Monday, 25 January 2010

Poached Salmon, Colds, Birthdays and Fury.

Location: Library, huddled by the fire to keep warm
Mood: Cold, ill, but determined not to buckle
Listening to: Lately (not convinced. One minute they're like a poor man's Arcade Fire, the next like a drunk Bruce Springsteen. I don't think they know who they are either.)
Reading: Drood (second attempt after losing it the first time), Dan Simmons.
Playing: Haven't been near the PS3 in days. It's too cold in there.

It was Fisher's 31st birthday yesterday, and to celebrate we had the Cheeseboard and Cheeseboys up for the weekend. On Friday night we went up to East Haugh Hotel and had a pleasant pub supper. I was feeling pretty grotty with a cold and sore throat, but it didn't stop me enjoying every mouthful of excellent fish 'n' chips. I was also more than happy to be designated driver, as staying with Phid and Wheeler throughout the week led me to get utterly knocked sideways with a 5 hour drinking session with Wheeler, and being off the booze for a few days seemed sensible to me.

And why were we staying with Phid and Wheeler? Yes, it's our wonderful heating system again. It went off last Monday, and because the inept company has laid of the second engineer for Scotland it means we've had to wait a full week before getting someone in to fix it. And what happened this afternoon? The engineer who said he'd be here this afternoon phoned to say that, no, it'll be tomorrow before he can make it. Look away now if you're offended by filthy language.


Anyway, Phid and Wheels let us stay at the cottage, and very grateful we were too. But back to Fisher's birthday.

Saturday morning saw us tootle in to Perth for a 9 a.m start. We'd booked ourselves a curling lesson! An hour and a half's serious entertainment (who'da thought sliding stones on ice could be so much fun) brought in a bill for £54. That's £6 each. Where else in the world do you get 90 minutes of fun for that sort of price? We all agreed we'd do it again like a shot - so watch this space for a Cheeseboard Winter Olympic medal in a few years.

I left most of the clan to take a walk with the pooches up Kinnoull Hill, while I did some errands in town. Protagoras, who does NOT enjoy walking, chummed me, and we nipped into the fishmonger to pick up a vaaaast salmon and the baker to pick up a selection of French fancies for Fisher's birthday dinner. Then we pegged it back home, dropped off the food, and returned in time to meet the rest at Breizh for lunch.

After lunch we returned home and had an afternoon of arts and crafts. People painted, people drew, people wrote poetry, people stuck and printed and coloured ... it was brilliant. Highlights were definitely Badger's drawing of a Cheeseboard crest, Castor's excellent picture of a roaring fire, and Pro's poem.

Unfortunately, during the day I started feeling pretty terrible. My nose was so blocked I had no ability to either smell or - catastrophe - taste, I was aching, and my throat was all scratchy from having to breathe through my mouth. But I had a hot, hot shower and wallowed as long as I could in a desperate bid to get my senses back (didn't work), then went downstairs feeling refreshed. Luckily the only cooking I had to do was poaching the vaaaaaast salmon (4.5kg - 9.9lbs) which was easy as pie in the fish kettle. This is what I did, foodies:

Fish Kettle Salmon
  • Placed salmon in fish kettle.
  • Covered the fish in as much liquid as made the fish float. I used white wine, lemon vinegar, and the rest water.
  • In the water I added: 3 bay leaves, a handful of pink peppercorns, some lemon slices, and a sprinkling of oregano.
  • I brought the water to the boil and let it boil for 2 minutes only. Then I took the fish off the heat and let it cook in its own juices. This only took about half an hour, and then it was ready to serve.
We also had a whole host of things from the Deli in Dunkeld - ham, cheese, rosemary crackers, antipasti, ostrich paté, venison paté, aioli from the Really Garlicky Company (which was the only thing I could even vaguely taste), delicious stone baked bread from Breizh, and smoked salmon. It was a feast. We finished it off with the little French fancies - some in the shape of mice (timorous beasties), others in little haggises (it's Burns' Night tonight), some fairy cakes and some fondants, and all sweet, sweet, sweet. I didn't have any as there wasn't any point, but there have been more than enough left over for me to sample. Too sweet for my taste.

