Monday 28 September 2009

Heaven and Hell

A 10 minute drive out of Sheffield brings you to the Derwent Valley. The area around this side of Sheffield is covered with beautiful dams that are used for supplying drinking water to most of the midlands. On Saturday it was a perfect day for the long (13 mile) walk around the top 2 lakes in the valley - the Derwent and Hewden dams. Can you believe that this lies between Sheffield and Manchester - 2 of this county's most industrialised city's?

As you walk around, there are lots of tell tale signs of the town that was built to house the navvies who built the dams and their families. Apparantly, navvies could be very difficult to control, and letting them bring their family to live here had a big calming influence on them - except when they had been drinking. If you enlarge the picture below, you can read what happened to 2 of the landlords of the "canteen"!!
The dams were used by Barnes Wallace to help him develop the bouncing bomb in World War 2. You can get helicopter rides which fly you over the dams (playing the Dambusters Theme tune!!) from a nearby hotel. Whilst we were there, an old Dehavilland Dakota (I was reliably informed by my live in WW2 expert) came over the moors and flew down the valley - it looked brilliant and it made my day! We also got a fly-by by the Red Arrows - I just love it when the Red Arrows show up out of the blue!!

The scenery all around the dams is truly spectacular - and will look more so in a couple of weeks time when all the leaves turn golden.

The water is faily low. I know some of you have had a lot of rain this year, but we seem to have missed it thankfully (after the deluge and floods of 2007 and 2008)

We had a great picnic spot, and stopped to paddle in one of the rivers that feeds the dams.
The sky was clear blue and the temperature was perfect for such a long spectacular walk. I couldn't think of any where I would rather be on such a great day. It felt like heaven.

On Sunday we travelled north west to Preston to visit the University open day as it has a course that is of interest to the dancing queen. She fancy's doing Media Production so that she can work making TV programs - ideally for MTV. The Uni wasn't bad, and the course looked ok. The druggies and drunks that hung about between the halls of residence and the main campus were of great concern to me, as was the lecturer who gave us the talk and tour. He was head of the department and hubby said it looked and sounded like he had spent Saturday night on the real ale and smoking waccy baccy . He had nothing prepared and couldn't even work his PC or TV. Ah well, I hope that Salford inspires me more next week.
We finished at the Uni at 1.30pm, and as we were only 15 miles from Blackpool, I thought it might be a great idea to go and have a stroll along the prom prom prom, and then stay for the famous "Illuminations" which get switched on at 7.30pm.
Now I have some really lovely memories of Blackpool. When I was a little girl, we holiday'd there every year. I remember having great fun in the Pleasure Beach - seeing Cilla Black and Jimmy Clitheroe (so showing my age here!!!) at the end of the North Pier (every year that we went!!!), watching the ballroom dancing at the Tower Ballroom etc etc. I know that it went down hill rapidly when families decided to go to Spain instead in the early 1980's. I last went to Blackpool 20 years ago when hubby and I first got together, and whilst we did have a nice day then, it was turning into just a "Party Town" and not very appealing. Well, I can report that it has gotten much much worse. Its dire and dirty and crumbling and I couldn't find even one thing that I thought was remotely ok about the place. The young man thought we would have a problem killing time before the lights came on and he was right. We walked from the South Pier, up to the North Pier and back again and promptly got back in the car and went home. The young man said that you can tell how bad a place is when McDonalds looks like the best restaurant in town. The place is like hell.
We did laugh at the amount of Hotels, Self Catering Flats etc that had the word "Luxury" in the description of their establishments when they clearly were anything but!

Thursday 24 September 2009

I'll show you mine....

.............If you'll show me yours!

Everything in blogland is generally very lovely, practically perfect in every way. However here at "Heart shaped", things often go pear shaped. So I thought I would show you one of my very prominent disasters. Did you ever see a more sad and sorry looking hanging basket!!

Don't you just love the cascade of flowers that totally cover the mechanics of the basket?!! And the really bad thing is that it has hung in front of my house all summer for all the world (well the neighbours!!) to see. I'm not really into hanging baskets (obviously!!) but next year I plan to put tomatoes in it instead. So come on - show me something that didn't quite turn out as planned.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Garlic Bread Men

Tonight's tea was Pork Chop with a creamy sauce - recipe below. Served with boiled potatoes and carrots.

For the sauce :
Chop and fry (in butter) a bunch of spring onions , some sliced mushrooms and a clove of garlic (crushed).
Add a glass of white wine, some chopped tarragon and a tub of low fat creme fraiche. Season with salt and pepper. It was very tasty, and we mopped up the sauce with..........
Garlic bread men - made in school cookery lesson by the young man - his own idea I hasten to add!!! Delicious.

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Everybody's doing it!

Sunday was a perfect day. The weather was gorgeous and so we went for an early morning walk around the lakes. We took a bag of bread to feed the fish, then filled the bag on the way back with what looks like the last of the blackberries - but they were huge ones.
Sky should always be this colour - except at sunrise and sunset.

Then it was back to an afternoon of pottering around in the garden.

