Category Archives: Uncategorized

Puppies

Puppies

After bonding with the cat formerly known as the Devious Defecator, I am now attuned to all things pet-y.

IMG_3086[1]When my good friend Pam calls and tells me all ( and I mean ALL) about her dog Honey’s hilarious exploits (‘Oh she’s a hoot!’), I no longer zone out, wander off to the kitchen to fetch myself a coffee, to return in time to pick up the receiver and say, ‘Oh yeah?’

Image result for honey labradoodle

Although zoning out has often brought with it its own unforeseen  consequences…such as unwittingly subjecting myself to Pam’s favourite Honey-rings-the-doorbell trick ( imagine the scene : door bell rings, I answer. I look down, I see Honey framed in the doorway. Alone. Muddy front paws already up on the doorstep. Seconds later, attempting to hide the horror in my eyes, Pam’s head pops into the frame – ‘We’re here!’ If only I’d  paid attention on the phone…).

Once in, the funniest, most beautiful and tallest labradoodle in the world continues to delight and entrance…Pam. Oh how she laughed when Honey went into the kitchen, and helped herself to a lasagne I’d made for tea.  ‘She’s such a hoot!’ ‘Isn’t she!’

Then there was the time when ‘My lovely little funny Honey bunny’ sat in my postage-stamp of a pond while Pam sat and watched her. Chortling away. As for me, I was transported back to a time when friends (probably Pam) would allow their toddlers to crunch their biscuits into my carpets or wave their wax crayons scarily close to my newly painted walls. And I couldn’t do a thing about it.

But now I’ve changed. Or at least I’m changing, after the cat (formerly known as the Devious Defecator) experience. Take last week, for instance, when Pam and I left Honey home alone. Even I felt a strange tugging on the heart strings  to see the oversized puppy, huge muddy paws up on the sofa,  beautiful face tilted beseeching to the right, watching us walk away. Without her.

And I didn’t even think, never mind say ‘Why?’ when an old friend bent her head forward and whispered confessionally into my ear, ‘I’ve got a puppy.’  As she waxed lyrical about her lovely, funny bichon frise  her face took on a beatific glow.  ‘It’s like having a baby! Oh my word! It really is.’ 

Then it hits me.

I gasp as I foresee a future full of wellies, pooper scoopers, Pedigree Chum and a faint wet dog smell…

Now there’s no frock for this Friday just a pair of jeans and a top from Marks and Spencers!

                    Straight leg jeans £22.50 M&S Indigo Collection

Pretty, flowing pull-on top £29.50 M&S Limited Edition

Lovely delicate blouse. Fewer ruffles on the sleeves would make it perfect. Dresses up jeans a treat.

Time to get myself togged up for all those dog walks. I’m just going to phone Pam to see if I can tag along.

 

Waiting for the Mailman

Waiting for the Mailman

..to arrive with my parcel. And I have been for hours. I’d forgotten just how frustrating that can be.

My wait so far

7 a.m. Got up.  Showered before Gabriel left because, as everyone knows, the moment you decide to take a shower when you’re in the house alone the doorbell goes.

Sods Law.

And I know this from bitter having-to-wait-in experience.

The time when I tripped over the towel and hit my head on the side of the wash basin  only to drag myself to the window and see the delivery man speed off in his van springs to mind.

shipment%20clipart

As does the time when I made myself a cup of tea. As the kettle clicked off so the delivery man rang the bell. Once. As I walked past the front door, ever-vigilant, cup of tea in hand, I saw him through the frosted panes post the ‘called-but-you-weren’t-in’ card. I  opened the door in time to see him running off at speed, seemingly unable to hear my hysterical cries of ‘Wait! I’m in!’  Perhaps he’d exceeded his 1 minute per delivery target time. Or he just wanted to piss the hell out of me. As I watched the delivery van zoom down the road I can safely say he succeeded in doing the latter.

delivery%20clipart

7.30 a.m. Up and ready. Checked outside for signs of van. Coming. Or going. Opened all doors in the house and turned off the radio which Gabriel had left on in the kitchen. All for optimum hearing-the-bell conditions.

9.00 a.m. Decided to load the dishwasher and the washing machine, thinking may as well while temporarily captive.  So much for optimum hearing-the-bell conditions…The whooshing and gurgling of the water pipes  made me beat a hasty retreat to the living room where I remained on guilty look-out for a while. Felt bored and tempted to chance it back in the kitchen to make a cup of tea but the thought of a note with the details of a collection depot in the middle of nowhere which I might have to go to in 48 hours stopped me.

