Meeting the new community

“Hello, how are you? I’ve seen you out walking.  Are you new?

Yes. My name is Judy.  We have just moved here to be near our daughter. I try walk each day.”

This is the conversation I practised on my early walks in the countryside around our new home. I didn’t use it often because around here there is a lot of land between any individual I meet.  I’ve also learned to respect the fact that the long term residents are reluctant to share their name,.  Using the normal New Yorker’s phrase, “Hi! I’m Judy — where are you from?” would, I think, seem rudely invasive.  I’ve lived here in the UK so long that even when people ask me that question I find it startling.  The Brits, I notice,  are just as eager to know where I’m from, but their questioning slides in sideways, with a faint turn of the head as if they’re aiming their good ear at me, and their eyes go into an  upwards corner as they ask: “Er do I detect a slight mid Atlantic accent?”  or, even more courageously, “you’re not originally from these parts, are you?”  It takes longer to get the answer they’re looking for, far longer than a New Yorker would be able to bear. A name takes even longer.

“The people are there, and they do care.  But you won’t see them,” says Maggie, a relative newcomer herself (only been here 20 years).

That is why, as I puffed up to the summit of a hill, gasping for air in my overworked lungs, I was surprised to see an old Landrover rattle towards me and stop.

“I’m putting the cows in the field up therr.” “You should be all right, though,” he added.  The voice came from a half opened mud-splattered window, and belonged, obviously, to the farmer whose land I was trespassing over – middle aged, any ounce of fat on him had been worked off years ago in the tough tough life of sheep and cattle farming.

“Oh, I didn’t know cows were dangerous.”

“The mums are, from April to August – I’ve been kicked down more than once – and I’m the one feeding them!”

The conversation continued as he talked through the many public rights of way across his territory. “Want to see it from the top? Get in and I’ll show you.

[I thought I WAS at the top having panted up a mountain so steep I could only take steps half a hiking boot long.] The ride in his beat-up seatbelt-less vehicle lurched over roadless fields, hurtled full speed at a fence (his sister’s boundary) and braked in time, as the running commentary never stopped:  “yer not allowed on this road, but there’s a road marker down this hill – see him?  Follow the furry trees to the bottom and you’ll end up at the fire station.”  He continued showing paths where there were no paths – “straight ahead therr and go down into the forest on steps cut into the earth or……” he jerked the car around and sped to a gate lurching to stop just in time.  “There are two ways down from yerr” he said.  But I wasn’t listening.  I was just gasping at the breath-taking view all around me, every direction.  When he noticed, he rolled the car forward more precariously than ever so that I could see an even wider view.  “We’re on top of the world yerr,” he said.  Thirty seconds later he was off again, and as he talked I learned more about what a farmer needs to know to run singlehandedly the acres of land criss-crossed with public rights of way.  Farming and animal husbandry, yes, but also a midwife, plumber, builder, chemist, soil expert, market awareness, electrician, mechanic, environmentalist, legally alert to whatever the National Farmers’ Union commanded, crime prevention, and much more, as well as reacting to all at the whims of the weather (last winter one of his barns collapsed under six feet of snow, followed by a drought in the spring.) Nursery songs about “High Ho the derry oh” farmers had nothing to do with Reality Farmers.    So by the time he left me on the path exactly where he’d picked me up, I thanked him warmly in jaw-dropping awe, overwhelmed by his generosity of spirit.  “My name is Judy”, I said.  “Urrrr” he replied and dashed off down the hill in a scurry of dust and leaves.

 My Favourite Cookies

Basically from Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book, well over 50 years old. 

Have seen these called Mexican Wedding Cakes, or Russian Teacakes, and my friend from Czech Republic sent these to me one Christmas, so call them anything you’d like. I tried “Snow Cookies” but that wouldn’t be very appropriate for Blog Readers south of the Equator, in blazing hot drought. I gave some to Nick the Postman.  Some will go to the garage when I take the car in for a check up.  And of course, a box of them will go to the farmer at the top of the hill.

