Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Monday, July 27, 2009

And finally - a summer family Sunday lunch

Needs to be gluten free and to have something very yummy for the veggies (about 20 - guests, not veggies)

Roast pork
Roast chicken
apple sauce
Something veggie

boiled new potatoes
loads and loads of vegetables

Gluten free gravy

fruit salad
peach and raspberry cheesecake (with gluten free biscuit base)

A summer afternoon tea - proposed menu for around 30

Savoury things:

Cucumber sandwiches
vegemite sandwiches
cheese sandwiches
ham sandwiches
egg and cress sandwiches
chicken "sausage" rolls
quorn "sausage" rolls

Sweet things:

scones, jam and cream
cherry cake
chocolate cake


ginger beer
lime cordial
lemon cordial
It was the Tupton Carnival on Saturday. Freyja came down from Sheffield and we went to play.

First there was a little procession. The Builder, watching it from our front window, thought it was pathetic. Freyja and I watching it from the village garden thought it was lovely. I will admit that it wasn’t a very long procession, but we were watching it surrounded by people who knew the people in the procession and who were waving and talking to the participants. There was quite a buzz of excitement where we were, and no excitement at all in our lounge room! The procession starts up by the high school and wends its way down past the post office, then down Ward Street and up along QVR back to the primary school. Then the gates of the school are opened and everyone makes their way up on to the school playing fields (which I didn’t know were there!) where there were rides and games and about a thousand tombolas. There was a baking competition (the kind that I could probably enter – the cakes weren’t up to Agricultural Show standards) and an art display. Punch and Judy were there. There was a sausage sizzle. The Sheffield Pipe Band, which had led the procession, gave a display . Some tiny children gave a dancing display, supervised by the Carnival Queen. It was all very lovely. And the sun shone, which made it lovelier still. Then Freyja and I went back to The Sidings, where The Builder wasn’t doing any useful gardening but was watching Hampshire win the cricket.

I took Freyja back to Sheffield, carrying all of our suitcases and bags with us, not to mention several cardboard boxes which we’ve been collecting for her. We made a slight detour to inspect the outside of the house that she’ll be moving into next weekend (hence the cases, bags and boxes). It’s near a tiny Sainsbury’s, and a greengrocer, two cafes, a gift shop and a bakery. Well located! There are also, apparently, a couple of pubs. I did, however, remember why I don’t live in Sheffield any more as I tried very hard to navigate The Vixen among all the parked cars and vans which made it extremely difficult to see if anything was coming up or down the narrow roads! I wouldn’t mind the cafes though. We do have a coffee shop in Tupton, it is true. But now it’s closed on Saturdays for lack of trade. This is very sad. I enjoyed popping in from time to time for a leisurely Saturday breakfast. Although I suppose we didn’t pop often enough to keep Saturday trade ticking over. We’ll just have to go often during August, when I, at least, will be around during the week. The Builder only has two weeks off during August, and we’ll be away for quite a bit of that.

Sunday was a very lazy day. We got up late and achieved very little. We did get the shopping done and we had a truly lovely roast lamb later in the afternoon. But we got none of the gardening or allotmenting done that we had intended – mostly because it was raining. We didn’t put up the energy usage meter that I’ve just bought. We didn’t seal the bathroom. We didn’t put up the new bathroom door. (And when I say “we”, I emphatically don’t mean me. Hanging doors is not one of my expertises!). We didn’t sort out the spare room. The Builder did watch the Grand Prix. I’m not altogether sure quite what I did – apart from cook the lamb. Oh – and dig up a potato root (It had stopped raining by that point; I could have gone gardening, really) and a couple of onions for roasting.

It is always possible that we might have drunk quite a quantity of wine as well. Must remember to get some more. And green tea. Not to mention whisky and Jack Daniels.

