Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Owl Journal, Page 2

Our internet problems continue.
I am unable to check emails, or send them,
so apologies to everyone who is owed an email.

Meanwhile, here is page two of the Owl Wood Journal.
(imagine a long pause here,
it took nine minutes, and several attempts, to get this photo uploaded...)

I have the next page already planned,
although I am sure it will change and evolve once I begin.

Meggie, Scarlet, Linda, Sandra and Shirley,
I haven't forgotten about you,
normal comms will be resumed asap.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Mapping the Owl Wood

It was a beautiful spring day
 the woodland was looking wonderful.
I searched for the small patch of violets,
and the wild garlic which we planted last autumn.

borrowed image (? The Guardian)
To my delight
I found four patches of the ramsoms, all spreading very satisfactorily.
I also found a  large new clump of violets quite some distance away from the original ones.

borrowed image
I was thrilled.

It quickly became apparent that things
which I find exciting about the little woodland
are not the same things which make George tick.

And, although our grandchildren have fun in the woods,
love playing there,
their parents scarcely ever walk round.

Memories of Owl Wood will be happy
but vague,
 things will be forgotten.

We all remember things differently...!

So I decided to make a map
and a journal.

Owl Wood Journal Cover
I intend to record some of the wonderful things which have happened

like the year these three beauties were hatched
 in our owl box.

Tawny Owls, all three survived and fledged.

We are waiting for the 'Owl Men' to come and check the owl box.
One of these years we may be lucky again.

It was such a privilege to watch them grow and stretch their wings.

I would also like the grandchildren to remember some of the small things.

The fairy doors in the wood,
the trees which have 'eyes'
the stumps we jump on
and off,
the sleepy tree, which defies gravity,
the red squirrel which came to visit a few times,
the young deer which was reunited with her mother in the Owl Wood,
the pheasants which come and scrounge the hen food
while the hens prefer to raid the compost heap and scratch around.
Little things.

The apple trees which we harvest from the barley field,
the plum trees which get harvested by something else
as well as the fun
of Easter Egg hunts
and the numerous times we have searched the wood for dragons..
and bears.
Magical times.

Thank you to everyone who has commented recently.
Our internet connection is terrible right now,
if this post makes it to Blogger it will be something of a minor miracle.
I have been unable to even see it in preview.


Saturday, 15 March 2014

Feathered Friends and Frolicking Frogs

The weather has been sunny and relatively mild
much of our time has been spent outdoors,
weeding, digging, etc.

The purple sprouting broccoli and the rhubarb are both doing really well;
 we have taken full advantage of these seasonal treats.

You know where this clump grows, Jonny!
It always does really well down there.

The watermill has re-opened for the new season.
Pay once for admission,
 and then get in free
for the rest of the year.

The animals, wildfowl, children's playground,
excellent home-made cakes
and freshly ground coffee
are all part of the attraction.

Harry and Frankie love playing in the Enchanted Wood
but they also love the wildfowl gardens
and the toasted teacakes with lashings of butter.

 Frankie is smitten with the feathered critters,
especially the hens.
Harry adores the marmosets and the otters.

*   *   *

 I took Frankie to see Arnold.
He was very happy to see her again,
but she seemed overawed at the sheer size of him,
or maybe she was just tired.

I had a chat with John.
He is finally free from the neck brace 
and feeling much better,
especially now that he has his new set of wheels.

He loves his new car
 - just a thought,
I wonder how many other 97 year old's have ever had that pleasure?

He confessed that the new car has a slightly bigger engine.

Now I know the identity of the boy racer who has been heard zooming up the lane...

*   *   *

Talking of noise,
I set off to photograph some new lambs,
which I could hear bleating, 
but got side-tracked by some very noisy
critters inhabiting nothing more than a large puddle in the paddock across the road.

The air was filled with a strange noise

as I approached the puddle the noise diminished,
so I stood stock still and waited...

first one head popped up
then a whole lot of others

suddenly there were several hundred frogs happily frolicking
in the water,  
making that curious noise
and ....
lots of frog spawn.

*   *   *

Spring is in the air.


Friday, 14 March 2014

Chinese Chocolate Cake Recipe

*   *   *
Here is the recipe for Ming Ming's chocolate cake,
as requested by Susan
 My Mother's Apron Strings.

I thought I would post it exactly as I received it...



...but perhaps not.
Here is the translation,
 with step-by-step photographs,
sent with love,
by Ming Ming.

Ingredients for the cake:

2 eggs (120g)
50g plain flour
60g sugar powder (?icing sugar)
10g butter
10g cocoa powder

Pre heat the oven to 160C

Whisk together the eggs and the icing sugar
until light and fluffy.
Melt the butter.

Really whisk the eggs and sugar!

fold in the flour and cocoa powder

add the melted butter

pour into greased loose bottom baking tin
and bake at 160 degrees C,
for approx 15 minutes

Allow the cake to cool.
slice in three horizontally

Gather together the ingredients for the filling and topping...

