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Z takes advantage of Eloise cat’s absence

Eloise cat has taken to napping on the chair by my computer, which means I can rarely sit here myself and type.  I’m far too polite to disturb her, of course.  It means that my brilliant ideas for blog posts have vanished by the time I get here, though.

Al and the boys called over yesterday, to fetch Pugsley’s birthday present, which is some Minecraft Lego.  Most of my grandchildren are immensely keen on Lego at present – in fact, some of the adults are too.  The baby is a bit young as yet.  I’ve never attempted Minecraft as a game, but Al is thoroughly approving of it, he thinks it’ll make the engineers and designers of the future.  Which probably means it’ll be rather over my head or else I’d become totally obsessed with it, I’m not sure which.  When my children were growing up, I was quite as able as they were to become hooked on computer games.

I’d made some cakes for tea and left them for the boys to decorate, which they did very splendidly with fruit sweets, chocolate and silver balls, as well as candles.  Pugsley noticed instantly that candles in the shape of letters spelling HAPPY BIRTHDAY wouldn’t allow for one each and almost at the start he put two candles on one of the dozen cakes.  I didn’t see him count them, I think he just summed it up.  Dilly and Squiffany didn’t come as they were at the theatre in Norwich.

Otherwise, yesterday and today, I’ve mostly been making soup.  I bought celeriac the other day. I love celeriac, but it’s a bit challenging to deal with, to cut up and peel and, though celeriac mash is delicious, it’s a bugger to actually do the mashing.  So I decided on soup and looked for recipes.  The first one was made with dried wild mushrooms – and it was gorgeous.  More mushroom taste than celeriac, but totally delicious and I’ve made another batch (with some mushrooms left over for risotto next week).  And then I’ve made two more lots of soup as well, so that’s pretty all we’ll be eating for the foreseeable.  Wink used to – very likely still does – make a big batch of soup on a Sunday afternoon, using all the vegetables left in the rack at the end of the week, and she’d take some to work every day for lunch.  Which couldn’t be nicer, really.

Z winds down

Just two more birthdays and that will be the end, in the family, until next March.  So happy birthday Pugsley for tomorrow and happy birthday Dora for Saturday.  A clean sweep in the family from October to the middle of March.

It’s feeling quite peaceful here at present, which can only mean that I’ve forgotten things that need to be done and there will be a sudden panic when i remember again.  But I’ll appreciate the relaxed feeling while I can. A bit more garden planning with Wince the Gardener this afternoon – which is more vegetation control than anything else, at this stage.  As we bring more under control, that means extra to keep contained, but we still cope, mostly.  He’s volunteered to shin up the ladder and cut back the creeper next week, which is very good of him.  I don’t mind up to the upstairs windows, but when it ventures over the guttering and onto the roof, I start to realise my limitations.  Weeza kindly did it for me last year.

People have been receiving their catalogues for the auction next month and I’ve had a number of responses, which is very gratifying.  The Sage always enjoyed the letters and emails thanking him, and I’m just as pleased.  And I’ve had people telling me that they’re interested in specific pieces, which is good too.  I’ve got an advertisement in this month’s (well, next month’s, but it’s out already) Antique Collector magazine and it looks very good, and the catalogue is up on the website too.

We’re off to lunch with Ro and Dora tomorrow.  They’ve just had a new kitchen fitted and we’re going to inspect it – and then have lunch at the village pub.  They need to put all their stuff back before they can cook in there!

Z makes a heartfelt donation

As a digression, I’d like to tell you about my experience with the British Heart Foundation charity.  I’ve mentioned before that I own a couple of flats in London, one of which has needed vastly expensive repairs this year because of a water leak, and it was relet from the end of August.  I had, as requested, bought a bed and sofa for the previous tenant but the new ones didn’t need them as they had their own furniture. So I had ten days to get rid of the stuff.  I offered them free, I tried to sell them, I looked into the council taking them away, but then I contacted the BHF and they were happy to accept the donated furniture, as long as the bed was taken apart ready to be carried down the stairs.

So Lovely Tim and I drove to London on a Sunday, parked for free, huzzah (you would not believe the price of the parking meters if you don’t live there) and dismantled the bed.  The next morning, my hugely helpful and much appreciated downstairs tenant let in the removal man and I breathed several deep sighs of relief.

A couple of days ago, I had an email from the BHF.  Net of  commission and VAT, the furniture has been sold for £276.64 and another £69.16 can be claimed in Gift Aid.  I’m so hugely pleased, people have got some furniture for half price and a very good charity has benefited – and been good enough to let me know by how much – and … actually, it did get me out of a hole.  But it’s worth knowing about.  Furniture has to have the suitable fire retardant label and electrical goods have to be fit for sale, but they do collect free and the woman I spoke to on the phone and followed up by email was very helpful.  If ever I have anything else suitable to dispose of, I will certainly offer it to the BHF in future.  And I’m so pleased that my unwanted stuff has made well over £300 for such a good cause.

