Tag Archives: Mum

The Final Taboo – Talking About Death

Talking Death - The Final Taboo, Rocking Dog

Talking Death – The Final Taboo

It all started with a simple enough comment from Andyman who said he’d arranged his first Funeral Plan for one of his clients. An investment blokey, he deals with all sorts of products and advisory stuff (I must at this point say that there are other investment managers out there, and investments can go up as well as down)! Will writing, retirement planning, pension stuff etc.., I am certainly not here to sell his wares, I find it blooming difficult enough to sell my own stuff!

Hello…hope you’re still there….and not put off by that first paragraph. I am hopeful that at least my darling children will be in for the long haul of this blog piece…. because, actually I do think it’s important.

That Funeral Plan got me rather curiously talking about death and what a plan like this buys you. Talking simply, because a business brain I do not have, Andyman told me that they anchor the cost of cars and coffins (and other such sundries) at a today’s price for a funeral that will happen hopefully in the long and dusty future. The purchasers of such a plan have the knowledge that their next of kin will be able to use it to secure a reasonable coffin and car(s) without dipping their hand into their own pocket. Bland peace of mind for one and all!

Over a quick coffee, and before heading off into the horrible Friday night Bristol traffic, Andyman and I had a very snatched conversation about funerals and what WE wanted. We had a spontaneous brainstorm (or rather more P.C. these days, mind mapping) of what we did and did not want. With 35 years of knowing each other we quickly realised just how little we knew of each others thoughts on death and funerals. I just wonder how many of you reading this can identify with this, it’s simply a conversation for another day.

I have been to a rash of funerals in the last few years, one of the joys of getting older I suppose. It always strikes me how similar in format they generally are. Maybe their sheer genericness is because the majority of us knows not what is available. For many of us, we are bereaved with little or no warning, funeral planning is done in a stressful tearful blur. If we were buying a washing machine or a car, a mixer or a lawn mower we would research and very probably shop around. How strange it is that we settle for the most local or as recommended by Auntie Margaret undertakers. We are therefore syphoned through a process from collecting a death certificate, dealing with a hospital morgue or funeral home and onwards and downwards. We as mourners and funeral planners are not confident in thinking outside of the box (excuse the pun). That Friday night conversation had certainly got me thinking about being sympathetic to any one that turns up for my final send off.

Let’s be honest no funeral is ever particularly joyous, but there are generally ok bits, bad bits, sad bits, cheesy bits and “when’s this going to end” bits.

Regarding bad bits, for me I have a particular problem with the hearse and limo’s for the nearest and dearest. This definitely stems from my Mum’s funeral back in November 1985. At the age of 24, and fourteen weeks pregnant, it was my first ever funeral. I had absolutely no idea what went on at funerals. I had seen Winston’s (as in Churchill) on telly when I was three and a half and LOVED it! I was however under no illusion that there would be a gun carriage with Union Flag draped coffin for my lovely mum.

As a child, If a neighbour died, on the day of the funeral curtains would be respectfully closed by the villagers. Together with my siblings we found this rather morbidly baffling, and would get reprimanded if we attempted to take a curious peek. Funerals were also the domain of men, I don’t have any memories in the early days of my Mum getting ready to go to a funeral. However, I distinctly remember my Dad having a dark tweed overcoat, a sinister Homburg and a black funeral tie. All these wardrobe staples held a certain morbid mystique, and young though we were, we instinctively identified with this funeral garb! Back to the cars..I remember getting into the limo’. In front, a ridiculously shiny hearse and then I had a growing awareness of a top- hatted figure carrying a silver topped cane reverently walking in front of the cars. This was something out of a harrowing Dickensian novel and not the big shoulder padded power dressing 80’s, it was truly ghastly. A good analogy would be that of being on a rollercoaster ride which I wanted to get off ….NOW! Following the service my sister and I walked home in the November greyness. In short, a Funeral Plan just doesn’t cut the mustard, I want NO black funeral cars!

