Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Not bad for a first timer.

Well, i finally managed to sleep in a bit longer today. i still woke at 6am but managed to turn over and get another half hour. So now i can see the screen and what i'm typing properly, i can write a full account of yesterday's events.
We packed up a picnic and left at about 12.15pm, the show opened at 12.30pm and we'd decided that if we left it until after lunch we probably wouldn't end up getting there until 3pm. It was clear blue sky when mum and i were first awake but by 9am the clouds were over and the wind was picking up a bit, so our picnic on the grass in a sunny spot wasn't looking so hopeful. But we knew it was going to work better timing wise and we could always just sit in the car and have lunch.
When we got there, i think we arrived at the right time because the queue to get in wasn't too long yet, unlike last year when we arrived later and started queuing a lot further back. Of course i knew when i was going first when we arrived - straight to the horticultural marquee! Mum left me to go i first on my own, with my exhibitor pass, before she and D paid to come in. I think she was letting me go in alone just in case it was a major disappointment across all my classes, because she knows how badly i can take things sometimes, especially when i'm stressed and not on top form.
I start by checking on the carrots:

Is bigger always better? I mean why would you want huge carrots anyway? surely they'd be to tough to eat? Anyway, onto the beetroot:

I'm not sure what they look for really to be honest, but i do know one of mine had a mark on the skin. Next, "any other vegetable/salad item", my chard:

Kind of not surprised i got nothing here, i had seen the patty pan when i dropped my stuff off, but even that only came 3rd. 3 purple aubergines got first prize. Then i walked back past the carrots and beetroot to the cherry tomatoes:
Again, the competition here was one where i couldn't see too much difference in some of them. But i think we knew mine weren't as ripe as i would have liked them to be. So then onto the baking and straight ahead of me was my bakewell tart:

On top of which was sitting i beautiful blue rosette!! A huge grin appeared on my face and i think i may have even jumped up and down on the spot, i know i went straight to the door to tell mum, who's first question was "out of how many?" of course that bit hadn't bothered me but i went back and counted and the total in that class was 11. To my left was the scone bake:
12 entries, mine is the plate above the WHOLE tray bake (someone didn't read the schedule properly!) Looking at the ones that one, i think they were a bit drier than mine. I don't think mine were undercooked, just a little less cooked maybe but also i guess the flavour and moisture depends on the type of cheddar you use and the fat content in it for example. I mean there are so many types of mature cheddar and if you chose a low fat version it wouldn't melt as much etc. But mum really liked these and was dismayed when she realised i'd put ALL the cakes up for sale, including these. So we ended up collecting these at the same time as the veg and crafts - Guess what mum's got for lunch this week? Oh and a couple of pieces went in the freezer.
Ahead of me on the next table was the cherry cake and i could see there was nothing on mine - its the one to the left of 3rd place (the one with yellow rosette).

but again i'm not suprised by this result out of 13 entries. Since mine turned into an "errupting" cherry cake. To the left of that was the tea bread:

No rosette but i guess you could call this 4th place maybe out of 10? It was amusing when we collecting things and i was talking to a lady about the amount of honey in the tea bread recipe and the scone bake, she said the rest of the scone bake went to the birds, as you had to make a whole tray bake and then only prepare 4 square for judging. As we were talking another lady, who got 1st, came to pick her scones up. She asked if we thought the mixture was too sticky and moist to roll out, but looked at mum and directed the question towards mum! Who promptly made the point to the woman that it was me who made them! I love the fact that people don't expect a 22 year old to be doing this kind of thing, and are then suprised when mum directs the towards me when asking questions. It was the same with one of D's work collegue when we bumped into her at another show.Then i realised i missed the cookies, and its a good job i remembered them!

Another 2nd! Out of 14 entries. These again, despite putting them up for sale, came home with us and have been taken to work my D, so he can now tell his collegues they are prize winning cookies! I then walked round to the photos, i didn't taken picture as i would have had to stand a mile away even with my wide angle lens. There must have been 30 to 40 entries per class for the photography. Well, its a bit of an easy class really isn't it? Next on the route around the marquee was "any other craft"

First prize went to a stunning piece of encaustic art (painting with melted wax and an iron basically), which is such a skill and takes such practice. I've tried it and it's not something you can get the hang of after even 10 goes! Needless to say my keyring didn't get anything, but maybe they don't like modern things? Then came my cross stitch:

Another rosette, again not red and i guess not quite as good a result, since there were only 4 entries in total! Finally, the lacework/crochet:
Not sure what was wrong with it, but they obviously didn't like it. In fact they didn't even award a 3rd prize in this class!

