Friday, September 18, 2009

Tomorrow's the day!

Tomorrow is the day that we leave for New Zealand!

Its a rather hellacious journey, all in all. We are leaving our house around 10 am in order to drop the dogs off in Olive Branch with Danny's parents and take them out for an early lunch. Our first flight is at 1430 hrs, Memphis to L.A.. Then a ridiculously long lay over in LA and a 2330 hours departure to Auckland. We get there at 730 am and take an internal flight to Christchurch at 1230 pm. Then we will pick up our camper van and drive on over to Pancake Rock for early exploration the next day! If we manage to survive this, and the time difference, we might be ok!

I spent the evening making granola bars for the journey and decided, albeit rather foolishly, to try making English muffins. You make them the night before and leave them to rise in the fridge over night. So hopefully we will have a deliciously toasty hot muffin for breakfast!

See you on the other side!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Almost finished with my UK photos. The last few below are from the day we went hiking along a river. The path was too close to the river itself for mummy!

Almost time for the rain to stop! Its been raining here in Oxford for what seems like forever! They say it should stop in just a few more days!

Almost time to leave for New Zealand! Just two more days! Bummer is I just looked at the ten-day forecast for the South Island and its 95% chance rain everyday! So from rain, into more rain!

Almost the end of our anniversary. Four years of marriage and still we haven't killed each other! We both have a few white hairs though (Danny more than me! Ive only found two this year, he has tons on a daily basis!).

Monday, September 14, 2009

Anthropologie update

Very exciting news on the Anthropologie update!
Im mailing them the bedding and they will send me a new one, with a new receipt so that if this new one fades also, I can just get a refund or a totally different duvet cover. Being sickly sweet paid off!

5 days til we leave for New Zealand!!!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Photo Update

One day we decided to visit the beach and Banburgh Castle. Of course, it was raining, but isn't that the only way to do the British Seaside! There was an ice cream van in the car park (behind mum) and we vowed to get an ice cream on our return to the car, but of course, the van had gone by then. So we back tracked all the way to another town, just to find a 99! And find one we did!

Another day I took a walk along the river with some random old folks (or perhaps they are my parents!).

I skinned 28 lbs of tomatoes this morning with India Arie, then made 8 quarts of marinara sauce. We had some for dinner, delicious! Very simple but huge quantities of everything (28 lbs tomatoes, 3 large onions, 3 large bell peppers, 3 garlic bulbs - apparently I like things in threes! - oregano, parsley, lemon juice, red wine, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, honey and salt and pepper) and hey presto, sauce 'til next summer! It probably works out a little more expensive than store bought canned marinara but it is preservative free and most ingredients were locally grown. I have recently been discovering how easy life can be with the right equipment, and today gives another example, or two. Danny bought me a woosher. You know, a little hand help food processor you lower down into the sauce pan (although make sure its submerged because hot marinara scalds, believe me, I know!). It made life a lot easier today, and I didn't get any burns on my hands as my mummy bought me the best oven gloves ever from John Lewis. I must be the only girl in Oxford, MS with British made, John Lewis oven gloves!

I then attempted to make french baguettes, which was going rather well, at least until just before I was supposed to put the bread in the oven (after 24 hours of babying these things). I don't have a linen couche, obviously, so I nestled my baguettes on some wax proof paper (parchment paper) on a tea towel, and fabricated a couche as suggested in the recipe. Well, then to bake the baguettes I obviously had to remove the tea towel and as I pulled it out, oh so gently, the beautifully lofty baguettes just kinda went, pllllhhhhh and sunk into shriveled little things that looked like gathered up skin on a really old person. They rose again a little in the oven but then stuck to the wax paper (I mean, what is that stuff good for!) so if you ignored the fact that the bread had wrinkles in both its own skin and its papery outer layer, it was tasty bread. Back to practicing on the french baguettes for me, the nice thing is even the disasters are still tasty!