200g whipping cream
100g dark chocolate (sweet)
5g cocoa powder + 5g for sieving over the top

Whisk the cream until stiff,  add the melted chocolate and 5g of the cocoa powder.

Mix thoroughly.

Then sandwich the cake together,
reserving some of the frosting for the top.

Sieve the remaining cocoa powder over the top...
eat and enjoy!

Thanks Ming Ming.

Just a thought, Jonny,
do you still have a 32" waist?

Monday, 10 March 2014

Henry IV was born here

...well, not in this cottage,
but turn right just before you reach it and about ten yards further on you will find yourself at Bolingbroke Castle,
where the future King Henry IV was born in 1366/7 (depends which account you read).  

There are many websites which give the history of the castle, like this one, so I won't bore you with too much history.

This is how it may have looked -

 but this is how it looks these days.

The stones still speak, if you take the time to listen.

Luckily, there are lots of helpful information boards to help fill in the gaps.

What remains of the kitchen... inside and out.

The castle may be in ruins but it is still a wonderful place to visit and let your imagination fly.

*   *   *

Thank you for your wonderful comments on my previous post.
Susan, Ming Ming has sent me her recipe,
I'll be posting it soon.
Jane, Joanne and Val:  they live in a part of Shanghai 
which I will be posting about soon.
They chose to go there because it is very convenient
for Jon's work at the uni.
Pam, it is lovely to meet you!

*   *   *

Apologies to one and all.
Our internet connection is
misbehaving again.
The simplest task takes forever,
with frequent dropped connections,
emails disappear into the ether,
this page has gone down several times
and it all causes
enormous frustration.

George has had many conversations
with Indian call centres
all very polite
and totally

We are still beset by problems.

Oh, well, back to the spring cleaning.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Supper in Shanghai

Jonathan is a lucky man,
this is what was on offer for supper today...

Spicy tofu cooked
beef, chilli. broad bean sauce,
shallots, pepper, ginger and garlic.

As if that were not enough,
Ming Ming had also baked a cake.

A chocolate cake.

Ming Ming, this is just too cruel of you.

Email me a slice, quickly!

No wonder you are smiling, Jonny.

The view from the balcony
Jonny & Ming Ming's Shanghai flat.

Surprising, isn't it?

*   *   *

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Pulled in Different Directions

I blame it all on Spring.

He wants to get all the outdoor jobs done
I feel the need to tackle the spring cleaning.

Discussions ensue.

One cup of coffee and a slice of flapjack later
we reach an agreement.

On fine days we will work outdoors
in the gardens, the Owl Wood, or the poly tunnel.
Wet days will be spent indoors,
doing all those horrible jobs
like sweeping the chimneys
and cleaning out the Rayburn flues...

Please let us have really good weather
for I'd much rather be 
Just don't tell George.

The first half of yesterday was wonderful,
the sun shone and the air was mild.

We tidied the ancient hedge line on one side of Owl Wood,
cleared out the silted ditch
and by lunchtime we were both worn out.

I spent most of the afternoon searching
through old computer discs
looking for ancient family photographs.

The Aged One is 92 next week.
There is little that she needs
(except, perhaps, a new heart and a better memory)
so choosing gifts is always difficult.

The carefully chosen gifts from Christmas
are still in their boxes...

So, for her birthday I have decided to make
a journal of her life and family.

Lots of large photographs,
of people she is sure to remember,
with accompanying text to prompt her memory
should it be necessary.

copies of old letters,
details of the family history,
and a copy of the family tree.
All bound into a handmade journal.

Quite often she thinks that I am the cleaner...
or one of her paid carers.
Well, that could be because I do her cleaning and laundry,
or it could be her wicked sense of humour,
but mostly, I think,
it is her poor memory.

We'll see if this gift brings her some joy.

* * *

P.S.   Thank you, to each and every one of you for your comments
on my earlier posts.
I really do appreciate them.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Drum Roll, please....

Here it is, a cheese soufflé.
I can't remember ever having made one before.

Okay, it took me a couple of days to work up the courage.

This afternoon I decided to just go for it...

Can you smell that delicious hot cheese?

It may lack finesse,
but my word
it tasted delicious!

George has requested another one, soon.

*   *   *

Many thanks for all your kind comments.
They are all read and greatly appreciated.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Ming Ming goes to Cookery School...

Since late last summer Ming Ming and Jonathan have been back in China.

Jonathan is working at 
a Shanghai university
 Ming Ming is attending
a very demanding cookery school

studying hard
learning how to cook and present
the most wonderful food.

As you can imagine, Jonathan is very happy
to eat food like this!

Ming Ming is learning knife skills,
creating works of art, which are surely
too good to eat.

Beautiful, delicate flowers

Sorry, this one is upside down!

art on a plate.

She was an excellent cook before she started this
intensive course
but by the time she has finished it
she will be amazing.

I love the skills and the art and design which go into these
the photograph which makes me most hungry

Ming Ming's home made bread and a baked cheesecake.

They will be back here for a few weeks in the summer;
I feel a party coming on.