Saturday, March 31, 2007

You're all alone

Ned's gone up to the Lakes for a few days with his chums and I'm here holding the fort. It's awfully quiet. I've tidied and cleaned and dusted and gardened a bit (but there's a cold wind blowing so I've come in) and now I'm at a loose end. I think I'll go and find a sunny spot somewhere and read a book.

I bet Ned won't be sticking to cardboard-and-water while he's away so neither shall I, especially as I'm not the one trying to lose weight! I think I'll indulge in egg and chips for supper tonight. Mmmmmmm, chips ......

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

This song has no title

I fairly often do experimental cookery, depending on what's available in Mother Hubbard's cupboards. Usually the results are okay, sometimes they're quite dramatic failures. Last night's bash was so splendidly successful I've actually written down the recipe. I just don't know what to call it. It has a sort-of Chinesey flavour - any suggestions?

4 pork chops/steaks
1 onion
1 tin chopped tomatoes
3-4 tbsp hoi-sin sauce

Chop onions and garlic and soften for a few minutes in a little oil. Add the pork and lightly seal meat, then remove meat. Add tomatoes and hoi-sin sauce and heat through. Put half the sauce into an ovenproof dish, place the meat on top and pour on the rest of the sauce.

Cover and cook at 180°C (350°, gas mark 4) for 1 hour.

Serve with rice, or noodles, or boiled potatoes, all with steamed vegetables.

Serves 4.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Now and then just like before

Twelve noon came and I left work. The electricity man hadn't been. No surprise there then.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Can you hear me?

Sometimes I wonder why I bother. On a forum someone's posted in a panic that her dog's brushed against some wet masonry paint, what should she do? I ascertained that it was water-based and told her to wash it off before it dries. Too late, it's already dry. Basically the only option is to wait until that hair moults out in a few weeks. Cue weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Then comes the next post - her other dog has just come in, and she too has paint on her, and it's still wet. "Ho hum" she says "It looks like I'll be bathing both of them tomorrow". I've just pointed out that if she baths them tonight, before the paint dries hard, it'll come off much more easily.

Can you hear me, Mother?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

A very merry unbirthday to me

I got back from walking the dogs and on the doorstep was a package. A bomb? No, it was from Jane across the Pond, responding to my plea regarding Merkin cups, and contained a very fine set of US cup and spoon measures, in a lovely sunny-Californ-eye-ay colour. The timing was perfect because Piglet had just run out of his biscuits and I was going to have a bash at another batch. This time I could get the quantities correct! As I went through the recipe measuring out the various flours and meals I also weighed them. I was pleased to find that I'd guessed quite accurately with some, but there were some that were definitely out. I hadn't suspected that half a cup of soy flour is only fractionally heavier than a quarter cup of cornmeal. The resulting dough needed a lot more milk than the previous batch to make it hold together when I rolled it out.

Very many thanks, Jane, from both me and Piglet!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Something in the way she moves ...

... or fails to.

Don't you just hate it when someone picks up your Travel Bug, promptly stops geocaching and fails to respond to emails? Come on Zobags, pull your finger out!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Oh it all makes work for the working man to do

You remember how I stressed on the phone that the electricity meter could only be changed between 9am and 12 noon? According to the card through the door the electrician called at 12.45. When it was confirmed that the times we gave were on the jobsheet m'colleague gave them a rocket . They're trying again next Tuesday, and now we've limited them to between 10 and 12. Can you guess who's drawn the short straw for that shift? Watch this space.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Whatcha got cookin'?

Recipe for a Jolly Fine Weekend:
Good food, good beer, good wine, good company, good conversation. Marvellous.

Mallers and Maddy came up to stay, bearing a fantastically thoughtful and gorgeous gift, for a weekend of detox on the cardboard-and-water diet and to set the world to rights. In brief, ‘king Omally chased a sheep and later annexed an unsuspecting state to add to his realm; Croc shoes are both hideous and uncomfortable; Kouros decided not to dangle by his midriff from a crane; medium tee-shirts can double up as casual frocks; organic gardens ("I remember when all this was fields") are best seen when a) plants are growing and b) there isn’t horizontal hail; and board games are now off the agenda. If anyone mentions “just one point” there’ll be trouble.

Back to work tomorrow. Ho hum.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A big question mark

A few weeks ago Ned's rather unloved - because it was a replacement for his adored surprise birthday present one that got stolen - chainsaw seized and nearly broke his shoulder when he tried to start it. "Pah, rubbish chainsaw, I never liked it" was his attitude, and he searched the net and eventually splashed out and bought a Quality one which he likes much better. And it starts too.

Then the other day, whilst searching for some Very Important Papers that had been put in a Safe Place, he found the delivery note and warranty for the broken one, and much to our surprise the guarantee still had several months to go. So we boxed it up and called the manufacturers to find out where it should be taken. They organised a courier and it was collected on Monday. Today the doorbell rang and a driver from DHL (remember that) wanted a package signed for. It was addressed to us and from the chainsaw company, but was rather on the small side for what we were expected. Anyway, we opened it ... and discovered a dimmer unit for a marionette theatre.