In your favourite mixer, add 8 ozs ( 230 gms, 1 cup) butter, 4 tablespoons ( 50 gms, 1/2 cup) icing (confectioners’) sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 9 ¼  oz ( 270 gms. 2 ½ cups) plain flour, ¼ teaspoon salt, and 4 ozs  105 gms (3/4 cups) finely chopped nuts.  [If you don’t feel like chopping them, just put them in your food processor before adding other ingredients.]

Chill dough, even for 20 minutes. Roll in balls about the size of a large grape.  [This is a good time to open freeze them if you don’t have time for baking.]

Moderately hot oven  (200 C, or 400F ).  Bake 10 minutes or so.  They don’t spread, but are very delicate when hot.  You may have to eat the broken ones (what a shame!).

Tip gently into a roasting tin full of icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar) and roll them until completely covered.  Carefully place them on a rack to cool.


Then roll them again in the sugar when they are completely cold.  .


Makes about 4 dozen one-inch cookies. [Note: photos are of a double recipe.] 

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American Thanksgiving in a Non American Country

Well, we had roast turkey, sausages, gravy, apple-celery-bacon cornbread stuffing with cashews and cranberries, Amish sweet potatoes with apple and mace, mashed potatoes, squash with crystallised ginger, green beans almondine, broccoli, cranberry-orange relish, the obligatory creamed onions (which, I understand, is an Upstate New York addition), and mince-peach pie, apple-cherry pie, and of course, pumpkin pie.  The sweet corn, nestled in a glass casserole dish in the microwave never got heated, never got served. Corn, anyone?

This of course is not the whole menu.  I should have put baby marshmallows in the sweet potatoes, crushed lemon boiled sweets [candies] in the squash, condensed mushroom soup and French fried onion rings with the beans.  I should have served a “salad” of cottage cheese, mayonnaise and crushed pineapple fixated in a mold of lime gelatin.  But I didn’t want to scare the foreigners any more than was necessary.

I tend to feel a bit weird at this time of year. Yes, I’ve lived in many countries, and, yes, I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving in all of them.  But it has always been with other Americans.  When it was just me, it felt weird to say to people, “Er, uh, I’m having a Thanksgiving dinner, [mutter] national thanksgiving in USA, [mutter mutter] wondering if you …….”  I felt so exposed, so Other, to the people I was trying to understand and be part of.  I don’t know why I felt so strongly that the tradition should be celebrated.  It seemed stupid to make such a case for it. It was only me, after all. I tried NOT celebrating it, saying “oh hang it, let our children be brought up British and be done with it.”  But the niggling empty loneliness persisted.  Perhaps it was important because it was the only day in the year that I had a right to declare my American-ness.  Of course my Yorkshire husband was naturally supportive of the event, not only for the food, but for my sake.

But I’m glad I persevered. This year, the weird feeling was brief.  Daughter Number One married an American and celebrates Thanksgiving in California.  And now I have another daughter’s family nearby – a half American and two quarter Americans, which make up to one more whole American, doesn’t it?  And, after deep reflection about selective additional guests, and with heart in mouth, I phoned.  They probably do not know the joyful relief they gave me by saying yes to the invitation.

The evening began with the two quarter Americans, aged 9 and 11, playing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on their newly acquired trumpet and saxophone. I gave my little introductory speech, that Thanksgiving was one of the few national (cross-religion) days of thanks in the world, that it commemorated the Puritans who sailed from Europe, on The Mayflower headed for Jamestown, but blown off course and landed in autumn in what is now Massachusetts; how the Wampanoag Indians helped them survive that winter, and the first Thanksgiving with Indians and Puritans together.  And how the composer of the performed piece, Sarah Josepha Hale, wrote an open letter to President Lincoln requesting that he declare a national day of thanks.  Which he did.

