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Archive Entries for April 2007

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Tuesday April 24, 2007

George's World Famous Chicken Risotto


Errr - that's "world famous" as in the American sense.

I am authorised to add the recipe here, which may not be reproduced in any but an edible form, and even that not for profit.... © George 2007

Ingredients for two.

  • Fry a small finely chopped onion with some finely chopped mushrooms in olive oil.
  • Add cooked chicken (sufficient for 2 - whatever your taste).
  • Add 2 handfuls of risotto (short grained) rice; fry and stir for a few minutes to coat with oil.
  • Add chicken stock (lovingly home-prepared previously by someone else). This should be approximately twice the volume of the rice you used, which will be half a pint of stock (that's 10 fluid ounces, you Americans, not eight).
  • At this point you add any herbs (I like tarragon), seasoning, and - the secret ingredient - which I am not authorised to reveal.
  • Cook with a lid for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Towards the end of the cooking time, add half a small tin of Jolly Green Giant sweetcorn niblets.
  • Serve with parmesan cheese to accompanying applause.

Posted on April 24, 2007 at 9:12 PM. Category: Kitchen and food.

Saturday April 21, 2007

Passenger pigeon passing through

Actually I think it may have been wood pigeon, (I got a really good view of its bottom), and it was passing through our chimney.
We heard scrabbling early this morning coming from the attic and, being unable to find anything, opened the window in case a bird had got in - we have had a number of wrens in the house in the past. I thought no more about it.

I spent all day at the Creative Fibres meeting: Sandy was making a fantastic PC bag cover in split ply braid work [thinks: must try this at home], Jennifer and Sharron were weaving (completing a workshop item); Norma - new member - was starting on her Inkle loom work; Betty and Amanda were drop spindle spinning; Iris, Brenda, and the precocious child Charlie were spinning; Wendy was completing her beaded bag workshop purse from last year; and I took my knitting.

This evening I found a load of chimney debris in the spare room, and shortly afterwards, I realised that whatever it was making the noise and creating the soot fall, was still in there and could not get out. So George prized the hardboard cover away from the fireplace - to reveal: nothing. On peering up the chimney with a torch we could see the pigeon perched on a ledge about a foot or two away - well I could see a grey bottom poking over the edge. George then tried the feather duster treatment:



...and it fell down a couple of times (see right: smudgy view of soot falling and possibly a pigeon foot), but despite slithering on the sloping chimney back, it kept flying back up to the ledge.
In the end we left the room with the window open and I hope it has gone away. [Failing all else, if it pegs out, it will no doubt fall down.....]

Posted on April 21, 2007 at 10:35 PM. Category: Oddments and stray thoughts.

Friday April 20, 2007

April Showers

We are finally having work done on the house to renovate our bathroom and plumbing system.

plumbing.jpgWe have started with the latter, which involved the plumber (Gordon) doing all the basic new pipework and installation of a new water tank in the attic, giving us more space in the bathroom. In the interim, the bathroom is left looking like a building site, with a hole in the ceiling through to the attic, and all the pipework (old and new) on full display.
Gordon had the unenviable task of trying to work round all my stuff in the attic. When I laid the wooden floor up there, I left a lot of the boards unglued to allow access to the pipework. What none of us understood properly was the exact location of the bathroom relative to the attic; consequently, Gordon had ripped up a large part of the floor. To his credit he has done it very neatly as it is really hard to pull that stuff apart. However he does keep saying cheerfully: "I expect you'll want to put a whole new floor down" - to the extent that I want to bop him on the nose.
Gordon started work while we were in France and is finished now; the next step is for the plumber (Phil) to install the new bathroom....

Just a minor detail.

Posted on April 20, 2007 at 7:13 AM. Category: Oddments and stray thoughts.

Sunday April 15, 2007

"Plus je vois l'homme, plus j'aimie mon chien" Pascal

I realised the dogs hadn't got many column inches so far, so here is a charming sequence which is fully representative of any interaction with them. Tilly (whom you know already) is in her prime - bonkers, lovable, charming, anxious to please, and moves like lightening. Borg (Lloyd's dog) is also in his prime, but, shall we say, not quite as fast as he used to be; however he has an excellent eye for the ball, and a lot of grey cells up top where it counts.

Loading image. Please wait
Pick up the ball...
["What's he up to?"]
Pay attention... ["Is he talking to us?"]
Pay close attention... ["What's he saying?"]
Wait for it... ["No idea"]
Fetch! ["What? Good grief, I think he's dropped that ball"]
["It's OK, Tilly, I've got it"]
["OK, now don't lose it again..."]

Posted on April 15, 2007 at 3:33 PM. Category: France.

Saturday April 14, 2007

"And it soft as silk remains"

So here is the state of play at the Raspberry Bed. George has finished digging in the retaining boards (all his own invention), and I have removed the weeds.


You were quite right about the helpfulness of that Little Cat. She was utterly exhausted after all that effort with those weeds. Even this morning she was out there, scraping away around the edges of the bed, not content that I had completely uprooted all those nettles. [At least I think that's what she was doing...]