10.00 a.m. I tried to read the Guardian online.  Found a very silly cat quiz  and some even sillier pictures of famous paintings where the key figures have been turned into cats. Really. Funny how, when you tune in to something, you suddenly start noticing them everywhere. The Meowna Lisa…who would have thought it?

A van pulled up outside. Promising. I hovered in the hall waiting for the doorbell to ring. Which it did. I experienced a peak of exhilaration. ‘Would you mind taking this for … next door?’ Followed by a trough of disappointment.

Nearly.

 

11.00 a.m.  Got bored. Moved to the bedroom. Made the bed. May as well. Caved in and switched on the radio. Heard something ringing. Couldn’t have been the doorbell but I went downstairs to check. Just in case.  No tell-tale ‘we’ve been’ notes on the doormat. Phew! Returned to the bedroom and  fluttered around, picking up socks and other articles of clothing, one at a time, and putting them into the wash basket.

11.30 a.m. Machine noise finished in the kitchen. Was it too early to have lunch? No. Heard that strange not-the-doorbell ring again. What was it?

It took me a while to figure out that it was a What’s App message from Tom, my son who’s not a child any more (although he does a mighty fine impression), informing me that he’s arriving at Bristol airport tomorrow at 5.

Tom: ‘Any chance of a lift?’

Me: ‘Of course.’

Tom: ‘i’m off to london at 8 that eve so will be a pretty quick turnaround – actually don’t  suppose i could ask another favour – would you be able to wash my pink shirt and the blue and white small checked one?’

*************************************

With the midwife’s words ‘rod for your own back‘ ringing in my ears (and that was when we took our first baby home ) I checked the front door and looked out of the window -all clear – before rushing upstairs to Tom’s room, a maelstrom of emotions and thoughts eddying around in my head.

‘Shouldn’t do it.’

‘Happy to help if I can.’

‘Is it good to make things too easy?’

‘He’s off to his girlfriend’s graduation, don’t want him to turn up looking a mess.’

‘But perhaps I’m not helping her – or him –  by doing his washing for him.’

‘But I have the time.’

‘He should have done this before he went away.’

‘He would do this for me.’

And that final point was the clincher, the one that if it didn’t erase all others, it certainly put them into perspective.

It wasn’t about gender inequality, and it certainly wasn’t all about point-scoring. As for his washing, I don’t ever do it, thus explaining the carpet of clothes on his bedroom floor while he’s staying with us (which makes me feel vaguely hypocritical to mention as I’ve just spent quite some time this morning trying to separate the pants from the shag-pile in my own room). Clearly, he rarely does it either. But that’s up to him. No, it was about helping out someone you love if you can. I love him and, trapped here in my own house with nothing to do but wait, I certainly could.

Now: Still waiting BUT the doorbell has just rung as  I’m putting Tom’s shirts into the washing machine! My wait could soon be over. Need to get Tom’s shirts in first. There. Done. It’s ringing again. For the second time.

‘Mrs Morgan? A delivery for you!’

It’s arrived. And as I close the door I reflect on what a great morning I’ve had.

And on all the jobs I’ll be able to get him to do when he does finally make it back home for a week or two.

Did I say that it wasn’t all about point-scoring? Well, it isn’t. Not completely…

Image result for gender inequality clipart

And as for gender inequality, worry not as I’m looking forward to re-dressing the balance and preparing him for the outside world.

He can do it. And he will!

 

A Bloomsbury-Inspired Frock for Friday

A Bloomsbury-Inspired Frock for Friday

I’m just off to the shops to buy the ingredients to make my Boeuf en Daube for Monday evening’s ‘Life in Squares’. But, it just occurred to me that it might be a pleasant idea to think of a Bloomsbury-inspired frock for this fine July morning.

Virginia Woolf in Deckchair by Vanessa Bell, 1912
Virginia Woolf in Deckchair by Vanessa Bell, 1912

Possibly too much for the end of July?

What about this one?

 

by Duncan Grant, oil on canvas, circa 1918
by Duncan Grant, oil on canvas, circa 1918

The sun may be out today but it’s not that hot.

