Monday, 21 October 2013

Feet, foraging and chutney - what we did in September

Our Debbie with Mina Said-Allsopp

Mmm... Now that's an appetising title for a post, if ever I saw one. No, we weren't making feet-flavoured chutney, or anything untoward! All will be revealed as you read on...

We had a busy day, with no fewer than two guest speakers. First, the lovely Lynsey Howarth stepped up and shared her foot expertise with us - just to qualify that, Lynsey is a podiatrist, not a foot fetishist or anything (Lynsey is a friend of the Darling Roses, so hopefully I'm not being too cheeky there!) After Lynsey's talk, we had a bit of fun tracing round our feet, with and without footwear. Why? Try it yourself at home, the difference can be disturbing, if you need to lay off the stilletos, or maybe reassuring, if you're a committed sensible shoe wearer!

Then, we tripped off to fill our boots at our usual shared lunch table. And fittingly, our foodie enjoyment was only interrupted by the arrival of our second guest of the day, Mina Said-Allsopp, local foraging and wild food specialist. We all gathered in our cosy circle again to hear Mina tell us about her love of foraging, and most interestingly the many uses for her foraging finds - from delicious dishes and soul-restoring teas to the most gentle of beauty products. Mina was an absolutely fascinating speaker and her clear love of foraging really enthused us all about the subject. Mina will be joining us again in April, when we're planning to ditch the hall and go out on a foraging walk with her for the afternoon, so that is definitely one to clear the diary for. Mina also hosts a monthly pop-up restaurant / supper club where the lucky guests enjoy a wild food feast - I think there might be some takers for that one amongst our group! You can read more about Mina's work, including details of her wild walks, workshops and supper clubs, at

And there's more! We still had a shed load of chutney to make in our workshop, good grief... So we got cracking. The tables were absolutely groaning with produce, as many were generous with donations from gardens and allotments. I have to take the opportunity to thank my dad for the huge pile of tomatoes and onions he saved for me! We divided ourselves into little groups, chose our recipes from the four we'd prepared for and started frantically chopping, mixing and simmering away. As a first-time chutney maker (speaking personally) I never  imagined that the process would be so enjoyable. Cooking isn't usually a social experience for most of us, let's face it, so I think the whole novelty of putting our chutneys together as part of a team effort was a big part of the fun. It all got a bit heady in our little meeting hall - the vinegar fumes were powerful! But it was all worth it when we were clutching our 100% handmade little jars at the end. I think you'll see from the pictures that we had a very good day (check out our little beaming faces).

Jayne won the raffle! (And a bursary for Denman, the WI college - oooh!)

Please join us next time when, unbelievably, the time will have come for our first Annual Meeting (nothing too scary, we'll just be conducting a quickish review of the year) and we'll be having a very nice workshop making some cute Christmas decorations. Hope to see you then!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

What a fabulous summer... part two - our August meeting

Back again. Our August meeting was held on Saturday 31st, on what felt like the last weekend of this glorious summer. (Sorry, I know talking about the end of summer sounds a depressing note, but what a corker it was! And the meeting was a corker too.)

Unfortunately our planned speaker, Stephen from Lauden Chocolates, was snowed under with work commitments and had to cancel at the last minute. Debbie, our President, panicked at the prospect of women who'd been promised chocolate turning up to find no chocolate. I think she feared violent scenes, and so drafted in supplies from last month's visitors, Haley & Clifford Delicatessen. So in the end, happily, our meeting was accompanied by a gorgeous array of chocolate flavoured with lavender, sea salt, lime and squillions of other yummy flavours.

Our workshop was Making Books by Hand, and I know I would say this but it was brilliant, very definitely one of the best workshops we've held, and one of the most enjoyed by our members and visitors. Everyone left with a gorgeous album or scrapbook or notebook in their hands, and also had the satisfaction of knowing that their very own hands had made it. Thank you to Jayne for doing such a wonderful job leading the workshop and providing the huge amount of materials and equipment.