Later on in the afternoon she felt up to a little bird-watching.


Posted on April 14, 2007 at 6:51 PM. Category: France.

Monday April 9, 2007

"Grasp it like a man of mettle"

I spent an idyllic Easter Monday, knitting another pair of fetching mittens.

These are for Ava. I have used a Rowan tweed aran wool in grey - not exactly funky but she did express a liking for "grey and earth tones" - and I thought it might be a practical colour for one who works on the land, as opposed to the eau de nil colour, in which I knitted a pair for Diane.

The weather has been simply fabulous since we've been here and there has been lots of gardening. I am pleased to note that it took me no time at all to weed the beds and generally tidy the garden. I am hoping this is a sign of persistence rewarded (previous bouts of weeding, I mean).

My current task is pulling all the nettles out of the raspberry canes. It's very satisfying work; the nettles are very old with huge thick roots, so you just have to loosen the soil and carefully tug them up, but you get stung a lot as well (despite leather gauntlets, thick trousers, and Wellington boots). The roots go for yards - right out into the grass - and of course, there is no hope of removing every last piece, which is really what's required, but I have had a lot of success with another area of the garden and expect to be able to eradicate them from the raspberries as well. It is hopeless leaving them, as it makes picking the raspberries impossible without serious nettle rash. As a Desk Johnny I find this exercise back breaking so am doing a little at a time; however I may need to accelerate my timetable as I think the weather is turning. The nettle story so far:

The scrapings are where I have removed nettles. The very pale green bits nearest the camera are the raspberries - the rest is still nettles.

Posted on April 9, 2007 at 9:25 PM. Category: France.

Sunday April 8, 2007

Easter Day

We ate eggs and enjoyed the garden. The weather is lovely and I am delighted that we are here in time to appreciate the tulips - some of which I planted.

Little Cat is doing well - more kittens on the way I'm afraid - Lloyd, our new neighbour is feeding her along with his two cats. In fact, with the two dogs, we are "all animalled out" as George puts it.
Here she is, on the left, having chased Tuna up a tree; all three cats share Lloyd's garden just fine but our garden is apparently Little Cat territory and Tuna is not allowed.
"The Cat with No Name".

Here are the tulips:

Posted on April 8, 2007 at 9:32 PM. Category: France.

Saturday April 7, 2007


We went to Avranches to the market to buy some fresh fruit and vegetables....

..and some Teurgeule (rice pudding)...

....and here is "Chicken Man" - but we did not buy anything from him today...
(who is that handsome chap in the background?).

So we went to Avranches for the market....

...and so that I could visit the Phildar wool shop and buy some Coton No 4 to make another "Short and Sweet" shrug from the Happy Hooker. In fact, I went to get some for George's Mother to make her said shrug for her birthday in June, (she was very keen on it when we were at the Alexandra Palace show in October last year); however, they did not have any of the yarn in red (the colour in the book) - but they did have it in the most lovely gentian blue - so I am having one as well.
It will be fine as long as Alison, Sheila, and I do not have any common social events in our calendars this season.

Posted on April 7, 2007 at 8:22 PM. Category: France.

Friday April 6, 2007

"O you do like to amuse yourself, don't you?" [My Father]

I started to knit something from the Erika Knight book "New Knits" that I bought last year - the one of the knitted Aran chair cover. Two things in it appealed to me - daft yet lovely though all the stuff is...

This one is a knitted hanging basket liner, which sounds to me absolutely ideal in a natural knitted fibre (though others seem to find it amusing) as it will hopefully retain water well and gradually rot down to a nice natural colour. At least that is the theory.
Erika has made it in parcel string - I, however, decided to knit it in some really horrid fawn yarn I bought on eBay (don't ask). The yarn is some sort of acrylic 4ply so I had to adapt the pattern with more stitches, and probably it will never rot away, being synthetic... but nice Hessian colour (and texture!).

The perfect thing about this project is (and why there is one finished) is that I can happily knit it in the car in the dark - and it's a long way from Boulogne to Cuves.

Posted on April 6, 2007 at 11:55 PM. Category: Knitting.

Wednesday April 4, 2007

Gyring and gimbling

George came home from work with a fantastic gift for me. He had dropped in on his parents, and his Father has made me a Niddy Noddy. Isn't it great?

I am simply delighted, but now I really must spin something!

Today was a really fun day - the Niddy Noddy making it perfick, of course. I went on an urgent trip to John Lewis to try and find a remnant of curtain fabric for the French cottage dormer window - it is being replaced and having repainted the bedroom walls, I thought I would try and make a better job of the curtains. In the end I came away with a remnant to cover my kitchen chairs and a lot of wool (!). No curtain fabric, though.

The first yarn is Rowan 4ply cotton to make a Kaffe Fassett design for me from the latest Rowan book. It is called "Marble" and I am so smitten with it I am even prepared to knit 4ply double (which I hate) - it is an essential part of the design to do so as it provides the lovely effect of the marbles used in the children's game. The second lot of yarn is Rowan Summer Tweed to make "Tobias", which I hope will be ready for George's birthday on October; I am not planning to start to right away, as I was not able to get one of the colours - and I have Furrow to complete first!

