26 February 2012

Good morning on a beautiful, spring-like morning in beautiful downtown Byfield. What a week of wacky weather we’ve had! Snow on Sunday and then 19 degrees C (nearly 70 F) on Wednesday afternoon. The tail end of the week was gloriously sunny and warm; the daffodils have begun to awaken from their winter slumber and the hyacinth on Penelope’s kitchen windowsill has bolted so fast that it has fallen over in a slump (still smells gorgeous, however). I know it’s too soon to declare the end of winter but we’ll take this while we can.

Snowed InSpeaking of which, I know I complain about our winter weather much of the time. Thank goodness we don’t live in Sweden. I’m sure most of you will have read of the man who was stuck in his snow-bound car on a forest track for two months without any food! If not, you can read about it here.

Thanks for all the feedback to my request for your best muffin recipes (i.e., none). Honestly, sometimes I don’t know why I bother! In spite of your lack of responsiveness, I’ll still share with you the best recipe I’ve discovered so far – deliciously moist spiced toffee-apple & pecan muffins which are excellent, if I do say so myself. The key ingredient (I think) is the sour cream. Enjoy!

Toffee Apple & Pecan Muffins


  • 100 g butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 100 ml milk
  • 150 ml sour cream
  • 300 g plain flour
  • 100 g golden caster sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tsp All Spice (or Cinnamon)
  • 3 small apples (such as Cox’s or Worcester Pearmain) (about 300 g), peeled, cored and diced
  • 50 g walnuts or pecans, roughly chopped
  • 100 g soft toffees, chopped
  • 2 or 3 tbls soft brown sugar and a tsp of cinnamon for the topping


  1. Heat the oven to 200 C/fan 180C and line a 12 section muffin tin with cases.
  2. Mix the butter, eggs, milk and soured cream together then stir quickly into the dry ingredients with the apples, walnuts and toffee (don’t over mix – it should be a bit lumpy)
  3. Divide between the cases and sprinkle the top of each muffin with the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture
  4. Bake for 25 minutes until risen and golden and cooked through

We’ve also made a Pear and Ginger version by substituting pears for the apples and crystallised ginger for the toffees. Add 2 tsp of ground ginger instead of the All Spice or Cinnamon and omit the topping. Good, but not as good as the original.

Penny and I have watched with some interest and amusement over the past few weeks as a bright blue tarpaulin, which is normally stored in the garage, has been happily meandering around the property. We have a few tarpaulins of varying sizes which are used by the head gardener (i.e., Penny) when pruning, trimming, raking, etc. At the end of the season these get folded neatly and stowed away in the garage.

Those of you who have visited Penelope’s Palace will know that the garage is enclosed on one side but that the other side is open, like a carport and when the wind blows it frequently funnels through this open section. Some few weeks ago I looked out to discover that the blue tarpaulin had made its way into the back garden, clearly blown there by the wind. A few days later it had made its way along the edge of the house and was at the top of the patio. A couple of days later it had made its way down the patio and was slumbering peacefully just outside the kitchen window and this morning it is further along the patio heading toward the front garden.

For those of you who have never visited, picture a rectangle and orient it in your mind so that it is taller than it is wide. That would roughly be the footprint of our house. The garage/carport would be at the top left-hand corner and that would be where the tarpaulin started its journey, neatly folded away for the winter. When I first noticed it, after a couple of windy winter storms, it was about half way along the top side and then, a few days later, it had reached the top right-hand corner. Now, it’s about two-thirds of the way down the right-hand side. Is it possessed?

We could go out, fold it up again and put it back in the garage but we’re wondering whether it will find its own way home and perhaps even fold itself back up again. We’ll let you know.

Breaking News from our “That Didn’t Take Long Department”

It won’t be of too much interest to many of our readers but today sees the first edition of the Sun on Sunday, Rupert Murdoch’s new newspaper which replaces the News of the World. You will remember that Murdoch was eventually forced to close the News of the World as a result of the phone-hacking scandal. Many commentators at the time suspected that he would launch a Sunday version of the Sun (his daily newspaper) which, indeed, is precisely what he has done. Not surprisingly, the new title is employing many (if not most) of the former NoW journalists who lost their jobs when it was closed. Not that that’s any bad thing in and of itself – the vast majority of those working on the NoW are honest, decent people who’ve done absolutely nothing wrong. At least this time Murdoch has promised that the Sun on Sunday will be “fearless, fun and ethical.” Of course, they also said (for years) that phone hacking was the responsibility of one rogue reporter and no one knew anything about anything.

And further breaking news, this time from our “The Same Old Story” department:

The saga of the banker’s bonuses continues – RBS, the Royal Bank of Scotland which is 82% owned by the taxpayer following its bailout,  is about to hand out £390 million in bonuses to a number of executives after a year in which the bank made losses of £2 billion (up from £1.1 billion last year). Enough said.

Finally, I originally ran across these in the Guardian – the street views Google wasn’t expecting you to see. Artist Jon Rafman’s photo project The Nine Eyes of Google Street View, named after the nine lenses mounted on a Google Street View car, collects the strange and beautiful images Google captures by accident from around the world. If you ask me, someone (i.e., Jon Rafman) seems to have too much time on his hands. Don’t look at these while drinking a glass of milk – it will come out your nose!

Google Street View

And finally, finally – how you can tell that winter is on the wane?

The snow has melted

Love to you all,



One thought on “26 February 2012”

  1. My favorite blueberry muffins are the ones Sallie makes for our family reunions at the lake… I was counting on her to submit the recipe. But since we’ve been reprimanded for not submitting a recipe I’ll share with you my favorite ways to eat blueberries
    1. Pick blueberries off the bush and eat them.
    2. Pick blueberries off the bush and put them in a bucket. Eat them when you get home.
    3. Pick blueberries off the bush, put them in a bucket and freeze them when you get home. Eat them all winter. Sometimes I eat them frozen but often I put them in the microwave for 30 to 60 seconds until they’re plump, warm and juicy! Yum!
    A friend of mine e-mailed me this interview with Robert Lustig on NPR about sugar. Not to put a damper on your amazing recipe – I guess I believe the key is everything in moderation. Lustig however says the key is 3 words, “Eat Real Food”. http://www.npr.org/2012/02/17/147047545/should-sugar-be-regulated-like-alcohol

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