It's all about bricks....

At the moment my life seems to revolve around bricks, physio, and work. On the brick front more specifically it is talking about and cleaning them. If that sounds a bit of an obscure reference, see our barn conversion blog. I do manage a bit of speed baking and cooking for meals but there isn't really time or energy to experiment or photograph. Just cook and eat. Which is absolutely fine, but doesn't give me much to chat about. On the textile and woolly front there is absolutely nothing to talk about because I'm not really managing to do any of it except for a bit of half hearted hexagon sewing. I've really lost my sewing mojo. I'm not worried about it though because I know that there is a time and a place for it all, and now is not the time. I have been doing quite a bit of interior design research in preparation for having a new home, someday, maybe even this mentioned previously, see our barn conversion blog!

Light Rye Sourdough and Super Granola

I haven't been doing much making of late, but I'm still baking. That's mostly because the sourdough starter needs a regular workout, and also because it is so easy to make sourdough bread. I have to say that it's taken a couple of years to get to the point where sourdough has become easy to make, but at the moment my system appears to be working. This week I have made a couple of light rye loaves. For some reason I've been baking loaves separately when I've made double the amount but this morning I had a light bulb moment and squeezed both into the baking dome. I really don't know why this hasn't occurred to me before. Doh!

My other baking triumph has been an absolute mountain of granola. My current favourite breakfast is granola because you can have oats, seeds, nuts and fruit all in one health boosting (I hope) bowl. I add raw milk or yoghurt and an apple for extra, extra goodness. Well, anyway, it tastes nice whether it does any good or not. So, fortified with good intentions and porridge (no granola left in the jar...) I set forth with my trusty, if messy, oat roller gadget and squashed flat a load of oat groats, rye and barley grain. To this I added lots of seeds; pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, chia, linseed and then chunks of nuts; brazil, cashew and walnut. I throw in pretty much everything I've got. I then mixed a couple of table spoons of rapeseed oil with maple syrup and honey (enough to coat all the granola mix without being too runny or sticky) and then baked it in the oven at 150C for 15 mins. Then I added some mixed dried fruit; cranberries, raisins, sultanas, prunes, with some desiccated coconut and baked for a further 15 mins. After leaving it to cool, I filled nearly every empty jar I could lay my hands on and it will be distributed amongst the children later today. The granola is good for 1 month.

Local industrial heritage walk

Last Saturday it was a beautiful day so I took the opportunity to walk in the sun from our rented hovel to the barns. I went via my parents house and from there it was a bit of a nostalgia walk as it took me partially along our route to secondary school when we were saving our bus money as teenagers. I took some photo's along the way as it is mostly a rural footpath sort of walk with quite a bit of industrial heritage thrown in.

Leaving the 'modern' housing estate and following the footpath away from the roads and houses, the path takes you under the disused railway bridge and intersects the new part of the 'Ripley Greenway' path which follows the route of the long since removed railway line. I haven't walked this yet but it is on my list!

My footpath eventually leads past Padley Hall to a small hamlet called Hammersmith. Padley Hall dates back to the late 15th century, and apparently author and poet DH Lawrence was a frequent visitor to the hall. (Read more about the hall here).  At the end of the Hammersmith cottages, the road continues onto the left but this is where you take a right turn onto the coach road. This is probably not fit for coaches any more as it is a bit pot holey, and it definitely needs care if you are cycling. At the end of the coach road the reservoir comes into view and eventually the disused Butterley works buildings. The reservior is not huge as reservoirs go, and was originally built as a top up for the Cromford Canal which opened for use in 1794.  The Butterley Works are listed under the Ancient Monuments  Act for the C19 blast furnaces, late C18 canal tunnel, underground wharf and related mineral extraction works. For more info, read here. There are some really interesting sources of information on the internet, but I particularly like this short video merging the original buildings with the remaining buildings today.

After the Butterley Works a short distance away is the Midland Railway Centre with steam and diesel engines. 

I should really have continued along the road but was tempted by the footpath sign after the railway centre. It was a lovely day and I couldn't resist, and it was lovely to be in the fields, but blimey was it muddy. The stiles were a bit of a challenge as well, so not many photo's of the walk up the fields.

Slow Dough Real Bread


I have a new cook book - Slow Dough REAL BREAD by Chris Young, much to the delight of the family as it means that I am trying out new recipes. I love this book because it has quite a few easy recipes for bread where all the work is done in the fridge overnight, as long fermentation is the name of the game. Today I made Appley Village Buns which have home made egg custard and chopped apricots in the middle and orange icing and flaked almonds on the top. It was a bit gooey and messy to make as you roll out the dough to 30cm x 50cm, spread the custard on the top and then roll it all up. I had custard all over the place, especially when I was cutting the roll into 9 pieces which for some unaccountable reason actually turned out to be 8.  I put it down to custard panic. Anyway, after it had risen for an hour the 8 buns spread out nicely to fill the tin. We had a bun and coffee for early lunch and it was absolutely yum.

