Tuesday, 16 February 2016

I Would Walk Five Hundred Miles...

We got a nice visit from Gabi, Matt and of course Pixie last week, but I think we need some noisy toys. Sally is all for getting the Happy Valley set out of the loft, but I think a few clockwork musical things will do just fine for now.

It was Sally's birthday, and later that night we went to the pub where the main topic of conversation was Ladycare Magnets. I must admit, I never knew such a thing existed, but some people swear by them. Fiona is certainly not one of them, quoting Dr Ben Goldacre who writes a column in the Guardian claiming to debunk "Bad Science", and the Ladycare Magnet, or Fanny Magnet as Dr Bob calls it, certainly falls into that category. Kitty, on the other hand, who coincidentally also calls it her Fanny Magnet as well as referring to it as "him", would not be without it, except when she's wearing tights! Its good for sleep, its good for moods, in fact I wouldn't be surprised if it also provided the winning Lottery numbers. But is it a placebo? Well there is plenty of anecdotal evidence on that Oracle Of Everything, Facebook, that extol its virtues. One lucky lady encourages her friend to "get it in your knickers, you'll feel wonderful," though it is not without its hazards. Airport security could be an issue if the magnet sets off the metal detectors, whilst other metal objects such as fences, pencil sharpeners, nails and even the ring through a bull's nose could also be attracted to it. Kitty says she gets stuck to radiators. I think I'll have to set up an online survey.

Our cats have been spoilt. Sally took to buying Sheba cat food, the one in the little tins, and now they won't touch anything else. Whiskas, Go Cat, Morrison's own brand, all get a quick sniff and then a disdainful look gets thrown in my direction. I've tried a number of things. Tinned tuna gets a big thumbs up, but duck in any way shape or form is a real no no! As is mackerel in a spicy tomato sauce. I won't make that mistake again.

Managed a sneaky lunch with my old mate Bernie last week - but the Water's Edge in Nottingham doesn't really have much in the way of healthy options on its menu! Still, we passed an hour talking crap about football, music and lots of other unrelated stuff. Wonderful.

WTF is wrong with Nottingham traffic. Sometimes I can get there in about 80 minutes. Last week it took 3 hours. 3 hours! I got to junction 26 of the M1 (along the A610) in about an hour. Or rather, I got to the tailback for that junction in about an hour. Apparently a broken down vehicle added another hour onto the journey, and then a police car blocking 3 lines of a four lane highway did the rest. Thanks for that, glad there were no rapists or murderers for you to go and chase.

As I've said before people are generally polite when you cycle down the canal. Occasionally, a dog will bark at you, but generally their well behaved owners will keep them in check. Last week, however, a woman had let her Westie stray just a little too far. It then proceeded to run alongside my bike, barking furiously. It was very cold, and I actually felt a bit sorry for the dog as it hit the water, and for a moment I wondered whether someone would actually manage to fish the poor creature out before hypothermia set in. But only for a moment.

One of my least favourite dogs

That particular trip took me as far as bridge 25 at Disley. The sky was closing in, the route was incredibly muddy, and it was freezing, so I took to the road at the top of the path and went back that way. Its quite frustrating not being able to carry on to Marple, but on this occasion discretion was definitely the best option as the heavens opened just as I got home. I am now able to get out of the saddle and head up gentle inclines, and I've started strengthening exercises, but these tend to leave the knee and surrounding areas very sore. The aforementioned 3 hour journey to Nottingham didn't help, and I am convinced that the cold weather is just sitting there, chilling my joints as if they had been kissed by Iceman. Its now exactly 2 months to the start of the cricket season, and the clock is ticking!

Iceman is playing havoc with my knee

Sally and Fiona spent four days in Texas last week, including two days trail riding on a ranch. It was a while before Sally contacted us at home, stating in rather surprised tones that the ranch was in the middle of nowhere. And there was me thinking it would be right next to Walmart or the San Antonio Mall. Dinner on the ranch was a bit like school dinners, but she made up for that with VIP access to the rodeo, including a show by Pitbull (the singer, not a random dog). Steak and Sangria were the order of the day, whilst we were at home, alone, on that most romantic of days, Valentine's Day. Rather than pining away and feeling sorry for myself, I made her a video. The wonders of Texan wifi meant that she didn't get it until she was heading for the airport to come home, but her response to me pouring my heart out was for her and Fiona to spend a large part of the return journey in uncontrollable laughter as I tried in vain to tug at my absent wife's heartstrings. I suppose it should be posted on here, as Fiona has clearly already seen it so it can no longer be considered private, but I'm not sure. What do you think?

