Author Archives: Erica Waters

Greengage Day

You may now be getting familiar with the ‘Ville Mice’ and their mischievous adventures, there seems to be no end of trouble that these little mice can get themselves into…

Meet Georgette Claudevert, wife of the local, (and very conservative – some may say boring) greengrocer Hervé Claudevert. Due to her married namesake, Georgette is convinced that she is in some far off distant way related to Claude, the very, very characterful 16th century French princess and after whom the greengage fruit, (or Claude Reign) is named.

So this year, when the little green fruits came into season and her husband’s shop was overflowing, Georgette decided to take her boring life into her own hands and realise her wild and promiscuous destiny.
greengage-autumn-mouse-georgette-01

 

Unbeknown to Hervé, Georgette had been casting her mousy eyes over the muscular local fireman, Bernard D’eau. His strong arms and mousy swagger were about as much as poor Georgette could bear and one particularly boring afternoon in September, she snapped. She had overheard a conversation in the Boulangerie about Bernard’s love of Claude Reign Tarte so without a second thought she gathered every last little, green fruit and began baking, planning to deliver her delicious fair to Bernard’s house and seduce him. But nobody, not even Georgette had counted on how sticky the baking process and hence the end result would be. In her eagerness to impress the rippling fireman she overloaded her tiny oven and caused a small fire. Next, the sticky caramel sauce bubbled over on the hob causing poor Georgette’s paws to become stuck fast to the floor. Of course on hearing the commotion and smelling the burning tartes the fire brigade was called immediately. Bernard and his fellow firemen found poor Georgette in her nightie, covered in green stains and a bit singed around the whiskers. I’ve heard tell that it took seventeen hours to chip Georgette free from the hard set caramel and that no amount of hot water would remove the sticky, green sauce from her fur.

 

Georgette and Hervé are still married. The incident was never mentioned again.b-greengage01 b-greengage02 b-greengage03 b-greengage04Georgette is available to buy from my shop www.folksy.com/shops/allthingsottoline and is £44.99 plus P&P

 

Back to it…

White Heart Deer

It has been an e-t-e-r-n-i-t-y since my last post with a lot of time spent pondering which way to take All Things Ottoline. I wish I could say I have come to a conclusion, but I haven’t! The only resolve I have managed to arrive at is that I’m just going to get on with it! I am going to make, paint and create the things I love and keep my fingers crossed that others enjoy too. Sharing my creations spurs me on so with that in mind here is my messy studio with the beginnings of something new on the drawing board…just experimenting at this stage, but it’s something.

 

Erica xx

studio

An Autumn Lunch

White Heart Deer

anauntumnlunch

At this time of year the trees that blanket the hills around The Ville are a patchwork of auburn, russets and golden greens. Gradually as the afternoons shorten and the air chills, the leaves float down and rest upon the surface of the river before merrily floating away towards the larger towns south west.

Amelie Beauchene runs the Bistro Beauchene well known for its fabulous seasonal menus. Nobody is ever sure from one day to the next what the ‘Plat du Jour’ will be.

One morning as usual, Amelie pulled on her sensible brown foraging boots, strapped her satchel to her strong mousey back and set off up the forested hill to source the ingredients for that days feast. It wasn’t long before she had gathered enough mushrooms, nuts and apples to satisfy her menu idea and so she made her way back down to the bistro kitchen.

outdoors

She spent the rest of the morning chopping, mixing, stuffing and fussing over several bubbling pots on her stove, and soon enough the clock struck twelve and the first of her customers sat down at the tables outside by the river.

By 12.30 the place was packed with mice from all over The Ville enjoying their feast and drinking a little too much wine.

“These stuffed mushrooms are the best this side of Bordeaux!” trilled Monsieur Delacroix in an uncharacteristically loud fashion as he climbed up on the table.

“A toast” he squeaked, “A toast to Amelie and all you lobsters, too.”

Amelie looked around at the crowded little restaurant and one by one all the mice began clawing their mousey paws together in a lobster fashion. Some of the mice began trying to catch invisible prey with their ‘claws’ and some were lying flat on their tummies and wriggling along an invisible sea floor. Amelie realized very quickly that she had picked the wrong sort of mushrooms for her ‘Plat du Jour’ but not being a mouse that wanted to miss out on any fun, she rammed as much stuffed mushroom as she could fit into her little mouth.

Nobody quite remembers what happened after that, but Amelie’s famous stuffed mushroom recipe was never served again.

