Posted in Food & Drink

Afternoon tea adventures

Ladies who lunch

My friend Caroline and I enjoy an occasional afternoon tea as a treat and during conversation (while sipping our Earl Grey teas) we agreed to start a new Instagram account about the teas we have loved – and not so loved. So I thought I’d get the ball rolling with an account of two teas we enjoyed in 2021.

Afternoon tea was invented in England and although it’s popular here, I’m not sure if other countries have this tradition too. Here it tends to be a pot of tea (accompanied by little cups and saucers), the food is displayed on a tiered stand and often includes a scone with clotted cream and jam, dainty sandwiches and little cakes and pastries. It does depend on price and whereabouts it’s served. Obviously a fancy hotel will offer much more than a more affordable one in a café but as long as there is plenty of tea, I’m usually quite happy!

The tradition started in the 1840s by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, and continues as a special treat in cafes, restaurants and hotels today. Cream tea is a smaller version of it, keeping the scone and tea but omitting all else. It’s just as delicious. But scones themselves do present a quandary. How does one pronounce it? Is it as rhyming with ‘gone’ or ‘tone’? And then there is the second controversy, do you spread the jam first, or the cream? It certainly depends on whether you’re in Cornwall (jam first) or Devon (cream first) but elsewhere I’m not sure what the rules are. I tend to put the jam first but obviously if I venture into Devon I will respect the local traditions there regarding scones, jam and cream!

In September, we booked a tea at a café next to and owned by a supermarket near us. Despite the excellent reputation of this establishment (at least the supermarket), the afternoon tea did not get off to a good start. Caroline had booked a week ago but the lady at the counter had a blank look on her face when we explained we were here for afternoon tea. This particular café is located next to the supermarket it’s part of so logically there should have been no issues with supply. But there was. Apparently there was a shortage of afternoon teas because some things hadn’t been delivered. But nobody thought to ring Caroline to cancel.

Caroline had already had one afternoon tea setback this year. She had organised a previous one with her mum, but because of a problem with her tooth, ended up cancelling it. Nobody wants to eat a scone with a tooth threatening to break off and escape.

Fingers crossed, this tea at Booths café would happen… but maybe not by the looks of it.

This café was going to be awarded a big fat zero out of 10 … but then the waitresses rallied round and said they would provide us an afternoon tea with what they already had in stock. She asked what sandwich we would like out of the ones on display in the café. I opted for cheese and pickle (all the others seemed to have egg in). We were given a choice of soup – kale, sweet potato and spinach or chicken. We both chose the kale soup. Not my usual choice but it was tasty. Crisps, scones, mini chocolate brownie, caramel shortcake and a muffin with icing on top completed the ensemble. From a bad start, the quick-thinking staff rallied round and we ended up enjoying a pleasant afternoon tea (cost £20 for two).

In November, we ventured to Happy Bunnies in Longton for Caroline’s birthday.

Happy Bunnies

Happy Bunnies is a little café in a village not far from us. Happily this time we were expected! I loved the teapot and dainty cups and saucers. Personally, I was not keen on the sandwiches – prawn, egg and chicken – but the rest of the tea was top marks.

What variety of savoury and sweet there was here! Fruit scone with Cornish clotted cream & jam, scrumptious award-winning Bowens whist pie, spinach & ricotta pizza, Hoi sin and spring onion sausage roll, Lancashire Fiddlers crisps, spiced pumpkin & cream choux bun, raspberry & lemon drizzle cake, toffee apple meringue, pea and ham soup… even a delightful mini fruit punch. I had to take the vanilla bunny cake pop home as I was rather full by the end. At the end of an afternoon tea, a box is often a requirement to take goodies back home to snack on! This afternoon tea was very filling and we left feeling happy but stuffed. (Cost: £18.95 per person).

What is afternoon tea? ‘Afternoon Tea is a tea-related ritual, introduced in Britain in the early 1840s. It evolved as a mini meal to stem the hunger and anticipation of an evening meal at 8pm.’

https://afternoontea.co.uk/information/what-is-afternoon-tea/
Afternoon tea at Happy Bunnies

Posted in Thoughts on life and spirituality

2022 – and a New Year Goal

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Happy New Year from the Cosy Cottage family! Did you make a New Year’s Resolution? In January I like to muse about goals. In the past I have my resolution all decided before January 1, but then forget all about it come January 31. Recently I’ve been more easy-going with the When of making the resolutions, so I may ponder throughout January, decide by the end and try to stick to my new goal in February. It never lasts for the entirety of the year though.

