13.1.15

Of Speculoos and Guy Bourdin

Bonne année and all that jazz

Firstly, thank you for all of your wonderfully caring comments on the passing of The Hound. I cried all day everyday throughout December, customers cried with me, people who i have never spoken to put their head round the door to say how sorry they were, remembering him from his antics in the farmers market or as a regular fixture in the Tobie Norris.

It is a very strange reality without him, i keep forgetting and looking for him, or shouting him to get up.
I have become obsessed with looking for another dog on the internet, i think i know the whereabouts and age of every lurcher/ whippet/ weimaraner in rescue. I even went to see one, a lurcher who looked quite similar to The Hound, but she was so different in character, and i had a bit of a meltdown.

The first cut is the deepest.

In amongst all the tears and despair i have managed to fit in

Hundreds of Christmas wreaths
A trip to Brussels
Turning 40
A trip to London
3 rolls of 120 film
A lot of champagne
A few instagrams

It was the trip to Brussels to see the Belgian arm of the bee team, that inspired the above cheesecake. After my attempts at stealing baby Patrick were thwarted, i instead filled the suitcase with Speculoos biscuits.

Speculoos cheesecake with salted caramel sauce 
( adapted from this recipe from Le Journal des Femmes)

I made this in an 8inch round tin.

175g speculoos biscuits
80g butter melted
360g cream cheese
140g Quark
2 eggs
100g sugar
Teaspoon of vanilla extract

Caramel Sauce
80g sugar
4 tablespoons of water
200ml double cream
50g butter
fleur de sel

In a food processor whizz up the biscuits to a fine crumb. Mix in the melted butter to form a dough. Tip this into a greased and lined loose bottomed tin, and with the back of a spoon spread it to form a base and about an inch up the sides of the tin to form a case. Bake blind in the oven at 180 for about 5 minutes and allow to cool.
Meanwhile mix the cheese and quark. The French recipe calls for 400g of Philadelphia with honey and 100g of plain. You can't get Philadelphia honey in Rutland, and the tubs are 180g in size, hence the last minute decision to add in some quark i happened to have. I think it would have been far too sweet and rich made the original way. Add the eggs, sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth, pour into the tin and bake in the oven for a further 30-40 minutes. Chill in the fridge for a few hours.
For the sauce, put the sugar and water into a heavy frying pan and heat until the sugar has dissolved then turn up the heat until a caramel colour and scent is reached. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cream and butter, then add some fleur de del to taste.

Serve sauce in fancy copper pan purchased in Brussels.

Then to London to see friends who are expecting a baby any day, and a trip to the Guy Bourdin Exhibition at Somerset House, do go it is very good.

and skies that belong in movies.

and chicken roasted after being smothered in creme fraiche, garlic, red onion, tarragon and flat leaf parsley.

A strange time, hideous and wonderful in equal measure.

8.12.14

Hold on tightly let go lightly


I have tried to write this post so many times and failed.

The Hound passed away last week, he became very poorly very quickly, and i had to make the decision that was right for him but is haunting me.

I had a day off today, which it turns out is entirely the wrong thing to do, so it is back to the 18 hour days of wreaths and trees and weddings. Distraction.

Thank you to the staff at Stamford Veterinary Centre, and to everybody that has mopped up my tears, so often with their own.

I am so lost without him.




25.11.14

Christmas Wreath Workshop in aid of Farm Africa


On the 4th of December we are hosting a Christmas Wreath workshop at Browne's hospital Broad Street Stamford.

The above painting dated 1870 is the room we are using.

You can't beat a bit of history.

You will make your own wreath on a traditional brass ring, with moss, and heaps of mixed foliage.

followed by a fork supper provided by The Stamford Deli.

and a chance to hear about and see photographs from my trip to Tanzania.

Cost £50.00 with all proceeds going to Farm Africa

Tickets available from the shop, or The Stamford Deli


20.11.14

The road to Endoji


was long and dusty.

11 people and many beehives in one Toyota Landcruiser climbing higher and higher along the pot hole filled track. One of the things that struck me the most was how far away from anywhere Endoji was.

As we unfurled cramped legs and rather inelegantly fell out of the car, we were met by singing and dancing. There is a glimpse of it here. I probably watch this 2 or 3 times a day, it is enormously joyous.

