Thursday 31 October 2013

The best hallowe'en song ... ever!

Happy Hallowe'en!

If everything has gone according to plan and that big storm the Met Office was forecasting didn't get in our way, we should be docking in Bilbao right about now. Tesco Mobile may also be in the process of changing my tariff - they'd better be - so I won't have internet access again until tomorrow but have blogged this special festive post in advance. 

I hope you all have a fantastic evening, especially Michelle who has put so much effort into her fantastic costume. Sorry I'm not there to see the final ensemble!

Please raise a glass to the start of our big adventure and enjoy Are You Happy Now by Richard Shindell, my favourite songwriter and the best Hallowe'en song in the world, ever ...

Monday 28 October 2013

Jambalaya recipe

Today's the last evening before our departure and I'm catching up on things I meant to do but haven't quite gotten around to - one of which is posting this recipe. We spent a few hours earlier stowing away as much as we can in Bailey. It was surprisingly straightforward and we do have some space left, although there's only grams remaining on the weight allowance. (Note to BeValued staff: there's not enough room for stowaways!) So I've got time this evening for a bit of blogging.

This jambalaya recipe is my interpretation of a recipe card from Waitrose and Tilda Rice. Dave says it's a waste of prawns because they don't add much to the flavour but I think the seafood and meat combination is essential. We agree to disagree. It's not essential to sing the Jambalaya song as you cook, but I usually do. I've put a YouTube of Hank Williams singing it at the end of this post in case your memory needs refreshing!

Ingredients (serves 2):
as much rice as you usually serve yourselves
pinch of turmeric
chicken stock
olive oil
2-3 shallots or a small onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
offcuts of chorizo (about 60g), chopped
1 tbsp Schwartz Cajun Spice blend
2 tomatoes, chopped
100g large prawns
fresh chopped parsley

Add the turmeric to the rice and boil in the chicken stock until the rice is cooked. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the shallots/onion, pepper and chorizo until the onion has softened. Stir in the spice mix, tomatoes and prawns and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the pre-cooked rice and continue to fry until all the ingredients are cooked through and piping hot. This should only take another 2-3 minutes but double-check the prawns. Stir in the parsley and serve immediately.

Sunday 20 October 2013

Irises in a coffee pot

Our friends, Kim and Chris, gave us a lovely bunch of irises yesterday which are just beginning to bloom. I was already using my favourite Dorothy Hafner vase  for a few of our anniversary stems that had dried, so needed to look around for a substitute. 

I enjoy seeing flowers in unexpected containers and so chose this coffee pot for the irises. It's Royal Worcester and is just plain white. The design name and age are unknown. Mum gave it to me a few years ago when I moved in with Dave and I think it might originally have belonged to my great aunt, Ada. It has a little flattened dome lid and I love its simplicity and elegant lines.

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Not long now

Dave and Bailey at Orchard Farm
I’m having trouble believing that in two weeks’ time we’ll really be setting out on our Big Adventure!

At last!

In fact, we’ll already be on our way having parked up nearer Portsmouth overnight Tuesday to hopefully prevent any last minute rushing for the ferry. We think we’ll go back to the Bosham campsite we stayed at for our Anniversary, Orchard Farm. Every possible thing will be packed in to Bailey and the car, I’ll have checked our passports at least half a dozen times and I’m pretty sure neither of us will be sleeping too much for nerves. Let’s hope that overtiredness doesn’t lead to bickering before we even set sail! Dave’s already volunteered to be the one to drive onto the boat. He found a YouTube video and actually it doesn’t look too awkward. I’m sure the crew are used to jittery caravanners, but I’m sure I’d be so concerned about not delaying everyone else that I’d panic and make a hash of it (thereby delaying everyone even more). I’ll do the return voyage - I’ll be an old hand by Spring.

A Google+ acquaintance was the most recent to post a photo of his car and caravan just before he set off to Europe a few days ago. I’m starting to get a sense of being part of a bigger movement, this mass exodus to the sun, even though, in the best British tradition, our plan is to avoid as many of our countryfolk as possible and ‘discover’ somewhere new. We will, of course, conveniently ignore that the Spanish/Portuguese have already done the discovering!

We’re in a strange kind of limbo state at the moment. We’ve done all the ‘in advance’ chores and are now waiting for enough time to pass that we can launch into the last-minute things too. There’s no point me packing up the kitchen stuff when we’ve still got a fortnight’s meals to cook! It’s so frustrating though because we just want to get on with it. Dave, in particular, is starting to roam aimlessly about the house. He says he doesn’t want to get into anything that he’d have to leave part-finished which I quite understand. I’m blogging as far ahead as I can for Theatrical Eastbourne to keep its posts trickling through during the Winter. I don’t want to have to start building all the visitors again from scratch next year.