Usually this goal is to ‘get fit’. Easily said. The problem with ‘get fit’ is that there seems to be no point unless it’s consecutive. It needs determination to keep going. A break now and again is fine but not for weeks on end. And if I have a talent for anything fitness-related, it’s the ‘taking a break’.

And then there is the ‘declutter’ goal, I look forward to starting it, read articles about the art of decluttering and cleaning one’s house from top to bottom, make lists and lists, and then get distracted and think about something else.

Maybe chickens. Or finishing a novel I’m currently reading.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

So I could give up the idea of resolutions but the thing is I find them inspiring. Maybe because January is a new month, a new year and a new start. Maybe because it brings me a sense of excitement and joy in a month that could otherwise be anything but. So I’m sticking to the idea of resolutions – but how do I make them stick?

I’ve been reading about others’ resolutions and a theme I keep seeing is picking a word to stick to, rather than a goal. At first, I didn’t think it would be appropriate for me. How would a single word help me get fit? Help wildlife? Write a novel? Walk a long-distance path (yet to be decided)? But why am I not focusing on any of these? I start being focused and then get distracted. Maybe I have too many goals? I would hate to give up these goals (even if I never reach them!)

Or maybe it’s because I’m not organised enough?

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Focused could be my go-to word but I think my 2022 word – and goal – is ‘Organised’. I can be focused on one thing but then forget about my other goals. To be ‘organised’ means I will find the time to write a novel, the motivation to get – and stay – fit, the focus on creating a more nature-friendly garden. Hopefully all of these things. I’m not disorganised as such. In fact I don’t think anyone could call me ‘disorganised’. I can do the day-to-day things no problem but in order to find the focus to achieve more, such as fitness, creative, environmental and decluttering goals, my organisational skills could do with improving. If I set myself a certain time to do things or a certain weekly goal maybe that would help? Or should my word be ‘determination’ or ‘focus’? No, 2022 is the year for ‘organisation’ at Cosy Cottage. For now I will stick to my resolution of ‘Organised’. Let’s see how it goes and where this journey will lead!

So welcome 2022 (hope you’re a better year than 2020 and 2021) and welcome my 2022 word ‘Organised’. Now let’s see how to get organised…

Posted in Books, Thoughts on life and spirituality

Books: 127 Hours by Aron Ralston

In 2003, a hiker and mountaineer visited Blue John Canyon in Utah. A freak accident leads to his right hand being trapped by a big boulder and so starts a six-day ordeal of pain, isolation, fear, hunger and thirst. I’ve never watched the film of 127 Hours but it’s definitely on my ‘must watch’ list and even more so after reading the book written by the survivor himself, Aron Ralston.

Aron is an avid mountaineer and experienced hiker. He’s climbed up the fourteeners in Colorado and has ended up in – and survived – various hairy scenarios. We get to know this gradually as he writes alternate chapters – one about his current predicament followed by another focusing on his outdoors life to date. It’s an interesting juxtaposition and the background to his life shows how these previous experiences, good and bad, have shaped Aron into becoming positive and independent, always looking for a solution rather than simply panicking (which is exactly what I would have done in his place!)

The observations and descriptions were incredibly powerful, I could almost imagine what it must have been like in that situation. The cold and the utter isolation during the nights, the desperation and dry thirst during the day…

Thankfully, Aron is made of tough stuff. He’s got out of tricky situations before, he’s helped with a mountain rescue team, so he knows how to observe, keep calm, think of potential solutions and, most importantly, avoid panicking.

His outdoor skills, logical mindset and positive attitude can only go so far however. There is only so much food (burritos to be exact) and water. The canyons are warm during the day but freezing cold at night. It’s remote, so remote that it’s unlikely that anyone will come across him in Blue John Canyon before he runs out of food and water and dies from dehydration. And any attempts to remove the boulder that’s crushed his right hand has failed. Oh, and he didn’t tell anyone exactly where he was going so even the rescue attempt, once people start noticing his absence, will be a difficult one before it even begins.

Perhaps not surprisingly considering the lack of food and water, Aron hallucinates – or are they spiritual experiences? Whatever the case, for Aron, these experiences come at a time when he is rapidly losing hope; when he believes with utter certainty that he will not live to see the next day.