And I really must excavate the spare room. I believe we have visitors hoving into view.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Richard's last day

It's Richard's last day today. He and I have been to the Fusion Cafe for a truly lovely lunch of quiche and salad and sunshine. Maurice farewelled him in the traditional 11 am slot in the staff room this morning. I don't think I have *ever* seen quite so many people crammed into the staff room before. It was absolutely standing room only - and late comers were confined to the corridor. In the end we had raised something a little over £200 for the donation to the Alzheimer's Society. I bought a bottle of very nice French wine with what was left after £200 wended its way in a useful direction. For Richard. Not for me! And, much to my pleasure, Richard had entirely missed the fairly steady stream of people wandering into the office over the past couple of weeks to sign the card and contribute to the collection. He may have assumed a card would come his way - but I think the donation came as something of a surprise to him :-)

So he's off on his way, whistling cheerily off into the sunshine. And he's not coming to the wedding party ;-( He has discovered the practical difficulties attendant on being in Southampton and in Tupton at the same time on the same afternoon. Southampton it is, it seems ;-(

He's coming for dinner next Friday instead.

Must find out how he dug the escape tunnel. Just in case I should ever need one, you understand.

I got out of the car this morning and immediately realised that I had left my staff card at home. This makes getting into the building at just after 07:30 extremely difficult. Fortunately, I had a book with me and propped by the front door until a passing Cleaning Supervisor dropped by and let me in. This gave me plenty of time to ponder on why I had forgotten to pick up my card. I don't usually.

I blame Marlo! I had come down this morning and fed him. He took a few mouthfuls of breakfast, and then ambled into the dining room and started sniffing around my basket of veg seeds which is sitting on the floor by the radiator. I rattled his bowl. He came and took another mouthful and then went and sat by the dining room door. Odd behaviour, I thought. But I ignored it for a time, until I realised he was sniffing under the door (which was open and propped against the dining room wall). Usually this indicates that another cat has been in - but he wasn't looking cross; just alert.

So I went and pushed the door away from the wall to see what he was sniffing at. And there on the floor was my bear, which usually sits on the radiator. So I picked it up to put it back. And hiding underneath it was - a mouse! Marlo leapt upon the mouse and caught it. I tried to chivy him outside. He looked at me and went to miaow. The mouse ran across my foot and tried to get away. Marlo caught it again. I grabbed him and the mouse and pout them outside, shutting the door behind them.

But this all meant that I hadn't picke up my staff card at the time I usually do - and I didn't think about it again until I found myself locked out of the Adsetts Centre. Mercifully, it wasn't raining!!!

I think the mouse might have survived its adventures. The Builder reports that he went out, just before we were due to leave. Marlo was still playing with the mouse. The Builder said hello to him (Marlo, not the mouse). Marlo looked up to reply. And the mouse scarpered, he thinks under the fence to next door's garden. So all's well that ends well -- if you are a mouse.

Oops. I just deleted the Blog mailing list. Didn't mean to do that. Meant to delete Richard!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A proposed sunny summer picnic (or a rainy summer lunch, depending on the Weather Dogs)

We will, I think, be 14, plus one not-quite-2 year old. We need veggie friendly stuff, and gluten free stuff, plus all the usual picnic foods. This is what I have planned so far. I would be glad of further suggestions

Grilled chicken pieces
Ham slices
Hard boiled eggs
Veggie sausages
Bean thingie of some sort
Green salad
Rice salad
Potato salad
(Dressings all separate)
Seafood mix
Gluten free bread rolls


Ginger beer
Lime cordial
Lemon cordial
Orange juice

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Coff. coffcoffcoffcoffcoffcoffcoffCOFF

It has to be said that this has been a mighty interesting cough. It started, innocuously enough, about a fortnight ago. Reasonably typical for me. Feeling of being pushed gently in the bottom of the right hand side of the throat, accompanied shortly after by a slightly wheezy, tickly and irritating cough, also located in the bottom of the throat.

So far, so usual. Alas, once I get a cough, they do tend to linger. But mostly, they are irritating rather than actively annoying and seldom really attract my attention (other than as a cause for a good whinge!)

Not this one, though. It got more and more persistent. I coffed and coffed and coffed and coffed and coffed and coffed and COFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFED.

