Day 101

Well according to the recording in my diary.

101 days since the 17th March. 101 days of altered life.

Lockdown didn’t begin then. It started the following week, on Monday 23rd. But on the 17th I wrote in my diary , “Odd day. Sort of day one” .  The day before there’d been  a press conference discouraging us from all non essential social contact, recommending against visits to cafes, bars, theatres etc.

It wasn’t an order, not at that point.

On the 17th I had my hair done, by the 18th I began to hear of friends self isolating. Our walking group met for the last time on the 19th.  Instead of the usual groups of two or three people of the same pace chatting together, we were a long straggly line.  Friday the 20th we returned from the shops to find signs warning of Covid in the area*

And so it’s continued, through an often glorious Spring.

 

My May blogathon. Horrible word. Sorry.

Lots of baking

Many,

many,

photos of DogS.

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“you can never have too many photos of me”

And now things are beginning to change.

We’ve had drinks with friends in their and our garden.

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And we have plans to take our fortnightly quiz** “live” next time.

But it’s still baby steps, as it should be. And always with fingers crossed and touching wood. Though it’s science and hygiene that will guard against a second wave.

I’m looking forward to lots of things: travelling beyond the town to take DogS to the beach,  enjoying tea and a scone at the outdoor cafe afterwards, visiting a garden.               MasterS being able to visit. Meeting family and friends. Conversations that’s aren’t yelled.

I wish I could honestly say it’s all the simple things. But that’s not me.

I want to be able to travel further.  To sit with a drink as the sun sets***, hearing a language that’s not my own.

But I’ll wait. Keep with the baby steps. Appreciate what I’ve got.

Resist the temptation to rearrange the acceptance mantra  “it is like this”.

And now I’m off to bake.

Until next time.

Marina xx

 

 

* Yes, I have documented this before.

**We do this online with two other households, each writing a round of questions. For big money prizes. So weather permitting we’ll all meet up outside. And yell the questions at each other.

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sometimes it’s veg from the garden 

***we’re just past the solstice, the sun sets at around 10pm.

 

baking some more

It doesn’t look as if we’ll be travelling abroad any time soon*, so I decided to partially make up for it by baking up another taste of Portugal.  I found this recipe for Bola de Amendoa on the Great British Chefs site. It’s a good resource for recipes and tips.

Anyway, I’d planned to make it a couple of weeks ago but had run out of ground, or indeed any kind of, almonds.  As had our local shop.  So I had to wait until we did our “big shop” (see* below) in Oban.  It was worth the wait.

I love almondy cakes, and gooey centred ones so this recipe promised a double treat.

dry ingredients

Here’s the ground almonds and butter ready to be pulsed together

 

sugar and spice

Sugar and spices

The sugar and egg yolks are whisked  up together,  salt, spice and lemon zest  folded in and then in goes the almond mixture.

all mixed up

egg whites whisked to soft peaks

Next  comes the trickiest part, gently adding in the whisked egg whites. Tricky because you have to mix it enough to avoid streaky white stripes of egg, but gently to avoid beating out the air.

Actually it can’t have been too tricky because I managed it quite successfully,  and into the oven it went.

My one mistake was using a baking tin which was a) slightly too small and b) a push rather than spring release. This meant I had a cuff of cake spilling over the side of the tin which I had to cut away to release the rest of the cake. This did mean I had a bit of cake to “test” – for purely critical purposes you must understand. So silver linings… But next time I think I’ll use my slightly bigger spring release tin, which might mean keeping a close eye on the last few minutes of baking, as the mix will be spread more thinly.

Anyway here’s a not terribly good photo of the finished cake

fuzzy finished product

I didn’t notice how fuzzy this was until it was too late

And once I realised,  I thought I’d take a picture of a slice.

But  I went to look,  and there was none left!  Cake thieves must operate in this area, who’d have thought?

I’ll just have to make another one.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend and stay safe.

