Happy New Year….. snow and all – 24/01/2021

This morning brought us our first day of proper snow of 2021… so I thought I would have a little walk round our field and share some photos with you. Anyone would have thought I had taken them in black and white, but no – these are filter free and un-adjusted… just beautiful with the contrast and light.

We have been lucky so far this winter as althought it has been cold, we have only had a handful of days when it has been really wet which has made us change plans or restricted our outdoor morning exercise routine…. this morning though was a rest day…. although the next few mornings are going to be interesting!

Not much has changed since my last blog as we have been in national lockdown – not a huge change to our plans apart from not being able to see as much of the family and friends as we had hoped. Christmas was celebrated with a walk in the morning with Keith’s mum, Liz and Molly the golden doodle, then we headed over to my mums, Andy, to do another dog walk with Dudley and cook the turkey for dinner. The weather was cold but crisp and dry – exactly what you want to blow the cobwebs away and work up an appetitie before a good meal …. and that it was – Turkey with all the trimmings and a home made Christmas pud – courtesy of Keiths sister, Shaz – with custard for dessert… perfect! Even a bit of turkey for left over sandwiches and a pie!

Although we aren’t going anywhere at the moment my passport was due to expire in June 2021 which meant with the new rules, come January 1st – we couldn’t travel, even if we wanted to do. I had been putting the renewal off simply because they said they were inundated with requests and that unless it was urgent, you shouldn’t apply. However, when I finally submitted it mid-December, I received my lovely new blue passport back within 7 days… at least I can travel abroad now when we are ready to do so!…. just before anyone says it – yes, I like the blue but I would still prefer to be in Europe…

I have taken up a new hobby – something I have been thinking of doing for a while but never really got round to it with the ‘busy’ lives that we have! So now in addition to food and wine experimentation and appreciation, outdoorsy stuff and photography…. I sketch! Not very well at the moment but I am trying to teach myself.

Apparently you should start with circles, then move onto simple shapes – so that is roughly where I am, although I have jumped a few stages and moved on to sunflowers and tulips… I think I have a long way to go but I hadn’t ever intended to draw ‘real things’ as they can be recognised…. I was going to be a little more abstract!! Watch this space and I’ll share how I get on.

And finally, as always we have been experimenting with more cooking…. and have even cracked the BBQ out to do some sourdough pizzas – who said you need to be in the sunshine to enjoy outdoor cooking?

  • Turkey and squash pie with sprouts – no recipe …. just chucked in all the leftovers with a lovely bechamel sauce and it was a delicious way to enjoy the turkey for a bit longer
  • Parsnip and porcini pie – with a lovely sweet potato topping – really tasty and flavoursom
  • Moroccan stew – nice and quick and full of flavour
  • Vegan Vindaloo / Madras – proper hot…. Keith even got hiccups and we cut the curry powder in the original recipe by half …. hence the downgrade to madras but it isn’t for the faint hearted!!
  • Vegan Brussel Sprout and Ricotta Ravioli – really easy but does take time to make the pasta from scratch. Well worthwhile though – so tasty.

Keep smiling and enjoying the outdoor space as and when you can!

Living with lockdown and making the most of it….. 20/12/2020

No idea where the last month has gone as one thing is for sure, apart from going out to fill up with LPG Hattie hasn’t moved much. I have tried to land her in a slightly different spot each time I have got her back into the field … so far successfully roughly a foot further over, trying to swing her backside out a bit more to get an extra few minutes out of those solar panels on these short, sun deficient days.

We have been doing well though, despite using a fair bit of gas for the heating as the temperature has dropped to zero a few nights and has hovered in the low single digits, we have managed to make it off the field when we needed to and have even borrowed a generator from our ‘field-mates’ to try it out a couple of times. The additional solar panel which is portable has been great, although even with it – which gives us 530 watts of solar in total – over the past month we have had a few of days where we have only managed to suck up a total of 60 watts….. with the worst day so far being only 40 watts. They are few and far between but it just shows how difficult it is to stay completely off grid in the UK at this time of year… and we aren’t huge electricity users.

I think we have pretty much adapted our wardrobe now to reflect the British winter…. lots of layers, new hats and gloves – both for exercise as well as during the day when we are out and about. The wellies have been a godsend, as have the exercise matts – just means that we can carry on doing what we want to do, when we want to do it without having to think about it – jumping in big, muddy puddles has become my new sport!

We have been walking mostly locally and I have fallen even more in love with trees and the change at this time of year and have been taking a few more photos as we have been wandering through the beautiful Berkshire countryside.

I also managed to finally visit Clivedon with my mum, somewhere I have wanted to go to for ages but just hadn’t got round to visiting it. Unfortunately it wasn’t a clear day so the photos aren’t as good as I would have hoped, but it was clear to see what a beautiful place it is and I will plan to go back at some point when it is a little more accessible as currently, like most National Trust gardens, they are booked up a fair bit ahead of time as they are restricting numbers.

With huge pressure on the hospitality industry we felt that we needed to get out and try and support our local pubs and restaurants and opted for a sneaky trip back to Sindhu in Marlow as their Christmas menu looked really interesting. It delivered on all levels as always, the dishes were a wonderful combination of flavours, using traditional seasonal products like Venison and Turkey with a Southern Indian twist. The athmosphere was just right and the service – impeccable. We left happily full of deliciousness to waddle along the burst banks of the Thames to help the food go down.

As always we have playing around in the kitchen – but this month we have introduced a new factor… The Oddbox. Well, we aren’t going very far at the moment so we thought we would try and find a farm to get seasonal fruit and vegetables from but then had oddbox recommended to us by my mum. Oddbox is an organisation that tries to reduce waste, either being fruit or veg that are the wrong size or shape, or simply surplus to requirements and the farm has to dispose of them before they even get to the supermarket. Despite the fact that we are only two people, we opted for a large veg box the first week and were so impressed we decided to add the fruit from then on.

We are now just about to get our third box and so far, each week the contents are mostly different. You get to hear what produce you are ‘rescue-ing’ a few days ahead of delivery so can still plan ahead…. a large box is a fair amount of fruit and veg for 2 people but, as you know we do eat our weight in food!

We have also had a bit of a play with pastry…. well, someone challenged me as we eat mostly vegan but our pastry used butter…. so, I have been playing with Trex. It started with one pie with Trex, the next with butter, then for the mincepies too… but as we weren’t sure that we could ensure the controls were consistent between pies, I ended up doing half the pastry with Trex and the other with butter on the same pie…. it made us smile anyway!

