Category Archives: Cooking

Glitter Shoed Gardening In Umbria

Hanging The Hammock,Rocking Dog

Hanging The Hammock

Good morning from Rocking Dog. I had good intentions of continuing to garden at 5.30 am on my return to the kennel, but alas….! To escape the piercing heat of the Umbrian sun I did indeed choose to garden as dawn arrived in the garden. I was awoken by my own dawn chorus of naughty chattering birds flitting busily on the ancient olive tree outside our bedroom window. I gardened in linen nightie and glittery sandals and as a result my legs are in a scratched and sorry state! The Italian version of Sticky Willy is coarse, barbed and unforgiving.

Umbria has had no rain for a few weeks now and the land is parched. It has been unusual to have such high temperatures so early in the summer season and there are real concerns for this years olive crop. The little olives have had no chance to develop before being hit by temperatures nearing 40 degrees. For those of us who pick olives as a pleasurable hobby a poor crop is sad but not an economic disaster. Meanwhile for those who depend on the crop for their livelihood a poor harvest is a severe body blow. Of course a poor crop trickles down to whole communities (pickers,olive oil pressing facilities, bottle & can suppliers,retailers etc…) Olive oil really is a way of life in Italy.

It is not only olives which have been affected, we witnessed vineyards blackened by fire and food crops struggling in the earth for moisture. A huge field of sunflowers have been planted over the garden fence and we hope that in a months time there will be a blaze of yellow on the horizon. Sunflowers are a rotational crop, so it may be a few years before the cheery yellow field reappears so close by.

Our grass resembles cattle driving prairie land. We hope rain will come soon. It was too hot to plant anything new, so leaf clearing and tidying was the order of the day. Planting will be done in October when we will assess what needs replacing after the sweltering summer.

We hung the hammock, added pretty lights and watered the thirsty geraniums. I found the most exquisite little nest on the path. It was truly an architectural masterpiece with grasses and soft pulpy seed heads. It was so soft, so delicate and tear jerkingly beautiful. I didn’t get to sit in my oak tree’d reading nook, nor use my telescope, the swinging chair remained un-sat in .. but getting close to unfamiliar plants was enjoyable.

And Suddenly it’s Evening by Salvatore Quasimodo

Everyone is alone on the heart of the earth
Pierced by a ray of sun:
and suddenly it’s evening.

It wasn’t all about work in the garden, we managed to fire up the ancient pizza oven after some remedial internal grouting. Of course the pool provided delicious respite from the unrelenting heat, and Michele’s provided the perfect escape for Prosecci and cake!

So, it’s back to verdant woodland management back at the kennel and I think wellies may be rather more sensible than glittery shoes!

Have a good week and at least the rain is on the way here.

Love Rocking Dog x

Watering The Geraniums,Rocking Dog

Watering The Geraniums

Garden Treasure,Rocking Dog

Garden Treasure

Unpromising Crop,Rocking Dog

Unpromising Crop

Lighting to Hang,Rocking Dog

Lighting to Hang

View To The Village,Rocking Dog

View To The Village

Early Morning Dip,Rocking Dog

Early Morning Dip

Escape For Cake,Rocking Dog

Escape For Cake

Fire Up The Oven,Rocking Dog

Fire Up The Oven

Back To Woodland Gardening,Rocking Dog

Back To Woodland Gardening

The Meringue Mountain Has Been Scaled & Eaten!

Marital Meringue Mountain,Rocking Dog

Marital Meringue Mountain

After the awful terrorist atrocities in London this weekend it seems somehow superficial to blog on my meringue mountain. Life does go on, children will return to the classroom after the half term break, commuters will take the tube, pick up a coffee, meet friends. People will celebrate birthdays, give birth, date, take & pass exams, care for relatives, buy & sell homes, mourn loved ones AND get married. It is a constantly ever changing cycle of life with many trials and tribulations along the way. We will no doubt give much thought in the coming days to those caught up in the recent attacks in Manchester and London. We will also undoubtedly wonder how and when these acts of terrorism will end. We are ever grateful to our emergency services and recognise the amazing acts of courage and kindness of strangers coming to the aid of those in need.

