Sunday, 28 September 2008

Mary Poppins

As I sit and write this, I am still on a high from going to see the UK tour of Mary Poppins in Birmingham yesterday.  From the very start of the overture to Mary flying over the audience when the wind changed (come back Mary!) I was in complete awe.  It was amazing!  The songs, the dancing, the sets, the lights, the costumes ... everything was absolutely brilliant!  There were some new songs and some of the songs from the original Disney film weren't in it ... my favourite was "Step In Time" ("It's the master! ... ")  I have always loved the film and to see Mary in the flesh (because, obviously ... she is real, and can fly with the aid of her parrot brolly) was a dream come true!  Mary Poppins is practically perfect in every way!

Monday, 22 September 2008

Christmas Is Coming....

As today was "the last Sunday in September when I am free" I made my Xmas Cake!  I used the same Delia Smith recipe as I did last year (was lovely and moist!) - but have substituted Brandy for Sloe Gin (2007 batch) and added some chopped dates.  I will be feeding the cake on a regular basis with more S.G ... and marzipanning and icing nearer Xmas.  I can't wait!

Here is the recipe -  Delia's Classic Christmas Cake

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Jolly Days In London - Part One

Had a lovely day out yesterday. Dragged Mr Plum out of bed at the ungodly hour of 9.30am! We jumped on a train to London Bridge and had a walk around Borough Market, stopping off for breakfast where I had lovely eggs florentine and Mr Plum had a ham & cheese croissant!

Borough Market was packed, as always. We got a nice piece of Comte and some mozerella...and made plans to go back on a Thursday nearer Christmas!

We had originally planned to go to the Tower of London, but as it was "Open House" weekend in the city - we took the opportunity to look around some buildings which are normally closed to the public. We went to the Vintners Hall, the wonderful Art Deco old headquarters of "The Express", the High Court, and the Freemasons Grand Temple (another fine Art Deco building).

We took advantage of the lovely sunny weather to grab something to eat at Giraffe on the South Bank - it felt like we were on holiday! Then headed to Waterloo to catch the train home....makes a change from an afternoon shopping in Plumdon!

"Maisie Dobbs" by Jacqueline Winspear

I'm always on the look out for a new series of books to read - you know what it's like, you get to the end of one book, feel a bit sad that you have finished it - but can pick up the next in the series straight away!  

I was over at a friends house for dinner a couple of weeks ago and she lent me the first four "Maisie Dobbs" novels (and there are more - I have just checked on Amazon! Excellent!).  I have just devoured the first one.

"Maisie Dobbs" is set 1910-1929. The novel jumps around a bit from when Maisie was a girl in service, to her time at Cambridge, then as a nurse in the First World War and then as a detective in 1929.  I enjoyed every minute of this book - it was a real page turner .... and left me sobbing my heart out at the end! I can't wait to get started on the second book "Birds of a Feather".

Thursday, 18 September 2008

"Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire" by Amanda Foreman

With the recent release of "The Duchess" looming, I decided that it was about time that I finally sat down and read Amanda Foreman's biography of the Duchess of Devonshire.

Georgiana featured quite prominently in my studies at university as she "pursued leisure" in eighteenth century London.  She one of the most important ladies in the "ton", she set fashions, held gaming parties and influenced politics.  I have wanted to read this biography for so long - but had never got round to it.  I was spurred on by the release of the film. 

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Limoncello - part 1

In preparation for the festive season and pressies for family and friends, the Plum Brewery started off their first batch of Limoncello!

I got the recipe from "A Year of Family Recipes" by Lesley Wild and published by the Betty's Cookery School.  As with my Sloe Gin - this takes time and attention.  I have just completed part one of the recipe, and am writing this while I wait for the kettle to boil.  I am just about to take afternoon tea out into the garden for Mr Plum who has just fixed my shed!

Ingredients (makes 1.5 litres)

8 organic unwaxed lemons (or whatever you can get at the market ... I only got 7, so will be adding an extra one later on!)
750ml 80% proof vodka (the vodka I have is only 37.5% - so not sure whether it will work!)
625ml water
500g caster sugar

Method for part 1:

1.  Carefully pare the peel from the lemons with a sharp knife, ensuring the white pith is left behind.

2.  Pour the vodka into a large glass jar, then add the peeled lemon zest.  Cover with the lid and leave in a cool dark place for 40 days.  Gradually the vodka will absorb the flavour and rich colour of the lemon zest.  At the end of this stage the zest will be pale and quite brittle - this is a sign that you can progress to the next stage.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Lost In Austen

Why did the portal from Longborne lead to Amanda Price's bathroom? It should have lead to mine!  