The final outcome was that they were pretty much of a muchness. Both were light and flakey and gave a good crust, unfortunately I struggle to get my head round eating Palm oil and we aren’t going to keep both in the fridge as we just don’t have the space – so for now, we are still sticking to butter… but if we were vegan, wouldn’t have an issue with switching as the flavour and flakiness is pretty comparible.

This months new recipes / succesful experiments have been the following:-

As we are now in Tier 4 there isn’t any planned movement for the foreseable future so for now we wish you all a very merry Christmas (and Channukah, although it has now finished) and of course a happy and healthy new year. Lets hope 2021 brings Covid vaccines, good health and happiness.

Autumnal bliss – making the most of lockdown – 18/11/2020

It may be cold …. but you can’t deny that it is beautiful when there are clear blue skies and just a touch of frost on the grass …. makes the squidyness worth it on the other days I guess!

We were lucky enough to do one final trip out at the end of October just before lockdown hit and make the most of a couple of nights at Hurley Campsite again. We had planned to go to the Hand and Flowers with Jo, Mike and Ella but with all the lockdown noise we decided that it was best to postpone although we had already paid for the campsite so thought we shouldn’t waste it!

Our field at the farm was saturated and we had thought that we may need some help getting off as another motorhome was tractored off a couple of days before. Thankfully with a little bit of welly, good traction control and naturally good driving, we escaped without causing too much damage to the field although we were concerned about coming back.

The campsite at Hurley was fairly empty and as we knew that the likliehood would be that the field would be pretty wet when we booked it back in September, we had booked an all singing, all dancing RV pitch… large, easy access and most importantly – hard standing…. just as well considering the torrential rain that fell that afternoon – there is a reason why the site shuts at the end October – it is only a stones throw from the river Thames!

We were fine though and managed to get a couple of lovely walks in, bumping into the television crew for Midsummers Murders who were filming in Hurley Village and taking advantage of a sneaky 7 course tasting menu at Sindhu – Atul Kotchars restaurant at the Compleat Angler in Marlow – delicious!

The meal was excellent and the setting is absolutely stunning looking out over the weir – well in normal times it would be a weir but at the moment it is a slight bump in the river as the levels as so high. The heavens opened whilst we were eating but thankfully it dried off for our walk back to the campsite, enabling the food to go down.

We only planned to stay at Hurley for the couple of nights to meet up with Jo and Mike so on the Thursday we were due to go back to our squidgy field. Uncertain of our ability to get out again we called the farm and offered to go elsewhere for a week as we were due to head off up to Melton Mowbray the following week, however they persuaded us to come back with the promise of a discussion around hard standing!

Then lockdown hit…. Melton Mowbray was cancelled, although we will book ourselves back in again hopefully in the new year as the campsites (and other British businesses) need our support more than ever.

Life isn’t too different for us really apart from not being to meet family and friends but we can still get out and walk, run and enjoy the beautiful autumnal colours and the amazing funghi that are popping up all over the place.

We are embracing the UK weather and have invested in new exercise matts that enable us to continue to do our HIIT training the wet field or inside and are suffiently grippy (obviously we wouldn’t be outside if it is pouring it down) and most importantly…. wellies! Not just any wellies but Mud Boots…. so warm and comfy – even I haven’t had any blisters!

We managed to get a few people over before lockdown for meals which was good and naturally, we have been playing with more new recipes …. including a new creation ‘pumpkin gingernut pots’ which I did for halloween – thankfully we had a back up chocolate brownie for Steve!!

It is fair to say that we have been making a fair few pies recently…. very autumnal! New recipes since my last blog are as follows:-
Steak and Kidney Pie – no steak and the only kidney were beans but it was pretty tasty and full of flavour
Chocolate Chilli Pie – a bit like having a vegan chilli in a pie, quite rich and full of flavour
Pumpkin Gingernut Pots – a concuction involving a gingernut base with a pumpkin pie on top. If you don’t like egg custard tarts its not for you but otherwise pretty tasty!
Mushroom and Parsnip Rosti – Deliciously flavoursom but may be an overdose on fibre for some!
Mushroom, Squash and Chestnut Pie – A lovely well balanced pie full of flavour as it has a bit of goats cheese and apricots as well
Sweet Mincemeat – My first attempt at making it but it tasted good when it went into the jars… we need the pie test though!
Creamy Brocolli Pie – light and creamy mix, really tasty.
Fishless Pie – why it is called this, I don’t know but a lovely mix of mushrooms, leak, spinach and seaweed.
Cannelini and Beetroot Pate – a really nice, flavoursom pate to go in sandwiches or to just have as a dip

So we plan to stay put for now … well we can’t move far and getting out the field is pretty difficult. We are hopefull that they will start on the hard standing soon but we have another 9 days or so until we have to get out to refill the gas so we aren’t in a hurry (and they can’t build it under us!!)
We have had an additional solar panel fitted which we can move around to make the most of the sun – all we need is a bit more of it it!

Chasing the rainbows… 20th October 2020

Leaving our enormous campsite on the cliff edge near Scarborough we drove another 30 minutes further south towards Bridlington where we had booked ourselves into a little CS in Flamborough (Beacon House CS £15 per night) – quite a change from the last few campsites!

After settling in and a bit of lunch we headed out along the coast to Flamborough Head being blown most of the way. It was a lovely walk – although a little fresh – taking in the views out to sea as well as the farmland around us. It was nice to see both the current and original lighthouse …. the latter is about 500m inland and a little crumbly but still standing proud and beautiful!

Despite it raining overnight we set off into Bridlington…. or ’Brid’ as they say locally on Sunday, again along the coastal path. Slightly soggy under foot but equally as exposed and ‘fresh’! The outlook wasn’t quite as beautiful as Bridlington isn’t what you’d call an attractive town but the beaches go on for miles.

It was really busy in along the promenade but we managed to keep a good distance and once we got to the South Beach it was pretty open and quiet and you could walk for miles and miles. Amazingly we found a spot to sit and eat our sandwiches as the clouds closed in on us… fair to say that it was a quick pit stop, although the sun poked its head back out again as soon as we started walking back. We found a lovely quiet little coffee shop in the back streets and warmed up before heading home and getting absolutely soaked en route!

