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Friday, 31 March 2017

The Snuff Mills of Morden Hall Park

Once upon a very long time ago snuff was all the rage. It started with the indigenous tribes of Brazil, and was carried back to the Old World by the Spanish, who established the first European snuff mill in Seville in the early 16th century.

The French ambassador, Jean Nicot, is credited with bringing snuff to the attention of his Queen, Catherine de Medici. Poor old Catherine had been plagued with headaches, which she was persuaded to treat with snuff. Miraculously it  seemed to work! And the grateful queen promptly declared that snuff should henceforth be known as Herba Regina, the Queen's Herb. Having won the royal seal of approval it quickly became popular with the French aristocracy.

From there the fashion for snuff soon jumped the Channel to take hold amongst the great and the good here in England. Soon snuffing was all the rage, with many extolling its excellent curative properties. It was sniffed into the nose, delivering an instant nicotine hit, and leaving a lingering smell. And back in the day, when the world tended not to smell too sweet, that scent in the nose would have been a welcome relief from the everyday malodors that otherwise assaulted the senses. Often snuff was blended to secret recipes with other spices, herbs and floral essences. Famous blends such as Scotch and Welsh, English Rose (supplied free of charge to MPs in the House of Commons after smoking was forbidden in the Chamber in 1693) and Lundy Foot gained popularity. Before long there was a huge selection of blends delivering different scent sensations to appeal to just about every olfactory caprice; some were dry having been roasted and then ground very fine whilst others were more moist.

  The Snuff Mill, Morden Hall Park, London
The Snuff Mill, Morden Hall Park, London
George III's Queen Consort, Charlotte, was known as Snuffy Charolotte, thanks to her devotion to the stuff. She had a whole room at Windsor Castle devoted to her stash of snuff and her collection of snuff paraphernalia. George IV had his own exclusive blends.  Lord Nelson, the Iron Duke (of Wellington), Alexander Pope, Benjamin Disraeli and Samuel Johnson were all keen snuffers. With the growth of 18th century coffee house culture, the nation's enthusiasm for snuff grew in tandem with its addiction to caffeine fad to become a firm fixture in the daily lives of the chattering classes.


Sunday, 26 March 2017

Teddy Bears with waistcoats ... 🐻


Here in the UK our clocks have moved on to British Summer Time. Personally I wish they stayed on BST all through the winter months. It would be great to have that extra daylight into the winter months. The sun is shining down here in London, the mercury has risen and the spring bulbs are bringing bursts of colour everywhere.

In the meantime I've been busy getting a project ready for the lovely ladies who are going to be my guests in Barcelona over Easter. I'm so very excited to be hosting them in one of the greatest cities in the world.

We're going to be working on some Barcelona Bears as our holiday project. This pattern had its first incarnation to celebrate the wonderful one-day wool fair that is Festiwool back in the autumn, but it's making a come-back with a splendid new spring waistcoat to keep the bear warm in this chilly weather.

I've shared the knitting pattern here: Festibear, and if you'd like to learn how to make his waistcoat just read on for my paper pattern and instructions.


Wednesday, 22 March 2017

March ... and using flower apps 🌺

March had been shaping up nicely, but it's all gone a bit downhill recently. I  had got used to blue skies and sunshine, but it's turned all cold and rainy and blustery here in London, and I'm not enjoying the change. 😫


I'm s-o-o-o-o predictable at this time of the year. As soon as the sap starts rising I'm out to dig up all the mistakes that I made last year. Shrubs that I've miscalculated on are a recurring theme. Do you ever plant something, that looks really good in the garden centre, forgetting to read the disclaimer about how tall/ wide it will grow? I'm a sucker for that one. My back garden is modestly proportioned, and there isn't a lot of room for bamboo glades and shrubberies, but, thanks to my gormless lack of forward planning, that was exactly where we were headed.

Right now I've got a bamboo forest, hacked out, dug up and sworn over lying prone on my front forecourt waiting to be carried off to the local council's composting facility. Several too-big for the plot shrubs went the same way last week. And now I'm all set for a perennial border in the very finest of English country traditions.


Friday, 17 March 2017

☘️ Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes☘️

☘️Happy Saint Patrick's Day!☘️

Back in God's Own Country they watch out to see whether the good Saint has turned the sunny side of the stone up. If he has, and the sun shines on our National Day, it means that spring has arrived. If he hasn't, then we'll sadly have to wait. I've got everything crossed for a sunny side up day.

Now on to our own little celebration here at Talk-a-Lot Towers. As is apparent from the recipes that I share I'm a big fan of the black stuff. I love Guinness for cooking. I'm also rather partial to the odd glass of it to wet my whistle with as well, but, then again, I'm not Irish for nothing ... 😜

To celebrate St. Patrick's Day this year I've made some Chocolate Guinness cupcakes, which are devilishly tasty, even if I say so myself!



Just read on for my recipe:

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Beaumaris Castle ... 8 centuries and still not finished ...

Work on Beaumaris Castle, the castle on the fair marsh, started on 18th April 1295 … and they still haven’t got the place finished.

It was to be the last of Edward I’s mighty castles guarding the north Wales seaboard. As I've mentioned before, I'm very grateful to dear old Ted the First for building all these wonderful castles within easy striking distance of the Dublin ferry. They make perfect places to stop-off and kick back for a few hours when you show up too early for your crossing.  See for example my thank you note for the wonder that is Conway Castle.


Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey, Wales
Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey, Wales


Friday, 3 March 2017

Knitting jewellery ...

I'm just messing around, enjoying the early spring sunshine (NOT - more like waiting for Noah and his ark to sail into sight 🤣), and cutting the points off my favourite pins - as one does ...

No, I haven't entirely lost the plot.

I've been making stitch markers. My Aran pattern of the moment is a bit involved, and I like to mark the beginning and end of each panel that corresponds to a specific chart to help me recognise where I am. It's less of an issue as I learn to recognise how the pattern hangs together, but at the beginning those stitch markers are a life-saver.