For a person who rarely goes to the doctor I seem to have satisfied my quota the last few months to cover me through 2016. Last week I noticed my eyes were unusually red. Like my mother and her mother my eyes are rather large and round, so when they go awry it becomes immediately obvious. By yesterday morning I had begun disturbingly to resemble a lab rat. Once again I found myself in a doctor’s waiting room. On the plus side I’m catching up on my People magazine deficit, however it’s not my favorite way to wile away a morning.
On walking in I announced myself at the front desk. After some searching it was determined I was there on the wrong day. What can I say? My brain seems to have a mind of its own lately. Too much to do and not enough storage capacity. Be nice if you could turn in your brain like I recently turned in my old GPS. Simply get credit for the old one and be sent a new and updated version for a small fee. Jeez. Fortunately after looking at my beady red orbs they decided to fit me in. Sitting in a vacant seat between two other patients, I noticed after a few minutes the people next to me had sort of spread out leaving the two seats on either side of me available. As new people came in they also sat in other seats. I must have looked like I’d recently survived a nuclear accident. Ah well, at least I had room to bend my elbows to get the most out of the People centerfold included in the Special Issue. Thirty pictures of Prince William to celebrate his thirtieth birthday.
This got me to thinking about the royal family in general. As a child growing up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, when speaking of the royals it was done in hushed tones laced with reverence as in church. In school I sang “God Save the Queen” along with my classmates, and was much in awe of the Buckingham Palace denizens long before I was old enough to understand the definition of either pomp or circumstance. My mother read often to me from a collection of A.A. Milne poems titled “When We Were Very Young”. One of my favorites was “They’re Changing Guards at Buckingham Palace”. To this day I can recite the lines.
They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace –
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
Alice is marrying one of the guard.
“A soldier’s life is terrible hard,”
Fascination with the royals is certainly not new. No monarch here in the States, in a way our movie stars serve as our royalty. Every juicy tidbit of their lives is dished out to waiting fans to be gobbled up like the tastiest spoonful of exquisite caviar.
There are 725 rooms in Buckingham Palace. Imagine the PG&E (or piggy as we call it at our house) bill. No wonder the Queen runs around telling the servants to turn off the lights when they leave a room. With an estimated worth of around 450 million, I can see where electric bills might be at the top of her list of concerns. I would imagine new employees must be equipped with maps and roller skates to get about the building during the day. There are 800 servants employed under the palace roof. We have one at our house, and she’s taking time off to write this blog. The palace itself is actually owned by the Commonwealth. Would this make the Queen a renter? Who knew? I wonder who she calls if the heater isn’t cutting the chill on those notably damp English winters, or if she just bangs on the pipes? I would assume bills for such things are absorbed by the British people.
While in Britain in 2004 along with a crowd of other tourists we showed up at the appointed time to view the changing of the guard. As depicted in the brochures the staid guards didn’t smile when provoked and the ceremony itself was filled with just the right amount of pomp and pageantry to feel as if you’d shared a momentous happening. We arrived there by double decker red bus, and enjoyed high tea immediately following the ceremony. All we needed were huge cameras hanging around our necks, a couple of fanny packs, and black socks and sandals to quality for tourists of the week.
For me, England was magical. My time there was spent in London proper. I would have loved to see more. The Euro train wound us through the charming English countryside, but there wasn’t time to hop off the train to visit the lovely villages we passed along the way. I will add this to my to-do list should I return. As with the tea bags draped over delicate English bone china cups, the city itself is steeped in history. The Tower of London was perhaps my favorite stop. The day we went was a typically gray and sodden London sort of day. Inside the Tower grounds I was interested to find the buildings far smaller than I had imagined . Perhaps people were shorter back then, or my imagination larger. The interior of the buildings provided an almost palpable feel as if the history of the place existed in an alternate dimension going on right beside you. Closing your eyes you might imagine Henry VIII sitting at a rustic table. Almost hear him scream “off with her head” while waving a greasy turkey leg in one stocky hand and a pint of ale in the other.
London without the royal family perhaps would seem somewhat less. Surely there are people sitting on both sides of the fence who live in England with opinions on whether they should remain in place or be left to the history books. Must be both amazing and intensely difficult to be born into such a family with the responsibility of ruling a country already written in your future before you can write yourself.
We had company celebrating a birthday yesterday so I wanted to do something special for the birthday boy. A huge sweet fan, I came up with this combination which he gave five stars. Yum. The cake comes from an old recipe I picked up while living in the southern states. Easy to pull together, moist and delicious. The pears, well, they taste as good as they look on the plate.
Gooey Cinnamon Caramel Apple Cake with Poached Pears
Gooey Cinnamon Caramel Apple Cake
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
5 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cut in 1/2″ squares
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
4 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Spray 9 x 13″ pan with cooking spray.
For the cake
Place sugars and vegetable in large mixing bowl. Beat for 30 seconds to blend and 2 mins. on high. Add eggs one at a time mixing well after each addition.
Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Add gradually to mix, beating just until blended after each addition.
Fold in apples, vanilla, and walnuts. Pour into pan and spread evenly. Bake for 55-60 mins. or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven. Poke holes with skewer on top of cake. Pour glaze over top.
For the glaze
Melt butter in small saucepan over med. heat. Add sugars and salt and whisk until well blended, about 2 mins. Bring to boil. Whisk in cream and allow to boil for 2 mins. stirring constantly. Pour over cake.
2 Bartlett pears
1 1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
Peel pears leaving stems in tact. Place water, sugar and beets in medium pan (taller than wide if possible).
Peel beets and slice in 1/2″ slices. Add to water in pan along with beets and vanilla. Bring to boil. Add pears making sure they are covered. Reduce heat to low simmer and continue to cook for about 20 mins. or until fork tender. Remove from liquid and allow to cool for 5 mins. Strain solids from liquid reserving liquid.
With sharp knife slice pears in half lengthwise. Using a paring knife carefully slice around the core in the center. Pull the core up and the strands running along the center should pull up with it. Remove stem. Beginning at one side on flat surface with cut side of pear facing down make thin slices lengthwise starting about 1/2″ from the top so as not to cut all the way through the pear. Fan with your fingers. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and sauce.