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Sunday, 16 October 2011

Last of the B&B... for now

Well, we're now back from our B&B experiment and I think we can say it went pretty well.  We even got an tip from one lot of guests.  And no, it wasn't "don't cook your mushrooms as much", it was a proper folding money tip.  We spent it on dinner at what used to be our favourite restaurant on St. Marys.  The restaurant still is lovely as it's right on the beach facing west so you can watch the sun set. It does lovely cocktails and used to do great food.  We both had steak which was described on the menu as coming with tomatoes marinated in balsamic vinegar with a blue cheese dressing.  So in my head I was thinking a rich, sweet balsamicy tomato mix with a salty blue cheese sauce.  No...the steak was lovely and beautifully cooked.  However, it came with sliced raw tomatoes and a big lump of blue cheese just sitting on the side of the plate.  The whole plate was then swimming in vinegar.  Most bizarre.  We, of course, told the waiter that everything was lovely when he came to ask.

Since returning I'm like an addict weaning myself off my Persil Hygiene heroin.  To help me I am using Persil colour tablet methadone.  One day I will get myself off my methadone - but it just gets my clothes so clean....

And oh, the most amazing thing happened when we got back.  It was if all the events in the Universe were coming together and showing us the path the true happiness.  There in our pile of post when we returned was not one but two Lakeland catalogues.  And there it was, page 28... the multipurpose squeegy.  I still haven't bought one but maybe I'll get one in my Christmas stocking.

And so here I am back in the real world.  No call in my new job, as yet, for the ability to time toast with egg frying or remove watermarks from shower doors.  But you never know...


Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Burns update and more thoughts on eggs

Ok burns so far  - two small ones yesterday on top of the three I had given myself the day before I also, for some idiotic reason, managed to stick the end of one of my fingers in the hot fat today so can add that to my list of injuries. It is no wonder my Mother actually took out accident insurance for me for one of the many summers I spent working on our friends farm in Suffolk when I was a teenager! Also more split eggs this morning - like I said yesterday the most stressful bit of the morning! Any suggestions would be welcome unless of course they are just suggesting that I be more careful - about reducing the burning of the arms that is not how to stop breaking my yolks.

Talking of eggs again - not that I am becoming obsessed but I haven't done a boiled egg yet and was meant to have a run through the other day just to test the timings. Now do you put the egg in the cold water or do you have to put it in boiling water and then time it? You can't have a solid yolk egg for breakfast now can you. Nothing is simple really when you look at it and the timing is everything. Still I am hoping not to see it on the breakfast list. Talking of which I have to say I have become mildly fixated on it, we are forever popping our heads round the kitchen door to see if they have deceided what they want for breakfast. Some guests are very diligent and know what they want before they leave for the day while others write it up as they stagger upstairs to bed so we get a surprise in the morning. Dulcie shut the house up last night before coming back to the shed/chalet but hadn't looked at the list - I couldnt believe it I nearly sent her back to check but thought she might not be best pleased with the suggestion or humour me so I decided to keep hold of my need to know until the morning. Mind you I didn't sleep too well and am very tired today so perhaps it is praying on my mind while I sleep - kippers, croissants, full english or toast and cereal.

We did consider swapping our roles at one point but I have to say despite my constant concern for the quality of my cooked eggs I am quite enjoying the cooking. I think if we were here longer we would have swapped just to have a go at each role but since the hosts have gone Dulcie is in full swing with her witty comments and the guests are often to be heard tittering at her early morning humour.

Tomorrow is another big change over day. The family are leaving and we have four new guests arriving, two of which I have to go and collect from the quay and entertain all the way back here before handing them over to Dulcie for the official meet and greet speech. The car needs ridding of dog hair before then, we have the breakfasts to do and the rooms to change, plus I have to make a call about a potential job so its all go here tomorrow. My aim for the day will be to remain burn free and race against the clock to be able to get the two rooms done before Pop Master on Ken Bruce which starts at 10.30am.

Ok on that rather sad note I will sign off for the day and be back soon with more stories of eggs and the low down on the new guests - lets hope they tidy up their underwear before they want me to clean the room this time, though I have a feeling they will be of an older generation so dirty gap boxers and slinky shorts will not be lying around on the floor when I go in to make beds


Monday, 19 September 2011

Green-ish or brilliant white?

