Saturday, 22 November 2014

Canal boats and sweets

white bear In  a small town, past a white bear and through some iron gates decorated with bunting is a whole new world. A community of folk and boat with floating fudge and open hatches selling Pomfret cakes, barley sugar and tart pear drops. Middlewich painting bunting on a gate blue canal boat
curious canal boat fudge boat sweet boat ice cream boat A place of peace and camaraderie.  Waist coated men tend to flowers afloat in colourful pots and tubs, beside caged birds and dogs that sleep with one eye open for passers by. Roses, swirls, harlequins - a colourful life with many tales to be told.canal lock Middlewich Lock 74 Tough work, many locks to work through on the Trent & Mersey canal. A sleepy town with a big heart. Today was the floating market. I hear the Saturday was busier with a cheese and a home brew boat but today was quiet so we walked on along the canal. Past the dry dock and numerous overflow sluices with water gushing - quite scary really and I wouldn't like to totter past one after a visit to the many pubs with gardens that stretch towards this waterway.Middlewich Locks Trent and Mersey Canal Middlewich canal side sweets Middlewich dry dock  canal notice Following pathways to summer folk festivals and little gardens with gates to peer through. Quieter in the autumn but people hard at work, repairing boats, building new ones - some brave novices attracting attention as they chug along at an angle. A well seasoned boat owner laughs from the side, watch out for the sandbank and covers his eyes. autumn by lock 72 fixing canal boats canal shop Views through bridges lead to more bridges and pubs! Past hissing swans we quickly ran and past the man working on his boat with noisy tools that made LB hide his face in my coat. canal bridges autumn path rushing water under the bridge green shed Many signs tell us of the history of the canal and its local importance to our commodity - salt. Wich was used to denote salt production, hence why my local area has so many places ending in wich. Middlewich, Northwich, Nantwich....It's all about the salt in these parts of Cheshire.canal garden purple berry Such a pretty spot and with new treasures found like a summer tea garden and a shop selling plants, we will be looking out for events here next year. Perfect too for a winter walk in the coming months and if we have snow, we will be here straight away to look at the beauty of this community under a dazzling white blanket - I wonder if the canal will freeze this winter? autumn on the canal canal cafe

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Turk's Turban Squash

Turk's Turban Squash
Next year I am going to grow the wonderful Turk's Turban Squash on the allotment plot. Containing all the colours of autumn, topped with a knobbly hat. Such a curious winter squash that I had not cooked with before. I found this one at a local farm shop, sat amongst the pumpkins and the butternut squash. A bargain of mottled autumn treasure at £1.25 
   Squash Curry Blackboard
The flesh inside is a rich orange. Lovely to cut into. I decided to make a mild curry with it to warm us  up on these cold November days.Turk's Turban Squash orange fleshSquash cut into chunks
Red pepper cut into chunks
Slice an onion
Put all into a roasting tray
Drizzle with olive oil
Sprinkle with chilli flakes, garlic, cumin, corriander, salt and pepper
Mix it up to coat all the vegetables
Place in the oven on about gas mark 5 (190°C) for about 40 minutes until soft
roasted squashOnce lovely and roasted add to a pot on the stove
Add curry paste - we had some Madras in the fridge
Chuck in some fresh spinach leaves
A few good spoonfuls of Coconut milk (love this stuff!)
Add 1/2 tin of chopped tomatoes
Simmer for about 15 minutes making a curry with coconut milk Pot of autumn squash curry Tasted delicious. Little Bird loved it, surprisingly! For such a fussy eater he was scooping it into his mouth. Happy mummy!Squash Curry I've saved a few seeds for next year.
But will buy some too and compare.
Have you ever grown this curious ornamental squash?
Turk's Turban Squash seeds

Monday, 17 November 2014

My best bit of autumn

My best bit of autumn is how the season feels like a fresh start. Autumn has always been my New Year, perhaps with my nostalgia of school starting in September, it has always signified a beginning even though in many ways other people consider it to be an end - the end of summer, of green leafy trees and the sunlight which becomes less and less as the days go on.....

But this picture reminds me that autumn is truly my awakening. Here is the entrance to the best season of the year, A beautiful fiery golden leafed staircase to autumnal heaven with light mists and hazy light. The start of cosy season, warm layers and rich food for the soul as the cold creeps in.

New plans to be made, time to study and read by the roaring fire as we head towards winter. Most importantly it is the best time of year to spend with loved ones. Leaf kicking days followed by snuggle up nights. Blissful autumn.

If you would like to enter Sykes Cottages competition to win £400 worth of John Lewis vouchers then simply head over to the Sykes Cottages Autumn's Best Bits Competition

What did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was little I wanted to be a waitress after seeing one on a regular basis at the cafe my mum and nana took me to. I wanted to wipe those tables clean and take orders - I thought it looked the best job in the world. It wasn't, I did it as a teenager and in my early twenties and it was soul destroying. But to a five year old, it looked so glamorous - I assume the waitress I must have seen was smiley, well dressed and pretty. As I young girl I just wanted to be like her.

I also wanted to be cloud keeper after an early obsession with the Care Bears. Sadly opportunities for shovelling up and tending to clouds do not come up very often and I'm afraid of heights. Then I wanted to be a fashion designer. I had a kit where you designed clothes, how I wish I still had it. Do you remember it - Fashion Plates?

Do the toys you have as a child can influence our future careers? Did having Bob the Builder want you to dash out for jobs in construction or My Little Pony turn you into an equestrian expert?

That also brings up the debate on gender specific toys. Lego and Meccano for the boys producing future engineers and baby dolls for the girls for those caring careers like nursing. Personally I do not buy into these toys for boys or girls and nothing sends me more into a rage than pink Lego.

I have always bought Little Bird a wide range of toys - we have dolls, we have bricks, kitchen sets and super heroes. When LB was at preschool, a little boy he was acquainted with had wanted to try a princesses dress from the dressing up box, as long as nobody told his daddy. Awwww. However, the picture of LB eyes shining with happiness in a long red gown made me want to rush out and buy him a Disney dress just to see him happy. I didn't, so I suppose I am guilty of the same. I did buy him a doll's house in my defence..... and I would buy him a dress if he really wanted one. As it happens LB just likes everything for about 10 seconds so we have limits on what we do buy.

I am going to share his Christmas list in the next week - nothing that he has actually asked for as LB isn't at the stage of circling things in the catalogue (oh the nostalgia) so I've bought him presents based on furthering his development and sensory needs. Oh and of course on his love for animals so maybe we have a future animal husbandry worker in his kind little hands.
Toy Animals - Shutterstock