It was a busy weekend, with Zac having two separate cricket sessions, and Ole having 3 parties. On Saturday night he over indulged and was sick, but at least he made it to the loo. And it seemed to have no adverse effect as he scored for the second successive game on Sunday. That helped his team to return to the top of the league, but with 12 games to go there is a lot of football still to be played. Anyway, after a quiet Monday Ole is now feeling quite poorly, worn out after all of that partying, but I guess he won't be told!

Ole has been burning the candle...

Last night was Sally's return, so I made chicken fajitas and guacamole onion rings. Zac had already had spaghetti, Ole was like a dead dog in his bed, and Sally was 'resting her eyes', recovering from her exhausting trip. So it was a table for one! The guacamole onion rings have apparently become an internet sensation. I've seen two links on Facebook, so if that is all that it takes to become a sensation then there is hope for all of us! Anyway, they are ok, but very messy to make. Probably not worth the effort as there are better ways of making onion rings and better ways of making guacamole.

Finally, Zac got invited on a walk with some of his friends yesterday. I spoke to one of the mum's who would be accompanying the children, and she told me that the plan was to head for Hayfield. I told Zac he had to get his hiking boots out, a thermal top, warm trousers and socks, a jumper and a coat. And gloves. And a rucksack. A rucksack? Yes, I then told him his packed lunch included a sandwich (well actually an empty sandwich), crisps, apple, water, fruit shoot....at which point he interrupted me.

'Hang on, how long is this walk we're going on?' he asked, somewhat indignantly.
'Not far,' I replied, and the plan is to head for a cafe to have some cake.'

There was no need for further debate!

Saturday, 6 February 2016

My Golden Plums

The Transylvanian Green Bean Soup caused a bit of stir last week. Sally asked how I would ever consider making such a thing, and its quite simple really. She would not think twice about buying a hundredweight of beetroot or red cabbage to eventually end up with a small jar of pickle, whilst I looked in the freezer and saw that we had at least 5 kilos of green beans, therefore, in my mind, a green bean recipe was called for. The green bean forest was caused by Sally's scatter gun approach to shopping, but that is a discussion for another day. Anyway, green bean soup is, unfortunately, not just green beans, so I had to get soured cream and parsley, but everything else was already in the cupboard.

And here's how it happens...

900g green beans
bunch of fresh parsley (chopped)
1 clove garlic (crushed)
2-3 slices bacon
3 tablespoons cornflour
1 onion (chopped)
1 pot soured cream
3 tablespoons vinegar

Put the green beans, parsley, garlic and salt in a large pan. Cover with water and bring to the boil.
Fry the bacon until well done, then chop and add to the pan.
Add the onion, cornflour and a little water to the frying pan and mix until smooth. Add it to the green beans pan then stir in the soured cream and vinegar. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes.

If you want any other recipes for stuff mentioned here just let me know.

Sometimes there is something that I just want to make, for instance Creole Cake. This calls for a load of ingredients, including Cherry Brandy and Angostura Bitters. There's no way I'm buying bottles of those for a one off cake, so I put out a a FB message and found them both in the same place. Fortunately my sister Fiona has a reputation where alcohol is concerned, and she will be delivering at least 3 tablespoons of each this week. Any idea what Angostura Bitters is? I had always thought that it is part of a hangover cure, and maybe it is. Originating from Trinidad in the Caribbean, it contains 44.7% alcohol. So maybe it won't cure your hangover, but it will probably make you forget about it in a hurry.

Heading for Nottingham last week I left Chilli Chicken and Garlic Chilli Chicken behind. One extra word but completely different dishes. The first is along the lines of chilli con carne, whilst the second is a curry. Both can be found in Mmm...No1...Cookbook.

