Monday, March 31, 2008

A weekend away

Holiday accommodation available in South Devon.
The Barn, Lower France Farm, Stokenham.

Substantial stone built early Victorian barn set in acres of rolling countryside with panoramic views across Start Bay. The barn has been sympathetically converted, retaining many original features, and furnished to a high standard. Front entrance leading to slightly steeper than usual stone steps to sleeping area (bedding supplied) with all usual conveniences. Pretty enclosed gravelled courtyard with shrubs and access gate.

Sleeps up to 12 in single and twin-bedded areas.... ... but you can't stay there if you're reading this! These are the rather wonderful kennels where Amy and Ben spent a couple of nights while I was away in London! After abandoning those poor unloved animals (yeah, right - did you check out the photos of their deluxe accommodation?) I had a great weekend, travelling up to London to meet friends and drink champagne. What could be nicer?

We met in Covent Garden and didn't stray very far at all ... with all the lovely little bars and eateries in that part of town to discover, there was no need to journey further. I have decided though, that some people must live in a different world to me. Late in the evening, feeling rather befuddled, we decided Chinese food would be most enjoyable. We entered a nice-looking restaurant where we were shown to a pleasant enough table and given menus. We looked at the menus, then at each other and, with one accord rose from our seats and slunk from the restaurant.

If I tell you the house wine started at £48 per bottle, rising to £850 for the special reserve, and the sea bass came from Chile and as well as paying for the fish it seemed as though you were expected to fund its travel (first class) to London (why? why? why?) then perhaps you might have decided to leave too. We had a great Lebanese meal later though, and I arrived home on Sunday feeling happy, but decidedly jaded!

It's great going to London, but even better to come home again!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Happy Easter Everyone!

Oh, it's so cold outside. Brilliant sunshine, but the wind is so penetrating, even through the multiple layers of t shirt, jumper, fleece, scarf etc etc that I donned to take the dogs out this morning.

Have been re-reading my rather old and tatty copy of a"The Magic Apple Tree: A Country Year" by Susan Hill - one of my all time favourite books as it reminds me so much of my countryside childhood. Anyway, I found myself in complete agreement with one particular paragraph ...

"They said as I grew older .. I would begin to shift my affections towards spring, when all is looking forward, all is blossoming and greening and sprouting up. But I do not do so. Spring so often promises what in the end it never pays, spring can cheat and lie and disappoint. You can sit at the window and wait for spring many a weary day."

It is so much like that at the moment, last week it felt as though spring had really arrived, but now winter has us in its icy grip again. And to add insult to injury Rosie (gap-year in Australia daughter) emailed me to let me know it's 40 degrees in Melbourne, and far too hot to do anything. I don't want 40, but 14 degrees would be nice!

Happy Easter everyone!

Friday, March 14, 2008

After yesterday ....

"Diet, what diet?" said bear - and Amy too as she scoffed her third golden cheese dream biscuit!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Just like Children!

Sometimes I think that having dogs is just like having children. It has been raining all day today and the dogs were bored. Our walk was of the shortest as it really was throwing it down and the footpaths had all been transformed into glutinous mud. The tide was in, so heading for our beach was no good either! Then they weren't allowed to take up their favourite positions by the gate where they like to look out for our neighbours, the postie and anybody else who might come along.

So they fidgeted and wriggled, bounced and bickered and were generally annoying, rather like small children on a rainy day and, like small children, needed to be amused. Now, for Christmas, Amy received a rather good present - K-9 Cookbook - Easy to make Dog Biscuit Recipes. As she has finally managed to lose the weight the vet recommended, I thought we'd give one of the more luxurious recipes a try. "Come on dogs," I said, "we're going to make Spot's golden cheese dreams."

Boredom vanished in an instant as we all headed for the kitchen. We measured and mixed, patted and baked. They were allowed the scrapings from the bowl, and the picture above shows them enjoying the savoury aromas wafting through the air as they waited for the biscuits to emerge from the oven. Well, they were delicious. The recipe's below if anyone wants to try for themselves ... and I don't think they'll stay in our Pet Treat tin for long!

"Goodbye rainy day blues," said the newfs, "this is great, let's do it more often!"

