Tuesday 28 February 2017

More Flippin' Pancakes

The house is tidy, Bob's made litres of batter and we await the guests for tonight's Pancake Party. Our feast will simply be pancakes with sugar, lemon and  syrups - but I did like the look of this 18th century Banniet Tort recipe which I found online.
This delicious pudding, delicately flavoured with sack and orange flower water, is made from pancakes encased in a light puff pastry crust. It seems to be the original invention of 18th century cook Charles Carter, who published the recipe in his The Complete Practical Cook in 1730. He gives a number of other tort recipes, which appear in no other work of the period.

Take a Pint of Cream, and make it into Pancake Stuff; season it as you do Pancakes, and fry off eight of them fine, crisp, and brown; sheet a little Dish with Puff-paste, and lay in the Bottom, some Slices of Citron; lay on those a Pancake; then lay more Citron** and Orangado**, or Lemon-peel slic'd; then have some Sack , and Orange-flower Water and Sugar mingled together, and sprinkle over; Lay another; then more Sweetmeats, and sprinkle between every one still till you have laid them all: Lay Sweet-meats on the uppermost, and sprinkle what you have on the Top, and close it with a thin Lid, and bake it off pretty quick; and when bak'd, cut it open, squeeze in an Orange, and shake it together, and cut the Lid to garnish; sugar it over, and serve it.
From Charles Carter The Complete Practical Cook (London:1730)
**various candied citrus peels
If you need a pancake recipe, here's another from the same period

Take a Quart of thick Cream, a Pint of Flour, six spoonfuls of Canary**, a dozen of Yolks, and six Whites of Eggs, half a Pound of melted Butter, a little Salt, and a grated Nutmeg and Sugar. Make a Batter and fry your Pancakes in a dry Pan.
From John Nott The Cook's and Confectioner's Dictionary (London: 1723).
**that’s wine from the Canary Islands, not yellow birds

If you are passing any time between 6 and 10pm, please drop in! I will be leaving the party early - as the local Radio Station want to interview me about Friday's Women's World Day of Prayer. I am trying not to get too nervous!

And The Oscar Goes To...

One of the items of decor in Steph's new home is a large canvas print on the wall of her lounge. It came with the flat - and she loves it. Here it is

It was taken forty years ago in March 1977. By the swimming pool of the Beverly Hills Hotel, in silk and heels, breakfast is sublime. It's the very early morning after Oscar night, and Faye Dunaway is just waking up after winning an Academy Award for her role in Network. The photographer, Terry O'Neill, had met her on a magazine shoot the week before and they had become friends. He told her his idea. "I wanted to capture the look of dazed confusion," he recalls today, "to capture that state of utter shock that Oscar winners enter, where they go to bed thrilled, then overnight, it dawns on them that they've changed, that they've just become a star. And not just a star, a millionaire."
Somehow, this week, after Ms Dunaway's performance at this week's ceremony, her look of 'dazed confusion' seems singularly appropriate, not to say prescient!

Monday 27 February 2017

Birthday Girl

Rosie certainly seems to be enjoying playing with her ark.
Then off for a wander around - followed by serious enjoyment of the birthday cake!
When Liz was one, we took a few photos, then had them developed, then posted them off to the grandparents. A few weeks after the event, my Mum was able to see pictures of the birthday girl.
On Friday, Rosie's birthday, Liz thoughtfully took photos throughout the day and sent them to us from her phone.
Modern technology enables to share these precious moments as they happen.
I am very grateful, and feeling very blessed!

Sunday 26 February 2017

Dorset Is The Worst County

This statement has really got to me in the past few weeks. 
 A survey of Hate Crime across England and Wales since last year's referendum shows a significant increase- and Dorset is the WORST County - hate crime here has increased by 100%, more than any other county. I am deeply saddened by this - I have loved living here for the past two years, and would have happily said 'This is one of the best places to live' I don't feel that any more. I want it to be different. I want love, and understanding and tolerance.

These people on the receiving end - they are made in the image of God...as are the perpetrators of the hate crimes.

I want to see the atmosphere changed, I want people's hearts turned from hate to love, and I believe that it is only God's Holy Spirit who can truly change hearts. In the last 3 weeks, I have been to a number of events where we sang this song - its words really challenge me. 

I imagine that Rend Collective wrote this from their background in Ulster, where men and women, brothers and sisters have been divided for so long, and where healing and peace is a slow process. But in the last few months these words seem so apposite for our whole nation.

Heal our streets and land, we pray

Saturday 25 February 2017

The Animals Went In Two By Two...

