Sunday, 30 November 2008

Advent Sunday

Advent Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent, and this year it fell today, on the 30th November. It was lovely to arrive at church this morning and find the Advent candle wreath ready to be lit, and some discreet Christmas decorations around the church - nothing too much, but some bright flower arrangements which included candles as their centrepieces, and some ornamental bits on the windowsills. It felt festive but not over the top. We talked about what Advent means and how the coming of the Christ-child is a long awaited event, and how hard that waiting can be, whatever it is you are waiting for! Unfortunately we had to reflect on the trend for the waiting to be focussed on the greed of the "I want" type of person, interested only in what Christmas will bring, perhaps as gifts, food and drinks, or entertainment. Sadly, few think of Jesus when they are thinking of Advent and Christmas. For far too many, Advent is the word that prefixes "calendar" and means a daily dose of chocolate, and nothing else. How sad.

In these tough financial times, it would be good to move away from the material acquisitions of gifts and entertainment experiences, towards fellowship with friends and family, church members and neighbours, and to think more of giving that of receiving. It costs nothing to speak to a lonely older person and cheerily wish them, "Merry Christmas!" when you may have been the only person to have spoken with them on that day. It would cost only a little more to invite such a person to share the celebrations with us and our families. I am afraid that I take the easy option which is a little bit of a cop-out on that front, and I make an annual donation to the Salvation Army here which does an amazing amount of social care for homeless people, older people and those who have little - they have centres which will be open on Christmas Day serving lunches to people who would otherwise be alone, they provide a huge number of meals every day to homeless people on the streets, and they provide boxes of food and small presents to families who are struggling to put food on the table at this time of year. Those are just a few of the wonderful things that the Salvation Army does each year, and I support their work in this arena.

The message of the service this morning was that God has a plan. He planned for Jesus' birth from the beginning of the world, and events in the Old Testament bear witness to the prophecies which were proved in his lifetime on earth. That Jesse was the father of David, and that David's line would eventually bear fruit in Jesus was all part of the plan, and how wonderful to believe that there is as big a plan for each one of our lives! How humbling to think that God has planned us and our lives to that extent - but how great must our faith be to allow God's hand to work in our lives and let us follow the path that He has chosen for us.

I KNOW that that is true, because God saved the FH's life through the FH's relationship with me. Although the end of a relationship is a sad and terrible time, if the FH had not decided to move out of his home with his previous wife and go and live with his mother, and then ultimately to pursue a relationship with me, he would have probably died sometime in 2000. Because he was living in Scotland, which was my choice of home, he was given a second chance in 1999 when he had a heart transplant at Glasgow's Royal Infirmary. The transplant hospital near to where he lived with his first wife would not have given him that chance at life, because he did not fit their criteria. The surgeon at Glasgow then was a little more radical and experimental, and willing to give it a go. I really do Thank God that they had that attitude there, as he is doing well 8 years later. The surgeon had to remove the old heart with a great deal of suction as it had deteriorated so badly that it was like jelly, and he was sure that it would not have lasted much longer at all.

That plan that God has is not revealed to us in advance, so we have to have faith in Him and trust that by living in His way, His plan will bring us safely through this life and on to the next. In following His way, we will do good in this earthly life, I am sure. The big thing is to remember constantly that this is HIS plan, and not ours. There is little point in sitting down on New Year's Eve and planning 2009 out for ourselves. The trouble with our plans is that they are usually selfish - we think too much of ourselves. When I think about the things I hoped to achieve in 2008, I was planning greater earnings, holidays and an easier life. I got none of that, but I have gained other, more meaningful things, and I can look back on a year in which I found a new church, which my children are happy and eager to attend on a regular basis, I made new friends, and I actually cut back on the amount I earned because I did less work! I spent more time with my family, and I have had a good year. God's plan was obviously a better one than mine! Can't wait to see what is in store for 2009.....

Saturday, 29 November 2008


We didn't get them in town on Thursday and the YFG was SO disappointed. We went to the shop and tried on the two pairs that the manager had ordered in for the YFG to try, but neither pair was any good at all. She came home in the depths of despair, it seemed. Yesterday, I started phoning places - a friend told me about a shoe shop in Peterborough which specialises in wide and narrow fitting shoes, but when I called them for directions, the chap said that they were closing down. I then started on Google - and found a couple of local-ish shops stocking a wider variety of brands, and had a lovely chat with Tracy at Smiths Footwear in Downham Market. She was very helpful and we have been to the shop this afternoon and we HAVE BOOTS! The staff were patient and kind with the YFG, very informative and helpful, and I cannot recommend them more highly. The huge beam of a smile on the YFG's face was well worth the trip over there, and we got some other shopping whilst we were there. DM is a lovely town, with independent retailers as well as a few chain stores, but it has a great atmosphere - I do wish we lived there sometimes, but the occasional trek over there keeps me happy.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Addition to the flock

Yes, we have another chicken! This is a bantam which is from the same clutch of eggs as the Dutch bantam which we have already got, and I have posted pictures of in the past. This "new" Dutch bantam is one of a group of three that we gave to a friend, and the other two have passed on for one reason or another, so this one was lonely on her own and has come home to roost with us. At the moment, she is in a pen on her own, but she will be integrated eventually with the others. She has different colouring from the other one, in that her feathering shows more brownish tones. I will take photos when it gets brighter outside, but it is dull, grey and misty here this morning.