Other bad bits…the artificial flowers in our local crematorium. At the latest funeral when I half dozed off because of a rather drab eulogy, I contemplated the pedestal flowers and flowers attached to the wall on either side of THE curtains. In my head I questioned whether they would be changed to reflect the changing seasons and then concluded probably not. This was December and these were a nasty orangey brown. After coming to this conclusion, I then wondered whether dusting the flowers appeared on the cleaning rota. Finally, I further contemplated whether there was an artificial flower catalogue for crematoria. THE curtains too I contemplated, they are crowd pleasers, plain, green, sad, and unobtrusive, auspiciously indoctrinating you to think of the person boxed in veneered plywood. I would like to suggest an alternative fabric for these monster curtains.. click this link.

While we are on the subject of aesthetics I have only seen one lovely coffin, a beautiful wicker number which was truly gorgeous. I’m not a fan of the veneered wood, but with wicker and cardboard apparently being decidedly more expensive, I can see why the veneered variety are the coffin of choice.

Hymns sung, eulogy read, poor hypothermic foil blanketed funeral attender carted off in ambulance (yes I really have witnessed this), sad green indoctrinating curtains closed for the final time, it’s time for us cold mourners to depart. No flowers at the families request, but now it’s time to put in a donation for a chosen charity. This spells the time for funeral goers to embarrassedly scratch around for the odd coppers in their pocket or purse. I find it quite amusing that some are so seemingly mean. In years gone by when flowers were the norm mourners would have accepted that a floral wreath spelling “Bob”, a dubious cross or funeral spray would cost them £3O. However, to put in a meaningful donation is altogether a different matter. Somehow it is ok to spend money on flowers that will wilt, be totally unloved, except for a cursory glance outside the crematoria (and I hate this bit where you are expected to ooh and ahh at the flowers and attached syrupy cards… “RIP you have gone to a better place Bob”) etc…before the final indignity of funereal floristry being tossed onto the compost heap. And then on the other hand money given so sparingly for local hospitals, hospices, Cancer Research, Red Cross, and hedgehog charities etc.., it all feels a little mean. One day these miserly donors may require one of these services or charities ( there again, perhaps not the hedgehog charity..) Less cynically isn’t enough that someone has taken a day off work and travelled for hours on choked road-worked motorways all to see those sad green curtains pulled shut. How lovely that no one feels impelled to purchase a showy floral tribute regardless of whether they are son, mother, lover, carer, bingo buddy or the like.

The after funeral hooly is a topic all on it’s own, I can only say why oh why is it so irreverent to serve anything but triangular cut sandwiches with non-descript beige fillings? As I always say it’s a sad enough day without serving up sad food. Why would it be so wrong to have a gourmet burger van, huge knickerbocker glories, charcuterie boards, Pieminister Pies, eye poppingly beautiful cakes etc… Added into the mix some lovely bubbly, good wines and lovely non alcoholic drinks (no J20’s in sight). Milky tea, instant coffee or glass of warm wine served in a cloudy supermarket hire glass seem to be the drinks of choice to complement the cling filmed triangular sandwiches. There are exceptions, and I am not going to tar every funeral with the same brush, but they are very few and far between. How we as a family loathe the comment “lovely spread!” (it sums up beige food, mean pork pies, cling film and anaemic chicken drumsticks).

To balance the bad there have been some good bits to report on funerals i’ve attended. The hearse-less funeral where my neighbours coffin was transported in a specially adapted motorcycle side-car, good music choices (Parisian cafe music, Tom Jones, Bruce Springsteen spring to mind), a model of Concorde on a coffin in place of flowers, and garden flowers thoughtfully picked by my sister for our lovely Dad’s funeral. I love the stories of the ashes of friends relatives being blasted up into space by fireworks, and of ashes taken out to sea in a handmade sea-faring craft (made by the ashes before he was ashes).

Regrets I have about my parents funerals include not feeling able to wax lyrical about them at their funerals. More guiltily I didn’t feel able to deal with their ashes. The vicar gladly sprinkled them in the church yard of our home village. Andyman has taught me a lot. He flew with his Dad’s canister of ashes (he had to have special clearance from Easy Jet to ensure this wasn’t a wily way of drug smuggling) to Scotland. He then took a trip up the Cairngorms where his Dad used to walk, and together with his Mum and brother sprinkled and bagpiped his dad into the snowy mountain air.