After a quick run in the morning we hit the road again and headed to Beverley, just north of Hull (Willow Lane CS £15 a night inc.) Our last stop before heading back home as things are heating up in the news re lockdown and Covid levels in the North East. We were only in Beverley for a couple of nights and it was a little moist to say the least but what a lovely place. Lots of lovely looking deli’s and coffee shops and alot of open countryside to walk and cycle in… albeit a little flat!

As you can imagine there has been a lot of home cooking going on – we do like our food, just in case you had forgotten and we have been enjoying revisiting a few dishes we haven’t had in a while. The most recent sucessful experiments are as follows:-

We got back to our little farm last Wednesday and are now just going to take things as they come over the next few months. We have a few trips away planned but will wait and see how things pan out. We are lucky to have lots of lovely countryside to walk in and be self sufficent apart from needing to pop out to fill up with gas occasionaly. So despite it being a little colder and wetter, we will survive… and we have some new additions to the farm to keep us amused – sheep!

The years adventures have been a bit all over the place as you can see on the map below – it’ll be interesting to see what the next twelve months look like!

It’s not all grim up North…9th Oct 2020

After a lovely fresh morning run through the wind farms just outside Lutterworth we showered, breakfasted, packed up and headed up to SAP in Doncaster where we were booked in to get our jacks and air suspension serviced on the Tuesday morning. We arrived just after lunch and as they were crazy busy, they actually decided to squeeze us in on Monday afternoon instead of waiting until Tuesday. Happy, we left them the keys and headed off to the supermarket to do some shopping and only when we were back chatting to one of the guys about adding another LPG tank did we think about trying to extend our booking up in Harrogate for an extra night as there are nicer places to stay overnight than an industrial estate!

Tania at The Cud Life (£20 a night inc. Elec) was quick to respond so at 5pm we were on the road again and we finally parked up just as it was starting to rain and get dark – hadn’t thought about the evenings closing in so early but I guess we are in Autumn now!

We woke to blue skies and beautiful sunshine so having seen the forecast for the next week, decided to get some washing done before we headed into Harrogate to explore… boring stuff, but it has to be done.

Harrogate is a beautiful city with lots of green spaces, it reminds me of a large Clifton in Bristol – elegant and refined, yet a bit quirky. We found some lovely deli’s, glared through the window at Aunt Betty’s tea rooms – I am sure there are better ones – and ate our sandwiches on a park bench taking in a bit of autumn sun after stopping for a coffee. It was lovely to see the huge quantities of people, both young and old, eating ice creams in the Valley Gardens whilst sitting on benches or walking around….definately a lovely feel to the place…when the sun is shining at least!

Wednesday had been forecast for rain but we managed to get a run (me) and exercise (Keith) in as well as a lovely walk to Ripley before lunch and the heavens opening…. always a bonus but we had loads of work to catch up on anyway so can’t really complain I guess!

Ripley is a strange little village with only 221 habitants. Everything revolves around the castle which, along with the pub, store and who knows what else is owned by Sir Thomas Ingiliby – it is an immaculate village and apparently in the top 20 places to live in England… if you could afford it! Lovely to visit though and beautiful to see how well kept it is… they even have a gin distillery, although I am over my quota at the moment as I already have two in the motorhome ….

On Thursday the rain cleared and we ventured over to Knaresborough – slightly further but a lovely walk all the same through the Yorkshire countryside with beautiful views out over the rolling hills. Knaresborough is quite a bit smaller than Harrogate and not quite as plush or ‘village-y’ but pretty all the same, especially the parks and river. It is the home of Mother Shiptons Cave – Mother Shipton being the prophetess who apparently spoke of the Great Fire of London and the Plague before they actually happened – among other prophesies. It is however also apparently famous for its bed race…. yep, teams run 2.4 miles around the town and into the river in fancy dress costume once a year…. been going since 1966 – not a bad claim to fame! In addition to the above however, the remains of a castle look out over River Nidd and there is a beautiful viaduct as well.

Finally having decided what we were going to do after Harrogate – nothing like planning ahead – we did a shop at the farm for fruit and veg before heading into Waitrose for the rest and hitting the road, direction Whitby…

We had booked ourselves into the York House Hotel and Caravan Park (£17 a night) which is about 3 miles outside Whitby and 2 miles from Robin Hood Bay, just off the Cinder trail. It would not be somewhere we would have chosen normally as it is quite a large site, mostly made up of static homes but we got a pitch right at the top, from which, on a clear day you could see the sea… it was also very quiet and close to a really good pub!

We had booked four nights to explore the area a bit more whilst also acknowledging the fact that it was going to be pretty grim on Saturday so decided to right it off as a pub day. We actually got lucky and managed to walk over to Robin Hood Bay on Saturday morning whilst we could actually still see more than 10m in front of us – the way back was something else but at least we got a taste of what was there. Our hearts went out for the runners who were doing a 55 mile ultra though as by about 11:30am visibility was really poor.

Lunch was amazing, although it lacked an open fire. We had booked into The Hare and Hounds in Hawsker as the reviews were good and we both fancied some local fish and chips – well apparently whilst in Whitby … however contraversially, Keith went for pie… possibly one of the best pies he has had apparently – along with the whole meal. I don’t think I have had fish that good for a long time either.

Needless to say we needed to walk the meal off in the rain in the afternoon.

The sun came out on Sunday and after a rather hilly and puddly run we set off into Whitby along the Cinder trail to explore a bit further.

Whitby is a beautiful fishing town with an Abbey up on the hill looking down over it. It has lots of cobbled streets and due to its setting – and possibly its fame for fish and chips – it is pretty touristy. We were lucky as it was a beautiful – albeit fresh – day, although that meant that it was busy.

We stopped and had a coffee, ate our sandwiches looking out onto the estuary and explored a bit more before as the clouds came in, heading back to the motorhome, arriving just before the heavens opened again.

Obviously Robin Hood Bay had no desire for us to visit it whilst dry as on Monday the clouds came in again and although we had a lovely walk we still don’t have any photos to show of the real beauty that it held.

A quick hop down the coast on Tuesday – we are just happy to be able to be close to the sea again – and we arrived at our next stop, Crowsnest Campsite (£30 a night inc.) which is half way between Scarborough and Filey. I had only booked the previous day but when we arrived no-one was around apart from a groundsman who told us to just go park up and check in later as everyone was at a meeting. I had cheakily asked for sea views on my booking form and as the spot was free we parked up on the best possible pitch…. unbeknown to us it had been allocated to us – happy days!

