Events

Introducing the Belle Sour

Welcome! You must have seen our feature in the Cambridgeshire Cookbook: Second Helpings, or maybe you just got lost wandering around our site… either way, we hope you will like the cocktail recipe from the book and these accompanying recipes, all by our very own Aoife Maxwell.

To make infused spirits:

Half fill a sterilised Kilner jar or bottle with fruit of choice, add a scant tablespoon of sugar (at most – could leave out completely) and fill with spirit.

Delicate fruits (e.g. rhubarb, raspberry and strawberry) should be infused for about 2 weeks before straining out the fruit and bottling in a sterilised bottle. More robust fruit (e.g. blackcurrant, sloes) is happy for months.

You can add sugar to taste once infusion is complete or add sugar during the cocktail making process using syrups or other sweet alcohol.

Aoife’s top tip: “I often make rhubarb vodka this way but you can now also buy fantastic rhubarb vodka and gin in specialist shops like Cambridge Wine Merchants”

To make simple syrup:

You will need 500 gr. of sugar and 500 ml. of water

Place the sugar and water in a saucepan together. Stir and heat very gently until all the sugar has dissolved.

Using a funnel, pour into a sterilised bottle. Once cool, store in the fridge until needed.

To make herb infused syrups:

You will need a bowlful of fresh herbs, freshly boiled water, and sugar.

Cover the bowl of herbs with freshly boiled water. Allow to infuse for an hour. Strain out the leaves. Strain again through muslin to remove any small bits of leaf or random stuff.
Measure (by volume or mass) the amount of liquid you now have. Add an equal amount of sugar. E.g. if you have 500 ml.  of liquid, add 500 gr. sugar. If you have 400 gr. of liquid, add 400 gr. of sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved (you may need to heat it gently).

Once dissolved, transfer to a sterilised bottle. Store in the fridge.

Aoife’s top tip: “Lots of herbs work well in syrups: lemon balm, lemon verbena, lemon thyme, rosemary, lavender… To make the gooseberry, strawberry and lemon balm  syrup used in the Belle Sour I combined a lemon balm infused syrup made as above with lightly cooked gooseberries and strawberries. I left it to infuse overnight and then strained the mixture several times.”

 

Looking back at 2017/18…

Secretary’s Report – by Alice Hehir 

Cambridge Blue Belles WI have had another great year with a wide ranging series of activities and talks as well as many events taking place outside the regular meetings.  Although the membership has remained full at 48 members, sadly we said goodbye to some of the founding members in 2017. We did however welcome 13 new members at the start of January 2018  which has been ably overseen by Lucy and Yvonne. 

Our programme has been as varied as our WI members – Rachael in particular has worked hard to ensure there has been a balance of different types of activities and has done an excellent job in sourcing many of our speakers.  Melissa has also worked hard in overseeing the finances to ensure we can afford to pay for these talented and inspiring people.  

During the year we have had talks on plants, setting up and running your own business, tattooing as well as the history of women and witchcraft.  In June, we learnt about the chemical components of plants including their many uses for medicinal and other purposes.  During the September meeting, we welcomed Jo Kruczynska who had set up her own local café ‘Afternoon Tease’.  We learnt all about the highs and lows (and burns) of making 35 cakes a day!  It was a Q&A style session in which Lucy compered the meeting with ease and everyone felt truly inspired by Jo’s talk about pursuing a dream and making it a reality.  There was also a talk about tattooing in November.  Our speaker, Matt Lodder, discussed the work and life of Jessie Knight who was the best tattoo artist in post-war Britain.  March saw Dr Maureen James from ‘Witches and Wisewomen’ giving a talk outlining a short history of English witch craft.  During this meeting,   Antidote Productions, an all-female documentary production company filmed part of our meeting as well as carried out interviews with some of our members about what gender, womanhood and identity means to them.  

A demonstration session was led by Becks Simpson of Thairapy, vintage hair and makeup stylist. During her 90 minute session Becks showed us how to create vintage hairdo’s on our own hair with easy techniques, a few products and basic tools.

