Sunday, 11 September 2016

Progress report - on Several Fronts.

Hello there Everyone:

Cy Bear back again, having "dictated" this post to Isobel - so she can type it from "up the road", where she has been house- and pet-sitting since Thursday of last week.  She's been in and out during morning hours each day since, because of the need to finish the crab-apple processing and other community related matters, and she's due to be doing the same until Wednesday morning next week.

For explanation of this "progress" - see below
First of all, despite the heading here,  there's not been that much progress on the Baby Foxes/BabyMobile project, because of the distraction of the Paralympics from Rio de Janeiro this week (and that is likely to be the case for the next week because the Games will be on-going until the week-end).  Isobel will be busy next week-end, because it's Clare's birthday on Saturday, Philippa is coming up on the Friday evening, and we'll be busy playing with GrandsonE on Saturday.  Then we're both leaving Nottinghamshire on Sunday for a few days holiday in Devon. (So, once again, we repeat - NO BLOG POST next week - but do come back to check:  Isobel has been known to change her mind - or something else may  have occurred.  The computer is going with her!)

Secondly, the Crab Apple Butter production line was successfully concluded on Friday afternoon, with the apples shown in this picture in last week's blog post being converted into the finished item. 

Picked crab apples waiting to be processed
It's been cool enough in the flat to keep the apples from rotting too much, and in the end, our friendly gardeners actually provided Isobel with 3.5 kilos (something like 6-7 lbs - Isobel doesn't have her usual metric converter to hand at Clare's home).  The final result is 11 similar sized, but different shaped jars, and two small jars - plus a little left over so that Isobel could take some around to near neighbours - for taste-testing!!  We've had the impression that some of our friends here at Old Chapel Close  were a little wary of a Fruit Butter!!  We felt that some independent tasting reports might render the future sale of the items more likely!!!

Then on Wednesday morning, just before she left to do some shopping for the week, we had an order - for our Badger Stripe Slippers.  

Unisex Novelty Slippers Badger Stripe Fur Unusual Footwear Special Faux Fur Shoe Made to Measure Head Optional Custom Orders Very Welcome.
They have been commissioned by one MrMW from San Francisco and as they are made to measure, (as are all of our Novelty Slippers - whether for Gentlemen, Ladies or Children). the actual construction of this gentleman's slippers will commence once Isobel gets back from Devon after September 26.  (This is OK with our customer).  The one's pictured in our listing are a size smaller than MrMW's actual requirement.  He merely requests they look as near as possible like the example given.  As ever, we'll do our best to do so!

Then, in the afternoon of the same day, we found another order (the first time we've had two in one day) - and both for one of our higher-priced items, too!.  This time, it was from a lady who wondered if it would be possible for us to send her one of our Winston Wombat 3-Way Bed Pillows. 

Winston Wombat, 3-Way Bed Pillow. Pajama Case, Plush Pillow Case ,Pyjama Cover, Novelty Hot Water Bottle Cover, Faux Fur Toy
There was a potential snag though because she needed to have one of them by Saturday (yesterday) for her son's birthday.  After an exchange of messages on the Etsy convo system, we discovered she was in London, so it would be possible for us to do it - but we would be taking a risk in following it up.   Royal Mail does a next-day service which guarantees delivery by 1300 hours the day after an item is posted (the cost of which would be covered by the postal charge).  MsNW then wanted to know if we could get Winston Wombat to her on the Friday, as she had arranged to be away on the Saturday for her son's celebrations.  We managed to do so - even though we actually hadn't received the funds in Isobel's local bank account - although Etsy had done so, because that's the way the purchasing system works.  (One disadvantage of  BST (British Summer Time) being 4 hours ahead of  EST - Eastern Standard Time - which is the time zone Etsy operates within!)

Remember, Isobel is supposed to be residing up the road - and the two Winstons and all our packaging materials are firmly ensconced here at home!  The speed of the operation meant that we were unable to offer the usual "Cuddlies Catwalk" session - giving the customer the chance to choose exactly which of the Cuddlies she would like - so we decided to send the one on the right of this picture.

Before he was wrapped up, we took some pics - and this is Winston Wombat Right before he was prepared for the journey:

The photograph at the beginning of this post, is one of our traditional Farewell Photos with me, as Mascot to the Coldham Cuddlies Shop.  Then Isobel took the photograph beneath - just to show how long a Winston Wombat is - compared with me sitting in my usual spot on the bed.  My right arm is between the back of Winston's head with his tail behind my "wrist". (He looks a little crooked, because of the angle of the pillow on which we are both resting!)

Once he was fully wrapped, he was put in a polythene postal envelope and Isobel got on the next  'bus into Kirkby town centre, and he was dispatched at just before 1100 on Thursday morning.  Because the paperwork for this transaction is all here at home with me (and Isobel is not!) we cannot check whether it did arrive so we'll have to wait until Monday when we hope to hear from MsNW to see if Winston did meet the important deadline, and whether his intended Forever Friend and he are happy with each other. Am afraid, you'll all have to wait to hear in the next installment!.

Until then - hope you all have a great week or two.  The weather here is lovely at the moment, with late summer sunshine to the fore.  Long may it continue!  See you all when I next see you!

Your friend, 

Cy Bear.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Sampling Local Foraging opportunities as well.

Hello there Everyone - am giving Cy Bear a rest this week, largely because the main topic for this week's is definitely beyond the normal competence of a Beaver Lamb Bear.

