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Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Monday, 20 August 2012


My sisters and BILs gave DJ and me a voucher for The Arches Cookery School for Xmas. We eventually got there yesterday. As you can see from the picture, it's a renovated barn on a farm in the North York Moors. There we are, all eight of us in the group, gathered over coffee and cute cream scones before we started. There was much amazement that DJ would actually come and be the only man. Try keeping him at home!
Our tutor was Sarah Muir. She has a website here.
The routine was a demo of cooking luncheon courses and then eating them along with wine and coffee. Great!
It's so refreshing to watch someone else cook simple things which taste great and use knacks and methods which you haven't even thought of. She left the end of the onion on and then cut it into wedges to roast. The end held the wedges together. A light bulb moment for me. All the herbs and many veggies were from the kitchen and herb garden at the farm and grown by her mother.
Another great part was that she did all the washing up while we ate the food upstairs in the dining room. We were going to eat outside but the rain started just as the table had been laid and it had to be rushed indoors.
Those of you down south might like to know that NOT all of Britain had a heat wave over the weekend. In fact the term heatwave is superfluous to the english language up here.
Anyway today DJ and I tried to recreate the vegetable fritters for our lunch. They tasted just as good as hers, looked as good as hers, had the same ingredients as hers and smelled divine. They were limp. Not sure why. Never mind we'll try again till we get them right. The next lot of guests chez nous, are getting the chicken breast stuffed with spinach, chopped dates, red onion, cumin and coriander and baked in a sprinkle of cumin and a drizzle of maple syrup and oil.
Sarah Says... chefs don't use olive oil for cooking; they use a blend. She used half olive oil and half rapeseed oil. So we shall do that too.
Sarah Says... don't put the stuff in the frying pan till the oil is hot enough to sizzle it or it will just soak it up. So we shall do that too etc
I just love learning new stuff.

There's no room for any more new stuff in this house. The new painting easel means something has to go. This is my Nagy spinning wheel. It spins better than my Ashford but I can use the Ashford with my eyes shut and this needs a refresher course every time I get it out. Someone less set in their ways will love it. I'll see how it goes on ebay. I set it up to take pics and got it started with some tops and it took me a while to remember the process but once I had it going it was lovely.
Cheers for now Gillian

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Raspberry Jam and a Cat Climber

Just to the south of us is Brusselton Hill. We walk the footpath often. It is a combination of the old railway line and the really old wagonway. Someone called "Tobin" was the last to live there and his old apple trees and raspberry canes line the footpath at some small stages.
We picked about half a kilo this morning. Asda had some blackberries for sale and so I came home and mixed the lot into some jam.

DJ has created a rustic cat climber for you-know-who. She loves it. She hasn't hit the top level yet but enjoys sunning herself at the mid-level. It was the result of a couple of long logs from the firewood place and a few bits from the timberyard where you can pick up cut-offs. Plus half a kilo of 4 inch nails and the cat has her own jungle.
And here's mine. This grand easel was sent over from Germany and it took me half an hour to put it together. It could have been less but I forgot to make sure everything faced forward before I started and I had to undo a part because the screw hole I needed was on the front instead of the back.
I have seen similar for three times the money through "Hobbycraft" so I'm very happy with it...but.... what do I do about it's height? It won't fit in the top room where I do my painting. I don't think I will ever paint something big enough to need it's full height. Do I saw off a foot or so of lovely timber.
Any news and views on that would be welcome.
Cheers Gillian

Friday, 10 August 2012


We went to Blackpool on Friday. Firstly to check out the run for day trips. It was about two and a half hours each way. We had planned to go with Garnett's bus trips. They only charge £12 return, but they cancelled because not enough people booked. The weather has been so unpredictable, it's not surprising. The day we were there had a few spots of rain but on the whole it was fine and mild. We sat outside to have lunch and watched the punks.
It was the REBELLION FESTIVAL. Thousands of punks in amazing clothes and some wonderfully coloured mohicans were there. I didn't dare take a photo of many of them in case what it said on their t-shirts was true. Most punks are now middle aged, overweight and less attractive than they have ever been before. You wouldn't want to mess with one.
We've often thought that xmas away might be fun so we checked out a venue or two. More on that later.

