Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Absolutely knackering

The Builder and I headed in to the Pot Luck Pantry on Sunday an hour earlier than usual.  It was a long weekend, followed this week by school holidays, so many of the volunteers had gone away.  Also, there was a Food Festival in Sheffield and the Real Junk Food Project had a stall, so that was more volunteers missing.  We ended up with Freyja, The Builder and Me all day, plus a dish washer upper for three hours in the afternoon and someone who came in to help prep for a couple of hours in the morning.

Mostly, it was quite a lot of fun.  We had loads of really interesting ingredients to play with so could make some quite interesting dishes. The weather wasn't bad, so we could have tables outside.  We didn't have lots of customers - I think many of them were also away, or at the Food Festival.  But we did have a couple of largish parties who were minded to try many of the dishes we had available.  So we put together sharing platters for them.  We got lots of nice comments about the food, which was gratifying.

It's probably just as well we weren't over run with customers. I think we would have struggled to cope.  As it was we seemed to do quite nicely with the ratio of volunteers to customers.  We could definitely have done with one more pair of hands when it came to cleaning up afterwards, but you can see why people might be a bit reluctant to come in in the middle of a Sunday afternoon in the middle of a long weekend just to clean for an hour or so!  We also had quite a lot of food left over.  Some of it went home with the volunteers.  Some of it was left to feed the refurbishers during the week. There is still quite a bit of painting to do in the cafe.

In the end, The Builder and I were there for about an hour and a half longer than we usually are on Sundays.  And we could definitely feel it when we got home!  Freyja felt it too, I believe.  She was in bed by 9:30.  I managed to stay awake until 10, by having a (very rare) soak in the bath with some chocolate scented bubbles and then watching a moderately interesting program about the Yeti.  The Builder was asleep in his chair almost as soon as he had put down his knife and fork after his dinner :-)

We both slept Very Well Indeed!!  (So did Freyja)

Yesterday we headed back into Sheffield, this time for a lunch which was cooked for us.  We went to The Doctor's Orders, a pub I have gone past quite regularly over the years, in its various guises.  I have, however, never been in.  You may remember that we had hoped to meet our friend Gill for lunch at the beginning of May but her death intervened and prevented that.  So we had arranged to meet instead her husband, mother and children and any plus ones who were available. Tabitha, Gareth, Cally and Flynn were also there, as was Freyja.  Simon had taken himself off to Leeds for a gig of some sort so was unavailable.  It proved to be impossible to find a date at the beginning of May which was suitable, so we moved it to yesterday's public holiday. And our meeting was none the worse for that :-)

We went to The Doctor's Orders because Gill had liked it, and our lunch meeting was to some extent organised in her memory. And I would thoroughly recommend it. I had an absolutely delicious, and beautifully cooked rib eye steak with very good chips on the side.  They coped very well with our various dietary requirements (even if they did serve butter on the side of a dish marked as vegan - but they fixed that very quickly). They coped well with children and oldies.  They were cheerful and friendly.   It was all good.

The Builder and I are still quite tired though.  It didn't help that I was woken up by the wind howling about at 3:00 this morning.  It was just starting to get light (it's only a week or so ago that I was noting that it was starting to get light at 4am!!). It proved to be very difficult to go back to sleep with the wind howling, the blackbirds singing, some geese honking and then the sparrows beginning their early morning flights.  I would be quite glad of a mid-morning nap. Instead I shall take myself into *my* kitchen and do something useful with a load of vegetables that are beginning to look a bit sorry for themselves.  It would hardly do to be volunteering at a project whose mission is to reduce food waste and then to be throwing away vegetables at home because of inattention ;-D

Dessert sharing platters

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Air Ambulance

We've had a fairly quiet week since we came back from our jaunt to Wiltshire and Hampshire.  We went into Chesterfield on Wednesday to chat to the estate agent (still no real interest in our lovely house ;-( ) and to reclaim some records that the second hand record shop didn't want (neither do we - might have to throw them away!)  We didn't go to the Pot Luck Pantry, which has been closed for refurbishment this week. We've done a bit of gardening, a bit of pottering, a bit of not very much.  It's been quite pleasant.