Well, as luck would have it yesterday the weather stayed clear and the white towels all dried.  As I went to the washing line to collect them I was taken aback by their brilliant whiteness and as I clutched one to my cheek to feel how soft they were I waxed-lyrical on their brightness and fresh, clean smell.  It was then I realised that I had become that housewife from the 1980's Persil advert.  As a nod to the environment I am an Ecover user at home so I am now used to my off-whitish whites which makes the contrast with the brilliant B&B whites even more stark.  Here in B&B-land we use industrial strength Persil and Vanish like it's going out of fashion and goodness does it make a difference.  I'm ashamed to say it but part of me thinks stuff clean waterways, I want brilliant whites.

Anyone who has attempted to go out with me after 10pm will not be surprised to learn that we didn't make it to the pub quiz.  The thought of getting home at 11.30pm, closing up the house, not being in bed until midnight and then getting up again at 6am did not appeal.  So instead we sat in bed with cups of camomile tea, the box of chocolates that last week's guest got us and the first episode of the new series of Downton Abbey.  I sometimes wonder at what age I'll have to put a stop to this hedonistic lifestyle and settle down a bit more.

Our guests were very kind to us this morning and 3 of the 6 ordered croissants - easy!  We then had 2 full english and a kippers.  We were so confident we even offered scrambled eggs to the kippers person in the morning and were able to rustle them up in time to go out with all the other cooked food.

After a week I have now perfected the shower cleaning.  It is now a very structured procedure which takes half the time of my previous haphazard approach and still gets excellent results.  It does require the use of 3 rather than 2 teatowels but I think it's worth it for the time saved.

I went to the gym again today.  It was busy - at its peak there were 5 of us in there.  I chickened out of singing Jerusalem before I left.  Mainly because it didn't really fit with the 'Ibiza Club Anthems 2010' CD which is played every single bloody day in there.  I only know that's the CD because the case is left on top of the dumbell stand not because I have suddenly become an expert in that club music.

This evening we are not even going to pretend that we might go to the pub.  We will probably stay in and watch two episodes of Dexter Season 4.  I tell you, it's going to be a rude awakening when we get back to little old quiet Brighton without any of this crazy nightlife.


Sunday, 18 September 2011

Scrambled, poached or fried

So we have settled in a bit to the routine now. However like Dulcie I have sustained a few injuries. Firstly the muscle in my arm hurts when I carry the hoover, when I lift a heavy kettle or iron - all of which I am doing on a regular basis at the moment. Also I got the layout of my cooking pans round the wrong way yesterday and the water splashed into the hot fat of the waiting frying pan and I have a few small burns on my left wrist!! Who knew that running a B&B could be so dangerous?

Dulcie has sorted out the dilemma of the Lazy Susan and mentioned the difficulties of ironing fitted sheets - they are definitely not on my list of things to buy when we get our B&B - right pain in the arse. Plus we have all these pristine white bottom sheets to try and dry - which we mainly do by ironing them and before you realise they are dragging on the kitchen floor and gathering all the debris the dogs have dragged in. We need a bed size ironing board - or I might resort to ironing the bloody things on the bed it would make life so much simpler. I have to think how long it took me to iron one sheet by the time I had ironed the same bit several times as I moved it deftly round the ironing board.

We had a change over day yesterday so had to go over the place with a fine toothcomb before our new guests arrived. They are all from the same family which is nice and we even got a lay in this morning as being such fabulous hosts we offered to do breakfast at a later time for them seeing as it was Sunday! I must say though the change over days are hectic with all the washing, bed-making, tray sorting and still all the other tasks and shopping to do. It is all go here believe me.

The most stressful part of the day for me is the 10 minute slot when I am having to do the eggs. All the rest is fairly controlled and I have not burnt any bacon since Monday which is a relief. Sometimes the food presentation could be a little better. The plates are so small and if there are three mushrooms, a sausage, a piece of bacon, a potato waffle and a fried egg to get on that is a lot of food to arrange nicely in a short space of time. Luckily so far I have not had anyone who has a thing about different food touching which a couple of my friends have an issue with!! Anyhow the eggs are the stressful bit as the pressure is on. Dulcie gives me the nod that they have finished their cereal and of course usually its two people who finish at the same time so its two eggs that you want going out together and then if its poached and fried well that is a nightmare. Two fried is ok unless you break one (or several) as I did this morning. I rapidly scrap out the broken egg (which ends up being part of my breakfast - waste not want not) and then have to get another one on the go asap. Its stressful I can tell you. Then a couple of times I have nearly dropped them off the edge of the egg slice before they have made contact with the plate.