So indeed there was a wedding on Friday. Molly & Lex dodged the showers to tie the knot in a charming garden ceremony. I loved the straw bale pews bedecked with hessian coffee sacks. Rocking Dog vintage lace bunting was strung in the trees and the scene was so romantic. After clapping and cheering the happy couple down the grassy “aisle” guests enjoyed bubbly and delicious canapes. There were some really stylish outfits, feodora hats, feathers, velvets, cravats, Frida Kahlo print, florals and jewels.

Whilst the guests feasted on charcuterie platters and paella I constructed Meringue Mountain.

To make your very own 2 1/2ft Meringue Mountain :-

90 meringues (homemade of course!)
Double cream and mascarpone whipped up with a dash of Elderflower Cordial and icing sugar to sweeten
Summer Berries (I used strawberries, cherries, blueberries and raspberries)
1 jar cherry compote (I used Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Morello cherry conserve)
Icing sugar to dredge
Fairy lights, fruit, flowers and sprigs of Rosemary to decorate
Chocolate brownie (for those souls who do not like meringue)
2ft diameter tray/board

I loved putting my creation together in situ and it looked great against the woodland background. I had two very sweet and very inquisitive little princesses “helping” me, they simply couldn’t wait for the cake cutting to happen! Lanterns were lit, and the bride and groom “cut” their alternative wedding cake. Vegan guests were treated to brownie and soya cherry yoghurt. Judging by all the oohs aahhs and yums the pud’s were creamily delicious triumphs!

Molly & Lex, together with scrummy baby Dotti have a wonderful married family life.

Wishing everyone a very happy week.

Love Rocking Dog x

Let Them Eat Cake!,Rocking Dog

Let Them Eat Cake!

Berries & Cream,Rocking Dog

Berries & Cream

Vegan Deliciousness!,Rocking Dog

Vegan Deliciousness!

Love That Suit!,Rocking Dog

Love That Suit!

Rocking Dog Vintage Bunting,Rocking Dog

Rocking Dog Vintage Bunting

Ceremony Pews,Rocking Dog

Ceremony Pews

Meringues For A Marital Meringue Mountain

Gilded & Violet Sprinkled!Rocking Dog

Gilded & Violet Sprinkled!

Rocking Dog has come out of “Heaven’s Cake” retirement to construct a marital meringue mountain for Molly & Lex (together with scrummy baby Dotti). 100 meringues are baked, some plain and simple, others with a sprinkling of crystallised rose and violet petals. Then of course I love a little bit of bling so there are decadent flakes of 24 carat gold!

Later today I will build the mountain whilst the guests tuck into a marquee cooked dish of paella. The guests will pour out into the gorgeous Clifton garden to see the couple “cut” the sugar rush mountain. By that time it will have been pimped with fairy lights, summer fruits, roses, cow parsley, borage, and other foraged floristry from the Rocking Dog garden. I hope it will look magical.

Wishing the couple (and scrummy baby) a truly wonderful wedding day and an amazing married life together.

Hoping whatever you are doing this weekend there is sunshine and lots of good things around the corner.

Love Rocking Dog x

Plain & Simple,Rocking Dog

Plain & Simple

Gilded & Rose Petal'd!,Rocking Dog

Gilded & Rose Petal’d!

Roll Up, Roll Up, Rocking Dog Huddle Tonight!

Haberdashery,Rocking Dog

Haberdashery

Yes it’s Rocking Dogs May creative huddle this evening 7-9pm. Bring along curtains to hem, buttons to sew, knitting, a crochet project or simply turn up for gentle nurturing chat. There’ll be coffee and cake, it’s Chocolate & Sweet Chestnut Turinois tonight. Perhaps i’ll even get to sew, i’m looking forward to using some of the vintage fabrics I bought at the recent Vintage & Handmade Jumble Sale. I particularly love the 50’s fish print towel, it would make a funky beach bag.

The house smells of caramelised sugar, with large batches of meringues heading into the oven. Rocking Dog is making a hundred large snowy white meringues for a fabulous wedding meringue pile up. They will be “glued” together with a summer fruit mascarpone cream. The tower will then be adorned with fairy lights and garden flowers. Look out for Rocking Dog’s blog next week for images of the sugary edifice.

I would love to see you at the huddle this evening. As ever donations go into the tea pot with a generous proportion going to Fine Cell Work teaching and supporting prison inmates to sew and embroider.

