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Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Me, food, art and photography

This one's a little more about me and what I enjoy doing. For those who don't know, life can get a little busy in our house with 3 teenagers with different levels of autism, coeliac, lots of food intolerances and a daughter with CFS/ME. I guess life is very different compared to the average house but it's all normal to us, we don't really give it much thought these days. I guess over the years you just adjust to things and work around any issues that arise to make life a little easier for everyone in the family. People ask ''How do you cope?'' I really can't answer that, we just do! As a parent of children that are different, you do what you have to.

Over the years I have tried to do many things just to have something for myself  but then one or other of the children would be ill or have to be home educated again or be part-school part home educated. It's only now, as the children have come into their teens, life is much more settled as far as the autism goes and I am able to concentrate more on some of the things I would like to do.

Photography is a great love of mine, when I am looking through that camera, my mind is clear of everything else but what is right in front of me. I can't explain how lovely that is when at all other times, you stress or worry about everything and everyone else. To have a clear mind through photography is a luxury I enjoy.

Most of the things I have done or tried to do,  have been centred around my art and the love of cooking and of course photography. To be honest I think cooking can be quite an art too! Especially if you cook it and take your own photos, which I am doing at the moment for a cookbook I have been trying to write. It is taking it's time as things happen and my children always come first. 'It will be done when it's done' as my grandmother used to say. But here are a few pictures just to tease you :) I even hand painted the eggs to use for the photos.

Easter and Christmas snaps from my cookbook. click on the picture to make it larger.

This is me - I like to cook, I love my art, nature and my creative side and I really love photography and where possible I try to bring them all together in what I do. I guess you could call this an escape too. Escapes aren't just about getting out, they are about finding something for yourself that you really enjoy doing. I know so many people who have a real passion for cooking and to watch them, it really is an art and you can see at that time, that is all they are thinking about too. Lots of people can cook but it's finding that passion for food and the love of creating new things that really makes a good cook.

I also like to make people happy with the things I create. I love to see people smile and if I can do that through something I have made then all the better :)

I am a bit naughty here am I not? I am teasing you all with the sweet foods :) Just to make you feel better, I don't actually eat sweet foods much, or chocolate, I just like making them for other people. I would much prefer a savoury dish so here are a few for you :)

This one's mine. Roast pepper and tomato soup, people think soups are easy and a bit of a cheat when it comes to making a starters but I think that's wrong. Sometimes more effort goes into some soups than the main meal. This one takes a little time to prepare but well worth it.

This one is my Grandfather's recipe of Cauliflower Soup, even if you don't eat cauliflowers, you will love this, a very old recipe but standing the test of time very nicely.

Some more samples of the soups I make.

Venison in a rich tomato sauce

 This one is my Mother's recipe and is savoury - Stuffed mixed peppers :) My Mother always taught me "When cooking, always think of the colours to make the dish look pretty to the eye."

                                  Some more snapshots from my cookbook...


Oh dear, slipped another sweet one in here - sweet stuffed dumplings topped with a little melted butter, vanilla sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon, yummmmy

This one is mine, fruit marinated in a little kirsch, great for Christmas, great over ice-cream too or as one of my pictures below shows, over my grandmother fruit bomb.

My Grandmother's fruit bombe

Christmas Biscuits, my favourite baking time and I make everything twice so all special diets are covered.

I guess my interest in photography has always been there from when I was very little, raiding my Grandmother's and my great aunts cupboard to look through all their old black-and-white photos. I have always loved photography and love taking them. It is also something I can fit in around the children which is always good.

I also makes cakes and chocolates, not as often as I would like to and just for close friends and family. More tease photos coming so be warned! 

This was a wedding cake I made for my best friend's daughter. I was shown the flowers which are on the bottom right of the picture and matched the cake to them. 
I don't make theses for profit so unless you're a close friend or family, please don't ask me to as each of my creations take quite a long time and I make everything for them from scratch. Life doesn't allow me to create too many so I make them as one off specials. I like to see things from beginning to end and take my time as I find it relaxes me. When I make one of these cakes I make them with the person in mind so I need to know their likes, what sort of person they are. Again I think it's the artist in me, I create a picture in my head and then try to recreate it in my cakes.

Here are a few more cakes I created, please excuse the quality of the photos but some were taken on my little camera or my phone.

This one was for a very dear friend of mine who had a Hawaiian party for her 50th

I loved making the doll for this one and the flower chains, they remind me of sweets we used to buy as children.  

My Daughter's Gluten free Butterfly cake. It took me ages to paint all of them.

This one was for my friends mother in-law who loved gardening. My favourite part of this cake is the picket fence, it took me ages to make but I was really pleased with it. It's strange I don't think of them as cakes but as creations of art. A little like making a model but edible :)

The granny from the garden cake.

Teddy Bears' Picnic for my lovely Great Nephew's 1st birthday 

This one was his Christening Cake

My Daughter's gluten free/dairy free birthday cake.

Thomas and friends, I sort of made this one up as I went along :)

Here is another Thomas and friends

This one I made for my Nieces' joint 18th and 21st birthday earlier this year, Handbags, shoes and make-up.
what more girls want?

With matching cupcakes

The next ones were 200 cupcakes to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis, that was a busy few days.

The next one is for all you chocolate lovers, one I made for another niece recently. A chocolate box cake with hand made truffles by myself inside it. The base is all cake but the lid is solid chocolate.