It takes longer to write about it than it actually took on the night. The whole talk only lasted half a glass of prosecco and a couple of cheese straws. One of the guests had seen the replica  of the Mayflower in Bristol, and another had even done a painting of it, which brought great delight to me.

It was a glorious evening. So convivial was the gathering, in fact, that I forgot to take pictures for the blog.  I also forgot another tradition – that each person had the opportunity to say what they’d been thankful for this year.  But the positivity did come out in the evening’s bubbling conversations.  One was relieved gratitude that we had a National Health Service (after hearing about crowd-funding pleas to finance chemo therapy for a sick woman in the States).  Another, unlike my Puritan ancestors, was the freedom to worship – or not to – as we chose.  We are blessed.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.


What do YOU do with left-over turkey?

Mole Poblana Guajolote

A sort of Turkey casserole

Here’s a recipe adapted from my Better Homes and Gardens Mexican cookbook (1977).  It’s great for all the tiny scraps that come with a Roast Turkey dinner. …. I served it the night the Bits of Americans and their English Dad came for supper.  [The two quarter Americans had fish fingers.]  Out of the four adults: one ate the casserole as served, one added salt, one found it too spicy, and one lavished the serving liberally with tabasco sauce.  So, take your pick.

Grease a casserole dish (mine was 13” x 9”) and fill it with turkey, bits of bacon,  and cooked sausage left over from the Big Meal.  I didn’t try it, but cooked  vegetables could be thrown in, too.

Many different ingredients make an amazing blend of flavours. People, each different make an amazing community together

Chop a medium onion and a clove of garlic and saute them gently in 1 tablespooon oil.  Then, in a liquidiser/food processor, whizz together: 2 medium tomatoes or a can of chopped tomatoes, the cooked onion-garlic, 2 canned chopped jalepeno peppers, rinsed, seeded, ½ cup blanched almonds, OR 2 tablespoons ground almonds, 1/3 cup raisins, 1 six inch tortilla cut up, 2 tablespoons sesame seeds,  ¼ to ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper, ½  teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon crushed or ground fennel seed, ¼ teaspoon ground cloves, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, and ¼ teaspoon ground coriander.  Cover and process until smooth. Add about 4 cups turkey or chicken stock and 1 square unsweetened chocolate, melted.  Pour sauce over the turkey, ensuring all pieces are well coated

uncooked, checking all scraps are well covered


Bake uncovered in moderate oven until bubbly, about 44 minutes.


The mole may be fine as a VEGAN or VEGETARIAN dish. If you try it, just tap a note onto this website so that others can try.

Baked — doesn’t look much different, does it?

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Apple County Apple Country

They say that if a medieval Greek man wanted to propose marriage, all he had to do was to toss his Intended an apple. If she caught it, or even tried to catch it (let’s keep her options open as wide as possible here) she agreed to the union.  A powerful thing is the apple.  Can change a life forever.

I know I’ve written about apples before, but I just can’t help it this time.  Here I am in the middle of apple growing country right smack at harvest time, where there are veritable orchards of apples trundling down the narrow high-hedged lanes on their way to make Bulmers’ cider in Hereford. .

“But before Bulmers,” said new friend David, “every farm had its own orchard of cider apples.”  I had puffed my way to the top of his hill and was now sitting gratefully in the comfort of his kitchen.  David, the fourth of ten children, went out to work when he was very young and has worked on the land all his life .  “Before Bulmers”, he repeated, “each farm took their apples to the cider press.  Oh, that was a big day.  It took all day.  Near the press you have to have water to get the juices going.  This one was near a duck pond.  The horse would walk round, turning the huge stone that crushed the apples, and the juice would run into a trough to be caught and poured into their wooden barrels.  (That trough – it took some making because it was carved out of stone.)  They’d take the cider home and put it in the cellar, the coldest part of the house, where it would work [ferment]. All the bad was worked out in froth that would come out the top of the barrel as it was working.

drawing a picture of the barrel getting a tap

It made a little bubbling noise, nothing serious, and a little smell, nothing stinky though.  While it was working you couldn’t drink it – I don’t know what would happen to your insides if you did!  When it was working, all the bad was worked out too.  When it was ready to drink, they would turn the barrel on its end and bang in a tap.  The cider was a little foggy, not as clear as you get nowadays.” Farm workers would take a small gallon barrel to the fields. Lunch would be bread and cheese and cider.  That meant they could stay working on the land all day, “from morn til night” until their big meal in the evening.