To the point where breathing sometimes became problematic!

As was sleeping :-(

I tried cough mixture and a ventolin inhaler and a herbal cough mixture recommended by the GP wife of a friend of mine (made my ears drop off but didn’t affect the cough) and fisherman’s friends and aniseed, menthol and eucalyptus sweets and all sorts. Nothing worked.

Coff coff coff coff coff coff coff coff coff coff coff coff coff coff coff coff coff coff.


I don’t actually think I’ve ever had a cough quite like it. It was an upper, upper respiratory cough; didn’t get anywhere near my lungs or chest. But it didn’t half hurt. Pulled at least one rib cage muscle which complains loudly now if I cough or take a deep breath. And it simply wouldn’t stop ;-(

On Sunday, we had been out and about. Off to Chatsworth in search of fleshy things to eat and sandals at the garden centre (which I didn’t buy in the end; they’re lovely sandals but I’ve bought a purple shirt and need something to go with that. A dusty blue didn’t seem quite the ticket, somehow). We had achieved a great deal. Se we decided to come off the wagon and have some wine with our Sunday roast lamb. Well, it was like bashing me over the head with something blunt and heavy, bearing in mind that I hadn’t had a decent sleep for several nights. I was in bed by half past eight, didn’t wake until the radio came on on Monday morning and the cough, which certainly hasn’t gone away, has abated very considerably. Should have applied alcohol earlier!!!!!

On the other hand, though, the target trousers appear to be growing ever so slightly, so perhaps the lack of alcohol hasn’t been such a bad thing. With luck they may fit comfortably by Friday fortnight.

We had a lovely, fairly lazy weekend. The Builder picked mountains of fruit. I processed them. We got to the allotment, we went into town. We pottered and pootled and just quite enjoyed having Nothing Pressing To Do. It does cross my mind, however, that it is a week until Austin gets here (although he is going first to Cambridge so I don’t need to fret about that directly) and only 9 days until Lindsey and Ian get here. I do need to do something about this – the spare room needs digging out from under the junk room, if they are to have a bed to sleep in!

It is amazing the deeply, deeply suspicious looks you get at the moment as you wander about the place coughing with vigour and enthusiasm. You almost feel as though you need a little bell and a sign that reads: Unclean!

I brought the week’s milk in with me on Monday, as is my habit. Stuck a label on it, marked “f & r”. Also my habit. But this time it was for the last time. From next week there will be no “r” to share the milk with ;-( So no point marking it as such. Just “f” from now on ;-(

Mind you – you should see the huge, big grin on Richard’s face!!!!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Yellow pepper and tuna stew

I adapted this from a recipe on They had it as a warming, winter comfort food. I looked at it and thought what a lovely summer dish it would make!

I took a white onion and sliced it thinly, and two yellow peppers, which I chopped into chip sized strips. I then sauteeed them gently in a mix iof butter and olive oil until they wre softened but not browned. THen I added some very finely chopped garlic and carried on for a minute or so.

I then added: one generous glass of dry white wine, a tin of chopped tomatoes, a GLUGGG of sweet chilli sauce, 2 bay leaves, 2 teaspoons of parpika and a generous pinch of saffron, stirred it all around and left it to simmer very gently for about 20 minutes until it was all glossy and lustrous.

I chopped fresh skipjack tuna (sustainably sourced and l;ine fished, so I am given to understand)into bite sized pieces and added them with some very fresh peas and baby broad beans to the sauce and simmered gently until the tuna was *just* cooked. I served it with fresh spaghetti. I would have added fresh chopped parsely or coriander - but didn't have any. It would have been better with it but was exceedlingly yummy even without it.

Might try it next time with some chopped fresh ginger instead of the paprika. Or may even as well as!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

People keep asking me ...


So here's the plan for August:

7th: Ceremony in Bakewell at 1pm, attended by family. Picnic lunch to follow, by the river if the weather is clement, otherwise back at our place. Dinner in the Three Horseshoes at Spitewinter in the evening.

