Sunday 18 September 2011

Wild Cyclamen and Sugared Almonds

Writing a thesis has taught me several things: that having the freedom to choose your own subject is both thrilling and unsettling (I understand now why children crave structure and limitations), to love a (vast) subject with a passion whilst remaining concise and precise (the latter did not come so easily to me), and finally, that attention to detail is a marvellous thing but that one must know when to stand back and curb the desire to give too much detail.

I love detail.  One needs, however, to balance out embellishment with simplicity.  Details matter but simple pleasures are wonderful too, right?

Our walk this morning married the simple pleasures of being with loved ones in the sunny autumnal countryside and relishing nature's ornaments.  

Wild cyclamen.  In spring I hear tales of carpets of dainty bluebells in the British Isles which I have yet to hear in France.  While I miss that marvellous sight I know that come autumn the woodlands here are covered in heavenly pink and white cyclamen.The pleasure is just as intense.

The cyclamen's Greek name grew from encircling like the Cyclades which encircle Delos. Their old English name 'sowbread', however, is much less poetic.

Today these little flowers wove their magic on our children and the woods around us.
As always it was the children who first spotted the gifts lying in the dappled sunlight.

Why should we find a cupcake dress and an apron lying among the ivy and cyclamen?

 Who put the dress on the tree?  Some benevolent woodland sprites perhaps?
 Oh my goodness!  Sugared almonds?  Such kindness!
 A sugared-almond blue cardigan made from the finest fairy gossamer.
One finds the lovliest little people in these woodland glades.
 Whoever made these clothes loves giving attention to detail.

 Yes indeed.  There was magic in the woods today.
 Magic of the sweetest kind.

And now please tell me; do you prefer making things on a small or large scale?  Do you too love weaving details into your creations or, on the contrary, do you find embellishments too fussy? Please share your preferences with me.

A warm welcome to my lovely new readers and a big thank you to my loyal ones.

I cannot wait for dear Vanessa  to return and discover she has won the giveaway gifts.

Don't forget the Nursery Rhyme winner will be announced soon... very soon.

Have a beautiful week.

ps I made these doll's clothes for a wonderful friend, Zara, who claims they will be for her daughter Lucy's doll.  I wonder who will play with them the most? ;-)

Wednesday 14 September 2011

The Giveaway Winner

Dear, dear readers,
Today I was quite giddy with excitement at the thought of picking a winner out of my son's apple-green gardener's hat.
I would like to thank you ALL for participating in my first giveaway with such relish and enthusiasm. 
There were one hundred entries.
I called upon my dear son Tristan to pick out the winning paper this afternoon as I know he can be counted on for sharing every crumb of excitement.
He did well.
With a flourish he pulled out a little green slip...

Grapes devoured by Angélique

The winning blog name is revealed in the first verse of a poem taken from:

Garden Poems, edited by John Hollander (Alfred A. Knopf, 1996)

(Simply take the bold letters in the order they appear and string together the name of the winner.)

The Garden in September

Now thin mists temper the slow-ripening beams
Of the September sun: his golden gleams
On gaudy flowers shine, that prank the rows
Of high-grown hollyhocks, and all tall shows
That Autumn flaunteth in his bushy bowers,
Where tomtits, hanging from the drooping heads
Of giant sunflowers, peck the nutty seeds;
And in the feather aster bees on wing
Seize and set free the honied flowers,
Till thousand starts leap with their visiting:
While ever across the path mazily flit,
Unpiloted in the sun,
The dreamy butterflies
With dazzling colours powdered and soft glooms,
White, black and crimson stripes, and peacock eyes,
Or on chance flowers sit,
With idle effort plundering one by one
The nectaries of deepest-throated blooms.

Robert Bridges
(There are two more delicious verses.)

Congratulations dear Vanessa! Although I know she has taken absence of leave from blogland for a fortnight.

The winner of the Nursery Rhyme giveaway will be announced in a few days when a little beauty will be finished and the stage will be set for the winning rhyme.

ps Do You Mind If I Knit? is the winner ;-)

Sunday 4 September 2011

What's for Pudding?

Dear readers, if you are looking for the giveaway, here it is!

Something is cooking in our little corner of the world.

There have been many sweet dreams of desserts.

Rich Fig and Almond Pudding, The Duchess's Pudding,Quince and Pear Doublecrust Pie, Lemon Posset, Icky Sticky Toffee Sponge.

I could go on.

And I will!

Did you know that Richmond Maids of Honour, which are little almond-flavoured curd tarts, were great favourites at the court of Henry VIII in Richmond Palace, particularly with Anne Boleyn?  Henry is said to have named them after her when he saw her eating them while she was maid of nonour to Catherine of Aragon, his first wife.

And that Blancmange is mentioned in some of the oldest cookery books?  Chaucer, in The Canterbury Tales, describes it as a mixutre of 'minced capon with flour, cream and sugar'. By Elizabethan times the dish had become a mixture of cream, sugar and rose water, thickened with egg yolks, the meat was by then omitted.  By the 18th century it had become a kind of jelly, stiffened with isinglass or hartshorn and flavoured with almonds and rose water.  By the early 1820s, arrowroot was being exported to Britain from the West Indies and became the thickening agent.  It was set in elaborate moulds and seasoned with cinnamon and lemon peel.

This book is fabulous.  Every recipe I have sampled has worked a dream.  If you are tempted click here .

I have called this dear nineteenth-century nightdress 'Devonshire Junket'.  Junket, which dates back to the 13th century, was a rich confection of cream which was flavoured with rose water and was eaten alongside jellies and flummeries at the end of a meal.  It is especially good with fresh strawberries.

Which is a good thing.

The nightdress may be worn with the pantalettes...

and marries beautifully with the Strawberries and Cream dress.

But to whom does it belong?

Not her, obviously!

Now dear readers, here is the catch.  These clothes are destined for a Nursery Rhyme character (who is in the making).

Can you guess which Nursery Rhyme it could be?

The name of the dress and pantalette outfit is the only clue I will give you.

 To the person who finds the Nursery Rhyme in question I shall offer another Never Not Knitting pattern shortly after my first giveaway closing date (September 11th).

I cannot wait to see your answers!

What has caught her eye?

A polkadot ladybird, of course!

These photographs were taken between heavy showers and bright spells.

I really, really wish to spill the beans here and tell you that every single photograph you have seen on this blog so far has been my dear husband's work.

I also want to express how touched I have been by the generosity of so many fellow bloggers who have kindly mentioned my giveaway on their wonderful blogs.  I owe you all a huge favour!

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