Good Day, Track Day – Snetterton Circuit with Lotus on Track

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To say I was over-the-moon to get out in the car again might be an understatement. After a ruptured Achilles tendon (me) and a blown head gasket (the car) I couldn’t have been happier to see the sun shining over Snetterton race circuit.

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Oh my jolly goodness what a marvellous day! It was great to see so many friends there. When I think back to this time last year, I was preparing for my first sprint, totally nervous with no clue as to what I should expect, I didn’t even know one other Lotus driver, and now, now I feel like part of a really welcoming and supportive community. It’s absolutely ace!

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I spent quite a lot of time hanging around in the ES Motorsport garage. Yes they had race cars in there, they also had a tea machine. I love a cup of tea.

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It was sunny, but cold. I’m not very good at dressing myself appropriately at an early hour, and Adam has to sort himself out, so I, for some reason, turned up wearing leggings, two dresses, a jumper and a scarf! Then I embarrassed myself slightly by exclaiming ‘I’ve got oil on my cashmere!’ whilst squatting in the corner with my camera.

When the hail started to fall I was worried it would act like icy marbles and decided to err on the side of caution (- you’ve seen Home Alone!) A bit later a fluff of snow passed over. I did some pointing.

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At lunchtime a famous person was supposed to turn up and drive their Maclaren F1 round while we had our sandwiches. That didn’t happen. I had chicken and ham pie. We sat with Xavier, King of Sprinting and some other non-royals. The nice dinner lady picked the carrots out of the mixed vegetables for me so I didn’t have to have peas. I don’t like peas.

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I had a brilliant day, it felt awesome to drive the car, and I think I drove it well, for me! I was pleased that my embarrassing (but not so embarrassing now) disco injury didn’t slow me down. (Apparently the ‘running man’ is actually popular with cool young people at the moment. Sadly I fear that by the time I can actually bust out my best hip hop moves again they’ll have moved on). The physio is working, I’ve got no excuses there!

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On the last lap of the day Adam did an epic spin, probably caused by me and my distracting commentary. 90mph to nothing in just a few seconds, and two directions – clockwise, then anti-clockwise. I would have liked to have seen it from outside the car, but I was treated to a front seat view instead.

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They day went really quickly, it was an absolute blast and I am so glad to be back out in the car. Lotus on Track days are the best.

Pudding Time with Mrs Charles Darwin’s Recipe Book

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It was Sunday afternoon, the winter sun was low in the sky, bright and hopeful, casting long shadows across the room.

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One of the things that marks the passing of winter is when the chickens start laying again. With a bumper batch of eggs and a beautiful new recipe book, I set about making a decadent sounding pudding.

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Mrs Charles Darwin’s Recipe Book is a delight, full of an interesting array of Victorian recipes and accompanying annotations. It’s quite special to see her handwriting, I nearly made the Nesselrode Pudding purely because of this, but then Lady Skymarston’s won me over.

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It was a simple recipe to follow, involving just a few ingredients – sugar, milk, eggs and vanilla. Sounds like a kind of egg custard, yes? Good. But not as good as the name, Lady Skymaston’s Pudding, say it again!

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Emma Darwin’s original notebook is housed in Cambridge University Library, if you are interested you can see the whole manuscript here.

Being born of the Wedgwood family I bet Emma set a rather special table. I did my best to honour her with a bit of 1930’s Royal Paragon and some beautiful daffodils from my friend Fiona.

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Who was Lady Skymarston? I don’t know, but her pudding is a bit like an upside down creme brûlée gone wrong. Not decadent in any way, but interesting and very much of it’s era, very Victorian.

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Apparently February 12th is ‘Darwin Day’. Maybe you could knock up a Victorian pud and celebrate?

Mrs Charles Darwin’s Recipe Book by Dusha Bateson and Weslie Janeway is published by Glitterati Incorporated.

Thank you to the team at Glitterati for kindly sending me a copy of Mrs Charles Darwin’s Recipe Book, and to Sandra chicken for the egg input. Onwards, to the next pudding!

Biscuit Thursday – It Looks Like a Bouquet!

