Sunday, 28 February 2016

A New Character

I’ve wanted to try an experiment for a while now.

I’d noticed some time ago that there seem to be a lot of “Cupcake Café on the Beach” type books around and I wondered if I could write one set in space, like a sci-fi homage to the genre. Anyhow, while I was walking the dog yesterday on my favourite cliff, it all came to me, and here it is.

It might be the start of something, who knows? And do let me know what you think of my new character.

Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café.

“Is that it?”

The entrance was in partial darkness, the walkway behind me dimly lit with flickering tubes. My heels had clicked on the floor as I passed small piles of rubbish and stained brick effect cladding. The heels didn’t really work here but I was out of my depth and struggling to catch up. Same as the clothes, my designer suit was a little out of place in this riot of grey. A splash of colour in a drab working world.

“People don’t come down here much,” explained my guide, the rental agent for the mall. I’d forgotten his name and instead thought of him as Mr Greasy. It suited him, his hair was greasy, as were his clothes, even his smile was up there on the grease-o-meter. He probably thought of himself as a ladies man, I know we were out on the fringes but surely not? Maybe a desperate ladies man but I wasn’t desperate. At least not that desperate. Not yet.

Mr Greasy was still talking, “it’s been dead down this branch since the new diner opened in the extension.”

I knew where he meant; we had passed it on the way here, all gleaming chrome and fresh baked aroma. The barista was archetypal, white teeth and blond, a role model for Mr G. Maybe someone would tell him.

He turned a key and pressed a button. The steel security curtain rolled up, to reveal a wide window and a narrow door at the side. Faded lettering proclaimed that this was the ‘ucky Strike Bar and Grill.’ The ‘L’ had fallen off. As the mesh rose, dust fell from the links; the place had been shut for a while then.

“What happened to the last owner?”
“There was a change in the law, no booze allowed anymore. It kind of stopped him in his tracks. He gave up and walked away, owes me a month’s rent too,” said Mr G as he opened the door. He flicked the light switch; dim red lighting came on, just enough to see tables, chairs and a bar.

“The kitchen is out back, together with stores and living space,” continued the sales patter, “a nice bedroom, en-suite.” He leered, “plenty of room for a little lady like yourself. I’ll show you.”

“Take your word for it,” I answered, not wanting to be in a confined space with him, his breath was probably greasy as well, I didn’t want to know about his hands. “Are the fittings and stock all included?”

“All the alcohols been impounded but everything that’s here is yours for 200 a month, one month up front.”

“I’ll take it.” It wasn’t ideal but I was fed up with running, and who knows I might even grow to like the place.

“What you gonna do with it then?” He asked. It was a fair question, I didn’t really know but I wasn’t going to tell him that.

He moved closer, “let’s seal the deal then,” he suggested, with a wink.

One of the advantages of being a short shrimp, as my mother used to say, was that you didn’t have to reach down too far to do a man serious damage. I was just contemplating that when he was saved by the arrival of Cy, my business partner, dragging a trolley full of luggage.

“You lost me Andi,” he puffed,” it's bloody dark down here, is this it?”
Greasy backed off; Cy was larger and less greasy than him. Not only that but Cy had no interest in me in that sort of way. Dave was the love of his life, he had left him to look after me and that made me feel alternately good and bad.

“He’ll wait,” Cy explained on the trip out, “and if he doesn’t then I can cry into my cappuccino for a while and move on.”

“Pay the man Cy,” I had decided, “400 and let’s get the Gingham bunting out.”

Greasy shook his head, “Gingham! What the hell are you going to do to the place?”
“Maybe the diner needs a little competition,” I ventured; this bought a smirk and a shake of the head.
“Mr Munro won’t like it.”
Mr Munro can lump it. Shall I tell him or will you?”

He took the notes from Cy and walked away, chuckling in a greasy sort of way. “I’ll give you a month,” he shouted over his shoulder.

“You’re not serious are you?” said Cy as I walked around the tables to the far wall. “We can’t run a café.” I stopped and turned back to him.
“Why not Cy, it's perfect, there’s only one other place selling leisure here, all we have to do is pretend it’s the shop in London, just coffee instead of clothes.”
“Can you bake cakes Andi?”
“No but how hard can it be?” I turned back and continued to the end wall. I had thought the place was dark, I was about to find out if I could make it lighter.

I had spotted the control for the picture windows and turned it. It was sticky and resisted but in the end, it rotated and with a whirr the view was revealed.

Saturn’s rings in all their glory filled the room with reflected light, space opened out and became more than just a derelict and unloved bar. Even an ‘ucky’ one. This was now my café, and I was going to make it work. And Cy was going to help me.
“Welcome to the Oort Cloud Café Cy,”
He shook his head, “I just hope you know what you’re doing.”

It's about time I introduced myself, I’m Andorra Pett, known as Andi by my friends. I’m short but feisty with a few curves and a mess of black hair. I used to run a vintage clothes shop back on Earth when I was young and still believed in happy ever after. Back then there was Trevor, he said I was the love of his life, I believed him too, right up to the moment that I caught him with my (ex) best friend Masie. Then I knew it was time to change everything. I cleaned out all the accounts, just took the money and ran. That was a bit out of character for me, I wasn’t a space hound or even the flying to Spain type. But I thought that it’s time to get over it and DO something. Cy (short for Cyril) caught up with me and tried to stop me at the port but he ended up coming with me. He said he was looking out for me but I reckoned he wanted a break, the same as I did.  Cy was my assistant from the shop, a genius with a sewing machine and my confidant. Plus he tended to bail me out when my mouth got me into trouble.

