Friday 27 December 2019

Cheese scones and xmas

Monday before xmas was the big day here - it was the cheese scone competition between Bevan and me.

Scones were made in two houses in the garden area of Waikanae and the contestants and their support teams assembled at Cafe Rata where some of the best china was set out.
Ministry of Food cheese scones cut and ready for the oven to get up to heat.

On the tray and just about to go in the oven - the tray has heated up with the oven. Apparently that is a critical success factor in the baking of these scones.

And out of the oven, delicately cooling ... See how crunchy they are?

Bevan and Mads - Bevan's scones are the ones on the right - much more refined looking than my ones, I must say.
See, Kirsty darling, I DO use my china cups - and the set on the right is the one you gave me.

The scones were plated up, tea and coffee were made, and just as all four of us were about to sit down and get on with the taste test, Bruce and Gary arrived, unannounced, having determined they would be able to get a coffee at our place.

Talk about timing, guys!

So out came two more fine china cup, saucer and plate sets, and a bigger cafetiere of coffee.

I am sure those two can smell cheese scones from 3 kilometres away!
Then the tasting began.

Both sets of scones were yummy indeed.

Of course, we hadn't established criteria before the competition or even before we started eating. So criteria were nominated as we went.

For lightness, Bevan's won hands down, as they did for size and form.

Mine won for cheesiness (equal quantities of tasty cheese and flour will do that ...) and for crunch.

Bevan declared that my scones won the competition, and that was generous of him. I think it was a close run thing. However, I have always declared that Ministry of Food cheese scones are the best in the world, so his assessment is fair.

The next competition is sweet muffins - our own choice of flavours. It was going to be date scones, but I cede to Bevan already as cheese scones I can make, but date scones require more finesse than I possess, I fear. (Note before posting this on 28 Dec at about 9.30am - I just got a text from Bevan asking 'Muffins at yours at 10.30am?' BUGGER - we are now in Taranaki, and I forgot to tell my fellow contestant that we were running away from the competition - on a temporary basis of course! Sorry, Bevan! He has declared himself the winner by default, and that is fine by me - but I live to fight another day ...)

And so to xmas - we had determined no presents but at the supermarket on 24th I saw something that I knew David would like.
As some readers will know, I had referred disparagingly to Diddums hurting his hands while grating. You can see he is delighted to be spared such pain - and it's a machine! And it works very well, as he used it to prepare the carrot and beetroot salad as part of our contribution to xmas dinner.

 I really do like shared and organised pot luck xmas dinners. We had ours at Bruce and Gary's along with Adrian and Errol, Simon and Jane, and Leith - quite a small gathering by B&G standards, but there was plenty of food and it was all lovely, except the broad beans (blech, yuk and other sounds of disgust).

David and I had taken the motorhome down and parked it on the street outside so we could relax and stay overnight. A very quiet night in a street that is populated by mostly retirees ... I know it was quiet because I was awake from 1.30am to about 4am, dammit. Too many glasses of wine plays havoc with my sleep. Note to self: establish the causal relationship and make the necessary behaviour change ...

We came home very early and went back to bed - so the morning of Boxing Day passed in a very relaxed fashion. In the main because I had too much wine on xmas day, and felt decidedly seedy and tired.

None of the people in the following two photos look seedy though, dammit!
Lesley and Matthew (foster nephew) at home in Staines. Lesley is looking the most healthy I have ever seen her - a fully plant-based diet will do that!

Karen and Lyndon, of the Lockkeper's Rest group fame. They are clearly indulging in their version of a plant based diet. Lyndon is one of the men who escorted me back to the boat from the Lockies a couple of years ago when I was locked in - and in severe danger of walking off the edge of the extremely wide towpath into the river ... Lovely people and I am dead keen that they and others in the Lockies group partake in a mid summer Kiwi xmas dinner this coming boating season.

Season's greetings, people. Be safe, have fun, be loved.

Sunday 22 December 2019

I've been caught out!

Two things of note about David:

Point 1- while he was looking at Carol Palin's post Still Rocking about the extremely high water levels in their marina, he commented favourably on the size of both the font and the photos therein - good for partially sighted people, he noted. I said I wasn't worried as he never reads my blog...

Point 2 - quoth he 'Yesterday I saw the word diddums in your post. Did you know I have a search bot looking for the insulting words that I then add to the 11.5gb file of previous insults?'

Much hilarity.

Anyway, diddums likes his new grater - he has just grated the cheese for scones because there is a cheese scone taste off this morning, between my scones and Bevan's. Photos of the event will be posted - but there will be no unbiased tasters involved, just Bevan and Mads, and David and me. So already I sense a dead heat of a finish!

