Sugar Block Club, Stitchery Dickory Dock, February – Log Cabin.

When February’s block of the month from the Sugar Block Club dropped into my email I knew I would have to get a wriggle on as hubby was just about to retire and my time would no longer be my own.  But then domesticity and days out got in the way and there I was cutting and sewing two hours before his arrival.  Thankfully it was an easy block to put together and not the treacherous triangles of the previous month and I was able to complete the block and tidy up before he arrived. Sugar Block Club February 1

All cut out ready to sew.  I lengthened the longest white strips by 1/8th of an inch as there had been some comments about them being a tad too short, they were only just long enough even then, perhaps I need to practise my 1/4″ seams.Sugar Block Club February 2

Four corners done and dusted. Sugar Block Club February 3

One modern take of a Log Cabin block, finished. Sugar Block Club February 4

Arty shot, just because. Sugar Block Club February 5

And next to January’s block, they look quite cute together.

Chinese New Year of the Monkey.

Last Sunday hubby and I trotted into Chinatown to welcome in the Chinese New Year of the Monkey.   It was lovely to see the new Chinese gate, the largest of its kind in the UK. It was made in Bejing by architects and artisans and is in the style from the Ching Dynasty with three tiers and two pillars. The gate is made from oak and red pine, white jade and glazed yellow tiles for the roof and embellished with gold leaf.

The parade was just lovely, loud and very colourful, exactly what we had hoped for. After watching the parade we walked to Trafalgar Square but couldn’t get anywhere near the dancers, it was rammed, maybe next year we will go early and watch that.  Here are just a few of the photos of the day. Chinese New Year 1 Chinese New Year 2 Chinese New Year 3 Chinese New Year 4 Chinese New Year 5 Chinese New Year 6 Chinese New Year 7 Chinese New Year 8 Chinese New Year 9 Chinese New Year 10 Chinese New Year 11 Chinese New Year 12 Chinese New Year 13 Chinese New Year 14 Chinese New Year 15 Chinese New Year 16 Chinese New Year 17

Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds.

When hubby and I saw Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds advertised as a musical with Jeff Wayne conducting, our faces lit up.  I have loved War of the Worlds since 1978 when I was 12 and its wonderful music came drifting out of my older brothers bedroom almost constantly for the next 2 years. I adored hearing it on a Sunday morning as I was snuggled up under my duvet, bright sunshine streaming through the curtains listening to the wonder that is War of the Worlds, almost indefinable, never once heard forgotten.

So as you can imagine, to see War of the Worlds musical with Jeff Wayne conducting, well that was a once in a lifetime opportunity and we were both giddy with excitement.War of the Worlds 1

We trotted off to the Dominion Theatre, handily placed directly opposite Tottenham Court Road underground.war of the worlds 2

And took our seats.

We absolutely adored the show.  The show starts with Jeff Wayne conducting an impressive and beautifully positioned orchestra at the back of the stage, his passion and energy truly evident, sending a shiver of excitement and delight through me. It certainly set the scene for a highly enjoyable evening. There were powerful visual scenes, notably with a walking twelve foot high martian, dynamic pyrotechnics, highly skilled musicians all brought to life with dancers (the red weed was extremely good) and wonderful singing. There are a few tiny flaws, occasionally it was difficult to hear the narration, but that didn’t take away from the raw splendor of the evening. Hubby and I absolutely adored it and think it is the best musical we have ever seen. The standing ovation at the end when Jeff Wayne came forward for his bow just illustrated that we were not the only ones to think like this. It was magnificent.

On at the Dominion Theatre until 30th April.

Play it loud.

Sugar Block Club – Stitchery Dickory Dock. January, Churn Dash.

