Tuesday, 30 April 2013

And we have legs!

The tadpoles have legs! Long spindly little things tucked under their tails. Now and then there is a sudden plop from the tank as one nose dives up out of the water and back in again. We are now on to baby fish food as well as the much adored braised lettuce....

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Little M's Socks

So, you may remember back to Easter when J and E started out on their grand sock project? The idea was to finish the a joint pair of socks during the long Easter weekend. E managed it, although J took a little longer...

Here's how we started out - one ball of sock yarn, a basic pattern from the shop, and two sets of DPNs (one very beautiful! The other a bit boring.) It was pretty exciting, as neither of us have knitted socks before - and E had barely knitted on DPNs before (although she had made a sock not in the round - complete cheating!) We started by splitting the ball into two smaller balls...

 Have to say we were a little bit anal about this... we actually dug out the super-accurate weighing scales and weighed out each ball to see we had equally split it! We wanted nothing to go wrong for our first sock extranvangza.
We both worked on them diligently without the weekend...

 E managed to finish hers, although J spent a little longer. We both learnt a few things through the sock-making process: mostly to do with reading the pattern accurately! (ie. if it says to use stitch markers, actually pay attention and leave them there, rather than think you'll be able to tell!) They aren't perfect (the toes are the wrong way up (!), a few loose stitches around the heel, and you can see the gaps between the needles at some points) but definitely a big achievement for a first pair of socks! The self-patterning yarn was also really fun - it looked a bit insipid when we bought it, but knitted up the pattern looked great!

Here they are finished:

We then hurried to the post office when J came to visit in order to get them off to Little M in time for exam season! I did take a photo of the parcel all wrapped up, but then I realised that would rather disguise any anonymity! Luckily they arrived in time for her first exam, and here she is wearing them for her final bit of revising...

(looking very organised!)

So, there we have it! I hope Little M's good luck socks will have done the trick - all the best for the rest of your exams!
This weekend, A and I have some crafts planned, so there may be more posts to come...

Love to all our readers - feel free to leave a comment and introduce yourself if you're reading this!


Thursday, 25 April 2013

Getting bigger......

The tadpoles have moved home to the big tank and are now getting through 2 large braised lettuce leaves daily. They are fantastic - doing sudden leaps and dives, hiding in the rock crevices and rehearsing to be frogs. No legs as yet but wonderful golden stripes and little beady eyes.

The blueness of the garden is also getting bigger - I made a wonderful posy for E and like to think of it with her windowsill garden. Soon the garden will be an ocean of forget-me-nots.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Window Sill Gardening

I don't live at 2 CC most of the time, and there isn't a proper place for gardening where I live. But flowers and greenery area a must for anyone's life! So, this is where windowsill gardening takes place.
I have a changing collection of flowers and plants that live on my windowsill. It's not the ideal place for most flowers, as I have learnt over time - it's mostly too hot and stuffy in my room even with the window open (and don't worry, the radiator is kept off!) But there are certain plants that do pretty well.

Let's introduce you to my plants. From left to right, I have:

A Christmas poinsettia. Now, this one is looking a little sad. Almost all the red has gone from the leaves. I know that you are supposed to keep poinsettias in dark for something like 16 hours a day in order to keep the differentiation in colour, but it seems like far too much effort to me. But, it does mean that you end up with rather sad looking plants like this one...

This basket is doing a lot better (although not a great photo!) There's still a lot of red on the leaves - although all the new leaves have come out completely green. It's a lovely basket - poinsettia and ivy (which you can't see very well.)

Now comes the start of my newest addition to my windowsill garden. It's a beautiful planter, covered in birch bark with a variety of little plants in it. I don't actually know what this one is! But it seems to be doing fairly well. A very nice vibrant yellow.

Next along in my planter is this beautiful gerbera. It's coming along really nicely - lots of buds still to come out, and a lovely colour.

Grape hyacinths! I love grape hyacinths - one of my favourite flowers I think. They don't have the same intenseness to the smell that hyacinths do, but they are completely beautiful in miniature. I often have some "real" hyacinths in my windowsill garden, but they go over so quickly, and I don't have one at the moment. When these are over, they will be sent home to 2 CC to plant out in the garden - there's a whole row of plants that have been "donated" from my windowsill garden over the past few years!
Also, you can see in the background two little wooden tulips - very sweet!

This is my peace lily - it's doing okay, although a few of the bottom leaves are a bit yellow. No flowers this year - not sure how to make it flower again. This was a present from A's choir about two years ago, and it's very special to me.

And this is my Cambria orchid that was an Easter gift from A! We (unknowingly) bought each other the same orchid for Easter! Sadly, it's not doing very well - I'm not sure if it's the environment in my room or what, but the flowers are just shrivelling up. I'm doing everything I'm supposed to (according to that oracle, the internet) but it just doesn't seem very happy... Cambria orchids are notoriously hard to care for, apparently, so maybe next time we should just be a bit less adventurous...