And finally, I decided that I would do what everyone else who has been to see "Julie & Julia" has done - and that is make Julia Child's Bouef Bourguignon.
I haven't bought the book (yet!!) so I used this recipe from the internet. It looks a bit long winded, but I think that's just the way its written. I found it a bit salty (I suppose thats the bacon), but it was totally delicious and was scoffed in no time - followed by our forraged blackberry crumble.

A bit of a lie in, a lovely long walk, the sun on my face, a spot of foraging, gardening, time spent with my family, cooking to feed my brood, sharing a nice bottle of red - What a perfect day.

Sunday 20 September 2009


Introducing Demolition Dance Crew - the crew that occupies all of the dancing queens waking moments. Available for Weddings, Barmitzvahs, Birthdays etc etc They are urban and edgy, colourful,fun and very good. (The dancing queen is the one in the daft specs!)

Saturday 19 September 2009

Along came a spider........

The onset of darker evenings is slowly forcing me indoors earlier and I have finally started to sew again in preperation for you know what!! I have started experimenting with corsages and brooches.

However I had a bit of a shock when this monster crawled out of my sewing box!!! Thankfully a knight in shining armour was able to liberate him into the great outdoors - I just hope he stays out.

I love this deep purple velvety pansy.

And here is one of my displays moving into Autumn. It has been filled with pebbles, sea glass and driftwood all summer, but now contains Autumnal leaves, pine cones, acorns, rose hips and "helicopters" (see below). I dont know if you can see, but there is a candle in the top which gives off a warm rosy glow as the evenings turn chilly.
Helicopters (I think that they are from the Sycamore tree, but please enlighten me if I'm wrong). I still cannot resist playing with these at this time of year. The young man and I had hours of fun when we went to pick these. Snap them in half and throw them in the air and they twirl back down to earth, just like the blades of a helicopter.

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Mid week treat

As part of the ongoing birthday celebrations (Ive decided to have a year of them!!) we decided to treat ourselves to a ride on the big wheel in Sheffield City Centre. We used the free car parking tickets from last weeks freebie night out and parked in the Cheesegrater. I thought I would just show you this famous Sheffield icon - no Dr Who hasn't landed!! The Old police box lives on Surrey street and has been here for many years. After long deliberations about what should be done with this now that the police no longer use it, they have decided to renovate it and leave it where it is. Hurray!! It will be open during the day to house a city centre ambassador - so you can pop in and ask them things about the city. Don't shut the door though - you never know which Galaxy or time you may end up in!!

The big wheel is situated across from the tardis - and it is big. I cannot believe it was my idea to go in it. The dancing queen and I suffer badly from a fear of heights, and hubby's not too hot in the air either. The young man is the only one good with heights. Any way, we paid our money and got on. We pressed the button for a commentary - which took my mind off things a little, but I have to confess that on the first rotation I did have my eyes closed most of the way up - I got much better on the way back down. My palms were very sweaty, and I couldn't speak, but I was determined to be brave. You are supposed to get 3 rotations, but we actually got 4. The worst bit was when we stopped at the top! I did see some fascinating aspects of the city that I had never seen before, and it really does look wonderful from so high up. I couldn't take any pictures of the views as I was too scared to move! Having said that - I would go on again!
After the excitement of the wheel, I was allowed half an hour in John Lewis (or Cole Brothers as we still call it in Sheffield!!). Whenever I wander around John Lewis, I realise just how out of date our home is.
When we came out - it had gotten dark already - I am no fan of dark nights, give me light nights anytime. The wheel by this stage was all lit up - I believe you can go on this up until 11pm!! I cannot make my mind up whether it would be better or worse in the dark.

Somehow, I was persuaded to have tea out!! We decided on Mamas and Leonies which was Sheffield's first Pizzeria and opened back in 1968. Its a lovely place and great for theatre tea as its just around the corner from the Lyceum and the Crucible. Ive been coming here for well over 30 years now. The place gets a lick of paint occasionally, but nothing much else changes. You can either eat upstairs or downstairs, and both have different atmospheres.

Hope you enjoyed coming along for an evening out with me.

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Wentworth Castle in Stainborough Park

Blogging has opened my eyes to so many totally amazing places in the UK, but none more than the gorgeous places that are here on my doorstep in South Yorkshire and places that I was in danger of taking for granted. I realise now, that South Yorkshire is packed to the brim with beautiful large old country houses. None of these are owned by the National Trust or English Heritage. Some are still in private hands, whilst the others are used for hotels or colleges. Wentworth Castle (not to be confused with Wentworth Woodhouse which is actually in the village of Wentworth-although they were related.) is situated in Stainborough and clearly visible when you head south on the M1 just past the Barnsley turn off. It was built in the 1700's and was lived in up until 1948 when there was no heir to the house and so it was sold off. It is now a college, but the gardens and parkland are now run by a newly formed trust so that they can hopefully be restored to their former glory. It was the subject of a BBC programme called "Restoration" and they won a lot of money to start the project off. Despite already costed millions, the project is still in its infancy as the infrastructure of the place had to be strenghthened and rebuilt in places. Hubby and I took advantage of the free open weekend to catch up on what has been happening since we first went to take a look.
As the house is a working college, you cannot usually get to look inside, but they do have a few open days in the summer. I'll have to try and catch one as I have never been in.
The gardens are not at their best at this time of year. They are truly spectacular in May/June time when the Rhodendrons and Azaleas are in flower. This Victorian garden still looked very pretty.