Marina xx

 

* Mind you it was a huge excitement the other day just walking in a different part of town. We went to the garden centre, along the esplanade, and then to the fishmonger.  Usually it’s the small supermarket, pick up our food hub  order and home.

Update!

I made another one,  and took a photo

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Ile de Re

I must start with an apology, I’m getting a strong sense of Deja-vu with this post. I’m pretty sure I’ve written about Ile deRe before, but on a quick scan back through old posts couldn’t find one. It’s possibly on my old blog? If it does turn up it would be interesting to see if I’ve written the same things and used the same photos? A pretty high chance I think.

Why today? Well quite often on sunny days, and today had been very sunny, I’m struck by the similarities between  it, and “my” island.

We have the same sort of small white cottages, though ours were built to house slate miners. There aren’t miners anymore but you can find  fishermen (yes it is always men), here. We even have oyster beds, Ile de Re is famous for oysters.  But lobsters, crab and langoustines are dominate here.

Both islands have lots of lovely summer flowers.

And both  are on the Atlantic coast, connected to the mainland  by a bridge.

Our trip to Ile de Re was quite a while ago, 2013 and it was our first trip abroad with DogS. And because of that, also the first time we crossed the channel using Le Shuttle.

First impressions weren’t great. We couldn’t even see the island as we drove onto the bridge . There was a fog worthy of an Edinburgh haar*

Luckily the weather improved, most days were nice and sunny.   We had a lovely time exploring, eating seafood, shopping in the market, even the odd drink.

Oh and cycling. Well sort of I had a tricycle.

And though she wasn’t keen at first, DogS came to love the box. Specially when  I picked up speed, and she could enjoy the wind through her fur.

She made friends too

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DogS is the very hairy one on the right

but was less keen on “Les Chats”.

We were based in St Martin de Re which is the capital, and that’s where the differences start. There’s a fabulous local shop here,  but not the kind of designer boutiques you find in Ile de Re. None of our three villages could be called the “capital”.

And we don’t have donkeys, and certainly no donkeys in stripy pyjamas.

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this one is “au naturel” but traditionally they wear stripy PJs to protect their legs from salt and beasties when they work in the marshes

There’s no point in my giving names of bars or restaurants that we liked, seven years on so much may have changed. Even without Covid-19.

One recommendation, we visited in June and our accommodation was almost 50%  cheaper  than it would have been in the peak months (mostlyAugust when Parisians visit). And it was still a nice buzzy place in the slightly off season. It would be interesting to visit in the off season, but I imagine a very different experience.

Oh and a warning, it was the place I took this photograph.  While it was easy to eat out, visit the shops and even some of the monuments, many of the beaches were off limits for dogs

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So on  a lovely sunny day at home it’s been  nice to remember another pretty island and a happy holiday.

Until tomorrow

Marina xx

*Haar – a sea fog common on Scotland’s east coast, usually in Spring.

Feeling slightly sad at seeing my former favourite Sonia Rykiel top. Repurposed last year when it became too holey to wear or repair.

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Gardens

I’m not much of a gardener but love visiting and being in gardens. My mother filled her small terraced garden with blooms

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and my sister has inherited Mum’s green fingers and has a lovely garden,

but I’m usually having too much fun to take photos which do it justice.

I’m lucky to have two beautiful open gardens right on the doorstep and another just a short drive away.

 

We can’t visit them at the moment but will be back before too long.

I’ve enjoyed the cool of beautiful gardens in hot places, like these in the Philippines

 

and the Jardin Botanico  and Parque del Drago in Tenerife.

 

And then there’s the formal  French splendour of Villandry in the Loire valley.

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“I be a bit worried ’bout what he’s planning”

Or this at the Casa de Mateus  in Portugal.

 

This French garden at Varengeville- sur Mer in Normandy was less formal.

As were these glorious borders at Dyffryn gardens in South Wales

 

But there then there are places that have it all…..

