Sweet Indulgence – A Key Lime Pie Birthday In Cornwall

Key Lime Pie In England - John Winchurch

I’ve always been a cake fan when it comes to birthdays, but after last week, I think some of the best birthdays may be those that begin and end with pie. Such was our day last Friday when we had a breakfast of coffee and homemade Key Lime pie for John’s birthday.

Later on we split a slice for a snack and then finished off the rest of the pie after a lovely dinner at the recently revamped St Mabyn Inn which is definitely going to be one of our new go to places in Cornwall.

In between our marathon pie moments we went out for a bit of exercise and managed to visit Trerice, one of our favorite local National Trust properties for a walk and a bite of lunch, (but no pie) as well as a seaside visit in the afternoon to the beach at Bedruthan Steps. 

We took loads of pictures if you want to have look through to see what a warm day in late September looks like in Cornwall.

Trerice, Cornwall UK - Elizabeth Harper

First stop as I mentioned was Trerice, a Elizabethan manor house near Newquay. It’s always gorgeous even in bad weather and I’m never surprised to see something new.

Well, almost never.

Gates at TrericeWhile backing up to get a shot of the house through the gate, I captured one of those unexpected finds I sometimes experience on outings with John. ( See photo below)

John Winchurch - Trerice - Elizabeth Harper

Yep! That’s the birthday boy jumping into my shot. It’s good to remember that playfulness doesn’t end at a certain age.

Trerice- Garden View of House - Elizabeth HarperI am not sure there is anything to say here other than oh, or maybe ah! Except that I think this was the prettiest Trerice has looked and it was a perfect place to begin our day out.

Trerice Front Garden - Elizabeth Harper

Thinking Spot - ELizabeth Harper

 There are benches all around the grounds that call out to you as you walk past … Come on over, rest a while and think about life.

Resting At Trerice - John Winchurch

After lunch I spent some time inside the manor house while John moved quickly through it and on to a bench in the garden to soak up some sunshine. If it’s sunny and I can’t find him this always the kind of place I look. He likes to pause for sunshine break and would tell you that he prefers to get his Vitamin D the natural way.

Bedruthan Steps -Elizabeth Harper

Not long after finding him in the garden we were walking down the path at Bedruthan Steps, a place that will always have special memories for us.

Bedruthan Steps - Elizabeth Harper

Beach at Bedruthan Steps - John Winchurch

P1040197

Elizabeth Harper

John Winchurch - Beach at Bedruthan Steps

Sorry this one is a bit in the shadows. I’m still learning to use my new camera and it was so bright outside I did not notice the image  was too dark. It’s a cute one of John though so I wanted to post it. This was where he was standing when he took the two pictures of me above.

We stepped through an opening in the rocks as the tide was going out to find this little private beach spot. The Cornish coast has loads of lovely places like this with few people.

Steps to Beach at Bedruthan StepsAfter swishing through the water a bit and drying our feet in the sun it was back up the long set of steps.

Bedruthan Steps - ELizabeth Harper

A last look back before heading home and dinner at the St Mabyn Inn.

Key Lime Pie

The ‘ before ‘ shot of pie that was gone in a day. I can’t believe we ate the whole thing.

You’re Never Too Old For A Party … Now Make A Wish And Blow!

Earlier this year I had a conversation with my husband, John about his birthday and what he might like to do to celebrate it properly in the way one does a significant birthday, particularly those ending in a zero.

When you’re younger the zeros don’t matter as much as the life events that certain birthdays mark such as those that make it possible to drive a car or vote. Others may remember the birthday that allowed them to buy their first alcoholic drink and belly up to the bar legally but birthdays ending in zeros seem to be most noteworthy after a certain age.

For most of us, it begins with 30 and the recognition that we’ve arrived there faster than we’d imagined we might. After that it can feel like it’s just an eye blink or two before we’re talking about retirement plans with our girlfriends instead of our plans for the weekend.

Although John retired from the television industry at 51 after being offered an early pension, he’s been very busy in the years since buying and renovating houses before selling them on. He’s not really lived the life of a retiree, or at least what I used to think that life might look like and he’s inspired me to rethink aging and the possibilities for my life.

