Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Indoors and Out

What Ho, Old Beans! I've just noticed that my camera is filling up again, so I thought that I'd take a moment to unload it and write a quick post.  November has been pretty uneventful: we've managed a bit more decorating (we seem to be on a bit of a roll with that at the moment!), seen L and E a few times and made the most of the weather whilst it has been fine - cold, but sunny. 
Anyway, here are a few shots from my month:
E came home for a weekend at the beginning of the month. I drove to Bristol to collect her and we had lunch at the River Cottage Canteen before the return journey.

 I had never been here before and we really enjoyed it. The setting was pretty and there was a good choice of veggie (and vegan - yes, we're still going!) food. We shared some mezze with E eating the feta and tsatsiki. The bread was absolutely delicious; consequently, I ate too much of it, too quickly and ended up with abdominal pain later. It was almost worth it though!
 A trip to our local theatre to see 'The Secret Keeper'. It was quirky and entertaining but I think that I enjoyed it more than R.
 Another trip to Bristol to hear E playing in a concert. She plays the violin and the Baroque group was fantastic.
 More deer. This time with a baby in tow. E named it 'Herbert':
 Later, they came right up onto the patio where the mother proceeded to give Herbert a thorough wash. Sadly, I had put my camera away at this point and I didn't want to spook them by moving.
 A trip to Roman Silchester on a sunny Sunday:
 Local Alpaca:

 Stained glass in the little church:
 The remains of the amphitheatre:

 Watching a farmer and his dog herding sheep. The funniest part was the fact that everyone who walked by and spotted them immediately said 'Come by'! One Man and His Dog (which I found strangely soothing) has a lot to answer for!

 Finishing decorating the bathroom - we only started it when L went off to uni 5 years ago!
 A crafty day spent making patchwork coasters:
 Knitting Christmas socks with the West Yorkshire Spinners' 'Candy Cane' colourway:
 A dog walk with a friend:
  ....... and finally, a trip to London for L's birthday. We went here for lunch and were completely thrown by the fact that we had a choice on the menu!
Well, that's all for this week - and probably November. Wishing you all a peaceful week - before we know it, the 'C' word will be upon us and life will be anything but!
Toodle Pip for now. x

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