On Monday we had to meet up with a BBC TV documentary crew to film some sequences for an upcoming documentary about the Industrial Revolution. The researcher had found my blog and its references to seacoal. We often walk the beach at Seaton Carew and collect the coal that lies around after high tide. We take it home and use it. We have some specially fine examples even!
If you look closely at the right hand of the man in the suit, you'll see he is holding my best specimen as if he has just picked it up off the sand. He had actually, but only after the producer/director on the right had put it there. I showed them other coal lying around but the pieces weren't impressive enough. In the background you can see the mouth of the River Tees and the ship coming into port and the steel works at Redcar on the other side of Teesport.
It poured with rain at one stage but we held out and even did trips back to the carpark to fetch the jib for the camera so that it could take pictures as it slowly rose over the dunes. It all took about three hours and will produce about three minutes of opening and closing scenes. We all ended up at The Almighty Cod for a late fish and chip lunch, shook hands, retrieved our coal and went on our ways.
The programme will be shown in January just when everyone has forgotten about it...but I'll remind you.
In the lower centre of this picture are the Red Arrows. There are only six now. We were on our way to visit  WW2 airfields and museums in Lincolnshire so that we could research DJ's uncle who was a Lancaster Bomber pilot and was killed in WW2. We had pulled over and put the kettle on for a coffee and make a sandwich for lunch. There was a lot of plane noise overhead but that is common in Lincs. Then we saw the coloured smoke and realised it was the Red Arrows practising. They are based at Scampton and so we drove over to the village and pulled in at the Dambusters' Inn. A lovely pub full of memorabilia from the Dambusters' Squadron. It was just about to close but is top of our list for the next time.
We then went on to Dunholme Village and Dunholme Lodge to see the actual airfield remains from 44 Squadron which DJ's uncle flew with. This is part of the old runway. All around has reverted to farmland and we met the present owner of the Lodge and he showed us round.
We drove on then to Skegness. I have not given Skeggie bold letters. It does not deserve them. The camp site was OK but no-one cleans the toilet block in the afternoon and the flooded floor was left all night. We went down to the front to eat and were dismayed. Eventually we settled in "Williams" away from the front. DJ's curry was just like all the other kormas you get. His small side serve of chips was £2.50 and grossly overpriced. My pasta with pancetta and scallops was a disaster. There was no sauce on the pasta and the scallops and pancetta were cold and raw. A girl took it away and said she would tell the chef. I don't believe there is a chef in these places. It's the same girl who takes the order who reads the instructions, who then presses the buttons, waits for the "ding" and arranges it on a plate. She must have missed out a step or two.

We left early and went to East Kirkby to the Aviation Museum. Their highlight is a Lancaster Bomber which moves under its own power. It takes people for rides up and down the runway. Mostly old blokes with a fetish for old planes. Their wives sometimes come too but they sit on the picnic tables and have coffee and watch. The rides cost a lot of money and only last 20 minutes but even so, are booked up for this year so DJ can't get a ride on it till next May!
In the hangar they have one of the Bouncing Bombs from the Dambuster raids. Obviously they didn't drop this one.

This was one of the best air museums I've been to (about five if you must know) and I'll be happy to go again. We were doing Antiques places too. Hemswell Air Base now houses vast areas of antiques. I felt that about 60% of the antiques for sale in England must be in one of their hangars. It was all to much and very overwhelming. I was glad to see planes at the next place.

Tinker had her stitches out today and is enjoying playing in the garden. 

Cheer for now Gillian

Thursday, 2 August 2012


I publicly voice an opinion against the Olympics, but usually only if asked. I don't like the involvement of so much capitalist enterprise.  I regret the need for advertising and TV to dominate the grand occasion in order for sports to take place on this scale. And I harbour grave concerns about the preparation and selection processes used globally. I don't believe that it is a platform for fair parity.

BUT... if I pass the TV while a race is on, I have to stop and watch to see who wins and watch their thrill on screen and share it here at home.

I'm lucky to be able to feel a thrill if Oz or GB wins ( I have dual nationality and all of my sports involvement has been Australian, eg Cricket support) so I have had quite a few opportunities to feel smug this time round.

BUT...what I'm really looking forward to is Robbie Grabarz in the High Jump. We are related! OK, my brother is married to Robbie's father's sister. brother is Robbie's uncle. Anyway that's the closest I've ever got to an Olympian. It's written in our diary and we shall stay home to watch on Tuesday.

Please watch too and wish him all the best as you do.
Cheers Gillian