So all in all a nice afternoon. We wondered round all the stalls, had a drink, saw the Rolls Royce exhibition ("When i win the lottery....." was the phase you'd use there!) and then collected my exhibits i wasn't selling. I wanted to hang around during the produce sale to see a) if my cakes sold and b) how much they sold for. It was chaos - there was no organisation whatsoever. They brought the flowers out first, and were asking for suggestions in cost/prices, then suggesting what i would think are ridiculous prices - £6 for about 6 medium/large dahlias. mum had her eye on some but only had £1.50 in change in her pocket, which the woman said ok to in the end. I saw my cherry cake sell, they were selling the cakes for £3 each in the end i think. Someone was looking at the bakewell tart but as the woman turned it over to transfer it to a paper plate, she revealed a secret.... a tiny patch of pastry that hadn't cooked through! The judges obiously didn't slice through that bit when they tried it. Whether it was that or whether the couple really didn't want such a huge (9") tart, i'll never know, but they didn't buy it in the end. We then decided it was time to go as we were stopping off at a local beer festival on the way home, so i didn't see the tea bread or bakewell sell, but there were so many people queuing and hanging around that i'm sure they probably did.

So, for a first attempt 3 prizes and a highly commended isn't bad at all. Especially as when we watched the prize giving for the cups and trophies it was clearly the same people who won year after year and one man won about 5 trophies alone. It's given me the courage to try again next year, and hasn't put me off at least.

Monday, 25 August 2008

The results are in.....

I've put the photos in a slide show and will tell you more about the day later, right now i'm shattered.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

It's show time!!

Well, the day is finally upon us. In fact it has been for me for an hour and a half already! I really don't sleep well when i have things on my mind. It was the same yesterday morning too. Today is the first day of the Countess of Warwick Show - judgement day!

So yesterday i spent all day in the kitchen, literally the only break i had between 10am and 5pm was about an hour and a half over lunch. It started with the cherry cake, which despite baking at the right temperature (cooler for a fan oven unlike my practise run!), still decided to errupt in the centre but there's nothing that can be done about it now.

Then i moved onto the Honey and Banana Tea Bread, which again rose in the middle like last time.

Then came the Cheese and Olive scone bake as the final one before "half time", we also all had a bit of this for lunch as it was still warm plus you only need 4 squares for the show and the recipe makes 12. Well it should do, if you can roll out a perfect rectangle, but as i can't there were a couple of triangle corners, half size portions just right for me!

After a lunch of a tuna version of the lunch i had in Milan, it was back to the kitchen where i started on the Bakewell. It didn't bubble up too badly like last time, although my pasty seemed to shrink this time however luckily the filling didn't overflow! Frustratingly though, when i removed it from the flan tin i found a small patch on the bottom where the pasty wasn't cooked properly - lets just hope they don't cut through that bit when they judge it!

Finally, the chocolate chip cookies, which as before worked well apart from one which was a little darker than i would have liked (but who's to know if one is missing! Sshhhh....).

Then all that was left to do, having sorted the crafts and photos earlier, was pull up some veg. After pulling about 20 carrots i finally decided on 5 that were good quality and roughly similar, the beetroot was easier as there were 3 decent sized ones and they were luckily all a very similar size too! All thats left is the cherry tomatoes, which i will go and pick then select in a minute (it was a little dark at 5.30am when i packed up the baking!) and at the last minute, so it keeps fresh, pick the chard. I'll add photos of those two into the slide show at a later date.

Only an hour and a half before i have to leave at the latest, time for another cup of tea to calm my nerves i think! Wish me Luck!

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Bumper crops

I know i've been very lapse in my blogging recently, especially of garden post but things have been fairly busy and also fairly stressful. There have been a couple of events, with one big one still to come, which have left me a little preoccupied to say the least.

Most of the garden is doing really well. The red cabbages still aren't really hearting up and i had to get rid of one of the whites too, i'm presuming it was some kind of cabbage root fly, although it seemed to have eaten through the stem rather than the root but i guess it may have worked its way up from the root.
The runner beans are slowing down rapidly after a mammoth start. The are still flowers and beans on there but just not as many and with the wind and rain they are having to fight hard to stay on. But like I said, we did have a bumper harvest to start them off.

