Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Lovely day out

Little loom and 'big sis'

 MWNN and I went to Cambridge on Tuesday, to pick up a larger version of my little 8" children's loom from the Oxfam shop.

The Sheene Mill

We stopped for a late lunch on the way home, at a new-to-us restaurant in Melbourne (Cambs)

The Sheene Mill boasts a lovely conservatory overlooking the mill-pond - complete with fountain.

Mill-pond terrace with fountain

We had a good meal (MWNN had lobster with belly pork - yes, it worked) with an excellent glass of wine each, finished off with very good coffee with petit fours.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Beginning to look good

Galley - bathroom and front cabin beyond

The boat is now cleared of clutter, and has clean cupboards and surfaces.

We went up to the boat yesterday to do some more de-cluttering. The journey should have taken about an hour, but there was a 30 minute delay at the Black Cat Roundabout. Exactly the same on the way back. We can't see how the 'improvements' will ease congestion at all.

As we approached the marina, MWNN remembered that he hadn't brought the marina gate key and the boat key. Not to worry, though. The padlock on the stern hatch is one that doesn't need a key.

After checking that we had access to the boat, we took Ron for a walk along the disused railway line that is now a cycle-way through Stanwick Lakes.

It was beautiful sunny day, so we walked the short distance to Woodford Mill, to check out the tea room holiday flats. Unfortunately, they are fully booked for 2015.

The walk from the marina passes one of the big fishing lakes.

The D1029 'flyover' is just behind the boats

This is a truly lovely area in which to keep the boat and a great improvement in the environs of the St Quentin Port de Plaisance.

Monday, 2 February 2015

The Year of the Sheep

begins on Thursday, February 19th

Happy knitting (as if we needed any encouragement)

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Favourite Recipes One for a cold winter's day

Number 2 - Oxtail Stew

This is absolutely delicious, probably because it's cooked over two days.


Ingredients - mine, because I didn't have everything required for  the written recipe. (Make it Fast Cook it Slow)

3 large pieces of oxtail

2 potatoes, chopped in bite-sized chunks
 1 large parsnip, chopped into bit-sized chunks
1 large can of chopped tomatoes in juice
1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning

1/ tsp ground ginger
1 cup red wine
Rich beef stock

Method (again, mine adapted from the book)
rub a bit of olive oil into the bottom of your crockpot stoneware
Put the oxtails in and cover with the spices 

Add tomatoes, vegetables, wine, and stock
Cover and cook on high for 5-6 hours.

Cool, store overnight in cold.

The following day, skim off as much fat as possible (there will be a lot) Cook on low for 8-10 hours

The result is a rich, hearty stew full of flavour and beefy goodness.

Thursday, 22 January 2015


building up fitness and strength at Archers Fitness Gym

I completed a full hour's aquacise this morning, in the shallow end of the 25m pool.

Indoor pools

Fifteen minutes in, and my thigh and calf muscles were screaming STOP, I decided to keep going to the half-hour mark, by which time they seem to have remembered what they were for.

My left knee reminded me I had a cartilage injury and told me to "stop doing those twisty sideways movements now. "

Apart from that, I had a really good workout, followed by a couple of lengths swimming (breastroke arms/front crawl legs.)

My first goal is to regain a good level of fitness. Only then will I start to look at shedding the 5kgs of extra weight I've gained over the past six months.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Best Christmas present

according to Ron - The Innovative Indoor Ball-game Accessory. (aka the light-tree box)

You put the ball in this end,

then run around to the other end,

 and push the box around until you get your head and shoulders inside.

With a bit of luck  and a lot of skill brute force, you can persuade the ball to pop out and start the game all over again.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Favourite recipes

Number 1

Eggs Arnold Bennett
smoked haddock
bay leaf
6 free range eggs
6 tbs cream
2 tbs butter
2 tbs plain flour
grated cheese


Prepare the fish by poaching it in milk and removing any skin and bones. Drain the fish, set it aside. Remove the bay leaf and keep the stock to make the sauce.

Make a roux with half the butter and all the plain flour. Gradually add the milk until the sauce thickens.

Separate the white/yolks from two eggs and add the beaten yolks to the sauce.

Add flaked fish and half the grated cheese to the sauce. Stir continuously for two to three minutes. Set aside to cool.

Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Set aside.

Beat the remaining 4 eggs for the omelette.

In a heatproof frying pan, melt the remaining butter until it is brown. Add the beaten eggs. Make an omelette that has well-formed sides but whose middle is still slightly soft. Remove from heat.

Fold the beaten whites carefully into the sauce.

Spoon the fish mixture onto the top of the omelette. Sprinkle the remaining grated cheese on top.

Put the pan under the pre-heated grill (about 5cms from the heat) for 2-4 minutes until the omelette has risen and the cheese is golden brown.

Serve immediately from the pan, with a fresh salad.

Thought for the New Year

Out of the night that covers me,
      Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
      For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
      I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
      Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
      Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul. 

William Ernest Henley

Thursday, 25 December 2014

A bright and fragrant Christmas Eve

MWNN and I had our usual Christmas Eve meal (fish), followed by the present-opening ceremony.

coulour-change alarm clock
colour-change nightlight

MWNN wanted lights at Christmas, so I bought him a selection to brighten his New Year as well. An alarm clock that changes colour and a night light that projects colour up the wall.

A remote control light bulb which looks stunning in the woodland lamp bought many years ago from Hatfield Craft Festival.

