Thursday 31 August 2023

Take Self-Basting Turkeys

...I mean, how can a headless dead bird cover itself with butter? Food has such crazy names - fish do not have fingers, cod do not have loins, there is no meat in a cauliflower steak - and marrows do not have bones

But everyone knows what you mean when you speak of these things. Walking back from the post box [My August Cross Stitch is winging it's way to Sussex!] I noticed someone had left an item on their gatepost.
A large marrow. FREE. But I left it for someone else. My uncle would not eat marrow, he did not like the feel of it in his mouth. Dad never liked the stuffed marrow they were fed in WW2. My Mum never cooked it. But my brother presented me with a large marrow a few weeks ago. He was given it, the day before his holiday, so decided to pass it on to us.
In the past I have tried various recipes to use this fruit - it is basically a courgette with pretensions - bloated and watery. 
I've made Meera's borani,Nigel's stuffed marrow rings and a marrow tea loaf, as well as marrow lemon curd. 
This year I made Tom Hunt's marrow and ginger jam from his July "Waste Not Food" column in the Guardian.
I used stem ginger because I had some in the bottom of a jar which I wanted to use up. Tom says to chop the lemon finely, I cut it into quite  small dice. And I used sugar not honey. The lemony jam is more akin to a thick cut marmalade- and it is - as Tom suggests - brilliant on toast and crumpets. 
I have yet to use some as topping for a sponge pudding [but very soon, when the weather gets cooler...] Bob was very surprised as he had fully expected the finished product to be a lurid shade of green. 
Rev Rachael, the village vicar, mentioned she loved marrow jam the other day. So I gave her a jar - and she promptly responded with a bag of apples from her tree! Village life is wonderful sometimes.
I do think that 'marrow and ginger' sounds a bit like a Farrow and Ball paint suggestion though.
Have you any good recipes for surplus marrows? **
And why do so many gardeners grow them, if they don't want to eat them?

**Kezzie mentions a recipe below- here is the link

Wednesday 30 August 2023


Look at this Mahoosive crane outside Sainsburys! With it's jib down like this, it is as long as the store. When I commented on it to Bob, he said "Well, the store must be quite heavy, they'd need a big crane to shift it" 
Which would definitely be shoplifting on a grand scale. It was amazing to be able to get up close - it is right in front of the store entrance. 
There were lots of fascinated children and adults talking about the size - and speculated how they got it there [we think it must have come in the wee small hours, when the car park was empty]
REMINDER - tonight there will be a Blue Super Moon. And there won't be another for about 14 years [according to the media] Look for it at sunset tonight, or just before sunrise tomorrow.

Tuesday 29 August 2023

A Little Gem Of A Post?

We are eating salad. Lots of salad ["I am half sick of shadows salads" said the Lady of Shallot Bob] I have tomatoes, potatoes, radishes and herbs and leaves from the garden [we finished the two cucumbers] supplemented by red and white cabbage, celery, carrots etc from the shops. All so very healthy, and whirled in my OXO Good Grips spinner.
I bought this gadget with some tokens - not cheap, but I am using it so often that it is earning its place in the kitchen. 
We are currently enjoying 'mixed leaves' in red and green, along with some baby spinach - and I have chard, rocket and pak choi just coming along nicely. 
Two of my nieces are expecting babies, and I was wondering what names they will choose. You don't hear the name "Lettice" any more, do you? It is another form of Lætetia, meaning joy and happiness [like Letetia Dean aka Sharon Watts in EastEnders]
The only famous Lettice I could discover was Lettice Knollys [pictured left] - mother of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, a favourite of Elizabeth I. And later she became the second wife of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. He was another of the Queen's favourites- so her majesty banned Lettice from court... permanently!
Lettice is a popular girl's name in fiction - in "Murder At The Vicarage", Christie introduces us to Lettice Protheroe "a pretty girl, tall, fair and completely vague", and in The Importance of Being Earnest, Miss Prism, the hapless governess, has the name Lætitia.
Peter Shaffer wrote a play especially for Dame Maggie Smith, called Lettice and Lovage - how I should have loved to have seen her perform this on stage with the great Margaret Tyzack. Lettuce is a tour guide in a stately home owned by The Preservation Trust - but it is the most uninspiring, uninteresting property they own. So Lettuce takes it upon herself to...embellish... the historical details, adding much that adds colour, if not veracity. Inevitably she goes too far and loses her job. You can read a synopsis of the plot here. In 1990, Smith and Tyzack won Tony Awards for best actress and best supporting actress. This is the clip shown at the ceremony. 
Fortunately my nieces are sensible girls, and there is no danger of the newest niblings being named after salads!