I came across the Sugar Block Club whilst reading Space for the Butterflies, Carie and I being old friends who when given half a chance love to knit and quilt together. Carie had found this new adventure and I am ashamed to admit that I jumped straight in.  I did try to resist but the lure was far too strong.  Carie’s photography and tale telling skills is one of the reasons why I have a Lizard ridge blanket in my home, but I have got my own back at times, she posses a Christmas tree skirt after my emailing to see if she fancied learning how to make one and I am really not sure who led who to do the block a month at the Quilters Den in Warwick.  Carie finished hers,  mine’s still in bits, somewhere.

So when she put her lovely photography up, I was like, Oooooohhhhh.  (does this translate to the written word?) And in the blink of an eye I just happened to be visiting John Lewis, just to look over the last of the fabric, quilting cottons, winter sales…  Just a little peek.     Quilt

And there was just one corner, a little corner, which just happened to have all these fabrics at half price, and they were all in my colour palette.  I took it as a sign…

I must say I don’t know anything about Stitchery Dickory Dock but it is a delightful site, the instructions are crystal clear and it is a real pleasure to find a block of the month quilt that is FREE.  I find that just wonderful.

Onto the block, I put a new blade into  my rotary cutter and blew the dust off my 1/4” foot, set up my ironing board and iron and set to work. Quilt 1

And soon I had this. Quilt 2

And then with careful sewing and much pressing I had these pieces, Quilt 3

which were then sewn into this.  Quilt 4

Don’t look too carefully, my corners are so well out.  I haven’t done fine piece quilting like this for a long time, its going to take a while to learn the techniques again.  But I did so enjoy it.  I learn’t a new way to make flying geese which was very amusing and made me giggle out loud when I saw how it went together. When I finished and gave the piece its final press, I was in my happy, happy place and all was well with my world.  And I can’t ask for more than that.

Instant Pot – How to cook a whole chicken.

I thought I would give this a go and it turned out really well. Instant pot chicken 1

First I lightly browned the chicken on both sides in the instant pot using the saute function, added two medium glasses of water, carrots, then I sprinkled salt, freshly cracked pepper and oregano on the chicken.  Next I clamped on the lid, made sure it wasn’t venting, hit the poultry button and adjusted it to 35 minutes., making sure it was on high and walked away. Instant pot chicken 2

Ta Daaa…  I let it naturally vent for 15 minutes before manually venting, it apparently keeps the meat more tender if you do this. Instant pot chicken 3

One chicken, no fuss and the meat was falling off the bone and was soft tender and juicy.

Next, I allowed the chicken to cool off so that I could strip the meat off the bones, then put the bones back in the Instant Pot, and added lots more water and set it manually on pressure cooking, high for an hour and a half.  It made absolutely fantastic stock without the hassle of steaming up the kitchen and it also meant I got two jobs done in one and I only had to wash up the Instant Pot once.  I went to bed, the chicken was stripped ready for use in the fridge, the stock was in the freezer and jobs that normally take two days were done. Brilliant.

Instant Pot – Beef Stew

In preparation for our retirement it got me to thinking about cooking.  Food is never far from my mind as all my friends and waistline will testify, but this time I wanted to put a more serious edge to my thinking.  I wanted to come up with a plan that would allow me to spend time in the kitchen cooking nutritious foods – on a budget, but not give that much time that it would eat into the day where we could be doing other things.   Whilst cooking yet another batch of chick peas that were refusing to soften, I for the sixteenth hundred and twenty fifth time during my marriage swore that I needed a pressure cooker.  And after twenty seven years I thought blow it, I’m getting one.  So then I started the research and found much to my delight that there was a new gadget about town, an electric pressure cooker.  Wow. So then I started to research those and after much peering at websites, calculating costs versus quality and versatility I decided to go with… Instant Pot 1

The Instant Pot.  A seven in one miraculous invention that needs no attending, no turning up of hobs or turning down of hobs or looking at gauges rattling around on the top, you simply press a few buttons and it does it all for you.

