Tuesday, 31 January 2012

wassailing...



Have you heard of wassailing? It's the tradition of drinking and singing to the health of your fruit trees and is a very local custom where we live. This is an extract taken from the book 'England in Particular' by Sue Clifford and Angela King, Common Ground RRP. £30.

"The word 'Wassail' comes from the Anglo-Saxon waes-haeil - to be healthy, so wassailing apple trees was a way of encouraging a good crop in the following season. It usually took place after dark on Old Twelfth Night, 17 January, but could also occur on other days around Christmas and the New Year.

Often farm workers and villagers carrying lanterns, a pail and pitcher full of cider, shotguns and horns, walk to their local orchard, which is sometimes lit by bonfires, and gather around the largest or most prolific tree. This tree is known as the Apple Tree man and is feted as the guardian of the orchard. Cider or beer is poured on its roots and pieces of soaked toast or cake put in branches for the robins - guardians of the spirits of the trees. Often the tips of the lowest branches are drawn down and dipped into the pail of cider.

The wassailers fill their earthenware cups with cider and toss it into the branches. They then refill their cups and drink and sing to the tree. To drive away evil spirits and wake up the sleeping trees, cow horns are blown, trays and buckets beaten and shotguns fired into the upper branches - as much noise as possible is made.

The wassail bowl went round from house to house in the evenings during the Twelve Days of Christmas and often in the last days of Advent. A mixture of hot ale, sugar and roasted apples, sometimes with eggs and thick cream floating on it, was known as Lamb's Wool in Gloucestershire, and was also drunk on St Catherine's Day, 25th November. The bowl was made from turned ash or maple, often elaborately carved and kept for the purpose."


It's good fun and I would recommend that you take part if you ever get the chance! 

Monday, 30 January 2012

big families & beetroot brownies...


We had a really relaxed weekend and lovely Sunday lunch cooked for us by friends Nick and Savannah yesterday. I'm finding it really comforting to be surrounded by large families at the moment, as I have moments of self doubt at the prospect of being a good mother to three children. Savannah, who looks gorgeous all the time, had her third beautiful baby last November and casually cooked and served up Sunday roast for nine with the newest arrival contentedly snuggled inside a baby carrier! I'm sure things will be more hectic at chez Bradshaw with number three's arrival, and I will expect a round of applause when I get dressed in the morning, without even attempting cooking for nine! 

We took with us a batch of very chocolaty beetroot brownies, I've made these a few times before using this River Cottage Recipe, but this time followed a easier to make Riverford recipe, taken from their Riverford Farm Cook Book. The beetroot taste was far more subtle and they were very rich indeed, perfect warm with ice cream, cream or custard and definitely just for an occasional treat! 

Finally, I have found some cream that actually works on my horrible red itchy forehead, I don't know if it was the cold weather, eczema or pregnancy hormones but I had tried everything the last few weeks, eventually using Dr. Haushka's light rose day cream. It's very expensive but it worked in just a few days, so I thought I'd share my discovery with you in case you too were suffering from winter skin!  

Saturday, 28 January 2012

an ode to a bed...


The time has come to buy a new bed and I am really reluctant to do so! This bed was the first thing I bought with my wages from my first proper job, as I had always dreamed of owing a 'bedknobs and broomsticks' type iron bed. We could just replace the mattress, but what you can't see hidden behind the pillows, is where we had to saw the head bit in half so that we could fit it up the tight spiral staircase in our first house together, a tiny Cotswold cottage, that literally had one room, on top of the other, with a beautiful beamed bedroom tucked into the eaves. The bed now squeaks and bows so much that I'm sure it will collapse as it's just held together with a few bits of wooden doweling pushed into the hollow bars. 

It's not even that comfortable and after spending many long nights of sitting in bed in the small hours nursing a baby, having to get the pillows just right for that optimum position propped up between the bars. I am not really looking forward to doing that again and I don't think my back will take it either! 

I'm not sure why I'm so sentimental about a bed, or why I think it justifies a whole blog post? Can I blame pregnancy hormones? So today, I am going to order a very sensible divan bed, with large practical storage drawers in the base and a nice new firm mattress. Then all I need to do is find some big pillows and new bed linen so I can create a beautiful bedroom like those I have been pinning religiously over on Pinterest.

This bed will retire to the garage, as I'm not quite ready to say goodbye just yet! 

Sunday, 22 January 2012

nesting...


With baby number three on the way, I am beginning to nest and attempt to get things done (mainly by writing long lists and giving the Mr. lots of instructions!)

We still need to buy a few things, it's amazing how prepared you are with baby number one, but by number three I have only just started to think about tiny clothes that need to be pulled out of the attic and a pushchair that needs to be found (hopefully not rusty) in the garage. 

I have found some gorgeous baby things this week that I'm lusting after...

This gorgeous quilt for Poet by Maggie and Sparrow oh how I wish I could quilt! 

A beautiful pregnancy pic that has me thinking about having some pics taken, if I do I'm going to ask my friend Penny of McKinley-Rogers who is the most amazing photographer. 

and this handmade West Country willow moses basket, sustainably made and woven locally using traditional weaving skills. 

Saturday, 21 January 2012

alien invaders...


I always put bulbs in pots around the house at this time of year, it lifts those January blues away, don't you think? This pot has English bluebells in, much smaller and daintier than the more upright Spanish bluebells more often sold in garden centres. Buy the English bulbs for daffodils and bluebells if you have the choice as non-native varieties threaten our bluebell woodlands with cross pollination from 'alien invaders!'

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

this makes me very happy...


My photograph is the double page lead photo in an article in this months 'The Countryman' magazine. How amazing, I'm over the moon! You can see the original picture here on flickr the magazine isn't available online so you'll have to buy one to read the cover story by Simon King. 



