Sunday, February 28, 2010


Our Cranks recipe book has finally given up the ghost. We've had it since 1982 and as you can see it has been well used over the years. The food spattered, yellowed with age pages have all come loose and the photos now live at the back of the book where the index used to be. I'm not sure where the index got to!

It was time to think about a replacement! Would it still be in print? Yes, indeed it was and it arrived with a plop on the doormat late last week from Amazon.

I haven't got used to the shiny and clean one yet; it feels more like a charming new acquaintance than a loved and familiar friend. I'm quite impressed by the modern and stylish cover though; what a difference in twenty eight years!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Staffordshire Hoard Exhibition

We decided to visit the Staffordshire Hoard exhibition yesterday morning. I had an early appointment in the city centre so, after a warm cup of coffee we wandered down towards the museum to see how long the queue was.

On the way down Piccadilly and past the Regent Theatre we came across these lovely posters decorating some empty shop windows.

The queue was as far back as the end of the Museum building so we joined it at about 9.55a.m. It was a very cold morning and I was glad I'd put on an extra pair of socks and wound a huge scarf around my neck to keep out the cold.

The Museum opened its doors at 10 o'clock and the queue moved forward slowly but surely. It wasn't long before we were inside the building. Everything was very well organised with people snaking around the foyer and around the back of the shop. There were plenty of museum volunteers on duty to help and advise.

Just into the foyer you receive your first hand stamp of the visit (you have to collect three on your way round) we moved up the stairs and into part of the pottery and ceramics gallery. Here we had our second hand stamp. It was getting quite warm now and I began to regret my heavy coat and scarf - if you are going to visit you will wait inside for longer than you do outside which is good in this weather but you may not want to be encumbered by heavy clothing once inside as it is very warm. There are seats dotted around for the full length of the queue so you can sit for a while if standing becomes too much. We continued to snake around the doll and costume collection and then suddenly we received our last stamp and were allowed to move forward into the art gallery where the exhibition had been displayed.

The pieces themselves are stunning but so tiny and delicate much smaller than you would imagine from all the wonderful photographs on the posters and hoardings. To give you some idea of scale the horse to the right of the first photo at the top is no more than an inch high and the chequered boss as small as a shirt button; the workmanship in such small pieces is exquisite - the only thing I can think to say is that it would be like looking at an exhibition of portrait miniatures instead of normal size paintings.

I'm so glad I went to see the exhibition - it was such a thrill to see it; all the visitors were happy and patient and the staff thoroughly enjoyed chatting to them and making them welcome. In all the visit took about two hours. After making a donation and buying a souvenir booklet we made our way downstairs to the cafe for another coffee, stopping to look at another temporary exhibition on the way. This exhibition was about the history of the - Bethesda Chapel - which stands opposite the museum and reached the final, although it didn't win, of the first BBC 'Restoration' programme in 2003.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Things to Look Forward To

I've been feeling rather jaded over the last week; no energy or enthusiasm to do much of anything. I'm just hoping this feeling will pass as soon as the weather improves and we can get out in the garden again - but for some reason this stuff keeps coming along to stop us.

So what is there to look forward to? Well, even though we can't get outside to work in the garden things have been happening inside. Paul has been potting seeds ready for the greenhouse and garden later on plus some herbs for the kitchen windowsill. There's parsley, basil and cress plus radish, lettuce, spinach, beetroot, french beans, leeks and tomatoes - now that is something to look forward to!

Next week we are hoping to visit the - Potteries Museum and Art Gallery - to see the - Staffordshire Hoard. I've been watching the local papers to see how the queues are doing. We've decided to go next week, once half term is over, in the hope that the queuing time won't be as long in this cold weather - it's about two hours at the moment. The exhibition was opened last Friday by historian, writer and TV film maker/presenter - Michael Wood - a huge long term favourite of mine - several of his books can be found on my bookshelves. I see that the exhibition had some special visitors this morning - link - I'm guessing that they didn't have to join the queue ;)

We also have tickets to see the wonderful - Northern Broadsides - on their annual visit to the New Vic Theatre. We are going to see The Canterbury Tales and I've been keeping up to date with their rehearsals via photos and news on Facebook. It is looking good so far!