However all that said we were complimented on our poached eggs on toast yesterday as it wasn't soggy. In a revelatory new method we actually drain them on kitchen paper first before putting them on the toast - can't think why other people in B&B's don't think of this. Perhaps I will write an article on it for B&B Monthly.


Green Energy??

So, as you may recall from the last installment, we had full house change over yesterday which resulted in a LOT of washing.  We are very green here at the B&B and have a solar powered clothes drier.  Unfortunately, we also have a lot of short but frequent rain showers.  This means that I have spent a large part of the day hanging up towels and removing them again from the clothes line.  I have totally given up on the tumble drier as the parcel tape which was 'fixing' the condenser leak has ceased to work completely.  I put the towels in the drier overnight last night and set the timer to start the drier at midnight in order to make the most of the Economy 7 cheap electric.  The drier stopped about 1.30am and then all the water in the condenser leaked back in to the drum to make the towels as wet as they were at the beginning of the whole process.  Arrrgghh!  Thankfully we currently have bright sunshine and a stiff breeze so I'm hoping the towels dry fairly swiftly.

The new guests are a very nice family.  Mum, dad, two grown up children and their spouses.  They were very good to us this morning and all asked for the ordinary full english - a breeze.  They even had breakfast half an hour later which meant I could watch the England world cup match whilst getting the breakfast ready.  However, I have a feeling in my waters that they'll be going poached and boiled tomorrow.

My knee is getting much better today - thank you for your concern.  However, I seem to have a shower cleaning related injury to my right hip.  I think it was when I was leaning in to polish the tiles at the back of the shower without standing on the clean shower tray.  I can't believe that I have a level 2 NVQ in health and safety (I really do) and I failed to do a risk assessment of bathroom cleaning.  What with my injuries and Kathryn's cooking related burns I'll be surprised if we make it back to Brighton in one piece.

This evening we're off the charity quiz night down the Scillonian club.  I'm aiming high but fear we may be average to mediocre as usual. 


Saturday, 17 September 2011

Lazy Susan - not so lazy

Having scoured the newspapers today it appears that all of the major news agencies have overlooked the top news from the B&B....  After an unprecedented number of comments on facebook regarding the need for a large number of condiments, especially marmite, at breakfast the lazy susan is staying on the table.  I would like to thank everyone for their feedback on this issue.

All of the guests from last week left today.  We even got a present from one couple and praise for the poached eggs from another - so we are well chuffed.  However, everyone leaving together does mean a three room change over!  The Cillit Bang and rubber gloves have been on the go all day but I think we are now ready to receive the next set of guests.

My left knee has been giving me a bit of gyp.  I can't decide whether I overdid my lunges at the gym the other day (yes, I am keeping up with my exercise challenge) or I'm developing housemaids knee.  After the amount of time I spent cleaning bathroom floors today I'm thinking it is probably the latter.  Nevertheless, I shall continue to go to the great little gym they have here.  It's just one small room with a few bits of equipment.  It's open from 12-3pm each day.  So far it's just been me, the woman that runs it and a couple of other women in their 40's there each day.  Now I've been a few times I'm being included in the 'gym chat' which goes on between them.  My gym sessions do feel a bit like a WI meeting with exercise.  Must remember to sing Jerusalem before I leave next time.

Tell you what's a pain - ironing fitted sheets.  They may well be a boon for the lazy bedmaker who can't be bothered with hospital corners but trying to iron those elasticated corners is a nightmare.  We have a mountain of damp bedlinen and towels
as it keeps raining as soon as we put it out on the line and the only tumble drier they have is one of those condensing ones and it has a leak; as a consequence no matter how long it's on for the contents remain slightly damp.

Again, I'm just waiting to greet the new guests and get them settled in then we are off for a well-deserved pint at our favourite pub.


