About Me

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North Somerset, United Kingdom
My parents were worried when I ran around with scissors – now I play with fire and (intentionally) break glass! Based in the beautiful South West of England, close to the sea and often the scene of beautiful sunsets, I am inspired by the countryside around. Working with sea glass collected from remote beaches, soda lime glass from Murano, Italy, Europe, USA and beyond, I create artisan beads, for use in my own jewellery or for you to enjoy in your own creations. But I couldn’t stop there; continuing the theme from round rods to flat sheets, mostly from the USA, I break large sheets of transparent, opaque, multi-coloured and dichroic glass into much smaller pieces to make a kiln-formed range of bright, colourful jewellery and home decoration. Each piece I make is individually designed around the shape, size and beauty of the materials and intended to be unique, wearable, usable and affordable. All my glass work is kiln annealed for strength and durability and designed to give pleasure for years to come.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Say cheese!

Who said 'Blessed are the cheesemakers'? (OK, it was Monty Python) -  a tale of unblessedness and a lot of cursing follows!

As you will recall, if you follow my blog, Me and Him went on a cheese making day in February, just for fun.  It was our Christmas present to each other.  We rather got the bug!  Him decided he'd like to try this again so, after a lot of dithering, I ordered all the bumph and bits we'd need - the last bit was some nifty tiddly spoons for measuring tidgy bits of this and that - and despite the postage only being 99p on Amazon, they took an age to arrive; from America!

It then took me a little longer to work out how big a drop, smidgen, pinch, tad and pinch were in real terms.  We knew that homogenised milk is OK, pasteurised is second best so, Tesco having failed us, we head to Waitrose for some Duchy milk that will fit the bill (and a good coffee shop nearby).

All sorted, eyes down, look in, we're making cheese!

Armed with the set of destructions given to us on our workshop - I spotted the nifty idea for holding things in the kitchen on Facebook - for a freebie, it works as an idea.

So we make a start, follow the destructions to the letter, stir this, add that, wait (and grab another coffee) .... and get to the point where we should have curds forming in the pan.  We still have milk.  Check destructions, everything added, give it a little longer, drink more coffee.  We still have milk.  This goes on for several hours by which time we are thinking there is something seriously wrong here - and you know whose fault that will be then? 

Now, I've never been a great one for all those RE lessons in school, good tale, pretty implausible in my book.  You can have your opinion, I can have mine.  Him believes in all of them and frankly it hasn't worked on the cheese, so I try my approach to things.  Swear.  I have a cuss box and I pop in money from time to time - that's why I save £2 coins, handy for the odd F word.  If you've not seen many £2 coins recently, that's because they are in my cuss box.  I popped a tenner in the cuss box and told this pot of milk exactly what I thought about it.  

Sarah and Chris from Shebbear Cheese, who ran the course, use rennet tablets, I couldn't get tablets so bought liquid rennet.  The bottle says 4 drops is enough for 5 litres of milk and I have 4 litres.  4 drops it is then?  By the time I'd sold my soul to the crossroads devil and added about 20 drops - and a lot of £2 coins to the box, Him suggested we go out for coffee and cake.  A watched pot never curdles.  Out we go, with one more curse to just make sure.  I swear the pan had red ears from all my cussing, and do I care?

Well, someone is on my side, when we get back we have curds!  Whatever we did wrong is now right(ish).  So we scoop and drain and mold, fingers crossed this works.  In about 4 weeks we should have some Cambozola.

This shouldn't have taken us long, but it did.  So we decided phase 2 - we're making a soft blue cheese as well, could wait until the next day.

We measure, follow destructions, stir, wait ... and wait .... and wait ..... we've still got milk and no curds.  Just where is Beelzebub when you need him?  Surely he heard me, half the town did!  So back to counting £2 coins. I applied the same logic as the day before - swear, add more rennet, swear again, add more rennet, swear again and go out for coffee and cake.  Et voilĂ !  we come back to curds.  See, it's darned all to do with the rennet, it's to do with the cussing. 

So we scoop and mold and settle down for more coffee.  But this is bugging me.  There has to be more to cheesemaking than adding to my (now well stocked) cuss box. Then I resorted to Google. 

It would seem that our rennet ratio is a bit out.  Quite a lot out it seems.  Having had a good compare on t'internet, 1 rennet tablet is equal to 1 teaspoon of liquid rennet.  We needed 1/4 teaspoon and that's 25 drops.  Pffft, where do they get 4 drops to 5 litres from?  Perhaps the bounce-quality of our cheese will be higher, we have a few more weeks to wait until we get to find out.

We ended up with a lot of whey  to deal with.  You can't just pour it down the sink, it's considered to be effluent.  As those who follow my world will know, drainage features large in our lives - or the lack of it (but we are getting there, Wessex Water have almost said yes to our  request to put in our own surface water drainage, linked to theirs; just another form or two to complete and money to change hands for approval).  