It was a lovely night. Fisher got lots of great loot from her pals, and I managed to stick it out until 3am with Pro, Badger, and - briefly - Wheeler, playing poker. Badger and I were the last ones standing, but he took the pot of £35 in the end. Ah well. Victoria Coren I ain't.

Sunday was lazy. Everyone but Phid left by noon, so we took the opportunity to take the dogs for a walk, have some lunch at Howie's in Dunkeld, then go to the gym. Yup, the gym. Fisher and Phid did some running, but as I was still feeling rough - though better than the day before - I only used the elliptical machine. Then home for a chill out before heading in for Fisher's final treat - a trip to the theatre to see Stephen K Amos being funny. And funny he was, even though it was pretty much the same show as last time we saw him at Birnam.

Due to a series of unbelievably bad luck incidents with Phid's car, which is currently broken down somewhere in Perth, I gave her a lift into Edinburgh after the show. And what did she learn as we drove into Reekie but that Wheels has just had his Land Rover stolen. Talk about bad car karma ...

Anyway, that brings us up to date. Here I am, huddled in the library, willing the fire to generate a bit more heat, still nursing a sodding cold and now badgered by a nasty cold sore as well, wishing ill upon the stupid geothermal heating company that can't even provide enough engineers to fix the number of busted heaters they've got. Tell me - do we think it's appropriate to leave someone in a house with no heating for over a week in January? Do we think I might just be about to give someone a serious bollocking down the phone? Yes. I think I might just.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Hey ho.

It's 4.26am. No sign of sleep. It's that pesky insomnia again - which comes around now and again when it's least welcome. I've had a heavy couple of days, packed with fun, but not exactly healthy on the food or drink front.

First up was a truly terrific night out with the Cheeseboard ladies. We went to Hotel Mizzoni in Edinburgh and well and truly helped out with my New Year's resolution to be More Fabulous. There was a very chi-chi bar which we lounged over in our posh, frilly and sparkly frocks, and downed cocktails. Yes, we even had a round of cosmopolitans - and delicious they were, too. Then up to the restaurant for a slow but delicious supper, a bottle of champagne, 2 bottles of wine (one of each) and some dessert wine. The chat flowed free, the chuckles were many, and we all agreed that, while we will miss Janus hugely when she goes to Manchester with Badge, a new chapter of our lives has opened up. After all, Koi and Pro have got engaged, Janus is not only moving but getting married in a few short months, and I am feeling extremely itchy.

Change, you see, is a wonderful thing. And I have not changed in a while. I feel restless. Antsy. It's time for some va-va-voom, in one shape or another.

But back to the events of past days. We spent 5 hours at Hotel Mizzoni, had a fabulous time (hurrah) and then got a cab back to Blar's house in Nitten. There we collapsed into bed and rose on the morrow to take a jaunt into pretty North Berwick for lunch. The weather was filthy, the lunch itself only passable, but the company was excellent and I found a sweet travel handbag designed like an air mail letter ... to go with the hideously extravagant purchases I'd made in Harvey Nicks the day before - including a Marc Jacobs handbag, which some people might wish me to describe. Therefore - it's green.

After our leisurely sojourn, we headed back home with just enough time to enjoy a leisurely bath before being collected by our neighbours-but-one, Kai and Ina. They had invited us along to the Opening of the Tay dinner - which was rather fun. It took place in a baronial hall in a local hotel which had recently been renovated, but really only involved sitting at a table, chatting and drinking beer. Then a very good ceilidh band struck up a set, and it all went a bit tits up. I mean, the music was great - but the room wasn't big enough to warrant Glastonbury-esque amplification. After suffering our eardrums for another hour or so, we gladly headed home. A quick nightcap at ours, where Kai got down on his hands and knees and attempted to fix our cooker (he's a man who likes to be useful) and we chatted for a while, and then to bed.