So, there we have it! Without a garden, go for windowsill gardening - it's a lovely sunny day here, so I hope that the flowers are all coming out at 2 CC.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

How the anemones survived!

And here they are, a week after being almost buried in logs:


The tadpoles have done a growth spurt this week and are now even more definitely frogs-in-waiting. They have big bulbous abdomens and tiny eyes, and close up are beautifully stippled in brown and green. Next step are legs! None to be seen yet but I guess they will be soon. As I understand it that's when they move from their vegetarian stage to being omnivores with a penchant for meat. As we are a vegetarian household I'm going to stock up on fish food instead...as well as a much bigger tank with stones for them to crawl out on to.

The garden has also been transformed this week with the rise in temperature. All the primroses have flowered at once in a mass of yellow and mauve, there is bird song in the mornings, the flowering currant is covered in amazingly pink blossom and the grass needs cutting!

Sunday, 14 April 2013


This is about how we keep ourselves warm at 2, CC. In the past there were five chimneys, four with fireplaces and one with a boiler at the bottom end. When we arrived, only one was still open, and that lead partly into a bedroom of our neighbours! When we opened another up, we found 10 feet of jackdaw nests, mostly twigs, and quite a lot of newspaper and someone's trousers. (Our neighbour R identified them as a pair he'd had in the 1980s.) Now we have two woodburning stoves so we have to keep these fuelled.
"Wood warms you twice" is the saying, and it underestimates by a long way. When Ross and I were getting in some of the year after next's wood yesterday, we estimated it warms you at least four times.
So yesterday we were over the other side of the valley in Loxton Woods, where we have an arrangement to take out fallen trees. It's a lovely wood, and especially good for our purposes because it has a lot of ash in. In a few years time...?
It was getting a bit damp in the woods by the time I took this, but the main reason it's so blurry is my phone.
Ross, who has the Landrover mainly for this purpose, skids and slides in and out of the wood, then back to our garden, where he neatly stacks the logs:

A was away at this point, and the first thing she said on coming home was: "What about the anenomes?" Oh yes, there are anenomes under the apple tree, and I had forgotten to let Ross know. He did know to avoid the primroses and daffodils. So what happened?
See how gently he has arranged the logs around the nearly flowering plants! (Easter Island statue not to scale.)
I then rearranged the wood at the back of the garden, where it will dry out ready to be cut in summer 2014 for the winter of 2014/15.
The big tree you see just the other side of the wall is in our neighbours' garden, and is another ash. Another big loss should ash dieback arrive.
And finally, a view of our roof (ours and our neighbours at No.1) showing just how many chimneys there are, and a jackdaw waiting to dive in and make a nest.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Tadpole tales

The tadpole tank is still doing well and our remaining cat, Kirry, has taken to watching then dart and dive on our family room table. They actually look as though there are tiny frogs in the bodies of the tadpoles now - head, bulbous abdomen and a slightly stippled colour in the blackness. They love slightly braised lettuce and will rest in the shallows above the leaves as if to say how much they adore it.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Poetry Club April 2013 - Villanelles

Another common interest we have at CCC is enjoyment of poetry, mostly reading it, occasionally writing it, and also learning it. There is something very special about learning poetry aloud - it is like song, and feels like it should be an oral art. Also, the act of learning a poem off by heart necessitates knowing the poem very well, and, as with all good arts, knowing something more really adds to the enjoyment of it. You get to realise things about it you may otherwise have not done, you get to hear rhythms and subtle rhymes you may have missed, and you often end up reading others' views about it as well.

J and E have been learning poems aloud together for a while, from this book.

I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone interested in poetry, even if you don't consider yourself as someone who "can" learn things off by heart. Ted Hughes' selection is amazingly wide ranging: from Auden and Sassoon, to Byron and Shakespeare: there is truly something for everyone. J has learnt the whole book before, but it is my first introduction to it (although I already know some of the poems) and I am thoroughly enjoying it.

We so enjoyed learning poetry together, and sharing it, that we thought to extend it. We now have a virtual poetry club.' It works pretty much how a book club works - each month someone has the privilege (a fairly daunting one!) of choosing one or two poems for everyone in the group to learn; we have a month or so to learn it, and then we "meet" on Skype to share them together, and talk about the poems as well.

This month is my month, and I have decided (nervously!) to do two villanelles. To those who don't know, a villanelle is a strict form that involves six stanzas - five that are tercets (three lines long) and the final stanza is four lines long. There are only two rhyming words in the whole poem ie. everything is either an 'A' or 'B' rhyme. Also, there are two "refrains" that repeat in a strict order throughout the poem, one in each stanza until the quatrain where they both appear. I like villanelles; I first came across the form in this brilliant book.

(Another book I would definitely recommend to anyone interested in poetry - I was given it at about age 10 or 11 by my gran and devoured it then; it's very readable and not dry at all.)

However, villanelles are notoriously hard to get right! The most famous is Dylan Thomas' Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, but that just seemed a far too obvious choice. In the end, I went for two contrasting villanelles: one serious, and one comical.