The Baby Foxes project has been on-going,however, but subject to some interruption - from the need for me to be active with my neighbours once again around Old Chapel Close, as well as my being "felled" by an early autumnal cold, which is showing signs of repeating my illness earlier this year, which was diagnosed by the doctor then as "query Pluerisy!".  So, I've not been exactly firing on all cylinders. Hopefully a visit to said medical practitioner early in the week will result in my being able to fully enjoy the rest of the time - to the full.

Progress on the Baby Foxes project to date.
Not only are the schools all facing a new School Year this week, but so too am I.  For many years the months of September/October have been a time to store up home made goodies to see a family through the winter, Since becoming a widow in 2012, and with the girls well and truly flown from the family coop, I've not had the urge to do so.  However, this year, having settled in to my small flat in an independent living complex three doors away from younger daughter, Clare, the sight of so many crab apples from the window outside my kitchen, has proved just too much to ignore.

September in the UK is also the month that a major Cancer Charity - MacMillan Cancer UK - traditionally issues a challenge to the country to raise funds with a National Coffee Morning which this year has been set for 30th September.  Groups don't have to do "their thing" on that date, and we here at Old Chapel Close have this year chosen 4th October for our contribution's efforts. (This blog has reported on Coldham Cuddlies contributions to these efforts - both here in Nottinghamshire, as well as at our previous base in Wiltshire  - and we will be taking a table at the event this year).

As I plan to be away in Devon from 18th to 26th of the month (so no blog post then!), and the autumn winds and rain are already causing many of the fruit trees to shed their remaining loads, the arrival this week of the gardeners contracted to look after our grounds, seemed a good opportunity to utilise their skills (and equipment) to harvest as many as many as possible so to produce a family favourite - CRAB APPLE BUTTER,  In between their other regular chores, the two gentleman kindly obliged and managed to forage - by fair means and foul - two plastic bags full.

One bag has already received "the Treatment":  the one shown in the photograph is what remains of the  second bag.  The first having been washed, duly inspected for bugs and other unacceptable marks, topped and tailed, etc - and following the recipe below.  (Taken from "A Country Harvest" by Pamela Michael, published in 1980 by Peerage Books, 59, Grosvenor Street, LondonW1)


(Makes about 3 lbs/1-1/4 kilos)

1 kilo/2lbs crab apples
1/4 litre/1-1/4 cup/'1/2 pint water
1/4 litre/1-1/4 cup/'1/2 pint cider (I prefer dry cider, but go for the least expensive on offer)
1/2 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Ground Cloves
Sugar - see the recipe.

Wash crab apples thoroughly, cut away any bad bits and put into a large saucepan with the water, cider, and the spices.  (I like the flavour of these two spices, so do use a good heaped teaspoon of each for my endeavours!).

Cook gently until apples are soft, mashing them well with a wooden spoon.  Put the mixture through a sieve or food mill (doesn't take that long, as the mixture is pretty slushy by this time - the apples "fall " well) and then measure the pulp back into the pan.

To 400g/1-1/4 cups/1lb pulp add 300g/1-1/2 cups/3/4 lb sugar (because Peter, my late husband had an intolerance to anything white - flour, sugar, etc. - I've become accustomed to using only brown sugar FOR EVERYTHING, which can, and does,  affect the final "look", but NOT the taste!).

Bring slowly to the boil, stirring continuously until sugar has dissolved, then lower the heat to the slowest possible simmer and cook in the open pan until mixture is thick and, when stirred, the spoon leaves a clean line momentarily in the bottom of the pan.   Pour into warm dry jars, cover with waxed circles while hot, seal with your chosen tops - if you have tops with a button on them, seal immediately, to obtain a permanent seal (until needed!)   I still have jams to consume, made in 2005, and stored in this way, and know they will be edible at the time of opening!!

The gentlemens' assistance was definitely required as you can see from the picture below:

Taken standing underneath

That's a 4 ft hedge from which the tree trunk is protruding, and the "fair" means of harvesting consisted of one of them climbing a portable platform to get as many as he could reach:  the foul method meant the other one resorting to using a metal pole and banging the branches to make them land on the grass beneath!!

Some washed crab apples waiting to be cooked - with one or two rejects having become obvious since they were washed/cut

In the "good old days", I used to have big jars of spices available to me, which we had purchased from the nearest Indian supermarkets:  these used this time around came from our local supermarket, and will be just as good, but will need to be replaced for next year, because the flavours do tend to deteriorate over time.  Purchased from an Indian supplier, though, they seem to last that much longer - and I still have perfectly serviceable supplies of other spices which are as flavourful as the day they were bought (some as long ago as 1997!).  

The whole process took me about an hour and a half from beginning the topping, tailing and washing, and I now have some jars ready for labels (see above), which are being bought for me by one of my resident friends - who knows  "exactly what you need".  This does give me a chance to do the leftover crab apples, and so increase the availability not only for Macmillan Cancer's funds, but also for prospective family gifts. 

According to the author, Pamela Michael, "Spicy fruit butters and cheeses were very popular in Victorian days and are so good, it's a pity not to revive them.  This crab apple butter should be set firmly, but just enough to spread with a knife, it is wonderful with hot toast and grilled bacon, or roast pork instead of apple sauce."   Fruit Butters are still not very well known and used these days - I think that's a pity.  They are an excellent way of using up excess fruit supplies, and can also be made with sharp, green Apples if Crab Apples are not readily available, and can also be used in the same way one would with any poultry dish which calls for ordinary apple sauce.

Well that's all from us for this week.  My apologies for the sudden change in typography - but again, thanks to the mysteries of technology, it's "just happened", and nothing I  do seems to allow me to change it back to the original font size.  

See you all next week!

Your Friend, Isobel