Only 7 full working days left!
I must cancel my dentist appointment.

Sunday 13 October 2013

Cauliflower and lentil soup recipe

A real end-of-the week recipe this one as we had half a cauliflower to use up which I paired with the end of a pack of lentils. This was our Saturday lunch yesterday, served with slices of hot buttered toast. The lentils make quite a thick soup that's perfect comfort food for chillier autumnal days.

olive oil
6 shallots
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
half a cauliflower
60g puy lentils
1 pint chicken stock
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the shallots, roughly chopped. Add the herbs and fry until the shallots have softened and are beginning to brown. Meanwhile cut the cauliflower into small florets and rinse the lentils. Add both and stir to coat with oil before adding the stock. Cover the pan and simmer until the lentils are soft. Set aside to cool and then blend until smooth. Reheat until the soup is just starting to bubble. Season to taste and serve.

Thursday 10 October 2013

I've made a new book-related discovery

or actually maybe not so new. I think I remember finding BookCrossing a few years ago but didn't really get into it. However, the site was recommended to me on Google+ recently and having checked it out again, I signed up. You might have noticed the widget that appeared on the side of this blog?

The idea of BookCrossing is to create a kind of World Library. People recycle books they have read by sending them out into the world and tracking their progress. Sounds a bit whimsical but it's a fun idea and a potential source of free reads. As readers finish a book, they can register it on the website, assign it a unique code and start its travel journal. The book is then labelled with this code and left 'lying around' in a public place for other readers to find. The finder can log onto BookCrossing to add their own journal entry before reading the book and then setting it 'free' to find its next reader. So far I've 'released' two books 'in the wild' - Chinese Cinderella in Hampden Park and The Midnight Palace in Willingdon - and have a third, The Sea, on its way to Hampshire. I haven't 'caught' any books yet but it's early days and there are several BookCrossers registered around the Eastbourne area so plenty of potential. Books have recently been released in Western Parade and near the Seven Sisters Country Park.

The BookCrossing team is based in Idaho but the site is popular across Europe and I'm hoping to be able to catch some titles while we're away. Germany has the most BookCrossers in Europe but there are participants in Spain and Portugal too. Campsites usually have bookswap shelves too and our Kindle is loaded so there should be enough to keep me going - fingers crossed!

Saturday 5 October 2013

After a week in which I was too busy to blog

and also extremely overtired after our unexpectedly late return from Porto, I'm catching up by having a lazy Saturday afternoon. I meant to do loads of things today but fortunately there's always tomorrow. I'd have more energy if I hadn't gone out every night this week, but then I'd have missed some amazing theatre and music performances so I'm glad I persevered. Dave's knackered too - he's snoozing in his chair as I type although I know he'll adamantly argue he was awake all the time!

First up was Tuesday's The Private Ear and The Public Eye at the Devonshire Park. Of the two, I thought The Public Eye was the stronger play and the fantastic scene change in between was almost worth the ticket price alone. The plays are funny and quirky and Original Theatre have done a great job. The last Eastbourne performance is tonight - in just a couple of hours if I get this post published quickly enough - and I hope their final audience will be able to hear over the fireworks of the Bonfire Procession.

Sound issues unfortunately masked the end of Everything Between Us at the Little Theatre on Thursday. The electricity created by the play combined with the static in the air from a thunderstorm passing overhead proved to be just too much for the theatre's hardware! I met up with +Kerry Potter which we've done for a couple of Green Room plays now so we caught up with what each other has been up to recently before settling in to be entertained. Everything Between Us is a powerful drama of two estranged Belfast sisters. I love that Green Room choose challenging works to perform and am disappointed that I will miss their next - David Harrower's A Slow Air which will be at The Under Ground Theatre at the end of November.

I've just realised sound is to blame again for issues at the Chiddingly Festival Talking Heads production that was held at the Six Bells pub on Wednesday and starred Jo Castleton and Ian Jervis. Dave had difficulty hearing the monologues due to practically all the seats being restricted view and the actors sitting for most of the time. I got lucky, although I was just in the next seat along, and could hear ok. I hadn't seen any of the Talking Heads live before, only a few on TV, and the cosy pub setting suited the plays perfectly. Perhaps just with the addition of microphones next year?

The week went out with a bang last night, or rather the many bangs of amazing drummer Winston Clifford together with saxophonist Tony Kofi and Hammond organ player Anders Olinder. Together they are the Future Passed trio and this is seriously good jazz. Usually the chairs at the Chiddingly Festival are the worst part of any event, but I was so caught up in the rhythms and melodies that I hardly noticed my numb bum. Praise indeed! It was good to catch up with +Tim Church and Linda Bailey too.

So now it's Saturday evening and I'm glad that the people who were supposed to be coming to dinner have put us off until next week! We'll be much better company then anyway!