Heart Hanger - Homemade Christmas Presents

It's been a long time since last blogging and so much has happened with Christmas, New Year holiday, working away from home, another new hip..... Yes, this is 'the winter of hipcontent' to misquote Shakespeare.

First of all it is now quite safe to reveal the family homemade present. This year I thought I would do something a little easier and less time consuming and settled for making shabby chic style heart garlands. But, oh how wrong I was. I mean, I 'cheated' by using a heart die cutter to cut out a vast number of hearts. Aha, what a sneaky shortcut person I am. However, I didn't factor in the hours it would take to sew the hearts together, turn them the right way around, stuff them, make the hessian roses, string them together and just, well, THINK about them. For example, what colours would each offspring like, what patterns, where to get the fabric from (obviously I had to buy new fabric as mine is still in storage), research the hessian roses, make the hessian roses, do a trial run, find some beads as extra embellishments, play with hessian leftovers to make tassles. Well, it goes on (and on). Don't get me wrong, I loved making them and actually made 7 in the end with two more to finish off FOR ME - they are really nice, but my goodness, they've consumed all my sewing time. The poor old hexagon quilt has once again taken a back seat because of Christmas.

Christmas at Chatsworth House

We are very fortunate to have Chatsworth House a short drive from where we live and the Christmas decorations are a special attraction and well worth a visit, although it is really busy. I had a sisters day out - myself and my sisters have a trip out and lunch instead of buying each other Christmas presents. This year we had a bigger party as my niece and her little boy came too and also our dad, so it was extra nice with 4 generations of the family represented. Here are a few photos of the decorations, though they barely do them justice. I've also included a photo of my favourite sculpture of the Veiled Vestal Virgin. This year the theme for the decorations is 'The Nutcracker' so there were ballerinas dancing around too ("the pretty ladies" as described by little Oscar). My favourite room had a tutu tree and a bauble bath :) 

Golden Valley and Codnor Castle Walk

The sun was shining and I have a new leg (so to speak), so it was time to test it out and try out a walk that will be a local walk when we move to the barns. 

It's a very historical walk which sort of goes back in time from the industrial revolution back to medieval times. We started with the industrial revolution by walking along the remains of the Cromford canal at Golden Valley. We have spent many a happy time with the kids over the years visiting the Cromford canal at Cromford near Matlock, but have never really investigated the canal on our doorstep. We parked near the Newlands Inn which is a sad shell of a grade 2 listed building destroyed by fire in 2011 with no sign for years of it being rebuilt.

Across the road from the Newlands is the footpath along Cromford Canal towards Codnor Reservoir. This is quite overgrown in places but is a pleasant walk and well used by walkers and birders. We saw a kingfisher which was very exciting - apparantly there are a pair seen regularly.

We continued along the canal past the reservoir until we reached the start of  Erewash Meadows Country Reserve where we turned off to cross the railway line. The nature reserve will have to be a walk for another day! Across the railway line we walked through the woods until we reached a farm track and fields near to Codnor Castle. Fortunately for us the castle was open as they have open/maintenance days on the 2nd Sunday of every month. There is an excellent web site with lots of information about the castle here, and we were really quite shocked at our lamentable knowledge of our only local castle. It was featured on a Time Team program which we watched on YouTube when we got home.

After a little photography break at the castle we headed back towards the start of the walk, but first we took a little detour to see the  Codnor Park Monunment, another local landmark which we can actually see from the barns. It was a tower and hall built in the memory of William Jessop Jnr 1784-1852, a local industrialist active in the Butterley Company, founded by his father. It was actually a bit of disappointment because it's on private land and you can't get near it. Bah. The photo below shows the view across Golden Valley and you can just see our barns (with the help of the arrow!)

To finish off our walk we retraced our steps back to the track and walked back to the main road. We crossed the road and carried on along the footpath opting to walk on a high bank under the electricity cables after walking through the woods to a) see the view and b) it was easier walking because all the vegetation had been cleared underneath the wires.

All in all it was an unexpected lovely walk and one that we will do again. If you have enjoyed this post or would like to make a comment, please click on the buttons below.

Bonfire Night Party

Sparkler Writing

It's great having space and an abundant supply of stuff to burn on a bonfire. We are making full use of our barn garden in it's 'before' state. No doubt when it reaches the 'after' state we won't have a bonfire patch just in front of the kitchen window. Anyway, for the moment we can have a bonfire night party with a big bonfire. We have no electricity apart from a temporary cable run from the neighbours, no water and no bathroom facilities. However, on the plus side, you don't have to worry about people stomping indoors in muddy boots. We did make an effort from a safety perspective to cordon off some of the very big holes on the site so that we didn't break any legs. Somehow, that seemed like a very good idea. We managed to organise hot food and mulled wine and set these up in one of the barns just in case it rained and then everyone arrived and the burning commenced. We even had a Guy Fawkes on the bonfire, which in retrospect may have seemed a little gruesome to the Colombian friend of the daughters. It was a really nice evening with all the family and we have a new tradition of sparkler writing which takes quite a bit of co-ordination when there are 10 sparkler writers!