When food gets weird…!

I always find it interesting how dishes and styles of food go in and out of fashion and how, sometimes, food gets weird! The Elizabethans had their sweetmeats while the Victorians used oysters in almost everything. Obviously, recipes reflect the cost and availability of ingredients – oysters used to be cheap, while chicken was a luxury.

I love reading about food and I was chuckling over some funny terms recently…

Fusion
A few years ago, ‘fusion’ cookery was all the rage. This always sounded a bit too much like physics to me, but it was the combination of various forms of cookery, so you might have South Asian and Pacific Rim, or Texan and Mexican (Tex-Mex). This is fine it theory, but chefs do get a bit carried away. I remember reading about curried porridge, spaghetti tacos and Japanese Scotch eggs. Hmmm…

Chocolate soil, copyright www.epicurus.com

Soil
One of the very ‘on-trend’ additions to posh restaurant dishes at the moment is soil. I think our friends on Masterchef are probably responsible for introducing this one! Call me old-fashioned (and people do!) but I instantly think of my flowerbeds, and I’m not sure I want a version of this, no matter how delicious, on my plate. It’s just… odd. Mostly, it is dark chocolate and I’d be a lot happier if we stuck to ‘sprinkles’ or possibly even ‘shavings.’ If you want to have a go at making some chocolate soil, there are recipes online. Here’s one from www.epicurus.com

Hand salad
Yes, I know, weird! Apparently, it’s just a salad you eat with your hands, dipping lettuce and cucumber into dressings. So really, it’s simply an American term for what we used to call crudités – dipping veg into dips and sauces. Here’s a recipe idea for hand salad from www.bonappetit.com

A nice bit of hand salad with buttermilk, grapefruit, and mixed seeds, copyright www.bonappetit.com

There are so many trendy terms out there, I sometimes feel I need a translation app to find out what’s on the menu!

Jus ­– why can’t we call it gravy or sauce any more?

Pithivier of chicken, squash and sage by Sally Abé, copyright www.greatbritishchefs.com

Pithivier – it’s a pie! If you want to make a posh pie, have a look here at www.greatbritishchefs.com

Foam – this isn’t quite as bad as soil, but… Anyway, it applies to things that are full of air bubbles… we used to call them things like whipped cream, meringue or mousse!

Deconstructed – this one makes me smile! All the ingredients of a classic dish, but the chef didn’t want to assemble it!

Big dipper
I had to sneak this one in as it left me speechless! For Easter this year, a certain supermarket was offering ostrich eggs for sale. They recommended 50 mins cooking time to produce a runny yolk, perfect for dipping into, like a large, vegetarian fondue. They even suggested using a baguette as a ‘soldier’ I don’t know why… but that struck me as very peculiar!

 

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Quirky museums for Easter holiday fun

The year seems to be galloping by and, tomorrow, it will be April! If you find yourself looking for a way to entertain youngsters during the school holidays, why not try some of the country’s more quirky museums? There are some amazing ones around – have a Google and you’ll see. I’ve picked out a few ‘interesting’ ones that you might like to visit…

(Click on the museum names to visit their websites).

The Dog Collar Museum

Copyright: Leeds Castle.

I absolutely had to include this museum! Leeds Castle (which is in Kent, not Leeds) has a unique collection of historic and fascinating dog collars that is now the largest of its kind on public display anywhere in the world.

The colossal collection of canine neckwear, spanning five centuries, is fun for children and adults alike. There are over 130 rare and valuable collars with the earliest dating back to the late 15th century – a Spanish iron herd mastiff’s collar, which would have been worn for protection against wolves and bears roaming Europe at the time.

Other collars range from 16th-century German iron collars with fearsome spikes to ornate gilt collars of the Baroque period, through to finely-chased nineteenth century silver collars and twentieth century examples fashioned from tyres, beads and plastic.

Museum of Witchcraft and Magic

Copyright: Museum of Witchcraft and Magic.

Located in the picturesque Cornish harbour of Boscastle, this museum was started in 1960 and is now one of the most visited museums in the Westcountry. It claims to have the world’s largest collection of items relating to witchcraft, magic and the occult. Exhibitions change regularly so there’s always something new to see. 2017 boasts an exhibition of ‘poppets, pins and power: the craft of cursing’, which sounds well worth a visit! Being in such a lovely coastal setting, there’s plenty to see and do as well as explore this mysterious museum.

The Bakelite Museum

Copyright: The Bakelite Museum, above, and main header.

Anyone who has clocked up their half century will have come across Bakelite! The first proper plastic, Bakelite was a revolutionary material. It enabled mass-production and was known as ‘the material of a thousand uses’ and, in various guises, was used by everybody. The museum is an enormous collection of vintage plastics, from the earliest experimental materials to 1970s kitsch. It includes Bakelite objects in a huge variety of shapes, colours and functions – radios, telephones, eggcups, musical instruments, toys, tie-presses and even a coffin. There are also domestic and work related things from the Bakelite era, mainly the 1920s to the 1950s, and the whole collection is a nostalgic treat, a vintage wonderland and an educational eye-opener.

The exhibits are displayed in an atmospheric 18th-century watermill, in the heart of the beautiful Somerset countryside between Taunton, Minehead and Bridgewater. Williton Station, on the West Somerset Railway, the longest stretch of restored steam railway in the country, is just a 20-minute walk away. They also serve Somerset cream teas – so what’s not to love about this museum as a great day out!