We did go to the Food Bank yesterday.  Just as well!  This coming Monday is a public holiday and many of the regular volunteers had taken advantage of the long weekend and already gone away. The clients, however, had not :-S  We were quite busy. This did mean, that the open hour between 1 and 2 passed very quickly.  It also meant that we felt as though we had done a full day's work when we left.  It's surprising how heavy three day's worth of emergency food is, even when it's only for one person.  If it's for a large family it's hugely heavy.  Plus, of course, the volunteers aren't only there for the hour that the food bank is open.  Everything has to be set up before we open, and then put away again after, with the church building restored to its Sunday shape before we leave.

Anyway.  Off we trotted, heading home via the supermarket.  We turned into Queen Victoria Road, and noted as we got to the village centre that the traffic was behaving a bit oddly. Lots of people turning their cars round and heading up Green Lane.  Then we found that the road was, in fact, closed. There were people flagging the cars down and turning them back.  We parked our car up the road from our place and walked down to find out what was going on.  Police cars turned up and formally closed the road.  Not everyone was entirely delighted about this - although I have to say that I would not argue with a police van blocking the road with its lights flashing.  It turned out that a motorbike rider and a van had collided a little way up from our place.  It all looked a bit nasty.  Even more so when the air ambulance turned up and landed in the field immediately behind our place.  Fortunately, the bike rider was extremely lucky and wasn't dead or even particularly badly injured. He didn't need the services of the air ambulance and was taken away in a road ambulance.  The air ambulance took off again - much to the excitement of the children next door who had thought it was a particularly loud lawn mower when it started its engines. They were ever so excited when they realised that it was a large helicopter instead :-)

And so Tupton returned to its usual, largely somnolent state - and The Builder went up the road to retrieve our car.  I made a spring vegetable pie for our dinner.  And a meat and potato pie ready for Sunday, when the Pot Luck Pantry will have re-opened. We are going in a bit earlier than usual. The cafe is short of volunteers, for some reason :-D

Our ducks have been enjoying the early summer / late spring weather

So has Marlo, who is taking advantage of the morning sunshine and is snoozing in its warmth on our little lawn.

I suppose that perhaps I should go wild and get dressed, then I can enjoy the sunshine too.  It is most unlikely to last.  It is, after all, a long weekend!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Let the celebrations continue

We had a lovely time on Sunday.  The weather wasn't absolutely brilliant - it was overcast and  bit windy.  But it wasn't raining, so after breakfast we drove out in a roundabout way through the New Forest to Lymington. It was a lovely drive.  We weren't in any hurry, so we could potter and meander and explore.

We arrived in Lymington and parked out in the further away car park. This meant we had a pleasant wander along past the marina and up along the river towards the harbour.

We knew we were going out for dinner in the early evening, so thought we might have fish and chips by the harbour for lunch.  We could see people with packets of fish and chips, but couldn't see where they had got them from.  Our feet might have accidentally taken us into The Ship.  Our waiter might have inadvertently brought us the Sunday menu.  I might possibly have noticed that there were scallops on the entree menu :-S

Scallops with a pea puree

Roast chicken with all the usual Sunday accompaniments
Oh well.  A small celebration dinner it is, then!

We had a nice potter about in the town then hopped back in the car.  What to do now? We don't want to be too early into Petersfield, where the celebration dinner was to be held.  The table isn't booked until 6. So we went for another potter through the New Forest, along roads that weren't familiar to either of us.  And we ended up in Milford on Sea, overlooking the Isle of Wight

And so on to Petersfield, to La Piazzetta, where were gathered Rebecca's grandparents, two grandparental partners, her friend from college, her sister and her parents.  It was a lovely evening. Very celebratory. Very convivial.  I think there will be a suitably youthful celebration in a few weeks time when everyone has finished their end of year exams, but it was good to have an oldies' celebration too

We came home on Monday. The car, which had alarmed us a bit on the way to Salisbury when the clutch slipped, accompanied by much smell of burning rubber, behaved impeccably for the rest of the weekend.  We were very glad of this!  We really hadn't wanted to be stuck in a broken down car, in the rain, with The Builder's 91 year old mother on board!!!  I don't suppose we wanted to be stuck anywhere, really, although we do have breakdown cover. But it's hard to know what we would have done with Gwen while waiting for Green Flag to come and rescue us.  Fortunately, it didn't come to that and the entire weekend passed with no further excitements, alarms or diversions.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

We've been to a wedding

Not a secret wedding this time.