He didn’t want a big birthday party opting instead to have a smaller gathering with family. He picked out a rental cottage in Dorset and we spent a fun week exploring the surrounding area. The first few days saw all the family together in the five bedroom cottage and the last three we had it to ourselves.

Surprise!

Since it was a significant birthday celebration, I wanted to have a bit of decoration so I bought some paper bunting I saw on the store shelves last summer for the Queen’s Jubilee celebration. I tucked it away knowing I was going to use it later to display photos from John’s life. I went through hundreds of images and used about 300 that I cut or tore and glued to the precut bunting. I did this on the sly so he had no idea what I was doing or that I even planned on decorating the cottage.

I hung the bunting when he went left to pick up Rachel, his youngest, and her two daughters at the ferry. It was very late when they arrived as the ferry was delayed so when they came into the cottage he was aware that I’d decorated, but he didn’t notice what it actually was beyond some colorful bunting.

We barely had time to speak as I went upstairs to help Jersey Girl get ready for bed while Rachel carried an already sleeping baby to her room hoping not to wake her.  As I was tucking JG into bed and giving her a goodnight kiss, John came in with a sweet smile and said that he’d sat on the sofa and glanced up at the bunting and noticed the name of a boat he recognized and as he stood up for a closer look, he saw he was in the picture and then realized that he was in all the photographs.

Chestnut Cottage, Rodden, Dorset

I cooked a big Italian dinner on the second night beginning with stuffed mushrooms and a hot artichoke dip before moving on to a spicy lasagna, with salad and garlic bread. I had a simple floral centerpiece, but it made the table seem crowded so you can only see it in the first photo.

We finished later with a yummy carrot cake that I made from a recipe given to me by my friend, Scott. It looks kind of funny because I baked it at home and made the frosting at the cottage, but it still tasted amazing six days later when John and I had the last of it.

Wishing On Birthday Candles … Do You?

I kind of insisted on candles on the cake which is the reason for the bossy sounding title of this post. I’m a firm believer in making a wish on your birthday no matter what your age. John was a good sport about blowing out the candles, but he didn’t make a wish.

Later in the evening I snapped a photo of some of the empty bottles by the door … I think they may have added one more after I took this.
Gifts
John received some lovely gifts, one being a weekend away in Wales that came from his daughters. They scheduled it for our wedding anniversary weekend so I get to enjoy it too! His brother, David gave him a Magnolia tree and I had something special made for him that I’ll show you in my next post.
Party Favors
I was so focused on food that I had to forgo a cute idea that I thought of too late to complete. Given a bit more time, I would have framed a tiny photo from the past of John with each person at the party and used it as a place card to show where people should sit at dinner. It would have been nice party favor to send home with them afterwards as a reminder.
My Gift  … Here’s A Hint
Don’t forget to come back and see what I gave him. I think you are going to like it.

Low Lying Stakes On A High Water Wellie Day

You may have heard that 2012 has been the wettest summer in Briton in 100 years and I’ll admit that all this rain has had an effect on our normal outside activities. That said, I wasn’t ready to sacrifice my party plan when Jersey Girl came to visit. When she was with us two years ago we had a Pirate Party for her down by the river just off the Camel Trail and invited the children of some of our friends who live in and around the village.

She still remembers that day even though she was six at the time. When she asked John if we were going to have another one just before he brought her back from Jersey to stay with us last week, I wasn’t sure I could create a memory as nice as the one in 2010. Given how wet things were and the tight schedule we had between my work and the availability of the children we wanted to invite, we had a few hurdles to get over. The main one was the weather and we decided that rain or shine we were going to DIG!

Some of you had a chance to try to guess what the stakes were for when I posted this photo in an update on Facebook. Sorry to make you wait for it, but this year I decided to give the kids experience of archeological dig even though the items waiting to be discovered be planted by me.

So I dressed for nasty weather and went out about an hour before the party was to start to stake and tie out an area for the dig. I left the string loose to avoid young feet getting tangled in the barriers and then I dug down a bit to bury the objects. It was raining so hard that the raindrops quickly made the earth look pretty natural and undisturbed.

I wanted to get the best shot I could of the area before the children came to dig it all up so I climbed the closest tree to snap a few photos. l intended to just take the one you see below, but liked the look between the limbs of the tree I was standing in and wanted to share it with you too as well.