Won’t you miss Dave?” I had asked as we boarded the shuttle. “Maybe,” Cy answered, “but then I’ve always wanted adventure. Keeping you safe should guarantee me that.”

© Richard Dee 2016.

Chalk Paint Part 2 and Yvonne's greetings cards

After the success of the experiment on the side of the Rosewood Chest, I've taken the plunge and decided to do the whole thing.

First up I sanded the top down to get rid of all the old varnish and some of the marks. I forgot to take a 'before' picture but it came up a lot better than I expected. You can see my 'test' on the side.

I don't want it pristine, it needs to look used.

 Here's the whole chest, I tried one of the new handles, 

So I removed the drawers and got started.

One coat

Two coats
And then the drawers as well, one coat so far.

While I'm waiting for the paint to dry, here are a couple of the greetings cards that Yvonne makes so well.

I'll let you know how the chest looks when it's done.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Baking day,

But before that, a catch up on the week so far.

Monday was bacon and mushrooms in a cheese sauce with pasta, easy to do but very tasty. I got a large bag of Bacon off cuts ages ago and froze it in portions.

I fried the bacon and mushrooms while the pasta was cooking and made a cheese sauce. When everything is cooked the only preparation you have is to throw it all in together and give it a stir.

Add some grated cheese over the top and bake for about 30 minutes.

We have Alpaca's just up the road, that's the second group I've spotted locally now. I just need them to come a little closer to the camera.

We took the dog for a swim on Tuesday as it was a beautiful day, he enjoyed chasing sticks and made a friend

Now onto the bread, I'm making a White and Rye Sourdough and some experimental rolls,

which will have Balsamic Vinegar in them, amongst other things.

Full recipes as usual will be on my Bread Blog, but here are a few pictures of the process.

The Flour

Dough after 1 hour



And the Sourdough, the recipe is here

After first fold
After second fold

2 hours prove

4 hours prove

6 hours prove
Part baked


Blister Crust


Saturday, 20 February 2016

Cheese and Sundried Tomato Scones

Here's the basic idea, you could add herbs or sundried peppers if you'd rather, just keep the proportions the same.

350g self-raising flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ tsp salt
50g butter,  
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 sundried tomatoes, chopped
100g cheese, cubed
300ml full fat milk
1 egg to glaze

          Heat the oven to 220°C
      Line a baking sheet with floured parchment. In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Rub in the butter with the oil, until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs and then add the tomatoes and cheese.

      Pour in the milk and mix, until it becomes a soft sticky dough. Don’t over mix.

      Flour your hands and the work surface well, and shape the dough into a round, about 3-4cm thick. 

      Cut into eight wedges and place them well apart on the baking sheet.

      Brush with beaten egg and bake for 15- 20 mins until risen, golden and springy to the touch.

      Transfer to a wire rack and cover with a clean tea towel to keep them soft. These are best served warm and buttered. They will keep for 2-3 days in an airtight container or you can freeze them.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

The big Five-double-oh.

Way back in 2011 when I started this blog, the main reason was to have a place to put recipes and pictures from my new life in Devon. (And when I say I, of course I include my lovely wife Yvonne who has put up with me for longer than I could have expected) 

At that time I had become a part-time Thames Pilot as a way of easing myself into retirement and thought that I would spend a few years and then retire completely.

I had no idea what would happen over those five years. (does anyone really?) Two of my daughters have married and presented me with Grandchildren, I have retired from pilotage, run an organic bakery and have written two novels; with a third on the way.

So to celebrate this milestone I have a round up of the things I have been up to in the last few days to share with you. 

Firstly as a reminder, I found a picture from my pilotage days, a successful docking in Tilbury. (The lock is one metre wider than the ship)

Happy days.

Back to the present, I made bread this morning, some Sourdough Crumpets,

using the discard from the weekly feeding of my starters. So they are a mixture of White, Wholemeal, Spelt and Rye flour but still very nice.

I also made a couple of loaves of White Spelt Sourdough for the next week, using a new recipe based on one that I found online.

I baked them in Dutch Ovens and they rose well considering that I didn't prove them for as long as normal. The full recipe is be on my bread blog.

After they had cooled, I cut one to see if I had achieved a sandwich crumb or one with huge holes. (I like both but you can't butter holes and I wanted a loaf for sandwiches and toast)

Mission accomplished I think.

In the early days, I would put pictures from our days out and dog walks etc, well we were in Teignmouth yesterday and found this street sign,

I guess U2 must have played there.

Of course no blog post would be complete without a few examples of Yvonne's crafting, this time its cushions. The first one is made from an old cross-stitch she did ages ago and a few pieces of material that she had lying around.

and the second from a tapestry kit that I bought her for a birthday a while ago.


Summer is coming, even if it's raining today, my seed potatoes (Charlotte) are starting to sprout and I'll soon have to prepare the ground for them.

Food wise, we have Cottage Pie tomorrow, I made it today to save time tomorrow, all I need to do is heat it up and steam some veggies.

Tonight we have Lamb and Mint burgers, I made some Sourdough breadcrumbs and infused them with mint sauce and Balsamic Vinegar.

I added this to the lamb mince and mixed it together, shaping it into burgers.

Here's to the next 500.