Saturday 21 December 2019

Sticky Toffee Pudding

David and I had intended to go up to Waitara Holiday Park (managed and run by my sister Dee and her daughter in law Charlotte) and stay at a powered site so we could join in the large xmas dinner that they host. But David's eye appointments have got in the way of that plan, so we are staying in Waikanae for xmas instead.

The Waitara xmas is, like many NZ xmases, an organised pot luck, where everyone brings part of the dinner - saves one person doing all the work and being exhausted. So I think it's a great idea.

I volunteered carrot and beetroot salad, as well as sticky toffee pudding. As all of Dee's family just love STP she was going to take on making it instead. But given she has been spending a lot of time down at Palmerston North Hospital while Murray is undergoing treatment, even though she has access to a kitchen at the Ozanam House home they are staying in, she doesn't have a lot of time and has loads of other tasks on her plate.

So I decided I would make them and deliver them to her before she and Murray headed back to Waitara. Waikanae and Palmerston North are only 1 hour 10 minutes apart, so driving there and back was no biggie.

So on Friday I made enough STP to hopefully satisfy 25 people's hot dessert desires - Charlotte is making mini pavlova sliders which will be a hit, I reckon! So there may be a fair bit of STP left over.

Two aluminium roasting trays (roasting trays, I say, so rather large!) of STP. Dee is going to make the sauce and provide the custard. If anyone is interested, the recipe is from the BBC Good Food site, and each of those trays was double the recipe quantities.

That's 450g of chopped dates soaking in boiling water - that was enough for one of the puddings.

Dee also likes my homemade bread, so I made 3 loaves of that for her too.
Three loaves of bread set to rise among the chickens. Apparently I wasn't meant to tell her kids I was doing bread, as she wanted to keep it for herself ...
So yesterday, David and I headed off to Palmerston North, leaving home at 5.30am to beat the holiday traffic - NZers tend to head away before Xmas and I understand that the traffic out of Auckland and Wellington was extremely heavy on Friday afternoon, and expected to get heavy mid morning around Waikanae.

We were a bit later arriving than intended because about 15 minutes from home the fuel light came on - and it said there was only 55 kms of fuel left. Dammit! Not enough to get to PN where there is a cheap fuel place. So we took a bit of time getting some petrol at the BP station, the only one open in Otaki.

Note to self: Do NOT go to BP early in the morning! The only till that is open is the cafe one, and the choices are interminable: type of coffee, size of cup, do you want chocolate or cinnamon, marshmallows yes or no, sugar or not, OK - how many? Aaarrrggghhh!!!

Add to that the pump note says it's on Prepay at the pump. So out comes my fuelcard and I give it a go. But NO it isn't; so in I go to find out what is happening. Nope, Prepay doesn't apply to fuelcard (so why doesn't it bloody well say so on the notice, I fume inside my head.) So out I go again, get $40 of fuel - their pumps are VERY slow to start delivering fuel (about 30 seconds - which is snail's pace), and take ages on the last $2 worth in case it dishes out 1 millilitre more than it should - and then I go inside and wait and wait and wait for the coffee order to be taken. Aaarrrggghhh!!

Puddings and bread were delivered along with a bag of groceries Dee was going to drop off for the Women's Refuge for me (that she subsequently topped up with a donation from the holiday park).

A cup of tea for us, Fortesip for Murray (he had blood tests and a Pic line change coming up before they were to head home) and a chat - longer than we had intended, of course. Murray sloped off for a sleep and we headed away back to Waikanae - we had intended to go to the outdoor market on arrival but were a bit late, so headed straight for breakfast with Bruce and Gary and Leith. Yummy food at the Olive Grove Cafe in Waikanae!

After doing the vegetable market shopping, I went back to bed for a snooze - we had a busy afternoon coming up - a garden party at Madeline and Bevan's place. (We went to the party, I stayed a couple of hours, David stayed on and on and on ... At about 9pm Bevan phoned and asked if I wanted to come and have omelette and salad for dinner. I was sure it was to make sure David would eventually leave ...)

I'm doing beetroot and carrot salad, a green salad and STP for xmas dinner at Bruce and Gary's place, so more dates and demerara sugar are required. Another trip to the supermarket coming up!
Not a good selfie, but necessary to show you how we push the boat out for xmas presents these days - a new grater for David (diddums complained that he hurts his fingers doing the beetroot and carrot salad and I was definitely NOT buying a machine for him to use) and a new cake tin with detachable bottom for me (my current one needs a bulldog clip to hold the ring part closed. This one just has a lifting base).
I have resumed playing 5 Crowns with just David - it is on condition that cumulative scores are not recorded and NO competition is undertaken of Best of 5/15/23/etc. However this scorecard had to be photographed - I got 7 excellent hands in a row ...

