Apples and Autumn

This time of year is Harvest-festival time; Friday was Michaelmas.

According to British folklore, Michaelmas is the end of the blackberry season. An old story about how, when St Michael threw Satan out of heaven, Satan landed in a blackberry bush. Satan cursed the blackberries; he stamped, spat and urinated on them, thus making them unfit for consumption.

I was going to write about my first chocolate trip since July, which was to Haiti, with an 80% bar from Waitrose, but I can’t now remember how it tasted. Well, certainly. It had the bitterness of cacao; it melted smoothly on the tongue, and snapped cleanly. I don’t recall the underlying flavours. I’ll have to return.

Apples

So, instead, it’s apples. Home-grown, windfallen Bramleys. We went home at the beginning of September, and returned with about 25lbs of apples. They filled two and a half carriers. A few went bad and were thrown, but I stewed the rest. Had a crumble and Belgian hot lightening pie out of the first lot, with two extra servings set aside for freezing; another crumble and three more servings from the second lot.

Last year, we basically lived on apple cake and crumble for a month. This year, I’ve frozen it.

I tried something different for the second stewing. I found a recipe for Swedish apple cake, in the ScandiKitchen recipe book, which calls for apples stewed with butter, sugar and cinnamon. Swedish apple cake is one of the best apple cakes I know, so I thought I’d try stewing the apples in this manner. I already had a couple of servings of normal stewed apples, anyway.

I’m glad I’ve got three lots of spare cinnamon apples. So delicious. I’m saving one lot for my Christmas cake this year.

 

Love, Giraffes, and Belated Gifts

My current list of projects includes not only those which I have yet to finish, but those which I have yet to start. For gifts whose occasions are long since past.

I have a friend waiting on a birthday gift from last year. And her Christmas gift. And her birthday for this year. It’s lucky we’re old friends and she understands about delays.

My projects, therefore, are listed by time-sensitivity, starting with Late Gifts, which are then listed by Who Can Wait, rather than by the length of time they are delayed. Some people understand, others may but are not as close so probably ought to get things quicker. Like a wedding gift, fortunately only delayed by less than a month at this time. I’m still making, so it might be delayed by longer, although I’m working on GiraffesinLovethis first.

The giraffes were supposed to adorn the wedding-card, but I didn’t finish in time, so I adjusted my plans. Instead, once I’ve sorted out the detailing on the love-birds, I’ve decided to make them into a cushion cover with two cross-stitched panels. Patchwork it a bit, although I still have yet to rummage through my fabric chest to choose the backing colours. Something plain, not too pink, I think.

But at least one of these panels is now finished. Mind you, I haven’t really got much excuse for the birds not being done. I started it ages ago, long before the wedding, and got it to this point sometime in July, I think. Maybe early August. Ho hum. Such is life.

I’m still deciding quite how these panels will work. Diagonally, obviously, but I’m not sure which way, or which will be top and which bottom. Probably giraffes on the bottom. Probably.

I have, however, decided that the fastest way to get the crochet projects finished, of which I have two time-sensitive projects, will be to start carrying around my crochet bag and completing them during my lunch-hour at work, since it is actually an entire hour. Not sure how this will work with remembering which round I’m on; will give it a go and report back…

The New School Year

Oh it is nice that pretty much anytime you want to make a change there’s a New Year of some variety just around the corner to justify New Beginnings or what-have-you.

Of course, most of my changes tend to be necessitated by, ahem, long breaks in writing or posting anything. Life has got in the way; I have more than one unfinished craft project lying by the wayside, several chocolate ‘trips’ planned, and writing projects galore.

That all said, I also have ideas to revive and remould my wordy sort of blog. Not as books: I find writing reviews a bit forced. I’m a Yay or Nay sort of person, sometimes with good reason, usually none. I’m going to be changing how I write about books here, by the way.

As previously discovered, though, I have not the time in my life to maintain two blogs with many weekly posts. I seem barely to have the time for one blog with a thrice-weekly schedule. Certainly haven’t the time for that plus all the crafting required for a weekly craft post.

Instead, I have decided on a once-weekly post, with a loose schedule involving crafting (crochet and sewing), chocolate, and books.

Crafting will be as it always has been, with projects. Chocolate will be recipes and my chocolate ‘trips’ for single-origin bars. Books will be a monthly round-up of my reads, accompanied by a Yay or Nay.

