Sunday, 19 April 2015

Love to Eat... Hate to Cook!!

I love eating. The way to my heart ( other than, of course, diamonds) is through my stomach. I love going out to eat, whether it be at a restaurant or a friend's house. I love the whole ritual of choice and surprise, of unusual and new flavours, of conversation, candles and crystal, of friendship, cosiness and comfort. Sadly, however, this eating experience is not one I enjoy terribly often.

I hate cooking. Not to say that I am a bad cook. In fact I would go as far as to say that I'm a pretty good cook. I make everything from scratch, choosing good ingredients and varied recipes. As a young mother I did the whole thing of freezing trays of organic sweet potato and I regularly made my own bread.

But, if I am to be completely honest? Nowadays I loathe the whole business of cooking. I hate having to cook for my family when I don't want to eat. I hate planning something and then finding that nobody is interested in eating it. The question that burns into my brain and fries my soul is "What's for dinnnneeeeeerrrr?" What is for dinner? Well, obviously something that one of you will hate, if not both of you, my darling boys!

One of my boys likes fish, the other doesn't. One likes curries, the other doesn't. One likes bacon, ham and pork, the other doesn't. This narrows down the range of dishes that they both will eat and it bores me to tears.

I find a recipe that I think everyone will enjoy and they eat it with no word of thanks or enjoyment. After a while it grinds you down.

Both my boys can cook. They often make their own lunches at the weekend. My eldest came first in a school cooking competition, making his own chicken pie from scratch at the age of 12. On Mother's Day I came home to find that my 17 year old had made a Victoria sponge for me, making butter cream and cleaning the kitchen after himself. Brilliant!

I am grateful for when they cook and I am lucky to have a husband who cooks too. But it still doesn't change the fact that I do the majority of the cooking. At the moment I have roast chicken in the oven with home made roast potatoes, cauliflower in a creamy cheesy sauce, more veg peeled and ready to steam. I will make my own gravy from the chicken juices and red wine... but its just bloody dull.

Do I sound very petulant and spoilt? I probably do. But this is my blog and if I want to have a good old moan about something petty, then I will. I suppose I'm lucky that any of them cook at all, ever. I suppose I'm lucky that I can afford nice food, that my mum taught me to bake and make sauces and follow recipes. I'm lucky in all sorts of ways, but right now, if I won the lottery I would never cook again

Audley End House ... a wonderful day out!

When the boys were little we used to go on "Days Out" all the time, but as they have grown older, hairier and generally more hormonal those days have become few and far between. Our membership of English Heritage has been lying unused for the first few months of the year and we wanted to dust off our cards and get our money's worth. Perusing the Members' Manual we found Audley End House - a rather gorgeous looking house about an hour away from home. Our eldest son, 17, decided that he was unavailable for an outing ( quelle surprise!), but amazingly our youngest, 15, joined us as we set off in the car towards Saffron Walden.

The sat nav took us in a circuitous route through beautiful countryside, lush with daffodils and early crops of Oil Seed Rape until we arrived at the gates to Audley End House. The driveway led us to a car park overlooking a lake, complete with ducks and ducklings.

Audley End House.
Due to the fact that teenagers ( and it has to be said, lazy mothers) do not get out of bed before 10 am in the school holidays, we arrived just before lunchtime and felt that the only way to proceed was to go straight to the cafe for a bite to eat. I commented on the fact that it was a shame that the cafe was in such a dark room, only to be told by my husband that if I had bothered to walk a couple of yards further I would have found the main part of the cafe which overlooks the parkland surrounding the main house, with huge windows. I don't think I will get a job offer from MI6 any time soon if observation is an important factor for being a spy...

Still, the food was nice. I had a warm individual quiche with a rocket salad. My husband had a delicious looking vegetable and bean stew. Our son went for the healthy option of crisps and a chocolate brownie. As you do.

Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photographs in the house itself, but I can assure you it is a stunning place. Built originally on the foundations of a Benedictine monastery in the 12th century it has been well cared for over the ages. At one point it was one of the greatest houses of Jacobean England.

In the 1700's Capability Brown was commissioned to landscape the gardens and Robert Adam added fashionable reception rooms.

What I loved about the house was that it felt lived in. It is as if the family are away at their London home and could be back at any minute. The kitchens, laundry rooms and stables are all restored to the way they were in the 1800's, complete with copper pots, game larders and holograms of staff working away and talking you through their days.