Vanessa Bell by Roger Fry 1916
Vanessa Bell by Roger Fry 1916

But then I found this one. In this painting what seems to be the same dress looks perfectly decent to go out in on a sunny day. Long, floaty, cool. So, it might need a wrap to protect against the cold, but apart from that, it looks perfect.

And so remind me, which one did Vanessa Bell have a relationship with?

For more Bloomsbury pictures take a look at –

https://www.pinterest.com/source/thebloomsburygroup.tumblr.com/

 

International Food Party

International Food Parties – the ultimate indulgence

I’m teaching English at the moment to  Montse, a girl from Chile, and Clara, a girl from Italy, and last Friday we decided to host an International Food Party.

In case you haven’t heard of one before, and you can’t possibly work out what one is for yourself, let me enlighten you.

An International Food Party is a party where people from different countries get together and each brings a typical national dish to share.  A cultural, language, food exchange , it’s such an amazing ‘thing’ on so many levels. Apart from one. Or possibly two.

Montse chose to prepare ‘Calzones Rotos‘ and Clara opted for her favourite dish, ‘Gramignia con Salsiccia‘, neither of which I had tasted, let alone heard of, before.

And so, we bought the ingredients. Couldn’t get the gramignia for love nor money so, after much soul-searching  and concern that this would drastically change the essential nature of the dish, Clara went for serpentini.

And then the cooking fun began…

gramignia (Serpentini )con salsiccia
ingredients
  • 500g sausage
  • 1 pack gramignia
  • milk
  • 2 onions
  • parmesan
  • olive oil
Method

1  Finely chop 2 onions.IMG_2570[1]

2 Put in pan with olive oil and cook until soft.

3 Skin the sausages and add the sausage meat to the onions.

4 Stir until cooked.

5. Add the milk a little at a time.

IMG_2590[1]

6 Grate the parmesan and add to the sauce.

7 When you’ve made the sauce cook the pasta.

8 Add the pasta to the sauce.

IMG_2602[1]

Serve and add more grated parmesan.

The charming thing about this recipe is that Clara called her grandmother to get it.  And the reason that we have no amounts (other than for the sausage) is that Clara’s grandmother (and now Clara) cooks by taste and how it looks.

Great dish.

Next up, Montse’s  Calzones Rotos.

These are sweet pastries from Chile, called Calzones Rotos  because they were said to resemble the torn underwear of the pastry vendor who sold them. As a gust of wind  blew her skirt up so her customers thought her pastries looked not dissimilar in shape to her torn undergarments…

But how to make them? Let alone give them their distinctive shape.

Calzones Rotos. Challenging on oh so many levels. Not least because I don’t think Montse wanted to cook them at all… And so, just minutes before our guests arrived, Montse started to  make the dough for her dish. It was a case of all hands on deck (explaining the absence of photos).

The recipe : Calzones Rotos
ingredients
  • 500 g plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • zest of half a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • half a cup of milk
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • half a cup of melted margarine
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • icing sugar to dust when finished
method

1 Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, then add the sugar.

2 Add the 2 eggs, melted margarine, vanilla essence.

3 Make a dough.

4 Roll out and cut into strips.

5 Make a slit in each strip then twist (somehow).

6 Fry in hot vegetable oil until golden brown on each side. When cooked place on kitchen paper to remove excess oil.

7 Place on serving plate then dust with icing sugar.

Eat warm.

Montse did all this but after she added the wet ingredients the contents of her bowl looked very, very wrong. The dough looked less doughy and more wet cake mixture-y.

Too wet to roll.

We added more sugar. Then more flour. Then more sugar. Then more flour.

Roll time! By this time our guests had arrived with their food offerings.

As Montse created her works of pastry art, Clara and I swept up the sugar and flour that now covered the table…and floor.

10 very interesting dough shapes later and Montse was ready to fry (with enough dough left over to make at least another 20 …)

Fry Time

IMG_2605[1]The recipe said to fry for 3 seconds on each side but when Montse did this she had a floppy-sloppy mess which dripped back into the pan as soon as she tried to scoop it out.

So we took a leaf out of Clara’s cooking book, waiting until the fried pastry seemed done. Not an exact science, perhaps, and we did end up with quite a few burnt offerings, but overall we ended up with enough perfect calzones rotos to satisfy everyone.

Not sure if the calzones rotos looked like calzones rotos but they tasted sweet, lemony, with a lovely hint of vanilla.