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I used to talk about ‘Biscuit Thursday’ in the hope that someone would think it was a real thing and bring biscuits or treats into the studio at least once a week. Occasionally Neil brings in something orange, but I’m not a big fan of Lucozade, and I’d kind of given up on the Biscuit Thursday dream… until today.

I was moping about the house with my disco injury when the postlady called. I was delighted! It was a biscuit in a box!

A biscuit… in a box!

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It was so pretty I had to take its photoand then I had to eat it because I have been housebound for over a week and wishing for biscuits like you wouldn’t believe!

This super sweet thank you treat came from Jaime. I made her this wreath because she is nice. She sent me a biscuit because I was nice. Go and read her blog, and then come back, yes?

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You know, it’s nice to be nice, and there is no reason not to be.

I thought about titling this post ‘Old Mens Bowels & Chocolate Seashells’ but I wasn’t sure you’d read it, or who it would attract. Anyway, you’re here now, so carry on!

Quite some time ago I was in the post office and I made an old man cry. (Wait! There is more to this story!) He was talking about having a bad tummy and a bottom blockage, so I asked him about his diet. It was all too much for him and he ran out of the shop in tears. The lady in the post office told me that he’d had cancer and he’d had operations.  He lived on his own and was very depressed. So I went round his house and introduced myself. It may seem a little odd that I was lured to a strangers house by a partial conversation about bowels, but there you go.

Cyril hadn’t eaten for days. Drinking a sip of tea hurt his stomach. I took him some Complan and made him drink it. He said it was lumpy, but did as he was told. I talked to him about his illness and the operations he’d had, explained some stuff about the human body and it’s ability to process fibre. I gave his neighbour a shopping list of food to get him (bran flakes, bananas, other good things) and I told him that he had two choices – to carry on as he was, or to try and change things for himself because he was the only one who could.

Then I left. Actually he showed me his dominos trophies first, and told me about his award winning hanging baskets, but, then I left.

And I didn’t go back. I thought about going back, but then I popped into the post office one day and the lady who runs it presented me with a box of chocolate seashells, ‘From Cyril!’ she said (No, he hadn’t made them himself!)

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Turns out all Cyril needed was a bit of encouragement (and some fibre). Apparently, so the lady said, the thought that a stranger cared about him was enough to get him back on track. He was going to the gym. He’d done his hanging baskets (they looked magnificent). All was well in the world of Cyril.

I saw Cyril several months later, I only knew it was him because I recognised his car to start with. He looked about 30 years younger, and he had colour in his face, rosy cheeks. He gave me a knowing nod and I gave one back, and that was that!

Anyway, I got a bit sidetracked there. We should do things for other people, not just for ourselves. It’s how things should be. The moral of this story is to ‘do as you would be done by’ even though it looks like ‘do good things and get sweet treats!’

Where was I? The biscuit! Oh, and the wreath! I made a lot of those wreaths this winter and I’m really chuffed that people liked them. Jaime wrote nice things about hers here, there was a whole stonking piece on MarthaMoments about them here, and I even spotted Kaelah’s one in her ‘Workspace Makeover’ which made me really happy.

Still, we’ve never seen such an attractive biscuit. Exquisite biscuit. Befitting biscuit.

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It sounds like people reward me with food treats when I do nice things! That’s probably true. I’m going to bake some biscuits this weekend, and I am going to share them!

Chickens in the Snow

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I bet you’ve seen a whole plethora of snow-day photos this week, but have you seen any with chickens in? Of course not. Here you go!

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Chickens in the snow – it’s like Gorillas in the mist, but with chickens, and snow, and probably not as exciting. I hope you don’t feel let down. Have a look at the chickens now, thank you.

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The ginger twins are usually the first to jump out of the chicken house (in unison) each morning, but today they turned around and ran back in!

I managed to lure them out with a bowl of hot porridge.

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Sandra is their leader, she’s the only one who has seen snow before.

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Sasha (the Crested Cream Legbar, or browny-grey one) can’t really see properly, so she just goes with the flow.

