Monthly Archives: November 2011

It’s beginning to look a lot like a Black Bough Christmas Card

The ancient craft of kitchen table screen printing and dining table machine stitching has been resurrected by Black Bough HQ.

I think a printed envelope is a particularly nice thing and can’t understand why it is so rarely done; back when I organised Open Studios at Great Western Studios, one of my favourite years was the one that I got Jo Ratcliffe to design a print for the envelopes. Ok, it involved many a frustrating hour standing in front of the printer feeding C5 envelopes into its clutches, but to me . . . it was worth it.

Black Bough Christmas cards available now in store and on-line. Card and paper 100% recycled stock from the lovely Paperback. blank inside



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Quiz report

Sian, Alex and I have taken part in the Queen’s monthly pub quiz for the past 15ish months. Other people have joined our team; Dan was a founder member but then he moved to Shrewsbury, Sian’s cousin has joined us on occasion and we have recently recruited John and Adam. There are serious gaps in our knowledge – mainly sport . . . . none of us being particularly up on football, and our policy of answering football questions with Aston Villa as a stock answer doesn’t always work out. Last month Sian wrote a brilliant report on the quiz exploits – you can read it here – the monthly report falls on my shoulders this time.

Firstly there are constants with our quiz team; someone, usually Sian and myself bring sweets. This month the tally included milk chocolate buttons, white chocolate buttons, dolly mixtures and Kinder Surprise eggs. I think the thinking is partly to sweeten the quiz mistress, but also to keep our sugar levels well and truly sky high. The baton of writing down our answers gets passed between us but sometimes the answer sheets are wrestled away from those people (I’m not naming names) who don’t spell things properly. There’s also lots of tangential thinking – none of which helps with the quiz. Gems from this week include “Dawn French has been dating”, Qu. “Which beetle was regarded as divine by the Ancient Egyptians?” Ans: “George Harrison” Qu. “Who invented the bouncing bomb?” Ans: “Mr Bouncing”, “Are you familiar with a dartsboard?”. There was also a discussion prompted by a question on the nationality of Gloria Estefan of other popstars that have been involved in tour bus crashes (Bucks Fizz) – from which we ended up commenting on Simon Le Bon’s capsized yacht (Drum) and Brian Harvey managing to run over his own leg. Sian’s gift of Kinder eggs also threw up a statuette of 2 seals – who could be described as amorous, which prompted a slew of captions to go alongside none of which can be recounted here. Someone who we knew turned up at the bar in a Cyberdog t-shirt – cue mirth from my corner and bemused looks from the others – Sian now understands as I sent her a link to the Cyberdog shop. Sian has already described the interval sandwiches on her blog – suffice to say they appeared again, were duly opened and turned into paprika crisp, cheese and onion sandwiches and Sian and I recoiled in horror. A standard monthly quiz. We never win, we’re always mid table. This month we had 1 disastrous round but the others were pretty good – we named 9 of 10 English counties on a map (Greater Manchester being our downfall, despite all of us knowing that we were looking for the county in which Manchester sits), we knew the latin for blackcurrant, we knew Barry Manilow’s birth name and we knew the metric equivalent of 1.7598 pints.


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Damp underfoot

The sunlight on the garden

Hardens and grows cold,

We cannot cage the minute

Within its nets of gold;

When all is told

We cannot beg for pardon.

Louis MacNeice


I particularly like that deceptive light that comes from the fall of light coloured leaves on to the ground. Last week I went for a rather soggy walk straight out from my house, up a hill and then back down through some woodland. The bleached yellow leaves on the ground in the woodland made for the strange sensation of there being almost no tonal difference between what was above and what was below foot, like a jaundiced version of walking through snow with grey skies. It’s a fleeting moment. Yesterday I reclaimed the grass in our front garden from the carpeting of fallen birch leaves. I think there’s probably enough leaves still on the tree to mean that I have one more of these jobs to do before winter proper.


Filed under Books, Gardening

Stir up Sunday – the cake version

Traditionally stir up Sunday is the last Sunday before Advent, and I think only applies to Christmas pudding. Autumn term half-term was always the marker when I was growing up for the cake to be made; these days I think it depends on whim. The whim struck last week.

I’ve learnt, at the knee of Nigel Slater (figuratively, not literally) not to be relatively relaxed about the dried fruits. He gives a general quantity for combined weight of currants, sultanas etc and another combined weight for other dried fruit. I don’t see the point in currants (maybe an consequence of having a pet rabbit) so a combination of sultanas, raisins and cranberries went in my cake together with apricots, fig and dried pear (we’ll see how the last of these works out, they are off script and untested). The occasional feed of something boozy will now happen and undoubtedly I will leave a decision about icing and marzipan until the last moment. The basic recipe I used is the one in the Kitchen Diaries, which is a smaller version of the one in Appetite. May I also recommend the Silverwood multi size cake tin; it basically gives you free rein to make whatever size square cake, or indeed multiple separate cakes that you desire.



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Filed under Cooking, Food