Wednesday, 1 November 2017

'A Splendid Time Is Guaranteed For All'

Happy November! Gosh, this year's whizzing by super-fast. Hallowe'en is done and dusted, Bonfire Night is on the horizon and before we know it, the dreaded C will be here once again. October had its high and low points. A bit of decorating was done, a few nice evenings out and day trips, a few finished projects, and a whole 'Stoptober' of R and me being Vegan. Actually, we were cheating somewhat as we do keep hens, so a few eggs may have been consumed along the way. Mostly by R, who argues that our 'girls' would all have been slaughtered had we not taken them on and, as we don't have a cockerel, none of them are fertilized, so they are 'cruelty free' eggs. That's our excuse anyway and we're sticking to it! So, I suppose I should say that, having been veggie for 33 years, all we actually did was give up dairy.
It was surprisingly difficult. Not from a cooking point of view, as many of our recipes are vegan anyway or can easily be adapted, but from a longing for cheese kind of way. I don't remember craving meat/fish in the same way when we gave them up, that was just tricky in that it was a whole new way of cooking. This time, I found myself dreaming of cheese - I kid you not! Dreams of veggie lasagne with melty, stringy, oozy, delicious cheese. 
There are, as you know, vegan alternatives to cheese. What you may not know is that most of them are foul and all are over processed with the consistency of plastic and do strange things when heated. If anyone can recommend a good vegan cheese, I would be so grateful. In the end I came to the conclusion that it was best to just ignore any cheese substitutes completely. Milk was a little better; we worked our way through a variety of alternatives, eventually settling on cheap Tesco's own brand unsweetened soya. R also likes 'Mylk' on his breakfast cereal. I don't eat cereal anyway, but I find the Mylk too 'coconuty'. That's the problem really, I want my tea to taste of tea, not coconut, almond, cashew etc.
Anyway, the big question is: will we carry on now that we're into November? And the answer.......  I think so. There's a bit of playing 'dairy chicken' in the equation - neither of us wants to be the first to give up! Do I feel better for it? Well, I was hoping that I would feel all Deliciously Ella ie. full of health and vitality. In reality, I have felt slightly bloated and at times a bit diarrhoeary - too much information?! It does seem to be settling down a bit though as we get used to it. It also makes eating out tricky. Most places now have at least one veggie option, finding a vegan option though, especially around our area, is more difficult. I found myself craving an Indian meal - until R pointed out that they probably use ghee. He is quite happy with Thai - but, well you know .... that's just more coconut! Eventually, I rang our local Indian restaurant and asked, in a completely unbiased way, what they used. The answer, to my great relief, was vegetable oil. Phew! So, for the time being, I think we are going to carry on. 
Golly, that was a bit of a ramble! Other things this month:
Whilst wandering by our local theatre one night, we noticed a queue snaking out of the door. Going in for a nosy, we were informed that the Beatles tribute band, The Cavern Beatles, were performing for one night only. No tickets were immediately available, but we were told that they tend to save a few on the front row in case anyone in the balcony has mobility issues. If they didn't, we could buy those. We waited and a couple of minutes before the performance began, they were ours! Well, loving The Beatles, my expectations weren't particularly high; I just viewed it as an evening out doing something different, given that most concerts we go to tend to be classical. I couldn't have been more wrong - they were absolutely brilliant. The first half was music from the early days playing in The Cavern and the second half was more Sergeant Pepper (incidentally, the first LP I ever bought). The audience was on their feet dancing and singing along and generally having a fantastic time. If you're a Beatles fan and they come to a venue near you - don't hesitate, just book.
 
Same venue, different night. We had tickets to see Jeremy Hardy's show. Having only seen him when E and I went to see a recording of 'Just a Minute', I had high hopes. In reality, it was okay. Some bits were very funny, some not so much. I realized that it wasn't the best of evenings when I found myself trying to see the time on my watch in the dark - never a good sign. Still, it was an evening out. 
Next, was a trip to the Ally Pally for the Knitting and Stitching show. I went to this last year and find that it's worth going just for the lovely building and views of London if nothing else. I took my vegan sandwich and water bottle along with me - just as well as it would have been slim pickings otherwise - and spent a merry afternoon pottering round the stalls. I made a couple of purchases before leaving and meeting up with R and L for a lovely (and vegan!) Korean meal.

