Sunday, 28 February 2010
....yes, I know what you're thinking......that's news???
Well, not exactly, but my hairdresser is located exactly one hour and forty five minutes drive from my house....and no, it's not some swanky salon in Mayfair, it's a little village three man band in deepest Hampshire.
Where is she going with this I can hear you asking.....the truth is I think that slowly but surely I'm turning into my mother (happy birthday Mum by the way, I wish so much you were still around to join me for a celebration lunch or raise a glass with & I miss you every day)....When I was somewhat younger my mother had some habitual things she did which to me, seemed a bit 'odd' (I don't think she ever drove nearly two hours to the hairdresser though). I do recall now as I replace, one by one, every cup or mug I have in the house with others of the finest bone china, her telling me that she couldn't possibly drink tea from anything other than fine china as it didn't taste the same....
I remember chiding her in the same voice I now hear in my G.G's e-mails, text messages or on the other end of a phone.....
Do we eventually all develop at least some of our mother's habits which drove us crazy when we were growing up? Or am I just too mean to pay London prices to get my hair done? Have a happy week everyone........s
Tuesday, 23 February 2010
Monday, 22 February 2010
When we came over for extended visits and stayed in houses where one was installed, we marvelled at the flexibility of these cumbersome objects - not only cooker but hot water heater, clothes drier, plate warmer, take the edge off cold shoes and boots gadget, cat, dog and human bottom warmer & a myriad other things besides!
Now I should tell you at this point that I absolutely love the AGA and wouldn't want to be without one....ever....it's like any other new relationship - it just takes a bit of getting to know each other and being aware of maybe a few little foibles and quirks...Once you've got that all under your belt, it's plain sailing.....until baking day anyway.....If I were putting in a new AGA I would definitely opt for the version which has a dedicated baking oven. Alternatively, you can have a conventional oven for baking only and do everything else in the AGA. The AGA shines when it comes to roasting & simmering - the bottom 'slow' oven is just terrific for cooking casseroles (brought to a simmer first on the hot hob) and rice is a doddle - bring to a simmer, put into the simmering oven and leave until needed (within reason)! Ah, that brings me to another point...because of the way the AGA is constructed, there is no smell emanating when you are cooking...AGA actually maufacture a magnet which reads 'I'm Cooking' - you stick it on whichever oven is in use and (apparently!) it reminds you! I've lost track of the number of times LAB has gone to put something in the roasting/grilling oven and found some pieces of charcoal left from the night before....luckily, nothing seems to combust, it just turns black (though I'd better not speak too soon)....
How about this from Emma Bridgewater?
And finally, some wonderful kitchens built around the heart of the whole house, the AGA....
I just put this pic in to show you - if you don't have a rack above it, you can buy an airer which sits across and does the job wonderfully (no scorch marks!!!)
This is a large four oven version with extra gas hob to the side:
This one a completely different look - large four oven version again and with additional hob at the side but not the traditional AGA look at all...just shows you can put them into any setting and they still look at home....
This is the version which I have & probably the look I prefer - I love the warmth of the textures - terracotta & wood...
Another completely different take:
I like this look too - clean & uncluttered with the warmth of the red AGA at the centre:
Friday, 19 February 2010
Wednesday, 17 February 2010
I am going to own up right here to my secret guilty pleasure - I have two copies of this book, one lives on the kitchen dresser and the other on (or very near) my bedside table...
I love this book, I probably know it off by heart such is the extent of my devotion. I like her and I like all her books, I probably just like the one she did before the publishers and T.V producers pounced a bit more....but as Nigella says:
There are those who will argue that the original Domestic Goddess was writing serious books about food and cooking long before Nigella was even a twinkle in her father's eye (Did Nigel Lawson ever have a twinkle in his eye, it's difficult to imagine....) I digress.....Elizabeth David published her first book, Mediterranean Food, in 1950....when olive oil was something you bought at Boots the chemist and Britain was in a post war slump. Can you imagine? Recipes for octopus & bouillabaise when the jaded workers of post-war Britain were coming home to a stew of vegetables covered in white sauce (made with margarine). I think a lot of her appeal was that she was writing of exotic places and exotic flavours...her lifestyle in France, Italy, Egypt and the Greek Islands a whole world away from grey provincial England where bananas were a rarity.
