where we are, and I hope you’ll come and eat at our table very soon.

Globally, blogs generally may be read less, with likes, comments, re-posts dropping off the radar but I do hope i’ll hang on in there during 2018. I’m sure there’ll be interesting things to say, lovely pic’s and creative inspiration, together with lots of moans and groans from someone who would like to be thirty again!

Wishing you all a truly wonderful 2018 and thank you for being with me on the Rocking Dog adventure!

Have a great weekend.

Liz x

 

Field Full Of Flowers,Rocking Dog

Field Full Of Flowers

Paradiso,Rocking Dog

Paradiso

Siblings,Rocking Dog

Siblings

Sporrans At The Ready!,Rocking Dog

Sporrans At The Ready!

Off To New Places, Rocking Dog

Off To New Places

Arkell Inspiration, Rocking Dog

Arkell Inspiration