Real Neat Blog Award IV

Tatterhood most kindly nominated me for this award back in October (hangs head in shame). She writes or rather muses on her blog of the same name. Please check it out, she has some interesting content. Oh, and don’t forget to give her a follow!

As you’ll know from previous Neat Awards, I’ve interpreted “neat” as being “wonderful, terrific.”

The (Pesky) Rules

  • Display the Award Logo.
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and post a link to their blog.
  • Answer the questions of the one who nominated you.
  • Nominate 7-10 bloggers.
  • Ask them seven questions.

 

My Nominees

You should all know how this works by now. Anyone who’s kindly taken the time to read this post is nominated. That should be more than seven, right? Please answer the same questions either on your own blog or, in the comments section below.

Tatterhood’s This or That Questions

1. Seagulls or Pigeons?

To be honest, these have to be my two least favourite birds. But if you force me to choose, I’ll plump for pigeons because a pigeon has never stolen my fish and chips, though they do crap all over the handrail on my balcony. Fortunately for the seagull that flew off with the cardboard box containing my fish and chip lunch at the Fish Shack in Apollo Bay, there were only a few chips left.

2. Cake or Biscuits?

Both! Please don’t force me to choose. You’ll find plenty of recipes for both on my blog.

3. Flip-Flops or Sandals?

Do Birkenstocks count as flip-flops because I wear them all the time at home and, of course, all summer long.

4. Chop Sticks or Forks?

Depends on what I’m eating. I always try to eat Asian food with chopsticks but fancy trying to eat pizza with chopsticks? No, I thought not!

5. Roman Emperor or English King?

An emperor and king are both rulers, but the power associated with them is different. A comparison can be drawn between a regional manager and the CEO of a company. An empire can have many kingdoms within it; the emperor rules the entire empire while kings (or queens) rule smaller kingdoms within the empire. While the king (like the regional manager) has total control over his territory, the emperor (like the CEO) is the one who makes the final decision for the entire region. So that’ll be Roman Emperor every time. So much more power and pomp, plus I’d look good in a toga!

6. Inktober or Blogtober?

I would love to take part in Inktober – that’s drawing not tattoos, right? – but I’m not great at drawing, I need to persevere. So it would be Blogtober.

7. Random Crap or Sensible thought provoking Questions?

Random crap every time! Indeed, it could be the strapline for my blog.

Hope you’ve all had a great weekend.

Sheree x

The Musette: vegan sticky caramel pear cake

French friends agree that a cooked to order British breakfast, the so called « full English » is magnificent.  To this they would add afternoon tea and puddings. Consequently, in the past my (non vegan) sticky toffee puddings have gone down a treat.

This dessert was my attempt to partly replicate that dish but as a vegan one, plus use up some pears that had gone a bit soft in the fruit bowl. I should have put them in the fridge. Pears have a rapid ripening process that turns them quickly from a hard, impenetrable fruit into a floury mush that browns and bruises easily. Over-ripe and even heavily bruised fruit are best cooked into a nutritious puree or cake such as this one.

That said, this works well with any pear no matter how hard or ripe and bruised it is: all will melt into the sticky cake dough, and will become a delicious companion to the rich and sticky, date-flavoured cake.

Ingredients (Serves 8-12)

  • 200g (2 cups) stoned dates, roughly chopped
  • 350ml (1 1/2 cups) plant-based milk
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100ml (10 tbsp) fruity olive oil
  • 100g (1/2 cup) unrefined raw sugar
  • 220g (1 2/3 cups) wholemeal spelt flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp powdered ginger
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1-3 pears, cut in quarters and cored

Method

1. pre-heat the oven to 200C (190C fan)/410F/gas 6½. Put the dates in a saucepan with the plant-based milk, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes.

2. Off the heat, add the bicarbonate of soda and stir for 30 seconds, or until the dates begin to dissolve. Leave to cool, then mix in the olive oil, 50g sugar, flour, baking powder, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon.

3. Grease and line a medium-sized cake tin. Sprinkle the rest of the sugar over the base of the tin. If you have only one pear, slice it and lay it out over the base of the tin; if you have two pears, cut them into large chunks; and if you have three or more pears, put the quarters cut-side down in the tin.

4. Cover with the cake mixture and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until just cooked and springy to the touch. Turn out and serve warm.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the cakes in the oven, put the timer on for 5-10 minutes less than they should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. If you think the cake is browning too much at the edges, cover it with an aluminium foil tent.

4. You can substitute the olive oil for another mild or unflavoured vegetable oil.

5. I suspect this would be just as delicious with apples.

Friday Photo Challenge – balconies

I love these weekly challenges because it forces me to think about what’s in my photo archives and how I might re-purpose them.