Liz said Rosie has lots of clothes, could she please have toys for her birthday. So we got her a Fisher Price Noah's Ark set. It is great fun!
Click on the collage for close up views. There are 16 animals plus Mr and Mrs Noah. Mrs N has a tool kit, and Mr N has a box of food. There is also, mysteriously, a small barrel with 2 goldfish! Are these [a] pets for the family [b] fish which could not have survived in the floodwater [c] emergency rations? I hadn't thought about fish being on the ark before!
The ark itself has lots of good features - a rainbow flag [with three possible positions on the roof] hatches in the side and on the deck. The top lifts off,  so you can open up the hull, and get to the inside [decorated with more food troughs, pictures on the wall etc] The lions and 2 pairs of birds are both male&female, and the leopards have turned their heads so you can make them kiss! Mr&Mrs N have open palms so they can hold hands. Lots and lots of "play value"
BUT Toys like this are an absolute pain to keep together - so I took some spare fabric from my stash to make a storage bag for them.
This opens out to be a playmat, then can be gathered up and velcro-d shut into a little pyramid bag which can stand on a shelf or be hung on a hook.

  1. Cut two large squares of fabric and seam [right sides together] leaving a turning gap.
  2. Turn out, and press, then topstitch the edges.
  3. Press creases across the middle in both directions. 
  4. Cut 4 lengths of Velcro, about half the length of each side.
  5. Split each piece, sewing 'hooks' and 'loops' on either side of the 4 crease lines.***please check diagram below for position of hooks and loops!
  6. Sew four small tape loops [about 20cm long] on each corner, and on one corner only, sew a 2cm ring [curtain ring, split key ring...whatever]

Now you can fold the square in half, closing Velcro to make a rectangular bag,  put the toys inside, then close up the other sides, and thread all loops through the ring.
I used the blue fabric because of the ark floating on the floods
- but I suppose that technically, I should have sewn a brown or green 'island' representing the top of Mount Ararat somewhere. Now it looks like the animals are all walking on the water!
When Liz and Steph were tiny, we used to sing this song together...

Friday 24 February 2017

Happy Birthday, Rosie!

It is a year today since Rosie entered our lives. She has brought us so much joy- and grown so fast. She's a cheerful, sociable little girl [most of the time] and loves books and bicycles, music and mealtimes. Definitely one of the family! Thank you Liz and Jon for being such great parents, and for so generously letting us all share in the cuddles and caring. We hope you have a wonderful weekend of celebrations! 

Thursday 23 February 2017

What Have The Romans Done For Us?

Well , for one thing, they provided a fascinating afternoon for Bob and myself on Tuesday. We were away for 2 days at the Southern Counties Baptist Association Annual Conference for ministers and spouses [what a mouthful] staying in Cheltenham.  We had a couple of hours of free time so we popped over to see Chedworth Villa, a National Trust property just up the road.
This villa started as three detached buildings, probably built around 150AD - but grew and grew into one lavish construction, reaching its heyday between 360 and 380AD, when it would have housed around 100 people. Most of these would have been servants/slaves of the rich owners. The villa itself was luxurious and had an extensive underfloor heating system and set of wonderful baths - ranging from cold, through tepid and lukewarm to hot - where the wealthy householder and his friends could enjoy a lavish lifestyle. Even in a cold British winter they could bathe in waters as warm as their beloved Mediterranean Sea! But the Villa was neglected, and over the years collapsed and was covered with earth. 
This preserved the mosaic floors and many dropped items - until back in 1864, an agricultural worker unearthed something - and alerted the landowner, Lord Eldon. Eldon called upon his uncle James, an archaeologist, and he set about uncovering the hidden treasures. In the middle of the site, Eldon built a little museum to house the treasures, and built sheds to cover the sections of mosaic floor. The NT has improved these enormously, and a programme continues to reveal more buried artefacts and display them sensitively.
The NT website shows this Museum with the rest of the site around it. I took loads of pictures - we were really impressed with the displays and information panels. As usual the NT works hard with their educational stuff- helmets and costumes for families and school groups to try on - replica artefacts to hold and draw...

The felt servant hats were strange [and small] I looked like an elf, and Bob looked like a Bishop!
 There was beautiful variation in the colour and shape of the pottery, and also a row of engraved brass discs on leather thongs [reading "Hold on to me, for I am a slave"]

 I am Maximus Decimus...and this is my crazy wife...