Monday, 16 January 2012

crumpets and conversation...


Every year a migration happens, eight girls flock together for a retreat in a secret cottage deep in the Cotswold countryside. One flies in from California, another from just ten miles away, for a weekend filled with conversation and crumpets. 


I didn't think I would make it this year, what with all the blood pressure drama of last week and trying to rest. But living so near to the cottage I was able to make day visits and literally plonk myself from one sofa to another! 


Thank you SusannahJoSasMegLisaLeonie and Penny, I can't wait until next year! 

Monday, 9 January 2012

Winter light...


I think I love instagram as much as film photography *sharp intake of breath* did I say that out loud? I thought it would be a passing phase, but I'm still smitten. 

p.s. thank you for your lovely comments and tweets on my last blog post... my blood pressure still hasn't improved after a weekend on medication, so tomorrow I am off to have acupuncture as it's meant to be effective and I'll try anything right now! 

Friday, 6 January 2012

scary bananas...


the bump is huge, the baby is now bigger than a banana, and cause of much amusement to the little man, whose favourite game is to play 'listen to the baby' by resting his head on my stomach! 

I've had a horribly emotional day as my blood pressure has continued to rise to scary heights and I have spent more time being monitored in hospital, literally sat in a chair, having a blood pressure check every half an hour! I have to let go of my hope to birth in a small midwife led hospital and accept that things are out of my control, which is horrible. Also I am now on medication to get the blood pressure down and already suffering the side effects I was warned about. It also means a lot more scans, checks and seeing a consultant in a large hospital rather than my local midwife.

This has really caught me off guard, having had two previous pregnancies with no problems at all and it's still relatively early as I'm not quite in the third trimester. What was even worse today, was listening (whilst pretending not to, in that hospital waiting room type of way) to the other women in the room being admitted to hospital with pre-eclampsia, having not only high blood pressure, but other symptoms too and faced with the possibility of being there for weeks. They were told things like they would be given steroid injections to develop the baby's lungs on, in preparation for the likelihood that they might be born early! It's put the fear into me let me tell you, I can't think of anything worse than being away from my family.

I still planned to work for ten weeks too, I have so much to do there and at home in preparation, but I can't worry or be stressed for fear it raises my blood pressure even more!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

back to school baking...



We decided to try a new recipe so we have something yummy in our 'back to school/work' lunch boxes today, so we tried this recipe for cinnamon rolls, taken from here www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/country-cinnamon-rolls.html It was easy to make and the boys liked the 'rolling' bit of the process, we will definitely make them again. 

Cinnamon Rolls

Ingredients:

For the streusel filling:

  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbs. ground cinnamon
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter

For the rolls:

  • 4 1/2 to 5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour,
     plus more for sprinkling
  • 4 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup hot milk (125°F)
  • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into
     pieces, at room temperature, plus more
     for serving
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup raisins or dried currants, or 1/2 cup
     dried cranberries, soaked in hot water for
     10 minutes and drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. milk or half-and-half


Directions:

To make the streusel filling, in a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, granulated sugar and cinnamon. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in the butter until the mixture is the consistency of coarse crumbs. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

To make the rolls, in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 2 cups of the flour, the yeast, granulated sugar and salt. Add the hot milk and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the butter, eggs and 1/4 cup of the flour and beat for 1 minute. Switch to the dough hook. Beat in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Knead on low speed until soft, smooth and springy, about 5 minutes. Transfer to an oiled deep bowl and turn once to coat. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Roll out into a 14-by-10-inch rectangle. Sprinkle evenly with the streusel filling, leaving a 1-inch border along the long edges. Sprinkle with the raisins and pecans, pressing them in lightly to adhere. Beginning with the long end, roll up jelly-roll fashion; it will be bulky. Pinch the long seam to seal but leave both ends open. Using a serrated knife, gently cut the roll crosswise into pieces 1 1/2 inches thick. Arrange, cut sides down and rolls just touching, in the prepared pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until puffy, about 1 hour. Alternatively, cover with a double layer of plastic wrap and refrigerate to rise for 2 to 24 hours. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.

Preheat an oven to 375°F.

Brush the tops of the rolls with some of the milk. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush with the milk once more. Using a spatula, remove the rolls from the pan and place them, bottom side up, on wire racks. Let cool for 15 minutes, then invert the rolls onto a serving plate. Pull apart and server with butter.
Make 10 rolls.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Bread, by Beth Hensperger (Simon & Schuster, 2002).

Monday, 2 January 2012

year of the bump...

*difficult to play hide & seek with a rather large belly!*

I have put off thinking about the impending arrival of baby number three, but suddenly with the ritual of filling in my new 2012 calendar, the date seems really close! 

We've had a very relaxed two weeks off over the Christmas break, and as a result the 'bump' has grown quickly and I am definitely feeling very pregnant. Before Christmas my blood pressure went up very high, which was a bit of a blow as it's still very early and can be a sign of scary things to come like pre eclampsia, so I am being monitored closely and advised to not take on stressful tasks at work! So hopefully a few weeks of doing nothing but relaxing and eating will have brought it back down to a nice average figure. 

There is so much we need to do, baby things to buy, lists of names to make, beds to buy, a house full of clutter to sort through and tidy and a damp/mould problem on one wall of the house to get to the bottom of, before the baby is even allowed to arrive! I think I'll start with a cup of tea, a sit down and make a list!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

a warm welcome to the new year...


after a very late night welcoming in the new year, we've spent a very cosy day in front of the fire today and cooked a lovely roast dinner. 


a nice relaxing start to the new year! 




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