Monday, 30 June 2014

Joanne's Pineapple (or Chocolate) Pie

Today my friend Joanne would have been 70. She passed away three years ago just after beginning treatment for breast cancer. Her mother had survived breast cancer and I think she expected she would, too.  Her sudden death was a surprise to us all. I still think of her often.

Flowers in a window. Dyrham Park, South Gloucestershire

Back in 2009 she sent me several pie recipes. I published her strawberry recipe last year. Here is her Pineapple Pie recipe.

Pineapple Pie

8 oz. cream cheese (room temperature)
8 oz. sour cream
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
8 oz. crushed pineapple, drained
Reserve 1 tablespoon pineapple
1 small container of Cool Whip
Graham cracker crust pie shell

Mix all together. Place in pie shell. Refrigerate overnight. (Can freeze for use later).  Variations: Eliminate pineapple. Put mixture in chocolate crust. Add mini-chocolate chips and sprinkles.

I'm not sure what you are supposed to do with the tablespoon of pineapple but I'd guess it was to garnish the top of the Cool Whip.  It might be good to give people a bit of a warning that they're about to taste pineapple!

Monday, 16 June 2014


Our last trip in the motor home was in late May. Bill wanted to marshal one of those crazy 100-mile walks that the Long Distance Walking Association does overnight. As we meandered our way back from South Wales we visited a few National Trust properties which I hope to tell you about soon. When planning the trip I asked if we could be back by the night of the 29th. The Linskill community centre was having its annual book sale on the 30th and 31st and we were going to be elsewhere on the 31st.  I love a huge sale where the books are 50p for paperback, £1 for hardback!

I spent a grand total of £10 and got the following:

Vanished Years, Rupert Everett
The blurb mentioned Evelyn Waugh & Ivor Novello, so I 'had' to buy it!

The Black Prince, Iris Murdoch
I've not seen the Judy Dench film yet, but thought I ought to read something Murdoch had written.

The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
Frequent references to this book in other fictional books I've read made me curious about it.

Past Imperfect, Julian Fellowes
Sadly, his novels seem not to be set in the inter-war period like his screenwriting, but I liked Snobs well enough to pay 50p for another.

The Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama
I read this at my cousin's flat in Nice and thought I might well read it again. Explains the history of politics in the US quite well.

Best of Betjamin, John Betjamin and John Guest
Bill's favourite poet, also an inter-war personality. I'm sure I'll be sharing a few of his scribbles - many very irreverent for a Poet Laureate! His first wife was a Cavendish, the family of the Dukes of Devonshire, owners of Chatsworth, one of the grand houses we saw. 

211 Things a Bright Girl Can Do, Bunty Cutler
The word 'bright' in the title made me think of the 1920s, though this is relatively modern. A few useful ideas, but more silly ones I think. Will report back perhaps.

Maigret Takes a Room, Georges Simenon
We love the Maigret series filmed with Michael Gambon (currently re-watching!). I read a biography of Georges Simenon, disgusting man, but I thought I'd try reading a Maigret mystery to see if they were as good as the series.

The Chase, Louisa May Alcott
Apparently this is one of the early works she wrote to earn money, not the sweet stuff of Little Women. I'm expecting it will be tedious but thought it worth a try; I've never seen this title before!

Bess of Hardwick - First Lady of Chatsworth, Mary S. Lovell
I'm certain I've read about Bess before, though I'd not remembered her connection to Chatsworth. Lovell writes a lot about the inter-war period and so her name drew me to buy it as well. Funny, we spotted this book (for a lot more than 50p) at the Chatsworth gift shop and was almost tempted. Instead, I took photos of the books I wanted, in order to look for them elsewhere. Major score!

The Last Great Edwardian Lady, Ingrid Seward

Bill pointed out this book to me. Turns out it's about the Queen Mother, Elizabeth. I have other books about her. I wouldn't say I was so much a royalist but I do think of her as an interwar personality.

Guinness Guide to 20th Century Fashion, David Bond
That Extra Half an Inch, Victoria Beckham
The World of Downton Abbey, Jessica Fellowes

All very silly books I'd never pay full price for. £1 each was about right...

Perfectly Fitted: Creating Personalized Patterns for a Limitless Wardrobe, Lynne Garner
I bought this at a National Trust gift shop for about a fiver. As soon as I opened it I regretted the purchase as it requires a 'fitting buddy' which I don't have. Unless I manage to train Bill...hmmm. Wish me luck on that!

The White Queen, Philippa Gregory
I must have been desperate for a book, having finished all I brought, as I paid full price for this (well, reduced a bit) at a grocery store. An excellent read, mind. May look around for the rest of the series, but only for 50p or less! She does a great job of telling stories from Britain's medieval period.

Girl with a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier
Bought this at a National Trust house, but in their used book room, not the gift shop. Increasingly a lot of places collect donations of used books for visitors to browse and buy, usually displayed in some funny little end room somewhere. I always take the time to look, as their prices are great (about like the community centre's) and you never know where you'll find a gem...or a pearl (sorry). I've recently worked out that if the book was good enough to be made into a film, it's probably a pretty decent read. Worked this time anyhow, great book!

Books I Took with Me:

Modesty Blaise, Peter O'Donnell
Described to me as a female James Bond, a mid-60s thing here in Britain. Also as 'popcorn'. I do love 'popcorn'! Looking forward to more of Modesty!