 

IMG_2611[1]

Think we’re going to have to take up Sarah’s step-counting challenge…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proust Book Group Meeting 4 : Loss of Innocence

Proust Book Group Meeting 4 : Loss of Innocence

For our fourth Proust book group meeting we discussed the idea of ‘loss of innocence’ in Combray.

Proust
Proust

So, what did we come up with?

That Combray can be seen as an earthly paradise, a Garden of Eden, where the narrator encounters the world from the safety of his comfortable childhood. A before-the-fall world.

Yet all the reasons for the fall are in place: Combray contains within germ all that will unfold throughout the rest of the novel.

However, loss of innocence proved difficult to pin down, raising more questions than answers.

Is it in the anguish suffered for want of his mother’s goodnight kiss?

Or is it in seeing the fullness of individuals? Flaws and all?

  • Francoise, when the narrator sees her kill the chicken.
  • The actions of Mlle Vinteuil and her lover towards her father’s picture.
  • Meeting the woman in pink silk, so representative of women he would go on to meet, at his uncle Adolphe’s.
  • Seeing Mme de Guermantes in church at last, pimple and all.

Is it in the disappointment (or, sometimes, elation) at discovering that the world is not really as we think it is? And that people aren’t as we think they are?

  •  Legrandin
  •  Bloch
  •  Swann
  •  Gilberte.

When the narrator  refers to himself as Dante, and his father and  grandfather as  Virgil, leading him away from temptation on a Combray walk, is his childhood self longing to mix with a world that is  not quite within his reach?

Perhaps, as the narrator is, in the main, a passive observer in Combray. His loss of innocence is based less in act and more in observation, feeling and thought.

Is Combray where the narrator longs to return to recapture his innocence?

As you can see, we found this one tricky.

But isn’t it funny (or, perhaps, perfectly understandable), that when you re-read a passage you see something that you’d initially missed? And you see it oh so clearly!  Suddenly we heard Proust’s wit and humour everywhere.

And so it came as no surprise  when Connie wrote saying that this is exactly what had happened to her with  ‘loss of innocence’. (Click to read Connie’s post).

As for the paintings referred to in Combray I leave you with just one.                                 

gleyre                                          ‘Lost Illusions’   Gleyre

The key is in the title…

Next Book Group Meeting –  4

Thursday July 2nd
Next up –
‘une foule de vérités relatives aux passions, aux caractères, aux moeurs'(Proust). Discuss Combray in light of this description.

Still in ‘Combray’…

 

Healthy living: counting steps

steps

Just used Dropbox to access our latest post on Sarah’s mission to count steps and walk her way to health and happiness. Why? Because it takes an eternity to copy and paste and re-format Word documents into WordPress, that’s why. There must be an easier way!? And, at the moment, I’m up to my eyeballs cooking for an International Food Party and planning differentiated lessons. Just when I thought I’d finished with all that…

Dropbox? The result is not ideal, as you can see ( you have to click on ‘steps’ above which takes you to the piece) and so, when I get the time, I will copy, paste and re-format this post. Promise.

It’s a great piece so thank you Sarah!

 

 

Vintage Pledge 2

Vintage Pledge 2

Finished my second Vintage Pledge!

Just for now here are some old-fashioned roses and three pale pink fabric buttons… P1040918                                                                                                               …more later!

Off now to give it a test-drive while the sun is still shining.

 

Reading Proust : Japanese Paper flowers

Proust’s Japanese Paper flowers
By Connie

I liked Proust’s image of the past unfurling like paper flowers in water, and I’ve been trying to hunt some down online
Here’s a YouTube video showing you how to make the simple sort of unfolding flowers that I helped make once and we floated them in a large bowl of water at a Quaker wedding – very simple and lovely:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maixIicT6ww

But I also found this image:

proust flowers
– on, of all places,  http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.html?t=1308521
They’re very beautiful.
Were these the paper flowers Proust was thinking of?

The Kensington Arms

I went to the Kenny two weeks ago and since then it has experienced a serious fire. I wish it well and look forward to a swift resumption of its restaurant business which is one of Bristol’s finest.
The Kensington Arms
‘Why don’t you ALL come and stay with me in Bristol next time we meet up,’  I slurred drunkenly after a weekend away 6 months ago with 5 old friends in London. ‘Never been to Bristol? It’s AMAZING! We’ll have a GREAT time. Foodie heaven. We can walk to lots of really good places to eat! Lots going on. No place like it…’
And so I sealed my fate.  6 months later had arrived. And I didn’t have a clue what to do with them. Me and my big drunken mouth!
First on my list of things to do was book a restaurant for the Saturday night. ‘Foodie heaven’, I’d boasted. So many places to walk to. Suddenly all the perfectly pleasant places that I’d boasted about didn’t seem that celestial after all.
Then it came to me. The Kensington Arms.

