Saturday, November 27, 2010

Snow in Darkest Wiltshire!!!

Yes it's snowing here - despite the confident predictions of the Met Office which shows just how much THEY know - NOT!!!! About a couple of inches and nothing that would really get in the way of shopping or the usual weekend activities but all week the local forecaster has been saying we won't see any snow till the middle of next week!!! Of course Brits being what they are there will be panic-buying at sight of the first few innocent flakes, bread and milk will fly off the shelves only to end up in dumpsters a few days later and before anyone jumps on me about this I've seen it happen SOOOO many times - so there!!!! And anyway this is my Big Sis's blog and my post - if you don't want to read, go somewhere else!!!! Yes you can tell I'm just a tad ticked this morning . . . I've had a doozy of a cold and lost my voice only to find from a lady I see regularly at the grocery store that it was allegedly a bad batch of flu vaccine from my local surgery that is the culprit!!!!! She was telling me she and a whole gob of other folks had flu jabs the same time I did and ALL - without exception!!! - have had similar symptoms to me!!! It seems I've got off lightly as loads of others had upset stomachs as well!!!! Talk about the NHS saving money by allegedly using an outdated vaccine batch. Quite honestly if you get sick in this country the medical profession are just as likely to misdiagnose or give you the wrong drugs!!!! A friend's mother-in-law has pancreatic cancer and the consultant missed the not insignificant fact that her blood sugar might be way up as her pancreas had stopped working properly - DUH!!!!! My father used to say he'd be happy to be treated by our cats' vet who was a nice man, very down-to-earth and knowledgeable with bags of common sense. Ho hum!!!!! On a brighter note I've got a pot of onion soup simmering on the hob and the barrista in our local Starbucks gave me a freebie this morning - I went in for a very nice cafe mocha and bought some of their jasmine-orange teabags and got a free teabag to try later today!!!! OK it may be a small thing but nonetheless it was kind and she didn't have to do that!!!! The girls in there are always bright and cheerful which is saying something given some of the miserable types that show up for coffee and yes I have served the public having done bar work some years ago and I know what it's like!!!! I sat in the window watching the market stallholders setting up and reflected that in small towns across the UK the weekly market has been the same down the centuries - just the wares have changed!!!! It's also comforting to reflect that Starbucks is at O'Hare Airport and I pass it every time I head to my connecting flight to visit my Big Sis although I have to say the Starbucks at the entrance to the G concourse is better than the one in the food court on the K concourse - much friendlier staff!!!! Why that should be I have no idea!!! White Star is almost done and I'm on the last half page - WHEEEEEEEE!!!!! Giverny is next up and is sat on my craft table next to my stitch frame all ready!!! I hope everyone stays warm today both sides of the pond and my US readers aren't suffering too much from a surfeit of turkey!!!! Happy Stitching!!!!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Grey November Afternoon . . .

It's a grey November day here in the UK and I think folks are sweeping up after the high winds earlier in the week!!!! Fortunately where I am there was minimum damage for which I am very thankful!!! Still it wasn't fun driving to work on the freeway and my little car sure was buffeted about by the wind - not to mention the idiot drivers (mostly male!!!!) who seem to think they can whizz by at 96,000,000 mph in treacherous wet conditions . . . !!!! It's a cold grey November day too where my Big Sis is and I think it's crumpet weather all round!!! All very conducive to stitching in a warm cozy living room, something good on tv and something good baking in the oven!!! Today it's roast chicken with good old mash, gravy, buttered carrots and savoy cabbage - may seem pedestrian to some but it does me all right. With my Big Sis's patented apple salad for dessert - crisp slices of Cox apples mixed with dried cranberries and either pecans or walnuts then bound with either plain yoghurt or creme fraiche - this is a cheeringly YUMMMM meal. I've watched a few of the Nigella Kitchen episodes but I don't really take to her style, being more of a Delia Smith/Ina Garten cook with just a dash of Jamie Oliver!!!! I'm happy to watch Michael C on the Food Network when I'm visiting my Big Sis as well as Giada (although she does harp on about chocolate a tad too much!!!!) but that Robin Miller can be a tad scary but just my two cents!!!! When cooking for my Big Sis I have a tendency to say things are "gettin' happy" in the pan which means I've been watching too much Emeril!!!!! White Star is almost finished now and I can't wait for my Big Sis to see this then we have to decide what kind of frame it will look best in - whatever, it will be BIG!!!! I think more folks should stitch - it gets rid of a shedload of stress and you have something decorative at the end of it and a sense of achievement. Happy stitching to all the stitchers out there - we need more of you!!!!!!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

It's Been A While . . .

