Thursday, 27 October 2016

October meeting - the Annual Wine & Cheese Fest!

A big thank you to Sarah Glynn for volunteering to write up this month's adventures...

Hands up if you aren't keen on wine? Hands up if wine isn't keen on you? A few of us it seems judging by the apologies in advance, for absences. Saying that, there was an impressively full looking house for the Annual Wine & Cheese fixture.

Halloween is the time of year when the dead walk amongst us. It seems fitting therefore that October 2016 sees the resurrection of the Darling Roses Supper Club, which has for a while now been languishing in limbo. Keep an eye out for details of forthcoming feasts. In its new reincarnation the person who picks the smiley face out of a box, gets to choose the next establishment to be graced with our presence.

While we are on the subject of forthcoming events - a draft calendar for next year is now in existence with workshops including make-up effects, lip balm and bath bomb making. There is a Buddha day and trips to Fountains Abbey and Paris on the menu too.

Andrea gave us an update on the Syrian family we have been supporting. She recently visited them at home and noticed they were very short of essentials such as bedding and household items. If you have anything surplus to requirements please do bring them along and Andrea will make sure they are passed on. At the start of Advent we are also collecting toiletries and sanitary items to donate to a women's shelter in time for Christmas. So again, all donations are very much appreciated. Remember to stash away any complementary toiletries when you stay in a hotel too because they're ideal.

The annual birthday/Xmas meal is on 25th November this year at our usual haunt of Pizza Express on Street Lane so get it in your diary and let Debbie know if you're able to join in the celebrations.

The annual membership fees of £39 are due in Jan 2017. Although Brexit is seeing prices rise to the point that Marmite is rapidly becoming an aspirational product, the WI annual subscription still remains incredible value for money.

Dr Mehmet Sen is a Consultant Clinical Oncologist at St James Hospital here in Leeds, specialising in breast, head and neck cancers. He also happens, by happy coincidence, to be Debbie's next door neighbour. He very kindly came to give us a Q&A session on breast awareness this month.

One of the first questions that came up was a particularly pertinent one - "If you were a woman, what would you be doing to reduce your risk of breast cancer?" Although a percentage of breast cancers are genetic, there are things we can all do to help ourselves here. Regular self examination is crucial as is attending all mammogram appointments (they're 99% accurate), checking out our family history of breast and ovarian cancers, moderating alcohol consumption and stopping smoking, along with 45 minutes of exercise at least 3 times a week.

A statistic that surprised us is that in a city with a population of approximately 100,000, the percentage of new diagnosis of all cancers is less than 1% per year. Also positive is the news, that as research advances, treatment is becoming increasingly specific and targeted at each sub-group of the disease. In breast cancers, surgical intervention is less invasive than ever and becoming less necessary. Ninety percent of breast cancers can now be treated as a chronic condition such as Type 2 Diabetes, rather than the death sentence it used to be.

A huge thank you from us all goes to Dr Mehmet for his time, his expertise and his caring and compassionate approach to his work.

Dr Mehmet, centre

After lunch it was time to follow one piece of Dr. Mehmet's advice - the moderate alcohol consumption bit - and make a start on the Wine & Cheese.

Whatever alchemy has been at work in the past between Majestic Wines and George & Joseph, was in evidence once again this year, with a spookily harmonious selection of wines and cheeses presented by each. A tangy goats cheese from Skipton was paired with a Sauvignon blanc and a surprisingly mellow Yorkshire Brie teamed up with a New Zealand Pinot Gris. A smooth and creamy Comte set off a spicy, fruity merlot. By the time we had worked our way through all six tasters of wines and cheeses we could barely remember which we had decided we liked the best. Honestly though, they were all delicious and an eager queue formed to buy slabs of our favourites to take home at the end.

Many thanks yet again to Stephen from George & Joseph in Chapel Allerton and to Emily from Majestic Wines in Meanwood. You did us proud.

Now - hands up who woke up with a hangover on Sunday?

Kate's very interesting take on jewellery, the wearable wine glass... a forthcoming workshop?!

