Monday, 30 July 2007

Moroccan Lamb


No. No. No. NO!
This made me really cross. Not just ordinary cross, but hungry cross and, believe me, that's not to be recommended.
Here's what the menu said:

Moroccan Lamb

Chunks of lamb cooked slowly in an exotically sweet & spicy sauce, finished with soured cream. Served with basmati rice and roasted vegetables.


Had me fooled, that's for sure. I could imagine firm but yielding lumps of meat solid in a slightly piquant, but somehow sweet gravy. The suggestion of sour cream and spice let me think of food with personality jostling for dominance and settling for harmony.
Nah.
Think "let's get the Tardis Dr, I want to go back to the school canteen" only worse.
First perform the feat of finding meat which is both stringy and soggy. Let it swim in a vat of watered-down jam into which you have flung some half dried apricots.
Now add the rest of the packet of apricots for good measure ensuring they outnumber slimy lumps of lamb.
Add white stuff (mebbe sour cream, how would you know?) THEN microwave.
Serve with enough audacity to charge a tenner for it without laughing.

There is just no excuse for doing this to food. If having too many things on the menu than you know how to cook poses a problem, don't put so many things on the menu - it's that simple. I've just checked the website - it's Brewers Fayre if you're interested - and there are 33 main courses before you've even got to the specials or the Sunday roasts.

And I don't think I just made an unlucky choice. The News Panther suffered similarly - sausages in a Yorkie with gravy and mash. Clearly BF are as bad at words as they are at food. It wasn't a small white dog with a banger up its a**e - that, at least, would have been entertaining.
What he was treated to was a solid brittle square batter container filled with mash (with lumps), sausage (no lumps or any other kind of texture at all) and a jug (small white china) containing gravy (formerly granules now mercifully smooth). We were in Yorkshire, for God's sake - people are born able to make Yorkshire pudding.

The others in the party fayred just as badly. Bacon and chicken with a creamy Diane sauce - clearly it was Diane's day off. Everything else - half chicken, fish, scampi, breaded mushrooms - was all exactly the same colour and, I suspect, flavour. The only thing they got right was the egg and chips.

Stop insulting us with muck like this. It's not that restaurant chains are a bad thing - Harry Ramsden has hit the spot on several occasions and even Ronald McDonald has his merits. You know exactly what you're going to get and, if that's what you want, then great.
But saying:

So come over, make yourself comfortable and choose from our exciting menu of the finest food and flavours from all around the world

is just a big fat lie.
Stop it now.

Friday, 27 July 2007

I think this might take a while


We've moved on from the idea that another cludgy would be a good idea to wanting a full-on extension with a roof and everything. In my mind's eye it's fab - spacious and tidy (clearly the building fairies will spirit our clutter and junk away too). I've even figured out the kind of tiles on the wall of the new shower room - the upstairs one not the downstairs one!
The architect came a few weeks ago and we stood in the sunshine and looked at the flat roof. Ping - in an instant as the sun beat down we both saw an elegant balcony with hostas in modern ceramic tubs and groovy wicker furniture.
Since then... nothing. I've called him and I've called builderwholivesdowntheroad to see if he could help. Everyone's just so very very busy. Not busy doing anything for me though, are they?
I can see this whole build an extension - it'll be fab you'd be daft not to - business is going to use up some of my huge stockpile of serenity.
I'm frustrated and no one's even been near with so much as a housebrick.
Anyone know a good architect with time on their hands?

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Piece of cake?