Next day - today - I woke feeling ropey. But it was also the day Spar had promised to take me to see Aberdeen v St Johnstone's, and I was much looking forward to it. We were meeting at Gloagburn for lunch, then on to a nearby pub (gah!) for a pre-match pint, then on to the game. Then back home, then pub supper.

Alas, all our carefully laid plans went aglay. First, the match was cancelled. Boo. Then, when we decided to go and hit some golf balls on the Gleneagles driving range, we discovered the range was closed due to snow. So we went to Noah's Ark in Perth instead. But they had only 25 balls left - which we shared, with Spar giving me some good pointers on my swing. It was great fun - but not nearly as much fun as the crazy golf afterwards. We played 9 holes and were completely level pegging, so had to play another 3 holes to decide the outcome. Alas, on the third, I managed to fluff an 8 inch putt by failing to hit the ball hard enough (!!!!), and lost the day. Boooooo!!

Then back home. We watched Liverpool limp to a draw with Stoke - the reds of Merseyside are in serious trouble - and half way through, Fisher came back from walking the dogs to say a deer was caught in the fence above Kai & Ina's. She couldn't free it because of her wrist, and it was screaming. So Spar and I took the car up and managed to untangle its rear hoof from between a barbed wire line and a plain metal wire. Above the hoof was cut, and despite our best efforts, the deer wouldn't stand. The best we could do was get it onto its belly with its legs tucked under, and hope it just needed a rest. It had been caught for a while, and been scrabbling the earth with its front legs to no avail, so we think it was pretty exhausted. I'm not hopeful, but it might get to its feet after a rest, and if it's going to die, at least it won't die upside down with its leg caught in the top of a wire fence.

It was a bit chastening. We're pretty realistic about country life, but you never like to see an animal in distress, and if I do come across one I can't keep myself from trying to help - even if just to try and alleviate its misery. Of course, if I had real courage I'd have gone back late this evening to see how it was faring, and if it was dying I would have sent Kai to shoot it.

Back at the house we finished watching the footie, I had a shower to wash the deer off me, and we went out for supper. It was a gentle affair, involving steak, NO BOOZE, and pleasant chat - and we parted well pleased with our lot. I'd had a lovely day, despite the lack of live football, and I hope Spar enjoyed it too.

And now I'm wide awake, it's 5am, and I have nothing more to blog about. Oh well. I'd best try and get to sleep. Even Dotun Adebayo has gone to bed.

G'night all.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

"I Would Go Straight For" No. 1

Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes. Especially at the start of The Priory School when someone faints on his carpet and he looks like an excited schoolboy.
He's less attractive when he becomes very ill, but even then he's full of authority and intellect.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

2010 - So Far So Challenging

Location: Home
Mood: Not sure yet
Reading: Still getting through all the books I've mentioned.
Listening to: Buildings & Mountains
Playing: Bayonetta

It's not been the smoothest of rides so far this year. We've had broken heating, a frozen water pump, a rodent infestation, snow, ice, injuries - and barely time to draw breath before Sister and 2 youngest sons returned for another visit. They're always welcome, of course, but putting your feet up hasn't been a feature of the new year.

Fisher slipped on ice the other day and bashed her wrist nastily. It's fine, but sore, and she can't use it. Poor lamb. Didn't stop her from going for a run, naturally, but I don't think it did the wrist any favours.

So - yesterday we took a trip into Edinburgh to see if Sister couldn't get the tiles for her new house chosen and ordered. We dropped her off at the tile shop and took Wrecker and Tertius to Dynamic Earth for some educational fun. Unfortunately, it turned out DE was shut (be nice if that was prominently mentioned on the website) so we went to the Museum of Scotland instead. This had the bonus of being free, and there was plenty to entertain Wrecker for an hour and a half. We were supposed to be meeting up with Blarney for dim sum, but she couldn't get on the bus. According to herself, you can only take one buggy per bus and she waited for 2 buses - each of which had a buggy on them already so she couldn't get on.

