Saturday, 19 August 2017

Small Is Beautiful

Regular readers know that we love pootling round Charity Shops - we have certainly found dozens in Norfolk this holiday. But it is sad that in so many towns, the high streets are partly big chains [Poundland, Boots, Superdrug, WHSmiths] partly CS, and more and more empty shops as business rates rise and owners of independent shops close as their owners struggle to make a living [let alone a profit]
But here are a few 'little shops' we have been to this week [we didn't actually purchase stuff in all of them] and I thought they were worth a mention.
An old friend, struggling with depression, mentioned she wanted to start reading the Bible again - but couldn't find one at home. I said I'd send her one - the sort which includes helpful links to "what to read when feeling sad/lonely/ill/happy etc" and a daily reading plan.
Green Pastures Bookshop [opposite Dereham Baptist Church] not only had a suitable one for me, but when I explained why I was buying it, the assistant gave me a jiffy bag so I could post it promptly.
Merv's Hot Bread Kitchen in Wymondham is great for sourdough loaves and other speciality breads- plus a great range of home made hot sausage rolls, bacon baps etc. Thank you Jon and Liz, for introducing us to this one!
Nuts'n'Bolts is a hardware store in Attleborough. Great range of products at good prices. Their cookware stuff is at prices to match, and sometimes beat Lakeland. For instance - those Maslin Pans - if you cannot find them for a fiver at a Yard Sale, and don't want to spent £50 or more on the pukka Kilner pan - they are half that price here!
Susan's Work Basket is another treasure hidden away in Attleborough. Staffed by enthusiastic women who certainly know their wool and fabric, the range of haberdashery is brilliant. And I spotted some Scandi Xmas fabric I'd seen in John Lewis last week - but cheaper!
Finally Aldridge Crafts, also in Attleborough. This is run by Jane and Susan, and they were runners up in a recent "Norfolk Independent Craft Retailer" Competition. Jane is a real crafting specialist, and we chatted away about die cuts, stamping, patchment craft, jewellery-making and more. She has a slot on the Hochanda Craft Channel on Tuesday week. I shall try and catch that. 
Many of these shops also sell online [not the bakers, obviously - bacon baps don't travel well]
It is not true that the big stores are necessarily cheaper - and often the personal service from independent retailers means you can obtain specialist items which would be too much trouble for a chain store to order in. I like the opportunity to look at products, feel the wools, taste samples of the food, assess the weight of the tools, and judge the quality for myself. You cannot do that when you buy online. 
I hope that Jack Of All Trades in Wimborne finds a buyer soon, and doesn't disappear.  The lady who runs the local Post Office up the road from us here, in Hockering, is retiring soon, and looking for someone to take over this vital village amenity. We were sorry when the little cookshop in Fakenham closed some months back.
It is a case of 'use it or lose it' with these retailers. I am grateful to all those who have taken time to find the items I am wanting to buy, and given me lots of free advice! I wish them well - and hope that these good little shops are able to survive in this difficult economic climate.

Friday, 18 August 2017

If You're Happy And You Know It...

...clap your hands! This is one of Rosie's favourite songs at the moment. Bob and I looked after her overnight whilst Liz and Jon went on a camping/cycling jaunt. We enjoyed a trip to the playground, played chariot races in the garden, and had fun at bedtime. She is trying hard to say Grandma, and Grandad.
Then her Mum and Dad came back and we all went into Norwich together. Rosie was very determined about climbing the steps up to the Forum, where Anglian Water had a special exhibition.
I could bore you stupid about my brilliant grandchild. But I won't. I am sure many of you are equally proud of your own offspring  - and their offspring. Congratulations to all those older ones who have finished exams, and got their results this week. 

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Small Family Cooking Showdown

No, I haven't watched BFCS yet! The reviews seems fairly good though, and the presenters are all people I have enjoyed watching in other shows.
But I have been enjoying my holiday, looking after my grand-daughter...and doing my own cooking!
It is very tempting, on a 'self-catering holiday' to lapse into the 'I can't be bothered, let's eat out all the time' mindset.
Not in this family! We planned a few special treats beforehand [street food on Norwich Market, lunch on The Albatros, tea at Wiveton] and we are fortunate to have family around, so we have eaten great food with Liz and Jon, and with Adrian and Marion. The pre-ordered groceries from Sainsbury's meant there was food on hand - and we have foraged plums, blackberries and apples...and availed ourselves of the generous 'courgettes-free-help yourself' box round the corner.
But here we are, well into our second week, and it is time to re-assess the stocks. Bob is particularly creative with leftovers and loves having the free time to work in the kitchen. 

