Friday, 29 October 2010

Where The Winding Road Takes Us.

Before the rains came, on a sunny autumn day, a Wednesday, we took a walk in a garden by a river. A beautiful garden in a magic valley. And we found the remains of a pumpkin patch, a decimated wildness of creeping green and the last of the bees, of trees like a golden splendour, where the sadness of leaves has blown the last breath of summer away, a cold frost that nips and bites and scolds.

And as we exclaim over Judith's 'grandmother' pumpkins all puckered and gathered like weathered dames, our voices meet the wind, tussle and dance away in the air above. And we ooh and aah over the most perfect shade of grey-blue ever seen, so perfectly flattered by this, it's dandy orange neighbour!

And there inside, in the quiet lull of the wind, we can almost hear the murmur of sweet pumpkin voices as they nod to one another, this way and that, and grumble of cold and damp and frosty nights.

So the rains come, and the weekend has arrived. And the little children have counted the days, gathered their costumes, made their plans. And we have colcannon and barm brack to look forward to, with treasure hidden inside. What will you be doing?

Happy weekend to you all!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Blackberry Crimes and Dandelion Songs.

I thought I would share something a little bit different with you here this evening.
I used to have another blog that I shared with a friend, a blog that fell by the wayside quite some time ago, but one that had some lovely things on it. So I have decided over the next few months to share some seasonal posts from it with you here. I hope you like them.

But first, a little about the blog:
"We are two mothers who want our children to know what childhood was like. Before Nintendos, before computers. Before fear of freedom. What it was like for us, and for our mothers, and their mothers. We want them to know adventure, to know play, to know the world. And not the controlled, organised world that modern mothers seem to think they are tied to, but the real, natural world that is here on our doorstep. Come and join us on an adventure in childhood."

This first post is one that I expect will resonate with some of you. And I would dearly love to hear similar tales of what sort of games you played as a child!
Autumn has come around again, and it's time for 'Conkers'! This is a game that has been around for generations and is very simple and satisfying to play. 
First of all, unless you are lucky enough to have a horse-chestnut tree in your garden, a walk in the woodlands is essential. So on a crisp morning off we go hunting in the woods.

You'll often find the biggest and best chestnuts are the ones still in the shells.

If you do find one, standing on it is usually enough to open it and you can peel it back to uncover the shiny treasure inside.

We usually fill a bag or basket as there are lots of other things you can do with them, as we will show you later.

When you get home, the first thing to do is to bore a hole through the fresh chestnut or conker. Please make sure an adult does this bit! It needs to be a fresh one as a seasoned one would be very difficult.

Then if you have an old shoe-lace, or if not, a piece of string, about half a metre long, on a darning needle, you can thread it through. Again, best if an adult does this bit.

Tie a knot at one end and wrap about half of the string around your hand, with the conker hanging at the end.

The idea of the game is to smash as many conkers as possible. Your opponent holds out his piece of string on which he has his conker. To get a good hard hit, hold the string in your strong hand and pull it out tight, holding the conker between two fingers. Take aim, then take a shot at hitting it off your opponents conker.

You can take turns, or allow three tries each before swapping over, playing until one of them is smashed or disintegrates. If you manage to smash his with your own then your chestnut is called a conker (conqueror). Although over the years, all chestnuts have become known as conkers!

Traditionally, there were little rhymes you would say, for example, if you want to get the first hit when you see your friend with his conker you would say,
"Hick, hack,first crack!"
"Obbly, obbly, onker, my first conker!"

You would also give your winning conker a name which depended on how many other conkers it had destroyed. For example a 'Twoer', or a 'Fiver' adding them up as you beat each one. And a real winner would often be held over until the following year, when it was well seasoned and would beat all, hands down!

But best of all, conkers make the most lovely of Autumn wreaths!

Saturday, 23 October 2010

A Recipe And A Little Bit Of Irish Tradition.

As today is the first day of the Mid-Term Break, we are getting into the swing of Halloween. Last year was a complete non-event as we'd had a week of sickly children and an exhausted Mama, and nothing got done in preparation. So this year we have a lot to make up for!

So first I want to share this recipe with you that I first posted here two years ago. If you like fruit bread then I promise you will love this. The tea makes it incredibly moist and it is dense with juicy fruit.
(I have yet to take the time to find a way of making this gluten-free but maybe someday...)

Barm Brack, or Bara Brith in Wales, means Speckled Bread, and is basically a Tea Brack. It is a traditional fruit cake, somewhere between bread and cake, that is eaten at Halloween, and as children, we were enticed to eat it because of the money and the ring that were hidden inside it! Whoever finds the ring will be the first to marry.

You will find recipes that use yeast but bread soda would have been more traditional. This recipe uses baking powder. It also has the addition of lemon and orange zest which would not have been traditional.

As well as the ring for marriage it would also have had: (all wrapped in greaseproof paper)
a coin for wealth
a small piece of cloth for poverty
a pea for plenty
a thimble for a spinster
a button for a bachelor
a matchstick to beat your husband/wife (imagine!!!)

You can guess why most of these have fallen by the wayside...


12oz mixed fruit like raisins and sultanas.
6oz fructose or coconut sugar.
300ml hot, strong tea.
Zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange.
5oz brown flour, 
4oz white flour, (I use spelt for both)
1 and a quarter tsp baking powder
1 medium egg.

Pour the hot tea over the fruit and sugar and leave over night in the fridge.

The next day stir in the zest.

In a large bowl mix the flours and baking powder, and then add the fruit and the soaking liquid.
Stir in the egg and mix it well.

