HelenEdith's Blog

The minutiae of my life, plus website updates and book reviews

Archive for April, 2007

Entry for April 30, 2007

Posted by HelenEdith on April 30, 2007

This is going to be a quick entry as it’s past bedtime!

I had an uneventful drive both to and from work, and put in a full day in the office.

There now appear to be at least two people after my Opel Manta GT/E. I must get back to the guy who put a note through my door recently; and if he doesn’t pan out, there’s at least one guy from the Opel Manta Owners Club who’s interested. That’s a far cry from five years ago, when it was difficult to even give a Manta away!

I’ve found out that the Ravens Wood Custom & Classic Car Show & Fayre 2007 is on Sunday 13th May and that my 1999 Nissan 200SX is old enough to show! I’m sorely tempted to enter it, tip a bucket of water over it the day before, and take it along! In fact, if I had a month to prepare, maybe I’d see about getting the Manta MOTed, taxed and insured and take that along, too! Except then it would be even harder to part with her, and I really can’t afford to run her. I wish I could, though.

Today’s picture was taken two years ago at the Ravens Wood show and is of the bonnet of a Pugeot.

Oh, and the bread pudding has improved with a bit of age on it. I took a piece to work for my lunch and the spices have mellowed. It’s also become a little soft and squishy. Lovely!

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Entry for April 29, 2007

Posted by HelenEdith on April 29, 2007

Last night I started making a bread pudding loosely based upon a recipe on Delia Smith’s website. We couldn’t find a dish of the right dimensions to cook it in, and as Stephen had brought home two loaves of stale bread, I decided to make 2.5x the original recipe and put it in a big dish. Then I found the bread wouldn’t all fit in one mixing bowl, and had to split it. I had a third smaller bowl with my dried fruit in it. Delia recommended marinating it in brandy, but Stephen didn’t want to waste booze in case the bread pudding wasn’t a success, so I just soaked the dried fruit in water. Then I decided that it was getting too late and put clingfilm over all three bowls and left them until this morning.

I woke up quite early this morning, which is surprising, as I’m not a morning person. I came downstairs to complete the bread pudding preparation, and found that Delia’s direction to add the melted margarine, brown sugar and spices and then beat the bread mixture with a fork really does take the lumps out. Then I added the dried fruit. I’d managed to consolidate all of the mixture into one bowl by this time. As I tipped the bowl with the dried fruit, nothing was happening and then all of a sudden, the whole lot shot out! Luckily most of it landed in the mixing bowl, but some ended up on the sink and on the floor. My startled “Oh!” was loud enough to draw Stephen downstairs to see what was going on.

Anyway, I finished mixing the bread pudding and got that into the oven and then got myself under the shower. (Apart from the normal reasons for ablutions, I think I had some very sticky spots where the dried fruit had got me during the bread pudding making project.)

Then it was down the M20 to Sutton Valence to meet the wind quintet for an hour and a half of music making. Lynne had brought along arrangements of “The Midako” and Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” which we hadn’t seen before. They were by the same arranger as the complete “Pictures at an Exhibition” that we tackled last time we met. We made a good attempt at “The Mikado” – we knew all the tunes, which was a good start. Then we moved on to “Romeo and Juliet” and surprised ourselves at how well we got on. We finished with a couple of bits out of “Pictures at an Exhibition” and then consulted our diaries to arrange another meeting. We found one date in late spring, and then couldn’t find a Sunday morning when we were all available until October!

The plastic reed I’ve been trying to break in isn’t good enough for quintet music and I switched back to my old and battered plastic reed that I’m trying to conserve. I really must get my lip into shape so that I can play on a cane reed – although if a plastic reed I was using in the last century is still playable, maybe plastic’s the more economical way to go – if only I could find another one as good. I think I’ll have to dare to take the scraping knife to one of the two that aren’t so good and hope that I improve it rather than ruin it. I’m sure I scraped the good one, but that was before I lost my reed adjustment book.

I made an incorrect route choice on the way home from Sutton Valence. I could see a queue forming on my usual exit from the A20 onto the A222 and decided to stay on the A20 to Fiveways and then come home via William Barefoot Drive. It was a big mistake, as I met the A20 tailback just after I’d passed the point where I could take the slip road for the A222 and I was stuck in the queue until it reached Fiveways. I think a car boot sale at Flamingo Park had just finished, which had filled the A20 up, and then to make matters worse, most of it was local traffic wanting to turn right at Fiveways and the lights just aren’t phased to cope with that amount of right turning traffic and that was just adding to the tailback.

I got home too tired to go back out looking for spring flowers before they’re all gone, so today’s picture is of a wisteria that I photographed a couple of years ago. Stephen has been by it in the last couple of weeks and says it looks pretty good right now.

Oh – and we’ve tried the bread pudding and it’s edible. I used Sainsbury’s Christmas spice and I’m not sure whether it’s got too much nutmeg, ginger or cloves in it, but I think I might try a different mix of spices next time. At least my soya flour did its job as a binding agent in lieu of the egg I deliberately left out and the bread pudding isn’t too crumbly.

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Entry for April 28, 2007

Posted by HelenEdith on April 28, 2007

It’s been a lazy Saturday, which I needed. I’ve just about got rid of my headache, but my left eye still needs its rabbit’s ears adjusted so that I can see properly through it. It’s just as well that my right eye is my dominant eye or I’d be looking at a very ghostly world today.