So I've decided to get a new car. Now I consider myself to be quite good at shopping therefore it should be really simple to get a new set of wheels.
Just pick what you want, find it at the best price and hey presto.
But no. It's much more difficult than that...
I started ever so well looking at Which? What and Why Car websites and choosing the one picked as third best in all the sites. (Not the very best, that's too expensive, and not the second best, that's too boring)
Then I go to the car shop where I find lots of very similar cars in different colours and a man in a Marks and Spencer's washable suit.
"What do you want your car for?"
"Driving about," I reply baffled.
"Yes but what kind of driving?"
"You know, around. School, shops, meetings sometimes."
"Why are you buying a new one?" He says eyeing with disdain my rather nice Skoda Octavia which is still shiny despite our best efforts.
"Well," I draw breath. "I work from home now and my husband's car is falling to bits and as he drives more than I do we thought it would be better for him to have the Skoda which is good for motorways but not so good just up and down the road and I would get a new one."
"What about that one?" He points to a foetus of a car, too small to even put my handbag in.
I try to explain to him about 'clunk' and how important that is in a car, but he doesn't seem to get it.
"Oh," he says, coming to a decision.
He walks me round the locked cars giving them names I've never heard of.
Then he points out the one I picked from the WWW Car websites. "That one," triumphant. But it doesn't look dinky and cute like it did in the pictures.
"Oh, you don't want that it's got seven seats," he tells me. How does he know I'm not shopping for the dwarfs?
He tells me I want the new shiny one - he even lets me sit in it for a bit. I go away with a sense of unease and a brochure with boring cars in it.

Friday, 20 July 2007

How cool is this?


I'm two Facebook people away from Noel Edmonds

As hard to spell as it is to climb



Last Sunday we were very blessed - the sun (you remember, big hot thing - makes your shoulders go pink) shone on the day we fixed to do the Aonach Eagach ridge.
There's usually a gasp at the mention of Glencoe's fearsome ridge... and now I remember why.
I'd done the ridge - considered to be one of Britain's best by someone who considers these things - twice in the past, more than 10 years ago. I remembered that it took a bit slow and steady scrambling and some serious don't-look-down-just-now work, but I didn't remember it being too scary.
In fact I remember much sweatier moments elsewhere, particularly the Witch's Step on Arran and a nasty eroded bit on the Ptarmigan Ridge.
However I now suspect it's more likely a function of memory failure and an recently acquired sense of self preservation. Whatever way you look at it the Aonach Eagach is scary.
But that's not a bad thing. We had a fabulous day full of sunshine and good company. From the crest of the ridge you get that 'top of the world' sensation enjoyed by Kate and Leo on the bow of the Titanic.
You also come home with more than a little smugness at having tackled the terrifying in one piece without even crying or being sick. There aren't that many of us.
And for those who gasp at the mention of the Aonach Eagach ridge because you are about to give forth about the sheer irresponsibility of the enterprise not to mention the cost to the innocent taxpayer, take note of the top picture.
It's a rescue helicopter out and about on a sunny Sunday having a jolly good tour of the hills and glens. It hovered for the crew to wave and smile at us. The gas was already guzzled so a rescue would have simply given their practice mission a purpose.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

spiced cherries and the rest of Germany



We were in Germany last week. It was my first time there.
We were in the Middle Rhine region being looked after by the Romantic Rhine tourist people - and very nice they were too.
We had dinner at Le Chopin restaurant in the Bellvue Hotel, Boppard. What a lovely meal.
I had liver served with the strangest cherries I'd ever seen. They look a little like faded glace cherries but the taste is quite unusual - almost peppery and most definitely savoury. If anyone knows what they are and where I can get some, let me know.
While we were there I learned a few things:
I really like Germany and it's nothing like I imagined (although I don't now remember what that was)
German people like to take their clothes off.. a lot (this is fine, but not if I'm already in the sauna with my cossie on feeling really daft)
Family businesses give the best service (thanks to the charming Herr Schoeneberger at Heilig Grab www.heiliggrab.de)
Reisling is really very nice (see above)
Sauerkraut is not really very nice
I quite like history (but there are only so many castles you can care about in a day, sorry husband)
It is possible to run a country where everything goes according to plan and places are clean (and it makes a difference)
It's cool to like Status Quo (especially if it's an excuse for international travel)


PS The picture on the left is the miraculous spot where the Rhine looks like four lakes. It's one of the wonders of the world apparently.

