Cookery Clutter Quest

How many cookbooks have you got? Do you (honestly) use them all, or are they propping up shelves and gathering dust, looking good but not not being used as they are meant to be?

We’ve bought, been given, scavenged loads of cookbooks over the years and we keep decluttering and giving them away (I wonder if they are being used in their new homes any more than they were in ours?) but we’re left with a core set that for whatever reason we choose to keep. I say for whatever reason because only a few of them are actually used for finding recipes so it seems pointless having them.

The Internet makes it so easy to look for recipe inspiration and I’m an avid Pinner (is that the right description of a Pinterest user?) so most of the ideas I find for cooking are stored on Pinterest. I’ve set myself the challenge (as usual – no deadline) to cook at least one thing from every book, magazine, leaflet that is on our kitchen shelf starting from 01/08/2018.

I’ve created a list (surprise, surprise) and I’ll add a photograph of the book, the finished dish and any notes I think may be helpful to anyone else using the book/trying the recipe. as I try each one.

To the Kitchen……




Meeting Ben

Back in May 2015 went on a tour of the Elizabeth Tower.

We were on a London Walk (not just for tourists – even though I lived in London for 15 years I found the walks fascinating) and the guide mentioned that if you contacted your MP they could arrange for you to tour the tower. I wrote to our MP, Andrew Smith (who has now stood down from his position as MP for Oxford East) and he arranged places on the tour for us. I believe the tours are only available to UK residents (don’t hold me to that, things may have changed since we went) and they are free to go on but at the moment the tours of Big Ben and the Elizabeth tower have been suspended until 2021 while refurbishment work is being carried out. When the tours are running again it can be a long wait from your request to being offered a date but it was worth it.

We climbed the 334 steps in stages, stopping on each floor for a chance to see more of the mechanics of the bell tower and clocks, including a chance to stand inside of the huge clock faces which was surreal. We got to the Belfry and stood, with earplugs and fingers in ears, next to Big Ben as 3pm struck.

As you would expect security on the tours is tight and you’re security checked before your place on the tour is confirmed, sadly no cameras are allowed in the tower. There were so many photographs I wish I could have taken, especially the amazing view over London from the Belfry but it was nice to enjoy the day without viewing things through a lens for a change.

Giving Blood

I made my 21st blood donation on the 8th August.

I was a late starter, and like a lot of people I thought about it for years but didn’t do anything. I made lots of excuses, when I was younger I told myself that my lifestyle (excessive drinking, hard partying etc) meant that they wouldn’t want my blood, then as I got older it was just something I never seemed to get around to.

My Father was a blood donor, I have no idea how many donations he racked up but I found an old donor card of his whilst sorting through some old boxes.


This Certificate is granted in recognition of the fact that Mr D Griffiths gave blood for the benefit of others. 

It seems obvious what the benefits are to other people when you donate blood, put simply you’re saving lives. The catalyst for me to stop thinking and start doing was when I started working for City Link (remember them?). As an Account Manager, on the road, I did a lot of miles in my car. The more I drove the more often I saw accidents on the road, and I remember looking at them as I drove past and thinking ‘there but for the grace of God….’

Like everyone else, the one thing I didn’t worry about was the availability of blood if I were ever to be in an accident – there’s always enough right? Wrong! The NHS needs  6,000 blood donations every day to treat patients in need across England. They need approximately 200,000 new donors every year, as some donors can no longer give blood and around half of current donors are over 45 (that’s me!), which means that the NHS need more young people (over the age of 17) to start giving blood, so they can make sure they have enough blood in the future.

Did you know that giving blood can also improve your own health? (text reproduced from here)


Donating blood improves your overall cardiovascular health. Increased level of iron in the blood raises the chance of heart disease. Regularly donating blood helps males in particular to reduce the amount of iron in the blood. This can reduce the chance of heart attack by 88%. Additionally, regular blood donation can lower the risk of severe cardiovascular events such as stroke by 33%.


When blood is withdrawn, the donor’s body immediately begins to replenish the lost blood. New cells are produced by marrow within 48 hours of donation, and all of the red blood cells the donor loses during donation are completely replaced within one to two months. Therefore, donating blood helps to stimulate the production of new blood cells. This process of replenishment can help your body stay healthy and work more efficiently.


Donating blood on a regular basis can also improve fitness. Donating one pint of blood (450 ml) burns 650 calories in donor’s body.


Many elderly people who are in good health have reported feeling invigorated and reenergized by giving blood on a regular basis.


Give blood to help lower your risk of cancer. According to the Miller-Keystone Blood Center, consistent blood donation is associated with lowered risks of cancers, including liver, lung, colon, stomach and throat cancers. Risk levels drop in correlation with how often participants donate blood.


In addition to all of these benefits, a donor receives a free prior health screening plus mini blood test. The NHS tests for Syphilis, Hepatitis B virus, Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Hepatitis C virus, Hepatitis E Virus and Human T-lymphotropic virus (this is on your first donation and then selected subsequent donations)


It doesn’t hurt, just a small prick, and it doesn’t take long. (I’m usually in and out within about 40 mins)

You get a text after every donation letting you know where you’re blood has gone, my blood has travelled around the UK more than I have.


And if all that wasn’t enough to convince you to sign up – I’ve saved the best for last.


Let me say that again




So get online/on the phone now and sign up, if you can give blood you should.


One of the things on the list for the Photographic Scavenger Hunt 101 was ‘My Camera’.

I have a few, quite a few, probably too many (can you have too many ?) cameras, film and digital, that I have collected over the years.