Dumfries House in Ayrshire, possibly my favourite garden ever*.  All my favourite flowers, delphiniums, cornflowers, poppies, lavender, it was absolutely gorgeous. The house is beautiful too, it’s a great day out.  But the joy of visiting gardens is that DogS can come too**. That’s why we chose Villandry as our Loire chateau.

Like many others we’ve been spending quite a lot of lockdown time in the garden. But it’s still very much a work in progress.  And of course at the mercy of bambi and the  bunnies.

Until tomorrow,

Marina xx

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Bringing the garden indoors***

 

*to visit.

**all the gardens mentioned in the UK or mainland Europe were dog friendly at the time of visiting

***that’s from last year, the sweet peas are at least a month away from flowering

Beaches

I love going to the beach. It’s top of my list of places to go once we can make non essential journeys. We live beside the sea

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and it’s beautiful, but we don’t have a typical sandy beach.

We don’t have to drive very far to find one, just the other side of our nearest town. Simply out of bounds for us for now.

But it will be our first trip, because if there’s “someone” who likes a beach more than me, then it’s DogS.

Particularly if there’s a tennis ball around, the scruffier the better.

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this was not a welcome sign

Although  I’m not a sunbather my favourite travel destinations are beside the sea.

sunset looking east

 

Home

and away,

wild and urban.

On a hot sunny beach you’ll find me under an umbrella with a book, not stretched out soaking up the rays. I like paddling though, and swimming when it’s warm enough. I learned to swim in the sea (the Bristol Channel) and love the feeling of the waves.  I’m not so hardy these days and prefer warmer seas so don’t get a dip as often. I’m not a particular thrill seeker and hate the term “bucket list” but I’d love to try waterskiing.

I like a seaside cafe

or sometimes, something grander.

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I try to leave only

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but pick up the occasional

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and can get quite obsessive about clearing up

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One of my favourite films was set not too far away.  Here I am acting out one of the scenes.

 

 

I’m looking forward to feeling the sand between my toes again.

Version 2

Until tomorrow

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Having fun with my sister

I’ve been having fun with her all my life.

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that’s me with the ears (and bonnet)

It might have been less fun for her. After all I just appeared one day, a surprise when she got home from school. No careful preparation for new siblings back then. And I certainly didn’t bring her a gift. I was more likely to trash her toys. Not deliberately,  I was just a little *enthusiastic* Although she did once get her own back with a certain Sindy hairdressing incident.

We live hundreds of miles apart and both hate the telephone but manage to stay close.

Usually  we manage to meet up a few times a year. And pick up where we left off.

Whether  it’s Christmas

a birthday.

Or just to have fun.

Which often involves eating,

and drinking.

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Mmmm, I think this might have been mine

She’s a cat lover

and Mum to one.

Then there are  the men in her life.

 

She’a a scientist, crafter, gardener….

And who else could supply one of these?

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it starred in our panto this year

Doing my yoga this morning I found this on my mat

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It’s a few years old now and came with this

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I’m not sure how it got there, I haven’t used that bag since Christmas.

I hope it’s not too long before I use it again.

And can send one of these, to say we’re not far away.

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Until tomorrow

Marina xx

Scents

Thinking about the town that smelled of chocolate has made me remember other scents. Childhood day trips to my favourite beaches on the Gower, holding my breath as we drove past the stinks of Llandarcy. No point really.  I got a bumper dose of the stench once I gave up and breathed again.  Nearer to home, the sight of dead trees promised the stink of rotten eggs when we passed the smokeless fuel plant. And then there was the  burnt carrot whiff of Cardiff that I learned was beer brewing.   “It’s Brains you want” as they used to say.  Summer brought molten tar, always a threat my clothes.

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home was also scented with flowers

 

Childhood wasn’t all bad smells of course, there was delicious baking, cut grass, the  central heating – newly extended to our bedrooms, Dad’s big white hankies which smelled of leather and coins, the fresh crisp plastic of a new term’s pencil case.

