Home Baking, Gardening and Work

My Pyracantha bushes trained against our outbuildings

Since my return from France I have a new project: finding the perfect Shortbread recipe. This cooking quest began innocently enough last weekend after Nigel and I had polished off a batch of my mince-pies and again remarked how utterly delicious the pastry was – sort of melt-in-your-mouth like Shortbread.

Naturally, this got me thinking about making my own Shortbread. After delving into my cookbooks and trying out a number of recipes (all unsatisfactory I might add), I then did a Google search and found a super article in The Guardian written by Felicity Cloake entitled: How to make perfect shortbread. So tomorrow I’m going to try out her recipe and will keep you posted (with photograph) of my (hopefully) edible results.

Still in cooking mode, this morning I baked my third Dundee Cake – we ate the other two some time ago (sigh). However, I have a sneaky feeling that I may have to bake another one before Christmas lands on our doorstep as this Dundee Cake will be crying out to be eaten too!

Like any good tradesperson, I believe in using the right tool for the right job and, where cooking is concerned, I’m in 7th heaven. As luck would have it, Norfolk has the largest independent cookshop (The Kitchenary Limited) located in Taverham – which is not quite down the road from us – but nearly. This shop is jam-packed with wonderful utensils, pots & pans I never knew I needed. Thankfully our chimney is nice and wide so Santa won’t have too much of a hard time coming down, laden with a sack-load of cooking paraphernalia for yours truly!

Lest you may think I’m spending most of my waking hours in the kitchen, think again. I’ve also set myself the task of working one hour every day in the garden. How else am I going to work off all my cooking calories? Today I battled with a very thorny and dense Pyracantha bush which grows along the side wall of our outbuildings. Tomorrow I have the pleasure of doing battle again but, knowing how great it is for wildlife, I don’t begrudge the few scars I get while clipping him.

And of course, sandwiched between my cooking and gardening I try and work! Never a dull moment, I can tell you!

The Boy, Little Fairy and Smiley Cat

Freddy and The Little Fairy - both happy to be back together

Last Friday, 4th November, my best friend Ineke and I drove to France in Thomas (my Range Rover) to pick up the cats: The Boy, Little Fairy and Smiley Cat. Included in that journey was also the overseeing of the final move from Peymeinade when the last bits and pieces of furniture and my outdoor plants would be transported to Belaugh by Tony, our removal man.

Earlier in the week I’d received an email saying that the weather that weekend would not be brilliant in the South of France as heavy rains were forecast.  As it turned out, it was to be far worse – life-threatening in fact!

After our overnight stay in Buchères, Saturday morning found us up early and away in Thomas to complete our journey. As we chatted so the kilometres rolled by and we were soon driving through Lyon. Here we encountered a light rain but the skies told nothing of what was yet to come.

Approaching the outskirts of Toulon we both felt something wasn’t quite right as dark, iron-grey skies and darker Cumulonimbus clouds bubbled up around us. By the time we reached Toulon the heavens opened and we found ourselves in one of the worst storms ever experienced in the Alpes-Maritimes.

Driving became almost impossible as the motorway vanished under a deluge of water and merged with white-out sheets of rain. Spectacular lightening strikes of awesome magnitude hit from all sides as cracks of thunder blasted our senses. It was simply awesome – and incredibly scary.

Amazingly, we made it through the storm and arrived in Chateauneuf-de-Grasse where our Campanile hotel was booked. It rained continuously throughout the night with more thunderstorms thrown in for good measure. Sunday dawned and it was still hammering down. We arrived in Peymeinade to further thunderstorms – but which magically stopped as Tony arrived with his van – and my last move was done under clear skies.

And they were still clear when Ineke and I arrived to pick up the cats on the Monday – although we had to walk to the cattery as their road had been completely washed away, leaving jarring crevices no car – not even Thomas – could negotiate.

Ineke say’s she’ll write a book some day about our many adventures and while we’ve had some pretty amazing ones – I think this one tops the lot.

The cats are now here in Belaugh and none the worse after their six-week stay in the cattery and their two day drive in Thomas. However I do wonder, if like the Pope, they didn’t kiss the ground when they arrived  – thankful to be warm and safe – and home.

A Smart New Lake

We finally have a rather smart new lake – something we’ve been looking forward to since we first arrived in Belaugh in July.

This is how it looked when we first arrived in Belaugh


Once the workmen had emptied and cleaned the lake

How our lake looks now.

It took the workmen (three of them) just under a week to empty the lake, clear all the bulrushes and refill it.

Needless to say Freddy couldn’t resist taking a closer look and returned covered from top to tail in sticky, vile, smelly mud. Thankfully, Bertie was much more sensible (well, he would be wouldn’t he?) and steered clear of it, mooching around on the soft grass to his heart’s content – something he’s not seen or had for over a year!

Once spring is here I’ll work on adding bog plants and water lilies as I’d like to encourage more wildlife. I’m told that otters used to visit – perhaps our smart new lake may entice them back.

The Mallards and Moorhens seem happy with the way the lake is now and in fact, we seem to have more of them splashing around. Even the local heron has come round to inspect it, finding the odd eel here and there.

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