The campsite is another that is majority static homes but thankfully they kept the seaview pitches for us nomads – I can’t say that the views were like the above for the whole stay but we did at least get a good few hours of sunshine … just enough to get our washing done – although we are grateful that none of it blew away as it was forceful to say the least!

We ventured south on the coastal path both on Tuesday, just for a short walk to Filey Brigg (2 hours round trip) and Wednesday – washing day – into Filey itself. Filey is a small seaside town with a beautiful long beach – a little like Woolacombe in Devon – with an excellent beach, lots of cafes, restaurants and promenade but the town itself is a little run down unfortunately…. all the same a lovely place to eat fish and chips and ice cream!

It started to rain and blow a hooley on Wednesday night and was still at it on Thursday morning. I said I’d go for a run and leave Keith to do exercise inside but that if I wasn’t back in an hour to send out the search parties… it sounded that bad from inside the motorhome. When I actually got out it was fine but the last 900m from the road back up to the motorhome – yes, I do mean UP – I was pretty much running on the spot… I think that the people in the cars that passed me by must have thought I was absolutely nuts… ok, fair point! Despite the rain clearing we stayed local on Thursday, only venturing to the local farm shop and cafe and then North to Cayton Bay on the coastal path so as not to get too wet.

With the winds still fairly high and grey clouds we bit the bullet this morning and headed into Scarborough along the coastal path. Keith hadn’t ever been before and I think I was here with my parents when I was really young but have very few memories – it’s a well maintained, pretty seaside town.. I just had to try and capture the victorian picturesqueness…. I did say try!

Possible because we were here mid-week, possibly because it’s larger than Whitby, but it had a very different feeling to it. Apart from the sea front itself which is full of rock shops, arcades and fish and chips – the espanade and above is elegant and well kept, worth a visit if you are close by.

and despite the heavens opening on us on the way home we found our little pot of gold…. unfortunately Keith didn’t fancy swimming out to get it though… not sure why??

Only a couple of new recipes this week I am afraid … well we have to eat some of the other delicious ones occassionally too…

Traditional Goan Korma – Vegan – another delicious curry which has loads of flavour but not too much spice

Lentil Ratatouille – not my normal ratatouille, but very good all the same.

Foraging and exploring the beautiful British countryside…. 27/9/20

We had been lying low, buying a few presents for Hattie – lots of cleaning products, storm straps, a new kettle – I broke the last one – a new loo – including a ‘refresher kit’ and most importantly, the most amazing flyswat. I have to be honest when we first took delivery I thought that the animal protection were going to be on us like a lead balloon – I have never seen or heard anything that sounds so brutal…. although to be fair it is quick! 4000 volts of electricity passing through a little flies body and it is fair to say that it doesn’t know much about it…. my favourite purchase of the year so far!!

To help contain our excitement – we live sheltered lives – we took a short trip over to see Liz and Pete who very kindly invited us (and Hattie) to stay on their driveway in a beautiful little village in Northamptonshire. What a lovely part of the country, so close to everything, yet beautifully tranquil. Whilst visiting, we were taken to visit Castle Ashby’s gardens which were beautiful and for the first time, saw real Meerkats …. and not just the ones on the ‘Go Compare’ advert. Yes, I know that is a very sad fact to admit but wierdly, neither Keith nor I had ever seen one before…. they are very cute!

It was a lovely couple of days, enabling us to have a good catch up and see their garden, along with the unused swimming pool before the reforms take place….. looking forward to seeing the new veg garden and raised beds!

As the pool started to be taken apart, we headed back to Holyport for a few days to catch up with the family before heading off again back down to Bath. We were last in Bath right at the beginning of the summer holidays and then this time, back the first week the kids were back at school – it has changed a lot over the six week period! So many more people out and about, shopping, eating and drinking and just generally walking or cycling… confidence is definately up.

As always, it was good to catch up with everyone and get some walking in and this time we even asked the Bath Marina Campsite whether we could possibly stay longer term over the winter… just to give us some options should we want to.

Leaving Bath we headed South again, this time to Taunton to have Hattie’s alarm and immobiliser switched over. For a while we have been looking at the Vanbitz Growler – which is the loudest alarm legally possible I think, both inside and out of the van – along with a complete engine immobiliser which not only stops anyone from starting the vehicle if it is turned on but also, should someone manage to drive off with it whilst the immobiliser is off, enable you to engage the immobiliser the next time they turn the engine off. Prevention is the best option – Hattie is our home after all and I can assure you that you wouldn’t want to be inside her when the alarm goes off now!

Once the works were complete we tried to get a campsite near Devizes for a couple of nights as we weren’t booked into the Swiss Farm at Henley until Friday but everywhere we tried – small and large – were fully booked, the world and his dog is on holiday taking advantage of the beautiful British countryside!

We therefore we ended up coming almost all the way back to Henley and stopping at Hurley Riverside Park, where we came two years ago. It’s a lovely Campsite (£24 per night fully serviced pitch) right on the river bank roughly 4 miles walk into Marlow along the river and 6 miles to Henley. Needless to say that we still haven’t made the full distance to Henley as its just that little bit too far to go there and back in an afternoon! We did however walk into Marlow and both went for a lovely morning run into Marlow too – albeit on different days…. you just have to be careful of the Swans who are incredibly territorial, especially when they have their signets with them.

After a couple of nights in Hurley we had a very short hop to Henley, where we had booked ourselves in for three nights way back in February when we had planned Steve and Sharons 30th wedding anniversary present… well after 30 years, we took the risk and thought they wouldn’t mind us tagging along! To be fair they were staying in a bed and breakfast…. we wouldn’t inflict the motorhome on them, I think that may have been taking it a step too far!

We were amazingly lucky with the weather as it was an absolute corker – we had a couple of lovely walks along the river, some drinks and then dinner at Anthony Worrall Thompson’s Greyhound Pub and Restaurant. They describe it as AWT’s playground and I can kind of understand that as it had interesting and unusual artefacts hanging from the beams and walls along with giant teddy bears…. definitely a bit unusual but very nice at the same time. The place was spacious, the gardens were beautiful from what we saw and the service and food was second to none. The only criticism is that it is in the middle of nowhere – a 15 minute taxi ride from Henley or a T-total driver is required. We will be back though hopefully as it was definitely worth repeating. All in all a lovely weekend to finish off a couple of weeks away.