Yes it's been a while since I posted in July following a trip to The Courts Gardens in the Summer sunshine!!!! Real life has a habit of getting in the way, as does work, although I know Big Sis and I are truly grateful to have jobs and for everything that we do have between us. The UK seems gripped by a somewhat grim mood which I can only describe as something approaching wartime, and this is from what my parents told me of that time when of necessity austerity ruled and "make do and mend" was one of the key phrases, as was "Keep calm and carry on". Yes, there were actually posters of that phrase put up in public places at that time!!! The old skills of utilising leftovers in the food line and minimising waste as well as making over where clothes and other things are concerned are being rediscovered and in some cases hailed as new ideas . . . these are skills my grandma and Mom had and passed down to me; likewise my Big Sis was raised the same way. Just my observations and not meant in a patronising way to anyone at all. On the happy side Big Sis and I had a wonderful vacation recently and as usual crammed in a whole lot each day, as well as stitching, hanging out and laughing, movies and food!!!! I think I trucked back half her local grocery store in my luggage and of course brought out with me a whole Waitrose bag full of crumpets for her freezer!!!! Yes I'm sure some online import stores carry crumpets but at an exorbitant cost and at least she gets them fresh from my local Sainsbury's where the bakery manager is intrigued that some of his stock finds its way across the pond!!!!! And as usual on the flights to/from the US, there were the usual number of idiots trying to bring on luggage as carryon then wondering why there wasn't space in the overhead bins!!!!! There's me with my regulation size carryon and personal item (crumpet-stuffed Waitrose bag) all stowed, watching folks get tied in knots then having to give up their bags to be valet-checked - and this is at Heathrow!!!!! It's selfish and wastes valuable time - as it was the plane was 10 mins late pushing back from the gate because of these idiots but of course the airline should enforce the carryon size rule . . . !!!! I know folks are trying to avoid the extra bag charges but come ON!!!!! Get real!!!! OK, rant over!!!!! I got to and from safely and reunited with my luggage which, after all, is the whole point!!!! AND I got a second breakfast too as the outward flight was only half full . . . the airline sure didn't make any profit on me that day!!!!! But then a couple of days after returning, I had to invest in a new cooker or stove as the element blew in my old one. This was NOT cool as it was a Belling and in the UK this is supposed to be a good make but hey what do I know. My friendly electrician sucked his teeth wisely and even though it was only six years old we agreed it would make more sense to bite the bullet and get a new one as parts for these are not readily available over here and labor costs high. I am now the proud owner of a new cooker to be wired in tomorrow evening. There's never a good time to buy high-ticket items but I'm grateful I am in a position to be able to do that. And from what the delivery guys said my old one can be "reconditioned" by the store in some way and reused. Next weekend I plan on making chicken & mushroom pie from scratch in my new pie dish to christian my new cooker!!!!! However today is StitchAlong Sunday and I'm pleased to say White Star is almost finished now - I'm on the last row GO ME!!!!! Happy stitching!!!!!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

High Summer II

Now this post and the previous one show pix of my visit to the Courts Gardens today. You can see the scarecrow in the veggie patch and the display of wonderful desserts in the tearooms there!!!! Here too are pix of my strawberry mousse and amaretti gateau that we had after YUMMMM ham with old fashioned English garden salad, homemade coleslaw and new potatoes. It's High Summer now or Dog Days which last until August 11. Everything pauses now, quietly ripening in the hot sun. Now we are past Midsummer, the days are starting to draw in, albeit imperceptibly, but already it's darker in the mornings now. The Courts Gardens are all betwixt and between like all gardens, big or small, in the UK and we saw tall hollyhocks their blooms like colorful floppy cotton skirts, as well as a raft of other old fashioned country garden flowers and shrubs. There were quite a few folks visiting today as well as a lady artist who had her work on display and was painting in a shady corner. The waterlily looked just gorgeous and the sound of the water spilling into the pool was very cooling. We saw a Bat Evening advertised for next week when a bat expert would talk visitors through the bats they would see in the twilight with the tearooms laying on nibbles and fruit juice cocktails. The gardens were very peaceful even with more folks walking around and we could have stretched out in the shade and slept off our full tummies!!!! My stitch frame is wonderful and I'm making good progress with White Star now. Giverny is kitted up as the next project and I can't wait to see White Star framed!!!! Meals for the coming week will be based around nice lamb leg steaks baked in pear cider with some sweet onions, redcurrant jelly, seasoning and thyme along with mashed potatoes, runner beans and gravy. I have a couple of pints of English raspberries for desserts along with some thick Jersey cream as a treat!! Happy Stitching folks!!!!