Make that 9 excellent hands in a row. I did get a bit caught on the last hand though.
Here is my playing partner - impersonating (??) a rhinoceros using the phone holder. Is it any wonder I despair at times?

Sunday 15 December 2019

Lord of the Ring and Lady of the Shelves ...

The two accomplishments achieved last week were:

David's left eye was operated on in Wellington Hospital (for free, yippee!!):
  • He had a vitrectomy to remove fluid from the back of his eye to significantly lessen the chances of a recurrence of the Acute Malignant Glaucoma he'd suffered just before we left for the UK back in April - it's been being managed with eye drops since then;
  • Keith inserted a plastic ring in the eye to hold everything (I'm not sure what, so we will go with everything ...) steady. David's left eye has nystagmus, i.e. it wobbles from a birth injury, with the result that his zonules are weak (look that one up 😏 - the eye is an extremely fascinating piece of evolution)
  • Following the vitrectomy, Keith removed the cataract and replaced it with a new lens;
  • The surgery took about 2 hours but he was out for the count for about 3.5 hours all up - he tends to take the opportunity for dreamless sleep to extremes, I think.
  • He's now on drops 4 times a day, 2 of one each time and one of the other. His pupil is slowly decreasing in size after having Atropine drops twice a day for 8 months. Keith said it takes about a fortnight for the effects to wear off. I'll be interested to see if his heart rate increases as the other drop he was on had a beta blocker to assist with keeping the pressure down. Amazing how 2 drops a day can have that effect, isn't it?
  • He's recovering well and the only sign he's been operated on is that his eye is slightly bloodshot - from the 3 probes that were inserted. But that is really only visible when I pull the lid back to put the drops in. 
Here he is in second stage recovery - sitting up, drinking tea and eating sandwiches. He was very dehydrated and couldn't make enough saliva for a while, so sandwiches weren't an easy eat.
We had thought that he may be kept in overnight, but there was pressure on beds so we happily went home. We had the offer of a bed at Adrian and Errol's - the kind guys who put me up back in April when David's AMG flared up so dramatically and kept him in hospital. But we decided that we would head back to Waikanae, and get up very early for the post op appointment that was scheduled for about 7.45am.

So after an early night, we left home about 5.30am and had a clear run in, and had time for breakfast at Columbus Coffee before being Keith's first appointment of the day. We left the hospital at about 8.30am and were back in Waikanae by 10.15-ish, having stopped at Moore Wilson's in Tawa to do the bulk buying of muesli ingredients and a few other bits. So it certainly pays to go in to the city very very early!

Bruce and Gary had arrived home the previous day from their 28 day cruise between Rome and Singapore with friends Mark and Chris (who we met in Norfolk last year). So we called in to see them - they have been missed!

Both of them are a bit poorly at the moment - they both came home with colds, or came down with them in the first 24 hours of being home. We know they aren't well, because they didn't do Saturday breakfast and didn't go away for the weekend as planned. Instead they called in to see us in the early afternoon after a trip to the doctor for Gary. He lay down on our couch and napped while we chatted. After a glass of our magic vegetable juice and a cheese scone, I sent them home to go back to bed.

The second of the accomplishments is that I have finished putting the non-slip runner/silicone matting on the shelves in the motorhome and replaced some of the contents. I decided that the drawers I used to have stuff in are redundant, as they won't move with the non-slip stuff in place, but nor will they be easy to pull out to extract stuff - frustrating is much more likely, I reckon, as I'd have to reposition the non slip stuff each time - and how would my level of patience for repetitive actions cope with that, I ask myself. So I have put things directly on the shelves. It does mean there is more flat space to put things as I can use the whole width of the shelf.

The implements are still in a drawer as they are too rattly by half! I have plonked a bag of bubble wrap on top of them to stop them being too bouncy and noisy. There's a lot of stuff to go back in the cupboard - food in particular. I am thinking a total rearrangement of cupboards and shelves in the motorhome is called for ...
We will see if they stay in place as we travel. We are going away to the Wairarapa for two nights later this week to visit friends, as we have a couple of follow up appointments at the hospital and cannot stray too far yet.