Karibu

We were taken to a gazebo made of blue tarpaulin and decorated with lace and silk flowers. Dancing and singing continued, it was overwhelming and surreal and so very emotional. I had to bite my lip to stop the tears. I would hate for you to think i spent the entire time there crying, i spent far more time in fits of giggles, but it wouldn't be appropriate to blog about those bits. Also many of the tears were sheer relief that i wouldn't have to build anymore beehives.

We presented the beehives, and a beekeeping suit, boots and smoker, and the ladies danced with them. I think the photograph of the lady and the smoker is my favourite of the whole trip.

Then the beehives and the bee team were blessed by the village elder and his grass.

and the local politician gave a speech. He was passionate in his thanks to FarmAfrica, and also in his appeal for Tanzania's carbon credit.

and there was a meal in the village hall, spiced rice, offal and fruit.

The welcome and gratitude was so heartfelt, it was aimed at us, but was meant for the hives and the continued work that FarmAfrica will do with the village.

but the best part of the day was just meeting the villagers, watching the children play with the balloons, and tennis balls, and jumping frogs we had taken, and just standing back and seeing and photographing all the colours. We had to be dragged away, i didn't want to leave, the villagers of Endoji have so very little in terms of material goods or opportunity but their optimism and serenity was so striking and comforting.

Tomorrow i shall bring you news of a Christmas wreath flower school we are holding in aid of FarmAfrica. December the 4th 6.30 at Browns hospital, Stamford.


13.11.14

Of beehives and blisters


























We landed at Kilimanjaro International airport at sometime on Monday morning.
The drive to Babati was one of contrasts, watch the video for a taste of it. Arid orange dust, the city of Arusha, herds of cattle, it has it all.

The following morning we met the farmers and carpenters we would be working with. We were introduced one by one, the farmers amongst us met with respectful nods, and then it was my turn.

"I'm a florist"

Mapambo Mapambo was the translation and everybody fell about laughing. Which had me wondering what exactly Mapambo meant. Subsequently googled it - decoration.

We all paired up, i was to be working with Herman, Herman is the one with the blue shirt, and the look that says

"Your pretty little Instagram account doesn't mean anything here, get hammering"

and then i had a bit of meltdown, not a big one, just a quivering lip and the sensation of tears building up. I am as it turns out pretty bad at hammering. Give me a flat pack from Ikea with pre-drilled holes and an allen key, and i can knock you up a wardrobe, but pieces of wood, long nails and an old hammer and i'm all but useless. Useless is not something i am good at, as you get older you engineer your life to avoid things you don't do well, or is that just me? A further half hour of self indulgent self loathing ensued. Why on earth am i here? What use am i? Don't worry about it Herman, i'll just tweet a nice picture. Is being a florist actually any good to anyone?

and then we got to the frames, each beehive has 20 frames that must be made and threaded with strengthening wire. Threading wire? That i can do. By day 2 we had all discovered our strengths and started a production line.

We made 58 beehives. I suspect i had nearly 58 blisters. Seeing them all stacked together was an incredibly proud moment for us all. They were literally all filled with our sweat and my tears.

We had the chance to go and meet Lucia at her honey farm and see the influence Farm Africa had already had on a village. Hidden behind banana trees, was a honey farm. 72 beehives up and running. All that wiring finally made sense, to see the comb attached to the wires was wonderful. To meet Lucia even more so.

We had been told before we went that traditionally beekeeping was a mans' game, and having seen one of the old log hives, and tried to lift it, i can see why. These new hives mean that the honey can be harvested 3 times a year, and reused.

Lucia has expanded into retail. Her shop is next to the honey processing room. The honey is extracted in a centrifuge, and filtered before being jarred. Filter = massive kitchen sieve. Other honey farmers in the village use the room too. Some farmers might have just 2 or 3 hives, the money from the honey boosting the family income. The extra income allows their children to go to school. Primary education is free in Tanzania, but uniform and books need to be paid for.

Lucia sold jars of honey, candles, matches, snacks and pepsi. Pepsi and Coca-cola really are everywhere. I hope to go back to Babati next year, but with a better understanding of Swahili so we can have a good chat about the weird things that customers say and do….

I started this week Ninafuraha kukutana na wewe

Next up….. what happened when we took the beehives to the village of Endoji and details of a special Christmas flower school evening in aid of Farm Africa.

Also you can donate to fund more beehives here