Amanda, supreme conqueror of all wine quizzes

Thursday, 6 October 2016

September meeting - Our 2nd Annual Bake Off

In honour of the GBBO's return to our screens in September, we had our own little Bake Off themed day. Yes, we enjoyed last year's inaugural event so much that we did it all over again - but with a few tweaks. This time our baking competition was to be judged in an ingenius new *'democratic'* way (after last year's judging was, ahem, judged to be extremely professional, but a bit harsh... nervous cough, #strawberrylacegate). Not only that, but our Debbie had spent the whole Summer trapped in her shed, whittling away specially engraved spoons for the winners! Bless her. But more on all that later.

After our meeting agenda was dealt with, we started the day with more serious business. Our guest speaker was Sarah, a local mother who very sadly suffered the loss of her son Kieran 3 years ago. Kieran was only 17 when he was stabbed and lost his life on a Harehills street in February 2013. The senseless killing of this young man left a devastated family behind, and Sarah talked us through the painful aftermath of losing her son and the impact on family and friends, and (very bravely and nobly) reminded us that everyone directly affected by knife crime suffers - including the perpetrator, who is serving a 20 year minimum jail term, and of course his family.

Sarah is an amazingly strong woman and is trying to build something positive in the wake of her family's tragedy, by working tirelessly to build a knife crime education programme for young people. Sarah shared with us the materials and workshops she has developed and begun delivering in schools and young offender institutions. She feels passionately that there is a place for this type of knife crime education within schools, and has been working to this end - but the process is far from straightforward, with some local decision-makers seemingly reluctant to admit that there is a knife crime problem that needs addressing in this way.

We were both saddened by Sarah's story and experiences, but also tremendously inspired by her bravery, drive and hard work. Sarah's journey toward achieving her aims is still at a relatively early stage, and we hope to keep in close touch with her and offer any help that we can. Thank you so much for sharing your story and your wonderful work with us Sarah.

Our guest speaker Sarah, far right

Once we got our shared lunch out on the tables and on the go, there was even more eating required than usual, because (in a stunning twist) we were all to be the judges of our bake off this year! Our members' baking entries were displayed anonymously in the three categories, biscuits, scones and cakes, and the system was that we were all to work our way around the table, tasting the wares. Claire gave us all 3 gold star stickers each (no more mind, don't mess with Claire!) and you were simply to place a gold star on your favourite in each of the three categories. We thought it was simple anyway... but Darling Roses are mavericks, as you know, they cannot be tamed, so when it came to tallying the scores we found that our instructions had been ignored, with most gold stars awarded in the cake category, and a noticeable shortage in the other two. (Give us strength!!) But seriously, all were worthy winners :-) Here's a sampling of some of the entries.

We saved the prize-giving to the end of the day, as is fitting, and whilst stars were counted, our members settled down for a talk and demonstration from the marvellous Martin of Roundhay Bakehouse. Martin has established, from his home, an artisan bakery that is part of the micro-bakery movement. Every weekend he works through the night to produce hundreds of fresh, traditional sourdough breads, and also pastries, gateaux and other fancies. The emphasis is on quality and authenticity, in both ingedients and the process, and also an insistence on local ingredients wherever possible. Indeed, Martin barters with like-minded customers - sourdough and bakes swapped for eggs, fruit and anything he can use, and all from within a very small radius in North Leeds.

The very amenable Martin entertained us (yes we are the kind of people who can be entertained by bread) with his artisan techniques, miraculously managing to produce beautiful batches of baguettes from our less than ideal church hall kitchen. He also introduced us to the care and feeding of sourdough, which we were brave enough to taste. It was, er, sour.

We then hauled Martin up to present the prizes of wooden spoons and Roundhay Bakehouse vouchers to our lucky Bake Off winners. A winning day for all though! Thank you so much Martin (

Check out class swots, Jay and Kate, practically sitting on the counter! ;-)

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Bonsai! Badges! What we did in July.

