Friday, 20 September 2013

Success! And some cookie information

Well it was a success. I spent a few hours wondering if I was about to wake up. I went to see the very lovely Lorraine from Church House Designs in Congresbury on Friday and within a very short time she picked out 5, yes 5, pictures that she would take. I keep wondering whether I dreamt it, but the pictures definitely aren't here any more. And she is interested in more. I spent the whole journey home hyperventilating. Good feeling. Hope they sell. I wanted to tell you about it straight away but the exhilaration subsided into exhaustion and a weekful of daft petty but time-and-energy-consuming errands.

I have been working on a few more pictures on and off. I have started some of more of my little tall thin sea pictures to put into frames for the gallery as Lorraine was very keen on the idea. She also liked this one and will probably have it, once I've got round to framing it:-

It is based on a place in France I know but actually isn't that place any more as the hill turned out to be much steeper than the one in my head. I have never done one with the waves going in a different direction before and it was a struggle to know where to stitch, and even more so where to sew beads. But I am pleased with the result. Even if it isn't quite the place I had intended.

The manic cake-baking for workmen continues. I have given up on a pledge I made with myself last week and made the same one twice for them: the rather lovely Norfolk apple cake (great cake but there's something a bit weird about it: I spent 18 years in Norfolk and never remember eating an apple cake there ever). The appreciation of several workmen of a good cake is very heartwarming. Today I felt the urge to cook something Bulgarian. Not something I've ever wanted to do before, but I have my reasons. One of the workmen, the fastest, hardest-working and the least likely to complain, is half-Bulgarian and I felt some trepidation when he lent me his Bulgarian cookery book after days of talking about food. I leafed through it over a weekend and half-heartedly copied the least unappealing recipes, all three of them. I ignored the tripe soup. But walnut and honey cookies sounded OK. So today I thought I'd give it a go. I adapted it a bit because it looked a bit spartan and I was a bit wary of making an ex-Soviet bloc breezeblock of a biscuit: so double the honey (by accident) and instead of the oil suggested, I used melted butter. And you know what? They are great. Really moreish. Really easy to make. Everyone loved them, even my fussy picky spoiled children. They will become a regular in our house I think. Admittedly they do look a bit dull and worthy, don't they? But in that way that central-European biscuits often seem to look a bit boring, they can often be tastier than some prettier concoctions we know. So here, thanks to a strange book by a Mr. Atanas Slavov and a half-Bulgarian guy with a Spanish name, comes my version of...

(I can't believe there were only 4 left to take a picture of, shocking gluttons)

Bulgarian Walnut and Honey Cookies

10oz plain flour
1 egg
2 tablespoons honey
4oz caster sugar
1/2 cup melted butter, cooled slightly
1 teaspoon baking powder
Walnut halves

Preheat the oven to Gas mark 4, 180 degrees C or 350 degrees F. Mix all the ingredients except the walnuts until a big firm ball of dough develops. Shape the dough into balls the size of a small ping-pong ball, and place on a greased baking tray, spacing them apart by a few centimetres. I think I made around 18. Top each with a walnut half if you wish. I did some without to let my nut-allergic boy have some, and topped some with pecans because I'd run out of walnuts. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes. Put them straight onto a cooling rack. My friendly workman got really excited when I told him what I'd made, tried one and at the first taste said "Yes!" and started talking about his grandmother making them, with a faraway look in his eye. I don't know why I feel proud to have made something that a Bulgarian granny could have knocked up, but I do.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Art once more. Oh dear.

Two themes for this week: cakes and art. I had forgotten I had art to fit into my timetable, it has been so long. The cakes have been a constant since my last post: the nice man in the garden was so appreciative of the gateau breton, and has been working so hard that all cakey calories get instantly burned off, that more cakes were needed. It has turned into a matter of pride that I do not give up and serve anything bought, and as a result since my last post I have made blueberry and vanilla cupcakes, carrot and ginger cake, chocolate cake with butter icing and jam filling, blueberry muffins and tonight an apple cake. I think I might have forgotten one more but you get the picture. I have window fitters here as well now for the foreseeable future so I can't see it stopping yet. Plus I have a boy's birthday cake to make tomorrow as well as party cupcakes in the shape of minions from Despicable Me for this weekend.

The art is another matter. It has crept up out of necessity this week. First of all I had my introduction to the North Somerset Arts committee on Tuesday. I must confess to being out of my depth here. I was for a start a bit daunted by some of the names in the room with me. Then badly underqualified in terms of experience and knowledge when it came to discussing committee members' roles. I just about managed to redeem myself with one teeny suggestion but I still feel like a bit of a buffoon when I think back on it. Let's hope things improve with time.

Then came the matter of the Royal West of England Academy's Open Exhibition. Submissions have to be in by Friday at 5pm. I thought I might just give it a go. Nothing I have hanging about seemed to fit the bill so I got cracking. It had to be a beachy one as they are the ones that come from my heart. I made one loosely based on a photo, hated it, and made another one, more in line with my usual. Then I went back to the first and started stitching into it while it was still damp. Will I be the first person ever to take my sewing machine to be repaired due to rust damage? Anyway then cue my friend Jenny, who with a fine arts degree, is better qualified to judge these things than me. She thought the more abstract the better so I focused on the second one, put the lines on, a few beads (still not sure if this is too craftsy) and there we have it. A good photo of it, a naff title, and there it is, submitted online. Submission fees paid. I can concentrate on framing later.

Only one problem: now it's done I feel once more the buffoon. How preposterous to think I can submit a silly bit of felt whizzed up on my kitchen table, to such an acclaimed exhibition. I must get back into my hole.

But not yet. One more utterly daunting art-related thing to go yet this week. I had an email from someone from Clevedon Art Club. The visitor's book from the recent exhibition had a comment asking me to contact someone. Not just anyone but someone with a gallery. How lovely. How exciting. How flattering. So tomorrow I will be loading up my boot with all the art I have to sell and going to Church House Designs in Congresbury to chat to a lovely-sounding lady. For the third time this week I have to pretend to be a serious artist. I wonder if I can pull it off this time. Or maybe it's time to stick to the cakes.