Thursday 12 December 2019

Taking on DIY into my 70th year

On Wednesday week before last, I turned 69. I had a really good birthday - with lots of phone calls, and a beautiful bouquet of flowers from our lovely daughter Kirsty. The flowers arrived the previous weekend because delivery wasn't available on my actual birthday.
Beautiful flowers - I am still 68 in this photo ...

And Salvi and Ann arrived on the afternoon of my birthday (a day late because of the storm over the South Island and Wellington the day before that had closed the airports and meant lots of cancelled flights - winds of 120kph at Wellington airport so not a good day to be flying ...).

There they are just off the train from Wellington - you can tell it was cold as no one was in shorts or short sleeves!
Joy and Autry came for dinner and the six of us had a lot of laughs. Even though all the food was vegetarian it was rather delicious - 3 curries. Joy made a fabulous dessert - lemon cheesecake with strawberries.

The following day Salvi and I got started on making shelves for the motorhome wardrobe. When we first got the motorhome, I had bought a tubular and plastic drawer unit to stand on the only shelf in the wardrobe, and we renamed it the pantry - we don't hang clothes in the motorhome (or the boat, for that matter). But we were finding that the articles in the drawers rattled a lot and I was concerned that the total weight of the unit and its contents was a too much of a load for the shelf.

I had measured up and bought:
  • the wood for 6 shelves (but I was only installing 5, however the ply was cut from a rectangular piece that was two shelves wide, so I've got a spare piece ...)
  • the battens to support them 
  • contact glue 
  • a new drill bit
  • wood screws
  • velcro
  • non-slip matting

Sanded and chamfered plywood shelves - you will note there are 6, hence my explanation above ;-)

So in the garage, utilising the earthquake kit chest as a bench, I drilled holes in the battens (using my dad's heavy duty drill - thanks, Dad) while Ann held everything steady, measured and marked up the wardrobe walls, glued the battens and the walls.
Holes drilled, glue applied, screws in - note the protective sheet on the motorhome's only useful bench space, i.e. the stove-top...

Cupboard is marked up with shelf positions. I photographed the electrical and fire safety instructions so David can print and laminate them, as required.

Working, boss!
Watching, boss!

First shelf in for a test run and looking OK, but a bit saggy - 7mm ply is rather flexible ...

And Salvi's job was to screw the battens to the walls while I sanded and chamfered the shelves. Slight problem in that the wardrobe is not square, so I got out my multi-tool and took a small piece out of one corner of each shelf with Ann holding them all steady. Job done. Ann also had the job of fitting the multi tool back in its box - my sister Dee will understand ...
Salvi is short, like me, so the stool came in handy ...
 The next day Ann and I attached velcro to the battens and to the shelves so that the shelves would be easily removed allowing access to the central heating tank at the back of the wardrobe. A friend John arrived and saw what we were doing, and suggested that we needed a batten across the bottom of each shelf to strengthen them and keep them flat when the weight of the contents is applied. Very good idea, John! So we kicked him out and headed to the hardware shop to buy some 18mm x 18mm wood. The guy (who did seem surprised that I knew the word chamfered - thanks, Dad) cut the battens to length for me; and home we went, to drill them and the shelves in pairs and to apply the glue.

While Ann and Salvi went out to visit Salvi's godfather's daughter at Charles Fleming retirement village, I screwed the shelves to the supporting battens. When they got home, Salvi's job was to get the screws seated down level with the shelves - my hands are not strong enough for that last couple of turns.
Just testing - yes, they work, and I won't need the old plastic drawers. That non-slip rubber works very well. But this was pre attaching a batten beneath the shelf - now there is no sagging at all!
 In between work and food, we managed to play quite a few games of 5 Crowns. I did not win any of them, dammit!! But Ann did win a couple so that was OK...

It was great having them to stay and our boating trip in The Netherlands is booked and the deposit paid. Ann and Salvi's flights between NZ and Amsterdam are also booked and paid for, as are David's and my flights between Birmingham and Amsterdam - that'll be a bit of deja vu for me as I used to fly there pretty much every week during 2007 when we were living in Church Enstone. Schipol is where I bought most of my Cow Parade cows - I do hope that gift shop is no longer there ...

In order to inculcate Ann and Salvi into Dutch food, I took them up to Foxton where we visited the Dutch cafe and the windmill. They needed to sample bittebollen, so we shared a plate of them, complete with mustard and mayo, in the cafe and then I purchased 2 tubs of them in the windmill shop. Yum!

Another treat booked and paid for is attendance at The Battle Proms at Blenheim Palace on 4 July. Not sure where we will be on the boat at that stage, but most likely somewhere near Berkhamsted, so we will hire a car from there and drive up and back.

The plans are coming together!!