This has to be one of my favourite books of this year, with each chapter ending with a ‘cliffhanger’ so to speak. And although I know that Aron survived (he’s written the book so this is no plot spoiler), I am fascinated to know just how exactly he managed to survive…

Posted in Gardens, Pets, Self-sufficiency

Guinea pigs try out the great parsley experiment

Tim and Tom sample the parsley

Last year I grew herbs in my kitchen – basil, parsley and chive. This was a success so I tried again using more parsley seeds which I already had. Happily, the parsley grew and my guinea pigs were, once again, eager to take part in another experiment.

Parsley
Going…
Going…
Gone

According to Rosemary Hemphill (an apt name!), in her book Herbs for All Seasons, parsley is originally from Sardinia and is a biennial which often lasts for two years in the garden. Despite this, she says it is best treated as an annual, with seed being sown each year.

She adds: “All parts of the herb contain medicinal substances; the root, leaves and seeds are sources of apiol, which is beneficial for the kidneys. The leaves are rich in vitamins A, B and C, and in iron, and assist in the assimilation of food. Parsley tea made from the leaves is good for rheumatism, kidneys and gall bladder, assists digestion and encourages circulation.”

Maybe I should have asked Tom and Tim to leave me some parsley although it looks like I was too late…

  • I started having a look on the internet about the benefits of parsley and it looks like there might be possible side-effects too if too much is eaten. So like everything, moderation is key.

https://cosycottageandthequestforthegoodlife.wordpress.com/2021/10/29/going-going-gone-guinea-pigs-tom-and-tim-volunteer-for-the-great-basil-experiment/

Posted in Writing

NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge Update

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In October I signed up to the NaNoWriMo Challenge for 2021. National Novel Writing Month is an annual challenge and starts in November. Participants aim to write a complete draft of a novel during the course of the month. I’ve never done anything like this before but, as usual, I started with grand ambitions and have ended, well, not quite a failure but not quite a success either.

I didn’t finish my first draft, or write x number of words every day – in fact I didn’t even write every day! My novel in progress looks more like notes than a coherent story and maybe I might end up changing my mind on the whole idea anyway – but still, I started and did more than I otherwise would have done.

The good news is that I did write more than usual, yes, sometimes I was sidetracked and wrote my blog instead but I did progress with my novel idea. I now have an outline of chapters and characters, ideas of themes to explore, and some draft chapters which require a lot more work on them.

So okay, I’m far from being an unpublished author, let alone a published one. But I am nearer to being one than I was before the challenge and that’s good enough for me. Now, where’s my manuscript….?

Posted in Environment, Environmental issues, Nature

Our World: Plastic pollution

Photo by Catherine Sheila on Pexels.com

I walked to a local nature reserve recently and decided to have lunch at its cafe. Until very recently it had just been serving takeaways (because of Covid and the restrictions) but now we could sit inside to eat. I ordered a large cup of tea and was directed to a basket containing tiny plastic cartons of milk.

Plastic cartons

I’ve seen these containers before, usually for takeaway drinks which makes sense. They’re handy and easily portable after all. But surely when sitting indoors an individual reusable, rewashable milk jug would be more eco-friendly, especially at a nature reserve?

Over the years there has been an increase in plastic use. Sometimes there is no alternative (PPE for health workers) but, too often, it is used as a lazy option that is not really needed. Too often I see fruit and vegetables – even bananas! – in supermarkets in plastic bags. Why not have them loose and consumers could pick them up and put them in paper bags? I see tea bags in cardboard boxes which are, in turn, wrapped in plastic.

I don’t doubt that plastic has its place, it’s an incredibly useful material, but I think it’s overused. Maybe the decision-makers think it makes the products fresher or more hygienic, but at what cost to nature? What cost to ourselves?

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Plastic pollution is a massive environmental problem. A lot of plastic ends up in our oceans. Sea creatures such as dolphins, turtles and birds can become injured or entangled by plastic. Or they might mistake it for food – obviously this can have tragic circumstances. Unfortunately these chunks of litter don’t just break down and disappear. When plastic does start breaking down, they end up as microplastics and, as Greenpeace says, “impossible to filter from waste water, they end up in our oceans.” These microscopic pieces of plastic end up in our food chain so we too can become unwitting victims of this pollution.