Also today, as if that wasnt enough for one day, I beat Danny at Cribbage this morning over coffee and a brioche at the Bottle tree (although I have to say, he made a good come back and I barely won) and then this afternoon we painted our bedroom. When we get all the stuff back in there Ill take some pictures but Im not convinced any one other than me will like the colours; well, hopefully Danny doesn't mind them, but its probably a good thing dogs are colour blind! The colours are all based on the bed sheets I recently purchased from Anthropologie. I am not the kind of person to make rash decisions when it comes to parting with vast quantities of my hard earned cash so I coveted these bed sheets for months. I looked at them in two different stores, making the girl in the shop re-make the demonstration bed with the linens I was considering, before finally purchasing them. I loved this bedding! Then as part of the re-decorating of the bedroom I decided to wash everything; curtains, bedding, baseboards, windows, you name it, we cleaned it this weekend. Well, last night I decided to do something Ive never done before either, I ironed my new bedding so that it would look beautiful on my bed in my freshly painted, spotlessly clean bedroom (if only for a short while). I chose this bedding because the colours were so bold and vibrant and guess what... they faded with the first wash! I followed the washing label and everything. So Anthropologie will be getting a phone call from a very disappointed little British girl tomorrow. Bad news is, they don't even sell this bedding anymore so they will not be able to send me a replacement. I have based the colour scheme in my bedroom on bedding that is no longer bright and cheery! Grrrrr! That being said, you can imagine the colours of the walls! The back wall is Mulberry pink and the three other walls are powdery blue! I LOVE IT! We shall see just how awful the faded bed sheets look up against the bright pink wall when we get all the furniture back in there tomorrow, but Anthropologie better be either sending me a refund or a fresh set of bed sheets!

So much to do and only 6 days 'til we leave for New Zealand!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Photo update

One of the things that I love about being on holiday and having no particular place to be, is that you can stop and look at random things at the side of the road. We saw this awesome bridge (the geeky engineer in Dave and the geeky river-girl in me wanted to investigate) but it was apparently a private road. So we visited this really old house instead (you can see the cool bridge in the background), it was pretty fun!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Photo update

During the weekend in the middle of my UK fieldtrip, I was fortunate enough that my folks decided to drive up and meet me. These pictures are from the day we visited Alnwick Gardens; It was fun but if you are ever in the vicinity, do not pay the 10GBP to go as my mum's garden is free and far more beautiful.

We were feeding this rather plump bird bread, but it got especially excited when we gave it some berries!

Are the colours not incredible!?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Photo update

Edinburgh from Calton Hill.

A roof top garden!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

So little time!

Im desperately trying to organise and get ready to leave again!

I spent an hour tonight scrubbing the outdoor cushions as they are rather dirty; seems you need a cover over them. hmmmm. I only got finished with two cushions. We have eight chairs. I had hoped to finish this, and many other jobs, before Danny got back. I think its safe to say, it ain't gonna happen.

Made some bread though, so thats good. The bread is for this lovely old guy at work who brings me an entire bag of butternut squash every autumn as he knows how much I love them! Thanks John Milam! In fact, I received the bag today and already ate one for dinner, thats how much I love butternut squash! I peeled it (the wormies love butternut squash for some reason!) and cut it into small pieces, just under a centimeter, then tossed it in oil, lime juice and honey and baked it on 400F for about 40 minutes, adding chopped red onions with 20 minutes to go. Meanwhile boiling the speckled butter beans and green beans from my garden and adding in some chopped garden fresh tomatoes. Tossed it all with olive oil and brown rice; a most delicious dinner!

Im never going to do all the stuff on my list, its almost bed time and I only have two more nights to go!!! Meanwhile Danny is helicoptering to Mount St Helens to look for survey pins all day. I dont know! Not a very equal distribution of responsibility here is there! At least Im still at home!

I went to visit my good friend Megan and her 3 week old daughter, Harper. Squirmy little things, babies, but pretty cute! We shall be having lunch again together tomorrow, infact Megan, we will be eating left over dinner, if thats alright with you! Harper can have milk again, gosh, what a boring diet!