Monday 28 August 2023

Women Can Paint Too!

Yesterday was a day free of commitments, once we'd been to church- and Bob suggested we went to visit a NT place. "Let's go to one we have not been to yet - what's in Suffolk?" After a quick glance at the handbook I suggested we might try Ickworth. So off we went, arriving soon after 1pm. On the way I read some useful facts to Bob, so we would be a little more informed when we got there!
The estate dates back to 1254, when Thomas de Ickworth was given permission by the Crown to create a deer park. 
It all gets a bit complicated, as many of the men in the family were called Ickworth- but 200 years later,after a legal dispute, Ickworth was in the hands of the Drury family - and eventually the sole heir of that clan, Jane, married a man called Thomas Hervey [pronounced Harvey] And the Harveys owned it for five centuries.
In 1700, John Hervey, future 1st Earl of Bristol wanted to transform the old manor house into something a little more grand. John Vanbrugh, architect of Blenheim Palace was brought in to design something. But it was not until the 4th Earl [known as Earl Bishop] inherited in 1779 that things really got underway. He wanted "Magnificence with convenience" and hired the Sandys brothers, Irish architects, to design something appropriate to contain his vast collection of antiquities and artistic treasures. He took his wife and family on The Grand Tour across Europe, collecting more stuff. Sadly, Napoleon's troops in Italy confiscated most of his travel souvenirs in 1798. He lived for five more years, attempting to recover his lost treasures. The house remained a shell, until 1823 when his son Frederick took matters in hand. 
This fabulous Italianate structure emerged in quiet Suffolk - a central rotunda, with wings on both sides. Frederick made the East Wing a 'family home' The Rotunda was a Museum and Gallery, where he entertained and impressed his visitors. - The West Wing was mainly empty, where they stored surplus stuff!
Now  the East Wing is quite separate and run as a hotel [way beyond my budget] The Rotunda remains the Gallery with some living rooms.There is the usual NT shop, café, and bookshop in the West Wing, and below stairs, the kitchens and servants quarters.
It was lovely to walk round, not too busy despite being a BH weekend. The rooms were not overcluttered, and you could imagine families sitting in the library [lovely green damask upholstery] or joining for meals around the dining table. 
You can see the 1908 portraits of two young Hervey sisters, Lady Phyllis and Lady Marjorie, in their white frocks with blue satin sashes. Except Marjorie did not like posing - so the artist painted her head - but Phyllis had to stand in as her 'body double'. The artist painted flowers in Phyllis' hand - but Marjorie has a book flung carelessly at her feet, to indicate her waywardness!
The Herveys were stupendously wealthy down the generations,and got the talented artists of their day to come and paint family portraits. They also acquired other artworks by some of the greatest artists of the past
Here is a portrait by Spanish master Velasquez, of Prince Baltasar Carlos, aged 6, painted around 1636. Heir to King Philip VI of Spain, he sadly died of smallpox aged 16.
And there is a Titian 'unknown man' painted around 1510 - but acquired by one of the Herveys when they were in Madrid 300 years later.
You name it, they had them all painting their portraits - Zoffany, Joshua Reynolds, Gainsborough, Hogarth, Holbein...
But what was superb was to find women painters represented too.
Elizabeth Vigee Lebrun [1755-1842] was court painter to Marie Antoinette. This self portrait shows her painting her own daughter Julie. It caused scandal, she is smiling open mouthed [not the done thing] I loved this picture, so fresh and bright.
And then there was the Angelica Kauffmann. AK was one of the founding members of the Royal Academy in 1768. The Hervey family were great supporters of the arts, and fully involved in the setting up of this institution.
Only two women artists were among the founding trustees [AK and Mary Moser] It was almost a hundred years before any more women were accepted.