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Little April is quite mad! She also has hearts on her jumper. I am hoping to show her this year. She needs a good wash, but I think she’s a pretty fine example of Appenzeller Spitzhauben. She’s very funny and runs like Basil Fawlty.

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After a hot breakfast they all headed off into the trees for shelter, or a natter, or something.

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The gingers tried to keep warm by tucking their heads right down into their fluffy bodies. I bet they have amazing double-chins under those feathers.

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Then everyone (accept me) waited for the sun to melt the snow away. It didn’t take long.

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The Most Wonderful Lunch at Hutchesons, Glasgow

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If you are in Glasgow and you are looking for one of the most relaxed yet decadent dining experiences available, then you’ll want to be smart like me (oh yes!) and make a reservation at Hutchesons.

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We walked through the doorway, from the cold street, to a warm welcome. Stepping across the beautifully repaired and restored mosaic floor, through the Parisian-styled bar, and up the stairs to another place and time.

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We were seated in the Grand Hall. The light filtered beautifully through the tall windows. The stained glass, rich in colour and detail.

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Our drinks arrived in clear glasses etched with a simple ‘H’. We took in our surroundings, looking up at the magnificent ceiling and trying to measure the height of the room… about as tall as a modern 3-storey house.

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Built in 1802, originally as Hutchesons Hospital, the building has since had many uses, including: public library, school, bank, and shops. Now owned by the National Trust this fabulous A-Listed building was damaged terribly by storms in 2008 and took a £1.3 million investment to bring it back to life. Thank goodness for James Rusk and his vision for unique dining experiences in Glasgow!

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And thank goodness for soft, warm, oat-topped bread and whipped butter.

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Rob and Sarah both chose the soup – a root vegetable broth that came with a big chunk of sourdough bread. The soup had a real depth to it and included lentils, barley, parsnip, peas (argh!) and other stuff… I stopped listening at peas.

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Adam and I both chose the Chicken Liver Parfait. I was a little bit disappointed by it’s looks, but it more than made up for that with its flavour. Sweet, rich pate, soft brioche toast and tasty tangy onion jam. Really, really good.

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Steak Frites was the main course choice all round. Steak Frites with garlic butter. It was cooked to perfection, we all agreed.

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After all that delicious food I exclaimed, “I can’t move. I’m having a pudding!”

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I was forced to choose the White Chocolate Cheesecake, the others all picked the Creme Brûlée. None of us were disappointed. Adam said it was in his top 3 Brûlées, and he’s pretty much a Creme Brûlée aficionado.

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The service was wonderful, friendly and helpful. Everyone was so pleasant and nothing was too much for them. James even told me he would send me a glass with an ‘H’ on it, – so I am going to hold him to that!

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After our truly wonderful meal, Sarah and I were treated to a special behind the scenes peak. We walked along the hallway, past the glass-walled wine store and up the winding stairs of the staff quarters, into the attic rooms, to the private dining room. With the feel of an Edwardian Gentleman’s Club, this space is a wonderful secret hideaway with a dedicated supply of aged (some over 60 years) fine malt whisky from the Glenfarclas distillery.

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As Sarah worked her way round the panelled walls she spotted it – the secret compartment! I think Sarah was hoping for another room, and I was expecting body parts, but behind the panelled chimney breast was a media centre with all the mod-cons should you wish to listen to music, watch a film, hold a video conference or view exciting spreadsheets over dinner.

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We couldn’t have been happier with our visit to Hutchesons. Really. We were made to feel so welcome and at ease. The Great Hall is incredibly stylish, opulent and grand, but also so friendly and relaxed. The staff were all very polite, knowledgeable and proud to be there – I like that. We could have stayed all day, but we had a party to go to, and a non-steep steep hill to find! Whether you want a drink, a dinner, or a peek at the incredible architecture and interiors, everyone is welcome at Hutchesons.

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You can find Hutchesons at 158 Ingram Street, in the beautiful Merchant City district of Glasgow.

A huge thank you to the super lovely bunch at Hutchesons for having us for lunch. I loved every moment of it, and, I’ll be back!