And now here I sit surrounded by the gift of apples. I see them everywhere.  How can I resist the cardboard boxes and wooden crates along the wayside, begging to be taken home for free?  Or the loving gifts of apple juice left at our door from people’s own mini orchards?  Even the county symbol is an apple, for Heavens’ sake, and the very air is apple-scented.  There are tiny juicy Coxes, and voluptuously rounded Bramley cookers, shiny red eating apples with a blushing pink inside.   And when I think that these are only a few of the world’s 7500 varieties, just as lovely as the ones I now hold, I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t the serpent that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden.  It was probably the apple itself.  A powerful thing is the apple.  It can change history forever.  .

Apple Griddlecakes (Pancakes)

These are usually eaten for breakfast, but they made a good participatory lunch the other day. Guests have to be willing to hover around your kitchen, with a hot drink.  The pancakes must be eaten as soon as they’re done, otherwise they go rubbery.  Waiting nearby for them to slide off the spatula means that you get them hot and fresh.    To make the meal more substantial, pop a tray of sausages into the oven, to cook by themselves as you see to the pancakes. There are a few tricks to making pancakes even more successful.

In a largish bowl, mix together 4 ozs (115 grams, 1 cup) white flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 tablespoon sugar, and ½ teaspoon salt.

In another small bowl, peel, core, and dice/chop 1 tart apple. In a third bowl mix 8 – 12 tablespoons milk (I started with 8 but needed two more),  2 tablespoons melted butter or oil, and 1 egg. Beat these together well.

Heat your frying pan, or griddle. As it is heating, put the chopped apples into the flour mixture, coating the pieces well.  Then dump all the liquid into the dry ingredients in one great gollup.  Stir gently just until mostly moistened.  Do NOT beat.  Lumps are fine. 

The griddle is hot when you shake water onto it and the droplets bounce off in little balls. You might want to add a little oil to your skillet.  Then spoon the mixture into three or four puddles.  When bubbles come up, turn and cook them for a minute or so longer on the other side.  Eat immediately with butter, maple syrup or honey or jam.  (Note: in our family the best pancakes usually come out at the end – gloriously perfect, just when everyone is too full to eat any more.)

2 sides to the pancake



Roman apple cake, ready for apple-givers. See February 2017 for recipe


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Living in Limbo

I can find the Christmas plates, but not the base to the kettle.

I can find my Grandmother’s jewellery, but not my socks.

I can find 36 boxes of books, but two slow cookers have gone missing.

Taking the paper off cherished and almost-thrown-out possessions – an unknown packer treated all items of equal importance.. .


Long forgotten things tucked away out of sight for 40+ years offer new opportunities to think about them and their stories, even in our coffee-less, sock-less state. [Daughter Joy, now a blissful two doors away, rescued us with a working coffee pot…whew!] Random and completely out of order and out of place – because nothing has a place yet – each item demanding to be given a permanent resting home. A lot of decisions in a short time.

Looking at warmly familiar things in an unfamiliar environment, I’m startled at how old and worn my cookbooks have become, almost as if they had gone through a sped-up time machine I knew nothing of, and aged in the move from Bedfordshire to Herefordshire. Well, some of them are fifty years old. I just never noticed before.

This is a new experience, moving house after 4 decades living in another community, another county, another culture. The heart sinks. However can we build community when we know nothing of the life, the wants, the delights of the inhabitants around us? 

