Monday, November 30, 2009

Calistoga Pottery

Yesterday I went to The Calistoga Pottery to buy something to take home to England with me.

I visited once not long after we moved here and kept meaning to go back so I took the chance while I was down in the Valley getting groceries.

It's a tiny little place, packed with treasures and it was really hard to choose what to get.

What I really wanted was something that had been ash glazed, because they use ash from local vineyard trimmings, which I thought would be a great thing to remind me of our time here.  Unfortunately they didn't have a lot of choice of items in the ash glaze but I ended up getting a shallow dish, meant as a wine bottle coaster, which would work perfectly to put oil and vinegar in for dipping bread.

I  bought Evie a lovely cereal bowl and then I was snagged by a butterkeeper.  Butter kept in the refrigerator is too hard but leaving it out risks the butter turning rancid, so the butterkeeper uses cold water to keep it fresh but still soft.  You pack the butter into the lid, put water into the pot and then set the butter filled lid into the water.  When you want to serve it you just pull the lid out and place it upside down on the table.  I love little things like that so I couldn't resist.

Here are the pieces I bought - the butterkeeper has the lid on in this one.

And here it is with the lid off, as you would put it on the table to serve.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Roasted Autumn Vegetables

When the nights start getting colder this is one of my favourite recipes for dinner - it's really easy and you can use whichever vegetables you like or have on hand.  Bear in mind that it can take a long time to cook so leave plenty of time to prepare the vegetables and then roast them.

I used:
salad potatoes, unpeeled (the largest cut in half)
sweet potatoes
(cut all these into large bite sized pieces)
several whole cloves of garlic
fresh sage, rosemary & thyme

Drizzle olive oil and stir till veges are well coated and then add balsamic vinegar and stir.

Line a roasting pan with foil (to make cleaning up easier) and drizzle a little more olive oil in to coat the bottom, then just dump in the vegetables.  Ideally you should have a pan big enough that you will have a single layer but my pan is on the small size so I had 2-3 layers, which increases the cooking time.  Cover with foil for at least the first half of cooking (esp if more than a single layer of veges) and cook till tender.  Then take the foil off to let the vegetables brown a little.  I cooked mine for 1 1/2 hours on 450F and a further 20 mins on 400.

You could probably cut the time down by cooking it on a higher temperature to soften the veges but make sure you turn it down a bit when you take the foil off.  Personally I like them slow cooked so I make sure I have plenty of time - Sunday nights are perfect.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Stuff, I've got it

I've been sorting through stuff this evening to pack for shipping and I can't believe the amount of junk we've accumulated in the two years we've been here.  Where does it all come from?  We aren't shopaholics (well maybe a little bit, but only a little), we live on a fairly tight budget and we've been aware the whole time that whatever we buy we'll have to either ship or leave here, and yet we seem to have twice as much stuff as we came with.  And that's despite a cull or two in the last year or so.

I've been dividing things up into different sections - clothes (not too many for me, more for David, lots for Evie); books (lots for all of us and much more than we brought); kitchen things and dishes (OK, I admit that's mostly mine and I have acquired some really nice things since we've been here); paperwork (I think it's practicing spontaneous generation!); and misc bits and pieces (way too much of that too - and I'm not sure what some of the things are or where they came from).

I keep trying to simplify my life, cut down on the junk I own and rid myself of unnecessary mental clutter, but it slips back so easily - it seems to be a lifelong battle.  There always seems to be something that I "really, really need" or that I feel will make me happier.  Sometimes I wish I could just retreat to a cabin in the woods and live like a primitive but I have a husband who loves his creature comforts, and to be honest so do I, so I have to reevaluate my life on occasion (moving is an excellent time to do this) and decide what in my life is really important.  I sometimes wonder how I would feel if our house were to burn down or be catastrophically flooded but there really is nothing I own that I can't live without (they say three moves are as good as a burn).  There are a few things like family photos or items with sentimental value that I would feel bad about losing, but as long as I know my husband and daughter (or any assorted pets we might have) are safe and happy, there is no object more important to me than that.

That is not to say that I'm not going to continue sorting through our stuff, cause I'm not ready to do without everything just yet.  I am trying to be brutal though and follow William Morris' advice to have nothing in our homes that is not either beautiful or useful.

Wish me luck!

The Highwayman Part 2

Deborah sent me a link to Loreena McKennitt's version of The Highwayman, which is absolutely gorgeous.  Thanks so much Deb!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Highwayman

It's probably cheating but I'm feeling uninspired tonight so I'm sharing an old favourite.

The Highwayman
THE wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

He'd a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh!
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened; his face was white and peaked;
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's red-lipped daughter,
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say—

"One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way."

He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair i' the casement! His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
(Oh, sweet, black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonliglt, and galloped away to the West.

He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon;
And out o' the tawny sunset, before the rise o' the moon,
When the road was a gypsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching—
King George's men came matching, up to the old inn-door.

They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window;
And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.

They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest;
They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
"Now, keep good watch!" and they kissed her.
She heard the dead man say—
Look for me by moonlight;
Watch for me by moonlight;
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!

She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years,
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

The tip of one finger touched it; she strove no more for the rest!
Up, she stood up to attention, with the barrel beneath her breast,
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins in the moonlight throbbed to her love's refrain .

Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding,
Riding, riding!
The red-coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still!

Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.

He turned; he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
When they shot him down on the highway,
Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.

* * * * * *
And still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding—
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard;
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred;
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

Alfred Noyes (1880-1958)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I need a vacation!

