Saturday, 22 June 2013

P is for Picnic

We've decided to brave the British weather and go for a picnic.  However given my memories are full of soggy sandwiches being eaten in the car, I've invested in some tiffin boxes to keep everything dry.

Marks and Spencer's do a really good solid one, and one that (for me) affords lots of space for a salad in one layer; a small quiche, cherry tomatoes and some cocktail sausages in another; and cheese, biscuits and grapes in the last.  All clipped together for easy transportation.

I usually take along a tupperware box of butterfly cakes for dessert as they're v. easy to eat.

And if those suggestions for tiffin tucker don't appeal, there's a long list of lovely options for a picnic on the Beeb's website.

Meanwhile, if the idea of a picnic appeals but you don't know a good spot, there is of course a website to help you out.

Monday, 17 June 2013

S is for Summer Solstice

Mid-summer heralds the longest day. In Scandinavia and Finland, the almost zero hours of darkness give way to celebrations.

And, depending on the country, the festive customs vary although every country (apart from Sweden and the South West of Finland) likes its bonfires.  In Sweden, people instead twist wild flowers in their hair and dance around a tall pole.

The food is pretty much the same across the region: pickled fish, new potatoes (with dill) and strawberries. All this is washed down by beer and schnapps.

Here in the UK, the summer solstice is only celebrated by a few who try to make it to Stonehenge, but I think we should make more of the day and its lovely long evening.

This year the weather looks to be fine so a BBQ beckons...anything but pickled herring for me!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

S is for Sweet Paul

Another Sweet Paul is available to read online, but this one is for kids.  Some fun ideas to copy...

And if you don't have children/grandchildren/nephews/nieces or they're too old, you can indulge yourself in some of the ideas in Sweet Paul's summer 2013 edition also out.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

D is for Dragon Boating

Every year in Hong Kong between late May and early June, everyone celebrates the Duen Ng festival.  The date commemorates the death of Qu Yuan, a court official who served towards the end of the Chou Dynasty, but who fell out of favour.  To protest his exile and what was happening in his home state, he decided to commit suicide by drowning himself.

He was however quite popular, so the locals paddled their boats furiously to try to save him and threw food into the water to stop the dragons from eating him.  They failed.

The date varies as his death was on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month and the Chinese calendar varies according to the moon and sun cycles, unlike our Gregorian one.  But on the day of his death, people take to their dragon boats (basically a very heavy, wooden canoe) and indulge in parcels of sticky rice steamed in lotus leaves (and lots of drinking).

Boats get ready to set off in a race in Stanley, Hong Kong in 2010

In the UK, dragon boat racing's been held since 1980 and races take place in Cambridge, London, Peterborough, Nottingham and as far north as Chester.

This year it's on 12 June in Hong Kong, but on weekends either side of the date here in the UK.  Something else to do...