I was able to write poems for my father in law and my step mum which I read out, and again I feel guilty that I didn’t do this for my own parents. In all probability it was because I was rather caught up in the syphoning process of choosing hymns, orders of service, baking etc… I’m sure they would forgive me for not creating a Shakespeare style sonnet for them. In fact my dad knowing of my fear of THE black cars said “Pet, just bundle me into the back of an estate car, I couldn’t care less”. In fact we did have THE black cars when he died, because of course he had a funeral plan! He always harboured a desire for his body to go to medical science, however with a step mum on the scene we had to diplomatically steer our way through the process unfortunately much more conventionally. The medical students in any case would have said “drank too much, smoked too much and bloody hell have you ever seen such big hands- they’re like spades!”

My Dad,. Doug, Rocking Dog

My Dad,. Doug

So kiddies, yes you Sorrel, Alex, Livi and plus ones, all of whom we hope will go on living well after our demise, Dad and I are talking about the Final Taboo. You’ll be in no doubt as to what we want and we will try and make it a good send off for all those who choose to attend. I with absolutely conviction would like anything that can be harvested for organ donation to be given willingly (unfortunately even now I don’t think my kidneys are much good, sorry). If it’s true that David Bowie has just quietly gone Ashes to Ashes without anyone in attendance he’s pinched my idea! A blooming good restaurant with gorgeous food and drink, perhaps a few words from someone would be nice, and some good music (remember i’d like a Christmas carol in amongst some upbeat stuff). As there’s not going to be a tombstone perhaps an epitaph can appear on a scrummy calorific cake “She liked nothing in straight lines” is a long standing phrase of which I am particularly fond. I personally have no real preference where I get scattered, buried, or pelleted (perhaps we’ll be sending burial pellets into space by the time I slip off this mortal coil), do something you are happy with and a meaningful place for you all. Donations to a good
cause, again i’ll leave this to you all.

Back to the Funeral Plan I wonder if I can start a new type of plan. The Pig Funeral Plan or
a Souk-Kitchen Funeral Plan perhaps? No Limo’s, hearses, top hats or plywood coffins but great food at a fixed price for a distant celebratory alternative funeral.

I am so sorry if I have made anyone feel uncomfortable or indeed offended. Isn’t it funny how it feels so irreverent to say “you look nice” to someone attending a funeral or to say to a family “that was a good funeral”. I think there needs to be a massive sea change to get away from the no crust triangular sandwich, dried flowers, hearse and syphoned way of doing things. Am I really the only one that wants to “go off piste”?

Well done for staying the course of this blog, I promise you some frivolous topics in the days to follow. At 4am on Sunday morning I just thought “put what you’re thinking out there”. So out in that mysterious place called cyberspace those kiddies can hopefully retrieve their batty old mothers wishes when the time inevitably comes!

Have a great start to the week ahead. Love Rocking Dog x

PS Bob is purely fictional and is used for illustrative purposes only.

Ian’s Cairngorm copy

Village Churchyard, Rocking Dog

Village Churchyard

The Pig Funeral Plan?, Rocking Dog

The Pig Funeral Plan?

Sprinkle Us Somewhere Meaningful, Rocking Dog

Sprinkle Us Somewhere Meaningful

Being Quintessentially British- Flower Shows

Good Gooseberries, Rocking Dog

Good Gooseberries

How often have you been overseas and been envious about the festivities hosted by the destination you have been visiting? Snowy Christmas Markets, their air infused with the smell of Glogg, gingerbread and sweet chestnuts, Beer festivals with the swell of throaty oompah bands and the sheer spectacle of countries delighting in donning their national costumes to celebrate religious and historical events. Several years ago we spent two holidays staying at The Old Monastery in Lapta, North Cyprus. Residing opposite the little market square we were warmly invited to join the villagers for some truly lovely star lit parties. It took several parties and numerous glasses of retsina to realise that these parties were to celebrate circumcisions!

It is sometimes easy to wax lyrical about celebrations witnessed overseas whilst forgetting that we as a nation also have much to be proud of. What could be more quintessentially British than the village flower show. What a lovely site to behold- the white guy roped bunting clad marquee sited on a village green or playing field.