High Summer

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Stitch Frame!!!!!

At last I've assembled my wonderful stitching floor stand (thanks to Hearthside Crafts in Canada and my family LOL!!!!) and White Star is on the scroll rods!!!!! It sure makes a difference as it was getting very heavy to hold on the Qsnaps. I'm still waiting for my recliner to be delivered and have a little chair to use right now. The recliner will go right next to the armchair and I just won't know myself!!!! I have to say when assembling the floor stand you do need two people so that you can hold the pieces properly and get them flush with each other before tightening the screws, etc. But otherwise it was a breeze!!!! I have a tiny apartment (someone once called it a bijou shoebox!!!) but that's OK - less to clean and more time for stitching!!!!!! Here in this part of the UK it's sunny with a few clouds but a chilly breeze!!! I know my Big Sis's weather has been hot and humid - they had lots of rain recently and standing water gives rise to mozzies - EEEEEKKK!!!! While we have a few of these pesky critters over here, nothing like what other places have. Yesterday I made my version of my Big Sis's cherry chicken in the crockpot . . . skinless boned chicken thighs diced along with half a can of pitted morello cherries and a handful of dried sour cherries. To this I added a packet of dried onion soup mix and about half a pint of chicken stock along with a little seasoning and a pinch of dried thyme. This was YUMMMM although I wouldn't use canned cherries again. I put runner beans with it and of course mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, noodles, couscous or rice would go very well!!!! Today is Little Sis's burger day . . . good quality beefburgers with thick grilled onion slices on toasted buns with lettuce, tomato, cucumber and good blue cheese mayo and nice burger relish or pickle (although I know "pickle" in the US means dill pickle or sweet pickles which are something different to UK relish). Some nice seasoned oven fries will go very well too!!! I wish we could get wonderful two-tone fresh corn that I've had when visiting my Big Sis - all we get in the UK is yellow corn which is tough and not very sweet even when bought from a farmstand!!! Big Sis thinks this is just field corn and we're being shortchanged!!!! The caramel macchiatto creamer I brought back has all gone now but I'll be bringing double back in September now that I know it survives the trip!!!! Right now it's back to my stitching frame - happy stitching everyone!!!!!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

An Overdue Update

Yes I know it's been a while since I posted but I was kind of busy with a much-needed vacation with my Big Sis then recovering from the jetlag on my return AND having to head back to work!!! We're on countdown for September now and in the meantime I thought I'd update with some food items. First up is the pic of turkey lasagne - nice lean ground turkey quickly sauteed with red onion then mixed with some rather good tomato-chianti pasta sauce then layered up with pasta sheets and store-bought
three-cheese sauce to which I added some extra ricotta then the whole lot dusted with parm. It sure smells good in my kitchen!!!! I also tried out a bean & tomato salad from the Eating Well mag/site. This should really be made with heirloom tomatoes but I had to make do with good quality grocery store ones - slice up the tomatoes, mixed with blanched green beans and add a drained can of whatever beans you like if you want along with thinly sliced halfmoons of red onion. Whisk up some cyder vinegar, runny honey and a little olive oil and seasoning, pour over and chill and run it up the flagpole!!!! As I like beets (Big Sis doesn't) I made a beet salad with toasted pecans and crumbled soft goat cheese with just a drizzle of sweet aged balsamic dressing. Again this should really be made with yellow and red beets but all my store had today were red but it sur tastes YUMMM!!!! *drum roll please - DRRRRRRR!!!!* Now I am VERY happy to announce I am now the proud owner of a crossstitch floor stand - GO ME!!!!! This is the same as the one Big Sis has and I've hummed and haaaed about getting one for the last year or so. It's from Hearthside Crafts (thanks to John and Helen) who are based in Canada and is handmade, designed to fit over a recliner chair. Delivery was extremely quick given that it was from Canada and I'm just waiting for the recliner I bought to be delivered then it will be fitted together and away I'll go. This will be brilliant for White Star as this project is getting very heavy now on a Qsnap. Of course I hope the recliner isn't too comfortable else I might be tempted to snooze instead of stitch!!!!!! I hope wherever you are the sun is shining and you're enjoying a well-deserved restful weekend - happy stitching!!!!!