Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Lovely New England. . . . . . . . .

Flying into New Hampshire. 
The heavy clouds parted as we landed in Manchester yesterday.
 Hometown for Bob. Full of memories.
The sun came out. No humidity. It's green and fresh. Cooler.
I can breathe again!
We lived here in another time. Long ago. Perhaps we will move back.
New England, old England. . . . . . .how would I choose?

Heading to bucolic Vermont - another day of sunshine.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Flying and figs. . . . . . . . . .

 As I prepared to fly away to New Hampshire, the garden birds continued
 to fly in. . . . . . to the the fig tree which is still producing a lot of fruit. 
Most of the sweet, ripe, juicy figs are up high though and beyond our reach.  

Yesterday while checking the figs I heard a rustling just above my head.
Looking up I saw this beautiful Brown thrasher, a large but somewhat timid 
bird, the size of an American robin, making a meal of the ripe fig. 
We actually made eye contact, then I headed to the house to get my camera, 
never expecting the bird would still be there when I returned, but it was, 
and I managed to get a couple of shots before it flew off.

Special moments in the garden like this make me so happy.

 An American robin also paying a visit to the fig tree recently.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Childhood Memories - Double Decker Bus

A Devon General bus - The Strand, Torquay bus stop - c. 1950

The main transportation of my youth was the red double decker. 
I rode it to and from primary (elementary) school, into town,
to other towns to visit family, even to the beach!
We never owned a car which meant my parents rode 
the bus to work, and just about everywhere else.
The big red bus was the usual way people got around
in the United Kingdom in the 1940's and 1950's.
In cities such as London, many still do commute via bus, and of course
 tourists often ride the 'sightseeing buses'.
In my hometown, Torquay, regular buses still run everywhere,
though less frequently, and the open-top sight-seeing versions are
 popular in summertime for runs between the beaches of the coastal
 towns around the bay.


A double-decker bus is a bus that has two storeys or decks. 
Double-decker buses are used for mass transport in the United Kingdom,
 Europe, Asia and many former European possessions, the most iconic example
 being the red London bus.

Early double-deckers put the driver in a separate cab. Passenger access was via an open platform at the rear, and a bus conductor would collect fares. 
Modern double-deckers have a main entrance door at the front, and the driver takes fares, thus halving the number of bus workers aboard, but slowing the boarding process. The rear open platform, popular with passengers, was abandoned for safety reasons, as there was a risk of passengers falling when running and jumping onto the bus.
Double-deckers are primarily for commuter transport but open-top models are used as sight-seeing buses for tourists. William Gladstone, speaking of London's double-deck horse drawn omnibuses, once observed that "...the best way to see London is from the top of a bus".    via WIKIPEDIA

Off tomorrow, but not on a bus. 
Neighbor kindly driving us to the airport.
Two planes taking us north to New England.
Rental car will be waiting. 
How times have changed!

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Childhood Memories - The Marine Spa -

childhood memory. . .

The Marine Spa, Torquay, Devon, England - 1857-1971

Sometimes do you just want to run away? 
Return to a place of childhood, a place that brought happiness.
No big special celebrations, just ordinary days full of simple 
moments of joy in familiar places.

I learned to swim here in the indoor pool.
 Even went to afternoon teas under the palm trees in the
 sunlit conservatory - a very special treat when a young girl.
Never got to dance in the ballroom though.
Sadly the beautiful spa was torn down in 1971 and it continues
 to be missed so much.

I am running away soon! A trip north to New England will take me
 away for a short while. A change of scenery, mountains and sea, 
with some cooler weather. . . . . . hopefully it will be a pick-me-up!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Rustic fruit tarts . . . . . . . . .

Sometimes I ask myself what on earth I'm doing in the kitchen on these hot
 summer days, cooking and baking, heating up the house, then sitting down to
 supper. . . . . . . whoa. . . . . . . that's what it's all about, the suppers of course!

We eat breakfast late, actually that meal is more like brunch because we
 usually skip lunch when at home. This means eager anticipation of a tasty 
supper arriving on the table around 6 pm is enjoyable. 
Afternoons in the kitchen prepping - thankfully now so cool with the new
 air conditioning system - sometimes baking, is for me much
 better than trying to sit rocking on the front porch in steamy, humid,
100 degree weather, batting off mosquitoes and other biting insects.
Often a cup of tea around 3 pm keeps us going until time for an aperitif. . . . 
these days a well-chilled glass of rosé works best!

About the baking. . . . . . . . .this was done on Sunday morning when I had a
 punnet of plumcots and some extra blueberries requiring attention.  
I love my fruits cooked rather than raw - easier to swallow and digest.
As we were heading over to visit our daughter in the afternoon, I made two
 galettes, one for us to enjoy at suppertime, and one to share with her.
If you've never baked with plumcots you should try them - I've found them 
really delicious when unable to find apricots or plums.
These turned out great - galettes/crostatas are so quick and easy to make, and
delicious to eat. 

