Sunday, August 30, 2009

Wedding Cake Walk

If I thought yesterday was tough, and it was, seven hours of smoothing and polishing all three tiers with marzipan and icing, covering the board and crimping (all new terms to me), today is dowel and assembly day. I am scared witless! If I make a mistake at this stage there is no going back and no time for corrections, (even if I knew how to) Wow! I just scared myself even more. The Girls at the cake shop where I bought the stuff said it would be O.K. as long as I don't panic and take things slowly, so I will. I have to say at this point that one of our neighbours works at the Little Cake Shop and has given me loads of advice, but she is away for a few days camping and not back until after the deed is done. Will it be a walk in the park or a roll down the hill? Time will tell!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Wedding Cake Blues

I woke up this morning with one thing on my mind and a gibbering wreck...
it was to start on our nephew's wedding cake. This has terrified me for two years since he asked me to do it, as I have never made one before, only an occasional quick birthday cake, but, he insisted that I did it, and who can say no to our dear nephew who is about to tie the knot next week? So first up, the small madeira cake which is the top tier and the most important. I need to get this right.
Two hours later, frazzled but not too unhappy with my effort, it is marzipanned, smoothed and polished and stuck to the turntable! Half and hour later, it has been prised off and carefully placed on a piece of foil to dry ready for the next step. I will remember not to go over the board with the marzipan next time. Just the middle and bottom fruit tiers to go !

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Blowin' In the Wind

Well it's that time of year again. Time to give the quilts a blow ready for those chilly nights which I suppose are just around the corner. Unless, we have an Indian Summer and it's going to sizzle all September what do you think,? My money's on the chilly nights.

Jam Today and Jam Tomorrow and the Next Day...

...And probably the next. I have made more raspberry, rhubarb and ginger, beetroot and horseradish chutney, and today flaggingly, made 'Sarah plum'. I called it this because my best friend Sarah grew the plums and I (Plum), preserved 'em. Along with the strawberry and the earlier raspberry and gooseberry jam and pickled beetroot the cupboard is heaving. How I'm going to fit in the piccalilli, still to be made with our last veggies Heaven only knows! What I do know is that I am all pickled and jammed out...

Jeepers! Now My Frog Has Turned Into Don Juan

What a shocker! Bri may now have Spanish blood. The marriage certificate of great grandpa and granny turned up this week. Next step was to investigate grannie's past and we find she had yet another son, living with her in 1891 who we hadn't come across before. She'd lied about her age by five years and got herself a job in The Queens Music Hall, Poplar, London, where she also lived and of which we found a photograph. Did great grandpa get her the job seeing as he was a musical agent? This family is full of surprises. Great Grandpa may have been born in Paris, but all of his children have Spanish names including Raphael the new one we have found. So was great grandpa's parents Spanish or just one of them? We won't know that until the next certificate arrives. This is turning out to be fun.

Friday, August 21, 2009

It's Been a Funny Old Week... So Far

'Ere, Where's My Raspberries? - Tuesday
All I have been able to pick at one time so far this year, is a 300 gram punnet. Utter disapointment. At this time last year, I had already made eight jars of lovely raspberry jam. However, my 300 grams were perfect specimens and turned into one lovely large jar. I shall keep hoping to be able to harvest a larger haul before the season is over. Meanwhile, I shall savour every scone I put it on.

I Had a Treat Today. - Wednesday.
The postie, who wasn't on strike today, delivered a small package, just the kind you love, especially me as it turned out to be a book from Bri. He had bought me Good Fare, a book of wartime recipes from the Daily Telegraph which is full of tasty, economical dishes. I got excited when I found what I could do with that giant courgette that Molly was so scared of, I don't know why I never thought of it myself . The recipe is called Mock turned out to be stuffed marrow (in my case courgette) with sausage meat, breadcrumbs, chopped onion, sage and an egg. Yummy, eh? I'm going to enjoy this book.

A Pilgrimage - Thursday.