Two of the children who came to the Pirate Party had family in from America and couldn’t join us, but Jersey Girl was happy to see Archie even though his younger brother decided to stay home and dry. My friend Tina’s twins, Maisie and Ella came, but we miscommunicated on our location and they didn’t have as much left to dig up once they realized where we were.

Archie is holding a brass bracelet, one of four that I buried ahead of time. I tried to talk them through why one might participate in a real archeological dig, but it was a bit tough to have many teaching moments with the rain pelting down. They had a good time digging up pottery pieces, old miniature bottles, and jewelry and seemed to have as much fun rinsing their finds in the river as they did discovering them.

In all the drama of digging in a downpour something I told them we would not have done if it had been a real dig, I forgot that I buried one more thing. I remembered it later that day when it was dark and we were tucked in for the night and I wondered if the river might have washed it away. I’ll share more about that in my next post.

Here you can see Tina and John standing on the bank watching as Ella and Maisie make their way down the slippery bank. We went back to Lara and Brian’s (Archie’s parents) house to dry off and eat the snacks that Jersey Girl and I had made hoping to eat them at the picnic tables near the river. Big thanks to them both for opening their home to a wet and slightly muddy group despite having had a good rinse in the river.

Once we had rested and eaten a bit of the white chocolate tea cakes and Coco Pops ‘Krispie ‘Treats, the children put on a show in the living room that made me think that perhaps they might have had a bit too much sugar for a rainy afternoon.

 

After watching the wall climbing and flips off and on to the sofa, I decided that the fossil painting I’d intended as a final activity intended to slow the energy level down was one the children could do at a later time. JG chose one of the fossils we’d made the day before and we left the rest to be divided between the remaining four children.

I may need some ideas for next year’s party when Jersey Girl comes back to Cornwall and I’d be happy to know what you may have done in the past to create fun and memorable moments for your children or others you know.

Overnight Guests During Renovations … When Good Enough Will Have To Do

Internet Photo

We’ve got company coming this morning and I’m trying to breathe through it. The house as you might expect is not really guest ready due to a kitchen renovation that has morphed into a couple of other big projects as well. We’ve managed to make it presentable with the dining room table in place and some of the artwork back on the walls, but many places are still very unfinished. There’s a hole in the wall where some electrical bits will be going in next week for the new boiler and it’s right in the place where I’d like to put the tile work you see above.

John and I are still in negotiations about this tile pattern. His only concern seems to be that as it’s behind the hob/stove top, it might get cooking splatters in the grout. I think he’s referring to his mad cooking skills particularly in the stir fry department. I’m joking here, I’m actually a messier cook.

I don’t think this would be a problem, but what do you think? Suggestions, experience … please share your backsplash stories in a comment.

Going back to our guests … they are staying overnight so they’re sure to notice the all the little things that would normally drive me nuts. They’ll have clean sheets, and a tidy bathroom along with a good meal and a glass of wine, but the never-ending dust and the shift in the placement of things makes it all feel a bit off-balance to me.

It’s silly really … all this trying to control things that I can’t right now.

Fingers crossed nothing odd turns up in the food tonight.

Sublime Doughnuts Voted Best Bakery In America – Is World Doughnut Domination Next For Kamal Grant?

Chef Kamal Grant - Owner Of Sublime Doughnuts

Last summer I spent a few extra months in Atlanta trying to sell my house. Due to the huge slump in the housing market, I did not find a buyer. I did however discover a special bakery only two blocks away.

I wrote about my Sublime Doughnuts experience after meeting with my friend Kimberly Krautter to sample a selection of the yummy and unusually named doughnut treats. You can read more about my sweet send off last summer and Kamal Grant’s recent Best Bakery in America award, but you do so at your own risk.

Don’t say I didn’t warn because you’re going to have a craving that might be impossible to satisfy … at least until you get a chance to bite into one of these lovelies.

Elizabeth Harper, Kamal Grant, & Kimberly Krautter at Sublime Doughnuts in Atlanta Georgia

After reading about the recent opening of a Sublime Doughnuts in Bangkok, Thailand, I’ve decided that it might be a good time to make my  move if I want to try to bring a Sublime Doughnuts franchise to Cornwall.

Hmm … I wonder how Brits feel about doughnuts?

