Thursday, 4 June 2015

Catch Up Time: holidays, lurgys, food carvings and James Rhodes appreciation

Hello there folks...I cannot believe its been so long. That said I thought I would update you about recent goings on at R&R HQ. So here goes....

Kessington Sands (shingle), Lowestoft. Photo courtesy of Ann
Our break away by the beach was a peaceful time. We stayed in accommodation 2 minutes walk from the beach although it was one I was unable to do so Ann took a few photos for me. Isn't this one great? But it was nice to be near the beach and we enjoyed a couple of days out exploring. Our friend Bev suggested nearby Southwolds and it was just lovely.  We ate at a fab little cafe who were vegan friendly and I devoured delicately ate...ahem...a plateful of mixed salads. Roasted fennel, artichoke, pepper & asparagus being my favourite of the offerings. ML & Ann also had great meals and although it was extremely busy in No 51 the atmosphere was very relaxing. I just wish we had found it earlier in the week...ah well. Should you be visiting Southwolds any time soon..check it out. 

I found an almost zenlike moment of peace sat in the gardens of Framlingham Castle whist ML and Ann took the tower walk. Warm sunshine on my skin, peaceful surroundings and that feeling you get when you are sat somewhere drenched in history.

The week away was nice and ML and Ann both got the space and healing time they needed. I struggled though..the pain was bad so I slept little and by midweek I was bouncing off the walls with sleep deprivation and pain overload. But I was happy to be there and enjoyed sitting by the window watching the sky as the weather was extremely changeable and intensely beautiful. On the final day I started to feel odd and by the next morning as ML and Ann were packing up the car I was in full on lurgy mode. 

Yep...I went on holiday and came home poorly! Go

The drive home was long and hot and I was an incubator for the germs I'd picked up. I managed a quick visit with my sister and little ones (all gifts loved and approved..Auntie points 10/10 lol) and then I crawled into my bed...and never made it out for a whole week. The lurgy completely floored me and it was nasty. But made bearable because of ML's TLC. Who when not making nutritious homemade soups for me to eat was found on the bed next to me administering hugs and playings games to keep me rested. And luckily didn't catch the lurgy from me...bonus. I was determined to get through it without medications and I am proud to say I did. Took some time to feel even remotely human but I stuck it out and now my body doesn't have to recover from a serious dose of anti-bios. I'm still a little shaky but I'm lurgy free...wehoooo. 

Cucumber carvings...hush..they were my first attempt...I will keep practising lol

So what does a person on rest, do on holiday? Well take up the practise of Japanese food carvings of course. I picked up a bargain copy of The Decorative Art of Japanese Food Carvings by Hiroshi Nagashima shortly before we left for our holiday. It is a great book with clear instructions and inspirational photos...I say inspirational because they make the art of food carving look easy. It isn't...believe me. 

And now for the radishes and carrot needs practice...
Sorry about the quality of the photos...oh and the crude carvings...but I am committed to keeping up the practice. I found it to be challenging at times...but all consuming and it took my mind away from the pain and frustrations that come with it. It was this space...

My little garden....
We recently made the decision the take our house off of the market and stay for a while. The reasons are many...but the outcome has brought us some peace of mind. We are happy with our decision and therefore making plans based around it. We are taking up some home maintenance jobs around the house that we will work on ourselves and I am very much up for that challenge even if I only manage 30 minutes a day. I love doing 'jobs' around the house and have missed doing them greatly so I can't wait to get started but obviously my body isn't keeping up with my heart/mind. But I am determined and so is ML so it's all good. One of the main things I wanted to get started was a reorganisation of the gardens. Our property has a substantial garden area. Thankfully divided up into sections...the majority of the garden which ML was responsible in the past (no longer due to major reactions to anything green and natural..) we are going to offer up for someone to make into a fully functioning allotment. But the large yard directly outside my kitchen window we have cleared and I have made a 'container' vegetable garden. I have no idea if it will work but I have researched everything I needed to and I'm very enthusiastic that it will. With the helpful advice from ML I am hoping to have an abundance of veggies in a short while. Planted as follows:

Spaghetti squash
F'Atena Yellow courgettes
Junona squash
Tumbling Tom cherry tomatoes
Orinoco Dwarf Beans
Bell Boy Bell Peppers
Californian Wonder Bell Peppers
Marconi Pointy Peppers
Rainbow Beetroot
Chioggia Beetroot
Bright Lights Swiss Chard
Black Magic Kale
Fizz Kale 
Rhubarb Beet Leaf Beet
Dragon F1 Hybrid Radishes
Rainbow Mixed Radishes

Still to come shiso leave seeds. And an abundance of herbs...