And when we reached the seaside on those trips, it smelled of adventure.

And still does.

It was in the 1970s that I first discovered perfume. Aqua Manda in its chunky brown bottle, Charlie, L’Aimant. Then there was the huge (as it seemed to me then) bottle of Chanel No5, I bought on my first trip abroad.  A present for my big Sis. I fretted it contravened duty allowances (I was too young to have an allocation) so persuaded a teacher to put it in her luggage.

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not this one, this is still sealed.

Travel brought new and exciting scents. Kerosene and charred meat, jasmine, grilled fish and the sea, even cigar smoke which I hated at home.

 

And new and exciting perfume stores.  Sephora, Marionnaud, Guerlain, and most recently Perfumeria Bengas in San Sebastian. Even though at that last one I bought this

 

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rather than this.

I couldn’t blow most of my holiday money on a bottle of perfume, even if it did look and smell wonderful.

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And I have quite a collection anyway.

A scent can transport…

lighting one of these

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can take me back here

 

Clearing a house, I couldn’t throw these away, but more for the bottles  than their scents.

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Not because the scents were bad.  But apart from the “Ma Griffe” they didn’t remind me of the person they’d belonged to.  Maybe they’d been kept for the memories they held?

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Look inside and  you might find

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I  pick them up at the perfume counter.

Get them sprayed with a scent I’m not going to buy.

The  scent my Mum wore.

That one must be quite old.

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And with the scent gone it’s just a piece of card.

Until tomorrow

 

Marina xx

Towns that smell of chocolate*

To be honest I think I’ve only ever been to the one, although both Edinburgh, my home of nearly thirty years, and Carlisle, smell of biscuits.**

The chocolatey town? Oloron Ste Marie  in the south of France, where we visited the Lindt factory. Actually that’s a bit misleading, I don’t think you can take factory tours. What you can do is visit the FACTORY SHOP.

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chocolate similar to that available

A bit of a disclaimer, that bar of chocolate was not bought in Oloron. I mean really what were  you expecting? That I’d saved a bar of chocolate for over six months? I think I do quite well giving it up for the six weeks of Lent.

And I wrote about what happened to my virtuous plans of avoidance yesterday.

The pretty bag on the other hand is genuine. You can buy Lindor boules in a huge variety of flavours. More than shown in that link. Arrayed as a massive Pick’n’Mix. And then there were the boxes of chocolates, bars of all sizes, bags of rejected misshapes, and end of line flavours that didn’t fly.  I really was quite good, several boxes of chocolates and most of the pick and mix came home with us. And a fair quantity of that made its way to others as a gift. But I did enjoy a “lucky dip” into the misshapes as we travelled about.

There’s a lot more to Oloron than chocolate. It’s a pretty place to wander around with its two mountain rivers or “gaves” which merge to form the “Gave d’Oloron”.

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this is the Gave d’Aspe

And the church of Sainte Marie d’Oloron is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and well worth a visit when that’s possible.

 

It’s also one of the few places where traditional French berets are made. We found them in this beautiful traditional shop, Souviron Palas.

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I decided against a beret but we found some good Christmas presents there.

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The weather wasn’t so great on the day of our visit to Oloron-Ste-Marie,  but we did enjoy some Autumn sunshine while we were in the area. And glimpses of the Pyrenees.

 

A demain

Marina xx

*It really did

**Edinburgh’s Sighthill district is home to Burton’s biscuits and the smell of shortbread often fills the air. In Carlisle the scent is  Carr’s water biscuits

 

Baking again

I had planned on not eating cake, chocolates and puddings for the next few months after a massive binge at Easter.

Planned.

Things have not really gone to plan.

First MrS made ice cream, and then there have been sooooo many bargain chocolates in the shops. Calling out to me to be saved.

So today which started out a little grey and wet seemed to be an ideal time to do some comfort baking.

