Tuesday, November 29, 2011

your Christmas present

I was hoping to have purchased your Christmas present by now. It was to be such an organised year, with everything chosen and wrapped by the end of November so that I could sit around with the decanter and cheeseboard in December instead of trampling out into the good cheer.

[ginger heart, blue icing; 2011]

But town was dispiriting on Friday. Clothes shops full of synthetic party-wear crackled as I walked past. Plastic toys in non-pastel colours made loud noises. Stacked shelves of gift sets signified mankind's primeval need for two soaps, some talcum powder and a lilac wash-mitt.

I don't want to buy the disposable junk; I want to inflict my taste upon future generations. "Oh yes, our Great Great Aunt Mise gave us that sturdy cushion. It's very nice. She says we're mentioned in her will."

So I decided to shop online instead. I have my credit card beside me here, and any minute now I'll type  "present for my friend X and her lovely family" -"terrible tat" -"garish plastic" -"acrylic OR viscose OR polyester" +"exquisite" +"pass off as homemade" +"delivery to Ireland", and then I'll click on "I'm Feeling Lucky." I'm not Feeling Lucky, but one must put up a brave front.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

a modest sourdough

What a struggle it has been to get any work done this week. Meetings and moments of quiet reflection were constantly interrupted by the ping of imagined incoming emails from readers imploring me to share a photograph of my homemade sourdough bread.

Feed no shop-bought bread to progeny, battalion or beast
(Don John of Austria is measuring the yeast) 

Hesitantly, modestly, humbly, I do so.

At airports worldwide, illusory demands came plaintively through the Tannoy, seeking only a single close-up shot of the inside of the loaf, displayed, ideally, on a cheerful cottage-style pink tea towel.

Pause the ruin of Europe and be deaf unto its dread 
(Don John of Austria is buttering the bread)

Blushingly, I comply.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Moroccan painting - giveaway winner

One of the most terrible days of my life was when my sister won a cake. A prize in a spin-the-wheel parish raffle, it was fully iced and presented on one of those wildly glamorous disposable silver foil trays. I'm not sure, through the fog of years, but I think it might even have been a gateau, in an era when cakes were cakes and not yet gateaux.

I'm pleased that the random winner of the Moroccan painting giveaway is commentator number 12, Jane, who will get to choose her favourite one of Margaret Owen's Moroccan series.

To everyone else, I'm ever so sorry you didn't win with your lovely comments, but it would have been worse if you hadn't won a cake. Even now, 33 years later, I still have never won a cake.  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Margaret Owen painting - giveaway reminder

"There are so many colours you'd think a parrot had flown into the room,
says one commentator in her evocative description of 
Margaret Owen's Moroccan paintings.

More paintings have been added to the series during the past week, 
and here are a few of those currently available.

If you haven't commented yet, you have about two more days to do so 
before we get organised and select a random winner, 
who will get to choose a painting.

and I wish you luck.

Friday, November 11, 2011

becoming that sort of person

So I was talking about yogurt, and still am, as I have further weighty thoughts on the matter.  I realise it's a niche area and I shan't mind at all if you hum or twirl your hair.

First, I have given up the electric yogurt maker, as yogurt-making on the range works just as well and generates a more holistic smugness.

Second, I don't see that there is a need to be fussy about heating the milk first; it seems to work just as well if you start with cold milk, and it cuts the preparation time down to one minute.  Is that terribly reckless?

Here's what I do now exactly: in a Bonne Maman jam jar (from a hot dishwasher, so that it is very clean), stir together one generous tablespoon of powdered milk, a tablespoon of nice yogurt and enough milk to almost fill the jar. Put on the lid and leave on a corner of the range overnight. In the morning, place the jar in the fridge.  Eat it later that day, or whenever suits, with fresh or cooked fruit stirred in, or jam.  The yogurt seems to keep nicely for at least 5 days (I've never managed to not eat it for longer than that.)

I hear that you can even sieve it through cheesecloth to make cheese; there's no stopping me now.  My sourdough bread is rising as I type. You will soon find me writing articles for the Guardian newspaper on how to live well on 72 pence a day, or seven good reasons to keep a pig.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Moroccan adventure and a giveaway - CLOSED

Artists Margaret Owen and Elizabeth Hutchinson are off to Morocco in March, for a drawing and painting adventure in Marrakesh. They'll be running a week-long workshop, Moroccan Sketchbook, at the famous Peacock Pavilions hotel. The schedule includes enticing talk of fresh local cuisine and cocktails, tours, explorations and outdoor movies. Perhaps you'd like to join them? Full details are in the trip brochure here.

Don't rush off to pack just yet, as Margaret, who blogs at Permanent Magenta, is kindly offering a Pretty Far West reader one of her Moroccan paintings to celebrate finalising the arrangements for the trip. My favourite is the tranquil and exotic Breakfast in Marrakesh below, but the winner will get to choose his or her own preferred painting from Margaret's vivid Moroccan series.
[Breakfast in Marrakesh, by Margaret Owen]

Click here to see the paintings currently available to choose from in her shop.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment here. For a second entry, post about the giveaway on your own blog or website, and comment again to say you have done so.

Margaret tells me in passing that she has recently learned how to count up to ten in Irish. A haon, a dó, a trí, a ceathair, a cúig, a sé, a seacht, a hocht, a naoi, a deich. For a third entry, marvel suitably at this.

Ramsign giveaway winner

The winner of the classic enamel house number is commentator number 7, Sue of The Quince Tree, as chosen by dear reliable random.org.

If you're not Sue, that's not you and you are naturally inconsolable, facing into a bleak and signless future. Never mind. There'll be another giveaway coming along here in a few moments.  I really, really hope you'll win next time.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

bona fide commenting tip

[you will recall that every post must contain an image]

Scottish Husband doesn't read lifestyle blogs or heavyweight handbag analysis groups as I do; he prefers to participate in online discussions about the global economy and motorcycles. I tend not to pay much attention to anything he says on these subjects, but he looked up lately from composing something pithy and apposite about all-terrain approaches to fiscal government and shared what is surely a Top Commenting Tip:

It's important never to read the blog post on which you are commenting in order that you may maintain a high-level perspective on the matter. 

I know you would never do a thing like that.
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