New Fabric Stash,Rocking Dog

New Fabric Stash

Fifties Fish,Rocking Dog

Fifties Fish

Eggs For Meringues,Rocking Dog

Eggs For Meringues

Come For Coffee,Rocking Dog

Come For Coffee

Coming Out From The Cold

The Warmth & The Rain,Rocking Dog

The Warmth & The Rain

I realise I have been quiet. Words have not come easily and reading words has not come easily. The brain fug is beginning to clear and cheer, I need to get back into the saddle!

I have not been idle. There was a little baby in the house for a little while. My role as Biddy (as in old) was enjoyable and even keeping Sorrel company in the depth of the night was a privilege. That’s not to say I don’t now feel as if I have been run over by a steam train! He really is such a sweet little fellow and we are going to have such great fun in coming years.

More parenting is currently going on in the Victorian gas lamp in our back garden. The blue tits have returned, having built a nest in the lamp post. Every twenty or thirty seconds mum and dad bring back grubs and caterpillars for their hungry brood. They remove waste from the nest and diligently look out for predators. Frankly it is exhausting watching them. Until the chicks fledge I cannot get on and garden … drat, oh it’s such a good excuse!

The warmth and the rain have made the rambling roses simply explode. I can say that the dark sinister conifers that they replaced have been missed not one little bit. Honeysuckle, forget-me nots, penstemons,  iris’s, comfrey, borage….. everything is burgeoning. With the garden in full summer throttle it was wonderful to awake to a doorstep gift, a David Austin “Vanessa Bell” Rose. Full of buds, it promises wonderfully creamy voluptuous scented blooms. Thank you lovely Robsons!

The meadow behind the house is ablaze with buttercups, clover, moon daisies, bluebells, vetch, cow parsley, dandelions, may blossom and grasses. I never tire of the meadows beauty and look forward to seeing the swallows dart & swoop over the expanse of verdant vegetation. Soon the mad cows will be put out to pasture and sadly the meadow will be off limits until the autumnal nights start drawing in.

Still on a plant theme I trot off to the Chelsea Flower Show next week which i’m wildly looking forward to. Maybe this year will be the year I finally set my mind and body to creating a garden with less weeds and more order!

There has been sewing, and cooking, baking, spring cleaning, volunteering and decluttering. There has been Real Live Rocking Dog to walk, travels to London, and wedding plotting & planning. There have been forays into Bath and down to the harbour, an afternoon tea and lots of hugs to give.

Thank you to all those of you who have said they have missed my blog, I hope i’ll slowly and carefully start writing again.

Special birthday wishes today for Sorrel, I hope you manage a glass of bubbly in between the demands of a hungry little nestling! To all, have a wonderful weekend whatever joys it brings.

Love from Rocking Dog x

PS. Date for the Huddlers diary -Wednesday 31st May (7-9pm) for the next Rocking Dog Creative Huddle. New Huddlers welcome. Donations into the teapot with a generous proportion going to Fine Cell Work, supporting prison inmates to skilfully sew and embroider.

Parenthood,Rocking Dog

Parenthood

Wildflower Meadow,Rocking Dog

Wildflower Meadow

Walk With Mr Dog,Rocking Dog

Walk With Mr Dog

Asparagus Season,Rocking Dog

Asparagus Season

Rhubarb Season,Rocking Dog

Rhubarb Season

Always Cake Season!,Rocking Dog

Always Cake Season!

Heading To Chelsea,Rocking Dog

Heading To Chelsea

Good Year For The Roses,Rocking Dog

Good Year For The Roses

Spring Cleaning, Rocking Dog

Spring Cleaning

Rocking Dog Thinks Ahead To A Chocolatey Easter!

Are You Ready For An Egg Hunt? Rocking Dog

Are You Ready For An Egg Hunt?

I got a little bit carried away thinking about a chocolatey Easter. The vibrant blossom everywhere set me mulling over all those forthcoming opportunities to gather flowers, select pretty foil wrapped eggs and making indulgent Rocking Dog bakes for friends and neighbours. Admittedly Easter is still a little way away but there is nothing wrong with a little bit of planning, hunting and gathering! As we left Umbria our local patisserie Michele & Co was beginning to put out Easter loveliness. Crisp white tissue papered packages were embellished with silk flowers, wool, lace, ribbon and twine. His styling is inspirational as are his delicious sweet offerings.