8th: Summer afternoon tea party 2:30 at our place (we usually do have a summer afternoon tea party and decided to attach it to the wedding weekend this year, Just Because). Rather more acceptances than I was expecting, given that it's August and therefore the holiday season. All will be well if the weather behaves, at least so the gazebos can be used. Will put sandwiches, cakes and wine out in the big gazebo on the patio to entice guests down there!

9th: Family Sunday lunch. Cousins invited because Lindsey, Ian and Austin will be at our place and available for inspection purposes.

10th: Not sure if you can really call it a honeymoon if you go away with three adult children, one son-in-law, one sister and one brother-in-law - but we are all heading off to an out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere village in Country Durham until Friday

15th - 17th: Freyja's birthday weekend

The plans for the following week ar still fairly fluid. I'll tell you all about it - as and when it happens!!

Being touristy in Cambridge

So. Pat, Graeme and Margaret headed off to Cambridge on Friday morning. The Builder went to work. I stayed at home and did useful things, like the washing and the ironing and some gentle tidying. Then I had a sudden rush of blood to the head and, instead of going out into the garden as planned, decided to embark on the long-planned book reorganisation and cull.

This generated quite some level of chaos, which is not entirely reduced yet. But the books on the shelves are looking very orderly!

We couldn’t entirely conveniently join everyone in Cambridge on Friday evening. Tammy had inconsiderately taken herself off on holiday in Turkey with her parents on Friday morning and there was no one to feed Marlo. So we headed down reasonably early on Saturday morning, leaving Marlo with two bowls of food and a small feeder of biscuits. That should keep him fed and happy for two days.

We made good time to Alex Wood Road, where we met Taffa and Gaz. Pat rang in from the hotel and we made our way to The Boathouse to meet them for lunch. It’s surprising quite how much time we spend in The Boathouse, given that we live in Chesterfield! It is probably one of my favourite summer pubs. In the event that T and G should ever move from Cambridge, I may need to take regular summer visits just so I can go to The Boathouse and to the Green Dragon. And occasional winter visits to check out the Fort St George!

We started out sitting outside for lunch, but then the drizzle came in and we decamped inside. At which point the drizzle went away again! After lunch Pat went back to the hotel for a rest, and the rest of us went to the fair on Parker’s Piece. One of the nice things about Cambridge is that there is always a fair or a festival or something going on. We narrowly avoided death by Storm Troopers, escaped extermination by daleks, failed to be shot by small children with pop guns and by and large had a lovely time.

Then Graeme and Margaret went for a pre-prandial nap, and the rest of us repaired to a pub for a drink. I had a pimms – based on Cassie’s unexpected conversion to the drink a couple of weeks back. Can’t say I ws particularly struck. Taffa and Gaz explained that the pimms at The Anchor by the river came with fruit and cucumber and might be better. So we wandered off there to find out. And it was better – but still a bit sweet. So I moved on to wine and we had a merry time watching inexperienced people desperately trying to get their punts to do as they were told!

We had dinner in Don Pasquale – pizzas all round. And arranged to meet on the Sunday to do lots of touristy stuff. The kind of thing that Taffa and Gaz, and even The Builder and I have never really bothered to do.

First the tourist bus. Sat upstairs, of course. And you know – I really enjoyed it. It went for about an hour and a quarter, trundled all over the city centre and out towards Madingley and the American Cemetery. It was extremely informative and told me a few things that I didn’t know. And it was interesting to see things from slightly higher up than street level. Then we had Sunday lunch in The Eagle. And then a guided punt tour. Which was, it must be said, an extremely civilised way of spending a Sunday afternoon. We should do it more often. Though it is, of course, considerably cheaper to hire a punt, punt it yourself (that’s Gareth’s job!) and take a picnic lunch with you. Heading to Grantchester, rather than along the Backs which were stuffed full of inexperienced punters seriously getting in the way of the punting professionals. (Though they all seemed to be having a good time).