Now let me cast my mind back to early July... what was up? What were we doing? I do remember the usual seasonal madness of 'school's out' and the general 'b***er it, it's July' feeling being heightened by the weird aftermath of the Brexit vote. There was a fair amount of debate / moaning / shock shared as we assembled in the hall, readying ourselves for the day's meeting and workshop. Luckily our frazzled nerves were to be soothed by a very calming agenda, namely learning about the beautiful art of bonsai trees and then crafting lovely brooches and badges with Jayne.

We were joined by Keith Martin, illustrious husband of our member Wendy and a bonsai tree enthusiast to boot. 'Bonsai' is the Japanese art of cultivating miniature trees in containers. Keith brought along a large sampling of his own collection, and talked us through the whys and wherefores of bonsai, knocking aside a few preconceptions in the process. Contrary to what many of us thought, there is nothing special or unusual about bonsai tree species or stock, so don't fall for internet 'bonsai kits' Keith warned us! They are simply grown from a cutting, seedling or small tree of any normal tree species that is suited to the process that the bonsai art form involves. The goal for the bonsai grower / practitioner is to cultivate a small tree that perfectly mimics the shape and style of a mature full-size tree, but in beautiful, miniature proportions, and the grower achieves this through ongoing close attention to the plant, using techniques like pruning, root reduction, defoliation etc...

Very contemplative, very zen, and no, I can't get the image of Mr Miyagi out of my head either. "The purposes of bonsai are primarily contemplation (for the viewer) and the pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity (for the grower)." (thank you Wikipedia!) And thank you Keith for sharing the bonsai love with us.

The day was topped off with crafty loveliness and fun with Jayne. There was a choice of creating felt brooches and badges in a variety of cute and quirky designs, or continuing with the name badge project that was started in June (see the last post). As our group has expanded, and more new faces have joined, we've been confronted with the fact that it is sometimes impossible to remember everyone's names. So, rather than continue with calling everyone Kate or Claire (which does yield some success!) we decided we needed some shiny new name badges to wear at our meetings. Jayne brought in her usual vast array of tempting crafty supplies, tips and tricks, and we all had carte blanche to make as we pleased... pictures please!

Saturday, 2 July 2016

June Bugs and Badges (what we did in, you guessed it, June)

This month, our lovely member Jay Williams updates us...

After a triumph of catering at Armley Mills Wool Festival the previous week, we were basking in the domestic goddess glow. The sandwiches, cakes, buns, scones and treats flew off the stall as last year’s attendance of 800 shot up to 2,000 hungry customers. We’re delighted to be able to help our nominated causes, be part of a growing local event and show off what the Darling Roses can achieve. Well done everyone, especially Maia and Ally and their core team!

We were very lucky to have Julia from Denholme Gate Honey Farm with us this month to tell us about beekeeping. Bees are awesome! Who knew that worker bees had a career progression? Just-hatched bees on clean up duties, older bees on guard duty, and only the most senior going out to collect the pollen. It all got a bit House of Cards at the end, as the hive kills off the old queen and hatches several new ones to fight for the death to be the next queen.

The honey tasting was a real treat. That the same bees can produce such different tasting honey depending on the season and the flowers available was incredible. The one most in demand was the honey with ginger added, but for me at least the delicate flavour of summer honey was a winner. Thank you, Julia, for a fascinating talk. We’re all aspiring apiarists now.

It wouldn’t be a Darling Roses Saturday without a workshop. Jayne led us all in a badge making workshop, to create lavish, quirky, individual name badges. Some of us brought along bits and pieces that reflect our interests - music, punk, hens, crafts - and others just dove into Jayne’s treasure trove of crafty bits for inspiration. There was stamping, knitting, gluing, glittering and a happy hum of women getting their craft on. Some very productive souls even managed a few badges for people who couldn’t make it. Others (me) had to take the badge home to finish because she got a little over-ambitious and it all went wrong (still me).