11 days 'til we leave for New Zealand!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Home at last!

After three weeks on the road, we are home at last! Gosh, I cannot describe to you how good it feels to be in your own space. Surprisingly, my home feels quite alien to me, but Im sure a little dusting here and vacuuming there and it will feel like home again in no time.

A cursory glance at the vegetable garden brings mixed news. The tomatoes took the brunt of the mixed part of the news, Im afraid. For the most part they look good, but any part of the vines that protruded out beyond the safety of the temporary fence were munched by bambi. Even though people came by to pick during our stint away, there were still many rotten tomatoes on the ground and I still managed to pick myself a bushel this morning of lemon plums, cherokee purples and better boys. There are many green tomatoes on the vine still to come, so hopefully they will ripen before I leave again in two weeks. Exciting news is that out of nowhere we have a single squash that looks beautiful. Im not totally sure of the variety but I think it may be French, the first inch of the neck is yellow and the rest light green. The cucumber vines have died off for the most part with these giant orange cucumbers swelling until they burst. Other exciting news is that unexpectedly the soy bean bushes are covered in soy beans!!! They are a little small right now, but we will probably be harvesting our first crop of edamame next week! Oh and more great news, the green bean vines went crazy! I have an entire colander of green beans! Some of them are a little large and might have to be boiled but still, very excited about the prospect of fresh green beans all week. Oh, and another handful of speckled butter beans, so perhaps Ill have to make a soup of some kind.

Things to change next year regarding my vegetable garden: Do not have a bean trellis made of chicken wire as I did this year, as I cannot get underneath it to see what is down there; I love having the marigolds along the edge, its pretty and shades the base of the tomatoes and prevents weeds (they are about 2 ft tall!); dont grow the kind of cucumbers I grew this year, no body seems to like being given an orange cucumber, I wonder why! Shade all the base of the tomato vine, especially when it is young. Most definitely get the cherokee purples again next year, they are not only huge and beautiful but full of delicious deep purple flesh! If you learnt anything new from your garden this year, please pass it along...

While we were gone, we made new plans for the back yard. I know we decided not to start any new projects, but it sometimes feel like we started something in the back that we didnt finish and believe it or not, this was not my idea. So we are extending the deck out to the first terrace, getting rid of all of the grass to the side of the house and putting in raised raised beds for raspberries, blackberries and vegetables. The patch that I usually keep for vegetables to the other side of the house will be leveled again and raised and we will put blueberry bushes in there. My new effort is to get chickens in the woods, but if we are going to spend tons of money making gravel paths around our new raised beds, I guess I will have to wait for a chicken pen, as its going to be huge. I cant have truly free-range eggs because of the packs of ranging dogs in our neighbourhood but if I can give them a 20 m square pen, they should be happy! Danny is onboard already, so now we just have to save up and have time at home to get a pen built!

The most saddest news in the garden is that my potted wisteria that Danny bought me for my birthday 3 years ago, the one that bloomed for the first time this year... it looks like it may have died of thirst. So sad, we will just have to see if it comes back next year. One of my back yard hydrangeas seems to have taken a turn for the worst but everything else out back seems to have survived the three week drought well.

Sometimes I consider my freezer hoarding of food a little obsessive, however it is really nice to be able to come home from three weeks away and not have to go to the supermarket if you dont want to. We can have a fresh summer vegetable pasta for dinner, and even have frozen fruit crumble for dessert if we want and know that the only thing that ever originated in the supermarket is the pasta, black pepper and olive oil. We had cinnamon rolls from the freezer for breakfast and could have zucchini bread as a snack and tomato sandwiches for lunch if we so chose, although considering its already lunchtime and we just ate, I doubt we will eat again before tonight! It takes a lot of up front work, but I love being prepared!

Ive been inside too long now, back to tidying up that vegetable patch so that I can move onto another flower bed!