My purchases: A skein of Life in the Long Grass yarn (Rusty Tin Shed) and a set of the larger Hiya Hiya interchangeable needles.
Other happies:
Stopping off in Burnham Beeches on the way to lunch with a friend.

Enjoying the fact that it's stove lighting season:
Decorating our downstairs loo!
Enjoying my Hallowe'en stitch markers and yarn:
Here's the finished object - a sockhead hat in one of Norah George's Great Characters of Literature yarn. This one was 'Dracula':
Finished socks in Sweet Georgia yarn. I think the colourway was 'Canary Island'. These were my first pair of toe up socks and I really enjoyed them. I used Sockmatician's toe up sock pattern which, whilst still having a heel flap and gusset, doesn't require you to pick up any stitches.
Deer in the garden munching apples:
Birthday Boy Hamish who was 6 on Hallowe'en:
Asking for a birthday ear rub - excuse the witchy tights!
Finally, our Hallowe'en pumpkin - it's supposed to be a bat!
Well, that's all for this week. L and E are both coming home this weekend, so I'm just off to give their rooms a quick spruce up. Wishing you all a fun filled November.
Toodle Pip for now. x

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Just Mooching

Today I'm stuck indoors waiting for our new bathroom 'vanity unit' plus basin to be delivered. It sounds very grand for what is essentially a cupboard. The delivery time is specified as anywhere between 7:30am-5pm, so quite a range really. I've decided that it's probably a good opportunity to muck the house out but, before I start on that joyful task, I thought I'd take half an hour to drink my breakfast smoothie and clear my camera. Last time I did this, I managed to knock said smoothie over, spilling forest berry coloured fluid all over the carpet, so I'm being extra careful today!

Not a lot has gone on in the past few weeks. I drove L and all her belongings to her new flat in London. This was easier said than done. Not the actual driving - that went surprisingly smoothly, it was the parking that was the issue. Finsbury Park seems to be mostly permit holders only, so we had to park illegally whilst we threw everything into the hallway and then drive to the park itself and walk back to sort it all out. We had lunch in the little cafe and then walked around the lake. It was lovely and we were surprised to see 2 cormorants (at least I think that's what they are) fishing. There were terrapins too, which were so still that initially we thought that they were models. Apparently, some London parks are having to remove terrapins from their ponds as they can attack the ducklings. These didn't look active enough to catch anything, but maybe they lull things into a false sense of security before pouncing.



Last week was our local appley jamboree. Actually, I shouldn't poke fun at it, I just can't help comparing it to the Apple Day at the Botanical Gardens in Cambridge which was magnificent. This year, ours had grown to 2 stalls and a juice pressing bar in the market square! To be fair, the pressing was actually quite fun to watch and I'm sure that the local pigs enjoyed the left over pulp.

The market place was also home to a French Market last week. I had a little pootle round and everyone was very friendly but I didn't buy anything. The cheeses looked yummy, but R and I have turned vegan for 'Stoptober', so I resisted those. I was also quite tempted by their baskets, but closer inspection revealed that they were made in Madagascar which, despite their history, didn't seem quite in the spirit of the thing. 


R and I went to the cinema to see a screening of Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Did anyone else catch this? It was brilliant. A few years ago, we took the girls to Stratford Upon Avon to see David Tennant in the role and I though that his performance would take some beating, but this was even better. I especially loved the part where he is dressed as a soldier, playing in a fort. The only slight dampener was when we realized that there was a school trip from the girls' old school there and we found ourselves sitting next to their English teachers. I had to try very hard not to fidget!
Last weekend, R and I went for a little brum in Bridget the Midget. We didn't have a destination in mind, but suddenly found ourselves driving by the Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery. Well, it would have been rude not to have gone in!
It was actually very popular, with far more people learning about gin on a Sunday afternoon than you would have expected. For the admission price, you received a tour of the distillery, including the glass houses where they grow examples of the botanicals used, and a gin cocktail in the bar, made for you personally to match the smells which had appealed to you most in the aroma testing room.




