Beautiful Farnham

The Park looked absolutely stunning today. It was a warm, glorious day and the greens were out in force.

I missed the first half of it because I was at the Talking Newspaper leading the Farnham edition. It was one of those rare times that there was only three of us. Alistair had to leave at 12 so he did his editing then left us to read.

Alistair had called to explain on Monday, getting Mirinda on the phone – I was at the doctor being told how lovely my hands are. Mirinda had told me that some grumpy old army major had called, sounding like he was still in the army. He’s about 88 so he could well have been.

Anyway, everything went fine, though it’s extraordinary how much more reading you seem to do when one of the team is absent. There wasn’t a lot of news and we were out an hour early, something the dogs were happy about without knowing it.

Before starting the housework, I took the dogs up to the Park just in time to meet Dave and Rodney. Day-z was very pleased. I’ve never seen Emma play so much. She chased Rodney then he chased her, she jumped up at his face and enjoyed herself for the entire walk. She ran around so much that she just collapsed when we arrived back at home.

The rest of the day was spent in and around the house, generally tidying up, while listening to play of the first day of the first test between England and New Zealand at Lords. Given I’m going tomorrow, I thought it important to know what happened today.

England started badly with the bat then Joe Root saved them with an excellent 98. As Geoff Boycott said, it’s not the score just before lunch, it’s the score at stumps that counts.

New Zealand took a wicket with the last ball of the day, which was quite exciting. The umpire was asked to check it out by the batsman. By the time he gave him out, everyone else had left the pitch and the poor umpire was alone, pointing at the invisible batsman.

After dinner I relaxed in front of the television, enjoying Bob’s favourite movie. World War Z is about zombies and how Brad Pitt almost single handedly, saved mankind. What a guy. While not a classic movie in any sense of the word, I thoroughly enjoyed it. A good, rollicking adventure story with some amazing special effects. Thanks for the recommendation, Bob.

Puppy confusion

I spent another day hard at it, attacking the weeds in the hot border. In order to preserve my Lovely Hands (see Monday’s entry) I have purchased a box of non-latex, latex gloves. They give you the freedom of dexterity that bare hands give you and also the protection afforded by wearing gloves. They were remarkably cheap – £3 for 50! I can vouch for their effectiveness in the garden.

At the end of the day, I gave the new lawn it’s second mow, still on the highest setting. It seems that Emma loves the newly cut lawn. Once the mower is turned off (she hates the noise and stays on the terrace while I have it on) she runs around the grass, rolling all over it and generally enjoying the newly mown pleasures that only cut grass can give.

It was a relief because she had a rather confusing time in the Park today during our walk.

A large group of ten year olds (I guess it was a school outing) were walking passed us when one of the adults in the middle of the group yelled to another adult at front, clearly wanting to give her directions. The adult at the front clearly hadn’t heard so all the kids started yelling her name as well.

“EMMA,” they yelled. “EMMA!”

Poor Emma stood very confused, not knowing what was happening. Her head turned this way and that. She refused to move, sitting anxiously as her name was repeated in high pitched tones throughout the Park.

I picked her up and gave her a reassuring cuddle as the kids trouped by, making ‘cute’ comments at her. She was too confused to enjoy the attention.

It was very funny. Though not quite as funny as the lmon spray incident of yesterday.

Latin for garlic

The allium (we call them Aliens) is a genus of bulbs which includes garlic, onion, chives and shallots. In fact the word ‘allium’ is Latin for garlic. As well as making these delicious cooking essentials, there’s also a floral variety. The heads are made up of lots of tiny flowers, making a big pom-pom of a bloom. We’ve always loved them and so we planted some in the raised beds along the terrace.

Well, they’ve started to blossom. I was telling mum about them this morning so…this is what they look like at the beginning of their floral display.

allium

Speaking of the garden, I spent a lot of the afternoon weeding the hot border. Neglected for the Year of the Extension, the weeds have taken over. The especially nasty couch grass has wended it’s network of weblike roots under the ground, leaving the bed look like a wasteland. I set to it, hand fork and black plastic bag to hand.

While I dodged the light showers, the dogs spent the time wandering the garden, rolling on the new lawn, investigating what I was doing and wondering why I wasn’t paying them any attention. At one stage we had a horrendous hail storm which sent us all inside to wait it out. It didn’t last long and we were soon back at it.

A little later, I was sitting in a recliner, watching a documentary when a second hailstorm struck. While not hailstones so much as a slushy-storm, the noise was so bad on the ceiling lantern that I had to pause the programme while it went over. The dogs looked up as the sloppy ice mushed all over the glass above our heads.