Spot's Golden Cheese Dreams

3 cups (750 ml) whole wheat flour
2 tsps (10 ml) garlic powder
1/2 cup (125 ml) vegetable oil
1 cup (250 ml) grated (shredded) cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 cup (250 ml) milk
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and garlic powder.
  2. Make a well in the flour mixture and gradually stir in vegetable oil, cheese, beaten egg and milk until well blended.
  3. Knead dough on a floured surface, about 3-4 minutes.
  4. With a rolling pin, roll dough to 1/2" thickness.
  5. Cut with K-9 (bone-shaped) biscuit cutter and place on a lightly greased baking sheet.
  6. Bake 25 minutes at 400F 200C (we used Aga Roasting oven 3rd shelf).
  7. Cool on rack (well out of reach!) and store in a container with loose-fitting lid.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Tomorrow Kelly is coming ...

Tomorrow Kelly is coming. Kelly is our dog groomer and her arrival is anticipated with some trepidation by my two dishevelled canines. We have been watching Crufts and although it is clear to Ben and Amy that to be sandy, muddy and generally unkempt is a much cooler look for newfies, than to be shiny and well-groomed, I regret to say that I disagree. So Kelly is coming to sort them out.

At this point I hasten to say that I do groom them both, but Amy in particular has an extremely thick and fuzzy coat and grooming her is like painting the Forth Bridge - we start at the nose on Monday and by Saturday, in 20 minute increments, have reached her rather substantial behind. Kelly visits every 3 months, and December was Ben's first session with her. As you will see from the photo, he was not entirely comfortable with the experience!!

We have had brilliant sunshine for most of the day here, with the odd heavy shower, and it's hard to believe that there is a dreadful storm on the way. I spent some time this afternoon dead-heading the hydrangeas. Last summer they were especially beautiful and I still have many dried flowerheads in bowls around the house. They even formed my Christmas wreath on the front door - with the addition of a little gold spray and a big red raffia bow. But the heads in the garden are dry and skeletonised now, and I love taking them off in the spring to reveal the bright fresh growth beneath. Hopefully the predicted gales won't cause too much damage and the sun will return soon to shine upon my beautifully groomed newfies!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A lovely sparkly morning!

Today dawned bright, sunny and sparkling, without a cloud in the sky. "Come on dogs!" I said to Amy and Ben, "Let's take our coffee break early and hit the beach!" So we did. Low tide at 9.30 am found us down at Lannacombe ....

There was nobody else in sight so we ran and leapt and splashed (OK, that was the dogs, I admit I followed more sedately). Ben found some seaweed ....

And so did Amy ....
Then they both found the same seaweed ....

While I came over all artistic and took photos of the sea. The waves were that wonderful transluscent turquoise - but you can see that for yourselves ....

Shame nobody thought to bring any doughnuts to enjoy with the coffee! A little more rock-pool exploration .. why do I never find any marine life? Could it be that the canine life got there first?

Then time to go home and resume work. Great coffee break though!!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Rhubarb and bones

What a busy week! It started quietly enough with the Sunday papers and a bacon butty, and yoga on Monday as usual. We're all becoming quite bendy and stretchy now, but none of us can match the suppleness and strength of our instructor who can stand on a hand with his legs twisted into a very strange knot. Just a show-off is what we say!

Later that day my next-door neighbour brought me some early rhubarb. What a wonderful colour, a sort of glowing strawberry pink, contrasting wonderfully with the deep green leaves. It was so kind of her, I am one of those unfortunates who cannot grow rhubarb. Yes, I know it's supposed to be easy. Just chuck it in and let it grow, they say, you'll have trouble keeping it in check. Yeah, right. A few weedy bendy twig-like stalks are all I get. And that's if it's managed to stay alive. So a lovely rhubarb crumble and custard at teatime courtesy of Julie. Yum!!

Meanwhile, sewing furiously and working on the picture above. This is my DevonBear, called Jack. I'm hoping to have a large version custom-made for my stand in the summer. Some friends have donated an old-fashioned life belt for him to sit in and so all I need now is the bear. Does anyone out there make bears?

The same friends who donated the lifebelt run the Canvas Factory in Dartmouth. Some time ago I commissioned some panniers for Ben from them and this week they rang to say they were finished. Wow! Is all I could say. They fit like a dream and he swaggers along in them, having taken to them instantly. Still, he's used to wearing a harness for his water work. He can't carry anything very much yet as he's still only 10 months old, but I'm getting him used to light weights.

We walked up to the village butcher's shop where they carefully placed a bone in each bag for him to take home. He graciously accepted tributes and praise from everyone we met on the way home and now believes he is a superstar. As Amy also believes she is a superstar, they are both becoming very hard to live with!! I'll try to take a photo of him in his panniers if anyone's interested. Apparently once newfies are fully grown at about 18 months - 2 years they can carry up to a stone in weight - could be useful for picnics and beer next summer!
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