See you in July,

Our members Debbie and Margaret, with Julia Parr of Denholme Gate Honey Farm (right)

Badge making in progress
We have a new friend of the Roses... a little graveyard-dwelling cat :-)
We've won the Cup! Awarded for being the West Yorkshire WI with the biggest increase in membership

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Our May meeting: Let's walk, and talk about death... around St. George's Fields with Morticia

Death is a thing that many of us tend to only want to talk about when we really have to. When it touches us personally; when we suffer the shock of losing a loved one, or if we suffer an accident, or have a health scare (or perhaps, dare I say it, simply because we are getting older). For much of our lives we don't really think about it, and don't talk about it too much. Despite the fact that it happens all the time, and we will all meet it, and we all know this, death is pushed to the periphery of our particular culture, and of course we are focused on living - so perhaps it is understandable that we tend to view thoughts of death as unconducive to the business of getting on with our daily lives.

But we, us Darling Roses, we ain't afraid of no death (to badly paraphrase Ray Parker Jr) - we're deep, we have enquiring minds, no subject is too odd or quirky for our meetings (isn't that right girls?!) and so, the seed of our little trip out for our May meeting was planted when Morticia Maguire-Broad, our friend from Buns & Roses WI, visited us last year to talk about Victorian death customs (woven in with much historical detail about the business of death in Victorian Leeds). We found the whole subject fascinating, with Victorian attitudes to death being so markedly different to our modern day treatment of the subject, it threw open many questions for us. Morticia's presentation featured her own photography and the beautiful images taken in St. George's Fields piqued our interest about the place, and so we planned May's meeting into our 2016 calendar as a 'part two' with Morticia, guiding us on a walk around the Fields. 

So, on an unexpectedly beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon, we met in The Library pub in Woodhouse. We got a few bevvies and plates of chips in first, as you do - with the barman remarking that he doesn't usually sell so much wine so early in the day! Well, life is short, to continue the theme... :-)  We dispensed with any official meeting business quickly (and dispensed with the wine and chips even quicker) and headed out.

St George's Fields are a hidden treasure, part of the Leeds University campus, with an imposing Greek Revival style entrance hidden on a side street behind the Engineering building. It was established as the Leeds General Cemetery in 1835. The city's elite had grown alarmed by the overcrowded, unsanitary condition of graveyards in the city and the macabre crimes of body snatchers, and so created the Leeds General Cemetery Company - the buying of shares in which enabled the purchase of the land known as St George's Fields, and the building of a fine, private cemetery, oh yes, you had to have money to rest here!

Sadly, the University acquired the site in 1965, and in its wisdom decided to clear the cemetery and dismantle most of the gravestones and monuments - the stones to be used elsewhere. We were very moved at the thought of the families who had buried their loved ones there in times gone by, trusting that their family resting place would be preserved intact for future generations. It seems a cruel desecration. However, a 'feeling' of the original cemetery does still remain. Apart from the fact that it is still a beautiful, peaceful, restful place - hidden within its walls from the bustling streets nearby - there are separate small areas of gravestones which survived the demolition and remain at the two ends of the Fields, and also a pathway made from gravestones close to the central Temple-style chapel (sadly stripped and devoid of original details inside). Next to the entrance closest to Clarendon Road there is also the imposing 'Obelisk Way', a pathway lined with some very grand Victorian tombstones, heavy on angels, draped urns, obelisks, and of course many beautiful inscribed dedications to loved ones. My favourite thing about visiting a graveyard is that little insight we get into all of their lives when we read the words they have chosen to remember people with.

"So we go inside and we gravely read the stones
All those people all those lives
Where are they now?
With the loves and hates
And passions just like mine
They were born
And then they lived and then they died
Seems so unfair
And I want to cry"
(Cemetery Gates, The Smiths)

So, there you have it. A walk around a graveyard can make for a beautiful, edifying afternoon out, especially in the company of a guide like Morticia, who has knowledge and passion about the subject in spades. Thank you Morticia for introducing us to a new favourite place.

Firemen monument

(And to continue the theme, we are planning to hold a 'death cafe' event, hopefully at some point next year. Watch this space.)