My stocking was very fragrant. There was a bar of Hitchin Lavender soap from my fellow singing-knitter Sue.

One of the fragrant presents was a huge box of Fortnam and Mason Rose and Violet Creams from TheD and SIL.

The fragrance of the Rose Creams is echoed in the Guwertztraminer I bought MWNN (Wonderfully extrovert with rose petal and lychee aromas; dry on the palate with a delicious note of spice.).  He disagrees and says the chocolates taste like mouth-wash (the philistine)

I had a wonderful, restful, sleep last night - thanks to this little fella.  Meet Wetherby, one of the gifts from MWNN.

Fully microwavable plush soft toy, filled with specially treated millet grains and dried lavender.

The scent of lavender is very strong, even when at room temperature. 

Happy Christmas everyone. 

Friday, 19 December 2014

Winter Solstice

This time of year, there are a lot of different celebrations going on for many different reasons. Despite differences in religions or heritage, almost all pieces of celebration of  Hanukkah, Ramadan, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice (Yule) are the same. Yule logs, greenery in the house, lights, sharing a celebratory meal, giving gifts and goodwill, all play a part.

This year, The Daughter and Son-in-Law are visiting us the weekend of the Winter Solstice. But, before then, the celebrations began with a Christmas Coffee Morning with Hitchin Stitchin'.

The town was crowded with shoppers by 10am, so MWNN drove me in and dropped me off. The Market Square was looking very festive with Christmas Tree, lights, and Carousel.

After the Hitchin Stitchin' meeting, I went to look at Fly9, a newly opened shop in Churchyard.

Several Hitchin Stitchin' members have items for sale at the shop.

Posh Knits, which was set up for Festiwool , has several seasonal shawls, cowls,  and scarves for sale.

Bootiful Knits (another start-up for Festiwool) has designer booties on offer.

 and Wooly Chic is offering seasonal knitting and crochet kits.

After visiting the shop, I bought Stollen Bites and Mince Pies from Simmons Bakery opposite Fly9.

Let the feasting begin - 'Tis the Season .....

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

After Festiwool

the celebrations.

Hitchin Stitchin' members celebrated the success of Festiwool at the annual away-weekend.

We returned to Belstead Brook Hotel for a weekend of good company, good food, and a spot of knitting and nattering.

Many of the group's members used the spa and treatment facilities and the pool

Alicia had negotiated another good DBB deal at the hotel.

We were given the same meeting room and private dining room as last year.

We had dinner as a group on both evenings and Philippa provided the wine as a thank-you for the help members of the group had provided during her first venture into running an event.

Starter - roasted tomato and mozarella tart

The food was good, beautifully presented and served efficiently by attentive staff.

Yes, I was The Tart.

Lemon cheesecake

Dessert on the first evening proved to be my downfall - or, it could have been two glasses of white wine, followed by a flute of champagne in my room at a very late hour.

Custom House

After dinner, we were introduced to the interesting places of Ipswich Town by a tour guide, and on Saturday, some members went into Ipswich to see for themselves.

Belstead Brook flows through the hotel grounds

I stayed in the hotel, taking an after-breakfast stroll in the grounds in the lovely sunshine.

Last year, I stayed in one of the ground-floor suites, overlooking the brook - the bay-windowed suite on the right of this photo.

This year, I had one of the single rooms on the second floor. It was very nice, with a 'small double' bed. Unfortunately, there was no bath, just a shower. I really needed a soak after the exertions of the previous few weeks. I couldn't even use the spa as I'd forgotten to pack swimming gear. Things I thought I'd packed (alarm clock, sewing box) were missing. My brain was in a fog of packing and unpacking.

After my stroll, I retired to my room for some solo knitting. It wasn't until after lunch that the group re-assembled in our meeting room.

I took my Swift to the away-weekend as I needed to wind more yarn.

© Philippa Gregory

The second evening, we all dressed for dinner. After the ill-advised participation in all three courses the night before, I skipped the entree and opted for the cheese course instead of dessert.

Reeption Lounge

The only minor criticism I had of the hotel, which has been bought by the MGM group, was that the new wi-fi network was not fully functional. There was only one place where the signal could be seen, and that was outside the Willow Room, next to the bar. Reception staff were unaware of this but summoned a technician at my second compaint. The Boy Raymond explained that the system would be up and running in time for Christmas.

The next social event for Hitchin Stichin' will be our Christmas Coffee Morning at our home venue.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

We will remember them

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below. 

Blood-swept lands and seas of red, 888,246 poppies, each representing a British fatality during WW1.

Remembering my Grand-Uncle, James Alfred Ryder MM, killed in action at the Battle of St Quentin,, 21 March 1918.

No known grave - remembered at Poiziers 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Been a bit busy lately

First there was Southwold

followed by the This Adventure

and a cruise.

Next came Festiwool

Gosmore Ladies' Christmas Fair

with a sequel in Gosmore.

Heading back to the Marina

Yesterday, it was back to the boat for  a 40 minute walk

Nature Reserve

on the Stanwick Lakes Nature Reserve trail.

lunch, and a spot of work,

Work was interrupted at times by the demands of the resident swans

View from the front deck

and other water fowl.

I took Ron for a walk around the lake to the river entrance to the Marina.

It's densely wooded with just one break in the trees with a view across the lake to the boats.

It really is a lovely location, close to home - an ideal alternative to our previous mooring.

Next up is an away-weekend with Hitchin Stitchin'. We're returning to Belstead Brook Hotel for a weekend of knitting and nattering.