We also had a number of active sessions which gave us the opportunity to learn new skills and try things out.  In May we honed our rhythmic and musical skills with a Samba drumming session.  As part of our Summer Social in July we had the opportunity to learn all about women wine makers from Spain as well sample no less than 6 different wines at the very hospitable Cambridge Wine Merchants.  Celebrating summer time in August, we made both fresh and paper flower crowns led by our very own committee with handpicked flowers from Newnam College courtesy of member Mel Hale.  A highlight of the year was having the opportunity to make our own chocolates – some of which were given as gifts, others not!  In January we all had a go at arm knitting kindly led by Blue Belle Sue Smales.

Many activities have also been carried out in addition to the monthly meetings.  Our very own Book Club continues to thrive and they have read a range of books whilst enjoying meeting in both pubs and members’ houses.  There have been several trips to the theatre as well as members going to local talks put on by the university.   

The enjoyment of tea and cake appears to be a typical WI tradition that we enthusiastically adhere to.  Each meeting sees a variety of homemade cakes including those suitable for a range of diets provided by our members.  Remke works hard to ensure that we have plenty of cakes and Meeting Fairies each meeting. Our love of cakes was show cased at our very own 4th Craft Fair held in December.  Veronika put together a particularly impressive Cake Stall which customers of the fair could enjoy whilst also having the opportunity to browse the many wonderful stalls with crafts sold by local WI members.  

We have done our bit to support the campaigns process by holding a postcard writing session to friends far and wide as part of the alleviating loneliness campaign.  Lucy also sourced an updated Blue Belle cloth bag as part of the campaign to reduce plastic. 

Another fantastic year in the life of Cambridge Blue Belles WI – what an honour to be part of it all! 

The stars of this year’s craft fair!

Here is a sneak peak of the amazing stall holders that will exhibit at our craft fair this year. In the next few weeks we’ll show you more about them, so head over to our event Facebook page and check them out.

The Blue Belles Cake Stall

Bumbles

Bures WI, Suffolk West

Kaitlin Bradley

Cam City WI

Crafty Pink Giraffe

Dawn Rand Handmade Cambridge

Hey there stickers!

m:made

Elaine Offley

Pear Tree Cottage Crafts

Stephanie Powell Osborn

Karina Quigley

retrovert

Jenny Rutter

Yew Tree Flock

Yougoshoego

 

There will also be an informative booth with WI merchandise – jams, chutneys and little gifts made by our lovely Blue Belles as well as brand new Blue Belle canvas bags to help you shop environmentally friendly. And — drumroll —- it looks like we have some membership spots opening this January! So if you’re interested in joining our chapter, find us at our stall and talk to us at the fair. Can’t wait to see you on December 9th!

February Meeting – It’s Sexy Time

At our February meeting, the Belles were delighted to welcome guest speaker Miranda Kane, a comedian, a champion of body size acceptance, and a former sex worker. Her stand-up show, The Coin Operated Girl, has been getting great reviews at festivals across the country.

As well as treating us to a preview of her performance (more on that later), Miranda introduced some of the complex legislation surrounding sex work and explained the concepts of ‘legalisation’ versus ‘decriminalisation’ – the latter giving sex workers maximum control over their bodies and their careers.

Many women in the room (particularly those who live, or have lived, in shared houses with female housemates) were surprised to learn the definition of the term ‘brothel’ according to the Sexual Offences Act.

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But the most entertaining (and enlightening) parts of the evening were summed up perfectly by Secretary Alice, who prepared the official minutes for the meeting.

Miranda explained how she got into the industry, which was simply because she enjoyed having sex and realised that she could in fact get paid for it. A highlight of the evening was Miranda revealing the top ten things men asked for when they engaged her services. These included: threesomes, uniforms, dressing up, foot worship as well as both whole body and face squashing. It was felt to be a very informative meeting, challenging stereotypes and reinforcing the strongly feminist belief of ‘my body, my choice’.

–RI

November Meeting – A Raw Experience

Our November meeting wasn’t half-baked – it was raw! The Rocking Raw Chef Barbara Fernandez came to talk to the Belles about her culinary speciality: raw vegan food.