And then the tomatoes..........we seem to have a cereal bowl full of cherry tomatoes every day right now! Each day i go out and pick the ones that have rippened during the day. I'm making sure i practice picking them with the caylx still on so that i remember to do so for the show on Monday (which i have finally sent the entry form in for - more about that later) plus i think they keep a better flavour that way, like when you buy them on the vine from the shops. Sadly with the lack of British sun as usual i don't think any of my vines will all be ripe at the same time, and also with the rain some of them seem to be splitting so with the weather as it is right now i'd rather bring them in and finish ripening them indoors for a day than lose them.

Hopefully soon i will have my first couple of larger tomatoes ripe. One is outside on the mystery variety plant (It's not cherry or beefsteak like all the other plants!) and the other is only ripe because its been in the fruit bowl with some bananas, and the only reason it's there in the first place is because i picked it to stop the blossom end rot spreading and took a chance to see it it would ripen. However i'm not entirely sure how much of it i will lose when i cut into it.

I had a second little cauliflower, possibly slightly bigger than the last one but certainly not by much. It still went nicely in my cauliflower cheese that i was making (with a lovely goats cheese and creme fraiche sauce).

Any finally with the lack of butterflies around this year i thought i'd share this lovely photo i captured of a Peacock Butterfly who i spotted sunbathing on the window sill or the front room window.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Last Night of the Proms - short video

This has to be my fav bit of the proms. Sadly it was too dark to capture the people around me dancing, but you can hear them anyway!

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Only in Britain.....

......would you find 10,000 people, sitting in a field on a sunday evening, in the rain AND they've paid to do it (some people at a cost of £75 each from my watchings on ebay!). But then with stars of Lesley Garrett and Michael Ball its not too suprising really!
But you know what? I would have missed it for the world. Maybe if i had actually got wet then i might be coming at this from a different angle, however where we had arrived earlier in order to set up our chairs and rugs in a specific spot, we were able to set up before the rain set in. It also meant we got to see them rehearsing a lot of their songs from the musicals that they were performing and also a practise flyover by the spitfire which was actually cancelled during the concert itself due to bad weather.

The longest period of rain, which was not torrential at any point but was still heavy, set in at about 6.30pm - we'd been there since about 4pm. Before half 6 there had been showers on and off but we had managed to get our chairs up and large umbrellas out ready so that when the rain did set in we were able to simply cover ourselves and our chairs so that everything stayed dry. At 6pm mum decided to lay the picnic out. I didn't want to be pessimistic but i wasn't sure the rain clouds had finished doing their thing, despite the forecast saying the rain was supposed to be over by 7pm. It seems my fears came true as by half 6 the ground sheet was folded back over the top of the picnic food with the crease at the bottom of my feet.
By almost half 7 mum decided that the rain wasn't going to cease in the near future it seemed, so with a bit of help from D, I went foraging under the ground sheet with a spoon and dished up a spoonfull of everything (potato salad, pasta salad, coleslaw, salad, a scotch egg, ham, bread and some crisps) on a plate for mum and then the same again for D. I had pack myself finger food mainly, to keep me occupied for a while, so eating my olives from a little tub and my big bag of veggies (carrot sticks, sugar snaps, runner beans, pepper sticks, cherry tomatoes) was fine, and even my little tub of homemade coleslaw and cubes of beetroot were managable with a spoon.
At the interval there was a brief break in the rain too, so the decision was made to take the cool bag back to the car, but not after i had retrieved a punnet of blueberries to keep me going. After a bit more drizzle on and off the rain finally ceased just around the time that all of the patriotic Last Night of the Proms stuff began. Everyone's spirits lifted and the flag waving began. Then with the customary spectacular firework that the concert always provides, made the whole evening of feel damp but not wet worthwhile.

The only problem then was getting the car out of the car park (field) which took us 50 minutes, however from D speaking to a work collegue it seems we did well - it took her 2 hours!

The only thing i didn't get to see which i wish i could have walked down the the stage in the dry to see was Lesley Garrett's dresses. The most i could see from under my umbrella was that one was purple, one was silver and the final one was red with Union Jacks attached like wings under each arm for the final part!

Like i say though - i wouldn't have missed it!

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Can you get Carotenoderma if......

your carrots are yellow? i thought Carotenoderma was caused by the orange pigment in carrots, but it seems not. i only wondered as i have some stunningly tasty carrots developing!!!

Oh i do like to be beside the seaside.....