I don't get this. It's a nonsense! If you fold up a buggy, how much room does it take up? Although, come to think of it, Blarney's buggy is vast and I'm not sure it can be folded very easily, so it must be an issue of space and safety. Still, it seems very harsh to make a woman with a baby miss the bus because you won't let more than one buggy on. She was most cross, and I felt the full force of her wrath when I dared ask after the wellfare of her car. It's got a flat battery, apparently, and has done since before Christmas. Hey ho. Nitten doesn't seem to be the paradise we all expected.

So that was disappointing - but we had a good lunch at Saigon Saigon anyway. Love dim sum, me - and so does Wrecker. He filled his 4 year old (to the day) face with 4 custard bao, as well as noodle soup, deep fried squid, and sundry other Chinese goodies. I don't think I've ever seen him eat so much. Tertius, at the princely age of 1, was pretty impressive on the gluttony front, too. Definitely my kin.

After lunch we all went back to the tile shop to see if we could help Sister choose. It transpired she had shedloads still to do, so I offered to drive the boys home, leaving Fisher with Sister to offer design input and catch the train when they were done. This agreed, I set off.

Unfortunately, it was only when pulling into the drive that I realised ... I'd left the house keys with Fisher. I called Epona to see if she had a spare key. She didn't. So I smashed the summer room window ... and discovered the inner door to the house was also locked. There was no hope for it. I had to take the cold, cross boys to Epona's and wait it out. Luckily it was only about an hour and a half before Sister and Fisher returned to let us in, and Epona was great - played snap with Wrecker, and provided a basket of wood off-cuts for them to play with. Thus did we while away the time. But I was supposed to be cooking slow roast pork for everyone - including neighbours - that night, and there was precious little time left to slow roast anything.

However, the evening did end well. I whacked the pork in the oven as soon as I got in the house, and Epona and Shah agreed to make it a late supper. They arrived at around 9.30pm, so the pork had 3 hours before we ate it, and if it wasn't as good as it was at New Year, it was very tasty all the same. If we hadn't had enough blimmin' Chinese food at lunch, we served it with rice, and steamed broccoli & pak choi with oyster sauce.

I've been getting a few hits from foodies, so I'm going to start listing recipes. Here's my recipe for Chinese slow roast pork shoulder:
  • Mix together: 125ml each of soy sauce and dry sherry, 70ml water, 2 spring onions (chopped), 2 crushed cloves of garlic, some grated ginger (about an inch?).
  • Rub a pork shoulder with Chinese 5 spice and place it in a covered, close-fitting roasting dish.
  • Pour the liquid around the pork, put the lid on, and place in the oven at 150 degrees C (that's 300F).
  • Cook for 4-5 hours.
I didn't have 4-5 hours, so I actually whacked the heat up to 220C for 20 minutes to give it a start, then down to 150C for the rest of the time. It wasn't as tender as at New Year, when I gave it the full amount of time, but it was still flavoursome and juicy.

I've decided I'm also going to include a quick review of the things I'm reading/listening to/playing. So:

The Republic Tigers (link at top) are ... well, ok so far. I've not listened to them very much yet, so the jury's still out. They're quite MOR, despite considering themselves experimental indie. I find their music pleasant, rolling along in the background type stuff. They remind me of a Scottish band called Dogs Die in Hot Cars, only much more serious minded and lacking a sense of humour. It's the same mix of pop, tune-based music with electronica thrown in for good measure. I like it - I'm just not sure I like it enough to give it my full attention. The Nerve is a cracker, though, and I'll rate the album - Keep Color - at 6.5/10. A pleasing, if unexciting, buy.