I have chosen many veggies for the simple reason that I can't buy them in my area of England. So I am very happy to be starting this project. Once there is something to see I shall post some photos but I promise not to turn into a garden bore. Hopefully... I have a new addiction. Although I am and will always be an espresso gal. I have to admit that caffeine doesn't suit my body anymore. I have my adored machine waiting for the days when I allow myself the espresso hit. I have unsuccessfully been trying to find a good decaf coffee for years. I have tried many...some worse than others but always a let down. Its frustrating because sometimes I just need a black coffee instead of my beloved green teas and the like. 

A really good Fair Trade decaf instant coffee

I don't know what dragged me down the coffee aisle of the supermarket whilst away on our holiday. But before I knew it was scanning the instant coffee offerings. I am by no means a purest when it comes to regular coffee. Espresso...oh yes but regular cuppa joe...oh no. Yes I prefer the filtered kind...but if I can find an instant than I am happy. Percol have never even blipped on my radar until that day. Something drew me in and I had stashed a jar of this decaf coffee in my trolley. And I couldn't be happier about it. ML made me a cup when we got back from the shopping trip and from the moment the jar was opened I knew it was going to be a good one. The aroma assaulted my senses and brought me back to all my most loved coffee drinking memories. I almost didn't want to take a sip and face the disappointment but the swirling blackness worked its magic and I took my first taste. Smooth, strong and a great depth of flavour...aside from the jolt you get with regular just wouldn't know it was a decaf coffee. I now look forward to my afternoon coffee moment...and its Fair Trade too! Thank you Percol! If you have to have decaf or just simply choose to drink decaf...try this coffee I beg you. After all there are worse addictions to be had, eh? 

And lastly...and by no means least...Mr James Rhodes. I confess I had never heard of the chap until very recently. I was checking in with the Hay Festival via iPlayer and happened upon an interview between Stephen Fry and James. From the first answer to Fry's question I was taken. James Rhodes life story is at times brutal but not in a 'misery for money' way. He is honest which above all else I respect. And found myself ordering his autobiography for my Kindle a few days later. The impression he made stayed with me. 

The autobiography that almost never happened....

You only need to Google his name to read about the battle he has been through to get to publish his book. It was long, tortuous battle but despite this he remains loyal to his truth. Where lesser people would have given up and limped away..he with the support of his wife, family and good friends kept going. And I for one am so happy that he did because I have been so emotionally touched by this book...his life...his words and the way he looks at the world. I hate that the man who hurt him as a child got away with it and it would eat me alive but he has managed to move on. It still has an effect on him but he deals with it. I have a huge amount of respect for this man and should I ever have the chance to meet him I would tell him so although he would probably light a cigarette and tell me to hush. This book isn't doom and gloom and woe is me. This book is an honest account about one mans childhood and adult life so far. And filled with far more positivity and honesty than anything I've read in a long time. To quote an old cliche...I am forever changed by reading this.

I enjoyed the play list that comes with each new chapter and I added the Instrumental suggested play list by James onto our Spotify account. Each chapter starts with a suggested piece of music and a short paragraph about the composer. Did I forget to mention that James Rhodes is a fantastic piano player and tours the world doing so. I've listened to some of his CD offerings and being the classical music fan I think I am..I am ashamed that his work has slipped by me. That is now rectified. I recently watched his documentary on Channel 4...Notes From The Inside: James Rhodes. Having had some time in a locked ward himself..he takes a Steinway piano into a hospital and personally selects 4 pieces of music for four patients to try and make a connection with them as music has been a safe haven for him. It is a good documentary and at times raw. But to have the chance to listen to him play and see the emotion he pours into every note and know all of the hidden struggles he faces as he sits there playing...I was humbled. 

Mr James Rhodes: Brief clip from the Hay Festival talking about Chopin then performing
I have respect for this man. Not in the seedy groupie way..for goodness sake. But respect for his words, notes and the way he has survived the ordeals of his life. His love for his wife, son and his family and friends. But mainly his honesty...the fact that he admits he can to quote " such an asshole..." but then can wax lyrical about real love. He is flawed but then who isn't. He is honest...not that many people are so for me it was a refreshing change. And he is close mates with Ben Cumberbatch...whats not to love about that. I look forward to many hours listening to James music and hopefully a book or two alongside. Thank you Mr Rhodes for leaving an impression...

Anything else...well our much loved 'road tripping' car finally died. It was a very sad day in R & R HQ but we have many fantastic memories of travels in Carmen to enjoy.

Right that is us all caught up. I am feeling stronger each day so hope to be back in the kitchen very soon. But in the meantime don't forget the extensive archive of recipes on offer. Just please forgive the photos if you go..way back. I was an absolute beginner back then but the recipes are good. 

I hope you are surrounded by sunshine and happiness folks...and thank you for stopping by.