"Lost in Austen" is a new ITV series about romantic Amanda Price who is disillusioned with her life in London and has the luck to find Lizzie Bennett playing with the electric light in her bathroom!  Amanda travels through the portal and Lizzie stays in 21st Century London...

Amanda is supposedly a big fan of Pride & Prejudice - well, if that's the case then surely she would know how to behave at Longborne and Netherfield? Surely smoking, downing glasses of punch, wearing lipgloss and kicking Mr Collins between the legs is not the way for an Austen heroine to behave?

By the end of episode 2 everything is going horribly wrong ... Mrs Bennett has asked Amanda to leave, Jane has married Mr Collins and Bingley, well .... he's about as much use as a chocolate fireguard!

It's good TV though ... especially Amanda's reaction when she first meets Mr Wickham ... she reacts how anyone would! With a glare and a "I'm watching you Mr Wickham!".  The series is a 4 parter and hopefully we will see more of Lizzie in the next 2 episodes!

The Proms!

Last night I went to Prom 73 at the Royal Albert Hall.  The programme included Vaughan Williams "Sinfonia antartica" (Symphony No 7), Xenakis "Pleiades" (first performance at the Proms - and last, hopefully!) and finally, Holst "The Planets".

The Vaughan Williams piece was beautiful and inspired by Scott's doomed expedition to the the South Pole.  It was easy to get lost in the music .......... 

The second piece of music by Xenakis just wasn't my "thing" at all ... very modern, loud and tuneless ... not really what I had gone to the Albert Hall to listen to ... a lot of people walked out in the middle of it - one man in the audience actually shouted "noooooooo!" in the middle of it!  It sounded like crashing bin lids!!! 

The final piece on the programme was Holt's "The Planets" - this was amazing! I have never sat and listened to the whole movement in one go ... always bits here and bits there.  I was captivated throughout the whole performance ... and the Holst Singers at the end was particularly moving ....

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Harvest Time

I have spent the last 4 days resting a sprained foot and haven't had the chance to get out in the garden and check what is occurring. Today I ventured out in the Autumn drizzle and spotted slightly pink tomatoes - finally! I have given the tomato plants a good trim and picked a few fruits which I will put on a sunny window sill to encourage ripening. Hopefully the rest of the fruits will naturally ripen on the plants.

I also picked all my chives which I will chop up and freeze, 3 green peppers (I will leave the rest to go red on the plant), the entire crop from my peas ... (3 pods!), some very small spring onions and a handful of rocket. I'm not sure whether I will use a grow bag again next year as I thought I would have more luck with my salad by using one.

Next year, I will plan what I am going to plant and where I am going to plant it with more care. Rather than shoving as much as possible into my greenhouse, I will utilize the outside space better. I will be reading Alan Titchmarsh this afternoon and planning what to plant this Autumn....

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Today I am mostly drinking ...

Yu Luo White Tea 

This exquisite white tea comes from the Hunan province in China.

Grown at an altitude of 4,500 feet, the tea bush ‘wakes’ after the winter in April and produces delicate white buds, which often have a white down on them. They are picked by hand and sun-dried so that fermentation cannot take place.

Very little white tea is produced, as this process requires particular care, increasing its rarity making it highly sought after by tea buyers all over the world.

It has a delicate flavour, which is best drunk without milk.

Joules - A Guide To The Cotswolds

Having had a slight mis-hap on the way to a meeting yesterday, I am currently sitting at home with my feet up nursing a sprained inbetween reading about Georgiana I am also browsing the Joules website thinking about what lovely Autumny items to buy ... on the Joules Village part of the website they had put a Guide to The Cotswolds - all they need to do now is open a flagship store where Mummy & Daddy Plum live (and not Cheltenham) and that would be GREAT!

Monday, 1 September 2008

Men's Afternoon Tea at The Mandeville

I have just seen the "Men's Afternoon Tea" at The Mandeville on - whatever next?  It is aimed at London's "heteropolitan"!  I hope this means that Mr and Master Plum won't be going off for afternoon tea without me!