Bayonetta is, I'm afraid, one of those games that drives me nuts. It's all about button-mashing sequences, over the top blood, puerile masculine sexual fantasy (to a ridiculous, pretty offensive degree in this case) and fighting, fighting, fighting. Don't get me wrong, I'm the first person to complain if there aren't enough battles in a game, but the best games, for me, have a good mix of battling, puzzles and story. Take God of War, for example - a fantastically beautiful game with a clever story, an interesting anti-hero, a good variety of moves and weapons, and excellent satisfaction on completion. Bayonetta, alas, doesn't have half GoW's charisma. The heroine is preposterous, the battles repetitive and all too frequent, the action moves too fast for appreciation, there are too many things to think about at once ... No, I'm just not a fan. I daresay this has a lot to do with the fact I'm just not very good at button mashing, but surely a game should have a bit more substance than endless battles? As for the sexual aspect - I like foxy women heroes, and appreciate a witch who uses her clothes as part of her spells, thereby showing considerable flesh - but touching herself inappropriately is a bit much. The whole leg-spreading thing is tiresome, too. I'll give the game 5/10.

That's it for now. Oh - one bit of exciting news is that Janus has been offered a job in Sheffield. This is great news! Badger has a job in Manchester, so it means they can both move down south together and not be apart. We'll miss her loads, but I can't wait to visit and explore a new city. It's the end of an era, and the start of something brand new. Hurrah.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010


Location: Snug and warm at home
Mood: Smug and warm. Also tired.
Listening to: The Story (can't seem to get enough of Leddra at the moment)
Reading: Look, Taste is quite a long book, orright?
Playing: 3D monopoly.

Today I went skiing. The last time I went was last year, when the sun shone o-so brightly. The sun, alas, was not shining at all today and it was very cold. I think a -17C wind chill is cold in anyone's book. Horizontal snow that cut the eyelids completes the picture - although, to be fair, this was only at the end of the day.

Epona gave me a lift up to Glenshee as Keith the Land Rover had a flat tyre - again. We met up with Phid and scooted down merrily down Sunnyside - the green run just above the café. I say merrily, but it really wasn't, for me. Much to my disgust and disappointment, I seem to suffer from excruciating pain in my Achilles tendons when I ski. My feet also feel like the bones are being crushed and wrung like an old dishcloth. This happened last year, and I thought it might be my boots so I went back to the wonderful Banks in Perth and got them lengthened. Unfortunately, it appears there's nothing wrong with the boots at all. It's just my feet. My Achilles tendons are pretty short, my calves are enooooormous, I'm not skiing fit, and my feet naturally turn outwards, which means they don't like being straightened. I get terrible pins and needles when doing the elliptical machine at the gym, so it's no wonder they don't like ski boots. Anyway, despite all this I managed to work out a way of enjoying my skiing. It meant poor Phid and Epona had to wait for me a few times, but, basically, I'd just do a run, take my boots off and stretch out, then re-boot and off I'd go. A faff, but much better than causing myself agony. And it really is painful. Basically, it feels like crap. Cramp, I mean. Crap cramp. Even now, at 11pm, my Achilles tendons are still sore to the touch.

But enough. There's always something wrong with me, physically, and either you let it stop you or you suck it up, make the best of it and carry on. I hate having anything that affects me cause issues with others, but Phid and Epona were very patient. Also, Phid helped me out a lot by falling off a button lift 4 times, giving me loads of time to de-boot and stretch as I waited at the top. Very decent of her.*

I had 2 falls. The first was just due to poor visibility, my carelessness and my ski hitting something under the snow (which, I have a suspicion, was more snow). No big deal. The second was more fun. Epona went over a little jump, landed, then fell over. I decided it would be one hell of a coup if I managed to land the jump and no shame if I fell like she had - so over I went. Yeeee-eeeees ... I didn't exactly land it. And I discovered my knees are nearly as flexible as they were when I was 21. Ouch.

It was a fun day. In total we did about 3 hours skiing, which was just about perfect for me. I'm hoping to do more skiing this year than last. My Achilleses definitely eased up a bit after I'd been skiing for a while, suggesting it's more a case of tight and shortened tendons than a boot issue, so the more I do it the better.

