Retirement!

Alex and I retired from our part-time jobs in a local school last Friday. I am really going to miss working with young people!

The generous staff in the department sent us home with bunches of beautiful flowers and lots of gardening vouchers that will ensure we stay busy.

Flowers 5

Flowers 4

Flowers 3

Flowers 2

Flowers 1

We plan to fit in some more travelling over the next few years, while we are still fit enough to do so.

Don’t worry, I have no plans to give up my textile work just yet!

Christmas meal with friends

Here are some photographs of a meal I recently hosted for a few of my friends. I normally do a post connected with my Christmas meal or cakes but this year I will be away for the holiday season, so this is serving as a substitute.

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My Xmas bread with tomato

I regularly have a few friends round on a Friday evening for some wine a chat and perhaps a few nibbles. For Christmas I decided to do something a little fancier with a variety of tasty dishes.

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Adding some finishing touches

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Just a few dishes to go!

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Barbecue chicken with Chinese spice marinade

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Sliced steak with asparagus and roast pepper

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Deep-fried chicken balls with apricot, shallot and sesame seeds, served with mushroom and pepper

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Pan-fried lamb with plum stuffing

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The meal also featured smoked salmon with herb cheese bites and Shanghai dumplings

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Ready to start eating!

In addition to the food, wine and chatter, we also spent our time doing some felting.

Sorry about the image quality – just quick pics on a phone!

Christmas Boned Turkey

Merry Christmas everyone!
Normally at this time of year I post some pictures of our Christmas cake decorations but this year our main culinary effort has been to make a boned and stuffed turkey for the main course of Christmas dinner. This involved removing the bones from the body of the turkey and stuffing the cavity with a duck, pork and apricot filling (apologies to all vegetarians!)

 

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Turkey stuffed with duck, pork sausage meat and apricot stuffing

When I have boned a turkey in the past I have always removed all the bones. This time my son Gregor suggested that we should leave the leg and wing bones in place so that the end result still looked like a regular turkey.

Turkey 5

The stuffing ingredients were – onions, chopped apricots and celery, duck breast and pork sausage meat with minced pork shoulder added.

Gregor did all the hard work of boning, and we then stuffed the bird with the blended filling (testing out a teaspoon in the microwave beforehand to check the flavour), and then stitched everything in place.

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Greg busy filling the bird

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The finished turkey, ready for roasting

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The finished bird being sliced for serving

Our verdict – very nice indeed, though perhaps the duck meat was rather overcooked by the time the turkey was done.

One other dish we like at this time of year is paté – perfect for lunches and snacking, and pretty simple to make. Here are links to two paté recipes that we’ve been enjoying this year:

This one  is a chicken and pork recipe from the BBC – Chicken and pork paté with pistachios

This one is a paté de campangne recipe from Raymond Blanc – paté de campagne

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Chicken and pork paté on the left, paté de campagne on the right

 

 

A Discworld Cake

Creating a cake based on the late Terry Pratchett’s Discworld has been the latest creative effort from Alex and myself. Greg and Isla, our two children, decided to have a joint birthday party this year, with fancy dress themed on Discworld characters. We took on the challenge of providing a cake to match the theme.

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A turtle with four giant elephants on its back supporting the Discworld

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Sculpting the cake was the first step

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Next a head was added

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More cake was cut to make the forelimbs and to represent the elephant bodies

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Fondant icing was rolled out and used to cover the pieces

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A first check on how the parts will fit together

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Eyes were added and the shell pattern was marked out

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The turtle was painted using cake decorating colours

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Prototype elephant heads

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The completed cake

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The Discworld

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The cake packed up for transport to Southampton for the party

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The demolition of the cake begins

Icy Photos in Cornwall

Many parts of the UK have had a lot of snow recently. Here in Cornwall we have only had a light dusting but it was enough to get me out of the house with my camera. I ended up having a lot of fun trying to get shots of just one lump of ice. This had frozen inside a bowl in the garden and when I turned it out, it had all sorts of interesting curves and textures. I am not sure that the photographs do it justice but here are a few.

When water turns to solid!

When water turns to solid!

Not much snow here but a lovely crisp winter's day

Not much snow here but a lovely crisp winter’s day

This piece of ice formed in a bowl full of water in my garden

This piece of ice formed in a bowl full of water in my garden

Side view

Side view

Top view

Top view

Frozen ground

Frozen ground

Happy Christmas

I just wanted to wish everyone a very good festive season and a happy New Year.

