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  1. Today
  2. what is everyone doing?

    Very limited supply of fresh herbs locally - a bus ride to the next town along doesn't always come up with the goods either, but that and the garden supplied enough for last week. I have found growing mint to be a problem - if you get it in the ground then it goes rampant and takes over every possible growing space, but it hates being in a pot, and sulks. I have found an answer here. Next to us is a small car park for the Sainsbury's Local, and between it and us is a screen of trees in a very weedy, neglected strip of land. I sneaked a couple of rooted mint cuttings into it 18 months ago, and it is doing very well there . Chard is difficult to find in the shops. I've seen it occasionally in supermarkets, where it is pretty expensive compared with spinach, and rather limp. I use spinach and chard interchangeably in most recipes, but for the Chickpea and Chard pork you really need the stalks as well, and most spinach in the supermarkets is bagged 'baby', or 'young' leaves, so the stalks are negligible. Jamie's recipe actually uses Rainbow, or Ruby chard to get the coloured stalks, which add to the appearance of the dish.
  3. what is everyone doing?

    Appreciate the interesting reply. I have Jamie's 'Five Ingrefients' book but hadn't tried this one. Also have lots of Ottolenghi clippings which, despite me having a fairly comprehensive larder, usually means another trot round the shops. My success with them varies. Only a small back garden here so just grow herbs. I'll have a go at some of 'your' dishes!
  4. what is everyone doing?

  5. Have a Rant!

    Saturday was hot, yesterday and today much breezier. I've planted up some seeds as well, mainly cornflowers and various wildflowers.
  6. what is everyone doing?

    Had a flat tyre on Thursday night which meant I only had the spare tyre on the car for Friday and couldn't travel very far, finally managed to get a new tyre on Saturday, went to a friend's for dinner on Saturday night which was nice despite the lights fusing just as she served the first course! Yesterday went to a country fair and saw some gorgeous baby goats, turned down the offer to bottle feed them, wish I had done it now but it was fun watching everyone else do it, it was a free for all! Not sure about today, looking like it might rain.
  7. The Doll Factory

    Iris and Rose are sisters who work for subsistence at Mrs Salter's doll shop painting dolls to resemble real children, some of whom are dead. Across the way, Silas runs a curiosity shop specialising in taxidermy, skeletons and other anatomical oddities. He does a trade providing specimens for a group of artists going by the name of The Pre-Raphaelite Brethren. Through a series of chance encounters - at the heart of which we find Albie, a street urchin who locates samples for Silas - Iris meets one of the painters, the fictitious Louis Frost, and agrees to model for him in return for painting lessons. Silas, meanwhile, has other designs on Iris... In part, this is a psychological thriller. We know that something bad will happen to Iris, it is just a question of when. And on the other hand, it is a romance between Louis and Iris. For me, at least, the balance didn't quite come off. There was way too much romance and painting in the middle and the drama was too little, too late. The novel went into some detail on the theory and production of the pre-raphaelite paintings; spent some time comparing and contrasting the worthy merits of the Royal Academy against the shallow science and innovation of the Great Exhibition. However, painting has never yet made for fascinating fiction despite the best efforts of many authors to prove otherwise. The Doll Factory does have some merits, however. Silas as the troubled man who has difficulty expressing his emotions and fulfilling his artistic dreams would have been a gem if he had been more fully integrated into the middle of the novel. Albie is fun. The relationship between Rose and Iris wasweld constructed in the brief glimpses of it that we saw. And the theatre of the Victorian London streets was quite visceral. But the pacing was shockingly wrong and did I mention the focus on painting? The result was a novel that started and ended as a piece of fun, but the saggy middle felt like it would never end. ***00
  8. William Carver is a BBC Radio journalist who has landed up in Cairo to report on the Arab Spring uprising. So has the rest of the world's journalists. Carver likes to think of himself as a "vertical" journalist who explores a story in depth, creating news. He is disdainful of the "horizontal" journalists who simply commentate on events around them. Carver - and his youthful producer Patrick - first appeared in A Dying Breed, a superior conspiracy thriller set in Afghanistan. They are an odd couple - like Dr Who and his assistant - providing both a second point of view and a useful pretext for expository dialogue. A Single Source gets off to a slower start than A Dying Breed - perhaps because Carver has only just landed in Cairo himself and needs to discover his story and his network - but when it starts to grip, it is just as gripping as the debut novel. Carver meets up with a couple of Egyptian protestors, one of whom runs a twitter feed from Tahrir Square. They collect up some of the gas canisters, rubber bullets and truncheons used against the protestors and this causes some discomfort at the highest level. Meanwhile, back in London, the former editor of the Today programme has started out a new career as Director of Communications at the Ministry of Defence. The MoD is in something of a bind, wanting to support the friendly Mubarak regime but also wanting to end up backing the winner if the Mubarak regime falls. And all the time, wanting to promote British defence exports... Interleaved with this, there is the story of two Eritrean brothers looking to start a new life in Europe, left to the mercy of people traffickers. This can feel like a distraction, but it puts a human face on some of the massive upheaval that has been going on behind the changes of government and political headlines. It will hopefully make the English (yes English, not British) voters ashamed for supporting Brexit in a futile attempt to stop the influx of migrants from the Middle East who were displaced by poor UK foreign policy. Overall, A Single Source is a tense read with plenty of politics and double crossing. As in A Dying Breed, the morals are sometimes ambiguous and the reader is left to imagine the final denouement - traits of a superior thriller. *****
  9. what is everyone doing?