I loved looking at Angelica's portrait of 
Lady Elizabeth Christiana Hervey [1759-1824] This Hervey lady joined that family at Chatsworth House. [she was in a ménage a trois with the Duke, and Duchess Georgiana, then married him soon after Georgiana died] Not the most moral of the Herveys then...
We learned so much more about the house, the servants, the gardener - and enjoyed sandwiches in the café. The rain was heavy - we will have to go back and visit the gardens another time. But as a spur of the moment outing, it was quite wonderful.

Sunday 27 August 2023


Auntie Peggy and Cousin Gill always remembered. [Gill was chief bridesmaid, her dad acted as bridal chauffeur] And this year I missed the Wedding Anniversary card... But I have good memories, which are more durable than greetings on paper. 

Last Saturday Julian brought me a very special gift. Peggy's will, quite properly imho, left everything to him. Except for one bequest - she left me her eternity ring and her engagement ring [and instructions that I am to bequeath them to Liz and Steph!] Julian thoughtfully bought a ring box to hold both side-by-side. I've been wearing Peg's lovely diamond and sapphire band on my right hand for the past week.

Bob put it in his ultrasonic cleaner and it really sparkles now. I notice it whenever I glance at my hand, and remember a very special woman, full of love for her family, full of faith and trust in God. Generous and thoughtful. Back in our distant childhood, Gill teased me that in old age, I'd inherit my Mum's ring with its minuscule gem. [it is really small, think of a mustard seed - appropriate as she had no wealth but much faith] But she would have a large blue sapphire with 10 diamonds, each bigger than Mum's stone. Sadly Gill died first - and now I wear both rings. Mum's on my left hand [it replaces my own engagement ring, which broke, and the two pieces were stolen] and Peg's on my right. This seems a good arrangement. Left hand ring symbolising love, and right hand for empowerment [according to this
Maybe less long lasting but equally lovely, the "Blessings" rosebush I planted in their memory is really blooming well. 

Pink blossoms, which turn slightly peach. A beautiful fragrance. Here's one on the bush - and the other from my breakfast-in-bed tray yesterday. Faith, hope and love remain. But the greatest is love. 

Saturday 26 August 2023

Wooster. Wimsey or Weed?