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Hummingbirds -

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Archilochus colubris

Our resident pair were busy this morning.

This summer I hung a new feeder on the front porch for the visiting
 hummingbirds - thankfully no ants have found it. I use only sugar and water 
now, a clean batch every few days during the heat, none of that red tinted
 commercial stuff.
In summertime we always have a visiting pair, the red-throated one being the 
handsome male - of course they're both beautiful!
They're the most difficult birds to photograph due to their speed, but every now
and then I just manage to catch a few shots through the dining room window - 
after standing there for what seems eternity, camera at the ready, usually 
early morning or late afternoon.

Hundreds of kinds of hummingbirds nest in the American tropics, and more
 than a dozen in the western U.S., but east of the Great Plains there is only 
the Ruby-throat. Here in the southeast it is fairly common in summer in
 open woods and gardens. Hovering in front of a flower, or a feeder, to sip
 nectar, it beats its wings more than 50 times per second. Impressive migrants
 despite their small size, some Ruby-throats may travel from Canada to Costa Rica.
I love to see these tiny, busy birds in my garden.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Children's books and bookshops . . . . . .

So many books, so little time.
I've yet to meet anyone who just doesn't like books!
How about you? 
We may not all be buying, borrowing, ordering, swapping, searching for books
 every minute of each day, however if you're like me, your day seldom passes
 without picking up a real book to read for some reason, be it a recipe, 
instructions, reference. . . . . . . or just enjoying a good story.

All these photos were taken in May during my second visit to what has to be my
 favorite bookshop ever.
Unfortunately it's over 3,000 miles from here in Bath, England so I haven't been able
to get there often! I was introduced to Mr. B's Emporium by my wonderful friends 
Ruth & Mike who go there often. They've taken me there for my two much too brief
 visits, and we shopped for fabulous books together. 
Named as one of the Ten Best Bookshops in the World (Guardian), and twice
being named UK Independent Bookshop of the Year, plus many other awards, 
Mr. B's is amazing in so many ways.

If you would like to learn more, and there is so much more, about Mr. B's,
be sure to visit the website HERE. Fabulous book info, recent store extension
 info (which included this awesome children's area), and great Podcasts to
 listen to. Today I'm listening to the Podcast with Tara Westover, author of the
 best seller 'Educated, and Mr. B himself with his 8 year old daughter whose
discussion on children's books featuring schools is delightful.

I spent a lot of time in the children's section of a large book store as a child - it was
a favorite place to spend any money received for birthdays and Christmas. It was
definitely not as colorful and fun as this shop though.

So pull up a comfy cushion and each choose a special children's book to get lost in!
Do you have a special one you recall enjoying as a child, or even as a grownup?

I think I would have to choose an Enid Blyton (1897-1968) book, one of the
Famous Five series which I loved as child. A series of children's adventure novels, 
  the first book. Five On A Treasure Island, was published in 1942. 
The novels feature the adventures of a group of young children – Julian, Dick, 
Anne and Georgina – and their dog Timmy.
A prolific British writer, Enid wrote a total of 762 books selling more than
 600 million copies!!!!!!
The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”— Dr. Seuss

Friday, August 2, 2019

PETRICHOR. . . . . . .

A word you may be familiar with.
A new word for me . . . and one I really like.
  From the Greek petra - stone
and ichor - the fluid which was said to flow through
the veins of the gods in mythology.

One of summer's most refreshing sensations is the the feel of cool air as a storm
 rolls in after a spell of humid weather.
 When fat raindrops hit the parched earth, a distinctive scent called 'petrichor' is
 produced. An earthy smell produced by organic compounds, and both humans and
 animals find it particularly attractive.

Yesterday we had a long awaited rain - heavy lasting rain with booming thunder, 
lightning, water filled the streets, huge raindrops danced on the flat and small rivers
 rolled down the slopes.  
Later today, and perhaps all through the weekend, there will be more storms.
August is here, summer heat builds, dark clouds roll in mid-afternoon.
Yesterday I walked, outside, I breathed the air and could smell it 
through the dampness, heady, earthy. . . . . . . . petrichor! 

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Fig Crostata . . . . .

What to do when life gives you lemons figs, make lemonade a crostata!

CROSTATA: An Italian baked rustic tart or pie, same as a
    GALETTE, the French version! 
Both lovely names for easy desserts to make/bake.

Still gathering figs and sharing with neighbors and friends, however the figs are
 slowing down and will probably be finished by the end of the weekend.
Dozens of birds have devoured the ones on the treetop which we can't reach -
and I'm happy to share with them.

For this one I made almond frangipane and spread it over the piecrust base
 before piling on the sliced figs from the garden and scattering toasted 
chopped almonds on top.
  I must have used too much as it did leak out but it still baked well.
 I cut off the frangipane on the parchment - who could bake without amazing
 parchment and no messy pans to wash - which made good rustic almond
 'cookies' to nibble!  
"Waste not, want not."

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Passage of Time. . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . time flies, time heals, there's never enough of it, and it passes far too quickly. 