  • The leftover chicken and ham went into two pies [one eaten, one in the icebox] Bob made the filling, and turned the carcase into stock, for soup on Saturday. The pastry crust is 'potato pastry' - made with leftover mash. I do this by instinct now, but there's a wartime recipe here. The baking powder makes it rise, so you do need to roll it out thinly.
  • I harvested the rhubarb in the garden, and roasted it whilst the pies were cooking. Two boxes- one for now, one in the icebox for later in the week.
  • Leftover veg, on the edge of going soft, went into the oven to make ratatouille. Long slow cooking on a gentle heat, and I'll have a tray redolent of Italian summers...
As well as the rhubarb, we have also been able to pick our first crop of apples from the tree we planted some years back. half a kilo of small, but beautiful, fruit.
And the figtree has produced fruit for the first time since we moved it here in 2014, from the spot in our Kirby Muxloe Conservatory where it had lived for 10 years. It seems to have adjusted to living outside - and I picked, and ate, the one small fig.This does give me hope for future harvests. I am sorry to report that the crab apple tree has died and been removed, as has the plum tree. You can't win 'em all.
Other delights of holiday food have included full English Breakfasts, and kippers - eaten at a leisurely pace, because neither of us has to go off and do something important elsewhere.
But the best part of holiday meals has definitely been watching Rosie enjoying her food. She learns 'Baby Signing' at nursery, and can show us 'more', 'milk' and 'all gone!' etc. Signing hasn't hindered her speech in any way - she chatters about all sorts of things. I hope Rosie will be as good a cook as her parents as she gets older. Looking forward to the day when she says "Here's a cake I made for you, Grandma"




Wednesday, 16 August 2017

All's Well That Ends Wells...

Yesterday we went up to Wells Next The Sea - it was a beautiful sunny day. The tide was well up. I have never seen it that far in before, and blamed it on the combined effects of Brexit, Donald Trump and Global Warming!
We arrived around 10.45 and purchased ice creams to eat as we walked the long path out to the beach.



The beach was heaving with families having fun - the lifeguards and coastwatch in attendance. Bob and I both had a brief paddle [but didn't get our swimming gear out] then sat and read our library books in the sunshine.
We walked back to the quay - the boats were beautiful. A lot of the MPI vessels were in evidence - they are the ones which service the offshore windfarm.
I saw one gorgeous little boat which made me wish Steph was with us.
Liz, Jon and Rosie went to Bacton beach instead. They said it was much quieter - Rosie had her first proper experience of splashing in the sea, and she loved it!
 
Once back in Wells, we went on board The Albatros for lunch.
We both had Giant Dutch Pancakes - Bob's with Chorizo and Mozzarella, mine with Salmon and Dill.
Delicious!
Then on to Wiveton, so Bob could look round his favourite junkyard. But it was just browsing, we did not buy any old bicycles, Hornsea china, or Belfast sinks! If you recognise the name Wiveton, maybe it is because you have been watching "Normal for Norfolk" with the delightfully eccentric Desmond McCarthy
The junkyard is right opposite the turning for Wiveton Hall.
We went to the junkyard last week, and found it closed - so had tea at WH instead.
The TV programme has boosted attendance, which must be a help to Desmond's struggling budget - and on Thursday there were many people on the garden tour, struggling through the Maize Maze, and visiting the Gift Shop [where you can purchase many items bearing Desmond's logo]
We didn't seen DM - I was a little disappointed, I would have asked for a selfie! And his centenarian mother wasn't around either.
However I must report the tearooms were lovely. Beautifully decorated, attentive staff- and everything served on Emma Bridgewater china.
Lots of different teas to choose from - Bob had Lapsang Souchong, I had their special Normal for Norfolk Blend. At £2.20 a pot, this seemed a fairly reasonable price. The slices of cake were huge, so we shared one piece. Here we are [last week] enjoying ourselves.



As you can see, our holiday is full of food, family and sunshine. We're truly grateful for this time of rest and relaxation. How blessed we are!


Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Saturday In Stibbard

Driving towards Fakenham on Thursday, we spotted signs to "Stibbard Yard Sales- Saturday 9-2". This merited further investigation. The Village has an annual Sales Day, in support of All Saints Parish Church
A map showing locations of all the sales cost £1, and this also entitled you to a free cuppa at the Village Hall. We arrived at 9,  and parked in the field alongside the Church. We purchased one map, then paid a little more for a second cup of tea and a two bacon rolls. 
The village is very compact and about two dozen houses were taking part.
Stibbard is just off the Fakenham-Norwich road, so people go past - not through. But it has a lively community. The WI presented a sculpture of a farmer a few years back. The Village Phonebox is now a Book Exchange, last month they opened a new playground for the children - and after 10 years of being closed, the Parish Church re-opened a couple of years back [the Rural Dean gave them this glorious banner as a celebration gift]