As it has been quite a while since the last blog – I have been distracted with worky-type stuff – not on really – but also really struggling with the new WordPress editor which has set me back a good two to three weeks in publishing this.

We have even set off again on another trip – which wasn’t my intention before publishing the blog but what can one do if you can’t get the tools to work! We set off on Thursday, heading up to just ourside a little town called Stone in Staffordshire where we had booked into a CL at the back of The Greyhound Inn (£7.50 a night no elec). Arriving mid afternoon, the sun was shining and we were welcomed by the four beautiful donkeys, a few ducks and a really large pig – oh, and the staff at the pub were lovely too!!

Unfortunately, we were also welcomed by a rather steeper ascent into the carpark than we expected. If we had thought it would have been quite so bad we would have raised the suspension but as they say, hindsight is a wonderful thing…. so we now have a slightly grazed bottom that we need to get fixed.

We were meeting Kevin and Petra (and Molly, the dog) who were parked up with their barge in the Marina a couple of miles up the road and grazed bottoms aside, we had a lovely couple of days. We ate in the Greyhound the first night and the food, beer and ambience was great… all the classics including bread and butter pudding and pecan pie – although I went a bit off piste for dessert with a rather nice licorice ice cream to go with scoops of an equally delicious rum and raison and vanilla…just to cleanse the palate!

After a cold night – yes, the heating has now officially been turned on – I set off on a run – annoying the hell out of the local ducks who didn’t want to be disturbed at what was obviously an ungodly hour (not)- and Keith did his exercise in the pub car park before Kevin and Petra came and picked us up for a trip to Trentham Gardens where there was a craft fayre and and exceptional selection of fairy sculptures which were absolutely amazing.

We then tried to find lunch in a local pub which was closed so weirdly ended up in Neil Morrisey’s pub which was actually excellent and not over priced. We only wanted a sandwich but Keith got swayed by fish and chips and Kevin by a Burger…. I’d like to say Petra and I were sensible but we still probably ate too much considering what we were cooking later… heho!

Dinner was in fact on the boat, Petra had fancied trying the Butter Chicken that I made a while back so Keith and I rustled it up on the barge along with some nan, rice and pickles and just to finish off the lovely day Petra had made a beautiful tarte with creme pate and fruit – we were truly spoilt.

We moved on again on Saturday, taking extra care not to scrape our bottom again on the way out of the car park, doubling back on ourselves to get back to Lutterworth for a couple of days to meet up with Gail and the kids. We have stayed at the CL (Orchard Farm, £14 a night inc.) before and it is lovely and tranquil – this time we were welcomed by the cows and calves who were clearing out the apple trees in the field in front of us before the donkeys could move back in.

We have been cooking and entertaining a fair bit and we have even started to go out to eat a few times… really pushing the boundary! We have both always loved cooking so it has been a bit of a struggle to force ourselves to go out again when it doesn’t feel necessary to take the additional risk of mixing with others. That said, we do want to support the local businesses so bit by bit we are spreading the love and it is fair to say that The George on the Green in Holyport appears to be getting a bit more than its fair share recently!

Since the last blog ‘Pip‘ has been born. Pip is our Sourdough Starter, very kindly nursed into this world by Carly, our sister in law (Keith’s brothers’ wife). Pip has been with us now for about 8 weeks and amazingly, she is still alive. We have made lots of different things with her discard but so far, we still haven’t actually found the right moment to make sourdough bread…. it takes a bit of planning! So far our Sourdough experimentation has included
– Sourdough Drop Scones – which is literally just the discard!
Sourdough Flat breads
Sourdough discard Pizza

The Happy Pear vegan cookbook is also playing a big part in our life at the moment as all the recipes are not only really tasty, slightly different from the norm but also fairly easy to make.

Relaxing into a Covid Summer….1/8/2020

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Covid and the ‘new normal’ are part of our life now so we are just adapting and making the most of it.  We have been lying low for a couple of months hence why there hasn’t been much of an update on the blog over the last six weeks but we are heading back to ‘our’ normality now and looking forward to the rest of the year in the UK!

After thankfully a reasonably easy – Keith did most (sorry, all) of it – clean up of the meringues which had seeped down through the oven and fridge, I had vowed to never make meringues again in the motorhome. Keith managed to get the front off of the fridge unit…knobs and all, so we were able to clean everything thoroughly but I won’t be living that mistake down for a while yet…and had said that I will be sticking to simpler desserts for a while… although Annie mentioned that she cooks a pavlova in her oven at the weekend… hmm!

We have been staying at the farm and slowly but surely integrating ourselves back into society and catching up with lots of friends and family which has been lovely… even managed to get a quick game of croquet in on the lawn before a BBQ at Penny and Richards which was the first time in about 30 years… lockdown has been good!

When things started to open up, we formed a bubble with my mum which enabled us to join her for dinner inside rather than having coffee on the bench, as well as doing a couple of DIY bits around the house.  We have also spent many an evening sitting at 2m distance on seperate tables outside the motorhome with friends and family enjoying a social drink or a BBQ in layers, thankfully we haven’t quite got to the point where we need to add a wooley hat yet! We have even now ventured to a couple of friends‘ houses and gardens…. it sounds a bit ridiculous but we are actually feeling quite adventurous!

During lockdown my mum has been finding new places to go walking with the dog which is great as she has introduced us to a little bit more of the beautiful countryside in Buckinghamshire.

We have obviously also been cooking a reasonable amount but most of the dishes are repeat recipes unfortunately so I won’t bore you too much with photos although this Butter Chicken is definately a keeper….

The recipe is apparently the original Butter Chicken recipe that came to the UK – if you ask Jamie Oliver anyway – but believe it or not there isn’t too much ghee and butter and it is reasonably easy to make – a lovely dish!

…..and just to prove that I can still make them, I had another go at the meringues but at my mums and they worked, looks like I just need to get the quantities right in the van then…..

After being at the farm for two months we headed down to Bath for eight nights to catch up with some of our friends down there.  As we have for the last couple of years since we got Hattie, we stayed at the Bath Marina Campsite which is right next to the cycle path to Bristol, the canal and the river …. so lots of great walking and running and despite over indulging ourselves throughout our stay, I managed to get several really good runs in – possibly something to do with lack of turns/hills/etc…. bliss!

