Friday, 11 December 2015

Our AGM and lindy hop bop - 14th November 2015

Ahem... slight problem, I just sat down to write about our 2015 AGM, and then remembered I didn't actually attend that part of the meeting! Report possibly to come later if I can rope someone in to do that... I did arrive in time for our workshop of the day, so I'll say a little something about that.

Is there a better way to follow a marathon and very talky sit-down meeting than dancing? Joyce and Andrew from Swing Jive Leeds joined us after our lunch stop and got the party started. The pair began with a little talk through the origins of lindy hop, which was fascinating. It was the first partner dance to evolve in the more modern, 'free' style. It appeared in Harlem in the late 1920s, evolving from the Charleston and the Swing Jazz music scene of the time. The dance was wildly popular until around the time of World War II, and then declined (pretty much disappeared in fact), until something in the zeitgeist caused some different groups of dancers in Britain, Sweden and America to all become interested in lindy hop around the same time in the 1980s. The dance was all the rage again, and some of the earliest old-time lindy hoppers were even coaxed out of retirement in New York, with some travelling the world teaching the joys of their re-discovered dance.

Joyce and Andrew then performed some lindy hop for us, giving us a better idea of the improvised nature of the dance. Essentially, there is a 'leader' and a 'follower', and yes there are certain steps (with what looks like a lot of room for inventive add-ons!) but the dancers simply go with the flow, the follower's job being to take cues from the leader and fall in line with their steps. Scary! Luckily for us first-timers, we weren't expected to get to this improv level of slickness at our first attempt, and Joyce and Andrew patiently taught us a little dance routine, doled out to us one step at a time. We all chose to either be a leader or a follower, and once you'd made your choice you stuck with it. The leaders stayed in their positions around the room, and the followers rotated around the circle, swapping from dance partner to partner. (Probably giving something of a clumsy music box effect to the observer ;-) obviously we all imagined we looked the epitome of grace!)

The workshop was enormous fun, and I really can't say enough good things about what a joyful dance lindy hop is, and what brilliant, patient teachers the guys from Swing Jive Leeds were. Thank you very much to Joyce and Andrew. It was a blast.

Update on the Thread of Life project and exhibition

Our member Trish Knowles has taken part in an art project commissioned by the artist, Sharon Mossbeck. Trish has produced a cross-stitched piece for the Thread of Life exhibition which has recently been displayed in the Bank Street Arts gallery in Sheffield. Trish and her family visited to see the display, and she reports back here...

"It is very effective with no 2 pieces alike. Some stand out particularly, especially if they have been worked on a dark background. I was pleased that mine was not lost amongst all the others which I thought could happen. It will be interesting to see the display in its entirety when it is staged next spring. If it is put in one of the exhibition rooms, it could look stunning as it wouldn’t be lost in a vast expanse of blank wall."

Our meeting on October 10th - cheesy, boozy fun!

Sarah reports from our annual cheese and booze fest... (always the best attended meeting, I wonder why?!)

It’s tough work but somebody has to do it. The email sent out before this month’s wine and cheese tasting ‘workshop’ advised , “I’m not going to be driving and I would recommend that if possible you walk, get the bus or a taxi, so you can enjoy each of the wines on offer.”

That we are prepared to trudge through the remote corners of Moortown in all weathers, gives an indication of just how dedicated we are to becoming wine connoisseurs.

After lunch and the meeting (not at all rushed, nooooo), we kicked into action under the expert guidance of Helen from Majestic Wines and Steven from George & Joseph Cheesemongers, Chapel Allerton. Given that Helen hadn’t tasted the majority of the cheeses or Steven the majority of the wines, the fact that each one perfectly accompanied the other, shows the level of expertise involved.

The first cheese we tried was Yorkshire Brie. Not a lot of people know that Yorkshire Brie exists. It not only exists, but it’s great. Not as runny as French brie but fresh tasting and mild. Teamed with Paul Mas Chardonnay from France, it was very moreish.

Next on the menu was smoked goats cheese paired with some Martinborough Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Goats cheese is something I usually find unpalatably (and unsurprisingly) ‘goaty’, but this was mild and subtle and clean tasting.

Lavender Ewes milk cheese sounded intriguing. No, it’s not from a sheep with a lilac rinse, but cheese rolled in lavender flowers. It’s easy to imagine this might taste like cheese potpourri , but the lavender infused the cheese very gently so that it tasted like eating a warm summer’s day. It was teamed perfectly with Luis Felipe Edwards Signature Series Syrah, from Chile.

Harrogate Blue was a hit with all the blue cheese fans and went down nicely with Cousino Macul Cabernet Sauvignon, again from Chile.

Dale End Cheddar was on the mild side and again, very clean and fresh tasting. Nothing like the supermarket offerings at all. Some Definition Malbec from Argentina was very enjoyable and made for a happy match.

We finished off with some Royal Takaji Late Harvest with a chunk of Richard III Wensleydale. Old Richard Crookback would probably have felt less murderous and more chilled out if he’d had access to a few wheels of this yummy stuff and a crate of Royal Takaji to wash it down with.

It’s not hard to see why the cheese and wine tasting has rapidly turned into an annual event. Huge thanks to Helen and Steven for a scrumptious and informative, if increasingly hazy, afternoon.

Happy birthday Maureen!

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Saturday 12th September - The Darlings Do The Great British Bake Off

September has a feel of the new year about it, don't you think? It's back to school and back to work after the summer holidays... and it was back to the old hall for us at the Darling Roses, after a long two-month break. And so our agenda for September was pretty jam-packed, and we drew a room full of friendly faces (old and new), all ready to dive in.