Making Space For Something New

There’s an echo down the hallway that sounds empty and loud from where I sit as I write. What John likes to refer to as the ‘East Wing’ is being readied for demolition … well, parts of it anyway.

It’s actually the hallway that’s been emptied because it connects to a wall that won’t be there after Wednesday and … then there’s the kitchen too. It’s having a pretty major redo over the next few months and I’d like to share it with you.

Here’s a few before photos before I show you our breakdown in progress.

(The sink, dishwasher, hidden fridge, cooktop, and oven are staying in the same place. The countertop/worktop and the tile are going to be changed and we’re adding a new extractor fan/hood over the cooktop. The table and chairs in the photo below are being changed as well. We like the table, but not the chairs so they are on their way out. The table may stay … at least for a while.)

If you came for coffee right now you’d see a house with dishes and china scattered through several rooms. Our dining room table is dismantled and leaning against a kitchen wall, and spices and other foodstuffs are sitting temporarily on the coffee table in a space where they’re likely to have to be moved as the big work begins.

(The right corner wall is being taken out which will give us more room for the dining area)

What began as plan to open up a space and gain more room for the dining area has morphed into a major kitchen remodel. I am tickled to pieces having never had an opportunity to have a say in any kitchen design and my head is spinning now with possibilities and the decisions we need to make.

(John’s been taking things apart to get ready for the builders and in addition to our mess, you can see where the fridge and dishwasher are located.)

(The windows are being replaced along with the dated Artex ceiling and we’re adding hardwood floors)

Maybe I could run a few ideas past you to see what you think after I do some more research.

If you have a dream kitchen you’d like to share or maybe what you wish you could change in your own, leave me a comment or a link and I’ll put them all together in some posts to follow. As always, I appreciate your thoughts.

A Table For Two With A Sea View

Watergate Bay, Cornwall - A Lone Cyclist - 2/2/2012

I always forget that our wedding anniversary falls on ‘ Groundhog Day.’ If you’re not familiar with this annual celebration where a groundhog’s behavior is supposed to determine how much winter is left, you can read about it here.

There’s also a film called ‘Groundhog Day’ where a TV weatherman has to report on the Groundhog Day festivities and finds himself stuck repeating the same day over and over. He’s fairly self-centered and repeating the same day causes him to reevaluate his life and priorities. I never cared much for it, but it is hugely popular with many people.

All that said, John and I did a sort of Groundhog Day yesterday when we went back to the restaurant Fifteen, at Watergate Bay in Cornwall. It’s a gorgeous location and the third year that we’ve celebrated our wedding anniversary with a tasty meal there and a walk on the beach afterward.

Fifteen - A Table For Two With A Sea View

We arrived for a 1:15 reservation to an almost full house and not long after we were seated, the table next to us finished and I was able to snap this photo before the next couple arrived.

I took this without leaving my chair. It was the kind of day that reminds you of why Cornwall is one of Britain’s top holiday destinations. I love living this close to the sea.

Fifteen has a special menu at times that you can choose from along with other more pricey selections. Today’s special included a 3-course meal for 19.95 BPS each. John started with mussels which I never eat, but he enjoyed. I had a had delicious butternut squash soup that was slightly sweet and very filling leaving me struggling a bit to find room for the main course.

He moved on to roast lamb with a potato something underneath and a spinach topping. I should have snapped a photo of the menu so I could review this properly. I’m sorry I can’t be more detailed, but most of what you need to know can be found in the sentence below.

Four words could easily describe our experience, ‘ Great Service, Great Food.’

Speaking of service, our waiter Nick, who I mentioned last year, recognized us right away even though it had been twelve months since our last visit. He said something cute when he asked about my apple/walnut risotto with gorgonzola cheese choice which was a lovely combination of taste and texture.

Nick said his granny Masie liked to say that ‘ An apple without cheese was like a kiss without a squeeze.’ This appears to be a variation of a popular old saying here that I had not heard before and I have to thank Nick for sharing it with me. I’m sure I’ll hear it in my head the next time I reach for an apple.

I wanted a quick photo of John holding my dessert before I dug into it below. Sorry about the woman growing out of his ear. I couldn’t discreetly avoid her and I didn’t want my ice cream to melt. Even a good photographer can have a shift in their priorities when there’s ice cream involved.