The Frenchay Flower Show was very much part of my childhood summer calendar as it was for my own children. A jam jar of wild flowers, handwriting, painting, four small cakes and my favourite- a miniature garden in a seed tray (instant disqualification if the garden was put in any other vessel!). My father meanwhile would enter vegetable classes and my mother the flower, baking and preserve classes. I remember the stress both as a child and as a parent of getting items organised for the Friday deadline visit to the tent to register exhibits. Saturday, it was the early start to deliver Victoria Sandwich (made to an exacting recipe and in the correct sized tins) already slightly wilted flowers, freshly scrubbed vegetables and neatly labelled jams. There were the sideways glances to check out the competition, and then banishment from the tent until the official opening of the show at 2pm. The return to the tent saw a rush of eager competitors to discover whether their entries had the red, blue or yellow prize certificates. As parents there were also the tears and disappointment to deal with (together with dealing with sibling euphoria!) All this work and all this emotional fall out for a first prize of about 40p!

Flower shows however are about much more than the serious business of prize winning rhubarb sticks, rustic breads and handicrafts. They are about brass bands, plant stalls, Morris Men (and women!), traction engines, bee keeping, WI cream teas, ice cream vans, swing boats, donkey rides and a community coming together. They are about warm summer days, Pimms, the backdrop of cricket and tennis, verdant English countryside and celebrating being quintessentially British!

Tetbury Flower Show is worth a visit and this year happens on 9th August, I hope the ferrets will be there!

Ravishing Redcurrants, Rocking Dog

Ravishing Redcurrants

Pimped Vegetable, Rocking Dog

Pimped Vegetable

Cake Table, Rocking Dog

Cake Table

Tetbury Roses 2013, Rocking Dog

Tetbury Roses 2013

Mother Of All, Rocking Dog

Mother Of All

Tarnished Prize, Rocking Dog

Tarnished Prize

Nellie’s Diary Entry. Remembering VE Day.

The Ages Of Nellie, Rocking Dog

The Ages Of Nellie

I have been thinking about the 70th anniversary of VE Day. I have also remembered my Grandmother Nellie’s diary entry for 8th May 1945. It simply read “War Over. Blackened fireplace.” I love the statement, you’d somehow expect something a little more euphoric after five and a half years of war. It is difficult to fathom her apparent lack of elation considering the family lived on the Essex coast. My Mum recalled witnessing the red glow of London ablaze, terrifying Doodlebugs and the constant drone of aircraft. There were frequent air raids and Mum hated the smell of the rubber gas masks. I remember her telling me that she felt particularly sorry for babies encased in the specially designed Mickey Mouse masks. I don’t think we can appreciate just how simply terrifying it all must have been. Together with the impact of rationing, worrying about loved ones, sleep deprivation, housing and transport difficulties life must have been fraught for the nation.

So…. my Grandmother felt the compelling need to blacken the fireplace on VE day. Nellie’s diary unfortunately was not one of those diaries worthy of inclusion in a museum to demonstrate the plight of those on the home front. Indeed entries were sparse but there were monthly “Red Letter Day” entries. Nellie’s husband Newsome was employed in a reserved occupation and thus at home. Pregnancy could have been a definite and inconvenient wartime possibility.

Wartime rationing left Nellie with a compelling need to hoard food and when she died in 1975 there was much to deal with! I remember numerous jars of Heinz Sandwich Spread, Marmite and Shipphams paste. There were tinned peas, packets of Typhoo tea and bags and bags of sugar. Most disturbingly there was a large bucket of eggs which had been preserved in Isinglass. Isinglass is a substance obtained from the dried air bladders of fish, and it was used to preserve eggs during WW2. The Isinglass would be dissolved in a bucket of water and then the eggs would be submerged in the solution. It would preserve the eggs for between 6 months and a year. We take eggs so much for granted today but during the war the standard weekly ration for a person was 1 egg or a packet of dried egg which equated to twelve eggs. Vegetarians were allocated two eggs. My late Dad recalled loving omelettes made from dried eggs.

