Monday, July 25, 2016

Could you/would you eat a chilli?

I don't have photos of Younger Son coming home or of Daughter in Race for Life but I do have plenty of the cook-out.

It was a beautiful day on Saturday for the chilli cook-out. The festival was teeming with people all enjoying a lovely day on Gower. Twelve competitors, each with their own tent and cooking equipment were gathered and, come 12 noon, the cooking began. This was Elder Son's first attempt at a cook-out competition - unlike most of the other entrants many of whom travelled around the country and had won various competitions.

Sunday saw a complete change in the weather. Actually in this photo it doesn't look as bad as it was. As we were driving there in the middle of the day you could only see the approaching cars by their headlights. We being Husband and me. Elder Son had set off the site at 6.30 in the morning to get prepared.
Glazing the chicken with barbecue sauce.
After a tense waiting time Elder Son took third place (out of three). But still got £50 and a bottle of prosecco. 

For the chilli comp the rules specified that you could decorate it but no points would be awarded. Not sure if that applied to the barbecue too but the winning entry was pretty spectacular.
Unlike Elder Son's. He had concentrated most on the chilli comp and hadn't really through either the cooking plan or the presentation. But taste was jolly good.

He is already planning what he has to do next year to improve his ranking.

One thing he won't be doing is entering the chilli eating competition. This was the starting line-up, each holding their first chilli, a jalapeno.
The chillis got progressively hotter and each one had to be chewed before being swallowed, seeds and all. I stayed until one boy had been sick, and two others had come very close to it before deciding this was really getting too obscene and left so I'm not sure who won but I know all would have suffered majorly later on. Can't really see that the fleeting glory would have been worth it.

A momentous weekend

This has been a momentous weekend for each of my children - and thus for me.

Daughter took part in the 5K Run for Life in Exeter in memory of her friend, a mum of two young children, who died last year. It was Daughter's first entry into the world of event running since taking up running less than a year ago so it was a challenge for her and one she successfully completed - when she finally realised the siren meant the race had begun - in spite of all her last minute panicking and stressing.

Elder Son and his family are staying with us for a few days, partly so he could enter the Gower Chilli Festival Cook-out, which this year included a barbecue competition for the first time as well. So he's spent most of the weekend in a field in Gower sweating over a hot smoker. (He couldn't get his barbecue apart so had to do all his cooking on his smoker that we'd already brought back from Surrey with us on our last trip there.)

He came 9th out of 12 entrants for the chilli and 3rd for the barbecue (out of three!) so although a little disappointed with the chilli result he's learned a great deal from the competition and the other contestants many of whom were old hands who've won a variety of competitions before.

Being completely unbiased view Husband and I thought his chilli was the best. One of the judges said it tasted and smelled burned - a complete nonsense! It was smoky but not in the least burned and I am very sensitive to anything that has a burned flavour. Ah well, just another person to add to my 'one day I'm going to slap them' list.

For the barbecue challenge entrants had to cook ribs and a chicken and another item of choice. The judges declared Son's chicken to be the best but his ribs let him down. Also the judges - I don't know where they get them from honestly - kept saying everything was too smokey. For his freestyle he did short ribs beef, which looked black but were delicious and perfectly cooked (I thought).

Presentation might have let him down a tad ...

And the winning entry ...

Meanwhile Younger Son left the Perhentian Islands, Malaysia, this weekend for the last time (possibly). With his data collected for his PhD research he is flying back to Italy to be with Nuora and wait for the birth of their first child in late August. 

It's been a long six month separation for them and an even longer and sometimes very hard three years of Blue Temple Conservation

I am incredibly proud of my three children not for what they have or haven't achieved but for who they are. And I love them heaps.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The difference between pop and rock

GrandDaughter1 is in the car with me.
She says, 'Granny, what's the difference between rock and pop?'
'Um, well, rock is usually noisy and bangier while pop is a bit sweeter.'
(She chose the right person to ask with my wide-ranging musical knowledge.)
'I hate pop,' she declares.
'What about ... Katy Perry (the only musician I think we might both know)? She's sort of pop.'
'No, she's not! She's rock.'