Then we had to leave Pat, Graeme, Margaret, Taffa and Gaz and make out way back to Chesterfield. It was good to see Pat, and very nice to meet Graeme and Margaret. Pat bought us lots of food and wine (thus, clearly, subverting my plans to slim down to fit into my wedding trousers – but you obviously can’t be on a weight reducing regime when on holiday). Graeme and Margaret gave us some nice Australia coasters, together with a fridge magnet and a pen. Thank you to everyone for a lovely few days.

We weren’t using Jenny on the way back. Not because Pat had run away with her but because we didn’t think we needed her and I wanted to use the in-car charger for my iPhone that The Builder bought for me a few weeks ago. This meant, of course, that we missed the turning off the A1, had to fish Jenny out and came home Another Way. Which we actually quite enjoyed. Lots of bits of country we hadn’t previously seen.

The in-car charger, which works perfectly well in Oscar, doesn’t seem to work in The Vixen. It keeps popping out – and even when I am holding it in (which is not entirely convenient!) the phone didn’t seem to be charging. Might have to investigate further. It appears that Tom Tom is preparing a GPS application for the iPhone which will need a holder and a proper charger. One which works!

Oh – and while King’s College may have evening and Sunday services during the long vacation – Clare does not, should you be thinking of going to Clare’s very lovely chapel for some spiritual sustenance during the summer.

Back at work now. Five day week in prospect. Gulp!

Unless my coff should render me hors de combat during the week. It does seem to be getting worse. It is also EXTREMELY irritating!!!!!!!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Eating our way through the Peak District

Some many months ago (like in around January!) Pat from Ballarat announced her intention of coming, accompanied by her brother and sister-in-law, to inspect us. And asked if I could find an interesting pub for them to stay in, not far from us.

So I booked them into The Nettle. Which is most certainly an “interesting” pub being, as it is, “unspoiled by progress”!

I arranged to take the relevant days off. But it was so, so, so far in the future that it didn’t seem to have any real impact.

Life trundled on. And suddenly – Pat, her brother and sister-in-law were arriving NEXT WEEK!!!!! I emailed asking what the plan was. And wasn’t so much met by a resounding silence as by a load of questions about things not connected to The Plan at all!

And then – it was the day they were arriving. And I still didn’t know what the plan was! Shortly before 10 pm I rang the Nettle to see if they had arrived yet. And they had. Just. At that very minute!!! We arranged to meet at The Nettle at around 11 the following morning, and I left them to it and wandered off.

And since then we’ve been being quite touristy, interspersed with little bursts of practicality. So we did Pat’s washing while she had access to a washing machine. And while it was drying we drove out to Chatsworth and had lunch in the farm shop restaurant. Graeme, Margaret and I had a wander along part of the Wetlands walk. And we FOUND THE COWS!!!!!!! I think they must have been in bed the last time we went around and couldn’t find them. We had some of Jayne's lamb roasted on Wednesday evening, with home grown veg and Jersey potatoes, followed by a gooseberry and raspberry pie (gooseberries and raspberries from the garden :-) ). We had a drive out to Castleton on Thursday and then up and over Winnats Pass and drove in a roundabout way to Eyam – where we had rather more trouble finding a pub to eat in than I had anticipated! But when we did find it – the effort was certainly worthwhile. The food wasn’t bad at all. The Builder and I joined them all at The Nettle for a sumptuous dinner on Thursday evening. Then on Friday morning, accompanied by Jenny, they went to Cambridge, The Builder (not accompanied by Jenny) went to work. And I had an extra day of work, just because!

As we were setting off on the Wetlands walk on Wednesday afternoon, Graeme asked, more or less in passing, if the local surgery did ITV tests, or was it BBC tests – or maybe even Channel Four tests. I looked blank. Finger tip tests for his warfarin. I continued to look blank. I don’t know. But they’ll know. We’ll go and ask them when we get back from the walk. The receptionist knew what he was talking about. Alas – the only person who did them was the practice nurse and she was in Clay Cross. She would be in Tupton on Thursday but she was fully booked. The receptionist rang Clay Cross. The practice nurse would see us today – if we could get there by 5. Which was a bit of a worry because it was already twenty to! But we made it. Graeme had his test and all is more or less well.