My chocolate truffles

Monday, 28 October 2013

Autumn at Coombe Abbey

We have been going to Coombe Abbey ever since we were children and have seen many changes over the years. some better , some I wish they had left but on the whole, Coombe Abbey is a beautiful Country Park with something to do for most people.
It lays on the outskirts of Coventry heading East as if towards Rugby. There is no cost to enter the park but there is a parking charge as usual in most Country Parks £3.70 for a car which isn't bad if you make a day of it. If you live within the Coventry area some people can get a PTLL which will reduce the amount to £1.90 for parking..check if you qualify.. it gives you a special card which entitles you to cheaper parking at certain leisure places in Coventry.

I have photos of Coombe Abbey in every season but that's for another blog. With Autumn here and the beautiful colours it is a good time to write about this season and show you a few photos I have.

I have very fond memories of Coombe Abbey from when I was a child. In those days there used to be a large paddling pool which was always really busy in Summer. Our parents would sit on the wall chatting while we ran around having fun and making lots of noise, as children do. As we grew a little older, like 8-10 maybe,we thought we were too big for the pool so like other children, swam in the water in front of the house. Everyone did in those days and we didn't think twice about it.
 Now I look at that area and I wouldn't let my children swim there at all, the water is not as clear as it used to be in the old days and it is full of algae. Plus the house is quite a posh hotel now so I guess they wouldn't want screaming children in the water in their garden. Funny how times change and you look at things differently, we always swam in rivers as children, now it's unthinkable unless it is a stream just to paddle your feet in. The paddling pool is one of those things I wish would have stayed, it was a good size and families loved it. It was somewhere nice to go on a hot Summers day for children to have fun and cool down.

This next picture shows you the area in front of the house where we used to swim as children.

There is a walk way which separates the water in front of the house to the rest of the lake which is always full of wildlife and a very popular place for people to go and feed the ducks.

This is the left hand side of the walk way which also has a nature reserve in the far distance which I am afraid is off limits to the public.

Coombe Abbey is nice at all times of the year but I must say, Autumn and Winter are my favourite times for a walk here. Autumn is really lovely here, this is where I like to walk through the leaves. The Avenue of trees on the approach to the front of the Abbey are great for autumn crispy leaves. The trees are just far enough apart to allow just the right amount of Sun through to crisp the leaves up beautifully. If you want some lovely family Autumn shots, this is a good place to go.

 Conkers, there are loads of these here but be quick, the squirrels are stealing them :)

I love the Autumn colours in the next photo

Another squirrel stealing conkers

Also Autumn at Coombe Abbey is great for just a bit of fun in the dried leaves  :) My boys thought it would be funny to cover their sister in leaves, note she is sitting on my coat so I went home muddy and wet!


I like this one, the leaves in the air are almost a circle.

Autumn here like so many other wooded areas is ideal for mushroom spotting and the wood here is a good size, some areas especially closer to the little bridge over the water, is the best area for squirrel spotting, deeper into the wood you go or the other side of the cleared area in the middle, is best for mushroom spotting.

Two of the trees reminded me of an old Czech story called 'Little Otik' or 'Otesanek' in Czech, strange film in where a piece of wood comes to life but worth watching. I can see mad faces in both of these trees!

The first few mushrooms were taken just as the Sun came down the other day, you can see the warm glow of the Sun lighting up the back of the pictures as it shines through the trees.

The next few were taken on a different day, early morning which is the best time to find all types of fungi.

There is a little hole in the stem of this one, I imagined some little creature making a home in there :)

                              I like the top of these, they are almost like little frills
                                                  A few of the others I found.

                  This part of the walk runs alongside the river.

A little History about Coombe Abbey.... Coombe Abbey was originally founded as a monastery in the 12th century but during the 15th century, under the rule of Henry VIII,  monasteries, priories and convents were abandoned and  Coombe abbey became the property of the Crown. Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James VI, King of Scotland and Ireland who was also King of England as James I from the joining of the Scottish and English crown on March the 24th in the year 1603. Elizabeth, James eldest daughter and sister to Charles I, lived and was educated at Coombe Abbey as a child.

Most people know about the gunpowder plot of 1605 but in case you don't. Catholics and protestants really did not get on at the time and even though James I was Catholic, he was thought to have given the protestants to much freedom. In revolt, a group of Catholics planned to blow up parliament, killing the King and most of the protestant aristocracy at the same time. The plan was to kidnap James daughter from Coombe Abbey and put her on the Throne, if this would have happened, she would have been Elizabeth II. As you know this failed and Elizabeth later married Frederick V in 1613.

In 1619 Frederick became the King of Bohemia and they both moved to Prague, the reign was to be short lived due to fighting between religious groups, they lived in exile in Hague, never returning to Prague. Due to the reign being so short and just through the Winter months, Elizabeth was often referred to as the Winter Queen and sometimes the Queen of Hearts as she was well liked. I love this bit of history, locally we have a few connections to Bohemia and I myself was born there in Prague, it is better known these days as part of the Czech Republic.
                             The back of Coombe Abbey and the formal garden

These days the house is run as a hotel where you can even go for a Medieval Banquets on special days, something I plan to do one day, I think it could be fun.

One of my favourite times here is Winter, it really does become a magical winter wonderland, here are a few photos I took with my little camera.


                                              And of course a hazy sunset

Oh and I must not forget my love birds, more coming in another blog, I have watched these 2 all year and have photos of them nesting, with the newly hatched babies and as the signets grow.