Tuesday, 16 February 2010
Apologies for leaving my task uncompleted but I just wanted to let her know that I appreciate this and all that she does......s
Monday, 15 February 2010
"Robust, wise, light but never flippant...unspeakably moving. You leave it with a strengthened sense of what families are: hostages to fortune, doorways to the worst grief and yet a rough, undesigned shelter from it. Few writers have so well described the solid nourishment of family life. She deserves a medal."
Her latest autobiographical offering 'My Life as A Wife - Love, Liquor and what to do about the Other Women' documents her marriage to the charismatic, charming Nicholas Luard who, when she first met him, was the proprietor of Private Eye. Unfortunately for Elisabeth, he was also a philanderer and eventually, an alcoholic.
Sunday, 14 February 2010
It charts the meeting (in Ireland) of Tamasin Day-Lewis with the man in her life, who just happens to live and work in New York and their subsequent travels and adventures involving food. It's not just a travelogue with recipes ...& it's much more than a memoir....She is a serious food writer and has a catalogue of titles to her name including 'Art of the Tart', 'Tamasin's Kitchen Bible', 'All You Can Eat', 'Supper for a Song' & many more...She has appeared in several T.V. series and I have to admit, when I first watched her on T.V I wasn't too keen....but like a lot of other things, she has grown on me!
The one thing she has in common with some of my other favourite food writers (more about them later!) is her illustrious background - her brother is the actor Daniel and her father was the Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis (who famously had an affair with Tamasin's godmother the acclaimed author Elizabeth Jane Howard, amongst others). The aforesaid E.J.H (who was married to Kingsley Amis - are you keeping up?) shown below with Tamasin as a baby and the rest of the family, is credited with contributing to Tamasin's culinary education when the whole family decamped to 'Lemmons' the Howard/Amis home in Hertfordshire when it became clear that Tamasin's father was dying. Tamasin describes how the atmosphere in the family home at Greenwich was changed and gloomy and she thought that E.J.H, although loving Cecil in a different way by this time, was keen for him to die in a graceful and convivial atmosphere. Tamasin became her 'jobber and chopper' as she calls it.
Friday, 12 February 2010
And the Spring (yes, Spring!! It's coming!) magazine:
I love this organisation - you can join for a reasonable subscription which then gives you access to all the properties managed by the Trust (as many visits as you like to any/all of them) together with free parking (they send you a sticker for your car). The N.T is a registered charity, founded in 1895, to 'look after places of historic interest or natural beauty permanently for the benefit of the nation across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.'
Thursday, 11 February 2010
Tuesday, 9 February 2010
This is escapist fluff, pure and simple, but it's given a huge boost by some deliciously funny scripting from writer-director Nancy Meyers and a trio of ace lead performances. Meryl's back in Mamma Mia mode - which is a very good thing - and her character is brilliantly tailored to the film's 30 plus female target audience. This woman is the uber-nurturer. Show up at her front door looking vaguely peckish and she'll roast you a chicken and whip up a flan before you can take your shoes off. Alec has the rascal act down pat without coming across as a sleazebag or pathetic. It's not clever, it's CERTAINLY not complicated but like chocolate fudge cake, it's a seriously guilty pleasure."
Sunday, 7 February 2010
I cannot believe this is the end of the first week of February - I am so late finishing this! Unfortunately I mislaid my happy hat & have been wearing my displaced mother one for a short while but now I have found it, I can finish this (with apologies to Jackie @ home for my tardiness).
This is my (current!) list (which hasn't really changed in the last few weeks) of 10 things which make me happy:
1. Plane trips......I love destinations too but there's a lot to be said for the journey..
2. White 1000 thread count sheets on my bed...... (sorry to be so pedantic but there it is)! I once stayed at a resort in Borneo where they had 1000 thread sheets on the biggest, ultra-comfy bed, washed until soft as butter and ironed beautifully. They were changed every day (and not by me, thankfully!) Utter, utter, bliss...