Lunch

Apple, Walnut and Quinoa stuffed Mushrooms

(I suggest you buy your mushrooms from the market and avoid the ones in the forest!)

Serves one mouse/person

1 eating apple chopped into 1cm chunks

1 big handful walnuts chopped

1 cup white quinoa, rinsed

1 clove garlic minced

A little goat’s cheese to top

Flat leaf parsley

Fresh thyme

1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

Salt & Pepper

Bring a small pot of salted water to the boil and pop in your quinoa and cook on a medium bubble for 10-12 minutes or until the quinoa’s little tails have come out and it is soft but not soggy.

Put the apple and garlic in a little olive oil in a pan a cook until softened, add the herbs and walnuts and remove from heat.

When the quinoa is ready, drain and add to the apple, walnut mix. Season with salt and pepper, add the cider vinegar and mix together well.

Remove the stalks from your mushrooms and stuff with the mixture and top with the goat’s cheese.

Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and cook in the oven for about 10 minutes or until golden on top.

Serve with rocket and an apple cider dressing.

 

Agnés the Forager

White Heart Deer

The Foragers

Today started very early with me being in my studio before six am! I had an idea for a new collection of little foraging mice and just had to get up and get going with them.

Early Morning Studio

After a few hours the hazy autumn sun drew me out and we ended up in some woods that I’d never visited before for a well needed forage. I came home with bag fulls of bits and bobs for my foraging mice and finished my first mouse of the collection – Agnès.

agnes

Agnès is a foraging mouse and loves nothing better than to spend her days in the forest. One fine autumn afternoon whilst gathering nuts in the hazy sunshine she heard a rustle in the tree tops above her. No sooner had she turned her little mousy head upwards, a feisty red squirrel pounced upon her trying to relieve her of her nuts! Now Agnès wasn’t going to give up her bounty so easily and being a black belt in mouse karate the squirrel didn’t stand a chance. In a flurry of squeaks and ginger fluff the ambusher was gone and brave Agnès lived to forage another day. She is available now in the shop (www.folksy.com/shops/allthingsottoline) at £29.99 plus P&P. Please allow two weeks for delivery.

autumnforagefungisiennarunning

Madame Prunella and a Plumpty Cake

White Heart DeertitleAt last the afternoons are becoming longer and we can start exploring the village again. Now I don’t mind the long, dark winter evenings especially since the introduction of a wood burner to our lounge but there’s something very exciting about the start of a new season. This year in particular promises to be exciting in lots of different ways but more on that in a future post!
So, after a quick outfit change after school we dashed out the door into the late afternoon sunlight armed with a plum and some chocolate Bourbons.Sienna with biscuits and a bowl of plumsWe hadn’t ventured far before we discovered the newest residents of the village who were happily enjoying the sunshine. Now my daughter is fearless, at her age the sight of a flight of stone steps with a door ajar would send my imagination into overdrive – witches, monsters, vampires’ lairs etc – but not Sienna. She marched straight up only to shout down to me, “Mummy, it’s just full of chairs”. I must admit I was a little disappointed.Cows and Sienna climbing stairsWhen the sun dipped lower, we returned home for tea and a “sweet plum treat” which leads me on to Madame Prunella and the Plumpty Cake.You may know of the Ville and its mousey inhabitants or you may not, allow me…Somewhere deep in the forest and valleys of southwest France there lies a little town that I refer to as the Ville. It is an actual place where I have spent many happy times. It is the place in which I discovered I was expecting Sienna and is very dear to my heart. But for now, let us just call it the Ville.What most people don’t know is that although the Ville is much the same as any little French town, it has some extra special residents…the Ville Mice. Let me tell you a story about three of those mice and that story begins with an arrival.Madame Prunella is the Ville ballet teacher and seventeenth in a long line of her ancestors who were also ballet teachers. As you can imagine with such providence that Madame Prunella has she, how can I put it…has a lack of tolerance, patience and utter contempt for any kind of whining or complaint. But there is a way to soften Prunella’s fierce heart…plums. Anything plummy, even better if it’s 40% proof.

Madame Prunella and a slice of cake

Imagine if you will the commotion when Madeleine, Prunella’s great neice from Paris, came to study the art of dance with her prestigious aunt. A quiet, sheltered little mouse well accustomed to soft armchairs, warm fires and cheese soufflés. It came as rather a shock, therefore to discover Madame Prunella’s dance studio was inside a dimly lit, damp and freezing cold cave.