A few weeks ago I came across a recipe for a Portugese Orange Pudding from Sarah Beattie *. It was delicious and reminded me of some of the things we’d eaten in Guimaraes.  In fact it was so delicious that we ate it all up before I had a chance to take a photo, hence the empty plate above.

I was a bit worried it might have been beginners luck

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ingredients all measured out

I’d halved the ingredients, I didn’t want to be too greedy. And so had to estimate the cooking time. Would it work second time around?

All mixed up and ready to go. Hmm, a bit too much air beaten into the eggs?

Out of the oven and ready to roll………it’s a bit bubbly.

 

But I think I just about got away with it.

And the finished product

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seems to be ok

But as they say “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”

That’s going to have to wait a while, it needs to cool down first.

And since the sun has come out

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I’ve managed to put the washing out too

I think I’ll go and give  MrS a hand in the garden. That way I won’t feel so guilty eating it later .

Enjoy your Saturday and stay safe.

Until tomorrow

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*Check out her page, it’s full of lovely recipes. The one I made was posted around the 16th April.

Stopping for lunch

These days I start thinking about lunch pretty much right after breakfast, certainly no later than mid morning.

Who am I trying to kid?  This is normal , not lockdown behaviour for me.

I have to be very, very busy or ill,  not to have at least part of my mind on my next meal.

That’s today’s lunch by the way, cheesy beans on toast. Nothing fancy but quite delicious.

Anyway, lunch at home might be important, but lunch on the road?       Well…….

On our October trip, yes that again,  I planned our pitstops around nice breaks for lunch. And the chance of a bit of sightseeing. We were doing far too many miles to rely solely on the delights of the motorway service station*  And  they are rarely dog friendly**

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“Dunno why. I has luvverly table manners”

So,  on the road in October. Our first stop was  The Fleece Inn in Lancashire. Not only a pub and place to stay, it was also a shop and community hub. I hope it’s surviving the lockdown.

The book has been great way to find off motorway stops but it’s not infallible. We once drove miles along twisty car filled roads in Surrey to find a place that was dog friendly only on its very small terrace. Luckily it was a sunny day.

On the way  to Saumur we stopped off in Angers, to view the Tapestry and eat crepes in a cone. And in a damp Pamplona,  with MrS feeling a bit ill back at the hotel, I trudged around trying to find somewhere I could get a waiter to serve a crazy lady outside***

Street scene in Angers, my lunch in Pamplona.

On our return through France, away from the motorways we found a couple of towns that would have been fun to explore.

We made a planned stop in Rodez as it was convenient for our route between Albi and Le Puy . It looked interesting with a fine church and a fancy new museum****. But we just stopped for a quick lunch in a tiny cafe and filed it away for “future visit”.

We stopped a bit longer in Laon, unplanned this time. It  happened along conveniently at lunchtime. It was a bit like Le Puy, though not so far off the beaten track. Obviously hugely important in the past,  a stop for pilgrims along  the Camino.  As so many of our stops had been, though mostly by chance.

Its fine Cathedral was visible for miles, high above the otherwise flat countryside.

The empty streets were being prepared for Christmas and there seemed to be a municipal rollercoaster. This turned out to be a funicular, which like too many of the shops, had been closed for a few years.  Our first choice restaurant wasn’t dog friendly, not common in France, but we didn’t go hungry.

Rainbow drops and our robust lunch

It had a melancholy air.

Wandering about, eating lunch in a cafe, being among people.

Life enriching things.

Missing things.

Things I hope will return.

Until tomorrow

Marina xx

 

*there are some really good ones, check out the Westmorland group

**Cairn Lodge on the M74 is an exception, there is an indoor dog friendly eating area. Best if you are travelling with someone as you can’t take them into the food service area.

***we found very few places where DogS was allowed inside in Spain, so it was tricky alone on a wet day.

****where we parked, it seemed secure and I’m quite paranoid about parking when we have a fully laden car.