We’ve been warmly welcomed – Joy has made us a handbook with times of library, café, garbage collection, the names of everyone in the street, and much more. Biscuits, flowers, and cards have flowed in from beloved long standing friends as well as new neighbours in the street.  The living room decorator knew a heating specialist, and an expert on pond fish (a new experience), and a TV aerial expert.  But our house is not a home yet.  We haven’t yet arrived, and we haven’t yet left.  The learning curve is steep…..and exhilarating!

It’s my birthday. One of the ancient cookbooks uncovered was that of Mrs. Beaton’s Everyday Cookery.  Now faded blue, its hard cover bowed and edged in grey, the front decorated in red Vs by a toddler — the same daughter who now lives two doors away with her family.  I asked her to make Mrs. Beaton’s orange cake for the celebration..  The last time I tasted it was when I was heavily pregnant with the one who was now making it for me.  I placed it in a tin so that I could smuggle it into the Oxford hospital when I had the baby.  I didn’t want anyone to know of my cache; that would mean I’d have to share it, wouldn’t I? I used to get it out at strange hours of the night when sleep evaded, and revel in its simple flavour-bursting orangeness.  Joy made the cake a bit fancier by piercing the hot cake and pouring sweetened orange juice into it.  Served with pouring cream.  “Beautiful”, as the Brits say.  They are the only people I know who use visual adjectives to describe gustatory delights. [Cake photos by Joy Rickwood]


Orange Drizzle Cake

Line a 7 inch baking pan with baking parchment. Grease the sides.

In a mixer/food processor combing 6 ozs (175 gms ¾ cup) butter, 6 ozs (175 gms ¾ cup) sugar, 3 eggs, 8 ozs (220 gms 2 cups) plain flour, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder, and the grated rind of 1 orange and mix well.  When well combined, add the juice of one orange. Spread in prepared pan and bake in low moderate oven (around 350 degrees) for an hour.  The 7 inch cake pan will produce a cake two inches high.  If you are using a wider based pan, check for doneness earlier.   Pierce the hot cake all over and pour orange juice sweetened with icing sugar. If the juice slides off the sides, let the cake sit in it until all juice is absorbed.  When cool you can glaze with icing sugar mixed with a little milk or OJ.  Decorate with more grated orange rind.  My birthday cake came with rice paper flowers as well.


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A Community Farewell


Well, it had to happen eventually, didn’t it — time to leave this community. people who have welded themselves into our hearts, who know us well, have seen us in pajamas and no make up hanging up clothes, have lived through our tragedies and us theirs.

Friends who have shared the ghoulish parts of our lives, in confidence, who supported us through. Friends whom we awakened at 2 a.m. because our frozen water tank was about to flood the house, and had the knowledge to fix it – or anything else we couldn’t fix, day or night.  Friends who unwittingly bolstered our confidence on bad days, just by a greeting on the street.  Friends whom we knew were just there that anchored our souls.


Neighbours who’d sneak over to cut our hedge, weed our garden, or plant beautiful flowers in our borders while we were away.  Friends who were part of a larger community, and by knowing them we too were welcomed by their friends.  Neighbours who made our own street a special place to live, a community in itself.  Friends who prayed with us, stayed with us, and gave us confidence, comfort and a home.

Real human beings with their own loves– the butcher who won medals in ballroom dancing, the guy in the shop who was also a magician, the plasterer who could identify every bird song in our district, the nurse who cared for her husband all the way through his death, in their own home, the ex policewoman whose saxophone jazz melts the heart, the (probably) 12 year old who works from a shed in a redundant orchard and can fix any terrifying computer glitch I brought him.  All of them woven into a tapestry of love around us.

We arrived here 43 years ago, raw with fear from living in the fomenting revolution of Iran, not knowing a soul, not understanding the Bedfordshire accent nor its culture, penniless, with a three year old and a two week old baby. It has been a wonderful, wonderful adventure.  With deep, gut-wrenching sadness we say good by.