The comical first.

The Grammar Lesson


A noun's a thing. A verb's the thing it does.
An adjective is what describes the noun.
In "The can of beets is filled with purple fuzz"

of and with are prepositions. The's
an article, a
can's a noun,
a noun's a thing. A verb's the thing it does.

A can can roll - or not. What isn't was
or might be,
might meaning not yet known.
"Our can of beets
is filled with purple fuzz"

is present tense. While words like our and us
are pronouns - i.e.
it is moldy, they are icky brown.
A noun's a thing; a verb's the thing it does.

Is is a helping verb. It helps because
filled isn't a full verb. Can's what our owns
in "
Our can of beets is filled with purple fuzz."

See? There's almost nothing to it. Just
memorize these rules...or write them down!
A noun's a thing, a verb's the thing it does.
The can of beets is filled with purple fuzz.

Steve Kowit.

I enjoy this poem - it's good fun! It also follows the villanelle structure strictly, whereas the next one doesn't.

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

- Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like a disaster.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Food at Easter CC (also a catch-up)

There was of course much eating done at CC last weekend, and very enjoyable it was, both in the making, the eating and the sociability involved in both.
First Little B made hot cross buns. Here she is decorating them:

For the midday meal on Friday, A found a large impressive celeriac from the Riverford box, and looked in the Cranks book (one of her mother's I think) to find the recipe shown here:

Cranks Celeriac Soup with Bouillabaisse Seasonings

This is an extravagant soup with incredible depth of flavour! Served with Gruyere toasts and rouille it's also quite substantial. Don't despair at the long list of ingredients - prep time is minimal!


8 pieces dried orange peel
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 thin leeks
1 carrot
8 garlic cloves
1 small red pepper
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tsp saffron threads
1 tsp tomato puree
1 tsp soft brown sugar
1 large head celeriac
2 litres vegetable stock made with 1 tbsp Marigold bouillon powder
250ml dry white wine
6 tbsp finely chopped parsley
2 tbsp double cream
Half a very fresh baguette
60g Gruyere
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Serves 6

Dry the orange peel by placing in a medium hot oven for 40 miniutes (this will fill your house with a wonderful aroma!)
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan and fry the sliced, clean leeks. Then add the chopped carrot, sliced garlic, diced red pepper and black pepper - fry for around 10 minutes.
Add the fennel seeds, orange peel, saffron, tomato puree, soft brown sugar, celeriac and chopped basil and fry for about 5 minutes, until the celeriac is coated.
Add the hot stock and 1 tbsp olive oil. Stir well and cook on a brisk simmer for 30-35 minutes until the celeriac is completely soft. Around 8 minutes before the end, add the wine and the 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley.
Blend the soup until very smooth, first in a blender, then with a fine sieve. Then add the remaining soup so that there are some chunky pieces. Return the soup to the pan and add the remaining parsley and olive oil as well as the double cream.

A did all the initial bits, then got involved in crafting, so that J took over to make the rouille (which he also very much enjoyed pronouncing) and the later stages of putting together and presenting the soup. Also the gruyere toasts. I rather misunderstood this, so what we had were emmental on toast (see picture). And I suspect that the instruction to leave some of the ingredients not sieved did not intend for the bits to be as big as we see here. Never mind, it all tasted very good.

Playing Catch-up: Scenes from Easter Sunday

 (The camera cable somehow lost itself, so here is playing catch-up from last weekend. We didn't find the cable, but E bought a new one from Amazon - only £4.95, so it didn't seem too bad!)

Beautiful forsythia coming out on our Easter morning walk. 

Blue skies over the Orchard.

Planting seeds in the conservatory - too cold outside! - giant sunflowers and also 'Little Leo' sunflowers.

The Easter bunny came - gold decorated dark chocolate egg, dark Lindt bunny and a lovely sheep paperweight for the non chocolate fiends.

Chicken candles! (technically from Christmas, but they're very Easter-ish)

More seed planting - orlaya, candytuft and larkspur - new ones on us, so let's wait and see...

The traditional Saturday Guardian Quiz - not quite our worst score, but pretty poor!

Afternoon outing to the RSPCA to see...

CATS! (Coombe Cottages may be getting a pair of kittens, so watch this space!)

A very low scoring scrabble game... fun all the same.

And just to remind us that Spring is a-springing!

Happy belated Easter everyone!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

New slippers!

So, around 30 years ago I knitted my Dad several huge Icelandic sweaters on big round needles to keep him warm in the wastes of Aberdeenshire then the paddy fields of Norfolk. I reclaimed them when he died in 1991 but have been unable to give or throw them away. I had felted them in a hope that I could recycle them into something else and I finally have! The Coombe cottage craft gathering allowed me to make these amazing boots with faux leather from Mortimer Hills craft supplies and a blanket stitch tutorial and flower from marvellous M. Here they are in our porch - a slightly odd shape, but then so are my now warm feet...