We phoned the chainsaw people to tell them that the wrong parcel had been sent, and we phoned the marionette theatre people that we had their dimmer unit - did they have our chainsaw? No they didn't, and luckily they were only in the next village and came to collect their package. We managed to piece together part of the story; both our packages were collected on Monday by the same courier - from Target, not DHL - and it seems both were delivered to the chainsaw factory in Droitwich. It was realised that the dimmer unit should have gone to Birmingham for repair, was repackaged and by some insane logic, sent to us. The chainsaw people assure me that the saw is still in their workshop being repaired and should be back with us next week.

The most curious bit of all this is why and how DHL (the worst company in the world to deal with, according to the poor chainsaw woman who was trying to sort out the muddle) got involved at all. The marionette people used Target. The chainsaw people used Target. Yet the package arrived in a DHL van, the delivery label was a printed DHL label, but with the Target sender reference number. Are they one and the same? Was the driver moonlighting? They must be in cahoots somehow, or else how on earth did the second company know anything about our shipment?

Monday, March 12, 2007

I'll show you how to walk the dog

So, that’s Crufts over for another year, and the TV presentation just gets worse and worse. The only improvement over last year was that they got Clare Balding back to try to keep that juvenile drip Ben Fogle more under control, and she managed reasonably well, though he did sneak in a few excruciatingly amateur moments when she momentarily dropped her guard. The main problem, though, is that the BBC doesn’t seem to realise it’s a dog show and viewers want to see the dogs, not the trade stands and listen to the presenters’ anecdotes. Imagine the furore if the Wimbledon coverage concentrated on chats with spectators, discussion of the quality of the strawberries and cream and a selection of the souvenirs available in the shop but only a cursory glimpse of the final game of the tournament. How narked would footy fans be if the only televised football they got was the edited highlights of the FA Cup, not even the whole match? There’d be riots in the streets.

To those who don’t know, Crufts is the only show that you can’t just enter – your dog has to qualify for entry by getting winning places in certain classes at a limited number of other shows throughout the year, so just being able to enter is an achievement. It’d be nice to actually see more of the classes being judged, and have knowledgeable commentators like Frank Kane explaining to the non-showing viewers what’s going on, what the judge is looking for, etc. A special programme about the other activities would be good; the gamekeepers’ classes, the obedience, the agility, the flyball. And, instead of Mary Ray’s now rather tedious and lack-lustre heelwork-to-music (I thought circus animal acts were considered to be poor taste nowadays?) as a warm-up to the final competition for Best in Show how much more interesting and educational (for example, not many people realise that the King Charles Spaniel and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel are two different breeds) would be a parade of all 208 recognised breeds with a commentary briefly describing the origins and history of each. That way the general public would get a better understanding of why the various breeds were developed they way they are; their functions dictating to great extent their form. Surely being taken seriously wouldn’t be too much to ask.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Please please tell me now

With Piglet being a weirdo and needing a special diet, the official version of which requires the relinquishment of several minor appendages for each purchase, I've been scouring the intermaweb for equivalent homemade foods. In the main it's been fairly successful and he seems to be doing all right*. But I have encountered one particular problem; the recipes are Merkin, and need translation into English measurements for convenience, so I started googling. This got me even more muddled, because it appears that, not only are our cups a different size to Merkin ones (ours hold 10 fl oz, theirs hold 8 fl oz), the weight of a cup varies according to its contents**. An American cup of plain flour weighs 4.3 ounces while a cup of rice weighs 6.5 ounces. A cup of salt weighs a whopping 10 ounces!

So this is where I'm calling upon my US friends for help. Please can you tell me the official weight of a cup of rice flour, a cup of soya flour and a cup of cornmeal. Also, is cornmeal the same as cornflour or not? And what on earth is 'unsulfured molasses'? Is there a similar product available on this side of the herring pond?

* crosses fingers, touches wood and spits over left shoulder
** stop sniggering, Mally

Monday, March 05, 2007

A town called malice

The phone rang, and the man at the other end told me that somebody had tied a dog to the railings outside his flat, and it was cold and wet; that neither the dog warden nor the RSPCA would come out and what should he do? There's no facilities at the surgery for taking in strays so I gave him the number of another dog warden, took his number in case of enquiries and left it at that.

About ten minutes later a very muddy, very tearful client - I'll call her S - came in to give me her mobile number because one of her dogs had been chased during its walk and had run off. She'd been searching for three hours and was afraid the dog had fallen into the swollen river; in fact she'd slipped in herself a couple of times and was soaked. I got on the phone and called back the man with the 'stray' and asked him to describe the dog. As I'd hoped, the description fitted S's missing dog, so I gave her the thumbs-up and took down the man's address. To my surprise her expression turned from joy at learning the dog was located to one of worry. "Oh dear, he's not a nice man" she said. "I hope he hasn't hurt her." And off she went.

Later on I heard more details which make me feel rather angry. It turns out that a couple had found the dog loose, looked at the address on her collar and taken her home. Of course there was nobody there because S was frantically searching the fields and riverbank, so the finders called the vet's main number on the other side of the disc, and were advised that the best thing would be to tie the dog to the banisters in the stairwell outside S's flat (indoors, out of the rain) and she'd be safe there.

I was very shocked to learn that the man who rang me, who'd tried to get the RSPCA and the dog warden to take the dog away, is S's next-door neighbour, and he knew exactly who the dog was and who she belonged to. The spite and malice of his actions physically chilled me.