Our friends are very accomodating and we managed to keep a reasonable social distance throughout all of our visits having had food cooked for us almost every night.  We did however have a take away Wagamamas one evening and and visited a couple of cafe’s …. really pushing the boat out now! We definately made the most of the beautiful weather with a few BBQ’s and lots of walking.

Whilst in Bath, Jo and Mike very kindly gave us two great belated Birthday presents… a bottle of Sipsmiths gin (yum) and The Happy Pear Vegan cookbook…. not actually sure who is going to benefit from these presents more but heh ho… not going to complain! Unfortunately we hadn’t had the chance to try any of the recipes until today and oddly, we chose to cook the Indian Golden Lentil and Carrot soup – only 24 degrees outside in comparison to the 35 yesterday! – the first time we had cooked with Celeriac but it was delicious… spicy and full of flavour!

The week flew by and before we knew it, the rain was coming and it was time for us to head down to Devon for our next little adventure.  We were lucky enough to have been invited down to a fellow Concorde owners’ ‘garden’ for the weekend for an informal mini ‘Concorde meet’.

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Despite the weather being against us, we had a fantastic time.  John and Lyn (helped by Nick and Debs) had set up a couple of big marquees which kept us warm and dry and thankfully there wasn’t even a need for any assistance from a tractor to rescue anyone!

Friday night saw lots of wonderful homecooked curries, Saturday morning welcomed the bacon butties and Saturday afternoon saw a great blind wine tasting competition followed by a team BBQ effort…. not to mention the delicious salads and incredible puddings that everyone provided….couldn’t have asked for more!

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On Sunday morning we woke to a beautiful rainbow but once again, thankfully the wind blew the rain clouds away in time for us to enjoy a fantastic Sunday Roast delivered by the local pub and a bit of light entertainment from Matt and Clive!

All in all a fantastic weekend with everyone pitching in and I even managed to get out on Monday morning to do a hilly run to help sweat off some of the alcohol and food that had been consumed… definately a weekend to be repeated!

We had planned to come back to Holyport on Monday but instead headed to Stover in Devon for a couple of nights at the Caravan and Motorhome Club Site (£16 a night inc. Elec). as we were distracted by a possible motorhome change.  However, as beautiful as it was, we simply couldn’t tear ourselves away from Hattie – just not the right time for us.

The area around Stover is beautiful though with lots of lovely walking and cycling and we may well be back to spend a bit more time exploring it.

Now back at the farm we also have been experimenting a bit more on the BBQ and tried out a few new marinades last night…. unfortunately all of which were a bit too delicious and I forgot to take photos!

Although our friendly little owl appears to have disappeared for now we are enjoying the lovely weather and the beautiful clear skies…. long may they last!

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Home is where the heart is… 18/6/2020

Who would have thought that we left Alicante and have now been back in the UK for two and a half weeks…. what a strange transition but Hattie is now back in her favourite place, in a field with lots of space to keep a healthy social distance from others…. !

After doing a final shop to ensure we had ample store cupboard food to get us through a couple of weeks worth of quarantine if necessary – family were on call for fresh food top ups! – we made sure everything was secure, did a last burst of cleaning …. and I managed to break the hinge on the bathroom cupboard door…. just what you need the day before you set off!  Thankfully we still had some wood filler (and time) to fix it again…. that’ll teach me to do the cleaning!

We set off from El Campello, Alicante at around 7:30am on Friday 29th May and despite the heat, had an excellent journey, arriving at Berriozar just after 5pm…. 9 hours driving and about 40 minutes worth of refuelling, driver change overs/pee stops and lunch!

After a warm welcome from the guy working at the garage, a quick refuel of both Diesel – the cheapest we have probably bought in about 30 years coming in at about 75 pence a litre – and LPG, we parked up at the Aire and found that we had it to ourselves… very unusual for a Friday night. It just goes to show that people were respecting the government advice in Spain and not travelling as much as they would normally have been… to a certain degree at least!

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Bit by bit the road soon filled up with locals who were tending to their allotments which was really nice to see,  the odd motorhome also came and used the service point, looked at us quizingly, waved and disappeared off again. We had a very quiet night on our own, filled out our French forms for travel and even cooked up a kedgeree once the temperature had started to cool down!

Day 2 and the alarms were set for 6:30 and it was a stunningly beautiful morning to drive down from the mountains and cross into France – it was even a lovely temperature until about 8:30am!

We were fully expecting delays at the border but were pleasantly surprised as we were greeted by 5 police per toll booth – they had set up the border control just after you pass through – and they reviewed the forms, asked a few questions and sent us on our way with a smile… bonus!

As we weren’t sure what the situation would be for travelling through France and we were covering long distances in a short time scale, we decided to stick to toll roads.  It was an expensive option – the whole journey from the border through to the tunnel cost 250 euros in tolls – but it was easy travelling, avoiding any diversions and town centres and there were very few cars on the roads.

It was nice to see the odd French motorhome travelling – which at the time were only allowed to travel within 100km of their home – and then surprisingly to find two motorhomes already parked up at the Aire we had chosen for our overnight stop.

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It was a lucky little find as we weren’t sure if we were going to be allowed to come off of the toll roads … even luckier as it only had three spaces – we squeezed in the middle! Located in Vouvray on the Loire which is just east of Tours (GPS n 47.409 e 0.796723).

With the temperature still up in the 30’s we opened everything up, baked some rolls for sandwiches, cooked dinner and settled down to a glass of wine and another quiet night.

Day 3 and we both woke even earlier than the last couple of days so decided to get up and get on the road … it was going to be a long day whichever way we look at it!

Once again it was a beautiful morning and we had managed to pass Le Mans by 8am as the roads were dead…. the additional beauty of travelling on a Sunday!

We had booked on the 18:30 eurotunnel train but by 8am I had changed it to the 17:30, then later in the morning I changed it again to 15:30 as we were making such good progress.  We actually got to the Eurotunnel at 13:40 and after a bit of a chug through passport control as they were going through a Polish van with a fine tooth comb, then a full look through the motorhome – inside and out – we were on the 14:20 train on our way to Folkestone.  It’s amazing how efficient they were – couldn’t fault the service at all.

After a quick stop at Tesco’s to refuel and being distracted by a plane landing at Heathrow – haven’t seen any in months! – we were parked up in the sunshine by 16:30 thinking about a beer and gin and tonic…. a long day but we couldn’t have asked for it to have gone more smoothly….

