Monday, 26 March 2012

Contains nuts

We're in the middle of a spell of glorious Spring weather here, sunshine, clear blue skies, chilly evenings which make the warm day feel even better.  Marvellous.  It's lovely to sit in the garden with a cup of tea, watching the bees and butterflies doing their thing in among the flowers.

hello tree. hello sky. hello clouds.  all are full of joy in the springtime.

This is my little herb garden where I sit in the afternoons and drink tea.  It's very pretty, in a "things in pots" kind of way, I think.  The sad squished looking things in the smallest pot are oriental poppies which I am trying to grow from seeds which I saved from the one that flowers in the garden already.  They don't seem very happy.

This weekend we planted more stuff - I know, I know - including some sage plants, half a dozen sweet pea plants, a new climbing rose bush and a dozen little lavender plants.  I have decided that I will try to do more rose and lavender flower-drying this summer, weather permitting.

Also at the weekend, it was the grand Cake and Craft and All Kinds of Other Stuff Event in the village hall.  There were a few of us there with stalls, ready to sell our various wares to the clamouring public. There was a HUGE cake sale, with dozens of different cakes available, as well as cakes you could buy just a slice of to have with a cup of tea and a chat with your neighbours.  I'd like to point out that my coffee and walnut sponge cake went very quickly.  Yes, it was THAT popular.

Unlike my Clementine and almond cupcakes which paled into insignificance next to the gorgeously glittery decorated cupcake offerings of the village yummy mummies.

The event was very successful.  Dozens and dozens of people came along, everyone seemed to be either eating cake or carrying round cakes to eat later, and we raised a good chunk of money for Sport Relief, which was the aim of the exercise after all.

The village hall looked very cheerful and festive with all the bunting.  I took this before the start, hence the lack of people.

And, best of all (for me, anyway) I sold a few things from my little craft stall.  I chatted to people, I saw neighbours I haven't seen in ages, and I picked up one or two commissions for later on in the Spring, so a good afternoon all round.

Mr WithaY and I celebrated that evening by buying a Chinese takeaway with my profits.  We'll never be rich, but we will be full of Chinese food.

Oh, and I won the raffle.  Twice!  I have been taken to task* for accepting two raffle prizes, but my reasoning is that if I have bought 25 tickets, statistically I am likely to win more than once.  I therefore feel justified in accepting two prizes.

Had I won a third time, I would have been gracious and said "No, no, no, please...put my ticket in the bin and let someone else have a turn."  But two prizes? All mine.


Anyway, one of the prizes was a big box of chocolates.  Like I'd have abandoned that.

Is there a formal laid-down raffle prize etiquette anywhere?

One of the other raffle prizes was this:

A Gruffalo cake!  Brilliant.

In other news, at the garden centre where I bought my new climbing rose and the lavender plants, they had some slightly mental moss rabbits for sale.

Look at the eyes of the one on the right!  He's clearly crazed and dangerous.  He'd be carving his way out of the garden with a trowel before you knew what had hit you, I reckon.  Brrr.

I do like the garden centre.  You can get pretty much anything you want, as long as what you want is deranged.

A giant metal cockerel, standing 6 feet high?  Check.

Paving slabs with artistic interpretations of fish embedded within them? Check.

A statue of Atlas, supporting the world on his mighty stone shoulders?  Check.

Frantic whirling plastic solar-driven butterflies, to strike terror into the heart of any pet? Check.

A solemn Aslan-type stone lion, looking mournfully at you from across the yard?  Check.

Dozens of ornaments made from cutlery?  Check.

Plus they have an aquatic centre where you can buy tropical fish, or marine fish, or snakes, or this...a rain forest in a box.

There's a tiny pond at the base with fish swimming, and then above that there's steamy, foggy mini-jungle with little frogs in.  Brilliant.

In other, other news, I had a go at making peanut butter last week. Why, dear readers, did I decide to do that?  Fucked if I know.

For some reason it seemed like a good idea, and we all know how those ideas generally work out, don't we?  I bought several pounds of shelled (but not skinned, crucially) peanuts and searched out some recipes on the Internet, which, as we also know, never lies.

I roasted the peanuts, and then realised with a cold horror that I had to get all the red skin off them.  Fuck.  That took three hours, and left me with blisters on my thumbs.  Then it was time to put the shelled and skinned peanuts into the food processor.  Well, in fact, as I discovered when I re-checked the recipe, you are supposed to put them into the blender.  I, however, failed to clarify this small but telling detail, and spent 45 minutes watching a pale yellow concrete-like substance forming with painful slowness.

I added peanut oil, as some of the recipes suggested, which didn't seem to help.  I re-checked the original recipe I had used and realised I ought to be using the blender.

Coaxing the thick, gritty, warm peanut-crete out of the food processor and into the blender with a flexible spatula is a memory which will stay with me a while.

Once I started it blending, however, the texture changed quickly to something almost peanut-buttery, and I was greatly cheered.  I tested it, added a dash of salt and a spoonful of honey, an then whizzed it for a bit longer.  It was clumping together around the blades at the bottom of the goblet, so I poked it with my spatula and then turned the blender all the way up to eleven.

Readers, it did its best.  It tried.  It really did.

There was a sudden strong smell of burning, then smoke poured out of the motor.  I turned it off at the wall socket and removed the blender goblet.  Mr WithaY (who had been popping into the kitchen at hourly intervals to ask "how's it going?" before laughing uproariously at my crap peanut butter-making) manfully carried it out into the garden in case it went up in flames.

We left it out there for an hour to think about what it had done.

I decanted the peanut butter into jars.  It's paler than the shop-bought stuff but actually tastes rather good.

I won't be making it again, I think, though.

*Hello Laurie!


MsCaroline said...

I love the wild-eyed rabbit and was equally fascinated by the mini Rain Forest, but I think what I would have liked to have seen most is the peanut butter. And at least you got some satisfaction out of blogging about it,too...

@eloh said...

I too have considered making my own peanut butter. Thankfully, I can now bury those thoughts for good.

You just don't know how I stressed over your bunting... I've sewn my whole life and could not bring to mind what you were doing.. or why. In the last couple days there has been bunting everywhere I looked. Now I'm all upset wondering if it has always been there and just hiding from me.

Mary Ann said...

I would have bought that rabbit...I wonder if my garden centre has any? It might help to keep the raccoons out of my garden.

Basonnn said...

As you know exactly who I am, this will make you giggle. I just read this post whilst lying in bed and literally cackled out loud at the bit about the blender 'thinking about what it had done' Mummy Bason was less than impressed about me waking her and came in and told me off. I read her the line and she still wasn't amused!

livesbythewoods said...

Ms Caroline, I was tempted by the mental rabbits, believe me. Peanut butter is not photogenic, I did try, honest.

eloh! Hello! Bunting, yes, pointless yet pretty. We've got the flags out for the Jubilee and the Olympics, it'll be festooned all over Britain for months.

Mary Ann, those rabbits looked like they could keep ANYTHING out of a garden. Including me.

B, you're very naughty to be waking up your parents. Now they'll be cross with me by association. *tch* Young folk today.