The Challenge proper doesn’t return until the end of the month so I’ve used some from last year which I missed.

This is the view from the balcony at the side of the apartment as the sun prepares to set.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, why not join in the fun?

Friendly Friday

How to join the Friendly Friday Photo Challenge

Post a comment below and include a ‘Friendly Friday’ ping-back in your post, so others can find your entry.

  • Publish a new ‘Friendly Friday, post including a URL link to the host’s post, tagging the post, ‘Friendly Friday’ Add the Photo Challenge logo, too, if you wish.
  • Copy the published url into the comments of the host’s post, so other readers can visit your blog.
  • Visit other Friendly Friday entries by following the links. It’s fun!
  • Follow the host blogs to see future prompts.

Please note there are no deadlines for any Friendly Friday Photo challenges.

One from the Vaults: Back in the groove

I’ve decided that once a week I’ll re-post something from my extensive archives. Obviously many of my early posts  2009 – 2014 heavily feature cycling. I’ll try to keep these to a minimum as I know not everyone is a cycling fan.

There’s storm clouds just back from the coast and, if we’re to believe the weather forecast, we’re in for a few more wet days. I’m not complaining as last week was incredibly mild and I rode every day. There’s nothing better than an hour or two riding in the fresh air to restore one’s equilibrium though I might just have to settle for the home-trainer the rest of this week.

I rode today with my beloved, who’s due to fly away tomorrow morning, and he said that finally I’d gotten back up to speed. He had complained about my laggardly progress all over the Christmas holidays but not so today. Mind you my progress was almost halted in its tracks when a large piece of machinery popped off a lorry and fell (fortunately) just in front of me at a roundabout in Antibes. By chance, the local police were close by and remarked upon my near miss. I retorted that it was the lorry driver who’d had the close shave, not me. Imagine how much his negligence might have cost him? A new BMC racing bike at the very least and, at worst, a sizeable compensatory lawsuit from my beloved. The policeman nodded sagely, he could see my point.

My training for 2014 has gotten off to a good start. Initially with the Rapha #Festive500, where I just managed to sneak over the limit. More importantly, since New Year, I have managed to  maintain both momentum and enthusiasm. Of course, it’s helped that daytime temperatures have not dropped below 10ºC rather it’s been a few degrees warmer. I find when temperatures fall I’ll still ride but two and half hours is my limit before I start to feel chilled to the bone.

In the winter months, all cyclists are largely confined to cycling up and down the coastal roads.  This means that one’s constantly crossing the paths of other cyclists. Of course, most are heading back home by the time I venture forth. Locally resident professional riders aside, most cyclists set off at 8:30, the time designated by the clubs for winter rides thereby ensuring that they’re back ready in plenty of time for lunch at 12:30. Everything and everyone stops for lunch at 12:30 in France. I prefer to avoid the early morning traffic and the early morning chill, rarely leaving the Domaine much before 10:30. Equally, I’m happy to have lunch whenever I get back, even if it’s after 12:30. Sacre bleu!

I’m looking forward to the start of the professional cycling season which kicks off next week with the Tour of San Luis in Argentina and the Tour Down Under in Adelaide. It seems such a long time since Il Lombardia. I have dipped in and out of the cyclo-cross season, a discipline that’s quite rightly growing in popularity. It’s just under an hour of lung-busting racing in generally muddy conditions where you need to get out of the start gate quickly to put time into the chasing pack. Like all bike racing, you can be undone by spills and technical fails but it’s a great spectacle and particularly popular in Belgium where I hear  it goes down nicely with a pint or two of beer.

Thursday doors #50

Paris is, of course, a veritable treasure trove for doors. If I lived there I could probably just post pictures of doors every day for years. These are ones which caught my eye on our trip last October. As in last week’s from Milan, I was often thwarted by badly parked vehicles or traffic as I tried to take my photos from a suitable vantage point.

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

Thanksgiving: Part II

As we drove along the main highway towards our destination of Montauk on Long Island, there was a distinct lack of places for a pit-stop. Finally, as we drove onto the south fork of the island, just outside of Southampton, we stopped for lunch (and a much needed comfort break). For me it was an easy choice: lobster salad. My beloved joined me. Whenever I’m on the east coast I try to keep my intake to at least one per day. On a two-week holiday to New England, I once famously ate lobster every single day!

Replete, we drove through the pretty villages which make up The Hamptons before arriving at our destination, just on the outskirts of Montauk, where I scored another room upgrade. Not for nothing do my sisters call me “Upgrade Sheree”! Our large and spacious room opened out onto the beach so that at night I could hear the surf crashing against the beach – quite my favourite lullaby.