I'll sign off with some pictures from the day just a little further down the page, but in the meantime I'd like to say please do join us at our next meeting - on Saturday 28th September - where we will be ushering in the new season by making tasty chutneys and pickles in our workshop (starting around 1pm). Our meeting (starting 11am) is jam-packed with goodies too. We will be joined by two special guests, Lynsey Howarth who will be talking to us about podiatry and foot health, and Mina Said-Allsopp, a local foraging expert.

Now it's gallery time!

What a fabulous summer... part one - our July meeting

Hello! We're back again to share all the news from our summer meetings. Our July 27th meeting offered the genius combination of copious amounts of cheese followed by lavish amounts of wine. OH YES. We were visited by the lovely ladies from Haley & Clifford, the fantastic local delicatessen. Val Berry, the owner, gave us a fascinating talk about their business, and we were really impressed by their obvious passion for good food and drink and, most importantly, the support they give to local Yorkshire producers. They had also brought an array of delicious cheeses for us to taste, although it was more than a nibble for most of us - it was very difficult to deny the urge to grab everything in sight! A big thank you goes to the wonderful Haley & Clifford for entertaining us and feeding us.

After cheese... Of course there must be wine, and we laid on our very own wine tasting spectacular. Kudos is due to Debbie and Kate for using their ingenuity and combining the experience of a wine tasting ex-boyfriend and a big shopping trip to Majestic Wines into one amazingly successful wine tasting event! Debbie had even done a quiz. It probably won't surprise you to learn that this was a very popular and jovial event. I left at 6 o'clock, and looked over my shoulder to see everyone mingling, glass in hand, like they were just settling down for a night in da club! Here are some pictures of the fun.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

A late report on our June meeting! Life coaching, afternoon tea and bunting...

Oops... I've somehow let a long month go by before getting round to reporting on the happenings at our 29th June meeting. I don't know where the time has gone, I must have been too busy enjoying the sunshine (can that be considered an excuse?!) But seriously, consider my wrists slapped and I'll get back to it.

Speaking of needing to sort your life out :-) the guest speaker at our June meeting was just the ticket! We were joined by Tilla Brook, who is a life coach with masses of experience of working with individuals, groups and companies in a range of areas from personal development to organisational leadership and everything in between. Tilla gave us an introductory talk on what mentoring and life coaching can achieve, and was also kind enough to lead us in a little mini-session on 'Saboteurs, gremlins and limiting beliefs' (i.e. the horrible little monsters that lurk inside our heads and cause us all kinds of bother - yes, I'm sure you all know what I'm talking about!)

The session was extremely interesting and enlightening, and a lot of our members wanted to find out more about Tilla's work afterwards (by the way, Tilla's website is jam-packed with useful information). A big thank you goes to Tilla for generously giving us her time and expertise, and for introducing us to our gremlins!

We then decided that our gremlins deserved a little sustenance (you know, butter them up!) and dragged them off to our usual shared lunch, only this month was extra special with a bit of a summer afternoon tea theme going on. Very nice...

After our hearty feed of home made scones we were ready to sew. Our workshop this month was making lots of lovely bunting, continuing the summer theme of our lunch. I'll sign off with some pictures of all the fun. Xx

Monday, 24 June 2013

It's been busy!!

Hello to all you lovely darling roses (and anyone else who drops by, of course...) It really is time for a bit of a catch-up on the last month's activities. Summer's finally arrived (oh yes it has!?), so we've been stepping out.

