14 December 2014

Every year about this time our bird-loving neighbour Sally puts some bird seed and fat balls on some bird tables and in the branches of the tree in her front garden. Every year about this time Molly eventually discovers the new self-service café on the neighbour’s front lawn and ambles out regularly to hoover up the discards. As well as the left-overs, of course, she also hoovers up the bird droppings left behind by the previous diners. This inevitably results in an upset stomach with accompanying explosive diarrhoea leading to repeated loud and penetrative “barks” in the middle of the night for someone to let her out so that she can use the facilities of the back garden. Now, when I eat a dodgy burger I learn the lesson (until the next time, of course). Molly would quite happily repeat this sequence of events several times a day if she were able. So, Tuesday morning after a decidedly disrupted Monday night I went out to shut the gates (which are normally left open because she has never wandered further than next door’s front garden) and thus prevent her access to the dining service next door. While I was doing so Molly watched me closely with a look that could kill and an expression which clearly said, “you f***ing b*****d!” I am only doing it for your well-being, sweetheart.

I wrote about our visit to Opal in Santa Barbara in November and I mentioned that Pen had what we all agreed was the dish of the night – sautéed chicken on penne pasta with a homemade chipotle cream with caramelized onions, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, sweet basil and fresh grated parmigiano reggiano. Just writing that down makes me hungry.

While we were at the restaurant Penny asked the waiter if she might have the recipe. He replied that they generally did not give recipes to customers but if she were to write to one of the big magazines such as Bon Appetite, they would consider providing it there. So, on our return she did so but unfortunately, received no reply. At the same time, though, she wrote to Opal explaining what a fabulous meal we had enjoyed and that she was especially keen to acquire the recipe for the chicken – they were very generous and responded in the affirmative!

She then had to source the eight-thousand ingredients, many of which were chillies which are not easily acquired in the UK. Sister Sallie to the rescue! Pen e-mailed Sallie who popped down to her local Mexican market and despatched a carton of chillies which arrived within a couple of days of Penny’s original enquiry. Thank you Sallie!

With all the ingredients to hand, Penelope spent several days preparing the Chipotle glaze and last Sunday was the inaugural appearance of the dish on the menu at Penelope’s Playhouse. And OMG!!! was it good. Pen thinks that I am just demonstrating my kind and generous disposition in telling her how fabulous it was. While I do accept that I am sometimes given to hyperbole, there is no exaggeration on this count – it was simply fantastic!  She hasn’t quite hit the masterful combination of flavours of the original but it was damn close and absolutely sensational. I am looking forward to many more efforts as she attempts to refine her efforts and get closer to the original prototype. If I resemble a blimp by the end of the year we’ll know what to blame.

Bubble decorating the Christmas tree

Bubble came to help us decorate our Christmas tree on Sunday. We ended up with quite a collection of baubles on one particular low branch so we had to do a small bit of rearranging afterwards. Her efforts reminded me of a similar Christmas tree decorating occasion we got up to when we were young. One of my siblings (sister Susie tells me it was Sarah) at the age of about three similarly and very carefully decorated one particular low-lying branch of the tree with a tightly-packed row of red baubles.

Many of you know that I quite enjoy time-lapse photography; I also enjoy most things related to outer space so the time-lapse collection of about 4000 photographs taken from the International Space Station was naturally appealing.

And finally, a selection of “majestic” winter images. Those of you in the great, frozen northeast probably don’t need any reminders of the “majesty” of winter but if we have to endure it, we might as well enjoy some nice views. Here’s a sample. I found these on the Digital Photography School web site and you can find more with links to the photographers’ other works here.

And finally, finally, Penelope ran across the following and, for some reason, it reminded her of me!

I know when you are sleeping . . .

Love to you all,

Greg