    My plating-up would not pass muster in any kind of restaurant, but at least, having guests, I managed (unmatching) serving dishes and didn't plonk it out straight from the cooking pans as is my everyday practice. My head was in a spin - we are experiencing an unfamiliar bank-holiday heatwave, so I was almost passing out from the heat build-up in the kitchen on Saturday evening. Had I known this at the planning stage - or believed the forecasts when I heard them - I might have stuck to cold meats and salads, but it is a very long time since I have found such pleasure in cooking for anyone. Also, it was my way, and first opportunity, of expressing love and care for my son and daughter-in-law who are still very fragile after the loss, in February, of their expected baby. Good news on that front is that the problem with the baby was a "one off", and there is no reason that it should be repeated in any future pregnancy.
  10. what is everyone doing?

    Made my head spin to read all the fancy dishes - you could work in an upscale restaurant, I wouldn't know how to tackle any of those recipes, good for you Meg. And to be able to enjoy doing all of that and having fun too with guests, you are amazing.👍
  11. Yesterday
  12. What Not

    This is a short book, 185 pages long. It's very well written and very entertaining. It's advertised as a feminist tome and I suppose it is. I imagine that when it was published in 1918 very few women went out to work full time, very few women had partners to whom they were not married but with whom they had a baby and their opinion was seldom sought, much less listened to. There are such women described in this book i.e. women who work, have partners to whom they are not married and with whom they have a baby and their opinion is sought. Also described is a government which classes all people according to their IQ and decrees that certain low IQs are not allowed to marry and have children and that the high IQs must marry other high IQs and have children to create an intelligent society. This is known - but not mentioned in the book - as selective human breeding or eugenics (the promotion of certain desirable gene groups and the suppression of less desirable gene groups). Needless to say it doesn't work, even in the fictitious realm that Rose Macauley creates for it. I'd recommend it for it's entertainment value
  13. Currently Reading

    I am embarking on my annual William Faulkner read with Requiem For a Nun, sequel to last year's read Sanctuary
  14. what is everyone doing?

    A couple of Jamie Oliver's Five Ingredient (plus half of what he expects you to keep in your pantry) Recipes. Both were easy and we had no leftovers from the main course, Chickpea and Chard Pork. i was particularly pleased with that, as I have chard in the garden and another recipe for it is always welcome - and it was delicious. I made his Peas, Beans, Chilli Mint to go with that, and some Green Couscous, from a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi Jamie's Mango Rice Pudding was also a success. It is very easy, tasty, and lighter than a 'normal' rice pud. The recipe makes a big bowlful, and as we had it after a very rich and substantial main course, we still have quite a lot left. The Yotam Ottolenghi recipes had many more than five ingredients - but worth all the effort for the flavoursome results. Not the amount of spice I expected in them, going by previous recipes I've tried by him, but lots of fresh herbs and they were, in most cases, quite healthy - just a couple that contained quite a lot of cream - although it's not compulsary to eat large portions The most indulgent was a Vanilla Custard with Roasted Strawberries and Rhubarb - chosen because i wanted to use my home-grown rhubatb. The recipe is supposed to serve 8 - 10, and as there were only 4 of us I only made 3/4 of the recipe - but we managed to polish of the lot in one sitting. I laso made his Chicken Marbella, Tamara's Ratatouille, Courgette and Ciabatta Frittata, and Roast Cabbage with Tarragon and Pecorino Well, you did ask! I would like to point out that this was over a period of 3days, not all in one sitting!
  15. what is everyone doing?