Thank you everyone for your kind wishes yesterday. We had a lovely day with Jess and Rosie.
Ever since I discovered a whole shelf of "Classic Crime Fiction" in the library at school, I have loved mystery stories, especially those written by women. From the Queens of Crime in the 1930s [Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L Sayers and Margery Allingham] through to the later Grand Dames,PD James and Ruth Rendell - and the current ones - Val McDermid, Caroline Graham and Ann Cleeves.[there are others, I cannot list them all...] Most of these appear to be pleasant women in real life, despite the heinous crimes they write about. 
And many of their gifted sleuths have graced our TV screens - Poirot, Alleyn, Wimsey, Dalgleish...
I came late to Margery Allingham's Campion, by way of Peter Davison on TV in the early 90s. 
He is a parody of Lord Peter Wimsey, with the affected absent mindedness of Bertie Wooster. He's supported by his manservant, Magersfontein Lugg [ex boxer] and Superintendent Stanislaus Oates of Scotland Yard.
His 'weedy' name [which we learn is not the one he was born with]  is possibly a nod to Sir Percy Blakeney, aka the Scarlet Pimpernel, or maybe to the Jesuit martyr Edmund Campion.
I last read MAs books about 20 years ago.[the author died in 1966] 
Sue said she'd they'd borrowed a new Campion story written by Mike Ripley. Allingham's husband Philip Youngman Carter, had left notes for a novel which was never completed, and the trustees of her estate asked the talented Mr Ripley to complete it. 
The book was Mr Campion's Farewell, and Ripley has gone on to write a number of others. I borrowed this one, and Mr Campion's Coven, from The Forum library in Norwich. 
Unlike the earlier books, these are set post war, in the sixties. Campion has a wife and a son. I have to say that I was sadly disappointed... The books had all the right characters, and Albert had his arcane background, and quaint fondness for the weirdnesses of Olde England. 
And I really expected to love the Coven one, as it was set in Essex. But I
struggled to finish them. I couldn't get my head round the over contrived plots. And the details which were meant to fix the story in a particular era [eg instant mashed potato, Morris Marinas] seemed to jar. I was sorry, because I felt Ripley had worked so very hard to continue where Allingham left off [she died in 1966] 
I can only give these *** Yesterday Sue blogged about borrowing the Coven one too. I'll be interested in her review. And perhaps I should try a few more Ripleys. Perhaps he gets into the groove in later ones... 
But I also found Traitor's Purse [1941] and Mr Campion and Others [1939 - short story collection] And I loved them both. Allingham's style was readable,  witty, and her vocabulary extensive, I realised why I had enjoyed the books the first time round. *****
Have you read any Campion mysteries  - old or new - and what did you think of them?
Does it work to continue the oeuvre after a writer has died ? 
Or should the characters depart when their creator does?
Christie killed off Poirot [Curtain] just before her own death- and more recently in Italy, the final episode of Inspector Montelbano aired, following the death of author Andrea Camilleri - and many Italians were most upset with the way AC had written his character's departure. 

I think I shall seek out some more early Campions to enjoy... [thank you Sue for the reminder] 

Friday 25 August 2023

Thank You Bob*

*Especially for your patience and grace. The numbers on this graphic are wrong - they omit the Leap Year Days. We've actually been  married 16071 days - but even on those extra eleven days you've still been amazingly long-suffering!! 

The love goes on...still counting every moment precious

Thursday 24 August 2023

The Grand Old Duke Of York

Not this one, Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, 1763- 1827,. Son of George III. He is the one that most scholars think the song was about. He did march his troops up and down a hill in Flanders and his military campaign there was less than successful. Considered to be a spendthrift and womaniser.
Nor this one, James, Duke of York. 1633 - 1701 - who became James II in 1685. He's the one considered to be very significant in the sinking of HMS Gloucester, off the Norfolk coast in 1682. Considered to be a spendthrift and womaniser.

And definitely not this one. It does appear that being given the title 'Duke of York' seems to result in the making of rather foolish decisions. One hopes that the 'olive branch' offered by the King results in proper restoration of relationships [and that Sarah's hospital treatment is successful]
The Duke Of York I am focussing on this summer is a potato variety. I bought two varieties with my Sutton's gift voucher - Swift and Red Duke of York

I harvested these on Tuesday. I actually thought the tub was simply full of earth and I'd already removed the crop. Not sure what happened there!
My Conclusions
  • I chose one red and one white variety so I could compare them. The Swifts generally have come up larger
  • I prefer to scrub rather than peel if I can. This worked with the Swifts. The RDoY not so well. Once they get bigger than a golf ball, the skins go rough and mottled with brown. I needed to peel them.
  • The little crimson marbles were very pretty, scrubbed, halved, cooked and served in potato salad, with mint or chives.
  • The larger ones took too much effort - and I resented having to peel them!
  • But they tasted OK
  • Next year I shall ignore RDoY and grow Swifts.
Which potato varieties would you recommend, and why?
I like multi-purpose spuds, not so keen on waxy ones


Wednesday 23 August 2023

Happy Birthday Jacob

 One year old already, and you bring so much joy to us all.
It was wonderful having you and the family here all last week, especially at Saturday's bbq. I hope it's not too long before we can get to Manchester again! 