Recent brief stop at IKEA during a trip to Charlotte, NC was just to look around.
 I like to see what's new in the modern design world, find perhaps a few items to put
 away for gifts later - I like their kitchen/storage items - and grab a couple of 
bars of dark chocolate (IKEA's is good, inexpensive, and hopefully good for 
you . . . . . in small doses).

Made time for all that and discovered this, the modern take on the hourglass.
It came in two sizes with different color sand - I chose the larger
with 'sand' more like very minute creamy colored pearls, fascinating as they pour
steadily, silently, calmly through the neck.
Sometimes one just needs to sit, clear one's mind and let time take its time.
How much precious time passes as the sand trickles?
3 minutes & 8 seconds.

An hourglass (or sandglasssand timersand clock or egg timer) is a device
 used to measure the passage of time. It comprises two glass bulbs connected vertically 
by a narrow neck that allows a regulated trickle of material (historically sand) from
 the upper bulb to the lower one. 
Factors affecting the time it measured include sand quantity, sand coarseness,
 bulb size, and neck width. 
Hourglasses may be reused indefinitely by inverting the bulbs once the
 upper bulb is empty. Depictions of hourglasses in art survive in large numbers
 from antiquity to the present day, as a symbol for the passage of time. 
These were especially common sculpted as epitaphs on tombstones or other
 monuments, also in the form of the winged hourglass, a literal depiction of the
 well-known Latin epitaph tempus fugit ("time flies").        
via Wikipedia  ~

"If I could save time in a bottle. . . . ."
Jim Croce ~ 1973

Monday, July 29, 2019

Raggedy wrens - making pesto . . . . . . . . .

Like most everywhere in the northern hemisphere, we too are going
 through heatwave/drought conditions.
I recall childhood summers of near perfect weather. 
But those are history, in another time and place. 
I seem to dislike almost everything about summer now - except perhaps
 fresh picked tomatoes and country rides under deep blue skies - and
 although I don't wish time to fly too fast, I will embrace the arrival of Autumn. . . . 

. . . . . . .and I know the garden birds will too.  

The pair of Carolina wrens came to the porch yesterday looking tired and dishevelled. 
 Usually such sleek little birds with never a feather out of place, they were
 ruffled, messy and obviously feeling the heat. I see them drink from the bird baths
 but don't recall seeing them actually bathe, something the robins love to do.
The pair each clung to a hanging basket chain and proceeded to have a
 very noisy conversation. No doubt it was about the weather, just like the rest of us!


8:30 AM Saturday we were at the local Farmers' Market - and things were jumping.
We went for German Johnson tomatoes - best for slicing and tucking 
into a traditional sandwich. Bob's favorite is easy, two slices of a good dense
 oat bread spread with a smidgen of salted butter, layer of juicy sliced tomatoes 
slathered with real mayo with a grind of black pepper.  Let sit a little while to 
bring to room temperature, then bite in!  
Summer in a sandwich. . . . . . . . nothing else required.

I was late sowing my own three pots of basil seeds this year - waiting until
 returning from Ireland knowing they would need daily attention. 
All pots are looking good now and I'll have plenty of basil to use, freeze as pesto,
 and share. 
Until my harvest I'm buying bunches of basil. At the market I found a 
large bunch from an organic farm and made pesto as soon as I arrived home.
Green and gorgeous, BUT within minutes in a bowl the top had turned 
that ugly army green shade.  
Later I checked Cook's Illustrated online to see how that can be avoided and
found two remedies you may already be familiar with, but quite new to me.
I will definitely be testing them in the upcoming pesto making days!

         BLANCHING - deactivates the enzyme that causes browning when cut
 basil leaves interact with oxygen.    
             Blanch basil for 30 seconds in boiling water and then shock it in ice water
 before drying it and proceeding with the recipe. 
This brief dunk causes minimal flavor loss. 


ADDING LEMON JUICE - which contains antioxidants citric and ascorbic acid.
Add 4 teaspoons of lemon juice per 2 cups of packed basil.
Lemon juice also adds a pleasant acidity to pesto.


Have a happy summer week in the kitchen - so many fabulous vegetables
to play with now that August is almost here.


Sunday, July 28, 2019

Pizza fast. . . . . . .

Need a quick tasty something to nibble on a summer evening?

Take a readymade frozen cheese pizza base - this one from LIDL.
Bake directly on rack at 400F for 12 of the 14 minutes cooking time.
Remove on a baking sheet.
Break open a large size ball of Buratta cheese and spread quickly
 over crust, don't fuss, it should look rustic.
Put back in the oven on the baking sheet and bake 3-4 minutes longer
 to finish crust and warm the cheese.

Remove and add toppings of choice.
I oven roasted a load of small mixed cherry and plum tomatoes
with a sliced shallot, garlic, a couple of mild chili peppers for a bit of heat,
olive oil, salt and black pepper.
For green, some arugula and freshly torn basil leaves.


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