Yesterday I made pretty lined bags for going on a future egg hunt. Gingham was selected as the structured pattern is perfect to use as guidelines for sewing lines of braid and ribbons. I added appliqué eggs and the linings came from a vintage embroidered tablecloth. The bags constructed, I used lace for handles and finally sewed some pretty vintage buttons for extra frou factor.

My favourite garden in the village is in full flourish. It is wild and lovely. Narcissi, Tete de Tete, Daffodils and Fritillaria push through the grass in generous clumps. The garden is bordered by Japonica, Camelia, Catkin and fruit trees. Its organic wild nature makes me smile… always. After cutting back hedges neatly in Italy I had that moment of bad haircut regret! A degree of shagginess and un-eveness definitely gives a garden an air of mystery and romance. This local garden has romance and whimsy aplenty. I can definitely imagine a good egg hunt there.

Oooh I feel a Chocolat moment coming on!

By the way the next Rocking Dog creative Huddle will be on Wednesday 29th March 7-9pm. All welcome. Delicious homemade cake, chat and creativity. Donations into the teapot with a percentage to Fine Cell Work supporting prison inmates to sew wonderful things.

Spring Branches,Rocking Dog

Spring Branches

My Blooming Garden,Rocking Dog

My Blooming Garden

Favourite Garden,Rocking Dog

Favourite Garden

Easter Kitsch,Rocking Dog

Easter Kitsch

Embellished Brownies,Rocking Dog

Embellished Brownies

Vintage Stash,Rocking Dog

Vintage Stash

Michele's Easter Frou!,Rocking Dog

Michele’s Easter Frou!

Calorie Free!,Rocking Dog

Calorie Free!

They're Going On An Egg Hunt!, Rocking Dog

They’re Going On An Egg Hunt!

Enough. Enough Now. Christmas In February Over.

Habitat Angel,Rocking Dog

Habitat Angel

Enough. Enough Now. Christmas In February is indeed over! Saturday saw us host a special Burn’s Night at the kennel to pay tribute to Wham’s “Last Christmas”. Guests were asked to bring nothing but empty tummies and donations for Young Carer’s (Christmas in A Box 2017).

The evening started with Careless Whisper cocktails served in retro Babycham glasses. There were freshly baked haggis sausage rolls and Christmassy flavour crisps.

Guests arrived, some gallantly attired in 1980’s ski chalet wear. There was a very dodgy wig or two and leg warmers aplenty! It was time for music. The lounge was filled to the gunnels with RockPipe musicians who played a half hour set of “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”, Abba Medley, “Don’t Stop Believin'” etc..

The Haggis was piped in and addressed. It was hot in the kitchen- turning out turkey and all the trimmings for 50 was no mean feat! There were so many comments (mainly women!) that it was so lovely to be eating a Christmas meal without having had to cook it.

Menu- Free range bronze turkey, Bourbon glazed ham, Bacon wrapped sausages, Homemade white nut roast, Vegetarian and non veg’ haggis. Sprouts with chestnuts & pancetta, peas, Buttered baby carrots, Roast potatoes, Cauliflower cheese, Yorkshire pud’s (SO sorry son Alex not homemade versions!), gravy and homemade spiced apple jelly.

People found places to perch, we even made one of the bedrooms into a fairy-lit
private dining space. Meanwhile back in the culinary HQ it was time to clear the decks and get puddings underway.

RockPipes noisily restarted and the set included “Last Christmas” and a wonderful rendition of “Careless Whisper”. Thank you Simon for your amazing Sax’ playing… tremendous. There was also the unforgettable YMCA complete with false moustaches. Great fun.

Puddings were served.

Menu- Black Forest inspired trifles, Hazelnut Macaroon with homemade lemon curd & Mascarpone, Mince pies, Christmas Pudding, Christmas Cake. The Christmas cake was made especially for the event and given a retro snow scene.

Thank you to all who lent chairs, cutlery, lanterns, and to all those who took a turn in the kitchen sink. Thanks to cocktail shakers and all those who entered the spirit with singing and dancing.

