Reading in Heels, November 2018.

Reading in Heels plopped onto the doormat a couple of days ago, which was a very pleasant surprise, not least because although we have had Halloween and Guy Fawkes my brain had not computed that we were again into a new month. In fact everything has gone awash this week, the swimming has stopped, the daily walk, everything, I’ve just wandered into a black hole. Hubby’s not been well, we ended up in accident and emergency on Sunday afternoon/evening while a gamut of tests were done, all hail the NHS, who I’ve always loved and adored. Then he saw a specialist team the next day and he sees another one next week. He seems to have improved immeasurably and is back to pottering on the plot, often with his new mantis tiller, so fingers crossed, it was just a bit of a moment. It was just me that got launched out of my cocoon of a lovely life, but I went for a long walk yesterday and am finding my way back. So it was a bit of a distraction to find this.
I eagerly ripped it open, anticipation tingling.
Ooh goodies, squeal. Firstly the book, States of Passion by Nihad Sirees, a dark and stormy love story set in a Syria, known long ago, filled with music, art, wealth and culture. Sounds wonderful, just the sort of book to read when one can hear the rain beating down along with the crackle of a good fire. There were treats of course, Nemi tea provided some chai tea, I do love a chai tea so I’m looking forward to that. Honey rose bakery provided the most delicious brownie I’ve ever had in my life, it might have been small but it was wonderful, and nearly didn’t make it into the photo! Korres provided some bergamot and jasmine body milk which smells devine and is such a nice treat from a high end brand. Just perfect to use after a nice long soak in the tub on a winters evening to float into sleep amidst beautiful scents.  And some postcards, which are a bit random but will make perfect bookmarks.  

Oh Liberty how we love thee.

I make no apology for this, this is pure unadulterated pleasure of the girly variety, although if your a chap who loves indulging in his feminine side, please do go ahead. It makes the perfect pre Christmas gift and for the fifth year running I have been lucky enough to secure one, although to be honest, with the Americans being on board and able to purchase for the first year, I wondered whether I would be.  Sadly at the time of writing it is now sold out online, but it is still available in store, should you feel the need to hop on a train.

It arrived half an hour ago, I’ve squealed with delight, and am resisting the temptation to open all the boxes. Ive just had a couple of peeks and it looks so good.

It is the ultimate, much sought after beauty advent calendar, with a selection of high end treats that truly do make one feel wonderful. I’m like a child in a sweetie shop, I just can’t wait for the 1st of December.

Happy Christmas to me, and why not!

Day out in London.

Feeling the need to blow the country cobwebs out and feel the buzz of the city I headed for London for the day, two exhibitions beckoned along with a little light shopping. Firstly I headed for the V & A, it was such a glorious day. That there were many picnickers enjoying their lunches while enjoying the warmth of the day. I’d come to see Frida Kahlo’s exhibition which I had been promising myself to see for months! I only just made it!  To be honest I wish I hadn’t bothered. It made me feel so sad. I had no idea about all of her health problems, of which there were many, the constant pain she was in, how bedridden she became for long stretches of time,  the loss of a leg that effectively ended her life in great pain and many other trails and tribulations were explained. It was grim, really grim. I was glad to get out of there. There were some highlights and pieces of work that I enjoyed, her art of course and its always good to poke around another womans make up bag and see the exact shade of lipstick that was favoured and make up she preferred. But again, it was good to leave. So I did, and quickly trundled along to Piccadilly Circus and walked up to the Royal Academy of Arts to see Oceania.And just as an aside there was this ,A transitional piece called the Pyshco Barn, which was first commissioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art for its roof garden. Most amusing it was.

Oceania, what can I tell you. I remember going to see Ice Age Art, arrival of the modern mind,  at the British Museum in June 2013. It was the most awe inspiring exhibition that I have ever seen, pieces of that work stay with me in my minds eye and the emotional experience of when I saw them is still fresh. Well, this was like that. This is the best thing (in my humble opinion) that I have seen in five years. If you can go, go. (I say that quite a lot, I’m sorry) but do, honestly, you will not regret it. I’ll probably go again this week, I might pop along again after that.

Oceania brings together around 200 exceptional works from public collections world wide, it celebrates the civilisations that cover almost a third of the world’s surface from Tahiti in Polynesia to the scattered archipelagos and islands of Melanesia and Micronesia. I think these are my favourite pieces, they are navigation charts made of wood, cane and shell from the nineteenth century. I simply love them.

And as photography was allowed, I’ve included a few snap shots in this blog post for you to enjoy. I think the art is amazing.  After such a wonderful time gazing at this awe inspiring exhibition, I walked to Selfridges and did a little light shopping. Isn’t this florist, inside Selfridges just wonderful.

And then homeward bound was I, happy and content.

Autumn digging.