Tuesday 22 August 2023

At My Own Convenience, Flushed With Success

Monday was a Catch Up Day. Steph and Co have returned to Manchester, so the bed linen and towels are washed, dried and replaced in the back room. I am expecting another overnight guest yet, but it is always good to be ready. The twin beds are pushed together and I made a 'foam fillet' which fills in the small gap - with a huge sheet across the lot, we have a Super King Size mattress.
George slept in between his Mum and Dad, and it worked well. 
I did a quick top up shop [eggs, milk, bread, butter] and labelled my eggs. Four at the front need to be used up first!
The loo has had a leak - I came back from my Craft Group to find Bob on his knees, fixing the issue. I really appreciate this as I know he loathes plumbing!
Unfortunately the water was turned off and the WC out of action. I popped over to my elderly neighbour and borrowed her bathroom, and also filled a jug in the kitchen for making  tea. She was amused.
I missed yesterday's Garden Club Show. Looking at my friend's photos I realise I would not have stood a chance. The carrot competition required "Three identical carrots"
I harvested seven carrots - six ranging from short and slim, to long and chunky - plus one bizarre trinitarian offering.

Maybe next year I will have a presentable crop and something to enter into a competition. I'm following Sue's Ration Blog with interest, and having enjoyed an entirely home grown salad again for lunch on Monday I can see why the WW2 Dig For Victory campaign was so successful. 
I hope the sun continues to ripen my tomatoes. I was glad to get back to the Craft Group yesterday and catch up with friends - and have made a good start on my August Cross Stitch [only 10 days left in the month though]
Our football team tried their hardest, and it must have been hard to have everybody pin their hopes on you to win....and then lose, especially when you 'left everything' out there  [oops, Rishi!]

Steph WhatsApped at lunchtime to say she'd gone outside her office and found the place swarming with reporters- [she's quite near to Manchester Crown Court] They were all there for the Letby Trial. So terribly, terribly sad - and traumatic for families having to relive the awful experiences, and hear what was said by solicitors and judges.
Football trophies and prize carrots are trivial in comparison to these losses, this unending overwhelming grief, experienced by ordinary families in Cheshire. My heart aches for all those involved

Monday 21 August 2023

Turn It Off!

Don't get me wrong - I think there is some brilliant children's TV around. My generation had Watch With Mother [Andy Pandy, Woodentops, Bill&Ben etc] and my brother was in the first cohort of PreSchoolers to watch PlaySchool. Now they have CBBC and Cbeebies.
I am not the first [and won't be the last] parent to admit that sometimes you just have to plonk the child down in front of the Box,

to watch a suitable programme, whilst the grown up has a drink [tea, cola, gin...] and just recovers for 25 minutes.
But I am concerned that many littl'uns seem to have unlimited screen time. Maybe it was lockdown, and the struggle to keep the children happy at home when there were no play facilities available. It's hard work, but so important to engage with these youngsters, and not leave all the conversations to be one sided from the TV presenter, and all the activity to be watched, without interaction.
It has been good to see how our family plays together and learns together over the past few days. George [3] has been baking fairy cakes in the kitchen, and was able to tell Auntie Marion at the BBQ  about the ingredients used, and the patterns made with the icing. 
Little Jacob [1] watches his brother, and then plays with the PlayDoh himself. He's a really cheerful 
child and 
such fun to be with. 
Jess [2] is developing amazing language skills and loves an audience to tell her stories to. She spent ages explaining to Grandad Bob about the ducks visiting the pirate ship. And Marion was told all about ballerinas.
Rosie brought her new origami kit when she came to stay, and had a lot of fun with Grandad as they folded one of the models. 