The service was excellent with the special message at the end making my sticky toffee pudding even more delightful. Nick is still teaching surfing and appears to doing a bit of modeling as well now. Click here to see him in a surfer shirt from the Fifteen shop.

I caught a quick snap of these surfers in the parking lot when I was changing my shoes for our beach walk. They were rubbing something on their boards which I assume was surf wax, but I’m sure I’ll find out when I take a few lessons this summer. I only have a three-quarter length wet suit not one of these full body ones and after our winter day at the beach, I’m content to wait for warmer weather.

I thought this family made for a cute photo. This appeared to be an outing to see dad surf complete with a sand crazed dog who was clearly happy to be running on the beach.

You can double-click on these to get a closer look. There were loads of surfers out which was brave considering the weather temperature and the amount of ice on the beach.

John took these four photos of me. I took loads of pictures of the ice from different angles never realizing most of the time that he was snapping photos of me. I managed to get some images that pleased me like the first one at the very top of this post with the beach cyclist riding into the sunlight and last two below.

Pieces of ice were breaking off while I was trying to get the shots I wanted and several times I had jump back to avoid being hit. John took this one of me the one below and I like the way the water droplets are blowing through the shot.

He shot this one after I climbed up on an icy rock to get underneath the hanging ice for a the last two images below.

He disappeared through the place in the rock above and I followed him later to see what he’d discovered on the other side.

There are loads of caves and carved out places on this beach and it’s a fun one to explore.

John on the other side.

Here’s a look at what I saw when I climbed up and shot under the shelf with the ice. Notice the water drop in the bottom right. Drops of water were falling constantly while I was shooting and it was fairly surreal having ice framing a beach shot with surfers and dog walkers in the background.

Having the sun sliding down towards the end of its day made for a nice close to another sweet celebration.

Thanks for all the good wishes on Facebook and for those on yesterday’s anniversary post.

It’s always fun to share special days with you.

 

 

Coughing, Sleeping, And Glorious Soup Eating

As you can see by my title, my activities have been a bit limited this week. I’ve been fighting a nasty bug that has taken me out of action in a way I’ve not experienced since meeting John and moving to England. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I felt this bad for so long.

The progression of symptoms has been interesting in the six days since I began to feel ill. In the beginning I felt as if I had one of my blog friend’s big dogs sitting on my chest. That’s how I described to John anyway and it was the first symptom I felt. No cough or even a runny nose, just a heavy feeling of weight on my chest. Everything else came later with the cough being the worst of it.

Being waylaid by a bug can be a time of discovery and now that I think I may be approaching the end of it (I’ve heard this one comes and goes) I can share a couple of things I’ve learned.

John is an excellent caregiver, bless him.

I’ve not had a lingering week-long illness before with him and he has been steadfast in making sure I was taken care of. When you’re used to taking care of yourself it can be difficult to allow someone to care for you. I’ve been learning how to do just that this week as I was too poorly to do much more than cough, complain, and sleep.

Next discovery, the right soup can be lovely anytime when you’re ill, even for breakfast.

I’ve been living on some delicious soup for the last few days. It tasted so good that I imagined it must have loads of fat and calories and once I was feeling a little better, I had a look at the new soup John brought home for me.

Glorious Skinny Soup Photo From Glorious Website.

To my delight, I discovered it was a Skinny Soup made by Glorious foods and it’s the best tasting soup I’ve had in a long time. It’s only sold at Sainsbury’s and even though we have to drive into town to shop there, we’ll be picking some more up tomorrow.

I’ve also been drinking loads of water and lemon-ginger tea to stay hydrated and I’ve tried to sleep as much as possible by napping in the daytime to make up what I miss while I’m coughing my way through the night.

A last thought is how true it is what they say about good health.

I can’t imagine feeling this poorly all the time. I know many people are living with illness and disease far worse than my brief bout and I’m grateful for what feels like the approaching end to this miserable flu.

Check out the Glorious Foods selections if you live in the UK and I wish you good health as we move into the new year.

 

Smoke And Fire – Letting Go And Staying Open

A few days ago I wrote a piece called ‘ Up In Smoke ‘ if you missed it, take a minute and go back for a quick read through. What follows will make more sense if you do.