On Wednesday 29th May, some of the girls had an evening trip to the West Yorkshire Playhouse's Wardrobe department. There, they were greeted by Sally Stone, Costume Hire Manager, and Sally was kind enough to give a tour of the facility and a talk about its history and how the costume collection is organised. Then, the fun began in earnest... no holds barred dress-up time, yay!!! Zoey, Laura, Jayne and Sara were completely in their element and had more costume changes than Mr Benn. Maureen (the cheeky strumpet) headed straight for the show girl section and Audrey delved into the cod pieces! I couldn't be there, but after seeing the pictures and hearing the stories I'm jealous... sounds like it was a fabulous experience for everyone who went along. Many, many thanks to Sally and all her team for making the Darling Roses feel so welcome. Here's a few pictures from the night (my personal favourites!)

Don't they all look demented lovely? And how Jayne wasn't called back after her Up The Women audition, I'll never know.

Then, our usual monthly meeting (on Saturday 1st June) was a corker. We were joined by Wendy Jones-Blackett and her mum, Val, who came along to tell us about Wendy's lovely and very successful (and locally based in Chapel Allerton, to boot!) company - Wendy Jones-Blackett Cards. Wendy and Val were wonderful, engaging guests and Wendy's story of how she started and grew her business was very interesting and inspirational. Wendy and Val were extremely generous too, and brought a lot of cards along for us to raise funds with (thank you!)

(to the right) Our lovely guest speakers, Wendy Jones-Blackett and Val Codling

As if that wasn't enough excitement for one day, we then totally spoiled ourselves by hosting our usual crafty / makey workshop off-site, with everyone trotting along to High Trees Garden Centre to make hanging baskets together. The manager, Ros Outhwaite, had put aside a huge table for us to work on and kindly showed us where everything was that we could possibly need. Quite unexpectedly, Ros also donated all the compost we needed, which was lovely! Everyone had their own ideas in terms of colour, fragrance, flowers, fruits or herbs, and just went for it. The group attracted quite a lot of interest from other visitors to High Trees, with people asking for advice and even making offers on the baskets! It sounds like it was rather a blissful afternoon actually, I'm getting the vibe that everyone thoroughly enjoyed spending time together in the sunshine in such a lovely place (I'm putting a picture together from all the stories that have been fed back to me you see - I still wasn't back from my holidays, I'm never bloomin' here!) All I can say is, when I caught up with Kate at our next event (the library tour, up next on the blog) and asked her how the hanging baskets went, all she could say was "High Trees... High Trees... I just want to be there all the time!" Praise indeed. Again, here's a couple of choice pictures.

And there was more to come when we met up again on the morning of Saturday 8th June for an exclusive peek behind the doors of The Leeds Library. Perhaps the best kept secret in Leeds? Not to be confused with the Central library on The Headrow - oh no, this is an entirely independent institution (actually a charity since 2008) and is in fact the oldest surviving example of a private subscription library in the British Isles. It was founded in 1768, and today it still resides in the beautiful purpose-built premises on Commercial Street that the library moved to in 1808. (It's above Paperchase!) If you ever get the treat of venturing inside, you'll agree that it is absolutely amazing that such a treasure is sitting there in the commercial heart of Leeds and, to borrow a phrase, "not a lot of people know that". Jane the librarian gave us a warm welcome and did a fantastic job of recounting the history of the library, there were even a couple of spooky ghost stories! We toured the building, stopped for a drop of tea and ate the requisite cakes (we are WI after all) and a few of us stayed on for quite a while to lounge at leisure amongst the bookshelves. If you're a book lover, it is such a little dream of a place. The atmosphere is unique and special, and hard to describe adequately... so hopefully the pictures will give a smidge of a feel.

So, that's what we've been doing for the last few weeks! Please join us on Saturday 29th June for our next meeting, which promises to be a lovely, sociable affair. We'll be hosting an afternoon tea fuddle and making lots of summer bunting from fabric, paper or whatever else we can dream up.

Hope to see you there xx

Friday, 24 May 2013

Goodbye to Barbara, our original Darling Rose

When I wrote about what happened at our last meeting, there was something important that I didn't talk about. We enjoyed our meeting as we always do but, in truth, our mood was also sombre and very very sad, as something had happened that we really could never have been prepared for.