I think I prefer the scent of Bob's usual after shave!
The mosaics were amazing - so detailed and carefully put together. They are maintained in a carefully controlled environment, to prevent further deterioration or algae growth. The engineering and construction of the baths is amazing - the way that as one moved through a series of rooms, the temperature of the waters changed.
Outside are the lower parts of walls surrounding other rooms - with notes explaining their purpose - and beyond, sheep graze happily in the fields and snowdrops bloom in profusion on grassy banks.
In the Museum were a couple of quotes [one from a local yokel, the other from an eminent historian] dating from the 1860s when these hidden treasures came to light

This was a good outing, and slightly different from most of our recent NT excursions, which have been in properties dating from Tudor times to the 20th century. A bit of older history is always thought provoking.
It is also fascinating to realise how the Victorians approached such excavations in a very different way from 20th century archaeologists - and now in the 21st century with so much advanced technology, techniques and attitudes are still changing.
C19 - dig it up, put it on a shelf in the Museum behind glass, with little handwritten label.
C20 - uncover it, put a roof over it and type out some information [on a typewriter]. School children get a lecture and then write an essay or draw a picture. Maybe a guy in Roman Armour will come and chat to them and make them march round the field [Sinister, Dexter, Sinister, Dexter...]
C21 - minimal disturbance but high tech equipment means things can be revealed under the surface, and computer technology can recreate accurately things like the missing section of mosaics and paintings. Children can dress up in costumes, pretend to be Romans, use interactive computer programmes to recreate life in 365AD...
Engaging with history is getting easier, and definitely becoming more fun for children [poor Rosie is doomed, she has a family of people who like this sort of thing!!]
Here is Bob outside the Museum. He is concerned about his waistline! The food at the Conference was plentiful and delicious. It will be Back to Banting next week!!

Wednesday 22 February 2017

Utterly Bananas!

My February Pointless Gadget of the Month has to be this Banana Slicer. 
Isn't this remarkable? It costs £7.95 plus postage. 
You feed the banana in at on end, press the top and voila! 5 perfect slices of banana. 
Repeat the exercise till your entire piece of fruit is chopped up.
I am not sure what you do when you get near the end and find your piece isn't quite long enough. I suspect there is rather a lot of banana-wastage. 
This gadget would take up a fair bit of drawer space too
And those little blades- how difficult will they be to clean if your banana is squishy?
What if you want to slice your banana very finely, or very thickly, or even on the diagonal? Oh, wait a minute, if you need thick, thin or diagonal, you could use a knife.
Like these...
I bought a set of these Swiss paring knives years ago - I have one in Norfolk, and one here, and gave the third one away. They are brilliant, and the sheath keeps the blade safe in the drawer. They slice bananas and a lot more besides. And they cost less. 
Do share any pointless gadgets you've discovered...

Tuesday 21 February 2017

Feeling Capricious [With Goats And Hedgehogs]

There is debate as to whether the name of the Isle of Capri derives from the Greek word kapros  for wild boar, or the Latin caprea for goats.  Both of these have lived there. What is not in dispute is the name Capri Pants, referring to those cropped above-the-ankle slimfit ladies trousers.  These were popularised by film stars Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn in the 50s. Mary Tyler Moore  [who died just a few weeks ago]  caused a sensation by sporting them on the Dick Van Dyke show, where she played the long-suffering housewife married to DVD. Her perfectly reasonable argument was that normal women didn't do the hoovering in dresses and petticoats, so why should her character?
I did not have enough blue fabric for another pair of trousers, but did manage to make these little CPs with a lace trim
And here is my first project from my new book of dolls' knitting patterns - a turquoise jumper to go with them. The neckline has a velcro fastening to make it easier for little fingers! 
I looked up the origin of capricious - whimsical- to see if that word had any connection with the island. I was delighted to discover that one dictionary said this;
Capricious comes, via French, from Italian capriccio, a shivering, 
a shudder, [influenced by Italian capra, goat] a whim, from capo, head [from Latin caput]+ riccio, hedgehog [from Latin ericius]. The basic idea is that of a head with hair standing on end, like the spines of a hedgehog.

Monday 20 February 2017

Safer, Saner Places...

Last Tuesday [Valentine's Day] we had to go out and buy a new kettle and afterwards we stopped off for coffee.
Full marks to Costa at Castlepoint Retail Park- note the glass of water with Bob's espresso, and the romantic chocolate hearts in our saucers!
Costa is upstairs in WHSmiths.
It does seem to me these days that I only go into branches of WHS for their instore coffee shops or Post Offices. 
WHS seemed to be so much more interesting when I was younger - more serious books, useful stationery items [not just pretty notebooks and colouring pads for adults] Now there are stacks of celebrity cookbooks and novelty gifts.
There were piles of Ladybird books with titles like 'How It Works -The Wife'' "Mindfulness" "The Shed" "The Hipster" and more. 
Also they have some spoof Famous Five titles [Five go Gluten Free, Five on Brexit Island, Five go on a Strategy Away Day]
Now they are doing a range of alternative I-Spy books too. I loved the original ones as a child, when we went on long car journeys. 

I hadn't seen these ones before. I looked through the one about signs and instructions that you MUST obey.
was tickled by the sign telling tractors to slow down. It suggests that if you spot this, you will have made it to one of those 'safer, saner regions... like Norfolk' - but the sign depicted was printed in Dorset.[We discovered last year that the epicentre of such signage is actually Ferndown - many of these roadsigns are created in a workshop here!]