I'd read somewhere that you can make ricotta from whey so, armed with my tablet I found a suitable You Tube video - one I thought I could bear to watch (some are sooo bad) and settled down to follow the instructions.  Now, our internet is pretty flaky around this house and, although everything else works fine, my tablet loses the signal about the middle of the kitchen diner, I guess it's one wall too far.  So, the tablet sat on a bar stool at the end of its range and I dashed from one end of the room to the other to follow the video, with the volume on high so what I didn't see I could at least hear.  A little while later we have ricotta (which apparently means double cooked - see, the internet can be educational!)  Granted there's not a lot of it, I suspect the extra rennet stripped out anything from the milk, but I added a bit of salt, some chives and a bit of garlic and it's a pretty good take on home made Boursin, seeing I haven't any in the fridge.  Just enough for supper, tasty and free.  The rest of the whey, by now a greenish liquid, was left to cool and went on my kiwi fruit plant, apparently fruiting plants like it and it saved me from flushing it down the loo seeing it's not allowed down the sink. 

The cheese at the top are the ones we matured after our workshop - I'll report back in a few weeks how these turn out. I'm hoping these run true to type and I don't need more £2 coins for a few weeks.

We both recommend the workshops Sarah and Chris run, great fun, something different (and better than a pair of socks or a bunch of flowers for Christmas).

Sunday, 4 May 2014

A little escapism .....

..... does you good!

We thought we had it sussed.  A week away after we both were made redundant at the end of last month.  But no so far 'away' that we couldn't get emails (himself can't live without emails) or internet access.  Armed with his '3' dongle for his laptop and my O2 3G card in my tablet, we head northwards to the Lakes.

The journey from hell!  The monsoon like rain didn't stop until we were almost there, the M6 is best described as a work-in-progress with no sign of anyone doing anything in the coned off roadworks but at least we arrived to dark clouds and not a downpour.  Hardy travellers, we had packed our wellies - last time we went we went to the Lakes, we got stuck in floods, the car  engine was practically written off (it blew a cylinder within days of getting home and went to the great scrapheap in the sky). And arrived just before the site manager was leaving - close call!

With good views from our little loft apartment, we settled down to watch the sunset over Bassenthwaite lake (not always as lovely as this one).  Just a bit about these apartments, I think some of the others might be a bit more swish and comfy than our Loft, but the views, location and the site manager more than make up for it.  We will be back!!

A bit of useless info for you, did you know that Bassenthwaite lake is the only lake in the Lake District? (The rest are all meres or waters, not lakes).

The bit of not-so-useless info if you go to that area - you can't get O2 3G in much of the Lake District.  3 cover should be much better, but not if you are standing near a mountain.  We took to leaving equipment on in the car in case we passed a signal somewhere.  Then we gave up and realised we were isolated.


Ospreys are nesting near Bassenthwaite Lake. Spot the  Osprey - I've marked the tree with an arrow.  Surely you can see it in the tree?  In fact there were two of them in the tree.   I have to say I struggled too - and I was peering down a super-dooper 'better than I have in my glove box' pair of binoculars.  we had walked through Dodd Woods to the Osprey view point (OK, I huffed and puffed, not good on hills) but could see so little.  The Osprey folks told us the walk to the higher viewpoint would be worth it (couldn't they hear me wheezing?) so off we went.  It was worth the climb!  Using the Osprey team's equipment and with a lot of guidance, we could clearly see one osprey on the nest and another on the branch beside - but they are miles away across the valley, hence the fuzzy photo.

But then the clouds lifted, the walk was now downhill so my mood lifted and we went to Mirehouse, opposite - lovely little house, open under the Historic Houses Association scheme.  The gardens are also pretty, with plenty of places to shelter from showers.

We love fritillaries -  we usually go to North Meadow in Cricklade - it's full of them, but sadly we've somehow forgotten and missed them this year.  They are over their best in Cricklade but not in Mirehouse.

Boy's toys - he seems to have lost his pair of horses!

There's a pretty walk down to the lakeside and on to a remote chapel, but what struck us was that this poor little black lamb is the only one in several fields of white sheep. Clearly he is the black sheep of the family.

But I did a bit of digging and now know that in sheep, a white fleece is the result of a dominant gene that actively switches colour production off - that is why most sheep are white.  This means a black fleece in most sheep is recessive, so if a white ram and a white ewe are each heterozygous (have the black and white forms of the gene for fleece colour), in about 25 per cent of cases they will produce a black lamb. This is quite a rare occurrence though, and in most white sheep breeds only a few white sheep are heterozygous for black, so black lambs are usually much rarer.

These 2 look comfy and the best of friends ........

The site manager where we were staying recommended La'al Ratty to us, and with Himself liking a steam train, off we went.  We started from Ravenglass, stopped at Boot, had lunch in a pub, then headed off towards the signposted  'gallery' to find it had closed 6 months ago!  But the ice cream at the station was very acceptable - we know how to party!!

We'd seen turntables before but never seen how they worked.  Here they drive the diesel train onto the turntable, the driver gets out and turns the train round, 

drives along a parallel set of tracks until he's beyond the front of the train,  then changes the points and backs on to the front, ready to go.

Yes, I know the train above is diesel and the one below is steam - my camera died mid series, by the time I was sorted the train had left the station (just like my life) but you get the idea!

And what's this tunnel got to do with anything?

On the way home we stopped for lunch at Hanbury Hall (NT) - always a good lunch to be had at an NT property.

This is Snobs Tunnel - it goes under the Cedar Walk so servants could walk between the main house and areas of the garden (such as the ice-house) unobserved.  The lengths some people will go to to avoid looking at the people who work for them!  I found it amusing.

So, now we are back to reality - wonder when our next escape will be?  Even our cats were pleased to see us this time, now there's a first!