A huge asset, of whom English Heritage should be very proud, is the staff who wait in each room to tell you about the house, its contents and its history. The English Heritage staff are so knowledgeable and enthusiastic. They are warm and welcoming and full of fascinating facts and titbits about their particular area.

Anyone who has been to my blog before will know about my love of vegetable gardening and much as I loved the house I couldn't wait to get to the walled vegetable garden. It was magnificent!! I definitely want to come back in the summer when everything is blooming.

The kitchen garden is vast, tended by a team of gardeners and bursting with manicured beds and the most gorgeous espaliers. 

The gardens used to provide food for the house and in the glass houses there were fruit trees, vines and exotics - beautiful.

From the garden we went to the stables where I was able to try sitting on a side saddle - something I've always fancied doing. Again there were holograms of staff, this time the coachman, going through what were his daily duties. There were real horses in the stables too.

Having sampled the delights of both house and grounds we decided to try the cafe again. This time we sat by the window overlooking the grounds and indulged ourselves with Victoria sponge, hot chocolate and tea. All very nice!

We didn't have time to visit the par terre garden, but we will go along next time. And there will definitely be a next time. Even our son enjoyed himself, much to his own surprise! I think younger children would like to too as there are interactive games to be played in the Nursery, as well as clothes to dress up in. I loved the kitchen gardens, but I also found the house fascinating, from the coal gallery on the second floor to the beautiful paintings and the laundry. I loved hearing about the history of the house and the people who had lived there - from Lord Audley to Elizabeth, Countess of Portsmouth and from the Braybrookes to the Polish Special Operations  Executive who trained there during the Second World War.

If you are in the area and have a chance to visit I would strongly recommend Audley End House and if its your cup of tea you should look into joining English Heritage, then your trip will be free! Whoopeee!!!

Oh and just in case you wondered... I wrote this review because I had a lovely day out. No bribes were offered or received!!

Check Out That View. Audley End House.

I am writing a post about our day out at Audley End House, but in the meantime I thought I would link up with Emma and her Sunday photo linky Check Out That View. If you fancy having a peek at some jolly nice photos then do have a click on the button below and maybe you could join in too!

For now here's my photo. I shall post my review of our day later on hopefully!

Audley End House, Essex.


Sunday, 22 March 2015

Check Out That View

I went over to the garden centre today as it was so lovely and saw these lovely daffodils in the grounds. I took a picture, much to the dismay of the people in the car behind me ( I had pulled over). I thought I would post it for this week's Check Out That View, which you can link to by clicking on the button below.

My hubby and I have spent a busy day outside - watching our son play football and winning through to the final of the cup, then lunch with my father in law, then gardening. I have renewed the cover of my little greenhouse and planted primroses in the front garden. All in all it has been very satisfying!


Monday, 9 March 2015

Allotment, March 2015.

I have had my allotment for a few years now. It started as a piece of wasteland, covered in nettles and couch grass and over the years it has become a proper vegetable patch. Some years it gives us plenty of fruit and veg. Other years it ticks by. Last year was a quiet year. The weather was grim and I wasn't inspired. This year though, is different. Having had a year of keeping the allotment tidy and ticking over I plan on growing lots. The thing with allotments is that they take a lot of work. Little and often is a good idea.

 Since I started with my allotment it has been interesting to see people come and go. Of the 12 plots on our site there are only 5 of us who have kept going. Four of the allotment holders have been there longer than me and the other seven plots have been taken over and given up several times over the last few years.
rhubarb, garlic and fruit bushes
 If you start an allotment you need to realise that its a long term commitment... Once the initial enthusiasm has worn off you need to keep plodding along. You never stop learning and some years are better than others.
I went up there a couple of times last week, planting garlic and onions. I have Charlotte potatoes chitting in my kitchen, ready to plant this week. I love having everything neat and tidy and there's nothing better than having veg fresh from the ground.

When the weather gets warmer I shall plant pak choy, lettuce and beetroot, as well as French beans and cabbages. I shall start reading through my books too, to give me ideas as to what I might fancy trying to grow this year.

At the moment my rhubarb is starting to sprout... All is good!!


Saturday, 7 March 2015

Check Out That View...

Check Out That View ... La Plagne 2015
Joining in with Emma this week and Check Out That View... Last week I couldn't load my photos. This week I've got my Man and one of my Sons in La Plagne. What a beautiful place!!