Friday, 29 August 2014

An Innocent Abroad?

Sugar bowl and milk jug set.
Well, Liz's Birthday is now done and dusted and has been pronounced a success even though this weekend in Ireland is NOT a Bank Holiday, so that she does not get the '3 day break' around the big day as she did in UK. We managed to stretch it out to 2 days by having the special meal (we each cook that day for the other, the meal of their choice) on the 2nd day. Now that the presents are opened and revealed, I can shamefully admit to a serious outbreak of being a numpty, blundering around in the internet like an innocent abroad, like a country bumpkin in the big city!

A bit of fun - these napkins.
I will happily admit to being just no good at that sort of thing and would normally have Liz do it, like I plead with her to do all the actual ordering and talking to the waiter when we are in France. These though, were gifts to her, so I was on my own. I was grand as long as I was in familiar territory; I started off with a few bits (music, books) from Amazon, paying in Euros and knowing that the stuff was coming from within the EEC. It was after that it all started to fall apart - we 'needed' a certain body lotion from Van Cleef and Arpels ("First") and we'd failed to get it in town; the lady had advised that Galway City might have it. Pah! (says I) The internet surely, what could possibly go wrong?

That is how I ended up with our friendly postman, Ger' , strolling up our drive and demanding €17.69 in unpaid import duty one day and another €17 a few days later. I had managed to knowingly buy the body lotion from Florida (!) and some 'stocking fillers' with knitting pics on, un-knowingly also from the USA. I had no idea these costs would occur - I thought I'd paid my whack including the rather punitive shipping costs. Lesson learned, I guess - either don't let me loose on the internet with a debit card, or at least make sure I keep to the EEC. To add insult to shameful injury, the top had also come off the lotion in transit and some of the gloop had leaked out into the manufacturers posh packaging, but Liz has most of it and thinks she can rescue the situation.

On a happier note, one of the boxes which I thought might be a Liz present, turned out to be our 'MAQS' anti-varroa mite hive medication, so we can use that on Monday AND a gift from Mazy which we thought had gone astray, turned out to have been left for us by the courier in one of the pharmacist shops in Balla-D. We assume the courier was going there for his next drop and had failed to find us.

River Trout in creamy sauce with lemon and cucumber
For the Birthday meal itself we went with a salmon recipe out of our much-loved Irish Cookery book by Theodora Fitzgibbon. We had been given two big superb mountainy river trout by Anne and Simon along with three plump cucumbers in part payment for our pig-wrangling. We do not know a lot about Theodora F but she is a well known food writer and, from this book, more a collector of recipes, than a chef per se, and given to name-dropping her contributors. The book is nothing like a modern 'celebrity chef' book; there are no glossy colour pics, no shots of lady chef looking alluring as she licks chocolate sauce off her fingers, and no snappy "Naked Chef" style title. It is a soft back with a 3-colour cover and the pictures within are old monochrome period scenes of Ireland; St Stephen's Green in 1860, Cork Market c 1900 and so on. But the recipes we have tried out of it have always been excellent and this salmon recipe (used on one of these big trout) was a triumph which will go into our own 'repertoire' collection, simple but delicious. The trout's body cavity was filled with parsley, the outside rubbed with butter and cream poured over. It was baked for 10 minutes per pound, then diced cucumber flesh (minus seeds and skin) and lemon juice were added. It was well basted and returned, lidless, to the oven for another 15 minutes. Liz was worried that the lemon juice would curdle the cream, but no, it created a lovely, tangy, lemony sauce which was pure delight to mop up with the steamed, floury potatoes and the ruby chard. Excellent.

The Ramones on the front lawn
Meanwhile, we now have the lambs fully bucket-trained so that we can get them into the routine of being led out of the East Field onto the front lawn in the morning and then home again in the evening. We are keeping them in the wire-fenced field overnight and while we're not around for now; we are still not 100% sure they couldn't squeeze between the rails of the post and rail if they had a mind to do it. When you sit on the terrace table and watch them through the gaps between the rails, they sometimes seem scarily small and the gaps very wide. We may suffer a confidence failure and add strands of 'bull wire' half way up each gap on their side of the fence. It will not spoil the look of the thing, but might make us feel more secure.

The lambs are enjoying the new space - there will be grass there untouched by sheepy mouths for almost 2 years and there is good browse to be had from the big trees (ivy) and the hedge and bank. They also seem to enjoy gazing at the rabbits  in their runs and to wander into the currently disused keet run for a lie down when their bellies are full. They also come and look curiously at any human activity near their fence, such as when I was planting a load of daffodil bulbs this morning. They are lovely gentle things and I find them charming.

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