The Winter Garden Mystery, Carola Dunn 
I've read it before and it's OK, just not terribly gripping compared with other books. Bill has a lot of these and re-reads them often. I think he like 'popcorn' as well.

My Grandmothers and I, Diana Holman-Hunt
An autobiographical account of the extreme differences between her grandmothers, one the widow of William Holman-Hunt who was one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a raffish set of scamps. Black humour colours a very sad upbringing.

All Will Yet Be Well: The Diary of Sarah Gillespie Huftalen, 1873-1952, Sarah Gillespie Huftalen and Suzanne L. Bunkers
A friend gave me this book saying he thought it interesting but it was hard work and he didn't think he was ever going to finish it. I agree with his assessment but finished it as a point of pride.  A bit tedious in places but boy did it ever bring home to me how soft we are these days! Her daily routine at 84 would kill a horse these days.

Saturday, 14 June 2014


Perched on the garden wall at Wallington House is this odd statue of Scaramouche.

I have to confess that the only association I had with the word had to do with the invitation to fandango in the Queen song, Bohemian Rhapsody.  Finding a statue with this name made me think there must be more to the story.

Turns out that Scaramouche is a character from the Italian theatre involving 'masked types' and dating back to the 1600s.  So I guess Freddie Mercury and co. were more cultured than I realised.

Friday, 13 June 2014

An Almost Forgotten Birthday!

Silly that the date should slip my mind, after all I had just checked with her a couple of weeks ago to make sure I had it right.  But I sat there yesterday and realised I would likely see her that evening at the craft group and I didn't want to go empty handed. However, she's missed my birthday a couple of weeks ago and perhaps she would be embarrassed if I did too much; or maybe she didn't really want to be bothered with exchanging gifts.  What to do?

Bill thought I would launch myself out into the world and go shopping, but that's not how I roll as a rule and not what I thought would suit for this occasion. Better something low key just to recognise the occasion.

I remembered that she'd been quite excited about a particular fabric I'd put in a tote bag I made for Vivien.  I had made a mental note at the time to give her some of of it. Of course I didn't think until it was wrapped to photograph it, but it is a sort of 60s pop art pattern in mostly greens with a bit of orange and purple added.  I don't know why I picked it up at the shop in Colchester a few years (6!) years ago, but I did. I'm not sure the shop is still there, sadly.

I love this vintage, girly paper!

I had the wrapping paper from Vivien's gifts (a great book about Liberty fabrics and a bunch of lavender scented tea lights!) and I loved it so much I thought I'd re-use it for Lucy. I wanted to add a bow and all my ready made ones are pretty tired by now, so I made one from scratch, from some ribbon from my Aunt Rita's stash.

I was really pleased with the outcome. I hope she likes her gift.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Repair to These Haunts

When wearied or over-wrought by study or affairs of business repair to these haunts and refresh your mind by a stroll amidst the flowers.

Inscription on the Pincian Hill at Rome.
(Also on the fountain in the greenhouse at Wallington Hall).

Monday, 2 June 2014

Not a Mandrake in Sight

There's nothing much to say about the wondrous greenhouses at Wallington Hall except that the outside reminds me of the Harry Potter films and the inside is full of beauty. See for yourself:

Add caption

Strange flowers - half white, half striped!

I'm not sure if these were tubular flowers or not opened; striking shape.

These are funny yellow flat 'dots'!

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Hiding from Birds

The whole world of bird watching is foreign to me. Like many hobbies, birders have their own language. For example, Vivien and I went into the 'bird hide': a little wooden hut with a large window overlooking a collection of bird feeders. This particular one also had benches, shelves, a white board for children to indicate what they'd seen, some reference books and even a pair of binoculars.  The only other hide I've been to was a concrete structure with a long window-shaped hole overlooking a nature reserve. Wallington Hall obviously does it in style.

Gold Finch

To be honest, I've always thought British birds a bit boring. I grew up with bright red cardinals flashing through the back garden and being dive bombed by enormous blue jays protecting their nests.  Most birds I see on a daily basis are seagulls and pigeons.  Wallington estate, however, is noisy with bird call - actual birds not flying rats or sea and landfill scavengers. I must admit it is a lovely sound.

Green Finch

So, what did we see? Danged if I know. I edited my photos to make the birds more visible and then asked Bill to give me some names. He initially said one was a 'blue tit'; this is a name I've heard many times and it always makes me shake my head. The things Brits say with a straight face, it sometimes amazes me. Then he said maybe it was a 'cold tit'; I said 'excuse me'? He said c-o-a-l tit; OK.  Then he decided it was a Great Tit.  Never in my life did I ever think I would Google British Tit Birds.  I'm not much the wiser but I'll go along with Great Tit.  (Do you think this is why there are so many bird fanciers here in Britain, so they can talk about all the lovely tits they've seen?) Bill says that Tit is based on a Scandinavian word meaning 'small'. 

Great Tit!

These two lovelies had Vivien enthralled. I think she said they were chaffinches gold finches. They certainly had more variety of colour than any birds I've seen outside of Australia.

And Bill said one of these was a goldfinch. I'll take his word for it. I can sort of see what appeals to bird watchers, though I doubt I'll be indulging in this hobby on a serious level anytime soon. (Thanks to Vivien for correcting my labels!)