I was going to post a photograph of my usual weapon of choice my Canon 7D, it’s a great digital SLR and the camera that I use for all photoshoots and when I want to be sure of capturing the best quality I can.


If I have to choose one it’s always going to be my first. The camera that fired the passion, a gift from my parents in 1980, it still works, it still gets used and I still love it. My Zenith EM. Russian, tough and built to last (and with my track record with caring for technology that’s an essential quality).



Italy #3 Tiramisu

When in Italy…

Valdonica had a cantina which we could cook our own meals in of an evening, which was lovely, especially when you had the kitchen to yourself. Matt cooked a lovely pasta dish on one of the evenings we were there. Peace, quiet, lovely food, great company and the hills of Tuscany as a backdrop.

Most evenings we went into Sassofortino or one of the other near-by towns and ate out – who wants to do the washing-up when you’re on holiday?

One of our favourite restaurants from the week we were there was in Sassofortino, a short walk from Valdonica, called da Momo. Simple, traditional food, great value with a meal for two including wine costing just over €34.

I had to try the Tiramisu and it was delicious, the best I have ever tasted.


Your Mother Was A Hamster, And Your Father Smelt Of Elderberries.

I first thought about creating my Never Ending Life List back in 1999 when I had the chance to sleep in a Castle. The conversation went along the lines of ‘that’s something I can cross off my list’ even though I didn’t actually have a list at the time, just a few wishes and ideas that floated around in my head. I started to write them down in notebooks, things I wanted to do, places to go, things to try, I didn’t call it anything at the time, it was just a collection of long-term ‘to do’s’. I hadn’t heard the terms bucket list or life list back then so it was just my list. Technology has raced ahead since 1999 and now people all over the world (including me) are posting their bucket lists and life lists online.

There are a lot of sites that collate people’s lists and give you a chance to see what they are aiming for and what they have achieved.

Life Lists Of Cool People I Know
Day Zero (good if you want to set a deadline for completion)

Life lists have become a popular theme for bloggers, some people have even started to monetise them, publishing books and charging for coaching and advice on how to write your list and achieve your goals. I started blogging about my list so I could keep a diary of the things I’d done and when I’d done them and a blog seemed the best format. A blog doesn’t take up physical space like a pile of notebooks would, it’s easier to add photographs, I can add to it from anywhere in the world without having to remember to take a notebook with me, share it with friends and I never forget where I left it.

When I look at some people’s lists they are full of amazing things, grand quests like Chris Guillebeau whose goal was to visit every country in the world, which he achieved and wrote about in The Happiness Of Pursuit. My goals seem a little tame compared to some but I stopped comparing myself to anyone else a long time ago, or caring what others thought about me, so I’m happy with my list, which is always being added to. I’m not setting deadlines, there’s enough stress and pressure in my working life without adding to it in my own time, I’m just working my way through it and enjoying life.

Which brings me back to the wish that started the whole list. Sleep in a Castle.

Two friends of mine from New Zealand, Leslie and Randall, had been traveling Europe and we met when they came to the UK. They stayed with me in my flat in Tooting for a few months before landing a job as cook/housekeeper and general handyman at St Michael’s Mount in Marazion.


I have to admit I hadn’t heard of St. Michael’s Mount or its counterpart in France Mont Saint-Michel at the time and when they said it was a Castle I imagined it to be a very grand stately home but not an actual Castle. They moved to Cornwall and were allowed to have guests stay so a month or so after they started their new jobs I headed down to Cornwall for a weekend on the Mount.

I remember driving down to see them and getting to the first point where I could see it from the road and pulling over and parking, I got out of the car and stood there for a few minutes and just thought ‘wow – it’s a Castle, a real Castle’ I was in love with it before I ever stepped foot on the Mount itself.


We had some amazing times on the Mount and there were more than a few reanactments of The Holy Grail when we sat out on the top, near the turrets watching the tourists below. The St Aubyn family part owned the Castle and it was bequeathed entirely to the National Trust on the death of the 4th Lord St Levan in April 2013. Lord and Lady St Levan were lovely people and always made sure that Leslie, Randall and their guests were well looked after on The Mount, providing boats and an old WWII Amphibious Vehicle , to get us to and from the mainland when the causeway couldn’t be crossed.

(Lord St Levan c 1999 launching a new boat on the Mount)


(The Causeway – from the Mount)

I was even lucky enough to fly down in a helicopter owned by my boyfriend at the time and we spent the night in the Prince’s Room, in the beautiful four-poster bed, as ways to tick off a quest it doesn’t get much better than that.


All the photographs I took were taken on film (remember film) otherwise I’d probably have thousands of them but there are enough to be able to remind me of the many happy times  I spent with friends in one of my favourite places in the World.








Italy #2 Il Giardino dei Tarocchi

Whilst in Italy we visited Niki de Saint Phalle’s esoteric sculpture garden, Il Gardino dei Tarocchi,  based on the Tarot cards. This project started in the late seventies and ended when Niki passed away in 2002

It was a gloriously hot day and the garden is a fascinating place, the sculptures are tactile and most can be walked on, in and touched.

We met a man who was touring Italy with his Cat – Jake. Getting ours in a car is hard enough, getting him on a lead would result in blood loss for one of us but (eventually) Jake seemed keen to explore the gardens.


The sculptures are based on the Major Arcana the cards that reveal the big picture about our lives. (all photographs are mine, the cards are scans from a pack that I bought at Il Giardino dei Tarocchi and the descriptions are reproduced from

Continue reading “Italy #2 Il Giardino dei Tarocchi”