Back at home, Fisher had a mug of tea ready for Epona and me. I had a wonderful hot bath, then she cooked me penne and cheese with pancetta and peas (serious lack of veg in my diet today!), which was exactly what I wanted. She is great. So is Baffie, who is curled up at my feet right now.

Happy today.

*The lift was a bastard. It shot out of the trap, down a steep hill, dragging you out like Ben Hur behind a runaway chariot. Then it stopped at the bottom, so you sailed into the pole face first. Then it shot off again, lifting you clear off the ground (if you're Epona's size) or causing you to wobble violently and fall down. This happened to me, but I managed to snow plough adequately on my second attempt. Credit to Phid for plugging away. I'm not sure I would have tried it 4 times.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Happy New Year People!

Location: In bed, wrapped up in a duvet, with the old electric heater on.
Mood: Slightly despairing.
Listening to: Picking Oranges
Reading: Taste: The Story of Britain Through Its Cooking
Playing: Revisiting TimeSplitters 2 on PS2

Fuck. Ing. Hell.

Woke the morning to a very miserable Fisher, who'd gone downstairs to discover the heating isn't working. This happened at exactly the same time last year, again on a public holiday, and again meaning we had to wait 3 or 4 days before getting someone in to fix it. We have to freeze until Tuesday. Is this reasonable? I think not. And when I say freeze ... it's currently -2 degrees C outside, at 12.35, so I can only predict that the temperature will get considerably less balmy as the day progresses. The night should see a drop to at least -7. For those on the other side of the pond, the conversion to silly fahrenheit is as follows:
-2C is 28.4F
-7C is 19.4F

This may not seem all that bad, in comparison to the -40 I've heard tell can hit certain parts, but I'd like to point out that most of you lot seem to follow the example of the second little pig and build your houses out of twigs, with rooms that are easy to heat and installed with heating systems that were created a mere few decades ago. Beautifully warm and functional (despite your dodgy electric circuits and bafflingly rubbish dishwashers), with sizable rooms and modern luxuries such as electric light switches that don't spark alarmingly each time you switch them on. I, on the other hand, am the proud and loving possessor of a house built some time in the 18th century by people who had no problem combatting the cold by setting fire to each other and sharing small spaces with cattle. If you're a little more fastidious than this, it turns out the house is quite hard to heat. Not only that, but if you bought the house from some eco-friendly Buddhists who, though pleasant, are not very bright, you may discover they've installed geo-thermal heating ... which is both unreliable and expensive. At least, this system seems to be. When faced with low temperatures outside it goes into a dizzy panic, believes the whole world must surely be in the throes of a nuclear winter and that we're all going to die, then faints in terror. It takes a degree of expertise to be able to know just where to thrust the smelling salts - expertise that I certainly don't have (I've only just mastered switching it on), and that even clever Fisher can't deal with. At least she has an idea of what might be wrong. She says it's probably the thermostat, which we had replaced this time last year, and is obviously shite. If it is - and if it's broken within a year - she's going to have a little stroppy-strop and tell the engineers it's bloody not good enough and it was clearly a faulty part. Meanwhile, I'm huddled in bed, she's pootling about resembling a bright pink Michelin man in her 18 layers (the top one of which is a bright pink fluffy jumper), and I'm busy contemplating alternatives to shivering it out. We have 3 days to wait. We could throw ourselves on the mercy of our friends, which I am very loath to do. They've all just finished their holidays, are going back to work feeling crabby and depressed, and have only just got rid of us anyway. Also, we have Baffie and Bridie, who aren't welcome in certain flats (owing to landlords - not friends) and cause allergies to other pals. So friends aren't a very comfortable option.

We could throw up our hands and head off to some flashy pants hotel. This would surely be the most fun option, but Christmas has placed a strain on the coffers - as usual - and I don't want to go all budget at this time of year. Budget hotels are rarely pleasant in sunny weather. When escaping the freezing wastes they're a definite no-no. Also, Fisher and I agree that we've overindulged to a ridiculous extent this year. My attempts at weight loss have been larfable, and with New Year providing no excuse not to be resolved, it seems foolhardy to head off to a swanky establishment with lavish meals provided as part of the package. So, on the whole, this is a tempting but inadvisable option.