It was enormous fun - people were so friendly and Bob enjoyed looking at old tools. He spent a fiver or so on a saw, a saw sharpener, and a few other bits and pieces. 
We set off up one road but the final yard seemed a long way off. The map was clearly not to scale. Bob said he'd sprint up and have a look - and I strolled back to the village centre. I picked a few blackberries and filled my empty polystyrene cup. And put a huge marrow in my rucksack [from a 'free - help yourself' bucket]
When Bob came back he said that the distant yard wasn't particularly good, but there were loads of apples and blackcurrants along the hedgerows.
At the antepenultimate yard, I spent a fiver on a lovely wooden highchair for Rosie.
I am particularly pleased with this purchase. It originally came from John Lewis - and is the sort that converts into a table and chair. It's lacking a harness, but these are obtainable, and it will be so useful to have one here at Cornerstones. I paid up, and they agreed to hold it whilst we fetched the car.
Then I spotted The Pan. A proper Maslin Pan,** for Serious Jam Making. I have always fancied one of these. The family wanted £5. Lakeland want nearer £50! No contest.
We fetched the car, collected the highchair, and drove to the site of the blackberries. Soon there was plenty of fruit in the pan. Then on the way back to Cornerstones, we stopped at Bawdeswell Heath and got a few little cherry plums. There were still police cars outside a nearby cottage [we'd seen them earlier at 8.45] Sadly we now know they were arresting the occupant in connection with the recent murder. 
I put the blackberries in the icebox, and sorted out the other fruit.
I already had sugar, vinegar, onions, and spices in the cupboard - and a cache of empty jam jars. I spent a happy afternoon producing a dozen jars of Hedgerow Chutney.
Bob worked out in the garage cleaning up his new tools.
I think we must be a very bizarre couple - other people go on holiday and spend their time sunbathing, or visiting shopping centres. We spend the morning ferreting around yardsales, and foraging in the hedgerows - and the afternoon doing cooking and carpentry!
**can anyone enlighten me as to why they are called Maslin Pans? I know it is the correct name, but I do not know the derivation.


Monday, 14 August 2017

Ciao Bella!

Last year we enjoyed a fabulous holiday in Sicily, a birthday gift from our children. This year, we are on holiday in Norfolk - but had some incredible Sicilian food in Norwich!
Norwich City Council has been encouraging new traders to set up street food stalls on the market.
We walked through the area early on Friday morning, and spotted Italian, Chinese, South American...and much more. Most of the stalls were still closed, with signs saying they opened around midday.
We went back at lunchtime to the Sicily Market [Stand 34]
It was wonderful.
Owner, and chef, Rocco Consiglio, could not have been more helpful.
 The stall is on a corner- here are photos from both angles. That lady is Italian, and clearly knew what she wanted. She engaged in a cheerful conversation, in Italian of course, ordering her food with enthusiasm. We both felt that if Italians thought the food was good, then it must be authentic!
Bob ordered the meal deal [Calzone, Arancino, drink] but I dithered "Is there cheese in the arancini?" 

Yes there was "Oh, I'm afraid I can't eat cheese"
So Rocco immediately said he would bake me a Napoli pizza without cheese. Oh thankyou!
And it did not take him long to produce a gorgeous anchovy and tomato pizza, from which he cut two slices.

We chatted while all this was going on, to Rocco and his assistant. Then Rocco gave me his business card. 


He explained he bakes his arancini freshly each morning - and if I sent him a text early in the day requesting 'no cheese ragu arancini' then he would make them especially for me" How fantastic is that?
We took our food and went and sat on the benches at the top of the market to enjoy our delicious, but inexpensive lunch in the sunshine. We felt as if we were back in Sicily again!



Then Bob had a mooch around the parked motorbikes, and missed his Honda!!

The other positive Customer Service today came from the Lisa Angel store in Lower Goat Lane, quite close to the market. Bob bought me a beautiful pendant from them [online] at Christmas, but the chain had broken. We took it into the store, and they could not have been more helpful. I am expecting a replacement to be waiting for me on my return to Dorset! Thankyou L.A.
We wandered round The Forum, and enjoyed looking at the exhibition of photographs of BBC Comedy Shows from the 1940s till now - Joyce Grenfell, The Glums and Tony Hancock - through various Ronnie Barker favourites, Fawlty Towers, Butterflies ...right up to Miranda and contemporary shows. If you had a favourite BBC SitCom in the last 70 years, it was probably pictured there. The very affable staff member said he didn't actually remember many of them, he was only 23! [please note, we are too young for The Glums and that era - although we have enjoyed the repeats on Radio 4 extra]
Sadly our coffee break in John Lewis was not quite so satisfactory. The assistant said "Two coffees - £9.45 please" "How much? I think that might be wrong" "Oh sorry, I rang up four not two" [and I thought to myself £9.45 does not divide by four...] She played around with the till "Oh no, it is £7.45" This time I was getting a little frustrated "That can't be right either"...eventually, once she had stopping adding the price of a non-existent fresh scone to the order, I ended up paying the correct price. I wonder how many people these days just tap their credit card and don't even notice when they get overcharged?
But ignoring that brief hassle, we had a wonderful day together in this lovely city. We came home in the afternoon and called in at Toftwood, where we enjoyed tea with our dear friend Jean. We were very impressed by the spectacular jigsaw she had just completed.






Sunday, 13 August 2017

Finding Faith...

Last July, when we were at a WWDP committee, my friend Val gave me a MudLove 'faith' bracelet . I wore it all through that summer. Then I took it off and somehow forgot about it. I looked for it recently, but it wasn't in the box on the dressing table.
Then last Saturday, just before our holiday, I decided to change the sheets and turn the mattresses [our IKEA Malm bed has two mattresses in one frame, to better accommodate our diversely differing sizes] 
And there it was, I found faith under the bed!
My bracelet is back on my wrist again.
It is often in the darkest places that faith is found...
Now I am considering treating myself to another. Torn between thankful, loved and blessed...