First things first, this chef certainly does rock! Barbara opened the evening with an impressive musical account of her discovery of raw food. But once she had decided to start eating this way, she hit a problem: many delicious dishes took too long to prepare, and quicker recipes just didn’t pass the taste test. That’s why she set out to create raw meals that were both fast AND tasty.

Barbara explained some of the principles of ‘cooking’ raw food – a surprising one was that she’s not limited to eating salads! According to Barbara, it still counts as raw if it’s warmed up, as long as it doesn’t get ‘hot’ (she just checks the temperature with her little finger). Many of her recipes use clever preparation techniques to mimic the texture of cooked food, but without any cooking. She showed us what she meant with a live demo – a raw spinach dip prepared in a blender has a really similar consistency to cooked spinach. All of Barbara’s dishes are vegan too, even the creamy chocolate and banana pudding that she made us for dessert. Her top tip here was to soak cashews in water then whip up in the blender for a vegan-friendly creamy texture.

For any Belles who fancy giving it a try at home, the spinach dip and more raw recipes are available on Barbara’s website. She also runs cookery classes in Cambridge.

The bakes from this month’s cake fairies were, however, not raw. These perfectly cooked treats were delicious as always, and made a great addition to our fabulously foodie meeting.

– RI

October Meeting – It’s All About Us

Sometimes it’s fine to say ‘me, me, me!’ and the October meeting was one such occasion. This month we held a members’ showcase, an opportunity to find out more about our fellow Belles. Well, what a talented bunch we are! Six members volunteered to share something that they feel passionate about, from arts and crafts to community initiatives, to starting your own business.

Creative Belle Victoria brought a beautiful selection of her handmade crafts, and talked about how she makes a living by making things she loves. Through her business Butterfly Crafts, she sells cards, jewellery, soap and more, as well as running Craftea workshops for aspiring crafters.

Artistic Abi shared her skills in watercolour painting, guiding her fellow Belles to have a go themselves.

President Lucy told us what she learned at this summer’s Tea and Tents festival: folk art. Using a variety of tools to apply paint, a group of Belles made some gorgeous custom cards.

Sarah showed off some fabulous shoes from the range she has in stock at Modish, her store on Green Street. As well as sharing her favourite footwear, she told her fellow Belles about the experience of setting up her own business.

Jan informed us about Cambridge’s first co-housing project, K1 in Orchard Park. She has spent years working towards this purpose-built complex where residents will reduce their environmental impact by sharing certain resources, while building a sense of community through social events in their large common house and shared garden.

Campaigns Officer Laura took the opportunity to chat to members about this year’s WI campaigns, what we can do to get involved and how we could start a campaign on an issue that’s important to us.

On top of all this, the committee ran a Blue Belles 101 information stall to get new members up to speed on WI ways and a crafting corner for some chill out time. And don’t forget the cake! This month’s cake fairies shone with a spectacular offering of delicious treats. This cosy, intimate meeting was just right for when the nights start drawing in early. It may even have qualified as hygge.

–RI

September Meeting – Being Bookish

Stop! Rewind. We Belles have been taking full advantage of the last few weeks of summer, but now autumn has definitely arrived so we’d better get back to work and fill everyone in on what went on at the September meeting.

Vice President Jo brought everyone to order at our new, earlier start time of 7:45, after our efficient meeting fairies and committee got the room set up super-quick. Everyone had the chance to grab a cuppa, and then it was time for the good news round. Plenty to celebrate with Belles reporting a promotion at work, an almost-finished Masters and plans to visit family.

Cambridgeshire-based author Guinevere Glasfurd was our guest speaker for this very bookish meeting. Guin has recently published her first novel, The Words in my Hand, which was the Times Book of the Month in January 2016. Set in 17th century Holland, it’s the story of Helena Jans van der Strom, a maid who had a child with the French philosopher René Descartes. After reading numerous books about Descartes, Guin was shocked at how history had largely ignored Helena, so she decided to tell this woman’s story. She talked us through the process of writing a novel, from finding the confidence to explore creative writing in the first place, to getting funding, going on research trips to the Netherlands, and finally being published.