I'm also looking forward to reading the next book on my 'to be read' pile. 'An Education' by Lynn Barber. This books has been adapted by Nick Hornby for a successful - film - no doubt many of you have seen it already. We missed it when it came to our local university film theatre so I'm hoping that it comes back to one of the local cinemas soon which it may do if it wins some awards over the next few weeks.

Last but not least I'm looking forward to a slice of Victoria Sandwich Cake because it's Simone's Friday Cake Bake and here is my cake sandwiched with home made plum jam and dusted with icing sugar.

Time to put the kettle on!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

In the Forest

Yesterday we walked in Macclesfield Forest. We'd never been before so there was a lot to discover - too much for one visit so I'm sure we will return another time to try some of the many walks on offer.

We decided to head towards a place on the map marked as an observation point.

We set off along the waymarked route towards Shutlingsloe - from the ranger's centre and car park there are four colour- coded routes you can chose of various lengths and terrain.

Some places were still covered with a dusting of snow and the paths were extremely icy in places.

Ah, so that is where we are headed! Hmm - I think we need to return in slightly warmer weather and with proper walking boots on and not wellies as it looks quite a serious climb. It is known locally as 'The Matterhorn of Cheshire'.

A bit closer but still in the cold air it seemed like a step too far to try for the top. Apparently from the summit you can see the village of Wildboarclough on the other side. The ranger told us later that you can walk to the pub in Wildboarclough for lunch - now that sounds like a good plan!

Looking back the way we had walked you can just see Tegg's Nose in the background.

It is time to turn round and follow the path back to the car park.

We stopped to look at the herons at Trentabank Reservoir on the way.

Then we drove round to look at St Stephen's Church also known as the Forest Chapel which looked wonderful nestling in the countryside around it. One of the walks from Tegg's Nose comes down by the chapel. In August each year the church celebrates the ancient custom of Rushbearing. The church is decorated with twisted rushes inside and out and they are also strewn on the church floor to create a rush carpet.

Just by the church was a lane still piled high with snow.

This is how I remember snow as a child when all of us children struggled to walk to school arm in arm through the drifts.

Hope you have all had a great Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 12, 2010

At Hanley Park

This morning, on the way back from shopping at Festival Park we stopped off for a walk around Hanley Park. Of the three of the city's five parks we regularly visit - the others being Fenton and Longton - Hanley is the one that disappoints me the most mainly because it could be so much better. Things are beginning to happen though; there are new children's play areas, refurbished tennis courts and sculptures and fountains down by the lake. However, it isn't the new things that disappoint but rather the feeling of neglect around the older buildings like the pavilion and boat house and the lack of planting in some of the flower beds and borders. Maybe these things are going to be next on the refurbishment agenda - I hope so.

There is so much potential in the pavilion which could surely house proper toilet facilities and a cafe or restaurant not only for the visitors to the park by road and foot but also for those who pass through on the Caldon canal which cuts right through the centre of the park. These visitors need to be encouraged to stop and visit the park so decent moorings would help; also the park needs to be a showcase for the city. As well as a decent cafe why not have a shop which would feature products the city is best known for - world class pottery and china. How wonderful would it be to stop for a lazy summer afternoon in the park, have a bite to eat and purchase a piece of Bridgwater. Portmeirion or Wedgwood pottery as you pass through? There could also be an exhibition area which interprets the wildlife of the park and canal and it's history too.

There are word scultures around the islands in the lake - this one says
'There are sounds all around, but nothing matters except the sound of your voice'

This word sculpture says - ' Do you feel it too?'

Muscovy ducks on the water's edge.

The old boat house and the new fountains.

Another of the 'word' sculptures around an island in the lake - this one says -
'I see you standing there as if on a distant horizon, I reach out and our hands touch'

A footbridge over the canal

Reflections of trees in the canal

Above - the bandstand and footbridge over the canal.

I'm guessing that in the present economic cliamate any further developments in the park won't be top of the agenda but it seems such a waste of an opportunity to have a park of which we could be proud and which will also promote the city in a positive light- especially this year as Stoke-on-Trent celebrates the centenary of it becoming a city in 1910.

Friday Cake Bake - Apricot Slices

It's time for Friday Cake Bake again, where has the time gone? It doesn't seem five minutes since my last Cake Bake post.

I decided to use up the rest of the apricots from last week's cake; this time in slices. I've had this recipe for ages scribbled on a ruled page from a shorthand notepad worn thin by time and frequent use.

