drEAming, general chit chat, mEAndering, out and about

chef of the year – cook off…

I had an unusual and exciting day on Tuesday.  I should have been at work but booked the day off at the last-minute and headed off to Birmingham with my OH for the day.  We met my younger daughter and granddaughter down there at Birmingham University College for the grand final of the Anchor Care Homes Chef of the Year competition.

Our son-in-law works as a chef in one of the Anchor homes and was one of the seven finalists in the competition and we had been invited to go and cheer him on.

Getting into Birmingham was a bit of an ordeal and we passed the turning we required a couple of times ending up firstly in Solihull and then Edgbaston both on the south side when we actually wanted a street just off the North of the centre!

The competition was stiff and the conditions tough too.

It was held in one of the training rooms at the University and each participant only had a preparation surface of about 3 square feet plus a hob, the ovens did not have a temperature gauge (so a bit of guess-work required) and there was a severe lack of spoons and other useful pieces of equipment.  It was the first time they had been in this kitchen and so had no time to get familiar with it or the equipment on offer.

The two course meal had to be appropriate to feed an elderly resident in one of the care homes and had to be both nutritious and fall within a strict budget as well as being imaginative but not over the top – no Heston Blumenthal creations!  Each meal had to be presented 3 times – one plate for the judges, one for the photographer and one suitable for a resident on a dysphagia diet so the chosen menu had to be adaptable to make as a pureed version.

The whole 2 hour competition and then the judging afterwards was filmed and shown live on Facebook which made it even more tense.

Whilst the judging was underway we got to taste the food that had been photographed.  As I am vegetarian I headed straight for the puddings and skipped the main meals that were mainly meat or fish.  This was the only vegetarian option made by the only female chef.

Son in law had made a beautiful creamy Creme Brulee but unfortunately it had curdled slightly just at the bottom due to the difficult conditions and no doubt lost him a few marks but it still tasted heavenly.

The winner was one of those chocolate puddings with a melted centre, equally delicious – oops sorry in my haste to taste I forgot to get a snap of the winning dish!

Sadly son-in-law (2nd from the left) did not win but he did a tremendous job and everyone was a winner.

Little L was so good throughout and kept saying ‘that’s my daddy cooking’ – you can tell who stole the show!

She was the only child there and in fact the University security staff had to be persuaded to let her in.

She brought her own brand of ‘Granny’ and Mr Fox with her to watch!

When it was all over we headed for the nearest coffee bar to relax and then just had time for a wander through the Grand Central shopping centre on New Street.

Birmingham is a very vibrant city and has come a long way from the Birmingham I remember back in the 70’s when we visited from Cheltenham.  The architecture was particularly interesting to us.

 

It was fascinating to see shops that we would never have up here in Huddersfield… 

in particular I liked the pop up Ice Cream roll shop where they shaped and froze down ice cream mixed with fruits on a flat cold metal plate and then cut and served this in rolls.

The Killer cereal cafe also caught my eye…

with their vast range of very unhealthy but colourful boxes of cereals to choose from…

and the Not Dogs vegetarian hot dog stall…I know I could not live in a city now full-time but it was nice to go for the day and experience the hustle and bustle and see different shops I didn’t know existed – but at the end of the day I was glad to leave it all behind.

In comparison to the revamped and impressive shopping and city centre we stopped off at the Tamworth Motorway services for a drink on the way home and found it to be really run down since our last visit a number of years ago and due to the heavy rainfall that evening came complete with puddles of water all over the seating area from the leaking roof.  They had large recycling bins against the walls for customers to scrape their unwanted food into which probably added to the very unpleasant smell that permeated throughout the place – absolutely dire.

In all though it was a pleasant change from going to work and I look forward to Son-in-law being part of next years competition.

 

 

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celebrations, drEAming, fEAsting, general chit chat, mEAndering, out and about

on safari…

How lucky were we today with the weather.

We had arranged to meet at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park near Doncaster to celebrate Little L’s third birthday (which is actually Tuesday) and of course my elder daughter and partner’s 1st Wedding Anniversary with as many of the family that could make it – my sister, hubby and daughter, my brother and mum, younger daughter and her partner – twelve of us in all – I think.

If you remember a year ago our elder daughter was married in Scotland near to our cottage on the Castle Kennedy estate where her granddad was once head gardener.  We had a lovely sunny day then and it stayed fine for us today –

Castle Kennedy Gardens

see more pictures here.

I cannot believe it is a year since we were celebrating their marriage and putting on such a big event – at least todays event was more manageable once we had all the family in one place!

We eventually found each other in the Lion car park (thank goodness for mobiles – though I mistakenly rang my sister-in-laws number instead of my brothers – she is in Spain – costly mistake!) and headed for the picnic area taking up 3 picnic tables to have our lunch.  Of course isn’t it always the case that everyone else’s picnic always looks inviting!  My brother had taken a full Sunday lunch for himself (not a roast but an individual Quiche with new potatoes and salad) his cool bag was larger than anyones!