Jemima!

We are back home in Norfolk and have had such a nice time.  Quite quiet, as planned, and we stayed in on our anniversary, apart from a walk in the afternoon.  We’d meant to go out to lunch but it was raining and we couldn’t be bothered.  We arrived in sunshine and left in sunshine and saw the sun in between, but there was also rain every day – but this is Wales, not the dry East coast and it didn’t bother us.

A highlight was visiting Fishguard, which is a nice little town with a brilliant harbour (we got back in the car just before it rained) and the most fabulous tapestry (actually an embroidery) in the town hall.  If you’re anywhere near the area, it’s absolutely worth a visit and a fiver in the box – entry is free, any donation is voluntary .  It depicts the French invasion of 1797 – who knew? – which was rebuffed by the militia and the locals, and was stitched by local women (three men were also involved, but they did man things like framing and so on) and is truly impressive.  The quality of the design and the workmanship of the embroidery is marvellous.  And do allow time to watch the video in the room at the end.

The car park, you have to pay for, admittedly (drive down to the harbour, then back to the town, unless you like steeeeeep slopes) and it’s bloody expensive – no, I’m joking.  It costs 20p for two hours, LT tells me, he having stumped up the readies.

I will find you a link.  Here is the history, courtesy of Wiki and here is the website about the tapestry itself (it suits it better than embroidery) which has pictures.

 

En route

All is well in Reading – I haven’t been here for a few weeks but LT comes down frequently, so this is his third or fourth visit since I was here with the children.  This morning, we’ll set off for Wales once we’ve had coffee, we’re all ready.

It will be our wedding anniversary on Sunday.  We look at each other sometimes and simply say wow.  We know how lucky we are – and also how canny, that we took the opportunity sent to us.  We want to make each other happy and that’s how it’s working out.  Top bloke, is LT.

Z & LT pack their bags

We’ve had Rose’s brother staying this week, over from Trinidad, which has been a great pleasure.  Rose doesn’t have a spare bedroom – she has a sofa bed, but that’s a bit more faff at the end of the day and we have lots of room, so it works out nicely.  We’re off to LT’s place tomorrow, so he’ll be in charge of everything for the rest of the week.  We’ll be away for our anniversary in fact – yes, darlings, on Sunday we’ll have been married for a whole year.  Still like each other…..

We’re going to the caravan, so internet will be spasmodic from Thursday and I probably won’t post at all, as it would have to be from the phone when there’s a brief hint of 4G, which is occasional in that part of Pembrokeshire.  And I will probably have other things to do, darlings.

We picked all the vegetables that were ready; the last of the sweetcorn, some raspberries, tomatoes, peppers and so on.  The figs seem to be over and I think we’ve had the last of the cucumbers, when we get back we’ll need to harvest all the squashes – we’ve had one and picked another to take away, it’s been a good year in the kitchen garden and the freezer is full, as well as the shelves of pickles.  I’ve made dishes to take with us for the first day, but we’ll buy local food after that.  Or, remembering young Gus’s advice, we’ll go to the pub.

Looking back and forward

I’m spending my time mostly thinking back at present.  I do it every summer, very painfully, reliving Russell’s illness and that’s hard to deal with.  Once the anniversary of his death is over, it eases somewhat, but every week after brings its anniversaries.  Ro and Dora’s wedding, birthdays, when I went to visit Ziggi, when I went to visit Irene in Maastricht, barely a month after Russell died, and so on.  Both of those friends were dying, of course, and Irene died in December the same year, but that didn’t prevent our time together involving a lot of fun and laughter.

My friend Mike turned up today.  Some of you have met him; he and his wife Ann (not blogger Mike and Ann) turned up unexpectedly at a couple of our blog parties and were invited to eat with us.  Ann was already rather odd, unable to speak much but eating sweet things greedily, which were symptoms of her Alzheimer’s disease, which has spent the last few years overtaking her completely.  I called on Mike a few weeks ago and then he said he felt she didn’t have long, today he told me she died on the 20th August: coincidentally, three years to the day after Russell.  he said that she had lost the ability to eat but the nursing home fed her by tube, which he felt was unhelpful and unkind.  Understandably, nursing homes err on the cautious side, but there was no hope of improvement, let alone recovery and he felt that it just increased the ordeal for her, himself and their children.  In truth, I felt he looked better than he had for a long time, now the stress of her illness – and the loss of her personality – was over, which is sad in itself.  Anyway, I need some help with the older vintage car, so he’s agreed to come back in a week or two.  Although in his mid-eighties now, he’s a fine car mechanic with a specialism in very old cars and what he doesn’t know about them isn’t worth knowing.

 

Z cooks and storms

We’ve just been talking about recipes.  Every newspaper and magazine has them, of course, and I daresay most of them are destined never to be made.  Tonight, I did cook one though, a sweetcorn, egg and tomato curry from yesterday’s Guardian, and it was good, though the sauce was far too much for four – we’ll add some fish and have it again tomorrow, but I halved the corn and the eggs, kept the same quantities for the sauce, didn’t do the recommended rice and it was still more than ample to serve us twice.