Nellie’s 1975 eggs had a grey furry appearance and looked decidedly unappetising, especially in the eyes of three squeamish teenagers! As my mother had also grown up with a wartime “waste not” mentality the eggs in their bucket lurked for a month or two in our house. Eventually, even Mum realised she couldn’t quite bring herself to use the egg hoard.

I include photo’s of family, especially of my Dad who loved his time at sea during WW2. War for Doug strangely provided a wonderful opportunity to see the world, and he sent numerous letters detailing his travels. A stash of letters sent to his aunt and uncle survive and describe in detail stops in Malta, Egypt, the Far East and Australasia. I find it fascinating that my Dad could write, whilst serving in the QARANC in Germany my Mum was always the one who wrote. Very occasionally Dad would add his name and a kiss, and I appreciated that.

Doug’s Certificate of Service has helped me pinpoint where he was in the world at particular points in the war. Indeed I discovered that his ship HMS Belfast, took part in the Scharnhorst Action in the Arctic Circle. The German Battleship “Scharnhorst” was destroyed with the loss of 1,932 men (36 survivors) on 26th December 1943. A few years ago whilst on a cruise up to The North Cape I found it very poignant that I was sailing in the same waters that my Dad was sending and receiving coded messages deep in the bowels of The Belfast. Furthermore, I thought of all those from both sides who had perished at sea, and I shed a tear for them.

I am grateful that my Dad’s letters have miraculously survived, together with a touching archive of naval photo’s, documents and medals.

We as a generation have witnessed the passing of the last veterans of WW1 and now are likely to witness the sad demise of the last veterans of WW2. I feel it is vital to try and gain first hand accounts of war and the home front whilst we still can.

My Dad Could Write!, Rocking Dog

My Dad Could Write!

From A Boy To A Man. WW2, Rocking Dog

From A Boy To A Man. WW2

Fading Family Photo's, Rocking Dog

Fading Family Photo’s

Rocking Dog Afternoon Tea.

Freshly Baked, Rocking Dog

Freshly Baked

Rocking Dog loves making scones. I made some absolutely terrible cannonball ones for my Mum’s funeral nearly thirty years ago and was determined to never repeat the baking catastrophe! Yesterday afternoon relatives, one of whom is my second cousin (? correct me if I am wrong Chalmers!) dropped in. I rustled up Buttermilk Scones, with homemade Rhubarb Compote and clotted cream. The savoury scone version was a mature Cheddar and Rosemary scone which I served with mustard butter and thick ham. I love serving the warm scones still on the wire cooling racks. Of course a little vintage china always adds to the ambience and romance of afternoon tea.

The secret of light scones is surprise, surprise light handling.

Bobtail’s Scones (Bobtail was the name my Grandfather, Newsome, called my Mum)

400g Self Raising Flour
2 teasps Baking Powder
120g Cold Butter or Hard Margarine (do not use a spread)
2 large eggs
10 Tbsp full fat milk or Buttermilk
1 level teasp Salt

Any flavourings- chopped stem ginger, mixed fruit, grated cheese, stilton and walnut etc..
For my sweet plain scones I used 2 Tbsp caster sugar

1. Switch oven to 225 C and line a baking sheet with some baking paper or grease with oil.
2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl.
3. Grate Butter into the bowl and rub the fat into the flour using your fingertips. Raise the mixture out of the bowl as you rub in the fat. This introduces air into your scones and makes them light.
4. Stir in any flavourings at this point. Make a well in the flour.
5. Pour your milk and eggs into a jug and whisk well before pouring into your flour bowl.
6. Bring the mixture together gently using a wooden spoon or your hands. When it has formed a ball, plop out on a floured surface. Do not manhandle! Pat out gently using the palm of your hand (a rolling pin is not required!)
7. Cut out scones using a pastry cutter. Excess scone dough can be gently bought together to form further scones.
8. Place scones on your baking sheet and brush their tops with an egg wash (egg yolk and milk) This will give them a lovely golden shine.
9. The time needed in the oven will depend on how big or small your scones are, look at them after 10 minutes – they should be golden on top and have light golden baked bases.
10. Cool on a wire cooling rack. Eat the same day (but they do freeze well)

Anyone requiring a scone masterclass I would be happy to oblige!

