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..


On the buses.

The other day I was idly thinking about the time that I left home and moved to Coventry. From a small town I think you can imagine that this was very exciting and one thing that really excited me was the constant bustle of buses moving around the city centre. Where did they all go? I wondered.  So every so often I used to walk to Pool Meadow, this was in the days before the internet and I lived in the city centre to buy a bus pass for the week, having worked out that one only had to do just over three return trips to break even and then tootle around as often as I could for the next seven days. I’d often do big shopping trips, things like that but often I’d just sit on the bus until it got to the end and then hop off and catch the next bus back. Or I’d be out with new found friends visiting their friends or family. It was great fun and I found my way around the city – I don’t think I did all of it, but I did quite a lot!

So curiously I decided to have a look at how the balance of trips to cost of a weeks ticket would work out on our local bus companies. Well, it would take six return trips to just tip over the cost of a weeks ticket!  That is a ridiculous number!!!  And, furthermore, on one company there is no ticket that covers from Coventry to Leamington, so I would have to buy two sets of weekly tickets. Coventry to Leamington is covered by another company, but the service for me at least, is not as convenient. Do they not realise that if the break even point was a bit lower it might induce the casual rider to buy a ticket rather than always trying to find change. Next I found that if I wanted to buy a day rider ticket on the internet to Leamington it would cost me £8.80 rather than asking the bus driver for a return which is £4.10  of my hard earned shillings, which is ridiculous and daylight robbery. I wonder if anyone has actually ever bought one, when one can have two returns and still have change.

So I gave up on that idea, but I didn’t give up on the idea of dragging hubby to Coventry. For some reason he is quite happy to use them in London, but not so keen in Warwickshire, maybe the green fields aren’t so interesting!  But reader, drag him I did and actually he had a great day. Of course he didn’t pay at all and what we would have paid for parking and petrol it was cheaper and actually more convenient to do it this way. We alighted in Corporation Street were able to wander around and then found on an app the time of the next bus and the nearest bus stop to where we were when we wished to come home – perfect.

We had a good tootle around the shops when I happened upon their very nice Waterstones…. and confidence renewed picked up a couple of novels and was very lucky to find ‘Together, Our Community Cookbook’  the recipes tell the story of a group of women who came together after the terrible tragedy of the Grenfell Tower in order to cook fresh food for their families and neighbours. Supported by HRH The Duchess of Sussex and all profits going to support the communities. I must say I can’t wait to start cooking from this book, the recipes look absolutely delicious. I think it was this recipe that caught my imagination the most, Beef and Aubergine Casserole,  I drooled when I saw that photograph. This was quickly followed by Iraqi Dolma, those stuffed vine leaves look absolutely divine. And this too is right up my street, Algerian Sweet Lamb.

It truly is a melting pot of delicious family recipes from cultures that are spread all over the world. I hope the contributions from this book bring  joy to those affected, buy it, you’ll love it.




Looking back at Summer.

Summer has been for us a bit of a mixed bag. Hubby had a health scare earlier in the year and it has left its suspicious mark on us. He needs six monthly checks now and I don’t think one can ever really put that to the back of ones mind, especially when he complains about new to him aches and pains.  We have have felt deep joy in other areas of our life and are very grateful for it.

The allotment has done well and diabolically all at the same time! What a dry summer! If it wasn’t for hubby’s tenacity on the watering we would have nothing to gather and enjoy, the triumphs have been amazing. We have never had sweetcorn so sweet and the beetroot has been absolutely delicious. The tomatoes have been the tastiest we have ever had and I long to start on the butternut squashes. The garlic was terrible, we threw the onions away and the shallots are the smallest I have ever seen, just too precious to compost.

Rupert is still gathering strength after his broken leg and we have started training him on his recall, after one near disastrous event on the plot where he hopped over the fence to come looking for me while I was blackberrying at the same time as lots of cars were moving on the allotments. The trouble with training recall on an adult dog, is they have the confidence to ignore you. This requires lots of sausages and a long lead and now Rupert has a sausage breakfast alfresco, one tiny bit at a time – he doesn’t seem to mind.

So we shall gather our fruits off the allotment, be thankful for all good things and look forward to Autumn and the tidying of the allotment and preparations for winter.