Week of 18 September

‘OMG! I’ve just locked myself out’, I thought as the door clicked shut.  Who do you call? A flower arranger!  Marion came to my rescue with a metal coathanger, flower arranging pliers and green sticky stuff from her car!  We ‘broke in’ rather too easily.  But at the Pineapple Palace I treated her to a slice of Debbie’s Eton Mess cake and we sat in the sun on the deck for a catchup.

So, the highlight of the week was a short trip with Shirley to Italy to see Verona.  It’s charming. We walked many of the narrow criss-crossing streets into the stunningly painted Cathedral and checked out the shops and Juliet’s balcony. Off the beaten track, we found a local café where we had coffee and cake.  I chose a volcano (right) with chocolate and pistaccio filling.  Exquisite! Shirley’s was a tart with an untranslatable filling…

Both EasyJet and Live Like a Local had recommended, the unassuming to look at, Terrazza Bar al Ponte (Ponte Pietra) where we had a delicious plate of local food and wine in their walled garden overlooking the bridge. As we sat under the umbrella, there was a hum of spoken Italian, chattering of sparrows and the  sound of the weir below us.  Perfection!  We doubt we would otherwise have stopped to go inside. We took up another EasyJet recommendation for supper – an Osteria off the beaten track also serving local food where I tried smoked horse… If I didn’t know, I’d have said it was venison.  You have to try these things…

I loved Shirley’s recommendation though – Amorino gelato. Five flavours of gelato layered to look like a flower with a macaron on the top. Heaven:) And there’s an outlet in London.

Milan was our base and we stayed at the ADI Doria Grand again; it’s very convenient for the central railway station. Another day trip was to Lake Como with the train to Varenna, then boat to Menaggio, a further boat to Belaggio and finally the catamaran to Como Town. There we got the train back to Milan.  Another fab day! We had blue skies, warm sunshine and plenty of stops with views for coffee, prosecco and aperol spritz! We tried a Trip Advisor recommendation for lunch in Menaggio and had the most delicious pizza.  It’s all in the ingredients and cooking. Supper that night was good old ravioli served at a table next to the water’s edge. What more could you ask for….

In Milan itself, we wandered new areas and streets we hadn’t been to on the last visit. It was the start of Fashion Week while we were there so we enjoyed people watching at our coffee stops. We oggled (without buying) the wonderful patisseries.  How do the Milenese stay so slim…Maybe they just oggle too…

We had a lovely time and the next visit Jeremy is coming with me  so I can show him around the places Shirley and I went to……

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Week of 11 September

If you are a fan of the GBBO, then you may remember Christine Wallace from Didcot who was a Quarterfinalist from the first series.  She opened my first craft fair back in 2014.  Well she does ‘bake with me’ workshops from her kitchen.  So Sue (who lives round the corner from her) and I made macarons: a scrumptiously scrumptious salted caramel with a gooey caramel filling and a deliciously delicious raspberry with white chocolate ganache filling:)  Here’s Sue with the orange coloured salted caramel ones.  YUM! Sue managed to keep her apron immaculate unlike me.  I just get food colouring everywhere…

         

A top tip we learnt was to limit use of wooden spoons as they could harbour fatty deposits and are definitely no good for meringue making nor for stirring caramel ingredients; use a metal spoon for these. 

I did a second workshop this week: wired jewellery making.  It was a lovely couple of hours and I have mastered the art of using pliers to make round loops which are key to wired jewellery making. So I went away with some dangly earrings and a couple of bracelets.  Dead easy when you know how!

Jeremy, Mum and I popped into the Yew Tree garden centre and we had a coffee with a little star shaped shortbread biscuit.  A nice idea for a little something sweet to go with the coffee. Jeremy and I were back at Basingstoke Hospital this week and, in the Blue Café, I had a super chocolaty chocolate brownie before our meeting with Mr Cecil.  The Arc Centre was preparing for an auction that evening of all the painted bookbenches – part of the ‘Sitting with Jane’ idea celebrating Jane Austen – in aid of their cancer charity.

Mum and I had a coffee and shared (a term used loosely as I had the lion’s share) a slice of Victoria Sponge at Angelina’s.  It was a lovely golden colour and very moist with just the right balance of jam and buttercream filling.  It spurred us on to look at their range of carpets for her hall and stairs…

The cake highlight though was at my favourite place in Newbury: The Tea Cosy.  Here is my slice of the very decadent Chocolate Bar Cake. 

Thank you Penny. I’m sure it was my turn to pay.  The cake was constructed with Kit Kat bars decorating the top and bigger one propped up all round the sides of a fabulous chocolate sponge with caramel.  It was scrumptious!