Gnome World

Copyright: Gnome Reserve.

Yes, really! This north Devon attraction promises ‘a completely unique 100% fun experience, simultaneously 100% ecologically interesting, with an extra 100% wonder and magic mixed in’.

Set between Bideford and Bude, the 1000+ gnomes and pixies reside in a lovely 4 acre-reserve, with woodland, stream, pond, meadow and garden. Visitors will be delighted to learn that gnome hats are loaned free of charge together with fishing rods and you are encouraged to embarrass the family with some truly memorable photos for the family album!

The House of Marbles

Copyright: House of Marbles.

I don’t know why most of these museums are in the Westcountry, I was looking nationwide… goodness knows what it says about those of us that live down here! Anyway, I absolutely must give a final mention to The House of Marbles, here in Bovey Tracey, Devon, owned by some old friends of mine. Whenever you look up unusual museums or great places to visit – the House of Marbles is up there at the top of the list. No less than three museums, an enormous marble run and the chance to see glass being blown, it’s a great place to visit whatever your age. Oh, and it also has a very popular restaurant and great shops!

Have fun!

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Hello Paris!

This is very apt, I feel, for Tina Dorr, our newsletter editor and long time member of the team. Tina has bravely (in my opinion, but then I am a bit wimpy!) bought a lovely home in France and is just starting her journey to moving over and transferring her life.

I think the good luck on the card may be needed. My brother lived and worked in France for many years and often bumped into their red tape, but it was all worth it, he felt, as the local people were lovely and the food and wine… well goes without saying!

So here’s hoping it will be a fabulous retirement home for you Tina and Aidan – life is about following your dreams and I know France is where you have wanted to be for very many years – here you go!

The card uses an image from our Helena Lam 6 x 6” cardmaking pad. If you haven’t tried any of the pads, do give one a go as they are so handy for getting a really lovely card together. The backing paper could be used from one of the Graphic 45 Cityscapes pads or ephemera – or any other Eiffel Tower images or postcards that you have.

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Packing it in!

Ah yes! The days before luggage restrictions!Packing is a bit of an art form. You’re either a natural, or you’re not. I confess to not being the world’s best packer. I start off with my empty suitcase yawning in front of me, huge and cavernous – loads of room! With careless ease, I place clothes and shoes inside – and then suddenly… it’s full! At which point I discover I haven’t got in half of what I need to take, so pull it all out and start again… after about the fourth attempt I am hot and bothered and end up cramming everything in and have to ask Richard to lean on the suitcase lid as I battle to secure it! Oh dear, Joanna, must try harder.

Like a lot of art forms you can, of course, train yourself to improve your skills and I was intrigued to read a How it should be done…list of ‘top packing tips’ online. Some of them are so very sensible (and obvious!) I can’t think why I hadn’t used them before! Anyway, here’s my selection of the best ones that I hope you might find useful…

  • If you can manage with a carry-on, do it. Try taking half of the things you need and twice the money. You can make buying a few new items a fun part of the adventure.
  • Pack a sleeping mask and earplugs. These can be very handy on a plane, train or in your hotel room.
  • Capitalise on empty suitcase space and roll your clothes, instead of folding them. Stuff socks, underwear, and accessories inside your shoes.
  • Keep a sarong or pashmina in your carry-on. They can be used as a blanket on the plane, a scarf, or a shawl on an evening out.
  • … how it is more often done!Kitchen sandwich bags can be used to hold your accessories, vacuum pack bags can be space savers, and bin bags have multiple uses (laundry bag, shoe covers).
  • If you are travelling as a couple, it is a good idea to split your clothes between two suitcases on the off chance one of them gets lost during the flight.
  • Bring a multi-socket extension lead. Although newer hotels have USB ports in rooms, it’s best to have an extra outlet to charge all of your electronics at once. This is very important if you need to work on your laptop or phone, as I often do, and (thankfully!) one of the tasks I leave to Richard!
  • Make photocopies before leaving home. If you’re travelling out of the country, make two photocopies of your passport.
  • Use your smartphone to take pictures of your car in the airport’s car park and do the same for your luggage and its contents in case it gets lost. So simple – and something I will definitely be doing… no more wandering around Bristol airport car parks at 3am wondering where we left the car!
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A fun card that’s simple and effective!

I thought this card might make a change – it’s not feminine, glamorous or tricky to make. It’s possibly the simplest card I have made in a long time. But Emily, my 23 year old daughter, absolutely loved it and said she would treasure it.

The scuba diver came from our Signature die range and the exotic seabed came from Googling ‘underwater scene’. I made sure that it contained a turtle (her favourite) and then printed it out to about 7” x 5”. It was then matted and layered onto pink and yellow card to reflect the colours in the seascape.

All onto an 8” x 8” card I had handy and then cut down to size as it was a rectangular picture rather than square. The diver was attached with double sided tape as I was in a hurry to post and Pinflair needs to dry. I used a tape dispenser and just covered as much of the diver as I could – remarkably easy I have to say.

And there it was done! I posted it in a hard backed manila envelope for a bit of extra protection having added a black silhouette diver inside and some nice words. Just the kind of card I knew she would love and a simple but effective design!

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