Tony tells me the test is really the International Rescue test. It’s a Thunderbirds test!! (Although I think he might actually have said it's the International Normalised Ratio - but he clearly meant International Rescue!)

Monday, July 06, 2009

I think I've bankrupted The Builder!

My goodness but that was an expensive weekend!

Although, I suppose Friday wasn’t ALL that expensive. Unless you count the wine. But I made the ravioli we had for the starter. And the truly magnificent pork loin was from the half pig that Jayne the Pig Lady brought a few weeks ago. And I made the peach melba cheesecake myself. So the food wasn’t all that dear. Although – we did have quite a lot of wine …

And no, we didn’t eat and drink all that lot by ourselves. Roger, Kate, Bea, Steve and Richard all came to dinner. It was something in the way of a farewell to Richard who seems to have decided that he is old enough to retire and is planning to leave at the end of July. Not that young slips of lads ought to be allowed to retire if you ask me. But, as it happens, Richard didn’t ask me. He asked somebody else who decide to allow this extraordinary behaviour! Last Friday was the only Friday in July we were all free. So they all lobbed around, we went for a pleasant stroll around the nature reserve and wetlands. (Where have the cows gone? I’m sure they came back after their winter holiday – I’m certain we saw them. But they weren’t there on Friday. Unless they were hiding.) Then we headed back home across a muddy, muddy field for an evening of eating, drinking and general indulgence.

Richard reports that it was the first time for many, many years that he had played cricket on a Saturday morning with a stonking headache!!!!!!!

And for some reason, The Builder and I overslept on Saturday morning. It was around 8:30 when we woke up!

But we still managed to go shopping. And this is when the expense truly began.
Paul at work has, for some time, been asking whether we had everything prepared for the wedding. I was supposed to be preparing? Well, yes, said he. You’ve got the rings? Erm – no. It appears that I might have wanted to start thinking about that some time ago. Clothes? Erm … No. But I’ve got lots of clothes already. That won’t do, said Paul. You need something nice. But my clothes are already nice. A jacket. I’ll buy a jacket. And The Builder needs a new jacket too. And perhaps a new pair of trousers.

So we dragged ourselves off to Chesterfield and went to a little boutique jewellery shop off The Lanes shopping lanes (well, that’s what they are!) to look at rings. SIX WEEKS it takes, apparently, to adjust the size of rings. SIX! Most fortunately, the rings we liked didn’t need adjusting. Mine is a tiny tad too large, but my finger is unlikely to shrink. If it does – I’ll get the ring adjusted then. So bang. £500+ gone, just like that.

Right. Clothes. Where can you go to buy clothes? I suppose we could try the Chesterfield Department Store. Most department stores sell clothes. And we found, without too much difficulty, a rather nice off-white linen/cotton mix suit for The Builder which had the greater advantage of being at half price. Upstairs to the ladies’ fashion floor. Sigh. Full of clothes. Sigh. Full of horrible clothes. Big Sigh (“Do stop scowling!” said The Builder as I was stomping disconsolately around!!!) Problem is that I don’t usually wear girls’ clothes. Normally I wear boys shirts and trousers. Obviously I wear girls’ skirts – but there was no point buying yet another floatie skirt that I would only wear occasionally. I’ve already got three or four of those. What I really wanted was what The Builder had – but that would have been just silly, both of us wearing exactly the same thing. Suddenly I found a cream linen jacket with matching trousers on a mannequin. Where do I get those? We found them. Sadly – not on special offer so therefore somewhat expensive. I tried them on. The jacket fitted perfectly. Alas, the size 16 trousers were far too big. The size 14 were on the small size. They do up, but only just - and there's no sitting room and certainly not eating room! Hmm. Do I bulk up, or slim down. I elected to slim down. Back on a Lent diet for the next month!! Starting on Monday :-P But that was another mutter mumble cough pounds gone in less than half an hour. So I guess the trousers had better fit by the 7th August!