Mmm...No1...Cookbook on Kindle

Today I made Beef in Chilli and Ginger (with a few other things thrown in) and Rocky Nests. These are like Rocky Road with less biscuit, and after pouring the first half into the dish to set, Cadbury's Mini Eggs are placed uniformly onto the mixture before the rest is poured on top. In theory, each piece should have a mini egg inside. I'll let you know how it turns out later! And whilst on the subject of Cadbury's Mini Eggs we appear to have a magpie in our house. The eggs, in their original packaging, were stored safely out of the way from prying eyes and prying fingers. Unfortunately, Sally found them and by making a tiny hole in the bottom seam she managed to extract an egg, and then another, and then several more. Of course, the bag now looked and felt considerably lighter than it was before, so I asked the question. Who has been stealing the eggs? It did not take long to figure out that the uncontrollable sniggering and tears running down her cheeks said 'guilty'. She then had the bare faced cheek to offer to show me how she had perpetrated the crime. Now you see how Zac's maternal role model has an adverse effect on him.

And now on to my golden plums. I got them from Sainsbury's. Fresh and juicy and already ripe. Then I noticed that the package said 'keep in the fridge for extra freshness'. Up until today I had always kept my plums on display, golden or red, so was I doing it wrong? I did what every self respecting person would do, I Googled it. I then discovered that there was a whole science and a plethora of different rules for keeping fruit fresh. Ripen at room temperature seems to be the standard advice, then move to the fridge to enable it to last longer. Berries should be placed in the fridge straight away, but then there is the avocado. To get that to ripen you should place it in a brown paper bag with some bananas. So now you know, and now I know how I can keep my juicy golden plums fresher for longer!

My Blog is certainly getting read. I got a message from California regarding the contract mentioned in the last edition, whilst my daughter said, 'I read that you had been cycling'. Felt a bit like I was being paparazzied for Hello magazine! I wonder how much further I can reach?!

Its been quiet on the WI Jam & Jerusalem front, but I am sure that the Whaley Bridge chapter of this originally Canadian institution will soon be in full swing. The aims of the WI were originally to revitalise local communities and to encourage women to produce food during the first World War. I expect that the second of these will come to fruition in the form of a Whaley Bridge Bake Off or a Who's Got The Biggest Marrow? competition, whilst the revitalisation of the community will come about through loose tongued gossip, whispered over cups of Earl Grey and a slice of Lemon Drizzle, I suppose that is just the nature of the beast. No? Well I already know a potted life history of many of the attendees! Seriously though, the WI is a great institution and is to be encouraged. I just think that in this most unique of rural villages their choice of speaker and subject matter must be very carefully considered!

Got a bit of an ear infection or possibly just a blockage this week. Quiet disorientating when one of your ears won't clear. Solution is simple - just drive to Buxton and hey presto, 'Pop' at the top of Long Hill.

Back to cycling this morning, and although the stiffness and a little soreness is still there, I was able to get up out of the saddle for a few yards/ I managed to turn the corner out of Shallcross Mill Road onto Elnor Lane without getting off and walking. A small triumph but another significant step forward.

The US election is all over the tv at the moment, and Zac wanted to understand deficits.

Zac: Why do we want to leave the EU?
Me: Well sometimes we have to pay more money than others.
Zac: More money for what?
Me: Well remember when Greece went bust?
Zac: Yeah.
Me: Well we had to pay a lot of money to bail them out.
Zac: And will they pay us back when they are back on their feet?
Me: Hmm, probably not.
Zac: Are we richer than America?
Me: Well we both owe money, but I suppose as they are bigger than us then they probably owe more.
Zac: Is that why they don't have proper traffic lights?
Me: Err, what do you mean?
Zac: Ours are proper traffic lights that are fixed in place, but theirs just hang over the road.

So, America, you need to get your house in order on the traffic light front!

Finally, frustration on the football field. Zac's game got switched last weekend, whilst Ole's was called off altogether. At this rate the season will extend well beyond April, and Sally is getting a bit fed up about it. Our own pitch certainly takes a big part of the blame, and she questioned the drainage. 'Why didn't they spend money on the drainage rather than that fence? Or why did they buy that silly little thing that they sit in (the dugout) rather than sort the pitch out?' She has a point. With no games the fence and the dugouts become rather glaring white elephants.

N.B. The next edition could well concentrate on the unusual subject of 'Lady Magnets'. Yes, there is such a thing, and I have commissioned a bit of a survey to verify the benefits of these magical devices.