 

We had all the trimmings as one should for a little girls 3rd birthday with a wild life theme – a pretty flamingo dress, raspberry jelly, a jungle table-cloth, animal paper hats, animal paper plates,

pink flamingo straws,

a monkey and

a monkey chocolate cake with 3 candles.

Given the windy conditions it is a miracle we ever got them alight!

With my family it is difficult snapping a photo of us all together at one time so as usual some of us are missing on this photo and so are the paper hats that everyone was made to wear!

After lunch we followed the trail around the park to see the Leemar…

Tigers…

and my favourites – the Giraffes…

 

 

Finally a much needed cup of tea in the Masai cafe to revive our feet and a final wave goodbye to the animals.

And all too soon the end of a perfect day (isn’t life just so exciting when you are only 3!) – after a quick head count to make sure that no-one had been left behind or eaten by a wild animal and a few Polaroid selfie shots with all the family this time – elder daughter and partner then drove off into the sunset to spend their anniversary night in a more romantic setting of a hotel in the dales – needless to say the family will not be joining them – though I did suggest it LOL!

 

mEAndering, open gardens, out and about

eat, beach, sleep, repeat…

We had quite an eventful weekend looking after my granddaughter and my mother, now affectionately known as Great Granny,  me being Granny now of course!  We had already planned to stay with my mum last weekend but in the middle of the week we received an SOS call from my daughter asking if we could look after Baby L (now little L due to the growth spurt) for two days at the weekend due to staff shortages.  So nothing else for it but to take both on at once whilst staying in my mum’s apartment.

 

On Friday I took the train as planned to Eaglescliffe, just outside Yarm in North Yorkshire, and mum met me on the station, then after off loading my bags at her apartment we took a taxi to Teeside Park to do a bit of chatting, lunching and shopping.

 

On Saturday morning we were joined by my husband who had driven up collecting our granddaughter little L on the way.  We headed off to nearby  Saltburn by the Sea for the day.  It took us a while to park as the weather was so hot everyone had the same idea to go to the seaside.

We finally got a spot in the car park down by the sea and then took a ride on the Cliff Tramway which goes up the steep cliff side, 102 feet above sea level, into the town centre so we could find a place for lunch.  We had a ploughman’s in my favourite cafe a little Deli called Real Meals.

Saltburn has that quaint British seaside feeling – it is a Victorian Spa town with amazing iron work verandas along the shop fronts.  I always find I get a strong feel good factor when I am there.  You will note the lack of pictures but holding on to a 3-year-old and a 91-year-old does not allow for much photo taking.

After lunch we strolled along by the shops then made our way back down the hill to the bottom of the cliff by road – bad move – it is extremely steep for both the push chair and a ninety-one year old – in fact I am not sure who was clinging on to who in the end!

Reaching the bottom we then decided to catch the little train that runs along the valley bottom through the pleasure grounds ending at the tea rooms and Italian Gardens.  I had no idea any of this existed and it was quite exciting exploring the windy paths and hidden corners.  We skipped the tea rooms having just had lunch but did treat ourselves to an ice cream each.

  We walked back so that we could take Little L on the swings and slide along the way.

After this we just had time to fit in a bit of playing time with a bucket and spade on the beach by the pier and find a cup of tea in the nearby cafe for my mum together with a take away pensioners fish and chip tea.  So everyone was happy but I must say I did feel a little worn out trying to cater for two opposing age groups.

On Sunday I was woken early by guess who springing out of bed like a Kangaroo and wide awake saying – ‘Hello granny are we going to play’?

After building bricks and getting the whole ‘chocolate bunny’ family sorted in the Sylvanian Family house we had a trip over to Bedale for lunch and then went round the corner to Crakehall a beautiful little English village with expansive village green on which stands the church.

At the far end is Crakehall Hall and the owners of this beautiful house had opened their gardens to the public for charity.

 

It was a glorious day again but with a slight breeze and we wandered around admiring the plants and taking photos.  This hidden secret garden was my favourite with the fluffy yellow Alchemilla Mollis mixed with Lavender and Delphiniums – a classic country garden.

We came across a tree swing in the Orchard and then ‘wow’ a trampoline – Little L had a fab time on this while Great Granny headed once again for the tea tent and a sit down.

After more tea and cakes we dropped off Little L back with mum and Great Granny back at her apartment and then drove back to our own home exhausted but relieved it had all gone quite so well and everyone seemed to have a lovely time.

back soon x

 

 

 

 

drEAming, general chit chat, mEAndering, out and about

weekend plans…

By the time you read this on Friday morning I will be on the train North to Yarm where I will be spending the weekend with my mum – OH will drive up and join us on Saturday but Friday is just mum and me time.  Also joining us on Saturday for the rest of the weekend (which wasn’t part of the original plan but childcare was urgently needed) is baby L my granddaughter – no longer a baby and soon to be three.  How time flies!

I will have an almost three-year old and a 91-year-old to entertain – I think perhaps a day in nearby Saltburn by the sea will satisfy both age groups – the Cliff lifts, the little train, the park, the pier, the donkeys and a stroll around the lovely little town centre – oh and two vegetarian cafes.  I am just hoping we have good weather.

 

 

Have a great weekend x