Madeline Mouse and a cake

Luckily for Madeleine she quickly befriended Plum, a local mouse with hollow legs and a love for expensive cheeses that had landed her in hot water many a time. Plum soon showed Madeleine how to dress for class, (lots of wool, lots and lots) and the two became thick as thieves. During morning break, Plum would show Madeleine how to spike Madame Prunella’s coffee with plum brandy ensuring there would be no more cave ballet for a good few hours as Madame snored amongst the tutus in the back room.

Coffee and cake

Plumpty Cake
(Makes 2 Plumpty Cakes)

340g mixed fruit
230g Demerara sugar
½ pint cold tea
450g self-raising flour
60g butter
1 egg beaten
4 plums
Soak the mixed fruit in the tea overnight

Pre heat your over to 150 (fan assisted)

In a mixing bowl paste the sugar and butter together.
Add the flour, (the fruit and some of the tea it was soaking in using a slotted spoon), and the egg.
Chop up 2 plums and add to the mixture.
Stir all together.
The mixture should be quite gloopy, if not, add more tea.
* You could add a dash of brandy here, if it tickled your fancy.

I use one shallow cake tin and one loaf tin to make both a Plumpty Cake and a Plumpty Loaf.

Decorate the top of the Plumpty Cake with sliced plums but leave the Plumpty Loaf bare.

Plumpty Cake takes 1hr 15 minutes whereas the Plumpty Loaf takes a little longer. They are ready when an inserted butter knife comes out dry.

Sienna in a tutu

Iona’s Love Lost

White Heart Deer

Iona's_Lost_Script

Iona lives in a tiny, white washed cottage by the shores of the Irish Sea. It may not be much to look at, but on a cold and wintery morning there is a good smell of potato cakes and a warm peat fire burning.

An open window and tiny clothes

Iona lives alone in her cosy cottage, but this was not always the case. Many years ago she had a husband, a strong and handsome creature with large arms to hold her safe and warm against the raging storms that rolled in from the sea. But the happy couple had a secret, a secret so great that only the strong of heart should read on. You see, the storms were not the only thing to have rolled in from the sea. On the night that Iona met her husband to be, he had appeared before her, walking out of the ocean and shedding his seal skin. Iona’s love was indeed a selkie and the pair fell deeply in love. Iona hid his skin in a chest and kept the key around her neck, for if a selkie ever finds his sealy clothes he will return straight back to the waves. But alas, one morning whilst hanging out the linen, she left the key by her bed. On her return her selkie love had disappeared back into the dark ocean forever and Iona was left all alone.

Now you will find Iona walking along the shore, day after day, hoping that one day her love will return.

Iona the White Heart Deer

The Right Place at the Right Time

White Heart Deer

The Right Place at the Right Time

If you go down into the village and turn this way but not that way, then turn right at the old post you will find a door.

There are many ancient grand houses around these parts, most surrounded by tall, stonewalls. And in these walls there are always doors.

But this particular door is special, as it hasn’t been opened in over one hundred years.

sign_door

Well, I say it hasn’t been opened in one hundred years, that is, until the day before yesterday.

If you are like me you will no doubt enjoy a nice walk, and the lure of the warm autumnal sunshine was too much to resist that particular day. So, I abandoned my deadlines, downed my pens and paintbrushes and gave in to the urge. I walked past hedgerows groaning with fruit and berries, then along the side of the ancient graveyard until I came to that door.

There was something about the haziness of the day, something about the changing season in the air that made me linger by that door. That’s when I heard it…a sad but beautiful song floating out from behind the wall.

The handle of the door was rusted and the hinges where a tangle of ivy but it opened easily when I pushed a little. And there she was, the beautiful white hart Elspeth sitting making lace in her garden. 

Antique lace

She didn’t notice me at first, she just carried on humming her sweet, sad tune until a branch under my boot made her look. I sat down on the bench next to her, admiring her soft, white fur in the golden light. She told me of her love, a grand white hart named Bernard of Perigord. He was the biggest and strongest of all the white harts in the forest but had been shot down one fine October afternoon by a hunter. As French legend goes, any person who takes the life of a white hart is doomed to a life of unrequited love, and that hunter did indeed die a lonely and bitter soul. However, poor Elspeth was also sentenced to a life of loneliness without her beloved Bernard. She packed her bobbins and her lace making pins and ran far, far way from France until she found somewhere with a wall high enough to keep her safe from hunters herself!

So every year, on the anniversary of her dear Bernard’s falling, she sits and sings in her garden. I count myself very lucky to have been in the right place at the right time to discover such a secret.

Elspeth the White Heart on a vintage chair