In the aroma room, you picked up a card and had to punch between 3 and 7 holes in it by the names of the botanicals that you preferred. R could only find one that he actually liked, although he was rather partial to the smell of the hand gel that we had to apply before entering the distillation room!
Here are our cocktails. Mine was a mixture of gin and prosecco and R's was gin, lemon and something else which I forget now. Whilst it was quite fun smelling the botanicals, we both agreed that we would have preferred just an ordinary G&T! R only had a taste of his anyway as he was driving.
Well, that's all for this week. Sadly, there's no sign of the delivery van yet, so there's nothing else for it - I'll have to get the vac out and make a start! Have a good week.
Toodle Pip for now. x

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

September

Hello, my lovelies. Long time no see. It's been a while since my last post and there are a couple of reasons for this: Initially, it was because E was home and I didn't want to waste time blogging; then, it was owing to the fact that after I had taken her back to uni, I drove all the way home, opened the rear car door to retrieve my bag ........................ and realized that I'd left it on her bed in Bristol! We had already stopped in the city centre for lunch, so the idea was that I would just drop her at her accommodation, have a quick cup of tea and come home. Not wanting to leave my bag in the car whilst we unloaded, I had left it in her room and just popped my keys in my pocket while we did multiple trips to and fro. Then, naturally, I hugged her goodbye, hopped in and drove merrily home. Realizing my mistake, E had tried to ring me, but my phone was, of course, in my bag - along with my purse, my camera and the rest of my life. Bad words may have been uttered! I thought that I would have to do a return trip to collect it, but, fortunately, her friend was going to Bristol to see her the following week and she kindly carried out 'Operation Bag Retrieval' for me. I now have it back and all is right with my world again! 

L is back from Vietnam and Cambodia and has had a brilliant time. She had kept us updated on most of her activities via Skype, but kept some of them - eg. the renting of a motor bike! - to herself so as not to worry us. Though out at the moment, she is home until Thursday, when I will drive her to her new flat in London (trying very hard not to leave anything behind!) in time for her to start her pupillage next week.

Anyway, as I've finally got an hour to myself and am in full possession of my camera, here are a few photos from the past month:

'Yerma' at the cinema. Having only previously seen Billy Piper in Dr. Who, I was very impressed.
 E and I went to an open air cinema nearby. The film was 'Notting Hill' - R didn't fancy coming, but we loved it.
 There was a little rain before the film started, but, luckily, it soon cleared up.

 I have a glut of beetroot. If anyone knows any good beetroot recipes, I'd be very grateful - there's only so much Borscht a person can eat!
 Our green woodpecker returned. Sorry for the blurry photo - he was quite a way down the garden:
 A double first for me - trying to knit socks toe up and also using the magic loop method. I'm normally a dpn girl, but I am rather enjoying it:
 Working on my 'Exploration Station Shawl' by Stephen West. I've never tried to knit Brioche before and had fortunately put in a lifeline before starting that section. I say fortunately because I have since had to rip it back!
The day before E went back to uni, we decided to visit the local county show. R decided against it as he thinks that it's the same stalls in exactly the same places every year. To be fair, it was, but without someone with us pointing that out every 5 minutes, we had a lovely time!
 
 
 




 Our Mexican lunch at Wahaca in Bristol before the bag debacle: 

...............and finally, Hamish in his beloved cardboard box. Back in March on Mother's Day, the girls bought me some beautiful Narcissi bulbs which came in a huge cardboard box. I gave it to Hamish to play with for the day and before I knew it, it had become a permanent fixture in the kitchen. He did a bit of renovation work, chewing holes to make multiple exits and when he had it exactly as he wanted, we added his fleecy blankie and he has slept in it ever since. A few weeks ago, that box finally gave up the ghost and so during a trip to our local Homebase, we acquired another one for him. He is currently in mid-renovation again. I feel that we spoil this rabbit - I mean, who wouldn't want a great pile of chewed cardboard in their kitchen?!
Anyway, that's all for this week. I hope you are all enjoying the start of autumn as much as I am. We lit the stove for the first time on the Equinox. I would have taken a photo, but........ well, you know!

Toodle Pip for now. x