The allotment started to look a little tired at the start of the summer due to the lack of rain. It was only hubbys tenacity with a watering can that kept everything alive, but I won’t lie, it was touch and go for a while and sadly the onions and garlic didn’t make it. But a lot of vegetables did and we have enjoyed them all. So it’s time to really get on top of the plot and autumn digging gives me such a strong feeling of satisfaction. With our trusty back saver. Start at one end and with an hour or two a day work your way to the other, missing the parsnips as one digs.Purple sprouting and red and white cabbages for winter slaws. Savoys just starting to fill, summer cabbages nearly ready, cauliflowers and brussel sprouts and lovely black kale should make our meals interesting this winter. Sadly I forgot about the leeks I was just so busy.The greenhouse was emptied of its tomatoes today as we discovered blight on our toms. Hopefully some will ripen, some will become fresh green chutney and some will be green fried tomatoes. A tray of cauliflower spikes, purple sprouting and black kale to enjoy. Enjoying the view. This was taken a few days ago, we are even further ahead now, a few more days and we will be winter tidy, ready to batten down the hatches and enjoy our winter woolies, warming stews and coal fires.

Reading in heels, October 2018.

Just as I was getting to the last few pages of Becky Sharps extraordinary life, from last months unboxing – and very enjoyable it has been too, this landed on my door step. Que excitement. I love that I never see any previews for reading in heels, no matter how hard I look, so it is always a complete surprise.

Olivia Sudjic’s acclaimed debut novel Sympathy. An addictive book about Instagram and infatuation, the writing is thrilling and crisp. I read a few pages last night and I felt butterflies in my tummy, I know already it’s going to be a gripping read. I’m so glad I joined Reading in Heels, just for this book alone. Our treats this month include a face mask and some bath and shower oil which smells divine.And tea and the tastiest wine gums I have ever eaten.

A little more info here.It has been a real treat having a book a month sent to me, especially when they have been so well chosen. 10/10 from me so far.

Harvest Moon

It’s said traditionally the harvest moon was used to lengthen the harvesting day because of its lovely bright light. A big advantage to the farmer, especially if the weather hadn’t been so kind and crops were still left in the fields. It is also a good reminder that temperatures are just about to drop, 4c here tonight, verging on a ground frost and my pumpkins wouldn’t like that. That spec in the window is the harvest moon.All gathered in safely today, butternut squash and my beautiful Crown Prince.

Chelsea Buns

While making my onion bagels the other day, I decided to try my hand at another yeasty treat I’ve been meaning to make for quite a while, Chelsea buns. I made an enriched dough to Paul Hollywood’s recipe but changed the dried fruit to 5 oz sultanas, 4 oz raisins and 1 oz candied mixed peel. I then followed the rest of the recipe.94D82E7E-7F6D-4DBE-8DAC-673844FAB4F3.jpegSo far so good. Although I think I might need to invest in a slightly bigger tin. E32822B8-64C9-45DF-BC84-DA674C1C6FA7.jpegAfter proving for thirty minutes.BE169632-DE85-43C4-9FFC-34FD20FA12A6.jpegFresh out of the oven. I baked for fifteen minutes, covered them lightly with foil and baked for another ten then removed the foil and let them cook and colour up a little more for about two minutes.Then glazed with a little economy priced marmalade. I prefer it to apricot and then drizzled some icing on.They smelt amazing.And tore beautifully.I think you’ll agree, they were an absolute triumph.

Onion Bagels

Whilst hubby and I were in Coventry the other day we stopped for lunch at a bagel shop, I love a freshly cooked bagel and hadn’t seen such a shop since living in London. Although I was shocked to discover that out of the eight or was it nine choices, onion, wasn’t one of them. So of course since that moment it’s all I’ve craved for. And as I’ve never made a bagel, how hard can it be?, I decided to make some.

I did have to add more flour than the recipe asked for, but I think that is always a balance you have to play with when adding a wet ingredient of unknown wetness. After the boiling, which was quite good fun actually.Fresh out of the oven. They were lovely, chewy and oniony, everything one wants an onion bagel to be.

The watching of cookery programmes.

When I was first married the watching of Keith Floyd or Ken Hom, Nigella or Delia was a big event. Hubby and I would happily put the t.v. on and watch, often while eating supper perched on our lap. We would greedily watch the episode, flick through the associated recipe book if it had become available (they are much better at this these days, sometimes one had to wait) and decide what we should cook that weekend.

I’ve never lost my love of a good cookery programme, just my love of watching t.v. There have been whole series of bake off that I have missed – quelle horreur! And currently I am down to one hour of t.v.’s watching a week – The Bodyguard, its absolutely riveting. When a friend of mine mentioned that Jamie Oliver’s new series called Italy was rather good. Okay I thought I’ll give it a go and duly tuned in.

The programme was wonderful, gracefully aged Nana’s showing skills honed over the last 70 years is always a beautiful thing to behold. In the episode I viewed (and I fully intend to catch up with them all) a dish called Stracotto came up, this was a delicious looking  slow cooked beef ragu made from beef chuck. I quickly changed my Tesco online order and added in a KG of skirt, chuck not being readily available and made a mental note to buy the recipe book the next day.

My order came this morning on a dismal rainy day and I set to work. Unfortunately I was slightly disappointed that my butcher had diced my meat. But no matter, doesn’t it look lovely.
Following the recipe I soon had this… although my Kenwood may have helped with all the chopping. After a good three hours in the oven we had this (although the recipe says cook on top of the stove, I always feel safer cooking long and slow in the oven).  It was delicious, we enjoyed it with pasta and a little parmesan and 6 more portions are stashed away in the freezer to add warmth and comfort as required..