Now, this really was a treat! We went on our annual pilgrimage to the Festival of Quilts held at the NEC. Plum was on a quest. She had to find a particular thread to finish her quilt and also needed to pick the brains of the experts as she is looking for a new sewing machine that will not only quilt, but, it seems to me, will also make the tea and decorate the house!! She had to do all this in record time so that we could meet her pen friend, Ann, from Ireland who was also probably on a quest of her own by the look of the bags she had when we met up with her. When we arrived at the halls, it was scary to see so many ladies of all ages, milling at the entrance waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting traders, talk about 'Zulus, thousands of 'em!' When the doors opened we all rushed in, almost bowling over the poor ticket collectors in our haste to see everything and part with our cash. We did two and a half hours without even seeing any of the displayed quilts but Plum was full of information and had found and bought stuff I never knew we couldn't live without! The morning disappeared so fast, I was looking forward to a comfort break, so off we went, met up with Ann and got ourselves stamped, so we could return (for a second round of murder and mayhem as the ladies were getting really serious shoppers by now). I went off to the gents, but, when I opened the door, there were three women in there! I rushed out again and checked that I was in the right one. Yes, I was, so I went back in and asked the ladies why they were in there, to which they replied, ' that it was needs must as the queue for the ladies was so long!' They remained. We had a nice visit with Ann, returned to the fray, and actually managed to see the winning quilt. Until next year - I'm done!!!!

My Prince Has Turned Into a Frog - Friday.

We have turned back into Time Travellers this week. It must be getting towards Autumn as we usually return to this occupation when the nights start to draw in. We are doing quite well in our journey into the past as we have discovered ancestor upon ancestor and gone back in each case to the beginning of the 1830's - so far. We have had one stumbling block all the way through, and that is Bri's great grandfather, Charles. But this week, to my complete amazement, we not only found him, but he turned out to have originated in Paris and was a 'theatrical musical agent', whatever that was!! We now can't wait to find his great, great grandfather and what he was doing in Paris but, at the moment, we are looking for his great granny...has anybody seen her?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

One Summer Day

The birds were singing, the sky was blue. The day started, as usual, with a visit from Henry, followed by Ferret. We sat on our bench with our coffee and toast watching a giant garden white butterfly flutter by, trying to decide, just like the vultures from Jungle Book - 'so what are we going to do?' But things have a funny way of taking care of themselves....

A Simple Twist of Fate.. or direction. We meant to go to Mitchell's for a fancy sandwich but went straight over the traffic lights instead and ended up at...

First Stop, Farm Shop.
The last few days, not being able to find anything to put in the Annual Show because we thought that nothing we had was good enough,
big enough, heavy enough or straight enough,we had considered quitting. Today, however, we had a revelation. We went to a well known local farm shop to find the sorriest looking vegetables at such high prices that we realised why we are growing our own. The one's we have thrown away looked better than theirs and we're not good at it. The cauli Reg gave us was nothing less than spectacular compared to the floret missing, yellowing head excuse for a vegetable that they were selling. The beetroot, carrots and courgettes were no better, what nerve! And the jam at £2.97 a jar could have run out of the shop by itself it was so not set. We wish now we had entered the Show with at least one offering as our produce and preserves no longer seems to be that bad.

The Curious Case of the Crown.
Us being us, we turned out of the farm shop road the wrong way (what a surprise) but what a nice surprise as there was a sign to Elford,The lovely little village we had visited just before Christmas with Terry atd Yvonne. We promised ourselves we would return and visit its one pub which looked so inviting as we passed,The Crown, and today, by chance, turned out to be the day. We are always up for an adventure! We went in and asked if they did food to which we were told by the landlord it could only be sandwiches today as they were preparing for their annual pig roast and cider night tonight. We settled on a turkey sandwich and when it arrived, what a sandwich it was! Stuffed full of turkey, lovely!
When he brought the drinks out to our table in the wonderful sunshine, we asked how old the inn was. He told us it was built in 1100 and something and the top floor of the building used to be a court house. Once, there was a case of an eight year old boy who was hung at what is now the top of the carpark for stealing an apple. He now haunts the restaurant and who can blame him? There are three cells behind the bar which are now used to store the beer in and a further cell in one of the front rooms which still has the bars on it. Also there is a document in one of the rooms downstairs dating from 1734 which appeared to us, when we had a look, to be marriage banns been announced. He showed us a small flag on the wall behind which there is wattle and daub . Nothing in this inn has lost its true history in any way. The atmosphere is still there from earlier times and the landlord is always happy, it seems, to tell a tale or two. This happy landlord also plays guitar to diners in the restaurant most nights. What a great place to visit. We wished that Terry and Yvonne had been with us, they'd have loved it but they are off on their own adventure visiting puffin island.