I have been very busy cooking and baking recently and thought I would share some photos of our family Xmas cakes. This year I made one for the whole family, plus a small one each for my son and daughter to take home with them. Unfortunately, I had used up most of my icing before I got around to decorating these cakes so I had to come up with a decorating solution that used only what I had left. I think that they still look OK.

OOPS! Not enough icing to cover it

OOPS! Not enough icing to cover it

A cake for our son Gregor

A cake for our son Gregor

And one for our lovely daughter Isla!

And one for our lovely daughter Isla!

I hope to get back to making regular posts in the New Year!

Graduation!

Earlier this month, my family and I visited Oxford for Isla’s graduation ceremony. We were lucky to have good weather and it was an emotional day – it was lovely to see my daughter all grown up and stepping into the next stage of her life. I’ve included some of my favourite photos of the day below. Oxford Graduation Isla in her gown and hood, walking across Wadham College quad with Alex.Oxford GraduationLunch in Wadham College hall, Isla and Greg kept each other amused!Oxford Graduation The Graduation Ceremony at the Sheldonian Theatre. Oxford Graduation The family all together after the ceremony (my son in formal wear…)Oxford Graduation Oxford GraduationOxford Graduation

Back to business!

Hello everyone!

Sorry for being a stranger – the months seem to have gotten away from me. I’m going to try to get back into good habits and update this blog more often, with help from my daughter, Isla. I’ve got lots to catch up on and share over the next few posts, including an exhibition at the Bristol Guild Gallery, visits to museums and the Eden Project, some textile experiments, and Isla’s graduation from Oxford!

To start off, here’s a sneak preview of the piece I made for the Bristol Guild Gallery exhibition, earlier this summer – stay tuned for more!

'Suspension.' Detail.

‘Suspension.’ Detail.

Crackington Haven

The rocky little cove known as Crackington Haven is the nearest spot on the North Cornwall coast to my home. Alex and I paid a visit to this delightful spot a week or so ago to watch the sun go down.

This area of the coast is notable for the dramatic twists and distortions of the rock strata. These rocks are, in fact, known to geologists as the “Crackington Formation” and were originally sediments laid down on an ancient ocean bed before being roasted, folded and overturned in the much later volcanic event that gave Cornwall its granite core. It is the erosion of these rocks that gives this coast its spectacularly rugged look.

Here are a few of our photos.

The little cove of Crackington Haven is much loved by tourists

The little cove of Crackington Haven is much loved by tourists

The cliff with its jumbled strata, lit with the evening sun

The cliff with its jumbled strata, lit with the evening sun

The twisted layers of rock are clearly visible in this shot

The twisted layers of rock are clearly visible in this shot

A sunny but very cold evening in North Cornwall

A sunny but very cold evening in North Cornwall

The eroded rocks of Crackington

The eroded rocks of Crackington

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There is a narrow band of water suitable for surfing between the bands of rock reaching into the sea

There is a narrow area of water suitable for surfing between the bands of rock reaching into the sea

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Lichen growing just above the high tide level

Lichen growing just above the high tide level

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After sunset

After sunset

Winter Walks

There is not too much happening at this time of year but it is nice to take a walk when the weather clears up a bit. The local landscape where I live is not spectacular but I love it right now, the grass is very green, the branches on the bare trees are so intricate and the fine twigs look almost like mist from a distance. Here are a few photographs taken on recent walks near my home:
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Stormy Sunset

There are many official dates that mark out the passing year but one of my favourite personal markers of the coming spring is the first day I can drive home without using my lights. Yesterday the horrendously wet weather we have been having took a little break and I found myself driving in beautiful sunshine.

A brilliant sunset but this photo does not show the howling wind!

A brilliant sunset but this photo does not show the howling wind!

After picking up my husband Alex at home, we drove to the beach to see this recently very unfamiliar sun set below the sea. It was a very windy day and the air was full of sea spray but the light was beautiful. The wind was stacking the waves up so high, they seemed to tower over the beach and the water at some moments looked almost solid.

A shot taken along the beach shows the air full of spray

A shot taken along the beach shows the air full of spray

I got busy with my camera and got some nice shots despite the howling wind freezing my fingers and having to fight to avoid being blown over. I ended with wet frozen feet too because my wellington boots were leaking and I was caught by a few fast moving waves.

The waves were towering over the beach

The waves were towering over the beach

We stayed until the sun sank below the horizon, then, as the sky darkened we decided it was a special day – to be marked with takeaway fish and chips rather than the healthy dinner waiting for us at home!

All too soon, the sun was gone!

All too soon, the sun was gone!

Cold Weather Clearout

A snowy day in North Cornwall

A snowy day in North Cornwall

You may have noticed I have not been active on this blog for a while. A cold, miserable January has never been my favourite time of year, or my most productive. This year I decided to put all my efforts into carry out my New Year’s resolution – to de-clutter my life.