A million thanks to those who so generously donated to our chosen charity. An incredible £515 (plus Gift Aid) will be used for making up “Christmas in the Box” for Young Carer families in particular need Christmas 2017 ( breakfast, full turkey roast with all the trimmings, tea and treats)

The £5 Ikea clearance tree is down and decorations boxed, Billy the boar who graced us with his snowbally presence is leaving Bristol for the sunnier climes of Umbria, Bon Voyage Billy! A sense of normality is gradually returning, though there is still a rather large drum kit to trip over!

Enough. Enough now!

£5 Ikea Tree,Rocking Dog

£5 Ikea Tree

Sprouty Chains,Rocking Dog

Sprouty Chains

Italy Bound Billy,Rocking Dog

Italy Bound Billy

Private Dining,Rocking Dog

Private Dining

RockPipes & Sax',Rocking Dog

RockPipes & Sax’

Cake Anyone?,Rocking Dog

Cake Anyone?

Rocking Dog’s Lost Week

It Snowed!,Rocking Dog

It Snowed!

I am the bear that hibernated for a week, no posts, no words, no thoughts for posts. Unlike a growly wintry soporific bear I was not sleeping in a cosy den, but I was feeling quiet. I let myself forget about words and painted. Ceiling, walls & skirting boards felt dashes of Wevet, bog standard white and Charleston Gray. The changes are insignificant, yet constructive.

I sewed for me and with my lovely brave friend. Sewing is so therapeutic, I can truly recommend it, I just wish it burnt of calories like a dose of Zumba! I cooked for friends, dishes included Delia’s golden rosti capped Fish Pie and Rick Stein’s Almond Tart. Comfort food to warm the cockles! I also allowed myself time to transcribe a few more recipes from my beloved 1846 handwritten cook book. There were recipes for potting shrimps, stewing cheese, making gooseberry vinegar and a recipe for making potato yeast when common yeast was scarce. How I love my little book, I should set myself the challenge of cooking all the recipes a la Julia & Julia!

Plans on how to do the final touches to our little place in Umbria occupied me as did planning for Christmas! No not THAT Christmas, the one that is happening on Saturday to mark Burn’s Night. Yes I know its late…. but.. This year I wanted a ski chalet theme so we are paying homage to Wham’s “Last Christmas”. So .. there is turkey and all the trimmings, Christmas pud’, mince pies (groan!), trifle and retro cocktails. I suppose as it’s belated Burn’s there ought to be haggis too. The tree is going up… again, there’ll be crackers, “Rockpipes” and mistletoe… yes, I am totally mad! However… on a serious front any cash donations will be put to providing “Christmas in a Box” for Young Carer’s families in particular need when the real Christmas comes around again. It will come around sooner than we know it.

It was so lovely to see snow last week, alas only a small dusting. It never seems to snow like it did when we were children. Depressing that it’s probably all to do with global warming… and YES Mr dumb arse Trump there really is such a thing! Pretty please can I order some snow for Saturday it would make my “Last Christmas” dreams come true!

No snow today, but a wonderful restorative walk close to the Severn with one of the Rocking Dog Huddlers. Lambs, winter sunshine, good conversation (thank you Karen) and six miles of mud later I was ready to stop hibernating and to get back to some words.

Thank you for your patience. Love Rocking Dog x

PS You may just ask where Andyman was during my brief hibernation… skiing in the same resort as the Geordie Shore lot were being filmed! Hmmmm, classy!

Snowy Dessert,Rocking Dog

Snowy Dessert

Snow Sprinkled Tart,Rocking Dog

Snow Sprinkled Tart

Promise Of Warmth,Rocking Dog

Promise Of Warmth

Paint Job,Rocking Dog

Paint Job

Therapeutic Sewing,Rocking Dog

Therapeutic Sewing

Ongoing Transcribing,Rocking Dog

Ongoing Transcribing

Planning For Italy,Rocking Dog

Planning For Italy

....Ditto!,Rocking Dog

….Ditto!

& Planning Christmas!,Rocking Dog

& Planning Christmas!

Restorative Walk,Rocking Dog

Restorative Walk

Aahhh! Baby Lambs,Rocking Dog

Aahhh! Baby Lambs

...& God Damned Tired Real Live Rocking Dog!,Rocking Dog

…& God Damned Tired Real Live Rocking Dog!

