13 June 2010

Welcome back.

We had an absolutely fantastic time in Switzerland. The weather was just about perfect apart from the first and last days – warm to the point of almost being hot, clear almost cloudless skies of a deep, deep blue and, of course, the utterly unbelievably beautiful landscape. A few photos today and much more to come when I have a bit more time to wade through and discard the eight million lousy photos and share the three or four half decent ones. Don’t you just love digital photography?


An Alpine View
The Bernina Pass
Celerina
Alpine Cow
Diavolezza
Alpine Flowers
Julierpass
Kite Surfing
Lake Poschiavo
The Alps
Silvaplana
Val de Roseg

An Alpine View

The Bernina Pass

Celerina

Alpine Cow

Diavolezza

Alpine Flowers

Julierpass

Kite Surfing

Lake Poschiavo

The Alps

Silvaplana

Val de Roseg


We were straight back into it on our return. Friday was one of those days which is best remembered from the perspective of several weeks or months. As well as getting prepared for a fantastic dinner party on Saturday evening (more of which in a bit), there were chores to catch up with after a week away (children and small dogs were disappearing in the lawn so it needed cutting) and then we were presented with two minor “catastrophes”, both of which required more or less immediate attention.

The first involved our faithful tumble dryer which has performed legendary service for more than twenty years! It finally expired. We had been aware that it was on its way out – it tumbled perfectly adequately but its heating element has clearly been getting increasingly tired so that finally it quit altogether. So, on to the internet to discover that our local Comet appliance supplier had a good one in stock. They have a good service where, if it is in stock locally, you can reserve it on the internet and go and collect it. Hey, that was easy.

Then, as we were about to depart for Banbury with our respective shopping lists in hand, the tenants from the annexe came around to announce that the mattress of the bed we provide for them had begun prodding them with springs. OK, we’ll pick one up on our expedition into town.

Of course, this now means two trips to town; one to collect a mattress and one to collect the tumble dryer. Off to the mattress emporium first, find one on special offer (isn’t everything in these sorts of places on some kind of special offer nine times out of ten?), stuff it into the back of the car and off we head back to Byfield. Mission accomplished.

Then, it’s back to town to collect the tumble dryer. While not quite expecting us at the shop, they did find the appropriate information in the computer, had the tumble dryer we wanted in stock, helped us load it into the back of the car and off we head back to Byfield. Mission accomplished.

Or not.

As it happens, we unpack the appliance, move the old one out of the way, spend ten minutes vacuuming the twelve years’ worth of accumulated mouse droppings and laundry fluff from the immediate vicinity, plug the new one in, move it into place and – the door latch is broken. We get on the phone to the shop, convey our disappointment and, fortunately, they still have one in the shop – the display model on which they are prepared to offer a modest discount. So, pack the old, new tumble dryer back into the back of the car, drive back into town, unload the old, new tumble dryer and load the new, new tumble dryer which, you will be delighted to know works exceedingly well. What are the odds that this one will last more than twenty years?

And so, a brief description of yesterday evening’s dinner party which was notable, not only for the usual exceptional quality of Ms Playchute’s catering, but also due to the outstanding wine and fantastic dessert.

I’ve written once or twice in the past about our friend Dave Stansfield who used to live and teach at the International School in Paris. He and his wife Val have now retired and moved back to the UK (I know, I don’t understand it either) and Dave has, from time to time, laid on a dinner party with some wine tasting which has always been great fun. How could it not? Good food, good wine, moderately good company?

Last time we decided this would be fun to do so we asked Dave, on his next trip back to France, to select us a range of wines which with which we could offer a similar evening’s entertainment for a selection of friends. And so, that’s what we did. The dining room table was extended as far as is physically possible in our dining room, all the chairs in the household were put to use and there were thirteen for dinner. Dave had prepared some notes and we “blindly” compared each pair of wines. Each of us has two wine-tasting glasses and each pair of bottles, suitably “dressed” so that one cannot deduce which is which, are passed around the table. Everyone has a small amount and tries to guess, from Dave’s notes, which is which. I have to confess, I got the first two white wines back to front but managed to identify all the others. Good fun.

Menu

Caramelised Balsamic & Red Onion Tart with Goat Cheese & Fresh Salad Leaves
(Stuffed Portobello Mushroom alternative)

Château Ferran 2006 – Pessac-Léognan
Château Marjosse 2007 – Entre-Deux-Mers


Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Basil Pesto wrapped in Parma Ham with Parmesan Wafers
Rösti Potatoes
Butternut Squash & Creamed Spinach Gratin

Château Charmant 2006 – Margaux
Château Haut-Goujon 2000 – Lalande de Pomerol
François Arnaud 2007 – Gigondas Rouge
La Montée Rouge 2006 – Beaune 1er Cru


Cheese Board


Assorted Ice Creams with Oatmeal Cookies

Château Vari 2001 – Monbazillac
Château Piquey 2006 – Sauternes


Coffee & Tea

A word about the assorted ice creams: to continue the “tasting” theme, I had spent several days before our trip to Switzerland, preparing a variety of different ice creams; some “normal” varieties and some more unusual ones, the intention being that our guests, having tasted and compared wine all evening, would now have an opportunity to attempt to identify the various flavours of ice cream. So, for dessert we presented small bowls with nine scoops of home made ice cream, some of which were fairly “normal” flavours while others were just a bit more unusual. Strawberry, Coconut and Rhubarb Swirl were probably the three most “normal” ones and then we also had Peanut Butter, Basil, Sage (with Lavender Honey), Liquorice, Sour Cream, and Fennel. Again, great fun.

Love to you all,

Greg


My wife asked me to buy ORGANIC vegetables from the market. I went and looked around and couldn’t find any.

So I grabbed an old, tired looking employee and said, “These vegetables are for my wife. Have they been sprayed with any poisonous chemicals?”

“The produce guy looked at me and said, “No. You’ll have to do that yourself.”


An elderly couple were celebrating their sixtieth anniversary. The couple had married as childhood sweethearts and had moved back to their old neighborhood after they retired.

Holding hands they walked back to their old school. It was not locked, so they entered, and found the old desk they’d shared, where Bob had carved “I love you, Libby.”

On their way back home, a bag of money fell out of an armored car, practically landing on their feet. Libby quickly picked it up, but not sure what to do with it, they took it home. There, she counted the money — fifty-thousand dollars.

Bob said, “We’ve got to give it back.”

Libby said, “Finders keepers.” She put the money back in the bag and hid it in their attic.

The next day, two FBI men were canvassing the neighborhood looking for the money, and knocked on the door. “Pardon me, but did either of you find a bag that fell out of an armored car yesterday?”

Libby said, “No.”

Bob said, “She’s lying. She hid it up in the attic.”

Libby said, “Don’t believe him, he’s getting senile.”

The agents turn to Bob and began to question him.

One says: “Tell us the story from the beginning.”

Bob said, ‘Well, when Libby and I were walking home from school yesterday…. ‘

The first FBI guy turns to his partner and says, “We’re outta here.”


After being arrested after a wild blondes-only party in town, Carol and Amy were sentenced to community service: helping to build a house for Habitat for Humanity.

Carol, who was nailing down house siding, would reach into her nail pouch, pull out a nail and either toss it over her shoulder or nail it in.

Amy, figuring this was worth looking into, comes over to ask, “Why are you throwing those nails away?”

Carol explained, “When I pull a nail out of my pouch, about half of them have the head on the wrong end and I throw them away.”

“You moron!” Amy yelled. “Those nails aren’t defective! They’re for the other side of the house!”