3. Pedicures......as often as can be reasonably justified....makes you feel like a new woman..
4. Walking into the kitchen every morning and being greeted by a shiny red AGA......ready and waiting with ovens hot to bake, dry washing over or just provide a little homely warmth on a cold day.....happy, happy...
5. The smell of clean laundry.....
6. Squishing the tops of my three month old grandaughter's legs.....
7. A starry sky on a clear night.....
8. The Gisele Bundchens of the chicken world who belong to my neighbour Diana - they are magnificent to behold and provide us with the most delicious eggs I've ever tasted.....
9. Running a deep bath, hot and bubbly, lighting candles & listening to Tchaikovsky's violin concerto.....
10. Last, but not least, (I could go on for quite a bit longer)! Waking up every day next to the kindest, sweetest, most patient, lovely aussie bloke in the entire world.....
Hope you all had a wonderful weekend and did lots of happy things..........s
Saturday, 6 February 2010
I have had the pleasure of eating at one of our favourite local places twice in the last few days - firstly with RR last weekend and then lunch with girlfriends later in the week....this lovely little restaurant is not actually, as it's name suggests, in Bath's Circus but just off it....it's a little way off the 'tourist trail' and I just love it. When we first moved from Sydney we were desperately missing our favourite places but have had the (time consuming!) joy of discovering new ones! This is a little Cafe/Restaurant which serves lunch & dinner but also has a 'day menu' consisting of 'Elevenses' (10 am to 12 midday) and 'Tea' (3pm - 5pm). We were inundated with horror stories of what we would find when we arrived in the UK (basically, nothing except fish & chips!) but have been constantly surprised and delighted to find that's totally untrue....
In warm weather they have tables outside on the pavement and there is always a beautiful display just inside the door of whatever is in season (a profusion of daffodils this week)...
Yes, we have seen our fair share of 'over-chintzed, under-whelming' pubs serving the ubiquitous F & C, pie & chips, ham, egg & chips etc. but there are also lots of gorgeous little places like this one, flying the flag for the fabulous produce available here.
This is their Valentine's Day menu (hopefully you can read it!) I can vouch for the roasted duck from Bittescombe Farm in Somerset. It's boned, wrapped in a leaf parcel with spring onions and served with a plum, sesame and hoisin sauce...it's absolutely to die for! RR had chosen the kedgeree which was also scrummy...(If you're not familiar with it, it's a curried smoked fish dish, a sort of risotto, which hails from the days of the British Raj).
The menu changes every month and is always showcasing whatever is best and in season. On the lunch menu, they currently have a gorgeous crab bisque using crab from South Devon (I can vouch for that too! Oh dear, it looks as if I'm working my way through the entire menu.....!) They always have seasonal fish which is line-caught by boats sailing out of Beesands in Devon and St. Ives in Cornwall and delivered overnight. They also always have a 'cheese of the month'. This month it's Stichelton, an unpasteurised blue cow's milk cheese which comes from the Welbeck estate in Nottinghamshire. What I really like is that everything possible is locally sourced including the bread which comes from the Hobbs House Bakery based near Highgrove (where Charles & Camilla live - wonder if it gets delivered there?..) in Gloucestershire. Can't wait until next time!..........s
Wednesday, 3 February 2010
A few days later, I was in a wine bar (think The Star & Garter rather than The Library at the Lanesborough....) & was appalled to see some horrid little glass containers on the tables containing candles with, what else, coffee beans......so now I'm having a rethink......they do go rather well with the brown leather chairs though.....maybe if I don't tell anyone....? What do you think?
Monday, 1 February 2010
Not a cloud in the sky:
As we walked along the path which crosses the park in front of the Royal Crescent (above & middle) we started thinking what this beautiful city would have looked like during the Georgian rennaissance in the 18th century - the elder John Wood designed the facade of the buildings which comprise the Royal Crescent but, apparently, each purchaser bought a length of the outer facade and then hired his or her own artchitect to design the living space behind it. Consequently, what looks uniform from the front is actually not so.....the Georgian equivalent of a new build suburb in fact! Bizarre when you look at the city now in it's faded palladian honey-stoned mellowness.....