Turn it into a lined and greased loaf tin, level the surface, and bake it for about an hour and a half at 150c.

I'm lucky I got to photograph this before it was all eaten! Hence the dodgy quality of this pic. It's best eaten thickly sliced with real butter and a big mug of tea. 
Now there's one of my favourite combinations ever. Yum...!

It's also good enough to throw into a round cake tin and present it as cake. I make a thin glaze of icing sugar and enough milk to make a slightly runny icing, and if you have it, a drop of orange essence. 

I'd love to hear what you think if you get a chance to try this! 

Friday, 22 October 2010

A Friday of Another Sort.

It's Friday. A most lovely Autumn day. The fire is lit. The house is quiet. I sit at my kitchen table, the ticking clock, the pot of tea, the purring cat. And I'm thinking I might do some baking.

But first, some blogging.

Has anyone else been having problems uploading images to blogger? I've been trying for three days now and still no joy. Just when we were back online too!
So, for the first time ever, I think, a Milkmoon post without images... It feels very strange.

I just wanted to let you all know I haven't disappeared again, and I do have something nice to share with you.
I was asked to do another guest post, this time over on Charlie and Caroline Gladstone's blog. You can read it here. They run Pedlars, my very favourite online shop (for those of us not lucky enough to live near one of their shops), as I wrote about here. Do take a wander around their shop and I promise you will find something that you will love!

They asked me to write about music. And I didn't know where to start, so I started at the beginning. And then I didn't know where to stop. So it's quite...comprehensive! And as is my usual, it has a good dose of nostalgia in it.
I hope you like it! And do say hello to them. They are a modern wonder and I do believe, a modern fairytale.

So here's to a most special Friday. We have no school for nine days, so plenty of time for lazing and hanging out together, and getting through my lengthy to-do list.

Roll on Halloween!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

A Hiatus Of A Most Aggravating Kind.

For more than a week we have been cut off from the world. That most useful creature we call The Internet broke it's tether and wandered off over the mountain. All week we stood gazing at the mountains, hand shading our eyes, phone to our ear as we grew increasingly exasperated with shower of blackguards who are happy to take our money every month and then fall asleep on their watch. (Picture me standing on our rooftop, swinging my lasso, hoping I make purchase this time. Every day this week...*sigh*)
But now it has returned, though I believe it has had an unhappy time, for it is sluggish and sleepy and most infuriatingly uncooperative. Oh! how my blood has been set boiling this morning!

But moving swiftly on to more pleasant things. We had a most lovely week otherwise, and it is amazing just how much got done around the house this week! Here's some pics of what we've been up to, but first, the winner of the giveaway is Rebecca S! Rebecca, email me!

Autumn Bounty!

Little friends.
Off down the lane to the sea.

Chasing waves.


Autumn is here!

The quiet reverie that a weekend morning brings.

In my kitchen.

An evening of stitches of one kind or another.

Sandymount Strand.

Evening's End.

And so, normal service has resumed. If you like, take a peek here, At My Back Door for a taste of what Autumnal splendor our view brought us this week.

Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Happy Birthday Milkmoon.

Nectarines at the end of summer that wasn't. Where is the autumn?
Today we are three!

Above is my first ever blogpost on this place that has become such a part of our lives here in the Milkmoon household. Never would I have guessed where it would have taken me, or the people I would have met.

You dear readers!

And I am delighted to be sharing this happy day with a very dear blogger friend, Gigi of The Magpies Fancy, who has asked me to take part in a wonderful series of guest posts entitled 'Legacy', and my day is today, by coincidence! So at some stage today, if you tootle on over to her most gorgeous and inspiring blog you can read my musings on the subject, and while you are there do take a wander back through her posts, and I think you will agree it is a warm, inviting place to visit, like a sunny windowsill lined with books and gorgeous photos and filled with the best sort of conversation.

So, as it is a birthday here, there simply has to be a give-away! Just leave a comment here and at the end of the week, Sunday to be exact, I will draw a name out of a hat. I have been compiling a couple of folders of photos I plan to print very soon, both from Milkmoon, and from A Year At My Back Door, and the winner is welcome to choose one, any one, they like.

So a sunny, Happy Wednesday to you all, and today's music 

Monday, 4 October 2010

Through The Keyhole.

What the smallest scallywags get up to at a party when you are not looking.

It rained.

But the children didn't care.


A little Sparrow on our doorstep.
We are all recovered somewhat. As always, the ten days that my man was away it was a litany of minor illnesses and disasters. Minor ones but disasters all the same. The worst of it being the Smallest and his cousin (who lives next door now) aka the scallywags, thinking it would be great fun to see how many toilet rolls would fit in the toilet. Six apparently. Yes. And an unpleasant head cold that made it's way through all of us to varying degrees.
But as I said, we survived. And had a lovely weekend with a certain someone turning seven, a birthday party in the rain, and on Sunday a family visit. I also got to see a dear friend who lives too, too far away. And a dear friend who couldn't live closer, and has this, the view of the sea from her house that we don't. I'll be spending a lot of time sitting at this next door window from now on, I think!

Sunday morning. The best things on my doorstep.
A beautiful view, a great friend, and coffee!

And so it is Monday morning, and life is back to normal. The sun is shining in a cool autumnal way, and the week spreads out before us, full of promise and potential.

Happy week-to-come! I hope you have something wonderful ahead!

Friday, 1 October 2010

The Best Thing.

In Your Studio When You Were Gone.

He has returned to us, and now lies sleeping.

The weekend.  A little birthday.  Family. Perfect.

Happy Weekend to you Dear Readers.