Enough shopping. Well, clothes shopping at any rate. Let’s go to Chatsworth and do some proper shopping. And have a bite of lunch. We called into the Chatsworth Garden Centre on the way home and while we were pottering around found some lovely sandals. And some lovely thong-style sandals (that’s flipflop thongs, not g-string thongs!). We bought the thong-style thongs which will be lovely with a floatie skirt on the Saturday. But I think I might go back for the other pair too. They would look lovely with the linen trousers on the Friday. Assuming I fit into them by August!

Sunday I spent mostly making jam. We have loads and loads of gooseberries and bucket loads of raspberries. I’ve bought a new, more up to date book of preserve recipes which I wanted to try. The Builder went to the allotment and came back with the first picking of peas and broad beans. We had lunch in the Three Horseshoes (I needed to talk to them about food for the evening of the 7th and it seemed a bit rude not to stay for lunch while we were there). They usually have two or three different roasts on offer on a Sunday, and nearly always a fishy thing. And always a vegetarian thing. I usually go with the traditional roast meat – but the baked trout stuffed with watercress, lemon, parsley and butter was extremely tempting. I had that. And very delicious it was too.

Jam making wasn’t very expensive. I already had the sugar, and the fruit was free. Although I will need to replace the sugar if I’m going to make any more. But I was a tad worried about checking the accounts this morning. Strangely, they were fine. Lots and lots of money left in them. This may, of course, have something to do with none of the weekend purchases having come out of them yet …

Can I stop thinking about wedding preparations now and start thinking about menus? There can't be anything left to organise, can there? Menus very much more exciting! And I have three to play with :-)

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Yorkshire puddings for Cassie

This is how I make Yorkshire puddings. Mostly, it works! (Otherwise we have Yorkshire pancakes!!!)

You need equal quantities by volume of eggs, milk and plain flour. It doesn't matter what the volume is, as long as they are equal. So I start with the eggs which I break into a cup. Then the same amount of flour and the same amount of milk. Then I whisk them in my food processor with the whisk attatchment until the batter is nice and frothy.

I put the batter in the fridge for a couple of hours (when there's time) so it is nice and cold when it gets cooked. Other people don't bother.

When it's time to start cooking the puddings you need to make sure the oven is as stonkingly hot as you can possibly get it. put a little oil in your Yokshire tray or bun tray and put it at the top of the oven until the oil is smoking hot. Then, as quickly as you can manage without tipping boiling hot oil all over you, get the tray out of the oven, close the oven door, pour batter into the bun/pudding holes and rush the tray back into the oven. You need to lose as little heat from the oven as possible doing this.

The puddings will take 15-20 minutes to cook. If you take them out too soon, they'll collapse again. And sometimes, no matter what you do - they just won't rise. Yorkshire puddings can be contrary!

Bears, hippos and the rellies

A few weeks ago, Freyja drew my attention to the existence of the New Forest Bear Festival. Further investigation revealed that it was on a Sunday at the end of June in Beaulieu, in the centre of the New Forest. I like Beaulieu (which is pronounced biew-lee), although I have only ever driven through it and not had a chance to inspect the village.

Then it crossed our mind that not only would it make a nice day out for Freyja, The Builder and me, it would also make a nice day out for The Builder’s mother.

So we booked two rooms at The Swan and trundled down, accompanied by Freyja, Bernard and Sleepy Hippo, on Saturday afternoon and lobbed into The Swan in time for a pleasant drink by the riverside in the sunshine and a lovely dinner in the pub. They’ve been refurbishing the rooms at The Swan. They are very swanky.

We feared rain at the bear festival. So we had our golf umbrellas at the ready, collected Gwen and trundled off through The Forest.