Today, however, in LT’s paper, there was a “dip” for globe artichokes.  Well, to start with, it’s past artichoke season.  My theory is that, when a vegetable comes into season, a cook starts to think of new ways to use it and, by the time the recipe has been devised, tested, written up and printed, it’s the tail end of the season.  It happens every year with asparagus, new spring veg, even pomegranates and other imported stuff.  But yet, on the other hand, the testing is often a lot less than perfect.  And sometimes, the recipe is so up itself that it’s almost impossible to make.  Like this artichoke dip.  A globe artichoke is a perfect thing with a very distinctive, delicate flavour.  Melted butter is perfect with it and vinaigrette is also traditional.  I can see Hollandaise sauce.  A few herbs, I wouldn’t bother, but okay.

This recipe suggests putting all the artichokes in a dish and everyone taking out leaves to put in the dip.  I’m close to losing my temper already.  This starts by making mayonnaise with egg yolk, lemon juice and two sorts of dijon mustard.  Then add both capers and cornichons – why? – as well as shallot and six different fresh herbs, salt and soured cream.  The herbs include coriander, dill, tarragon and sage, which would truly fight each other.  The writer boasts of how her children love this dish.  Show off.

If anyone makes this, please let me know.  I won’t and, if I were to consider it, I’d cut out more than half of the ingredients.

The other thing with recipes is, how long they take to cook.  A friend put a link to a tomato curry sauce on Facebook the other week and, since we’ve bucketfuls of tomatoes this year, I made it.  She commented that it took a lot longer than it said to simmer down and so it did, and it wasn’t nearly as tomatoey as the picture.  I added more tomatoes to the leftovers the next day and it still didn’t look like the picture, though it tasted very good.  I’ve made a tomato relish several times this year – we have at least a dozen jars of it – but the half hour it suggests to cook it is ludicrous.

While I’m on the subject, most Indian recipes have too much water and salt. And the Nigel Slater  recipe for squash we cooked yesterday was okay, but we could immediately think of several improvements when we try it again.  Does anyone actually test the recipes before they’re published?

Driving along

If you’ve visited, you may have noticed that there’s a field to the right of the drive as you come in, where cattle graze in the summer.  There are two brick pillars and numerous angle irons and the fencing is comprised of five strands of wire.  The two pillars take the fencing halfway down the drive, then there’s a concrete post and then a wooden post before the five-barred gate.

That second half is no longer good enough.  It’s had to be patched up with barbed wire and I agreed with the farmer in the spring that it’ll be a good idea to renew all the wire.  And it would look much better and be more effective if two more brick pillars are put in.

Good friend Dave has volunteered to do the bricklaying and I got someone else to put in the concrete foundations today.  But I don’t know what the bricks are.  We went to the builder’s merchant a while ago and they didn’t have anything similar.  So I’ve sent a message to my builder cousin, asking if he might recognise them.  Fingers crossed he’ll get back to me soon.

 

Dishpan hands – goodbye!

Yesterday morning, we looked at the dishwasher fittings, thinking to get it unplumbed before the new one arrived – this turned out not to be a good idea as the sink would then not be usable until a replacement was installed, but even so, we felt daunted.  But fortunately, the nice chaps this morning put us on the right lines and it was swiftly removed while they unpacked the new machine.

We made our first mistake of the day.  We read the instructions.  Or rather, we looked at the pictures and didn’t understand them at all.  It didn’t help that there were two sets of pictures for two different models and it didn’t explain which was which.  At 8.15 this morning, i phoned my friendly neighbourhood plumber, who came round an hour or so later because he’s lovely and a real life friend – mostly, he’s very kind indeed.

So we put the machine on to test it and we’ve filled it this evening and actually using it.  So fingers crossed.  For the first time, i’ve got a cutlery tray at the top rather than baskets – I’ve always felt that my large Victorian cutlery wouldn’t fit, but I took some along to the shop last week to test and it does.  And the absence of a basket adds a lot of space down below.  It’s remarkably quiet too.  But why on earth does no dishwasher manufacturer think of cleaning the rotor arms?  It’s so obvious to have a plug in the end that one can remove to shake out debris, but not one single manufacturer does it.

Anyway, after the dismal situation of not being able to connect up a few pipes, as well as having to get up really early in case the machine was delivered at 7 o\clock – they phoned in advance and came at ten past, in fact – we felt the neeeeeed to have lunch out.  I’ve probably said before, we’re spoiled for choice in Yagnub for places to have lunch – which is our preference rather than dinner, when we like to relax and cook and eat and – um – drink a glassful or two – and we  chose the Fleece this time and it was splendid.

Tomorrow, I’ve got my new accountant coming.  So I’m very nervous. Early night planned.