    Good to hear this. I can almost feel the buzz. P..S. what sort of recipes. I like trying new things.
  16. what is everyone doing?

    Had a brilliant weekend. Fun in the sun with both sons and their families. Fun in the park, fun in the garden, fun at the seaside, fun at church. Couldn't have been better! Well, it was rather too hot for me, but everyone else was enjoying it. Cooked some delicious food from recipes I've not tried before, and all were successful. Visitors now departed and I am exhausted, but happy.
  17. Have a Rant!

    Too hot for me. and only April still ! Seedlings germinated badly, and struggled in the cold. Now they are burning up in the heat and i am having to move the seed trays arround the garden trying to get them in a little shade, and struggling to keep the compost moist.
  18. what is everyone doing?

    A very happy Easter to one and all, however you choose to celebrate it, or not.
  19. Have a Rant!

    We're having lovely weather this Easter weekend, last year was a washout! wonder how long it will last though?
  20. This book wad recommended to me as something a bit different from the usual crime fiction. A best-selling novelist is murdered in his house the night before he emigrates with his wife to Canada. A friend is apprehended as the main suspect. We follow the diligent work of the senior detective in unravelling background and possible motives. For about 75% of the book's length I was intrigued but the monologues in the finsl sections started to bore me.
  21. Last week
  22. Have a Rant!

    I like Spring too but it has been fairly cool up until now, was a bit warmer yesterday and the rains came. Beneath the hedge there is a lot of water but the temp is going up a bit during the coming week which will be nice. The Spring bulbs are beginning to show, some hyacinth and crocus and the daffs are showing some green leaves. Will plant the mini rhodo once the weather clears.
  23. Have a Rant!

    We have not had our soil tested either but we do have glorious rhododendrons so we must have acid soil. It's still trial and error and at the moment the three of us are finding it hard to keep the grass cut. The daffodils and snow drops come up every year as do the grape hyacinths. Spring is my favourite time of year.
  24. Have a Rant!

    We've never had the soil tested so it's a case of trial and error for us. Our subdivision was originally an apple orchard so whatever is good for apples should be ok for a lot of different plants. Never planted azaleas, but they are pretty.
  25. Have a Rant!

    Our soil is alkaline, so I don't bother with azaleas and such. People do grow them here, but the instructions are always to not let the roots touch the native soil. I can't be bothered. One of the things that is frustrating to those who want to plant them is that they grow really well JUST east of here. So it's the soil, not the weather.
  26. Have a Rant!

    Good luck with the plants, we have a couple of azaleas in pots which seem to come through Ok each year. Planted quite a few wildflower seeds today, don't usually have much luck with seeds so we'll see.
  27. Have a Rant!

    We now have two Rhodes but they are very small, more the size of a house plant. I spoke with one of the gardeners and she has had quite good success with her present one but lost a previous one. She has to wrap it in burlap for the winter because of the cold we get. May just leave it in the container for now as it really doesn't look like the rhododendrons I have seen back in the UK. It's by way of being an experiment to see if we can keep it alive. I have the Internet instructions for planting if we decide to move it. The lavender which I potted in vermiculite may or may not grow, the seeds were like ground pepper, very tiny, will be interesting to see if they germinate. I love the scent of lavender. The heather he brought home looks healthy, we don't have a problem with it. All we need now is to locate our watering cans which we think are in the shed.🙄
  28. Have a Rant!

    rhododendrond like acid soil, so you could be on a hiding to nothing if yours is alkaline - which it probably is if rhodos are generally difficult in your area. I doubt if they would thrive in pots, either, as they are big sprawling beasts in the wild. What about their daintier cousins, azaleas? They can be grown in pots of ericaceous compost. You'll need that for your heather, too.
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