Although it may seem to a reader that stories spring into existence fully formed, Guin explained that a book is really just lots of short pieces of writing that gradually come together. She was helped along on her journey by the Escalator programme at Writers’ Centre Norwich and the Gold Dust programme for mentoring writers. For any budding novelists among us, she also recommended checking out the WoMentoring project and the Words and Women annual writing competition. Above all, Guin stressed the importance of placing value on her writing and recognising that it was time well spent, inspiring us all to believe in our capabilities and ourselves.

After a couple of readings from the book, many Belles were keen to find out the full story, so The Words in my Hand was chosen for our book club. Guin even had a few copies for sale at the meeting, all of which were quickly snapped up! She kindly signed them for us, in striking beetroot-coloured ink.

Tea time featured caterpillar cake and some delicious homemade brownies, and then it was the business section, which Jo revealed will henceforth be known as (drum roll) … Belles’ Bits! Thanks to the earlier start time, we managed to get through all our Bits and still finish up at 9:45, so every Belle was able to get her beauty sleep.

–RI

August meeting – Through the lens

Hello, hello, hello!

After a brief summery break, the blog is back! Blue Belles didn’t have a meeting in July, instead there was a party – cocktail making, canapes, party dresses, and lots of laughs!

For the August meeting we asked Lina Orsino-Allen, from photographic dynamic duo Lina & Tom, to come and talk to us about how to take better photos in every day life. The Committee was expecting a fairly quiet meeting, with everyone being on holiday and all that, but it turned out to be one of our best attended meetings this year! This was due in part to have lots of visitors and first timers; we were very happy to have a full room for the talk.

As usual, the meeting started with a big welcome and our now traditional Good News Round. This months we had lots of good news around loved ones’ health and things got a bit emotional, but we recovered quickly and moved on to our speaker.

Lina Orsino-Allen and her husband Tom are professional photographers, mainly specialising in wedding photography.  Lina explained her background, their path into photography and the Belles were treated to a premier of a video which will appear on the website showcasing their best photographs. There were lots of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ and giggles too as Lina and Tom really seem to be able to capture the fun element of each wedding.  Lina then talked through some techniques which everyone could try to do improve their photography.  She said the number one rule was not to pose (selfies being an obvious exception!). She also talked about moving position, either lower, or higher or to change the background.  Lina talked about ‘the rule of thirds’ – which is how a photograph can be divided into thirds and then the focal point would be in 1/3 of the photograph, either horizontally or vertically.  She showed us some photographs when this technique was very effective.  Overall, it was an interesting session and Lina’s light-hearted talk was well received by the Belles and we are sure many will be putting her ideas into action for their holiday snaps.

After enjoying a range of cake and fruit supplied by our cake fairies, we moved on to the ‘Business’ section of the meeting, and Lucy (our President) called on members to think of a new name for this part of the meeting to make it sound less formal and boring. Then Katie gave a quick round up of the weekend of Tea and Tents informing everyone what a great time was had by all. A flurry of announcements followed: a Cambridge Collective weekend away in January, Book Club update from new book club attendees Melissa and Rachel, Games Night reminder, and a lovely invitation to join CamCity’s Craft Clubs from visitor Mel.

Our Theatre Club us slowly getting started, secreatry Alice briefly announced that there would be a couple of theatre trips going ahead: Canada to Cambridge, organised by CFWI, as well as a trip to see Pride and Prejudice at Cambridge Corn Exchange in October.

An important part of the meeting followed. Laura Pryke and Joanne kicked off our Allotment Appeal explaining how the allotment works and what the Dig for Denman initiative is about. Laura and Joanne explained that the allotment has grown a lot and more hands are needed to keep it in shape and to make the most out of its benefits. They suggested that the allotment be turned into a CamCo allotment in order to help spread the load of the plot of land. This was followed by a financial update and the announcement that Belles will be invited to give their thoughts and opinions on both the allotment and the financial statement through the next newsletter.

Finally, Lucy announced that from September we will meet from 7.45pm to 9.45pm, and asked that everyone tried to be on time and to volunteer to help with the set up and clearing of the hall.