It seems our only recourse is to stick it out. Gah! Unfortunately, because the coldest part of the whole house is the kitchen, neither of us is going to want to cook - so we'll probably end up going out anyway, getting fat and dying of a heart attack. Or is that overly pessimistic? Sorry - must be the hypothermia setting in. Even wrapped up in bed I'm starting to feel my face getting numb.

But this is a sad opening entry of the new decade - especially as the last one ended so merrily. Let me give you a run down.

We had the whole family come for Christmas. Fabulous to see everyone, and there were a lot of laughs. Of course it was hectic, with lots of meals to prepare and plan, but everyone pitched in and it was a lot less frantic than it could have been.

Once everyone had gone back to their homes we began preparing for the second wave. Hogmanay would see us host 11 for a sit down Chinese banquet. Guests were: Epona, Shah, Kai and Ina from the Glen, Janus, Badger, Pro, Koi, and Champaign Charlie - who was over for the Christmas holidays and cadged a lift up from Dumfries with Epona and Shah.

This is what I cooked:

Bao - stuffed with haggis, for that Scottish touch. I don't think they worked as they were meant to as they weren't nearly fluffy enough - but I had good reports.
Gyoza - courtesy of the lovely marvellous Badger, who made them with his usual expertise.
Prawn toast - courtesy of Ken Hom and Tesco. Cop out - but tasty.

Main Courses:
Peking Duck - with wild duck shot by Shah, homemade pancakes (not great. Too thick and tough) and homemade plum sauce (tart!).
Slow roast Chinese pork - delicious! Rubbed with salt and 5 spice, then roasted in a tight, covered dish while steeped in sherry, soy sauce, spring onions, ginger, spot of sugar, garlic, for 5 hours at 150. Mmmm. So good.
Stir fry prawns with squid rings in ginger and sherry - not sure I tasted this one!
Chinese beef stew - brisket in soy sauce, star anise, sherry, spring onions, lots of water and simmered for 2 hours - excellent! The brisket was much more tender than I imagined, and even if it produced a lot of fat, it wasn't hard to skim off and the taste was wonderful. We had a lot of this left over and had it last night for supper. Yumster.
This was all served with boiled rice and stir fry veg.

Lemongrass sorbet, made by Fisher, and ginger tuille biscuits made by me.

We finished it all off with a very un-Chinese cheese board, and accompanied it all with shedloads of booze. I have to say, I was horrified with how much I drank over the course of the night. We didn't get into bed until 4am and I was very much hammered. I think this had something to do with how quickly I was drinking. There was a lot of getting up and down for all the different dishes, and in between I'd just neck back whatever glass was in front of me. So - yeah - the following day was somewhat painful, and it was a good lesson. From now on I shall try and drink more slowly.

New Year's Day was spent in painful, lazy fashion. We did all manage to drag ourselves out into the snow to walk the pooches - and were promptly caught by Shah and invited in for a dram. I'd just started to feel less hungover, so accepted a "very weak" G&T ... which was so far from weak it wasn't even funny. I had to empty a full can of tonic into it to make it drinkable. As for the boys - they asked for small, very small, drams of whisky, and got triples. We drank incredibly slowly, drawing our drinks out for at least an hour and enjoying the chat, then went home and collapsed in front of Dr Who.

Everyone left yesterday, leaving Fisher and me to revel in our quiet house. We went to the gym in the evening, where I ran 5k then did 20 minutes on the elliptical machine, ensuring I burned at least 500 calories. My knees are feeling a bit ropey at the moment, but I'm ignoring them and hoping their complaints go away. Always a sound solution, I feel.

And now we have no heating, and I think 1.52pm is probably pushing it for being in bed - no matter how much I tell myself it's a heat-conserving exercise. So I shall leave you, wishing everyone who reads these words a very happy new year and hopes for greatness to come.