While D was having fun with his mates at an exhibition in Southwold, mum and i went along for the ride but got him to drop up in town, down by the pier, for our own little adventure.

He dropped us by the pier at about 10am and had the morning to wander along a very windy pier, the gusty seafront and into less breezy town for a drink before heading to the harbour for lunch. Whilst we were in town we stopped into the tourist information centre to see if we could find out exactly where this seafood restaurant, i'd looked up online, was. I found a leaflet with the phone number and we found another toursit leaflet with it marked on the map.
While we were having a drink in a tearoom, mum suggested i ring the restaurant to check if we were ok to eat there for lunch. The Sole Bay Fish Company is a bit like The Company Shed on Mersea Island, so you take your own drink and bread and they provide the seafood platters. Now at The Shed you can't book a table, however is a good job i did ring as when i asked to book a table she was fulled booked over the time we'd normally go for lunch, about 1 O'Clock, so it was either 12.30pm or 2.30pm. It was 12pm when i phoned and we didn't know how long it was going to take us to get down there, plus we were only just started at the tearoom with our drinks. So i booked for 2.30pm.

After the tearoom we walked back to the seafront and along to the harbour, which as it turned out only took us half an hour, so we were then there an hour and a half early! So we decided to get the passenger ferry (rowing boat) across the estuary to Walberswick, however there wasn't all that much to look round there either, just a couple of small shops. So we took a slow wander back along the coast line to watch the children crabbing.
Lunch was a little disappointing, but then we were comparing it to The Shed. The setting was nice and pleasant, with a fish tank in the entrance which is home to a GIANT lobster. However the menu simply offered 4 types of platters at various prices; Crab platter for £9.95, lobster platter (minimum 2 persons) for £13.95 (i think), smoked platter £11.95 (again i think) and mixed platter which was around £10.95. The woman said the platters weren't set in stone though and she could adjust things and then adjust the price accordingly if needed. Thats great but you had no clue from the menu you as to how much the individual prices would change to platter price, whereas at The Shed you have a menu with extras and the prices of them.

Although i like lobster, i prefer crab and mum said the same, so we went for a crab platter for 2, substituting the whelks for some more mussels. When it arrived the crab was dressed so no fun of pulling it apart like at the shed, and there just didn't seem as much as you would have got at The Shed. On the platter was a dressed crab, about 10 shell on prawns each, a crevette each, a green lip mussel each, a small pile of cockles, a small pile of prawns and a small pile of mussels.
We finshed the lot comfortably but without that overstuffed feeling we often get at The Shed. It was nice but i still rate The Shed higher, especially on value for money.

We then walked back into town, via the beach so mum could have a paddle, to a pub for a cup of tea, as by that time it was half 4 and the tea rooms were closing. D then called and said he and his mates were finished at their exhibition so they all came down to the pub to join us for a drink before we started the drive home, stopping off at the Crown in Woodbridge for dinner.

There's something so relaxing about the seaside and a day out by the sea always seems to go well whatever the weather.

Garden photo update

Decided on a new method to share the garden update photos, including the hundreds on tomatoes we have ready to ripen!!

Friday, 1 August 2008

Evil Vine Weevil (and other pests)

I seem to be battling the pests big time this year. After all our rocket and salad leaves being munched by flea beetle, now the vine weevil invasion has taken over.

But now i've pulled all that up they've moved on......to my cabbages.....

and the dwarf beans.....

and the cauliflower and broccoli........

oh and spot my other big issue in the photo above - a cabbage white egg. I believe a singular egg is laid here and there by the small cabbage white where as the clusters are from the large cabbage white. I got so stressed and cross last weekend that i managed to break our electric tennis bug bat! But no worries we have a new one now!!

It seems no matter how much bug spray i use (even tho you're only supposed to give brassicas one treatment per crop) they just keep laying and hatching. I pick off and quish as many as i can but i'm bound not to be able to reach them all.

The only thing i don't seem to have had major issues with this year have been slugs and snails - maybe our blackbird family have been busy. This is a picture of "Scruffy" the male from the nest in our back hedge.

We're still not sure about his feather loss and scrawny appearance. He seems very healthy and fit otherwise and his mate is pristine. They've both been very welcome lately, eating all the ants in our lawn that surface during the heat.

Cauliflowers (not so) fluffy.......

I had to pick my poor little cauli as it was starting to open and before i knew it, the silly little head would have blown.
not too big as you can see from the picture.........more space needed perhaps.