We’ll see how this goes…

 

Rabbits, Blankets and Camping

Well, that was a longer break than anticipated! In the meantime, I’ve also scrapped an awful lot of what I had planned…which isn’t all that helpful, when you think about it.

However. I have managed to return to both cross stitch and crochet, though to none of my current or other planned projects.

Instead, I have started small, ish, and simple. A rabbit kit from a magazine, and a granny square baby blanket. Both just right for helping my brain make sense of the mess it has made in planning a 5-book series…

Bunny and blanket.jpg

Cream Tea

At this point in the camping proceedings, it is necessary to take a small break.

The generals are planned, the large issues ironed out: the time for the minutia has almost arrived. Before that, though,to prevent the scrambling of brains and confusions of the writer, a rest is required. Preferably accompanied by something good and wholesome to feed the little grey cells. Hard work, planning.

CreamTea.jpeg

Mark turned up at my campsite with scones, freshly made; clotted cream; and jam, raspberry. What better way to feed a brain than with cream tea!

I believe the earliest records of such a thing as a cream tea come from Tavistock Abbey, when the monks would provide their workers with fresh bread, cream and jam for mid afternoon. Scones are not, it has to be said, really a West Country delicacy. A split is more the thing for a proper cream tea. Or simply a crusty white bread roll. Nothing better.

Just remember: cream, then jam.

Camp NaNo Catch-Up: Gardeners and Architects

Apparently, there is a George RR Martin quotation out there about how writers are gardeners or architects.

Some writers have an idea and run with it; others have an idea and plan the story. Of course, as with all things, most people are not really one or the other, but a mix of both. Normally, I get about half way through the planning stage and then start writing and see where it takes me. I’ve never been very good at endings, though. I might be seeing things, but I suspect there’s a link between that and where I cease to plan…

It’s been an interesting time for me, this month, with my focus being on planning; every now and again I get the urge to just start writing, I have enough notes and plans, and anyway that part of the story won’t happen for ages, and by the time I get to that bit I’m stuck on, an answer should have presented itself. Right?

I’ve written before, with just an idea. It was a struggle. Especially when I got stuck, and all I had for inspiration was how the entire story was supposed to end. Not knowing how to get there – not really a good way to write, I found. Led to a lot of writer’s block. I don’t, yet, know if writing from a comprehensive plan is going to be any different – no doubt I shall meet with other problems causing the same effect – but I’m not going to know until I try. And the hope is that I’m going to be addressing the most major plot-holes in the planning stages, and not half way through the writing. Starting over is never fun.

CampNaNo

I find, with the planning, that I enjoy it more. It’s easier to see progress and to feel optimistic about the story. I’ve found a couple of things which help me. They might be simple; they’re the sort of things you already know, but kind of ignore.

The first is good old pen and paper. I carry my notebook around, and write on any old scrap of paper to hand. Ideas, plot-points, problems, they’re all ticking away at the back of my brain, figuring themselves out. My brain is always half away with the fairies.

The second is my desk. Or, if I decide to work on the sofa, my table-top ironing board, which makes an excellent substitute. And means that it finally has a purpose, since I think life’s generally too short for ironing.

How do you write? Are you a gardener or an architect?

Learning About Time

Unfinished projects are the bane of my life. Not just crafting projects, of which I have, um, more than enough, but writing projects, life projects, development projects: basically, anything which demands of my time; anything which requires energy in the planning, and then in the doing. Anything which takes longer than, well, my attention span. I mean, how long is a piece of string?

Some projects can keep my attention and energy for months (I’m also looking at a writing project which will take years, and so far *touch wood*, I am not filled with dread); others maybe half an hour. Of course, things like bills also demand attention, and far more persistently than most of my projects, rather like a small, screaming toddler, which cuts into the project-time.

Love-Birds1.jpg

However, I have learned that half an hour, here and there, can get any project done. Perhaps not immediately, but just half an hour a day, or even ten minutes, and it’ll be done sooner than you think. Certainly sooner than if you wait for an entire afternoon, or day, or week, or however long you think the project will take.

Of course, the trick with a stitching project worked in this fashion is simple: make sure, if you make colour changes to your project (or if it’s one you’ve designed yourself), that you make comprehensive notes about the thread-numbers. I found myself with a spare hour to finish this one (minus the outlining, which I’m still trying to work out), and a fair proportion of that was spent in remembering which threads I was using…