Well what does it do?  It does everything!  Pressure cooking, slow cooking, yoghurt making, rice cooking, steaming, its a warmer and you can use it as a frying pan to brown your meat.  A one pot wonder indeed.

When I first got it I made a pasta dish, which involved simply throwing in vegetables and pasta and water and setting it for ten minutes and it came out really well.  There is a big community on face book, utube and on the internet and if I was thinking about buying shares in one company this would be it. It has a stainless steel inner lining which means its dishwasher proof, (although not the lid)  many of the others I looked at had non stick liners and we all know as experienced housewife’s what that means…  People are making cakes and lasagnas and curries etc, it looks really promising.

So last weekend I decided to make a beef stew. Instant Pot 2

And I assembled my ingredients. Beef, carrots, onion, swede, garlic, mustard, tomato puree, Worcester sauce and chicken stock, plus salt and pepper and a couple of tablespoons of flour.

I fried off my beef in batches using the saute button adjusted to high,  then made a roux sauce in the left over fat with the flour and a little chicken stock, adding the aromatics, Worcester sauce, mustard, garlic and tomato puree, salt and pepper to make sure they all were evenly dispersed.  Added the rest of the chicken stock, the liquid level then came up to 4 cups.  Which is much lower than you would normally make a stew but the liquids don’t disappear like the do in an oven baked casserole and it would become too much like a soup if you added the normal amount. Then I added the meat back in on the bottom, followed by the carrots and swede, onion and potatoes on the top.Instant Pot 3

And we are just up to the maximum the pot can hold. Then I put the lid on and made sure it was not venting and hit the meat stew button, which is thirty five minutes, you can adjust that for more or less time, but I didn’t. The pot then comes up to pressure and then it cooks.  I was busy when it had finished and it will keep it on a keep warm cycle for ten hours!  It was keeping warm for thirty minutes before I opened it,  I let the pressure off and we had this.Instant Pot 4

See how much more liquid there is.  Oh the smell was divine. I greedily dished it out. Instant Pot 5

The potatoes were perfectly soft and fluffy, the meat was juicy and moist you could cut it with a spoon and the carrots and swede tender and succulent.  The flavour was off an old fashioned stew that had been burbling on a low heat for two hours, absolutely delicious.

Yep, I think we are going to enjoy this new toy.

(Recipe suitable for Instant Pot operating on 11.6 psi, if using a 15psi pressure cooker you might want to reduce the cooking time by 7 – 15 %)

Retired.

spitalfields 1Today, at approximately 1.30 p.m. Hubby retires.  At well over 70 years of age the boy has worked full time for all of his adult life. That is no mean feat and may we all applaud him. Even now it has taken six months of concentrated nagging to get him to down tools and I for one am very glad he has finally seen sense.  You’ll be glad to know that having at last made the decision he has breathed a sigh of relief and will be very glad that he doesn’t have to walk up that hill to work again, he actually counted the days down on that one.  Our intentions are to find him some hobbies  (help!) and to trot around London for the next couple of years.

Well done Hubby, you are amazing!

The London Stone.

The London Stone 1As you walk up Canon Street there isn’t much to see being right in the City of London, apart from a small stone cage containing for all intents and purposes a little piece of rock.  But you would be mistaken for thinking that this was an unimportant piece of rock as all our fortunes in London rest upon it.  Like the ravens in the Tower of London our fortunes are tied by superstitions and the survival of this stone. “So long as the stone of Brutus is safe, so long shall London flourish” says the proverb.  This relates back to the myth that this stone was part of an alter by Brutus the Trojan, the legendary founder of London.

Other theories abound, it was a Roman distance marker, part of a prehistoric standing stone, an important point in London leylines or part of an important Roman building of which it is known were on this site.  But one thing is for sure, we simply don’t know, its origins being lost in the midst of time. For me its true meaning is that for over nine hundred years it has been revered as the London Stone in a state of constancy in an ever changing world.  May we never find out its beginning for surely that would truly spell the end.