We're on our way to a holiday art workshop in the Dylan Thomas Centre. When we get there GrandDaughter1 decides she isn't going to talk to anybody except me so we find a place at a table and start to make journal covers. 

After a while GrandDaughter1 condescends to talk to the very helpful and friendly art tutors on hand. I can understand her reluctance: I'd rather be left alone than having to keep talking to people who want to offer ideas and suggestions.

GrandDaughter1 knows what she wants to do: have an undersea-based cover so when she grows up and can dive she can record all the creatures she sees and here it is.

And my rather pathetic effort!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Plans, flaws and being overcomers

Plan 1
Walk across the golf course, onto the beach, around the Three Cliffs and back up through Pobbles.

Flaw 1
I'd forgotten to allow for the flowing of the tide, meaning Pobbles was cut off from Three Cliffs beach.

Plan 2
Go over the top via this sort-of path.

'No, George and Holly, that way is far too precarious.'

Flaw 2
I almost throw a wobbly but keep telling myself, 'Just keep looking ahead; don't look to the side. Whatever you do, don't look to the side.'

Flaw 2 is discovered when sort-of path suddenly peters out just here rather than on top of cliff.
Plan 3
Sit and think. Then send George to find a new path.

Now I know what you're thinking but you underestimate George when he has dinner on his mind. He found a path for us to battle our way through to the very top. Yay for George!

Our reward is a deserted Pobbles just for us.

The water was surprisingly pleasant. If I'd had a bathing costume or a towel at least and, more crucially, there hadn't been a fierce under-current I might even have ventured in myself.

Babies, crickets and chilli

I'm sitting on the floor and GrandSon2 says, 'One, two, three,' then charges at me. 

If I'm prepared I catch him and lift him on my knees as I roll back. If he catches me unawares he flattens me and we wrestle on the floor until Mummy says, 'Let Granny get up now. She has to cook dinner.'

'Do you do this to your other Nanny?' I ask.
'She's obviously got more sense than me.'

GrandDaughter1 meanwhile is fearless when it comes to the cold water of the swimming pool. While Daughter and I stand around for ages plucking up our courage and then  scream when we go under GrandDaughter1 splashes around happily. 
'Aren't you cold?' I ask.
'Yes,' she says.
'Do you want to come out then?'
'No!' She looks at me as if I'm crazy for suggesting such a thing. Much the way I must have looked at my mother many moons ago when she'd suggest it might be time to come out now when I'd stay in the sea until I was blue and shivering. 
'No, it's l-l-l-lovely in h-h-h-here.'

And GrandDaughter2, like all babies, has no sense of fear and attempts to step off the edge of the pool into the water. She is most put out when Daddy stops her.

Sadly summer seems to have gone behind a cloud today. Let's hope it makes a reappearance at the weekend when Elder Son is entering the Chill Festival Cook-out and Barbecue competitions. If you recall last year I had the never-to-be-repeated opportunity to sample crickets.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

I have walked the Serengeti

I have my Serengeti badge!

Forgive me, I was never a girl guide so any kind of achievement rewarded by a badge gets me excited. And today FitBit told me I had walked the equivalent of the distance across the Serengeti, one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

So how far is that I hear you ask. Five hundred miles. Yes, 500 miles. Which sounded mighty impressive until:
a) I looked up Serengeti on a map and saw how small it is on the grand scale of things; and
b) I realised it's taken me six months.

But it's still as good an excuse as any to re-post this video clip.

Conversation with George

'I love the way you're always so full of energy and enthusiasm, George.'
'Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, you know.'
No, you're the lowest form of wit!' I retort wittily.
George looks at me and raises his eyebrows. 'Really? Is that the best you can do?'
'It's raining.'

George shrugs and walks on a bit then he stops and says, 'I suppose you're going to post that on Facebook, aren't you?'
He looks me up and down. 'Then I think you should take a photo of you too. It's only fair.'
'Oh no, it doesn't work like that,' I reply.
'I see,' George says. 'One rule for the dog and another for the owner.'
'That's right.'
He wanders off muttering something about a revolution.