The Builder's son was getting married to his Canadian fiancee in Winchester yesterday afternoon.  So The Builder and I came down on Friday, staying in The Old Mill in Salisbury.  The Builder's mother had also been invited to the wedding, so we dropped by her place yesterday afternoon to pick her up, and off we went.

The wedding was held in the (beautiful) church at The Hospital of St Cross, an ancient almshouse. It's in an out of the way corner of Winchester.  So out of the way that The Builder, who lived in Winchester for nearly 20 years didn't know it existed.  Nor did many people who currently live in Winchester.  I certainly didn't know it existed.  I am hoping to have the opportunity to come back and look at it as a tourist rather than as a wedding guest.  You can't really go wandering about a church poking about in its nooks and crannies when you are at a wedding service!

The wedding was also beautiful.  I was a bit puzzled by the choice of the first hymn.  "Abide with me" is more usually associated with funerals than weddings - but it turns out that yesterday afternoon was the time of the FA Cup Final; "Abide with me" is the hymn sung at the beginning of the match; Ian is an avid soccer fan.  Makes sense when you make all those connections! Gwen was sat at the very front of the church, in the only wheelchair spot. We were sat just behind her, so she wasn't entirely isolated.  There were lots of Ian's family and friends present, and a smattering of Canadians.  Lisa's father came, on his first foreign flight ("If you don't count Hawaii!").  Her brother, niece and sister were there, along with a few close friends.  Another celebration will be held in Saskatchewan in a week or so's time.

When we came out, the gloomy weather had turned into an absolute downpour.  No photo opportunity outside then!  So everyone went into the assembly hall, which was (unfortunately) up a flight of quite steep stairs.  There was no way we were going to Gwen up there, so she and I took shelter in the porch, while the photos were being taken. Then the bridal party and family came and had photos taken with her.

Then everyone parted company and we took Gwen home for a cup of tea and a spot of dinner.

The reception was an evening affair, held in the Cart and Horses in Kingsworthy. It was a lovely evening.  Delicious food, lots of laughter and merriment, very convivial.

You will find my photos of the event here:

A Winchester Wedding

The weekend of celebrations continues today.  Yesterday was Rebecca's 18th birthday.  We couldn't have a proper celebration yesterday - we were all a bit busy.  So this evening we gather again in celebration of Rebecca's move into adulthood.  First, though, The Builder and I are off to the seaside.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Builder came with me to the food bank on Friday, to see if he might fancy volunteering there as well.  He seemed to have a good time and we are intending both to go this coming Friday.  We were fairly busy last Friday.  Both The Builder and I were packing food parcels for the clients.  This time, in addition to the regular list of things that clients are given, we had lots of fruit from somewhere; each client also got a bag of mixed fruit with their parcel.

We were back at the Potluck Pantry on Sunday for a busy day of lunch service.  I made a ham, chicken and leek pie, and an apple and rhubarb crumble.   There was still some of my tofu and asparagus pie from Thursday.  Freyja made an Italian style aubergine and tomato bake, plus this week we had beef and chicken for Jo to roast.And, of course, we had all the expected Sunday lunch trimmings.  We came home with an interesting collection of food - little steak and ale pies, sea bass fillets, spaghetti carbonara; things from the supermarkets that can't really be used in the cafe, but which weren't going to keep until the following Saturday's shop (where things that can't be used in the cafe get sold to locals on a Pay as You Feel basis).   Several days of free food in exchange for a day's work in the kitchen seems like a fair exchange to me and the mission of the project is to prevent food waste so we were helping with that too :-)

Until today, the weather has been lovely so The Builder and I have been out in the garden tidying it up and preparing it for the summer. We want it to look good if anyone ever comes to buy the house.  No gardening today, though. The weather is horrible today.  Windy and wet and very dismal.  I took advantage of yesterday's sunshine to take some fresh photos for the estate agent's brochure.

We've noticed, a couple times, cars pulling up outside our place, and people looking at  the house.  This hasn't led to any viewings and we decided that that might be because, although the inside of the house is freshly decorated and carpeted, the outside was looking decidedly tatty.  So Liam, who plastered the lounge room for us, also took advantage of the lovely weather and turned this:

into this:

Isn't it lovely?