I completed Fliss's dishcloths ready for the New Kitchen, which is due for completion in May. The yarn is again courtesy of Alison in the US, and her Mother, who ferried it over the Atlantic for me. The dishcloth patterns are from the left "Mason and Dixon Ann", "Little Houses", and "Alex" (available on-line at Knitting Pattern Central).

Finally, I have been fiddling around with a little project, which might be considered to be more than somewhat eccentric, but amused me nonetheless.
I bought an "odd job lot" of knitting needles on eBay [George: "Good grief, don't you have enough?!"] - but when the seller said "odd" I failed to realise that she meant every single one of them was odd - that is, not a pair. One of them actually matches a really old Aero one already in my possession (which is weirdly fortunate), but the others don't. Some I just put in the needle case as I find extra needles are often useful for projects; others are sitting around while I decide their fates.
Two of them are old Milward's needles, UK size 5s, with matching ends, but of different lengths. They are plastic. I thought about it for a while, and decided I would make them the same length. I have had Milward needles spontaneously lose their ends, so I carefully twiddled the end of the longer one until it turned freely, and carefully prized it off. I then took care to see how much extra I should leave to set into the needle end, and sawed it off to match the other needle. It is my plan to secure the end back on with glue, but it does "pop" back on pretty securely even without glue.

I have a pair of needles...
...to go with the other million or so in my possession...! In my defence, I mostly have very long needles, because as a student when I bought them, I always went for longer ones in that they would be long enough for any project, and I could not afford one in every length.


Posted on April 4, 2007 at 8:37 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Monday April 2, 2007

The past: another country after all

I watched the much anticipated (by me) Nation on Film and was quite amused by it. It was a couple who made rather professional "home movies" on cine film in the 1950s. I was expecting to be enthralled but found instead of course it was just a film of my childhood. It was very interesting to hear the (young) historians waxing lyrical about what a treasure it all was - and I agree that there is nothing like a chunk of contemporary film - some with sound even - for research, as the evidence is incontrovertible. However even though there were distinct social differences from my own background, I did wonder at the conclusions being drawn with such enthusiasm by the (did I say young?) reviewers.

This archive was portrayed as giving the lie to the "buttoned up" reputation of folk just after the war; the Ramsdens had jolly parties, many outings with friends, and even went on holidays abroad. But I remain unsure how secure the conclusions being drawn are. I discussed the topic with Rob to compare our family upbringing in the same period. The first thing that struck me about the couple was that they had no children - we too had jolly parties but the key difference was they were always family oriented, albeit very extended family; we did not have "friends" and there was no "social scene" in that sense. We did go abroad for holidays when we could afford it, going to Wimereux in 1956 [but then, my Mother had taken her honeymoon in Belgium in 1938 on a cycling tour! The vicar had even advised them not to go with "the uncertain situation in Europe", and apparently the Belgians quizzed them endlessly on what the British thought about said "situation"]. On the other hand, Rob's parents had very adventurous holidays compared with ours - but always in England. His Mother never went abroad in her life, and his Father only ventured overseas when forced to do so in the army during the war.

I estimate the biggest difference between the Ramsdens and us (Rob and I and our backgrounds) was that these were well-off middle class people (a teacher, and a dentist) with no children, and thus not very representative from my biased point of view. However, what I have not said is that they took their hobby very seriously, and made really professional films on all kinds of topics that were by no means limited to the moving equivalent of family "snaps"; they encompassed a more professional documentary style and even a short "horror" movie. As such, the interest of the archive is undeniable and, once again, I enjoyed the program very much.

Posted on April 2, 2007 at 10:55 PM. Category: Oddments and stray thoughts.

Sunday April 1, 2007

A multitude of small delights

Today is Alison's birthday (hurrah!).
And* today I find the perfect quotation from Baudelaire, courtesy of Stitch and Bitch calendar. S&B is not really where I would look for deep insights from metaphysical poets but it does seem to sum up what Alison and I have shared over the years. On the face of it, we never really had that much in common, (although I expect our respective partners would find that hard to understand looking at us now).

However, back to the quote: for me, this really does have something meaningful to say about us, because I think what we have always had in common is a willingness to take up those small delights and fully take advantage of the pleasure within them. I have always been able to say "I bought a doll head" or "I got a magazine on eBay..." and never feel at risk of being dismissed as superficial (eccentric maybe...). We can expand a discussion over a ball of wool (perhaps, as yet unpurchased), for many pleasurable minutes - or even days. Of course the pleasures are not restricted to acquisitions - the delights are easily found in Adam and Finlay's philosophical take on life, or in Rob's minor victories over his difficulties at work.

We were always very different people - but we did find some points of interest in common - and that was enough. Even more surprisingly to us, our friendship lasted - and on such strangely close terms - but it did, and it is, and I, for one, am jolly pleased.

So here's to you, Alison - have a wonderful day.... take up those small delights....be happy....

Posted on April 1, 2007 at 8:35 AM. Category: Red Letter Days.