I know it's winter when the setting sun reflects of the windows of these particular houses in that particular way. It just doesn't happen in the summer.
The last three days neither of us have got out much because both T and I have had different things wrong - me a mysterious pain and swelling of my foot arch, and him with nerve pain from a tooth. I think they're improving now but in the light of what's been happening in Paris and elsewhere in the world we are not in the mood for complaining about them.
While feeling rather confined to home, we've been cleaning and clearing. I thoroughly washed the head of this stuffed bird which Littlest A loves sucking the head of. It's just the right size to fit in his mouth. Here it is after washing.
T. has been clearing out his office so lots of eBaying, chucking out and donating to charity shops. Today after we'd dumped our bags of treasures in the British Heart Foundation I spotted a Thomas the Tank Engine toy which I thought Littlest A might like.
He's very keen on his board book of Thomas, even though he doesn't understand a word of it, so I got the engine - it was only £1.
But even with new batteries it didn't work. It just sat there doing nothing, so T decided to take it to bits, because he had spotted something interesting about it.... can you see it, below?
I would never have noticed it, but T didn't work all those years in the BBC without being able to recognise a microphone. It's the round hole at the bottom.
Once he'd dismantled the train, he discovered that the microphone activates Thomas when you whistle nearby. Very ingenious. T put it together again, and it worked perfectly. It probably once had a Fat Controller's Whistle but that's long gone... but.....
Littlest A's other favourite thing is this recorder
And it works perfectly at controlling Thomas!
So now the toys are waiting for Littlest A's next visit.
We went to our next door neighbour's house, to attend her daughter's one-girl craft sale. The WHOLE living room was full of stuff Amelia has made. I know she is clever with her hands but she must have done nothing else except knit and sew for months. It's all in aid of raising money to volunteer at the charity Elephant-Human Relations Aid in Namibia. I had never heard of it but apparently a lot of people from her school have gone and she says it does great work persuading subsistence farmers not to kill elephants - which of course are encroaching on their land.
So I bought a couple of Christmas tree decorations which will now remind me of elephants (and Amelia). I discovered that among the other neighbours who had visited her craft sale that day, Littlest A had also turned up with his mother and had taken a great liking to one the stuffed animals. Apparently they put a lead on it and let him drag it around. (I didn't dare ask if he had sucked its head.)
Before the tooth/foot pain got too bad we went to Hungerford, Berkshire to pick up our "new" (or, rather, new-to-us) car from the dealers we have used for years. They've gone to a lot of trouble to find this car for us, exactly the same as the old car except several years newer, and very low mileage. In a rare burst of sun I was impressed by the way the raindrops on it were all lit up almost as parts of it were studded with Swarovski diamonds.
It was really nice seeing Hungerford again. My late parents lived there for many years. We always go to look at the weird and wonderful antiques and curiosities in the Hungerford Arcade on the High Street. We know from experience that the Rafters Cafe there does very good smoked salmon and scrambled egg on toast for a very reasonable price.
The cafe really is in the rafters, as you can see from the photo below. The Arcade is all one building now, but it used to be a kind of medieval market, and courtyards and other spaces were roofed in over the centuries. The layout of the cafe is a bit odd, being built around a hefty old staircase clearly hewn from tree trunks some centuries ago. It also has great big beams running across the floor, which they do mark very clearly, but, well, shall we say they are "interesting" to navigate when going to order at the counter?
There are many other good antique businesses in Hungerford, but we like The Arcade best partly because of its cafe, partly because of its junkshop section (selling curiosities that often need a bit of work) and perhaps mainly because of its books. There are so many treasures here at low prices - if you can face sorting through them. Here is just one corner. And if you are reasonably tall, and haven't tripped over the beams on the floor in the Rafters, you can get hit on the head by the beams on the ceiling here.
Went to see my mum and dad's old house and it's had a big porch built on it and an extension. I was so sad to think that they were no longer there, but I was also glad to see their house taking on a new lease of life.
Finally, Nadezda, whose amazing Russian garden I always admire, has asked for the recipe for the carrot cake I mentioned in my last blog post. It is adapted from one in the original Crank's Cook Book. I made a few small adaptations. The main change is that I used soft dark brown sugar for the icing, which gave the icing a caramel taste.
Vegetable oil 75ml
Brown Sugar 100g
Wholemeal self raising flour 100g (I used half white and half brown plain flour, adding a teaspoon (5 ml) of baking powder instead)
Ground cinnamon 1 tsp (5 ml)
Ground nutmeg 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml)
Desiccated coconut 50g
rind of one orange, grated
Shelled chopped walnuts 50g.
Grease and line a 18 cm (7 inch) cake tin. Finely grate the carrots. Whisk the eggs and sugar together until thick and creamy. Whisk the oil in slowly, then add the remaining ingredients and mix together to combine evenly. Spoon the mixture in the prepared tin. Level the surface and bake in the oven at 190 C (375 F, Gas Mark 5) for 20-25 minutes till firm to the touch and golden brown. Cool on a wire tray and spread with icing (frosting) when cold.
Butter or margarine, 40g
Pale brown sugar 75g (I used dark)
Grated rind of 1/2 orange if liked
Shelled walnuts to decorate
As cakes go it is a "healthy" one and like so many recipes in that old cook book, it is really good and always seems popular with visitors.