These miniscule particles are swallowed by tiny creatures such as zooplankton which end up getting eaten by larger animals such as whales. And guess who eats the fish in the oceans – which may also have digested microplastics at some point? That’s right, we humans. It can’t be good for wildlife. It can’t be good for us.

Photo by Catherine Sheila on Pexels.com

As I’ve said I have nothing against plastic itself as a material but I am against its overuse. If less plastic and more sustainable materials were used, I believe the world would be a healthier place. And a healthier world for animals always translates into a healthier world for humans too.

Happily, change can be done. A few years ago, every time I went to a supermarket or any other type of shop, I was automatically given plastic carrier bags, even when I brought my own. Then the Government banned free plastic carrier bags (a rare environmentally friendly decision by political leaders) and it now costs 5p to buy a bag (since raised to 10p). The use of carrier bags has been cut by 95 per cent. I see far fewer plastic bags littering the streets these days. I can only assume the oceans are seeing less of these bags too.

Another victory in the war against plastic pollution is that two charities of which I am a member of (Woodland Trust and RSPB), which once used plastic as magazine wrappers, have swapped to paper and a compostable potato starch product. The latter is a handy bag for my teabags for when they go into the compost heap.

So what can we do individually? On a personal level, I have decided to think twice before buying anything that seems to be needlessly wrapped in plastic. Of course, I can’t escape it but I can ask myself do I really need this? (The fact that this approach will also save me money is a win win for me!) On occasions when I think the company involved really doesn’t need to use plastic, I will send them a polite email. Maybe now is the time to start tweeting them? In fact, I have emailed the charity running the nature reserve and will wait to see what their answer is.

I have included a couple of video links about the issue below.

Vast quantities (of plastic) pollute our world. Much of it flows into the oceans, turning them into a plastic soup. A truckload of plastic enters the ocean every single minute.

Greenpeace
Posted in Pets

A Tale of Two Jack Russells

Written by Molly Jack Russell

Our human sister Clare has asked us, Teddy and Molly, to write a guest article for her blog. We yapped “Yes!” to the challenge. Neither of us know what a blog is, or an article, but we are expecting a treat in return. Maybe a marrowbone?

Anyway, we are two Jack Russells, the best dog in the world of course. We live with Clare’s parents who claim to be our pack leaders. At least that’s what they say. My big brother Ted says he’s pack leader although he’s still working on a plan to oust Human Mum (aka Top Dog) out of this current position. When she gets up off her armchair, Ted will jump on it quick to claim it as his. But he will always end up having to share it with her.

“Co-leading,” he explains to me, as he snuggles next to Human Mum.

“Crawler,” I mutter, before trying to jump up and sit next to the two of them.

I asked Ted what we should write about for this article and he laughed and said we should write about the most interesting subject in the world.

“What’s that Ted?” I asked, thinking tasty treats was the answer.

“Marrowbones?”

He replied, “No, silly! Me, of course!”

Teddy

So I’ve compromised and will write about the two of us.

As I’ve said, we are Jack Russells, pedigree of course (no papers but our parents were full bred). We are often told that, when we were puppies, we lived with a cat. I do not recall this but I do know that cats are very wicked creatures and we should shout at them if we see them. I look for them under hedges and atop fences.

“Clear off,” I shout, if I see any.

Ted swears, “**** **** off!”

My big brother can swear like a trooper.

We are told off for shouting at these villains but I think humans are naive about cats. By the time they realise the truth it will be too late and cats will have achieved their goal – world domination.

We arrived at our human family when we were about eight weeks. Ted was the biggest in our litter and I the smallest. When we argue, Ted sometimes calls me a runt. He can be a bully at times but I always stand up to him. My mother told me not to take any nonsense from anyone. Just because I’m small they may take advantage of me. I’ve always remembered this and will fight back if need be. Clare calls this ‘little dog syndrome’ but my mother is right, we little dogs need to stand up for ourselves.

I don’t recall my early days too well. Ted says I slept a lot those first few days of arriving at our new home. He was wide awake, he says. He told me he was hoping he would be able to snatch my dinner from me, like the way he used to try and push in front of me and our siblings when we were suckling mother. But our human parents never allowed him. And I didn’t too!

We used to sleep in a dog bed in the kitchen but worked our way up to the human settee. We had so much fun as pups! We used to hide and run under the settee and armchair until the day Ted got too fat (“tall”, corrects Ted) and couldn’t get through. Nibbling the furniture was great fun but we were told off for that, and we used to try and nibble feet too. Another no, no – but what larks we had!