And hello to What’s Next?


Courgettes and Marrows

skin or unskinned?

August is the month when you lock your car for fear of being the recipient of yet another home grown courgette (zucchini) or marrow sneaked in on your back seat.

Here’s a totally Vegan dish that perks up the courgette considerably and probably a rather dull meal as well. I served this to a courgette-repellent family and they still love me. [Note: I seemed to have lost the photos of the end product, but it takes little imagination to visualise a cooked courgette!]

Heat oil in a frying pan. Add ½ teaspoon cumin seeds for a few seconds, until they start popping.  Add one chopped onion and a clove of chopped garlic.  When tender add a teaspoon of curry powder ½ teaspoon of coriander powder, ½ teaspoon  of ground turmeric powder, ½ teaspoon chilli powder or less) and saute until they smell cooked (just a few seconds).  Then add one courgette (zucchini) in cubes.  I did half with skin on, half without, but with skin on it keeps its shape better.  When tender, stir in about one tablespoon creamed coconut.  Season to taste. Nice with rice.

chuckling away in olive oil



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Shakers and Movers


‘Tis a gift to be simple, ‘tis a gift to be free, ‘tis a gift to come down where you ought to be” goes the song given to us by the Shaker communal society, with their simple shared property, celibacy, pacifist life. The tune was woven in and around Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring. But these “simple” immigrants who fled from persecution to America, gave the world the clothespeg (clothespin), dentures, the circular saw, mail-order seeds, condensed milk, sarsaparillas, apple peeler and corer, the flat broom, metal pen nib, revolving oven, window sash balance, circular stairs, a style of furniture copied by others, and many other inventions in architecture, food, agriculture, and tools.  Some members were fully qualified in more than one profession.

All Shakers had a six week rota of work, then a week off, revolved jobs, danced in their worship, and abounded in creativity. They took in orphans, planted and named a tree after each of them, and believed in perfection because their responsibility was to bring “a bit of Heaven to Earth.”

One of these orphans was Eldress Bertha Lindsey, who entered the community at the age of seven, died at the age of 93 and was one of the last surviving members of the Shaker Community. Bertha loved to cook, from the time she served up whole dinners of mud pies as a small child. She devoted her last years to writing about Shaker life. “I want people to know we did have fun,” she said, “and plenty of it”.


The Shakers! What a subject to write about while I’m in the thick of moving our home of forty-three years! I struggle to de-clutter the mounds of choking STUFF, with boomerang trips to the dump, forging new acquaintances there with staff I hardly knew existed.  And in this frenetic life my brain frequently snaps back to our visit to that simple, serene, beautiful Shaker Village in America, with its innovative practical living. Far simpler, easier, and peaceful than the point I’m getting to now, thinking that if I leave the door unlocked someone will enter and steal things so that I won’t have to make a decision about them.  I wonder if their uncluttered simplicity, a regular change of maintenance duties, and having every seventh week a holiday has anything to do with the Shakers’ rich heritage of creativity?


Eldress Bertha’s Rice Muffins

taken from Seasoned with Grace,  

I made these for a 6.30 a.m. breakfast meeting with my friend Gil.   For the Shakers, and many people in America, a muffin is a form of non-yeast bread, and is NOT a sweet cupcake.

Mix dry ingredients: 2 ½ cups (330 gms, 11 ½ ozs plain flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tsp salt, 5 teaspoons baking powder, ¾ cup (110 gms 4 ozs) cooked rice together. Mix wet ingredients: in a small bowl beat 1 egg, 1 ½ cups (350 ml. 12 fl ozs.) milk, 2 tablespoons melted butter.  Make a well in the centre of dry ingredients, add the wet all at once and mix just to moisten.  Batter might be lumpy.

Grease muffin cups and fill 2/3 full.  Bake at 400 detrees (hot) for 12 to 15 minutes, until light brown. Serve with  butter and lots of it. Makes 15 – 18 muffins.