Whew, I'm just squeaking in under the wire here to get this post in today. After running around (not quite like a headless chicken) all morning, working this afternoon and a 2 1/2 hour drive we are finally at my parents' for Thanksgiving. This is an especially poignant holiday because it is the last major event we will have with my family before we go back to England. We are spending Christmas and New Year with David's family in Australia (which is a whole other story). We are having a crowd this year with us (me, David & Evie), Mom & Dad, Lauren and his family (Fin, Ally, Madie & Cedric), Fin's parents, Susan & Shupinar, and Fin's brother Ray and his family (Leah, Yuske, and The Bump). Finally, as the cherry on top, my Aunt Pat.

We will be having the traditional turkey for the carnivores, as well as sweet potatoes, cranberry relish and stuffing (my contribution, keep your fingers crossed as it's my first time ever to make it). Lauren will be making his traditional (and awesome) mashed potatoes. Mom will be making my Grandma Laura's bread rolls (with butter and honey they are better than any dessert). For the vegetarians and vegans among us we are having my Grandma Gerry's walnut patties (I would choose them over turkey any day, and I Really like turkey) and Evie and I have decided we are going to try to make vegan Turducken. For those of you unfamiliar with this animal it is a turkey, stuffed with a duck, stuffed with a chicken. Evie and I are going to take mock duck and stuff it into the little fake chickens my mom has (seriously, they are totally vegan but are shaped like little tiny chickens - think Cornish game hens - they are kind of creepy actually), and then wrap it up in Tofurky. What do you think?

I'm buying apple and pumpkin pies from Costco. I feel slightly guilty about that but I AM making stuffing from scratch!

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Good Life

One of the reasons I started this blog was to report on what I was doing in the SCA and, although I've done nothing while I've been in the US, I will be going back to it when I get back to England. But I've realised that it's more than just sewing costumes.

I have always been fascinated with the way people lived their lives before industrialisation, before mass produced consumer goods and labor saving devices. I started reading the Little House books when I was six and re-reading them recently I realised that even more than the story what I really loved were the descriptions of the way they lived their lives, how different how they did things were from today. I love descriptions of the Home Front during WWII, with their Victory gardens and their mend and make do mentality.

I called my blog "The View from the Manor" because I love the idea of medieval manors, the way they produced almost everything they needed from their own land - wood from woodland; stone from quarries; meat from cows, sheep, chicken, ducks, geese, pigeons, rabbits, wild game living in the woodland; eggs from the poultry; fish from ponds, rivers, creeks; wool from the sheep; milk, cream and cheese from the cows. They often had their own smithies, dairies, carpenters. They wove cloth from the wool produced by their sheep and made their own clothes, tanned leather from their cows and furs from rabbits and wild game. They grew fruit in orchards, produce in kitchen gardens, as well as both culinary and medicinal herbs; wheat, barley, oats and other grains in the fields. Their own hives produced bees to pollinate their plants, as well as make honey and wax to be made into candles and ointments.

This is what I want - my own manor. I would love to be self-sufficient, to wear clothes which I wove from wool produced from my own sheep. To eat honey and make candles from my own bees. To learn to make cheese from my own cow's milk. To grow heirloom fruit and vegetables which not only taste better but preserve old varieties which are in danger of extinction. To know where my food came from, and limit my environmental impact. I've recently been reading about how much fossil fuel it takes to grow, harvest, package, ship and store most food and I feel I need to make an effort to limit this for myself and my family.

OK, I know I don't have my own manor, just a suburban back yard, but it's a place to start, and I can always dream about owning a few acres in the country.

I know it would be a lot of work but I want the satisfaction of knowing that I have provided for myself and my family - not just by working in an office and bringing in a paycheck, but by spending time, and sweat, and care directly on what we will be using. I think that, when I look at myself in the mirror at night, I'll like the person I see a lot better.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Lettin' Our Hair Down

I got in too late to post last night. I met up for dinner at Applebees in Manteca with Robin and Debbie who I haven't seen since high school and we ate and chatted for 4 1/2 hours! We were hoping Julie, Ernie and Candi would show up but they couldn't make it, but the three of us had a fabulous time catching up on each other's lives over the last 20 years and admitting that we couldn't believe it had been so long and that we were all 40! They are all going to try to get together every three months or so and I'll let them know when I'm in California so we can meet up again. It's making it harder to go back to England where most of our friends have left. We will have to make a real effort to see the ones we still have there more often.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Today's post is going to be short - Evie had all her wisdom teeth out this morning and is in a great deal of pain tonight. I was lucky I guess and never had any problem with mine but David had his out in his mid-20s. We've stocked up on juice, chocolate soy milk, soy yogurt, jello and juice bars but at the moment it hurts her to swallow anything so she's holed up in bed with ice on her jaw. Poor baby, even the Vicodin isn't really helping.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Better late than never

I've just now, on the 18th, discovered that November is National Blog Posting Month and we are supposed to be blogging every day this month. In my typical way I'm half a step behind everyone else but I'll try to post every day for the rest of the month and hopefully this will inspire me to post more than once a year.

If there's anyone left who is keeping track I'll update you for the year:

June - got my hair cut SHORT, spent two weeks with David in DC.
July - new nephew, Cedric Liam, born on the 7th
August - canned peaches, visited Chattanooga and Southern (loved Chat, decided Southern wasn't for us)
September - bipolar crisis with Evie
October - went to Vegas for the first time for David's 4oth (WEIRD place!)
November - trying to get ourselves organised for the move back to England.

So, that's my life up to date.


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