Right.  I'm off in the rain for a haircut.  Catch you later

Friday, May 13, 2016

I have mentioned this before, but it isn't really an unalloyed benefit not having a job to go to.  I am very much a maƱana kind of person and it is much too easy to decide not to do something today because it can always be done tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that - or perhaps not at all.  So I am not learning Japanese with any purpose.  I am not weeding and clearing in the garden. I am not even following my cleaning and tidying routine particularly well. If there is no impetus to get on and get things done, it is much too easy to let things drift!  I must acquire an impetus :-D

However, not having a job to go to does carry some benefits.  It means that if we don't have a proper Sunday afternoon on Sunday, we can move it by 24 hours.  The weather was absolutely glorious on Monday, so we moved out into the garden at lunchtime, armed not with digging and weeding tools but with gin, tonic and wine supplies.  We had a leisurely afternoon, culminating in a Sunday Roast on a Monday. We have done some gardening, mind.  The Builder has weeded the cabbage plants and onions.  He's dug over the bed where the raspberries were and we have some strawberry plants to put there.  I'm going to get some cheap raspberry canes to put in there too.  There is quite a bit of post-winter clearing and tidying to do, but we're getting there.

The garden is a sea of blue. The forget me nots are very happy this year!

And so the week has pottered along. We've had some wet, wild and windy weather, and some beautiful, sunny weather. We are busy clearing out the cupboards and drawers ready for our proposed move (should anyone EVER show any interest in buying our house :-S ). I think we've done pretty nearly all the cupboards once.  I am about to embark on a second round. 

We headed back to the Pot Luck Pantry yesterday for the lunch service.  I made a vegan "quiche" which wasn't bad for a first attempt but which needs a bit more work doing on it.  I think it might have been better to call it a tofu and asparagus pie rather than  a quiche.  We'll know for next time. It's all good experience - should I ever be minded to open any kind of eatery of my own!!!

Vegan tofu and asparagus pie. Photo (c) Freyja
In the meantime, Marlo seems to be enjoying life. When the weather is warm and sunny, he moves around his various sun sleeping spots.  When it isn't, he has found satisfactory sleeping spots inside.

Ironing is very wasteful of electricity.
I will sleep on the ironing pile to prevent you being wasteful

New clothes!
A new white t-shirt.

Monday, May 09, 2016


Off we went on Thursday for our first, training session at the RJFP's Pot Luck Pantry. Freyja was there waiting for us, along with another new volunteer and we were sown around the kitchen and assigned tasks.  The Builder was to be the Front of House person, and assistant washer upper.  I was put to work assembling the ingredients for a Tuna Nicoise salad.  Other volunteers turned up and by the time we opened for breakfast at 11 we had the makings of the salad, a potato bake, with a homity pie to follow up, soup, a Moroccan style stew and various other bits and pieces. Freyja was the host for the morning. Other volunteers came and went.  And just before 2, The Builder and I left, taking Freyja with us for she was working the afternoon and evening shift at her place of actual employment.  Other people took over for the afternoon and evening shifts.

We enjoyed it. It was good to be making tasty food from things that would otherwise be thrown away by the supermarkets and grocery stores. It was fun casting an eye over what was available and thinking about what you might be able to concoct.

On Friday I went to the Food Bank in Clay Cross for my second shift.  This time I was asked to help with making the teas and coffees for the volunteers and clients.  There are usually two people in the kitchen but one of the regular tea-makers was away on Friday.  I enjoyed that too. I was partnered with a lovely, elderly gentleman who pretty much is always in the kitchen.  We were exceptionally busy and our cups, cakes and biscuits flew out. The Builder is planning to come with me next Friday. You can't have too many volunteers packing up food parcels and distributing tea and cakes when you have people waiting in line for assistance.

On Sunday we returned to the Pot Luck Pantry, for the Sunday Lunch service.  I had a great time.  I was responsible for the Sunday roast beef, and for the gammon chunks with pineapple salsa, and for most of the plating up.  We also had a bean chilli, a root vegetable bake, crumbed tofu, roast potatoes and a huge salad on offer.  I think it is quite impressive how much the pantry offers that is suitable for vegetarians and vegans, and also for people on gluten free diets. Of course, the menu is entirely dependent on what has come in, so things that people might want aren't always available - but a great deal of effort goes into trying to make food that as many people as possible can eat.