A few steps later and he tries a different tack.
'Didn't Jesus say something about doing as you would be done by?'
'No, that was Mrs DoAsYouWouldBeDoneBy in The Water Babies.'
George sighs. 'I think you'll find that Charles Kingsley got the idea from Jesus.'
George wanders off saying something I don't quite catch but it sounds a bit like, 'Call yourself a Christian?'

So in the interest of fairness here we are on our return home.
And here is George before I sent him in the river. 
How come George is always dirtier than every other dog I see?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Are you here by accident?

Why, I wonder, do so few people comment on my blog?

Should I make it more controversial? But that wouldn't be me. 
Should I make it more interesting? But that wouldn't be me either!

It seems from my stats that a goodly number of people visit each day but very few - and only ever regulars - comment. Perhaps everyone else just falls in by accident, looking for something else.

'Tis a mystery.

Friday, July 15, 2016

In which I break the law ... possibly

There are large sections of Swansea Bay along which dogs are banned. Only in the summer and I understand the logic behind it. I think it's quite right that dogs should be banned from popular beaches where children play. Sadly there are still some irresponsible owners who don't clean up after their dogs.

But Swansea bay isn't one of those beaches that is popular with families. There are stretches of it where people will sit on a sunny day but the tide goes so far out across muddy banks it's not an ideal beach. The only time it's crowded is for the Air Show.

And it definitely isn't crowded on wet school days.
In fact George and I were the only people there. And George is a dog. 

The bit where dogs are allowed runs from the bottom of Sketty Lane (left or possibly east) to 360 cafe. The bit where dogs aren't allowed runs from the bottom of Sketty Lane (right or possibly west) to West Cross - meaning we can't get on the beach where we go all the rest of the year.

So today I might have broken the law. I'm not saying I did (in case there are any council officials reading) I'm just saying I might have been tempted, seeing as how the beach was empty, it was raining and I always clear up after my dog anyway. And - and I think this is the important bit - we were mostly below tide level. 

You see I have this vague recollection - or possibly invention - that the bit of beach between high and low tide levels belongs to the Queen, meaning the council don't have jurisdiction. Unless they are acting for HM but she is a dog-lover and I'm sure would agree that sometimes the law is an ass. Although whether that would stand up in court is doubtful.

Kissing babies

Apparently, at least according to the Trending column in Facebook, there was a big fuss after Victoria Beckham posted a photo of herself kissing her 5-year-old daughter on the lips. All kinds of craziness and accusations flew around.

Which strikes me as crazy. 

When babies first learn to kiss using their lips the most natural thing is for them to put their lips to the lips of another. Whether it's Mummy, Daddy, big brother or sister, or even Granny. 

They soon discover for themselves what and with whom they feel comfortable and most will offer a cheek or a hug instead of lip to lip contact. Indeed, they very early on become embarrassed by any sign of affection in public! 

The Beckhams seem like a close family and I don't think it's just put on for the media. Long may mums and children - and dads - share kisses without criticism.

And who could resist, and offer a cheek to, a runny-nosed sniffly adorable smiling baby when her lips are pursed towards yours? Not me certainly. Which possibly explains the number of colds I had last winter.

It's a different matter, of course, when it's a strange adult who forces a lip-to-lip greeting on you, as an old friend of my uncle's did to me a few years ago. Shudder!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

It's a date!

When people try to guess what's in these flapjacks they usually say orange or apple or any other number of fruits but rarely do they reach the correct answer, which is dates. Admittedly dates simmered in orange juice.

When I offer them to people I don't say what's in them either or I try to evade the question if asked because, like me, a lot of people will hear the word 'dates' and think, 'yuck!'

But these date flapjacks are simply probably the most moreish of any of the cakes I make. 

The recipe is one I was given by a friend, a parent from Hollybrook First School in Southampton, and as you can see it's well used. We've been back in Swansea for about 28 years so it's one that's stood the test of time.

I often make it for Zac's and a few weeks ago one of our young European men went crazy for it, doing the whole continental finger-kissing bit and saying, 'it's divine.' He wanted the recipe and I've finally remembered to write it out for him, hence this post.

The quantities at the bottom make enough for a roasting tin. I sized it up many years ago as a small batch was never enough.