April has been unseasonably warm and the spring flowers have been early this year. I don’t know whether I’ll manage to point a camera at any bluebells or the yellow of an oilseed rape crop this year, so today’s picture is of bluebells which I photographed in May 2003, when they flowered at the time they normally flower.

My bassoon came out for some practice this afternoon. I even dug out a cane reed. It’s hard work. I think I’ll be taking my trusty plastic reed along tomorrow when I’m going to be playing wind quintets for fun for an hour and a half. I really ought to build my lip up so that I can play on a cane reed again as the sound is better. It’s undoubtedly a travesty to play a nice instrument like mine with a plastic reed – but it’s better than not playing it!

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Entry for April 27, 2007

Posted by HelenEdith on April 27, 2007

Today was a day best forgotten. I struggled into the office despite the tail end of a migraine – and gave myself a couple of frights on the roads while doing so. I did manage to resolve a couple of problems I was working on in the office, but don’t feel it was the best day’s work I’ve ever done.

Then came the nightmare of getting home again. The M25 had suffered a spate of accidents and there was congestion between J29, where I usually join to come home, and the QEII Bridge. As the A13 appeared to be reasonably clear, I braved the many roundabouts in Basildon and did the Essex leg of my homeward journey that way instead of using the A127, which is much easier to access from the Festival Business Park. I joined crawling traffic at J30, and crawled over the Bridge.

Then I chose to stay in one of the left lanes and left the M25 at J2 and came up the A2 and past Hall Place in Bexley, which is today’s picture. I got quite a good run that way, but saw a lot of traffic travelling the other way: no doubt refugees from the anti-clockwise closure of the M25 between J3 and J2. Stephen was coming home from the other side of Orpington, and he got caught up in some of that traffic and took over an hour to cover 15 miles. It seemed to have spilled onto every imaginable minor road.

The other notable thing about today was the death of the cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich. You can read the BBC’s obituary here. All in all, not a good day.

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Entry for April 26, 2007

Posted by HelenEdith on April 26, 2007

I’ve already got a website Helen Stephenson’s Home Page so I’m not absolutely sure whether I need a blog as well, but this Yahoo! 360° space has been sitting here just waiting for me to use it and I can’t resist it any more.

I’m afraid that I’ve had a pretty boring week, as I seem to have been in the throes of a migraine all week. It’s probably my own fault for having too busy a week last week.

The highlight of last week was a work night out. We started out at Hollywood Bowl on the Festival Leisure Park for an hour and a half of ten pin bowling. I’m a complete novice, but was gratified to get a couple of strikes and a spare in the course of the evening. Considering that my first three turns resulted in all six bowls going down the gutter, it was gratifying to discover that looking at the pins seemed to help and it was actually possible to hit them!

After the bowling games, we repaired to an Indian restaurant called Moza, which is also on the Festival Leisure Park. It’s in the atrium area which gives access to the multiplex cinema and it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet. I was very tempted to go back and have seconds of the chicken balti, which I thorougly enjoyed, but decided that I didn’t really need seconds. One person enjoyed the food so much that I saw him go back for thirds!

I home-worked the day after the works night out. It wasn’t arranged that way because of the works night out: Wednesday is my usual home-working day. It breaks the week up not having to commute on a Wednesday. I did fit in a chiropractor’s appointment on this particular Wednesday, though. The chiropractor keeps my back ticking over nicely. If I treat it right, it treats me right.

It was back to the commuting fray on Thursday and Friday. Commuting these days is a round trip of nearly 64 miles between Kent and Essex, and the Dartford Crossing is slap bang in the middle of my route. It’s great when the traffic is running smoothly, particularly as my car is fitted with a DART-Tag, so I can get through the toll booth area without actually stopping.

The traffic wasn’t so good coming home on Thursday and Friday. I got stuck in a tailback on the M25 soon after I joined it at Junction 29 on Thursday evening. That was seven miles of crawling along where achieving third gear occasionally was the highlight of the evening. On Friday the traffic was also bad, but the online traffic reports showed that the A13 was flowing freely, so I decided to use that, and only had a bit of near-stationary traffic near the QEII Bridge to deal with after I joined at Junction 30.

Last time I’d tried to join the A13 at Basildon, I got lost and ended up on a dead-end road somewhere, so it gave me a sense of achievement to actually find the A13 on this occasion. The fact that it was still light undoubtedly helped as well.

One form of Dartford Crossing queue avoidance which I occasionally indulge in is a visit to Lakeside. This is a massive shopping complex and so far I’ve only visited the indoor mall, but one of these days, I must find IKEA, as I want some picture frames. There’s also a supermarket, a car dealership, and various DIY shops dotted around the site.

Maybe it would be better for my bank balance if I practised Dartford Crossing queue avoidance by scouting out some locations where there is something worth pointing a camera at. I wonder if you can get near to the docks at Tilbury… I used to love photographing the shipping on the Thames when it reached the Upper Pool. I really miss those photo opportunities now that my job is no longer City-based.

Well, that’s enough for an opening entry in this blog.

The picture is one of me standing in front of the Taj Mahal last year when I was in India on a business trip and I made the trip to Agra on one of my free Sundays.

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