I’ve always loved The Kensington Arms!  Time to reacquaint myself with this gem of a gastropub nestling in the heart of residential Redland.

On the corner of Stanley Road, BS6 6NP
On the corner of Stanley Road, BS6 6NP

As we entered I knew that I’d chosen the right place. So far, so good. The atmosphere was busy, buzzy and relaxed. Stylishly lively.

As for the menu, it was sophisticated and accessible with two vegetarian starters and two vegetarian mains. IMG_1182[1]In the unlikely event of nothing taking your fancy on this menu you could also have chosen from the bar menu.

The starters were presented beautifully and apart from a fulsome ‘delicious’ here and a  ‘so good’ there, the silence that accompanies appreciative enjoyment reigned (at least at our table for a while) while we ate them.

The starters

The mains

Again, these were ‘so good’.

I went for the spring chicken (after having ascertained that pied-de-bleu is a type of cheese). It was, again, ‘delicious’ – a wholly inadequate description for what the dish tasted like.  Suffice to say, it had a depth and richness that demanded that I savour every mouthful. And I did.

No space for pudding. But we agreed to look at the menu just to be polite.

IMG_1206[1]

Resistance was futile! We caved in within minutes…

The desserts

My photos don’t do them justice.  But believe me when I say that they looked beautiful and tasted divine (we each had a spoonful of one anothers).

It only seemed right to try the cheese too. I went for the ‘fourme d’Ambert’ , a French blue.

IMG_1214[1]Creamy and tangy, it was a wonderful end to a  great meal. Although, as I looked bleary-eyed at the end of the table, I was greedily jealous of Martin’s three cheese extravaganza.

At the end of the evening I was so pleased. So pleased that we had gone to the Kensington Arms and tasted a bit of foodie heaven. And so pleased that I’d chosen the Kenny to represent all the boasts I’d made for Bristol!

But, sometimes I find fulsome praise food reviews not altogether helpful. I mean, when would the Kensington Arms not be ideal? And what could it do to be even better?

Not suitable for: I once took a friend to the Kensington Arms for her birthday. I chose it because of the food. I didn’t even take into account the fact that she is hard of hearing. The Kensington Arms is ‘buzzy’, ‘lively’. Noisy. And so not ideal for those who prefer a quiet meal out. When I’m looking for a place to go I like to know how appropriate it will be for the occasion and the people with whom I’m going.  I love the Kenny but it’s not perfect for everyone. If you’re planning on taking someone who prefers a quiet meal out then this might not be for you.

Could do better: the service was fine. But I’ve eaten out a lot recently and the friendliness of the waiting staff can make food that’s ok seem great, and render food that’s great a little bitter. For a place that does food as wonderful as the food at the Kenny it could up its service game a little and earn even greater plaudits. It deserves them.

The Kensington Arms    FACTFILE

The Kensington Arms 35-37 Stanley Road Redland Bristol BS6 6NP tel: 0117 944 6444
For more information e-mail – email: info@thekensingtonarms.co.uk

Kitchen opening times:     Monday to Friday: 12-3 / 6-10    Saturday: 10-3 / 6-10      Sunday 12-4 / 6-9

Bristol Good food award winners ‘Best Pub Food’ 2012, 2013 & 2014

Affectionately known as ‘The Kenny’

Sewing List

Harry received the cake-and-bunting parcel on his birthday. Phew! And now, I’m free to sew.

The ‘to sew’ list is getting longer and so I need to crack on.

Top of my list is

1. to  help a friend to sew the top that she’s been ‘poised’ to do  for the past two years. She WILL finish it. Then,

2. to sew my favourite V8555 Vogue dress pattern in black and white gingham (tomorrow?).

3. to decide on my next Sew Arty Challenge (inspired by the work of Frida Kahlo).

4. to make a Vintage dress or two (I’ve made a #VintagePledge).

As my friend could turn up at any moment I’ve got to dash and de-pin the living room. Ouch!

Wish us luck!