One thing which made the afternoon very pleasant was the newly attained silence from Emma. Her barking (clearly genetically passed on by her father) has almost stopped because of a handy little device I bought from PetSafe. It emits a blast of citron scented spray at her nose whenever she emits a sharp bark. It’s harmless and assures quiet when you need it.

While we love it, Emma isn’t keen and, after today, neither is Day-z.

Rodney has a habit of standing on the other side of the fence, staring at Emma, tail wagging. Pre lemon spray, Emma would bark almost constantly at him, wanting him to come and play. Often Day-z will join in. Today, however, it was Day-z who started barking at him. Curious as usual, Emma went to investigate what the commotion was all about. Just as Day-z turned away from the fence, Emma let out a big, sharp bark.

I was fortunate enough to witness as the lemon spray burst forth…straight up Day-z’s nose. She was not happy. Naturally, she attacked Emma, realising it had to be her fault. Poor Emma. I took a while to stop laughing then spent a long time comforting poor Day-z while Emma looked on, tail wagging and, basically, very confused.

It was really very, very funny.

Lovely hands

I went to the doctor this morning. Mirinda wanted me to check out possible treatments for psoriatic arthritis. A long time ago, my doctor told me that the external psoriasis could decide to invade my joints and make life very painful. Recently, I have had aches in my legs and fingers…particularly my fingers.

So, to the doctor I went. My usual doctor is on leave (she’s just had major surgery though for what, I have no clue) and I unexpectedly saw our neighbour, who is also a doctor. She asked me if it was a problem because she knew me. I told her I didn’t care as long as she was a real doctor. She assured me she was.

I explained my symptoms and she assured me that it was all just normal wear and tear and that I was not suffering from psoriatic arthritis. I told her I was a bit jealous because she could just rattle off the word ‘psoriatic’ while I found it very difficult.

She closely inspected my hands and explained that I probably had something called ‘trigger finger’ which is caused by tendons not retracting properly. She then said what lovely hands I had. She told me that if I had any kind of arthritis, they’d be all lumpy and bumpy around the knuckles and be painful all the time. She showed me her hands, saying she had rheumatoid arthritis. She was right. Her hand was quite knobbly.

When I told Mirinda, she agreed with the doctor, saying I did have lovely hands. Apart from any lack of arthritis, I reckon that’s what decades of Vasolene Intensive Care lotion will do for you.

For Farelli

Plum Puffs

Ingredients
Sheet of puff pastry
Two plums (or other stone fruit – nectarines are good too) halved and stoned
Jam (any kind you like)
Lightly beaten egg
Marzipan
Flaked almonds
Double cream (for serving)

Method

Pre-heat your oven to 220. Prepare a baking sheet by sprinkling it with a little water.

Cut the pastry sheet into four equal parts. They should be roughly 100mm x 140mm but depends on the size of the sheet. Place a teaspoon of jam in the centre of each. Lay a plum half on top of the jam. Using a cheese grater, grate marzipan over the top of the plum half. With a pastry brush, line the sides of the pastry squares (this is to make a ‘glue’ to hold the edges together). Fold the pastry square sides up and seal the edges, ending with a little twist at the top. They don’t need to be too neat but are best if there’s no gaps. Brush the remaining egg on the top of each square and press flaked almonds into the surface of each. Place the parcels on the baking sheet and bung it in the oven.

The parcels should be ready in about 20-25 minutes but keep an eye on them. They should be golden brown.

When they’re finished, put them on a cooling rack (don’t eat them hot!) until, at least warm (in case you can’t wait) though cold is the proper way to eat them.

To serve, place a Plum Puff in a shallow bowl and drizzle double cream over them then tuck in with a spoon.

Unfortunately, I’ve never taken a photo of them. However, mine look like little square parcels with browned almonds sprinkled on them. And, according to everyone who’s tried them, they taste DELICIOUS!

[NOTE TO SELF…TAKE A PHOTO NEXT TIME]

Rafi eats unaided

Because of the lemon drizzle flop, I made some plum puffs first thing. I’m very pleased that I can make them quickly and easily without using a recipe. While most family cooks would think this is the normal state of affairs, it’s a big thing for me. The beauty of it is that I can just ‘whip’ them up as an emergency replacement.

Susanne and Rafi arrived at about 12 while I was busy making Mirinda’s choice of foamy chicken. As it turned out, this was a very good call due to the fact that it contains no vegetables, something Rafi can’t stand. Though, strangely, he is quite happy to have them in the Nutra-bullet.

It’s an odd thing but a lot of kids (these days) have an aversion to vegetables. It can’t be natural otherwise the children of vegetarians would starve. I find it quite weird. But then I don’t have any kids so, what do I know?