Seeing as September is now officially 'British Bake Off' time and (alarmingly!) we've never actually had any cake-based fun throughout the three years we've been meeting (apart from eating cakes, obvs), we decided it was high time that cake took star billing and so we planned a workshop to whip our buttercream icing skills into shape, plus our own tribute to the GBBO - with members invited to bring along entries in three categories, biscuits, scones and Victoria Sponge. The biscuits were also to be very special biccies, knickers was the theme! Jayne had asked us to support a charitable cause that's very close to her heart, Endometriosis UK. Every September is Pink Pants month, when the charity invites supporters to host a Mad Pants Tea Party to raise awareness and funds for the cause. But more on the baking fun later...

After the 'business end' of our meeting was wrapped up, we were joined by two very special guests from the Leeds-based charity Sunshine and Smiles, a local support network providing a fantastic and valuable service to children with Downs Syndrome and their families. Ailith Harley-Roberts and Sharon Cook are two parents who started up the charity after encountering the absence of any similar support service in the area when their own children were very young. Ailith's and Sharon's experiences - both personally with their families, and as part of the growth of Sunshine and Smiles - were fascinating and inspiring to hear, and we're very proud to be official supporters of the group, in whatever small way we can contribute. To this end, we've been busy with the aim of collecting 100 (at least!) books for Sunshine and Smiles. (It had to be 100... don't forget that September has also marked the national centenary of the WI, so it's been a theme for the last few months - 100 Random Acts of Kindness, 100 Darling Inspirational Women... have a look at our Centenary page to find out more.) So, it was a pleasure to hand over our collection to Ailith and Sharon on the day, and add to their fundraising drive. Every year Sunshine and Smiles hosts a Great Charity Book Giveaway, with visitors paying an entrance fee to take as many books away as they like. The last event raised over £1000!

Then with the meeting done and lunch scoffed (at our usual shared lunch bun fight) it was time to hand over to our new friend, Sarah Rooke of Kitsch Cakes. Sarah is a kind of glamazonian Leeds-by-way-of-the-South version of Nigella Lawson. Not kidding! And she charmed us all when she talked us through her background and how she started up her cake making business. Before we got to that bit though, our bake off entries needed judging and boy did our judges take the whole business very seriously. We already had our Nigella (Sarah), and our member Maureen became Maureen Berry for the day (Maureen, the first to walk through the door at our first meeting, has become a kind of arch matriarch of the Darling Roses - I nearly called her our mascot but that somehow belittles her?! Also known as 'the Don', 'the gaffer' etc...) and a photographer from the Yorkshire Evening Post had joined us for the day so, just by virtue of being a bloke, we thought he'll 'do' as Paul Hollywood. Anyway, after what felt like hours of po-faced discussion, note taking and tasting, Nigella, Maureen Berry and Mr Hollywood were ready to announce the winners.

Our esteemed judges
The Bake Off entries
First category - who could make the perfect Victoria sponge? Kate Holdsworth! That's who.

Second category - scones, and who's wowed the judges this time? Kate Holdsworth! Err... way to hog the limelight Kate! :-)

By this point Kate had two rosettes pinned to, er, prominent places, and we've heard reports that she didn't take them off for days, even attending her pilates class wearing them. Think she was pleased! Well done Kate, a very worthy winner. However, we were all thankful that Kate hadn't entered the third category of the Mad Pants biscuits for Endometriosis UK, so somebody else could have a chance.

Step forward Jane Kettle!

Jane then dropped the bombshell that she hadn't even made hers! ;-) It was all above board though, congratulations go to Heather Oxley for her very cheeky tasty biscuits.

Finally it was time for the workshop. Well done to Sarah of Kitsch Cakes, by the way, for being in it for the long haul and putting up with us for the whole day! We learnt with Sarah how to prepare our buttercream, how to fill and handle our piping bags expertly and how to produce various pretty and flowery effects - glitter sugar dusted, ruffles, roses etc... There are a few baking maestros amongst our membership, but also a fair few who'd never done this kind of icing before, and I think we were amazed at the results we could achieve, with just a little know-how. The day was fabulous, and thank you so much to Sarah Rooke for coming along and having so much fun with us. Thanks to all of us, in fact, for making the Darling Roses what it is! See you next time, Saturday October 10th for wine, cider and cheese tasting, yum. It just keeps getting better.

Cheeky biscuits for Mad Pants fundraiser for Endometriosis UK
More cheeky knickknacks
The winning Victoria Sponge demolished. Thanks Kate! xx

Friday, 11 September 2015

Saturday 11th July - Portrait Photography & Celebration of Frida Kahlo

Debbie gives us the lowdown on our July meeting and workshop...

As we arrived Jayne and Emily whisked us away and dressed our hair with ribbons and flowers in the style of Frida.

Following the very short meeting we gathered around to listen to Jayne talk about the life, times and work of Frida Kahlo. Jayne, like many of us, has a keen interest in Frida. Her presentation was very moving and celebrated her superbly. Plus her Spanish was magnifico. Plus we were delighted to welcome back Morticia, who delivered a talk on her favourite portrait photographers, including artists such as Julia Margaret Cameron, Madame Yevonde Middleton and Jane Brown.

Trish has successfully finished her Thread of Life embroidery, which is going to be sent off to be part of the Thread of Life project for the Bank Street Art Gallery. Trish talked us through how she had approached the work and how she had chosen the theme and colours. She had used our group as an inspiration, which touched us all deeply. The piece is lovely and will be on display from November 2015.

Following lunch Morticia talked us through how to use lights and board reflectors to get more out of our portraits and was on hand to give advice to individuals. Inspired by the two presentations we went about creating our own Frida influenced portraits. Take a look...

This has been such a wonderful meeting, and I only hope we can theme another Frida workshop in the future.