Friday, 29 April 2011

Wed 27 Apr - An Artichoke and Legs in the Air

Ha ha!  We did it!  We have actually finished the guest bedroom and bathroom!  Thats it, all done.  We can now have people to stay.  And no more ghastly furnishings shopping trips (at least for a while), which is how we spent yesterday.  And that makes me very happy indeed.

OK, the curtains are a bit bright, and the bathroom is very, well, retro, but we're proud of it.  It's clean, it's fresh, on budget, and ready for Phil and Sharon on Sunday. 

Phil and Sharon travel.  Lots.  And only stay in 5 star hotels.  Sharon has more shoes than Imelda Marcos, more bling than Katie Price and lives the luxuries of Elizabeth Taylor (or as she did), in fact, she reminds me very much of Elizabeth Taylor.  But they're fun, we like them very much and can't wait to see them.  It will, however, be interesting to see how they (ie Sharon) cope with our ethos of rural, earthy simplicity.   

We may not be able to offer them The Ritz (or even want to, for that matter), we may all have to squash round the fire in our pink armchairs and tatty kitchen chairs (now resplendent in puffy foam filled tie on pads), and eat off old chipped crockery where nothing matches, but we will be able to show them another, far more simple and alternative, way of living. 

We're a million miles away from the rat race (five cars and its rush hour), and the dreaded four C's (consumerism, commercialism, consumption and capitalism), which means things are, admittedly, sometimes frustrating as a result.  Try buying a duvet when its not winter, silly me, searching for a local supplier on the internet, or finding an outdoor retailer!  But life is good and getting richer by the day.  But we're used to it, and we have warned them.  
Rush hour
And so we stood back, admired our handiwork and had a relaxed, chilled evening basking in the glow of one project being ticked off. 

One tiny project, however, that wasn't quite as successful was my venture into the culinary realms of cooking artichokes.  The only way to get by here is to eat as the Italians do, no other ingredients being available.  

Fabulously fresh, beautifully pungent and bursting with flavour, but it has meant I've had to get out of my kitchen comfort zone and experiment with a few different meats and veggies.   Raddichio, we braised with success last week, but my artichokes tonight were an absolute disaster.  

Following the instructions in "Simple Italian" (not quite so simple, as it turned out), I stripped the tough outer leaves, chopped off the pointy bit at the top, paired the stalk down to a pyramid, scraped out the "choke", and had nothing left.  The compost bin (and no doubt the badger who raids it) did very well, however.   Resorting to the dreaded You Tube, I then disappeared upstairs (to our makeshift office, still no wifi) and watched a very nasal, smug and irritating American perfectly prune an artichoke, but then she did have a melon baller which I do not.  

So, back down stairs and into the kitchen complete with instructions, and with sharp pairing knife in hand (well, sort of) and a pair of "sanitised kitchen scissors" (bit of a joke really when your cooking surface is an old, rescued pine table covered in chopping marks and dubious looking stains).  

The finished product looked slightly better, but the tough outer leaves left on both of our plates told me I needed to be more brutal with my pairing knife.  Or not bother and just eat more ratatouille and radichio.  

But we'd had a good day and both settled into our pink armchairs, cat stretched out on the rug by the fire, legs in the air (Cat, not me). Me sinking fast into Italian grammar and KP disappearing into World War II.

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