We like visiting Clare’s house, not least because she gives us a marrowbone. She has two strange rat-like creatures with no tails. Fatter than rats though. They have a lot of delicious chocolate drops which fall onto the floor. I enjoy clearing these up. I get told off for this though.

“Disgusting” say the humans. But they eat chocolate, why can’t I?

Because of our thin hair, we wear dog coats on winter evenings when it gets cold. They are rather fashionable. Clare calls them ‘pyjamas’ which they are, in a way. We wear them to sleep in after all. Speaking of sleep, it’s time for bed.

“What do you think of the article?” I ask Ted. He says more should have been written about him and next time he’ll write the story.

“Goodnight Ted,” I bark to Ted before sleep. “‘Night Molly,” he replies, before giving me a goodnight kiss on my head. It’s true, we get on each other’s nerves but despite that, we are family and love each other too.

Posted in Blogging

200 blog posts!

Today marked a new milestone for Cosy Cottage – I’ve written 200 posts!

Out of curiosity, I had a look to see what the three most popular posts were:

Morecambe Bay: Beware of Quicksand – This was a clear winner, leaving the runners-up A Wander in Yarrow Valley Country Park and Masons Wood well behind. Interestingly, most of the statistics come in from search engines which is unusual for my blog.

Morecambe Bay

Maybe the word Quicksand is liked by Google or maybe people like to read about others who are trapped in difficult conditions, potentially perilous ones? I’m currently reading 127 Hours about a man trapped in the Utah Canyonlands. Isolated, miles from anywhere, his arm trapped, not enough water or food… Plot spoiler – he gets out but at some cost…

Thank you for reading, liking and commenting! 🙂

https://cosycottageandthequestforthegoodlife.wordpress.com/tag/yarrow-valley-country-park/

Posted in Pets

The illness of Tim the guinea pig

Tim

It has been rather cold at Cosy Cottage recently, it being November after all. So it’s natural to see the guinea pigs hunkered down in their respective houses – a wooden house, an igloo and under the attic. I believe that wild guinea pigs in the Peruvian Andes seek the security and warmth of caves and nooks and crannies. So, too, do our domestic ones.

Tom was particularly quiet one day, but in the evening he was back again looking for his treats. So, two days later, when his companion Tim was being quiet, snuggling in his cosy igloo, I thought nothing of it.

I offered red pepper and was rebuffed by Tim, although Tom took full advantage of the offer. I thought, strange, I thought Tim liked pepper, maybe not the red one. I put the heating up and assumed that, after some warmth, Tim would, like Tom, be himself the next day.

Except he wasn’t. He was, once again, nestled in the igloo. But it was more serious than a one-day hibernation. He had gone off his food entirely and was lethargic. I had been worried about Tom this year with his eye (Tom was now back to normal but needed regular eye drops to keep his eye from getting dry). But now it looked like it was Tim’s turn to feel under the weather.

He turned his nose up at any food I gave him, so I used a syringe to give him water to keep him hydrated, and some of Tom’s painkiller (prescribed for his eye). I thought I would see how it would go, perhaps a visit to the vet may be needed.

Simon came to visit and he observed that Tim nibbled a little of the red lettuce in the packet I gave the pigs. This was called radicchio and we looked for it the next time we went to the supermarket. Tim ate a little then stopped. But at least it was something. Tom was eager to help Tim – by eating his lettuce as well as his own. “Waste not, want not”, he mumbled while eating Tom’s uneaten slice of carrot.

Tim was given water and painkiller via syringe for the next couple of days and we started to see what looked like the beginnings of a slow recovery. He moved a little more, ate a little more. He even went over to the water bottle himself to drink. Each time we took him out, he darted back to his cage and would rattle the bars with his teeth. Each day, he seemed to be getting more and more strength to do this.

He was weighed every day. A short time ago, he had weighed 1279. Now he dipped to 1080. Thankfully he started to put weight on – from 1080 to 1140 and rising.

Tim being weighed

One day we went for a long walk and were greeted by a loud whistle when we got back. It wasn’t Tom. It was actually Tim, ready and waiting for lettuce. And when, the next day, I saw and heard Tim nibble at the plastic at the cage in his usual cheeky way of getting attention for tasty treats, I knew he was definitely on the mend.