The Return of the Humble.

On the way back we discussed how we probably weren't so terrible at growing our own as we thought we were so we decided to call in at our much loved plot and collect some veg for tonights tea. We picked a lettuce, beans, peas, potatoes, courgettes, raspberries and, what we had intended entering in tomorrow's Show, which was going to be our giant marrow. But, when we bumped into Jason in the week and discussed the said marrow, decided between us that it was really a giant courgette and there is no category for that so no point in entering it. We were well pleased with our harvest and it made for a tasty tea and reminded us why we spend hours sowing and planting and not to look for perfection in everything all the time.While we were digging up the Anyas, a giant pale green fat frog jumped out of our potato sack and gave us a right surprise.We were really pleased to see him though because he was so big he must have eaten a lot of our slugs.

Attack of the
Killer Courgette.

As we said, we brought home our giant courgette and thought we might as well weigh it so we popped it on the grass outside while we fetched the scales. When we went back outside, we had to grab the camera because there was Molly circling the said courgette and jumping backwards as if it was going to attack her at any second. There has been no pacifying her since she obviously thinks it's some kind of mammal with a tail as the pictures below will show. Our neighbours thought it was a killer!

The funny thing is, even when we brought it in, she still is suspicious and has watched it closely all night in case it moves. We have tried covering it with a cloth but to no avail.We shall be glad when we have cooked it. Incidentally, Bri weighed him self at the same time, cussed and called himself a fat pig until I told him to put down the marrow from under his arm!
P.S. our courgette/marrow weighs 12-13 pounds.

All's Well That Ends Well

As the sun sets on our one summer day (we say one summer because it will probably rain tomorrow) we have made pancakes to wrap round our warm raspberries and poured over them maple syrup with ice cream on the side and are grateful for our bounty and our fun day. Our last call tonight will be from Henry and Ferret as always and we know all is well...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Soggy Molly Blues

As we all know, July was the wettest since 1888. We understand this, but how do you tell your cat when she sits at the window full of hope that the rain will stop? Molly, we have noticed, is a definite fair weather cat. As soon as the sun is up, she is there ready for her next big adventure. It has been awful to watch her waiting at the cat flap day after day for the clouds to lift so she can watch for butterflies under the rose bushes. She brings the cabbage whites home at such a rate that Bri and I have thought about taking her down the plot as a pest controller. So far the rare butterflies have escaped her notice, thank goodness. Night time is a different story; then it is the turn of the moths to be dragged in. She is only tiny so perhaps she never will aspire to bigger prey! We can live in hope....

Sunday, August 2, 2009

YES, We Have NO Tomatoes!

The morning started well. We got a big super wave off Johnnie Badger as we trekked up the path to start sorting out the lottie after all the rain. but oh, what a disappointment it was to find our very sad tomatoes had died. It couldn't have been lack of water that killed 'em, it was the dreaded blighty again! So we started by throwing them all into a big green bag to keep them away from everybody else's, not that anyone seems to have fared much better without a green house to grow them in.We then rescued our spinach whose outside leaves had grown to jungle proportions, along with the weeds. What a difference a few days make! We were sure that we had left everything in good order but this warm rain is making everything leggy instead of lush.
We really had to put a lot of work into weeding the corn, brassicas, onions, leeks, beans, swedes, parsnips and, finally, the carrots. By mistake some carrots came up with the weeds so we had to sow half a row of the Nantes that we got from the BBC. Then, having a row of space to spare, we sowed our winter spinach, for one of our favourite vegetarian meals , spinach and ricotta cannelloni with tomato and basil sauce. We barely had time for a cuppa before we started picking sweet peas. potatoes, raspberries, courgettes. peas, the last of the blackcurrants, and our hidden treasure for this week, beans!! We got some! We thought they would never arrive but there they were hidden, but not for long, we've got a basketful. True, we might have missed them the last time we went down, but now they are not quite so dwarf as they are supposed to be, but they are beans nevertheless. Our French beans are whoppers too because we must have missed them but Hazel said to try just using the beans inside the pods instead in case they are a bit woody. But, we are on their case now, and we will be one step ahead and catch them at the right size next harvest day unless, of course, there is so much rain this week to prevent us getting down to the plot again. We went home well satisfied with our morning's work in the sunshine.