Now that you’ve caught up, take a look the beach bonfire where the ceramic containers went into fire on New Year’s Day so the strips of paper inside could be turned to ash and the wishes and burdens released.

Here’s shot from a distance to give you some scale for the rockiness of the area.

Remember when I said there would be sausages roasted over the fire … well, that is Tina’s brother in the foreground with a sausage on a stick. He was there with his wife and daughter and wrote about his bonfire experience in the comment section here. I’ve included it below as well. (Thanks, Pablo)

” Ari, Amber and I really enjoyed the wonderful new years day bonfire on Baby Bay, watching the urns get hotter and hotter as we cooked hot dogs and sausages. After about an hour the urns got so hot that the wishes and burdens caught flame and made a whooshing sound as they exhaled fire and smoke from the egg like urns. It reminded me of the celebration of lights that signal the coming of longer days and rests at the heart of our solstice inspired christian midwinter festivals.”

Ahhh … Cornish sausages over an open fire. I have to eat them with American mustard though. I carry it with me when I know I’ll be eating some especially at our village pub. Nothing says American like pulling a BIG bottle of French’s mustard from your handbag.

Big thanks to Amyra Bunyard who documented the process and gave me permission to use her images here.

Full As A Tick And Other Thoughts About Food

Christmas 1960 - Elizabeth Harper - Looking Full As A Tick

It’s early 9:15 in the morning here and I still feel full from all the food I’ve eaten over the last few days. John and I may have had a quiet Christmas with just the two of us, but lord did we eat!

More than a time or two the words ‘ I’m full as tick, ‘ may have crossed the lips of one of us and you won’t need to wonder which if you remember I’ve got southern roots. Our different geographic histories were also clearly illustrated by the foods that filled our plates.

John made all of his traditional English side dishes and I made the ones that have graced my family’s southern dinner table for as long as I can remember so that in the end it looked as if we had both made a complete Christmas dinner with only a shared turkey and gravy between us.

While I’m talking turkey, I have to say that John’s turkey this year was amazing! On big holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving, turkey tends to be more as an accessory item to me, something I’m supposed include but don’t want too much of as there are more exciting choices to be had. This year the turkey was perfect in taste and texture and I stuffed down more of it than usual.

Speaking of stuffing, John made his in the bird and I did a cornbread dressing in a pan like my family does in Georgia. I used cornmeal carried over on my last flight since I haven’t been able to find any in Cornwall.

Have a look at our dinner plates on Christmas day, they may look like they have the same food, but if you look closely you can see the difference. John has more of the roasted root veggies along with his stuffing and the English version of a ‘pig in a blanket.’ Here it’s a sausage wrapped in bacon while in my family it would be a cocktail weenie wrapped in a biscuit.

John's Christmas Dinner

I had one chance to grab a quick shot of John’s plate as he had his knife and fork in hand and was waiting impatiently to begin. Multiple shots were not a possibility so this one will have to do. Notice all the plain ‘healthier’ veggies … there’s only a small dibble of my contributions seen at about 9 and 10 o’clock on the plate. He did compliment me on my broccoli bake (we’d call it a casserole) but that means something less special here.

My Christmas Dinner

My plate has a mix of both of our dishes. A good southern girl is raised to be polite and eat a of bit of what’s offered, but I focused mainly on things I made like my sweet potato casserole which is always heavenly and the previously mentioned broccoli which I successfully modified slightly by substituting regular bread crumbs with cornbread crumbs instead.

The pink stuff as John likes to call it, is what we refer to as a congealed salad and it’s made from a recipe Cullene has had for many years. I love this cranberry, cream cheese and jello concoction, and no holiday meal is complete for me without it. John likens it to something here called Blancmange which sounds as if he’s saying Blamonge.

The end result was the same for both of us with empty plates and overfull bellies. In a time where many people don’t have enough, I was acutely aware of how fortunate we are to have so much.

The taste of special dishes served only once or twice a year acts as a link for me and probably many of you too reminding us of past holiday meals shared with family and friends and perhaps, it’s the feelings triggered by memory along with a mix of sweetness and spice that makes us overindulge at times.

Here’s hoping your heart was a full as your tummy and that your meal was shared with someone you love.

' Cheers ' from John Winchurch At Christmas