The bear festival was fun. Beaulieu is a lovely village and it was a pleasure to poke around in it. There was a display of artist’s bears and antique bears in the village hall. The bear shop was (obviously) open. Actually, all of the shops were open and playing. The photography studio was set up to do portraits of people’s bears. Freyja had Bernard and Sleepy Hippo’s portrait taken. There were stalls and things in the school ground and fun things to do on the village green. Freyja also had a drawn portrait of Bernard and Sleepy Hippo done. That’s come to live at The Sidings with us. I must buy it a frame! Freyja and I liberated a princess teddy from the clutches of a dragon (and won a little packet of erasers for succeeding). We met some of Freyja’s correspondents on an internet forum (who had alerted her to the bear festival). The only downsides were the lunch in the local pub, which was incredibly expensive and emphatically not worth the money (we don’t mind spending a lot on good food, but very gristly beef we do mind!), and the “wheelchair-friendly” track to the village green which was so “wheelchair-friendly” that we nearly catapulted Gwen out of her chair. Again! And once again it was the seat belt that kept her in. She laughed. Again! We did the treasure hunt, ate ice cream, stroked teddy bears, wandered around and all in all had a really good day.

In the event, it didn’t rain – though it made a half-hearted attempt once or twice.

Then we took Gwen home and all (except for Gwen) relocated to Cambridge, where Christian and Cassie were staying for two nights. We sat outside in Taffa and Gareth’s garden and ate pizza and drank wine and found out what Christian and Cassie had been up to. We didn’t go to the fair, largely because by the time we’d wined and dined it was after 10:00 and The Builder and I were tired and sleepy, and Christian and Cassie were jet-lagged. I believe going to the fair was moved to Monday evening.

Monday dawned bright and warm and sunny and summery. I think, with the possible exception of T&G’s wedding last August, it was the nicest summer day we’ve had for a couple of years. It seemed incredibly wasteful of a sunny day off work to lounge about in bed, so we went and sat outside in the garden with cups of coffee. Tabitha came out and joined us. One by one everyone else emerged. We had sticky buns from the local baker for breakfast and pondered our plans for the day. C2 wanted to go punting, but The Builder was unlikely to want to go. I wanted to hit the market. Freyja wanted to go bowling. But bowling was going to be too complicated because we didn’t have enough room in the car for all of us and the bowling rink is quite some distance from Arbury. Eventually, after great deliberation, we decided that we would walk into town and visit the market and then we would walk along the river to either the Green Dragon or to the Boathouse for a spot of lunch, after which Freyja, The Builder and I would go back to the house, pack and head back to Sheffield and T, G and C2 would go punting. This caused Freyja a great deal of mirth because, punting aside, this is pretty much what we always do when we’re in Cambridge. Her amusement wasn’t that this was what we had decided to do – but that it had taken us so long to decide it!

Off we went to the market, where I found the backpack I had been looking for and a pair of shoes I hadn’t. We wandered around the shops and had iced coffee. We strolled along the river and decided The Boathouse would do for lunch. Cassie had a steak and ale pie – which seems to have been the height of her ambition for English food. We sat outside for lunch, on the lower terrace by the river and watched the swans and cygnets, the boats and life drifting past. It was all lovely.

Then T, G and C2 went off to find a punt, and Freyja, The Builder and I walked back to the house, packed up and headed back to Sheffield, where we dropped Freyja at her place. Then we headed home – and I didn’t make lime cordial, or gooseberry jam, but we did sit outside until it was quite late, and we drank wine and pondered things and planned things and had burgers for dinner (Not take-away burgers and certainly not frozen burgers - bleurgh!). Mr Sainsbury’s finest burgers – and they were remarkably nice, it must be said).

Christian and Cassie made their way to London yesterday and today are off to Athens, from where they are heading to a Greek Island, before heading off to visit Austin for a few days. Before they came to England they were in America, where Christian was presenting a paper at a conference. It’s a pity they couldn’t stay longer – but it was nice to see them. And they brought magnificent weather with them.

More Australians next week. Pat Smith and her brother and sister-in-law will be in the neighbourhood.