Not Homegrown Yet, Rocking Dog

Not Homegrown Yet

The Savoury Offering, Rocking Dog

The Savoury Offering

Happy Mother’s Day!

Instant Cakery Frou'ing!, Rocking Dog

Instant Cakery Frou’ing!

Happy Mother’s Day to one and all! I wish I had my Mum still around (it’s been a long sad 29 years without her) but SO appreciate being a Mum myself. I feel truly blessed.

Youngest lovely daughter and I baked a Victoria Sponge this morning and I couldn’t resist a little frou’ing!

Have a wonderful day.

Victorious Sponge!, Rocking Dog

Victorious Sponge!

Rocking Dog Sewing For Little Ones

Vintage For Little Folk, Rocking Dog

Vintage For Little Folk

Rocking Dog is contemplating sewing some vintage fabric skirts and dresses for little ones. There is something lovely about doing things on a small scale, not left to worry about the often disappointing fit of sewing adult clothes. Having said that, I loved a pair of trousers I made a good few years ago which were made in the most amazing fabric which pictured sleeping Mexicans complete with sombrero’s and poncho’s. A little piece or two of the fabric has ended up in oldest daughters quilt which I made about three years ago. Meanwhile youngest daughter’s quilt features a pieces of vintage chintz which were left over from making a bed for Real Live Rocking Dog. Both quilts are sewn with their baby dresses etc.. left as intact as possible. Livi’s quilt has the quote “A bed without a quilt is like a sky without stars” Get the tissues out!

My Mum made a lot of clothes for my sister and I. It was significantly cheaper to make garments rather than go to a drapers to buy clothes for young ladies! I remember a bundle of full skirted 50’s dresses arriving from my aunt in Scotland. These were taken apart by my mum and made into various dresses for us. I rather think the little bibbed play skirts in the photo below utilised some of the fabric from one of these deconstructed dresses. I remember the fabric well, beautiful turquoise fine crisp cotton bedecked with exotic tall figures. I also remember my mum making dresses from glazed orange curtain fabric, embellished with gold braid and buttons, how very family Von Trapp! Our first grown up dresses were maxi dresses (though with growth they subsequently became midi dresses), were made in very fine white fabric with a bold black polka dot. The only rather annoying tale of my mum’s dressmaking is that if there was a choice of fabric my mum chose brown for me as I had brown eyes and brown hair, whilst my sister with her blue eyes got the blue material! I sometimes wonder if that is why I really don’t like wearing brown at all now, but more than likely my brown uniformed Saturday job at Debenham’s had more to do with it.

Obviously the finish of children’s clothes is vital to stop any rubbing. I’ll need to polish up on the neatness of my seams and get jiggy with it trying to find out what parents and children want. I think for little girls I need to be making “Frozen” princess dresses. I hear there is near hysteria for all that is Frozen, even inspiring a range of blue wedding dresses. Wonders never cease to amaze!

Patterns For Little People, Rocking Dog

Patterns For Little People

Dog Bed Quilt, Rocking Dog

Dog Bed Quilt

Von Trapp Family Dresses, Rocking Dog

Von Trapp Family Dresses

What Have You Got Cooking Rocking Dog?

The Magic Begins!, Rocking Dog

The Magic Begins!

The answer, another simple dessert to blag, oops, blog about! My lovely Mum’s recipe for Scandinavian Peasant Girl With Veil delighted many a guest during the 70’s. It was often the perfect end to a dinner party which had normally begun with Beef Stroganoff or Athenian Mince (rather like lasagne but the pasta layer being replaced with boiled thickly sliced potatoes). Another pudding staple was cherry pie (Morton’s black cherry pie filling trapped in a homemade pastry case). The pie was normally decorated with large pastry stars, had a hole to let the steam escape, and a generous sprinkling of sugar before baking. Pudding plates cleared, it was my Dad Doug’s piece de resistance to offer a range of liquors. Holiday travel abroad was in it’s infancy but there’d be some weird concoction from Palma de Mallorca, French hypermarket buys together with Drambuie and Tia Maria. Latterly I remember one of Dad’s less successful liquer buys, a kiwi flavoured liquer with two whole kiwi unappetisingly floating about in it. It rather resembled a specimen jar on some gory hospital lab’ shelf!