I have never really done anything like that before.  I think I have probably fed almost that number of people before, but never in rolling sittings, and never in a commercial kitchen. It was Freyja's first time running the Sunday service. I think we both learnt lots, ready for next time. The Poor Builder spent almost all day washing dishes. I don't think he learnt much :-D

Tabitha, Gareth, Cally and Flynn came for lunch (we made absolutely certain that Tabitha's gammon was properly hot :-D ).  Cally was quite intrigued to find Grandad Jim and Gamma in the kitchen.  "Are you allowed to be in there, Gamma?  I didn't know you could cook in there. The food is very lovely!"  (She was eating Freyja's root vegetable bake, which was very tasty indeed.)

We were very tired by the time we got home! It's a very, very long time since I spent so many hours on my feet. Funnily enough we weren't all that interested in spending much time in our kitchen preparing food.  Fortunately, I had had the foresight to take a pre-prepared beef and vegetable stew out of the freezer. It heated itself while The Builder and I had a well-earned gin and tonic.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Long Weekend

Last weekend was the May Day long weekend.  Lots of places had festivals, fairs, feasts and fun events organised, most of which were outside.

The Weather Dogs noticed this!

Tabitha, Gareth, Cally and Flynn went to a super hero festival in Bakewell, at the showgrounds.  Cally was all dressed up in a shimmery, sparkly Batgirl dress.  It was only a small, local festival, but I think that they enjoyed it.  Cally in particular seemed to have a good time. However, a strong downpour at lunchtime drove them away and they headed off to meet friends for a pub lunch, and then came on over to our place.  The super hero festival got a lot of complaints on the internet - for having to pay extra for the rides and for food and so on.  It cost £5 per child to get in.  No charge for infants and adults.  I'm not sure what people expected from a small local festival but it sounds as though their expectations were a touch inflated!

Cally is a Batgirl Flower Fairy :-)

Sunday was mostly fine, with a few showers.  I was dressed ready for going out.  We sat down for breakfast.  Flynn was sitting on my knee so his parents could eat their breakfast using a knife and fork and both hands.  Suddenly he vomited milk all over me.  It was quite spectacular.  It also meant that I pretty much had to change every item of clothing that I was wearing!!  After all, you can't go out to lunch smelling faintly of stale milk!

He didn't throw up all over The Builder!

We all met Freyja and Simon at The Real Junk Food Project's cafe (which I think has changed its name to Pot Luck Cafe). You may remember the we went there for lunch in January, a week after Flynn was born.  Tabitha wasn't all that impressed, partly because they had run out of the things that she wanted to it by the time we got there, but mostly because her food was cold.  It was therefore slightly disconcerting that her meal this time, delicious though it was, was once again not as hot as it might be!!!  The manager was mortified :-D  However, it took no effort to make it properly hot and the rest of us had meals that were piping hot.  They seem to have a more reliable source of donations now.  I had a very healthy portion of roast chicken with all the accompaniments, and I don't think they ran out of anything very much. There were also some very interesting desserts, and lots of gluten free offerings, and meals suitable for vegetarians and vegans. I think that supermarkets and other local businesses have begun to notice them.  You pay what you think the meal was worth, or what you can afford. You can also pay in donations, or in time.  We took a few bits and pieces in the way of donations and made a cash payment as well.  I think that if everyone did that, the Project would flourish.

Then Tabitha and co went into town to play with the Continental Market and the snooker finals.  And The Builder, Freyja, Simon and I went out to Costco to single handedly rescue the British economy from destitution.

Monday was also reasonably sunny, but with some Quite Interesting storms.  Tabitha, Gareth, Cally and Flynn went to a children's festival in Leeds and had a fantastic time. This was much bigger than the Bakewell Festival (and cost a lot more for tickets) - and there were lots of inside activities where you could shelter from the storms.  The Builder and I stayed at home and more or less had a second Sunday.

After that the Weather Dogs got bored with freezing and snowing us all, the sun came out and the temperature started to go up.  I really must get back out into the garden.  It needs weeding and I have seedlings that need potting up and the patio needs sorting out.  But not today.  Today we are heading in to Sheffield to do a spot of volunteering at TRJFP.  We though we'd give it a go and see if we like it.  They need people to help on Sunday so this will be a training day.  Freyja is running things on Sunday and felt that we might need to know where things are and what to do before we rock up to her first Sunday in Charge and ruin it :-D

The garden looking sunny and happy