Barbara, much-loved mum to Debbie and Laura and inspiration for the Darling Roses, passed away on Friday 19th April. Barbara had battled bravely against cancer for over two years. Her strength and will to live had been so great that (and this will sound slightly strange) you could forget, when you were with her, that she was fighting that terrible illness at all. She carried on, as she always had done, filling her life with family and friends and never sitting still. She was the original party queen (I will never forget the karaoke parties!) and an amazingly talented crafty lady - brilliant at knitting and stitching, and always busy with something wonderful at home, whether cooking or jam-making or tending to her beautiful gardens. It was clear though that family was number one priority for Barbara.

Debbie started our WI, and she's often said that it was her mum who really inspired her to do this. And Barbara's been with us from the start, as a founding member and the spark for our name. When we were first trying to come up with a name, Debbie's only request was could it include the word 'Rose' as this was her mum's middle name. So, Barbara has been at the heart of what we've done, and our shock at her loss is profound.

We're thinking very much of Debbie, Laura, Peter, Graham, Dot, Mark, Maria and Barbara's beloved grandchildren Archie, Maggie and Millie and all of Barbara's family and friends who are trying to come to terms with her loss. Goodbye to our friend Barbara, you will always be in our thoughts xx

Saturday, 18 May 2013

April meeting update - a zen afternoon of acupuncture and knitting!

Hello ladies, here with a quick update on our last meeting and workshop, held on Saturday 27th April. Our luck held... amazingly it DID NOT snow - well, there was actually some snow near the airport, but it didn't make it as far as Moortown and... well, now I come to think of it we did all get pelted with hailstones on our way in (ouch) but the important thing is that it DID NOT snow. About time. The omens were good.

After a round-up of WI business (including the recent visits a few of our members made to the West Yorkshire Federation's Resolutions Conference and Annual Meeting), we were then able to welcome our guest speaker, Jane Wilcox. Jane is an acupuncturist, and also just happens to be a very lovely person - we love it when that happens! Jane's business, Well Rounded Acupuncture, is based at two clinics in the local area, and we were lucky enough to be given a fascinating insight into the basic principles of acupuncture by Jane. Jane wasn't able to push needles into any of us at the meeting (!!) - we're not really set up for clinical practice at our meeting hall you see... biscuit crumbs everywhere, you can imagine! But I did volunteer as a guinea pig and went through an exercise with Jane where she showed me how to channel my physical energy through positive thought - very interesting! Everybody ooh-ed and aah-ed while this was happening anyway... so I took that as a sign that people were impressed by the demonstration (I mean impressed by what Jane did, not my meagre physical strength!)  A few of us booked sessions with Jane after, so we must have been impressed!

A massive thank you goes to Jane for coming along, giving her time and providing us with such an interesting hour on acupuncture. If you'd like to find out more about Jane's practice, there's a link to her very informative Facebook page in our Blog List on the right.

Our friend, Audrey Wilson, knitting tutor and designer, then kicked off our knitting workshop after our shared lunch. We are knitting blanket squares which will eventually make one or two nice blankets for the Carr Manor care home for adults with special needs (run by Community Integrated Care), which is the local charity we are aiming to make something for at every workshop. Celia, one of the home's residents, really loves knitting and came along to join in with her carer, which was really lovely. We've got a lot of blanket squares to knit so, if you're a knitter, please have a look at the pattern on Audrey's blog and do what you can!

I'll leave you with some pics from the day. Next WI events are a trip to the West Yorkshire Playhouse Wardrobe Department (dress-up time!) on May 29th and a very exclusive peek into the Leeds Library - the beautiful old private members' library on Commercial Street - on 8th June. And we will be meeting Wendy Jones-Blackett (greetings card designer and business woman extraordinaire) and making hanging baskets at our next regular meeting on Saturday 1st June. Stay tuned!