If you live in the same house for over 20 years you accumulate a lot of things; if you are by instinct a hoarder (in a family of hoarders and collectors!), things can become ridiculous. Now that our children have grown up and left home our house should be far too large, yet every space seems to be packed full of stuff.

I took a hard look in my wardrobes and found clothing that stretched back twenty-odd years. Some things had not been worn in all that time but I always planned to find a way to remake or reuse them. This type of recycling is something I was brought up with but I have now come to realise that I will never find a use for everything in a couple of lifetimes.

Our children may have left but I still seem to have rooms full of their belongings, with great piles of children’s books, toys, games and knick-knacks that I have found it hard to sort through and dispose of.

Books are a real problem too; every member of the family collects books and this Christmas brought a few more; yet we have far too many to give them all shelf space and that means making hard decisions about which ones are no longer wanted.

The last and perhaps the biggest problem is all the fabric, dyes, paints and many other materials I have amassed to support my creative work. It is the source of my work and I never quite know what I will want to use next but I again I have more than enough for several creative lifetimes.

These hedges show where the wind comes from!

These hedge trees show where the wind comes from!

So how am I doing? Well it is still a work in progress but I now have sorted many sacks of rubbish and even bigger quantities for the recycling collection; the local charity shops have already received some new stock and are set to get more, while I have a growing list of items that are headed for eBay. I am not sure I will ever really change my habits and learn to shun possessions but at least I should have some space free for a while.

I must now try very hard to remember the Taoist message that we enter the world with nothing and that possessions are just baggage that ties us down.

Our hamlet in the snow

Our hamlet in the snow

Decorating Christmas Cakes For Gifts

This year I made and decorated small Xmas cakes to give as gifts. Rather than the marzipan and fruit decoration I used last year, I went back to using icing to make the flowers and leaves for this year.

Here are a few photographs showing how I did the decoration.

A finished cake

A finished cake

Levelling the top of a cake using marzipan

Levelling the top of a cake using marzipan

My first step was to level the uneven tops of my cakes using a little apricot jam and small pieces of marzipan.

Cake coated with marzipan

Cake coated with marzipan

Next, a layer of marzipan was added over the whole cake.

Cake after icing

Cake after icing

The marzipan was followed by a nice smooth coat of icing.

Basic flower shape cut out of icing

Basic flower shape cut out of icing

Using a suitable cutter I cut basic flower shapes from thinly rolled icing. To prevent sticking I make liberal use of cornflower.

Re-shaping flower

Re-shaping flower

I added some 3-dimensional form with the aid of a toothpick.

Adding colour to the flower

Adding colour to the flower

I have both liquid and powder forms of cake decorator’s colours. Here I used a little of the powder type to colour the flowers.

Creating the final flower shape using foil

Creating the final flower form using foil

The final form of the flowers was set by placing the soft icing shapes into a pre-shaped bed of kitchen foil. The flowers were then allowed to stiffen before adding them to the cake.

Making flat leaf shapes

Making flat leaf shapes

Flat shapes such as leaves are much quicker and simpler to make.

Adding all the individual parts

Adding all the individual parts to the cake

When all the pieces are ready they are attached to the cake using drops of icing.

Another finished example!

Another finished example!

With a little dusting of icing sugar to provide a “snow effect”, the cake is complete.

This may seem like a lot of work but I found that it did not take too long provided I stuck to variations on a simple theme and did not get sucked in to exploring design possibilities!

Technical note: I made my own gelatin icing for decorating these cakes. This is probably a little easier to form 3-D shapes with but regular fondant icing could also be used.

Merry Christmas

Hi everyone,

I would like to apologise for the lack of new posts here in the run up to Xmas. We will try to get back to normal in the New Year.

Merry Christmas from Cornwall.

Wishing everyone a safe, happy and prosperous 2013.

All the best

Wai-Yuk and Alex

A recently completed textile brooch

A recently completed textile brooch

Cornish Sunrise

The recent cold dry weather has brought the return of some spectacular sunrises in North Cornwall where I live. Here are a few new pictures on an old theme of mine.

Click on the images to view full size

A painted sky

A painted sky

Morning mist

Morning mist

A gentle dawn

A gentle dawn

Cold morning

Cold morning

Behind the hedge

Behind the hedge

Painted sky with frozen pond

Painted sky with frozen pond

Clouds over Dartmoor

Clouds over Dartmoor

Hard frost

Hard frost

Frozen pond

Frozen pond

Breathtaking!

Breathtaking!