The views over the parkland and surrounding area's are very lush and green. The village where I was born is in the middle of this photograph, however the scenery did not look like this when I was growing up as the area was mined heavily for coal and until recently massive coal tips dotted the landscape. There are none of them left now.

At the top of the hill behind the house, one of the Earls of Strafford built a mock castle with its own half ruined keep. In summer, they hold Opera and plays on the lawn now.

The trust was unsuccesful in securing funding to restore the huge conservetory behind the house. They are still trying to raise money for this project. If they are not quick, I fear it will fall down. It looks very dilapidated.

There is a walk around the parkland itself with a number of follies, lakes and bridges to see and it has one of the best kids playgrounds that I have ever seen. It also has a fabulous tea room. I suppose they have to rely on locals coming back time and time again as Barnsley isn't currently a tourist destination.

Sunday 13 September 2009

Blue Sky thinking.

I hate "management speak". At one place where I worked, a very clever and witty work mate would actually invent phrases and see how long it took the "powers that be" (or idiots as he called them)to start using the phrases.
The sky in South Yorkshire has looked like this for most of the past week, and the temperature has soared during the day. On Saturday, we decided to go for a walk around the Yorkshire Sculpture Park as it is only about 15minute drive from here. If you enlarge the photo, you can see a tiny plane!!

Ive taken you here before, but it is a great place to visit time and time again as the main exhibitions change, and it is a great place for a long or short walk. The park is in the grounds of Bretton Hall which is an old stately home and now part of Leeds University - even though it is a fair trek from Leeds. The grounds are used to exhibit some very large pieces of sculpture.
This is a fabulous gallery and was built fairly recently into a garden which is on a slope. At the top of the garden is a Bothy, which houses more exhibits.
This is the view from the Bothy. As you can see, the new gallery had no impact on the view of the surrounding countryside. The roof of the gallery is grassed and is the piece immediately in front of the trees. You would never know it was there.

These are some of the recent exhibits by Peter Randall-Page . They are quite spectacular, especially the very large ones in the underground gallery.

One of the things I love about the YSP is that kids can run around and actually touch the exhibits (the outside ones).
Another thing I love about it is the cafe. Think National Trust x 10!!! (but at the same prices). All the food is locally sourced and the vegetables are always so tasty. Hubby and the young man had Steak & Ale Pie, whilst I had the Gammon, poached egg and chunky chips with tarragon mayo.

We sat on the balcony which overlooks the spectacular scenery of the park. With the Mediterranean style sunshine, the wonderful views and the stunning sculptures, it is very hard to believe that you are less than a mile away from Barnsley.

Saturday 12 September 2009

5 party's in 4 days!!

Party No 1 was on Wednesday evening. This was actually a "Freebie" night out that I had bagsyd for hubby and I and also 2 friends. Our Local Business Link has on its website loads of "events" that it holds throughout the year. This event was listed as an "Inspirational talk by Wayne Hemingway" (he of Red or Dead fame). I thought it was worth a shot, so we booked 4 free of charge places. The event was held on the top 3 floors of the Q Car Park (the cheese grater one I showed you in an earlier post and if I may say so, a fantastic party venue!). It turns out that they had won several awards for design and safety etc. We arrived to discover (much to hubby's delight) that the evening had a "supercar" theme and they had around 12 super cars all parked up for those interested to sit in and rev!! Canapes (delish!) and free drinks (as many as you like!) were served. Canapes and drinks were served to ladies by topless male models. This is how I want all my food and drink serving to me in future!!!

There was also a 6 lane Scaletrix race set to play on.

The talk by Wayne Hemminway was really funny, and also very thought provoking. He talked about how he and his wife set up (or accidently fell into setting up) Red or Dead back in the 1980's. He also spoke about how design affects our living and city centres and how most planners have got it wrong. From the roof of the car park you get a great view of the city and you can see how it is surrounded by green - hills, trees and very open spaces.

After the talk, there was a buffet by Nonna's caterers. Nonna's is a great Italian restaurant in the posh bit of Sheffield, so this was a fantastic treat as it is normally out of my price range!. Free drinks flowed all evening - until it eventually ran out!! There was also a fashion show, showcasing Sheffield talent - excellent and the blokes got to watch the football match on a large screen. There was music and a DJ and space heaters when it got colder. We all got a goody bags containing free car parking tickets till the end of October and Hair care products - and the obligitory Business Link pens. All in all a superb freeby evening out!!
Party 2 was of course my birthday on Thursday.
Party 3 was the wedding of 2 friends. I loved the dessert. The profiterloes were HUGE and the chocolate sauce divine. The writing on the plate was in chocolate!!

Party 4 is this evening. My friend is holding a "Last Night of the Proms" party. Don't you just love my outfit? No?? Destined to be cut up into a cushion cover I think!
Party 5 I have had to decline as this is also being held this evening.
Tomorrow I am having a nice night in!!