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It was lovely to wake to birdsong and a cooler temperature to what we have got used to over the past few weeks, although a little strange getting back into the rhythm of normality – the legs didn’t particularly want to go for a run on Monday morning having not really even walked for three days.

After breakfast, on Monday morning we walked over to Keith’s mums to pick up the car and found ourselves doing an impromptu supermarket visit and having a picnic on her front lawn – can’t beat a baguette, slab of cheddar and a pot of coleslaw – whilst waiting for the breakdown services to come out….. embarrassingly a flat battery but from the sound we thought it was the starter motor so didn’t even think about trying to jump start it!

It was all good though and my mum even got an impromptu visit as we decided to take the car for a little run … win, win!

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We haven’t eaten any meat for the last three months which hasn’t been specifically planned, just the food that we have cooked and fancied has been mostly vegetarian or vegan.  However knowing that we were coming back to the UK, we both fancied a good bacon buttie and oddly, we fell upon ‘Sausages’ and ‘Bacon’ whilst out for a walk! I think they must be someones pets so we held back, however it was very kind of Paul and Carly to bring us round some delicious smoked back bacon from the farm shop ….. just don’t tell the pigs!

We had been keeping ourselves to ourselves for a the first couple of weeks even though we weren’t required to quarantine but we were doing the supermarket shop. The first couple of visits to the supermarket were a little odd, just getting used to no face masks, gloves or handwash but it was good to see that most people kept their distance and respected each others space…. it was the ones with the masks who seemed to be the worst!

This last week we have started to see a few more people and found it really strange to actually be socialising with others after so long.  We even managed to have a BBQ in my brothers garden on Sunday as with my mum we were 6 – It was lovely!

It has been lovely to get back in time to make the most of some of the incredible seasonal fruit that we have in the UK…. in the last two weeks we have had Rhubarb from Keiths mums garden and we found some gooseberries in Waitrose – yum!

Cooking new things has been a little limited simply because we were working our way through the storecupboard and freezer bits that we bought and made in case of quarantine,  although we have managed to squeeze a few new recipes in as follows:-

Keith bought a new toy (Bamix) to replace the broken manual mixer and the old electric hand mixer we had which is amazingly quick and efficient.   So far it has been tried and tested on a few things, although todays expirement on whisking up chickpea meringues went a bit wrong… and the cooking was even more of a disaster – I think we may need to remove the oven and fridge for the clean up effort!

We have also found ourselves a new friend…. he is a little owl – yes, that is his name, but he is also only about 5 inches tall – and he seems to come visiting early evening.  The other day I managed to get a photo, although he was about 35m away hence it isn’t very good.  After which though he came closer to the motorhome and stood about 5m away looking in the door, went up on his tip toes, tilted his head a little … very cute!

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Coming Home…. 26/5/2020

Who’d have thought that we’d get to 47 days on the photo challenge?  I thought that I would have run out of ideas a while ago but I think we all did well, although I am afraid that we took our last photo yesterday…..I’ll have to think of something different in the future to keep amused!

Just to keep you in the loop the above are some of the photos that I have posted over the last couple of weeks – Clockwise from the top left, Strength, Clouds, Abstract and Eyes…

 

It is difficult to believe that we flew back to Spain from the UK to get back to Hattie over ten weeks ago. Who would have predicted the events that have taken place since then? Yet here we are, still in Spain with things slowly starting to open up again.

Our area of Alicante did eventually pass to Phase 1 last Monday (18th May), although many people are starting to push the boundaries that little bit further every day as they are beginning to tire from the rules and restrictions.  To be fair some of the rules are a little odd and allow for people to bend them if they are so inclined… you should only be going out to do exercise between 6-10am or 8-11pm, however you can go out at any point in the day to have a beer or coffee.  You are only allowed to walk a maximum of 1km from your house, yet if you want to go and meet a friend for a drink or lunch – you can travel anywhere within the province …and the list goes on!  They do seem to do be something right though as the numbers have dropped off both for new infections and deaths – let’s just hope it stays that way…. Keith thinks it is the temperature!

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With the transition to Phase 1, the Campsite/Area where we are staying opened up its doors to anyone from within the province last Monday. It was looking pretty quiet until Thursday with only a couple of additions however, we grew to 20 over the weekend – almost twice as many as normal – needless to say, most only stayed the weekend and we are now back down to 11 again!

The only other dramatic change is that people can now go and eat/drink on terraces which made me smile as on the first Monday morning, Valor Chocolate had opened its terrace on the sea front and there wasn’t any social distancing going on there… all the tables were full despite it supposedly being only 50% occupancy.

Spain has also introduced obligatory mask wearing in all public spaces where you can’t guarantee that you can stay 2 meters away from someone… including when doing exercise.  Well, that has changed our running route!  We have waved goodbye to the seafront for this year and will now just be running round the block which is far quieter and partially in the shade which is an added bonus! …. it’s quite a big block so not really a huge sacrifice.

All is good though and although it isn’t spring as we know it – we have been surrounded by the most beautiful purple blossom on the trees over the last few weeks….apparently Jacaranda (Thank you mum!)

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The aches and pains have started to die down following our initial runs outside and we are back to 80-90% of our distance now so hopefully it won’t be long before we are fully back to normal.

To ensure that I threw myself back into it fully – and just so I get used to the British weather – I opted to go out on a very wet, rainy morning a couple of weeks ago having completely forgotten what the roads are like round here for drainage.  Needless to say that it was pretty much like running in a river, I know that they are trail running trainers but I don’t think they have ever had the water over the top before!  Thankfully everything had fully dried out by about 4pm once the sun had come out!

Back at the beginning of lockdown we had tried to get hold of our Nut and Seed stall in the market in Alicante but they didn’t reply, however I tried again a couple of weeks ago and finally we have nuts….. and seeds!!  Delivered to the door at no additional cost on the same day – that’s service for you!

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We havent been cooking a huge amount of new recipes over the last couple of weeks but have been playing around a little with an old favourite ….Cheesecake to make it socially distancingly acceptable!

It was Carol’s birthday and I just didn’t think it was right to have one big one… especially if she wanted to blow out a candle!  The recipe works really well and only takes 16 minutes to cook!