Little Hints Of Spring In The Air

Bough Of Catkins,Rocking Dog

Bough Of Catkins

Looking back at the Rocking Dog blog posts of the first month of 2017 it must seem I have been tucked up in the kennel and not ventured out much. Although highly tempting to huddle somewhere warm and cosy there is an energetic Real Live Rocking Dog to walk. Through mud, rain and wintry greyness he tackles his twice daily treks with gusto. With a new pair of unleaky sale price “Hunters” my walks are thankfully definitely more pleasurable than they have been over the last few months!

Yesterday there were tantalising little hints of spring being in the air. Boughs of citrine yellow catkins swayed in the breeze enjoying a brief window of winter sunshine and blue tinged skies. I loved the branches of pretty pink blossom and vowed that “yes” I wanted one of these early flowering shrubs in my garden. In the nook of an ancient Copper Beech  someone had carefully positioned a jar of cheerful daffodils. Whilst I walked I wondered whether the lovely floral shrine had been created to remember a much loved human or pet. I pondered a lot.

Meanwhile on the swollen river a forlorn Cormorant seemed to be waiting for a mate to swoop in. I hope St Valentine lends a helping hand.

At home the snowdrops have gallantly pushed through, poor little things they have had quite a struggle to get through a thick layer of decomposing leaves. Why oh why didn’t I get around to “closing up the garden” in the autumn! With drier days hopefully in the air I can get on out there and absolve my guilt for abandoning all plans and hard grafting during 2016.

I hope hints of Spring are beginning to spring up wherever you are in the world. Love Rocking Dog x

PS. The food just keeps a comin’! Recipe tested yesterday a Courgette, Tomato & Buffalo Mozzarella Gratin and a  delicious Caramelised Carrot, Red Onion and Feta Tarte Tartin. We are being truly spoilt by talented recipe developer daughter. Thank you. Slim Fast next week me thinks and some jet propelled walking in the new boots!

Pretty Pink,Rocking Dog

Pretty Pink

Blue Tinge Sky, Rocking Dog

Blue Tinge Sky

Hardy Snowdrops,Rocking Dog

Hardy Snowdrops

Looking For A Mate,Rocking Dog

Looking For A Mate

Promise Of Spring Shrine,Rocking Dog

Promise Of Spring Shrine

The Food Keeps A Comin'!,Rocking Dog

The Food Keeps A Comin’!

Enjoying Recipe Testing At The Kennel

Towering Cake,Rocking Dog

Towering Cake

We had a crisis call a little while ago from oldest girl asking if she could come “home” to use our kitchen. With her own kitchen being refitted it was impossible to do her job, for a recipe developer she is!

My kitchen therefore has seen wonderful ingredients passing over the doorstep this week. Scales, whisks, copious notes, test batches, spoons, timers and a permanently hot stove have made my kitchen a true hive of industry. I’ve floated in at various points to help with some hot bubbly washing up and to do lots of oohing and ahhhing!

How very lovely to be invited to sit down and eat a raft of delicious dishes. Honest critiques were welcomed by the flagging cook and copious notes gained more ticks, stars and corrections in the process. My children always hate it when I sit to eat their lovely food and exclaim “This is gorgeous, and do you know what the very best bit about it is? …That I haven’t had to cook it!”

A run down of what we ate :-Courgette fritters (which will be eventually served with a dipping sauce),Chicken with Wild Garlic butter (though the wild garlic was substituted with watercress as wild garlic is not yet in season). There were also two bowls of healthy yumminess, Coconut Quinoa with Roasted Cauliflower and a Persian Herb & Beetroot Salad. Waiting in the wings was a towering Carrot Cake with Tahini frosting. Yum, Yum Yum!  We decided the colossal cake was perhaps too towering and needed scaling down a tad.

Thank goodness recipe testing daughter is packing her whisk and copious notes, and heading home at the end of the week. My poor old waistline really couldn’t cope with being a permanent food critic!

Flavoursome Bird,Rocking Dog

Flavoursome Bird

Delicious Bowl,Rocking Dog

Delicious Bowl

....& Another Delicious Bowl!,Rocking Dog

….& Another Delicious Bowl!