And speaking of Rafi and his eating habits…I am very leased to report that today he actually ate most of his lunch, unaided by Susanne and her insistent cutlery. He even sat on his own side of the table rather than next to his mum. And, best of all, there was no electronic devices at the table and he joined in the conversation properly rather than making up silly jokes that we were forced to laugh at. I think he’s growing up.

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Once he’d finished eatng, he did revert a bit by getting up and annoying Susanne by patting her on the head and running his fingers through her hair.

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This was during dessert, which he never eats. That’s also strange because I thought kids loved anything sugary.

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Lunch finished, Mirinda took Susanne and the puppies up to Frensham, surprising her with the new cafe at the end of the walk. She approved wholeheartedly.

Meanwhile, Rafi and I watched Inspector Gadget on Netflix. He had brought a DVD of Pirates and Scientists, which we’d already seen ages ago. While I’d have been happy to watch it again, I felt something new would be better.

Gadget is a live action film based on the cartoons. The producers have given the story a bit of flesh by starting from before the Inspector becomes Gadgetted. Some of it is very funny. I particularly liked Matthew Broderick in the main role and Rupert Everett being delightfully evil as Claw. Also, it was a delightful touch having Don Adams voice Brain, the dog. Don Adams, of course, was Gadget’s voice in the original cartoons.

We still had some time to kill after the movie so we watched a few episodes of Spongebob Squarepants. What a surreal programme. Actually I told Rafi it was incredibly surreal and he asked what that meant. I told him Spongebob Squarepants is what surreal means.

Eventually Mirinda, Susanne and two very excited dogs returned from the Ponds and our guests packed up and left, returning the house to normality.

It was a lovely day and Susanne admired the garden and the furniture (which they hadn’t seen). Actually, they were both quite taken by the recliners, having a fine old time reclining on them. Rafi wants one with a bar fridge.

Late for the garden shoe

Ages ago, Mirinda put an event in our calendar. It was for the Spring Garden Show (which her phone decided was actually a ‘shoe’) at Loseley Park. Last night we checked that it was still on. There was no mention of it on the Loseley website. I found a couple of mentions on other websites, however, so we thought we’d drive over on the off chance it was still on. It seemed odd that the Loseley website didn’t have a big notice declaring that it was not on though.

We hopped into Max and took off.

It wasn’t on. We thought that we’d go and visit the walled garden at Loseley (given we were there anyway) but, apart from special events, Loseley Park isn’t actually open on Saturdays. We turned Max around and headed for Secretts instead.

We still need more bedding plants for the Crazy Bed so we wandered around the garden centre which is now owned by Squires rather than Secretts, and collected a load of flowers to plant in the bed.

Given driving Max is so much fun, we decided to go home via Haslemere which isn’t the shortest route but is arguably the more pleasant. And, given we were there, we decided to stop off at Darnley’s for lunch.

It’s been ages since I’ve been to Haslemere and I was amazed at the changes. Not least of all, the fact that Darnley’s isn’t Darnley’s anymore. Actually that’s not entirely true. It has another name but is ‘at Darnley’s’ or so the sign declares.

And so we sat and had a pleasant lunch sitting outside, watching the people wander by, remembering how often we used to do it when we lived locally.

After a visit to the kitchen shop (for a roasting tin) and the French deli (for some sherry and galettes) we drove Max back home.

I then set to, planting the new flora in the drifts indicated by Mirinda’s placement. She’d chosen ones with flowers on them because Susanne and Rafi are coming tomorrow and it always looks better with something other than green to show for our labours.

I then had one my rare kitchen failures.

I had decided to make a lemon drizzle cake for tomorrow and so, while Mirinda took the girls for a stroll across Hankley, I hit the baking. Everything looked perfect when I put it in the oven; it smelled wonderful while it was cooking. The problem was when I took it out when the allotted time was up.

If it’s possible for a cake to sink deeper than the actual depth of a cake mix, my lemon drizzle cake did just that. I’ve never seen a cake fall so fast or so far. To say it was a disaster would be to put it far too mildly. It was, basically, warm cake mix with a few crunchy bits on it. I would have included a photograph but was far too devastated to take one.

Two things occur to me as to why it didn’t work. Firstly there may have been too much baking powder or, more probable, it didn’t cook long enough. I’m determined to get it right, though, and will try again…some day. When Mirinda had recovered from her laughter, she suggested I call Dawn (of cake fame from last weekend) for some advice.

I managed to get over the disappointment with Tacos for Tea with my own guacomole.

Oh and, later we discovered that the Garden Shoe was actually in APRIL and not MAY. So we missed it by a month.