Keith also found a recipe for a Vegan Curry Burger that he liked the look of from one of the professional footballers which he tried a few weeks ago.  The taste was good but the consistency was lacking to say the least and it wouldn’t have been something you would want to see on your plate. However, with a few changes and this time, he got the recipe sorted!

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and then there was a delicious Cabbage, Blue Cheese and walnut salad which we ate with flat bread…. very tasty

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And I have finally written up the recipe for the Veggie Lasagne I make… although to be fair I tend to just use the vegetables that are in season/we can find.  It is an old favourite and happened to be a rainy day so why not….

And now it is finally time to go home, back to the UK.  The weather is getting a little too warm for us here in Spain and we have found somewhere safe to stay so we booked our train last week and will be back by the end of the month. So our next blog will be from greener pastures and hopefully I will be able to find some seeded bread flour as I have pretty much run out now!

Up and Running….. almost – 9th May 2020

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After a long while waiting we certainly can’t complain about the weather…. or maybe we can as we are British and its done a U-Turn and been a bit too warm!  No, only joking – we had a couple of days of 30 degrees a week or so ago but now it has settled down to about 25 degrees during the day and 18 degrees overnight, which is do-oable with the windows open…. any warmer and sleeping is hard work even without too many mosquitos buzzing around!  On that note, you’ll be pleased to hear that there don’t appear to be too many – I am seriously hoping I don’t live to regret saying that – however, I have only inadvertently managed to squash one mosquito so far this year on the lovely white fluffy walls…. so that is twice in two years – not too bad I guess, although we definately need to work out where the magic spray comes from as if it takes blood out of white fleece, it can do anything!

Not a huge amount to report on over here over the last three weeks but the time does appear to be flying by despite us feeling like we aren’t doing a huge amount…. although we have nearly completed all the tax returns which a bit of a feat!  I have started to have strange dreams though, waking up one morning thinking that I was still doing my squats (just to be clear, I am talking about the exercise and it wasn’t a typo) in my sleep… must be something to do with the amount of time we have spent without going out much!

We have been keeping up the photo challenge and despite a handful of slightly more difficult days… including yesterdays VE Day photo (above), it is fair to say everyone is doing an amazing job and the photos are good fun!

A few of my photos from the last couple of weeks – going clockwise from top left Colour, Perspective, Spring Plants and Flowers, Black and white and Buttons – are as follows:-

The good news is that last weekend the Spanish government agreed to let people start doing a little exercise outside.  Inevitably, everyone has gone a bit crazy and are not only pushing the boundaries but also, a large percentage of people appear to have taken up running suddenly…. that’ll get the physios back on their feet again!

As much as the government had obviously tried to plan for everything (ahem) it really wasn’t a very good move to start the outdoor activity on a Saturday of a bank holiday weekend with Mothering Sunday when it was 30 degrees… we probably bore the brunt of it as we are by the beach but people were definitely not thinking about social distancing….. just getting on the beach and dipping their toes in the water!

So, unlike the UK,  Spain is allowing people to go out in age groups –

  • Between 14 and 70 years old are allowed to either do exercise (run, cycle, skate, surf, etc. but not swim) between 6-10am or 8-11pm. Alternatively you can walk but if you choose to walk, you can only go 1km from your home.
  • If you are 70+ or if you are high risk, you are allowed out to walk (no exercise) between 10-12am or 7-8pm – again only within 1km of home.
  • Children under 14 are allowed out with a parent and a toy … bike, scooter, etc.(up to 3 per parent…. children that is, not toys) within 1km of home for a maximum period of an hour.

As the week has gone on people have gone out earlier, stayed out longer, strayed further from home and generally you are seeing groups merge bit by bit.

I went for a run on the first morning and over cooked it…. not only because I hadn’t run for the 7 weeks of lockdown but also as I had been returning from injury before this all started, so 9km later although the adrenaline was running high, the calves were rock solid (forefoot running)…. I just got a little too excited about it all and paid the price as couldn’t walk or climb stairs easily for a few days….Ok, lets just say I am starting to get back to normal now… eight days later – that’ll teach me, I may start to increase the distance a little more slowly next week!

As our ‘time slot’ is a bit odd, we haven’t really been out apart from the odd run and the normal supermarket visit. The morning slot is when we do our exercise and by 8pm we are eating and chilling for the evening, so not much else has changed.

Spain’s easing off is in four phases and we had thought that we would be passing to the next phase this coming Monday (11th) – but alas no, they have obviously been hiding something from us.  The next phase would have meant that the Aire would have opened up again to Spaniards who live within the province to 50% capacity but still with the services remaining closed, terraces in local bars and restaurants would have been open up to 50% capacity, we could have met with up to 10 others for social activity and would have been able to travel slightly further afield to get food from shops and markets.  At least we can now see how the other areas deal with the little oddities – they still plan to keep the age groups and times but also open bars and restaurants…. so does that mean that you can only go within your allotted time slot, or is that in addition? Not one for us to worry about currently as it’ll be at least another week before we can progress forwards.  It doesn’t effect us much anyway as we don’t have any plans to go running to the local bar or restaurant, or meet up with groups of friends, although it would have been nice to go into Alicante market to buy some nuts and coffee beans!

We will keep up with our twice daily 45 minute walk by the motorhome, morning exercise – which hopefully will include running along the promenade a little further next week if my calf muscles allow it – and our supermarket trips, we are happy and don’t need anything more and are going to start stocking up on the wine in light of a potential homeward journey in the next few weeks.

As Keith pointed out to me, we are about to enter week 9 of lockdown which means that we flew back from the UK 8 weeks ago tomorrow, and not through any particular reason but just as it has occurred, we haven’t eaten any meat during this period.  It is fair to say that when we see a recipe or a photo for something meaty looking amazingly delicious we salivate, however we do the same for Vegan or Veggie food too – we both admit that we are looking forward to a good bacon butty though !!

So, apart from a mix of old recipes we have been cooking up a few new ones as follows:-

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  • Gigantes with Tomatoes and Kale– A bit like a quick stew although still full of flavour.  Goes really well with a bit of soda bread to mop up the sauce

  • Soda Bread– cooked on the pizza stones on the BBQ and it worked really well
  • Sticky Aubergine Fried Rice – one pot dish with loads of flavour…. got to love ginger and chilli though!

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Let’s see what Boris announces on tomorrow and whether we manage to progress from Phase 0 to Phase 1 next week…. keep smiling !