I've used this recipe so many times using different fillings like dates, or prunes and in the late summer fresh plums. You can serve the slices hot or cold, on a plate as cake or in a bowl with custard, yogurt or ice cream as a pudding. You can cut it into thin slices or huge squares whatever takes your fancy. Here is the recipe:-

8oz of dried, chopped apricots (or dates, figs, prunes etc)
a little lemon juice
8oz jumbo or rolled oats
6oz margarine
2oz golden syrup
4oz whole wheat flour
40z soft brown sugar

Place the dried fruit into a saucepan with the lemon juice and water to cover, simmer until soft - add more water if needed.

Mix the dry ingredients into a bowl and melt the margarine and golden syrup together in another pan then add to the dry ingredients.

Grease a shallow baking tin approx 8" square and firmly press half the oat mixture on the base. Cover this with the softened fruit, smooth down and then press the second half of the oat mix over the top - I use a spatula to press and smooth it all down.

Bake for 20 minutes at 180C/350F or Gas4. Allow to cool in the tin and then cut into slices or squares.

These are great for taking on a long walk with a flask of coffee or tea as they are tasty and filling.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

February Things and Seven Things

Last week was quite busy with various things. We both had hospital appointments one the day after the other, another family funeral and after all that we had cavity wall insulation installed. Then Paul spent a couple of days putting more insulation in the loft which was difficult to do as you can't stand up in our roof space so it entailed a lot of crawling about.

This week we seem to have had far more time and thank goodness, better weather. We have bought some Seville oranges so that we can make some more marmalade this year.

We also managed a muddy walk at Trentham in the woods. It was good to get out and about for a walk again after all the bad weather.

Now the Hyacinths are past their best the Cyclamen and Hellebore are in flower.

On Friday morning we walked from Ashbourne along the Tissington Trail as far as Thorpe and back.

We set out in cloudy, misty weather but as we walked the cloud lifted and the sun began to filter through.

For ages we were the only people walking on the trail. It felt as if we had the whole world to ourselves, it was so peaceful.

The empty path stretched out ahead of us. The birds were singing in the trees.

And the sheep were baa-ing in the fields.
We walked along in appreciative silence.

I've been given an award by Kathy at Postcards from the P.P. - thankyou very much! I also have to list 7 things about myself. I always find it hard to talk about myself but I'll have a try and hope not to bore you too much:)

I was born in a big midlands city but when I was five we moved to a small village in North East Derbyshire.

I had Scarlet Fever when I was five just before we moved. I was ill at grandma's house and she looked after me. I remember being on a mattress on the floor in the corner of her room and tying myself up in the sheets because I was so restless and feverish.

I've worn glasses since the age of seven. When I went back to school after having measles and even though I remember being kept in a darkened room, the head teacher noticed that I was having difficulty copying things from the blackboard (as they were called then) into my exercise book from my desk at the back of the class room.

I love the theatre and in particular Shakespeare's plays - when I was a teenager I used to sit up quite late at night to watch the Wars of the Roses plays on the television. I was 17 when I first saw a play at the theatre at Stratford - I still have the programme in my collection.

I really don't like spiders!

I can't bear being stuck somewhere without a book to read. If I have something to read I can wait for ages in a queue, for a hospital appointment, for a late train or anywhere else you have to wait for ages.

I have a fear of huge mechanical objects inside buildings - for example I love steam trains and engines in the outdoors but feel overwhelmed by their hugeness if they are indoors in sheds or workshops.

I have to nominate other bloggers for this award and as usual I'm going to say if you want to please take the award with you and let me know if you decide to have a go at the seven things.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Friday Cake Bake

It's Simone's Friday cake bake time again - I missed last week but here is this week's offering -
Apricot Madeira Cake

Here is the recipe

5oz caster sugar
5oz margarine
8oz self raising flour
3 eggs
3oz apricot jam
3oz chopped dried apricots

Cream the flour and the sugar with the apricot jam. Beat in the eggs then add the flour and dried apricots. Line a 2lb loaf tin and bake the cake for about an hour at 180C - sometimes it needs a little more than an hour - use a skewer to test if the cake is cooked. Mine seemed to cook more quickly this time hence the darker top to the cake - it still tasted good with afternoon tea and as my Dad used to say 'the burnt bits are the best bits'!