Unfortunately, I do not know where the original recipe for Scandinavian Peasant Girl came from. My Mum Barbara, had a small shelf of cookery books and recipe cards, but for weekday cooking she relied on a selection of regular stored in the head recipes. I remember her loving Graham Kerr, The Galloping Gourmet when he hit the TV screens, she definitely said he was dishy! She certainly couldn’t abide the bullying Fanny Craddock but was rather fond of Keith Floyd

We ate this nostalgic pud’ yesterday for a small gathering, and I hope my children will keep this family recipe in their repertoire. I tried to look for Barbara’s glass trifle bowl to get the whole 70’s vibe, alas my cellar is much to untidy to lay my hands on it! (job 476 on the list) Although a grating of 70% dark chocolate would be more PC these days, I still personally love the Cadbury’s Flake to remind me of this pudding being served up at home by my mum in a jazzy trouser suit!

So the recipe for Barbara’s Scandinavian Peasant Girl With Veil.

(serves 6 very generously)
3/4 large sliced wholemeal loaf (day old bread perfect)
250g butter
100g soft brown sugar
4 large Bramley apples
4 tbsp white sugar
200ml double cream
2 Flake bars or grated chocolate

*Peel, core and slice apples and put in a pan with a little water and the white sugar. Cook until pulpy. Cool.
*Break the bread slices into pieces and blitz to coarse breadcrumbs with a stick blender or in a processor.
*Melt the butter on a medium heat in a large high sided frying pan.
*When butter melted add in the breadcrumbs and continue cooking over a medium heat. Stir constantly!
*After about 15 minutes the breadcrumbs will be crisper and a chestnut brown colour. Remove from the heat.
*Stir the brown sugar into the breadcrumbs.Leave to cool.
*When apple and breadcrumb mixes are both cold, whip your cream into peaks.
*Layer the apple and breadcrumb mixtures in a large glass bowl/glasses. End with a breadcrumb layer.
*Dollop the veil (cream) on top of your dessert(s) and break over some shards of Flake or grated chocolate.
*Refrigerate until serving.

If you were making this dessert ahead of time I would suggest making the apple and breadcrumb mixes and storing them separately in airtight containers in the fridge. Assemble up to 2 hours before guests arrive. No Hostess Trolley required!

Thank you to Malago WI for the lovely Emily Ketteringham tea towel which features in my photo’s. Simply too lovely to dry dishes with!

Mother and Brother, Rocking Dog

Mother and Brother

Scandi' Pud', Rocking Dog

Scandi’ Pud’

Rocking Dog Christmas Cake Quick Fix!

snow dome cake, rocking dog

Snow Dome Cake

Good morning! Hope everyone is feeling cool, calm and collected. I hope presents are deliciously wrapped, fridge decadently stashed, Christmas frock selected, and coiffure and manicure booked! Yes it does sound as if i’m stuck in a 1950’s Hollywood time warp and no no no, apart from the wrapped presents I haven’t scored highly on any of the other counts!

However, I did manage to get cakes made a little while ago. We try to get down to the beach for a barbecue (Sand Bay near Weston Super Mare) between Christmas and New Year to blow away the cobwebs and to be generally very silly. We usually take salmon and good sausages to burn on the disposable barbecues, a freshly made Greek salad some French stick, homemade soup and nibbles. Pudding is usually a hunk of Christmas cake which we eat through chattering teeth! When the BBQ’s have done the business we fill them with sand and use them as foot warmers. Some of us go in search of the sea (a rare sight) whilst others play with Real Life Rocking Dog and other doggy friends. Like Zac Efron who incidentally still hasn’t been found, the beach barbecue is fast becoming a Ferguson tradition.