We immediately went for a walk in the bracing beach air before heading to the gym and then the bar to try out the hotel’s cocktails and bar snacks! Everything passed muster and we slept like babes before enjoying breakfast in the hotel the following morning.

We spent the next couple of days re-aquainting ourselves with The Hamptons which is a series of beach towns and villages dotting eastern Long Island and, while all indisputably beautiful, each area of the island offers something a bit different. I was surprised that even though it was “out of season” so much was open, though none of it was busy. We were probably avoiding the visitors by leaving on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

We generally prefer to eat at lunchtime and enjoyed a little bit of France in Bridgehampton when we dined at a French restaurant. I ate a humongous lobster (steamed) while my beloved enjoyed brandade. We read with interest the story of how the current owner’s grandparents, who’d previously owned a patisserie in 16th arondissement of Paris, came to Long Island and opened a patisserie, which remains next-door, and chatted in French to the staff and charming owner. It was just the sort of neighbourhood restaurant which we love.

We were fortunate with the weather which was chilly but sunny allowing us to potter about each of the towns comprising The Hamptons, noting the changes from our last visit over four years ago. For example, the pretty white property (bottom right-hand corner) with the wrap around veranda and gingerbread trim used to sell antiques, it now sells French fashions. We also indulged in some spectacular property porn gazing!

For the first time we investigated one of the south-fork’s three local vineyards, the Wolffer Estate which had some impressive (IMHO) wines. We only tried a couple of their red wines, and would’ve liked to sample more, but didn’t fancy our chances of transporting them safely back to France. Despite the value of its acres, the island remains resolutely agricultural, and long may it stay that way. We’ve yet to visit the north fork which I understand has many more vineyards. Next time!

 

 

Thanksgiving: Part I

My beloved had built up sufficient air miles on British Airways for us to fly to and from New York, via London. We caught the first flight to London from Nice which left us about two hours between flights. I like to leave a reasonable amount of time to allow for delays and, more importantly, luggage transfer. We arrived in Newark ahead of schedule, early Sunday afternoon, and made our way to our nearby hotel for an overnight stay. I hadn’t wanted my beloved to drive any distance after a long-haul flight.

Typically, we’ll check in and then head into New York on the train from Newark. But it was cold and wet, so we opted for the gym and dinner locally. My beloved looked at the list of local restaurants, many of which were Hispanic; we plumped for the one claiming to be Basque.

A quick cab ride and we were entering a large buzzing restaurant, with bar attached. The food looked and smelled delicious. Since everybody appeared to be taking home a doggy bag, I elected to have just the one course which I struggled to finish. My beloved had to assist. Both of our dishes lived up to the billing.

We got chatting to one of our waiters and discovered the lady owner came from Markina, near Bilbao, a town we’ve visited thanks to watching Itzulia, a pro-cycling tour of the Basque Country. My beloved’s choice turned out to be a great neighbourhood restaurant that’s been in situ for many years. Replete, we returned to the hotel and a great night’s sleep.

The following morning we returned to Newark to pick up our hire car only to discover my beloved had mislaid aka lost his wallet containing his driving licence (credit cards and a number of membership cards)! A quick re-enactment established the last time he could recall seeing his wallet was at Nice airport the previous morning when he’d taken out his card to access the priority security channel.

He’d taken the wallet out of his hand luggage, taken out the card, and stuffed both back in his raincoat pocket. The wallet must have fallen out somewhere en route. Fortunately he’s a Herz Gold Card member, meaning they have a copy of his driving licence on file. You might be wondering why he didn’t notice it was missing before, like when we checked into the hotel, or paid for dinner? Simples! I always handle all of these tedious details.

Having established he hadn’t left his wallet at our overnight hotel, we sped off through Manhattan to Long Island and our destination for Thanksgiving, Montauk.

Postscript: On our return, I successfully applied on line for a replacement licence for my beloved. The site also provides “a declaration of loss of licence” should one need to provide a copy of same,  although I also had a copy of it on file. The replacement licence arrived early in the new year – pretty impressive turnaround.

Sunshine’s Macro Monday #23

After the photos from MoMa, here’s some more from the garden.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your helpful feedback and kind comments on these posts – most encouraging.

Sunshine’s Macro Monday is a challenge hosted by Irene encouraging us to scrutinise the smallest of details by getting up close and personal and bringing someone or something to life in a photograph. It’s a one day challenge without prompts.  Irene posts a Sunshine’s Macro Monday post each Monday, just after midnight Central Time (US) so don’t forget to use the tag SMM and mention Sunshine’s Macro Monday somewhere on your post, create a pingback or add a link in the comment’s section of her post.