There’s certainly nothing wrong with my energy levels, which shows my immune system is functioning perfectly well.  In addition to the above, I had yoga, tap dancing, 2 aqua aerobics classes, an aqua zumba class, aromatherapy, reflexology and reiki this week! My current lifestyle is all about feeding and nurturing my immune system.  As soon as I start to get periods of tiredness, I’ll know that my immune system is struggling to cope with the growing cancer.  But on that note, mulling over Mr Cecil’s conversation (see last blog entry) Jeremy had asked him about the original tumour (Dr Jackson had reported it as being of ‘no worry’ and ‘it’s stable’).  Mr Cecil, who as a surgeon uses CT scans all the time, said in a long reply, that ‘the CT scan doesn’t give enough detail’ ….and in another sentence, ‘cancer can just disappear’….  Looking back, was he saying that the original tumour had shrunk/gone?  As a medic, he’s hardly likely to admit it as it means the complementary therapies have worked…  Interestingly, CT scans give enough detail that someone can be declared as ‘’all clear’’.  I’ll question it more when I have the next quarterly scan which is actually due in 4 weeks.

Must go and pack now for the next adventure…

Mr Cecil says….

So today we saw Mr Cecil the surgeon to better understand his comment, following my recent scan, to Dr Jackson: ‘as I am in such good health then more chemo would be best’.  It didn’t make sense to me and also it didn’t seem to fit with the last conversation we had with him in May.

We now understand Mr Cecil’s thinking about extending life and reducing the chance of new cancer growth. A second round of chemo now is, we agree, the better option.  The door is not closed to surgery but when the right ovary (which has grown 2cm since the January scan) becomes a really pesky pain, then surgery will be appropriate.  But of course by then it won’t be keyhole surgery!!

He also repeated that considering my situation (stage 4) very few people respond so well to chemo… Let’s hope my luck doesn’t run out in the second round…Bring it on!

Week of 4 September

Mamma Mia! I’ve had a ball this week and with all the food and drink feel like one! Jeremy and I went to Italy and stayed at The Hotel Vu D’Or situated 4 km up in the hills above Sorrento. We had a fab view from our balcony over Sorrento, the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius. We had a really interesting and varied week with many cake and non-cake highlights. The reason for booking this tour were the guided tours – Pompeii and Herculaneum both destroyed by Mount Vesuvius when it erupted in AD79. I preferred the latter as there are complete buildings giving you a real flavour of life in Roman times although actually much remains from the earlier Greek period. The best finds are at the Naples Museum which was another fascinating guided tour and well worth it. Here’s Jeremy with his Caprese Chocolate Cake after our Pompeii and Naples excursion. Our hotel waiter was very amusing. ‘’You’re incredible’’ he’d say randomly to people. After choosing from the menu he’d say: ‘’very good choice’’ and then after Jeremy had chosen ‘’ahh, not so good choice’’!  Were we in Faulty Towers?

We did enjoy going to the Island of Capri and especially up the chair lift (I can say that now) from the town of Anacapri to see the fab views from Monte Solaro. It was day 4 and we had perfect weather that day. The day after our arrival we had torrential relentless rain; the first rain for 5 months so some tours didn’t even make it to Capri. The roads are very narrow on Capri yet the cars don’t seem as dented as in Sorrento. There are some fab open air stretch taxi’s with an awning on 4 posts to keep the sun off. Meanwhile, we travelled in the group mini buses. There were so many people in Capri town it was like the first day of the Oxford Street sales! I’m glad we didn’t go it alone we could still be waiting in a queue for a bus now! For dessert that night we had Riccota Cake. Looks like someone has stuck their fork in mine already…

 

Day 6 and the tour went to Positano, Amalfi and Ravello. We sat in the front seat of the coach enroute to Amalfi and the views of the coast line were stunning. The Italians take great risks when weaving in and out of cars and that’s not just the scooters. Our coach driver did a great job while we just watched the traffic coming at us with our eyes getting wider! Bignet for dessert tonight!! An overlarge profiterole stuffed with cream – overlarge and stuffed just like us by now!

We did get free time and one morning we walked from our hotel further up the hill to a sleepy village called St Agata and stopped for a coffee at The Smoking Cat café (you didn’t misread it) where the local men were playing cards. Here’s Jeremy checking his phrase book… In the bowl on the table they had served some amoretti biscuits and mini almond madeleines with our coffees. Not homemade as I later found these ‘Playtime Madeleines’ (for a kiddie lunchbox??) at the supermarket. We then walked all the way down the rather steep, winding and knee creaking footpath into Sorrento, rewarded ourselves with some fresh pasta but got the bus back up!

On our last night the chef went crazy and there were cakes galore at the gala buffet dinner! The very large cake is the Sorrento Lemon Cake which consisted of a very light sponge. But the best was the limoncello baba. Remember rum babas but with limoncello instead!!  Mamma Mia!

                       

Well this week we did lots, saw lots and sampled lots: gelato, limoncello, bruschetta, limoncello, biscotti, limoncello – you get the picture! We had a great time!