Thursday, 15 September 2011

The B&B experience begins

Well its started finally. After about a year and a half of planning and discussion and the propect of the whole thing being cancelled at the last minute, finally we are here.
We settled in Friday to our 'shed' where we will be living for the next two weeks and then headed off into town for a beer.
Saturday morning was an early start (6am alarm going off) and we were to report for kitchen duties at 6.45am. It all sounds very official but really its all quite laid back. The owners of the B&B have been doing this for 27 years so they know what they are doing and have a good routine. It was up to us to take it all in in two days before they left us in charge for two weeks.
The host has a very good system for cooking and by the end of the morning we had a list of timings for everything from the time the warming cupboard goes on (its all mod cons here you know) to the time to remove the sausages from the oven and turn on the oil for frying eggs.
So that was that and all went well. We cleared the breakfast table and then had to start on the rooms. Well today there was a change over so I had a swift lesson in laundry, which linen sets to use in which room and how often to change them - I was a little bemused by the end of it but I am sure I can tell the difference between a valance and a bottom sheet.
Hoovering, dusting and trays done it just left time for a cup of tea and chocolate buscuit (diet starts when I get back). We were finished about mid-day so we went off for lunch and the papers to our favourite spot on Porthcressa Beach - Dibble and Grub.
After an evening of the start of Strictly we were up early again for more training. We had decided before we got here that Dulcie would do front of house, with her northern sense of humour and witty one liners we hoped she would have the punters chuckling away over breakfast. I was cook of the mess and in charge of running the kitchen. Well Sunday we still only had 4 breakfasts to do as the owners were staying in one of the rooms. One couple only wanted cereal and toast so the pressure was off, however that meant that we would have to face the onslaught of 6 breakfasts on our own. I will just point out at this junction that we have a strict regime here in that everyone has breakfast at 8.15am, there's no dilly dallying here and laying in bed til 8.59am to get to breakfast for 9 its strictly all come at once which is great until you have 6 cooked breakfasts all going out at the same time. However more on that in a moment.
Sunday afternoon we pottered in town after our hostess had made us a lovely lunch. We got back and helped with computer problems and also managed to cadge salmon sandwiches and more cherry pie!!
SO Monday the host and hostess were still here but the idea being we were left to it. Still only 4 breakfasts and still two wanting cereal and toast so only 1 cooked for me to organise. The methodical approach is a good one and everything generally goes to plan except then I suddenly realise I have forgotten to put something on or can't remember what the oven temperature should be! Anyway it all went fairly smoothly except that I burnt the bloody bacon - OMG well it was only a bit of the fat but I had to hoik it out from under the grill and find the scissors and cut that bit off. You know I cook bacon on a near daily basis at home and never burn the stuff unless Dulcie wants it that way (I always do everything she tells me). The first time I cook bacon using a grill and someone elses timings I bugger it up!! Typical.
However Tuesday arrived. We had 2 new guests in and suddenly kippers were up on the board and you know what happens when one person sees what someone else is having - they want it too. Luckily people put down what they want the night before so we know about this which was fine. Then one of the new guests also wanted poached eggs and so of course another guest wanted them, then someone wanted scrambled eggs so Mr Kippers also wanted scrambled eggs with his! Well I had been shown the poached egg device and in true perparedness fashion we decided to try it out on Monday evening so after eating the sausages that needed using up, I then poached an egg using this rubbery plastic thing but it took eleven minutes and we only had one - well I had seen on a cooking porgramme we were watching while in america, a woman who cooked her poached eggs then left them on a tea towel until they were needed and just immersed them in hot water for a few seconds. We tried that as well but the egg didn't look great, it took too long and how on earth was I going to get three done in time. So we scrapped that and went back to the old fashion way of dropping them in hot water and thought the presentation much more acceptable - you have to think of these things you know. So after sausages and sea beet, plus two eggs on the newly made bread I was a bit stuffed.
So Tuesday morning came and I was really quite nervous. As many of you know I have done a lot of cooking and for large numbers of poeple on occasions but cooking for people who are paying is a whole other stress I can tell you. The routine went fine and after much discussion about how to cook the kippers, for how long and where bearing in mind I had 4 poached eggs to cook as well as scrambled, finally we made a plan and spaced ourselves out.
The scrambled eggs went fine (we decided that the pinging of microwaves is  not a thing you want guests hearing in the morning so we cooked the scrambled in a pan) and so did the poached and I have to say I was quite pleased with them - not sure what the punters thought but they ate them and that is the main thing.
We both breathed a huge sign of relief when the final cooked breakfast went out and after the high five and lots of sighs of relief we got on with the clearing up.