Back to the cakes! for a good last minute cake Nigella Lawson’s Easy Action Cake is foolproof. The majority of the ingredients are heated up in a pan, fruits don’t need days of soaking and the baking time is pretty respectable. Pictured is the way I cook my cakes – tips from my lovely Mum. So it’s lining the tin with baking parchment and then with the mixture poured in, wrap the cake in a double layer of brown paper, held in place by non-plastic string. The top of the cake also has a layer of brown paper stapled in place with a hole to let steam escape. Finally I put the cake into the oven with a thinnish layer of newspaper under it. All these papery tricks ensure the cakes do not burn or dry out. To me the smell of baking newspaper really makes me feel Christmassy. Admittedly a candle from Jo Malone is a more attractive proposition … but the newspaper reminds me of home and my mum.

To decorate or not to decorate that is the question. I like my cake served nude of almond paste and icing, personally I love it with some Farmhouse Cheddar. My snow dome cake was executed VERY quickly. I am ashamed to say I bought ready rolled almond paste and icing, gummed onto the cake with apricot glaze. Decoration… crudely piped “Oh Christmas Tree”, Indian blingy braid and some bottle brush Christmas trees….Simple!

Oh well just to get through Christmas Day to get the much loved day on the beach and the wedge of cake! PS. the nude cake is safely stashed in a tin ready to be paired with some yummy cheese.

beach cake, rocking dog

Beach Cake

brown paper packages tied  up with string , rocking dog

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With String

snow domed, rocking dog

Snow Domed

Thoughtful Presents

my mum, rocking dog

My Mum

With Christmas Shopping seemingly in full throttle everywhere, I was having a good think whilst sewing today. Sometimes it isn’t what we spend that makes a present so very special. It is very often the simply amazing thought that ithe giver has given to producing the perfect gift.

The most thoughtful gift given to me was one sent to me by my Mum in 1980. Strange but true I was in the army and my basic training in Aldershot was sheer hell! Marching, parade inspections and ritual humiliation were gruelling. Daily room and kit inspections at the crack of dawn were stressful as were ghastly maths lessons with Major Legg. I was miserably homesick. One day a parcel arrived out of the blue, in it was an insignificant soft scoop ice cream tub. Contained within, was a letter, a tea towel hand-embroidered with my name, rank and number, a posy of flowers from the garden and some home baking. I simply bawled- but then felt so much better! I have such lovely memories of receiving that oh so thoughtful present from my Mum.

Another Successful present story now. Two years ago I made a return visit to the beautiful little Protestant Cemetery in Rome, It is sometimes called the Cimetero deli Inglesi (Englishmen’s Cemetery) and it can be found close to the 3BC Pyramid of Cestius. It really is a wonderful verdant oasis away from the hustle and bustle of Rome street life. Box hedges, basking cats, Pomegranate bushes, palms and calmness together with wonderful epitaphs sum up a visit here. It is here too that the poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley are buried. It was on Keats’s grave I found a large pine cone and I hatched a cunning plan to take it back for my lovely elderly neighbour Molly, who adores poetry. I must admit that during the day it was very tempting to offload my sappy and sticky cone!
Back on home soil I wrote a little excerpt from “Ode to a Nightingale” on a luggage label and tied it onto the cone. Putting it into a simple brown paper bag, I took it to Molly and I had no idea that she was going to be SO happy with this  gift. It was as if I had given her a large gold nugget! So sweet.

Thoughtful presents, contemplate which presents you have been overjoyed with, and perhaps the ones you haven’t !

protestant cemetery rome, rocking dog

Protestant Cemetery, Rome

keats's grave, rocking dog

Keats’s Grave

pine cone gift, rocking dog

Pine Cone Gift


Mums are Best

Quick labels for parcels (these were for a Baby shower). The orange rosette is made from a short length of pretty ribbon. Hand sew a line of running stitch along one of the long edges of the ribbon and then pull the cotton so it gathers up. Anchor with two or three stitches and stitch the two short edges together neatly. Cut a circle of thin card and handwrite or stamp a message and glue to the centre of your rosette. Add some contrasting ribbon to finish.The other rosettes are made from paper fairy cake cases. You could adapt the idea to make table place names, badges or adornments for paper hats or party bags. As the meerkats would say….Simple!

Tweet for baby

Tweet for baby

Dog prize

Dog prize