Ooooh this Facebook thing is addictive


My name is Ellen and I'm hooked on Facebook. Husband - the panther of
news - has just told me to get off the site as I'm supposed to be working while he cooks.
I can't help myself. It's the inner stalker. One sniff and she's off tracking down all the people she ever knew - even once - just to see who else they know.
The picture thing's a bit of a problem though. It seems you have to have a photo of yourself doing something interesting or alarming. Fire-eaters and iceberg nudists you know who you are.
Will this picture of me chillin' with a load of laundry do?

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Leaping on a passing trend


I just got a facebook message from my mother. Thanks mum, I am so impressed.
I haven't quite got to grips with the facebook phenomena but I did notice that there didn't seem to be a way of saying that your facebook friend is your husband or wife. Is marriage just too square for cyber socialising or is there a special smug corner of the blogosphere for us?

Boots on again




We like to walk, it's probably a family thing. Whenever we get together we've always set out - whatever the weather - for a stroll.
The newer members of the family can't quite get their heads round it, but they indulge us.
"It's cats and dogs outside so off you pop for a nice hike. Yeah, don't mind me. I'm just peachy here in the house with the telly and the papers."
I can't speak for the rest, but it makes me feel better somehow and it certainly makes it easier to talk... or not to talk.
So we're walking some or all of the Eden in aid of Hospice at Home and in memory of dad.
Look it's all here - www.justgiving.com/Ellenfordad
And think of us especially on Tuesday, August 28 when the route will take us along Dad's favourite walk.
In fact, the pictures show us there on the day of his funeral.

Monday, 2 July 2007

sole survivor

supermarket fish counter
The fish can't counter
While communications interruptus was playing havoc with my karma I decided to take the boys to visit our brand new, enormous and very shiny Tesco.
See how inventive I get when it comes to entertaining my children - Supernanny etc eat your organised hearts out.
Tesco Port Glasgow is indeed huge and very full of things. How we frolicked up and down the aisles.. to the fish counter.
I wanted to get some Monkfish to have a go at reproducing the loveliness Rod created the previous weekend.
The conversation went like this:
"Have you got any monkfish?"
"No."
"Oh. Look. You do. It says so on that label there beside the monkfish. There."
"That's not monkfish."
"Yes it is."
"No, it's whole sole."
"But it looks like monkfish and it's beside the monkfish label."
"It isn't though. I've only been on since lunchtime."
"Oh. Well. Can I have some of that fish there that looks like monkfish, but is in fact sole?"
"Yes. That'll be £4 a kilo."
"Really? In that case can I have all your sole that looks like monkfish please?"


So I sealed some of it in olive oil then stuck it in the oven with some balsamic vinegar over it. I boiled some new potatoes and stuck them in with the fish. Served with baked beetroot, steamed bokchoy and homemade garlic mayo.

lightening load


Or is the offshore call centre industry a funky new replacement for hair shirts and beds of nails?

On Tuesday night, my last thought before I fell asleep was that the storm was very noise with all that thunder. Then I was off to Nod.
Next day I couldn't log on... Oh. And the telly wouldn't work... Oooh.
Oooooh it was frustrating.
I spent many, many, many hours on the phone to try to sort it out. It was nice to talk to you lovely people at BT, Talktalk, Netgear, BT, Netgear, Sky, Netgear, Bt, Netgear, BT and, finally, all those other fabulous folk who arranged for repayment of the Hurry Hurry Next Day In A Rush 24-Hour delivery fee when the replacement gadget didn't turn up.
I'm also really pleased that I bothered to learn the phonetic alphabet so many years ago, it was a joy to have the chance to practice it so often - Romeo, Echo, November, Foxtrot, Romeo, Echo, Whisky, Sierra, Hotel, India, Romeo, Echo.
I've got a message for that chap who worked for BT (the third time I phoned them) - it's in Scotland, which is in the UK, it's raining, I did have a birthday recently, I'm planning one or two holidays soon, and you didn't manage to make the dial-up connection work.

Thumbs up to Sky - your lady was lovely, knew what she was talking about and fixed it first time.
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