She also built a model boat with him, out in the Lathe Palace, and taught Julian how to play the Shut The Box! Game**. None of these activities needed great skill on the part of the adults - just time, and patience.
And the benefits are immeasurable - vocabulary skills, maths skills, developing creativity, building relationships...
What activities do the children you know enjoy doing, away from their screens?

**I highly recommend Shut The Box for age 6 upwards [we did modify the rules in the beginning to make it easier for Ro - but now she uses +, -, x and ÷ to make her score]

Sunday 20 August 2023

Saturday 19 August 2023

Cloth Of Gold

 Brooke was thrilled with her Elsa dress and will be wearing it at the party tonight. Her Mum, however was having problems. It is her 50th birthday party, and has a Golden Theme - so she decided to dress as Queen Ravenna in The Huntsman: Winter's War, in the fabulous golden cloak and black dress [as worn by Charlize Theron] Cosplay dresses online were rather expensive, but she found a less pricey black dress which had the fishnet lacy look and was advertised as 'black and gold' 
Sadly the dress was small, stretchy, and had no lining.  J had bought a slip dress[petticoat? nightie?] to wear underneath. But again, very slimfit. and next to no room to walk. I offered to help [I think this was a mistake, on reflection!]
Online I found the costume designer's sketch for the outfit. J wanted the fishnet sleeves, the lacing detail, and the black vertical lines. The feather collar was not important, and a tiara was on order. I'll need to get a blonde wig, she said. That's OK you can borrow my Meryl Streep Mamma Mia! one, I said. In between looking after Rosie and the Manchester family arriving, I managed to get it together. Definitely not my best costume, done at speed, on minimal budget.  
Many cosplay sites pointed out that CTs cloak is not real, it's done with CGI.  I used more of my roll of gold foil, which is about 15 years old now., and an old sheet for lining the cloak. Cousin Gill's dressing gown [partly used for Auntie Peggy's memory bear] supplied a smaller gold stand-up collar. I found some gold mesh in my stash and put five godet sections round the hem to give some movement and shape.
Here's the final result [I have folded out the fishnet sleeve and pinned it up to show the effect] J is very pleased- I hope she has a great party.

Friday 18 August 2023

Clock Work

Definition clock [verb, informal British] meaning to notice or observe.
Thus clock work could mean to observe someone else's activity. 
I was delighted to find a promotion in The Forum in Norwich this week, for the annual Open Studios. A fortnight in which we can freely look at work created by artists and craftspeople across the county. As well as the brochures, there were dozens of pieces on display, to give a flavour of the diverse skills which will make up this exhibition. Arts and crafts of every sort... Weaving, sculpture, stitching, pottery, jewellery, photography, painting, drawing and so much more. This piece caught my eye, a miniature masterpiece entitled "Borrowed Time" 
A little home built in the back of an old clock. Tables made from cotton reels, artwork is old postage stamps, half a pair of scissors makes wall art, and beads from a broken necklace provide finials on the bed posts. On the table, a book and a notice. 

Do not touch this exhibit, Arriety 
Do you remember Mary Norton's story The Borrowers?
Little Arriety Clock, 
and her parents Pod and Homily, lived under the grandfather clock. And they scavenged and foraged for all their needs, "borrowing" the things dropped by "human beans" to make furniture and clothing. 
I loved peeking into the little dwelling and spotting the miniature items - the wristwatch [sans strap] becoming a wall clock, the smallest matryoshka making a little doll. A handwritten letter used as wallpaper.  
Well done Jackie Heath, from Yarmouth for this tiny treasure. 
"The Borrowers" story was made into a number of films. I think my favourite production starred Ian Holm and Penelope Wilton, and was a BBC series in the early nineties. I watched it with Liz and Steph. 

If this little  model reflects the standard of artworks in this year's Open Studios, then we are in for a treat! 
Are there "Open Studios" events in your area? 
Do you enjoy looking at the creativity of others? 

Thank you all for yesterday's gardening advice 🌱🥒👊🎃🥒🌱👍 especially the warning about self pollinating courgettes.