Note: if your muffins stick to the pan, here’s a hint from Persia: wring out a cloth in cold water, place your metal pan on it.  The cold water will shrink the metal, thus pushing the food off the surface.  Works with any food, as long as the pan is metal.




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Community Beautifiers


Just look at these wonderful gates. They’re in Berkeley, California. The decorations are cut out of the metal – leaves of bog rosemary, blue oak, sugar bush, California Buckeye, California Maidenhair, and many more.  Rivers and trains, roads and tools are represented.  Looking at them you can see all of Berkeley life.

Names of the sculptor (Eric Powell, 2007) and his crew are also cut into the metal, for everyone to see.


And when the gates open, where do they lead? Not to a park, not to a museum, not to a garden, not any place of beauty, but to the City of Berkeley Corporation Yard.  Behind these gates stand the road sweepers, the garbage trucks, the vans that maintain the infrastructure of the city, as well as their fuel.  The yard has always been there, even when horses drew the carts, and there was a pig sty on site for the collected garbage.  So why should this amazing work of community art appear as an entrance to such a mundane establishment?  That’s what I asked the security guard on my 6 a.m. walk.  “We wanted something beautiful for our community, “he said, “to bring them close together”.


These gates always impress me. It is rare that we can see the names of artists who have carefully made our living environment beautiful.  I also enjoy seeing the whole-wall murals that tell of myth and history or how the Berkeley community began. Here is a wall of a simple grocery shop.  The mural was so vast that I couldn’t get back far enough to take the complete scene,  almost risked getting run over for the bits I did manage to take.  (Standing in the middle of a busy street is not good for one’s health.)


In England,  landscaping with bushes, trees and plants along the highways produce seasonal colour, and I often wonder who has planned it, and did they get any praise for it? Thousands and thousands of daffodil bulbs are planted by the river in Bedford and always bring a sigh of pleasure after a damp drab winter.

Personal contributions to public enjoyment come in the form of front gardens. What a delight it is to see them bursting with bloom!  When she was getting used to her new community our daughter Lizzie  carried pretty post cards with her, and when she saw  a lovely display,  she sent them a quick note through their letterbox: “Hi!  I just want to thank you for all the time you take to make your garden so beautiful for those who pass by.  It’s a true gift to the community.!”

Our friend Alan painted a dancing Snoopy on his garage door several decades ago, and it has been a joy to his community ever since .  A few years past he received a post card:  “I have looked at Snoopy for fifteen years, on my way to school.  I still smile when I see it.  I’m 32 now.”

Bless the community beautifiers. And bless the people who take the time to say how much they appreciate it.

Oatmeal Shortbread

As far as beautiful food is concerned, well, you’ve got me there.  My creative sculpturing skill received a deadening blow when I carefully made a fish-shaped fish pie with puff pastry, complete with puff pastry scales and an egg wash.  Verdict from those watching: it looked like a sick fox.  From then on, I try to let the food speak for itself.  What then could be more beautiful than a multi coloured fruit salad, sloshed with elderflower cordial (to keep it from browning), served with cream!  Here’s an oatmeal shortbread recipe to go with it.  I served this at an all-day finance meeting for SEEDS Creatives (check the website).

Into a food processor fling 8 ozs butter (1 cup, 230 grams), 2 ½ ozs brown sugar (1/2 cup, 75 gms ),  1 tsp vanilla,  5 ozs rolled oats (2 cups 160 gms) , ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda),  and 4 ozs plain flour (1 cup, 125 gms).  Process on low, building to high, until all is a smooth paste.  Spread evenly in a pan on baking parchment or waxed paper about the depth of your thumbnail and chill for at least 30 minutes.  Fork the batter all over, and cut into fingers.  Lay out on a baking tray about 1 ½ inches  or more ( 25 cms) apart.  Bake in a slow oven (about 325  160C) for 20 – 30 minutes.  Cool on tray before removing – they are fragile when hot.



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