The FGs are off to school and the FH is resting in a hot bath at the moment. He has not had a good night's sleep with his cold, and has been quite restless. He finally gave up and got up to make some tea at 6.45 am, and brought me a cup, which was a change as usually it is me who is getting up first and bringing him tea. I think that he may sleep again this morning as he has to go out this afternoon. The YFG is going round to a friend's house after school and then I will meet up with her at gymnastics tonight as the little girl also comes to gym tonight, so that is working out very well. The EFG will have to be picked up from school instead of coming home on the bus as by the time she got here on the bus, there would be no one here. I will get her and drop her off with the FH where he will be selling books this afternoon as that is on my way to gym. I hate November as much as I love it as it throws up all sorts of complicated arrangements and makes life so challenging! But it is the month when we do so much business that we can't afford to stick our heads in the sand and ignore it! Nearly over, though!

In my brief intro in the sidebar, I said that I am overweight - well, I am not as overweight as I was! I am now down to 148lbs, and so pleased!!! I need to lose a little more as I am only 5ft 4in tall, but it is a huge step in the right direction. I will post an update when I have achieved more.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Scrapbook page I made today

The blue rectangle on the right is where I will position a photograph of a snowy day, when I have taken one! The page has taken a combination of stamping with a roller, heat and stick technique for the glittery snowflakes, ribbling for textured papers, and a lot of copying someone who had the fab idea in the first place! I am pleased, and must now find an opportunity to take a suitable photo to put in.

Chocolate galore!

The party last night went well - there were just enough chairs as not all the guests were able to come. Enough came and bought chocolate to get me about £27 worth of free chocs though - although none are actually for me to eat: some are for the FH and girls and a few are for gifts. All the guests seemed to enjoy it, and the Phoenix card lady also sold quite a lot of cards, so she was pleased too.

Both of the FGs are at school today although the EFG had rather a rush to get ready as I went back to sleep after the alarm and then didn't wake up until 7.40 and she has to get the bus at 8, so we rushed and ran and she made it! The YFG wasn't keen to go but she has gone, with the promise of going into town afterwards to get her new boots for the winter. Her feet are so wide that there weren't any in the shop in her size last week and so the manager agreed to order some in for her to try. They are in and so she is itching to get in there and buy some!

I have been to the scrapbooking and card making workshop this morning. It has been fun, and now I am waiting for a customer to come to look at some books, then I have to pack the car ready to go to a booksale this evening. The FH is suffering from his cold and so he is wrapped up and watching the TV. Tonight's supper will be a recipe called "Sticky Chicken" which the girls love - chicken drumsticks coated in a sticky sauce, served with rice and veggies. That will go in the Remoska and cook in about 45 minutes, between coming back from town with the boots and nipping off to the booksale!

Hope you are all having a good day.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Calm before the storm

I am feeling surprisingly calm right now, which is weird given the amount of rushing around and tidying that I am about to embark upon. The EFG has gone to school, worried lest she has missed a lot of work and about how to catchup with it all. Thank goodness that she has agreed to wear the winter coat that I got her from Asda - a fab black three-quarter length black coat, with some wool in it, for just £15, so I got myself one as well. The YFG is still tucked up in bed this morning and I am hoping that she stays there for at least another hour as she has been coughing a lot in the night and can't have had much sleep. She is going to help me to do a bit of tidying later when she gets up, she says!

The roast chicken lunch was lovely yesterday, and the girls had chicken rolls for their tea as well. There is still a large leg left, which will probably be the FH's lunch today, although I may pinch a bit for the YFG to have another roll before it all goes. The FH has indeed come down with the cold, but he is going out this morning to deliver some books for me, and taking his friend with him for the ride. They are going out near Ely so will no doubt be seeing the floodwaters on the Welney washes and commenting on the amount of water so early in the winter.

I have got a small mountain of washing to get done, but I am not planning to try to tackle it today as I don't want wet washing around tonight and the weather is not looking conducive to getting it dry outside today, although if it brightens up later, I may do a load to hang under the verandah.

I am planning an electricity challenge! I want to take meter readings every day for a week, find our average daily usage that week and then aim to cut it down then next week. I can't do that with the water meter as I can't get at the meter to read it as it is down a hole in the pavement outside the house; I don't have the tool to lift the lid with, either. We already do OK with water, so I am going to concentrate on electricity for now - we are paying £58 a month to our supplier at the moment, and I am sure that they are itching to put it up further! I will be starting this at the weekend.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The coughs got worse...

and the girls have stayed home since Monday. They are both suffering, although the EFG still has it the worst. The FH thinks he is getting it too, so I have a mini-epidemic going on here! I am coping with the nursing - lots of hot drinks of hot lemon juice with honey, cough medicines and lots of tissues. They are amusing themselves with books, tv and games, so they are doing OK. They had a lie-in this morning and both of them had a decent night's sleep. My dad called earlier this morning to suggest visiting as he is going on an 18-night cruise on Sunday, so he wanted to see us before he went. I told him about the girls and advised against visiting as the last thing he wants is to get ill on holiday! He may have time to come at the end of the week, so we will keep him up-to-date with the recovery.

I am having a chocolate party here tomorrow night, and have to do some major re-arranging of furniture as well as tidying up. There are about 18-20 people coming, so I am wondering where they will all sit...may have to borrow some chairs and have already asked my sister to bring extra coffee mugs.

Just now I am roasting a chicken for lunch, with roasted potatoes, broccoli and carrots. The FH is going out to a book sale for me tonight so I wanted to give him a hot meal at lunchtime as it would otherwise be difficult for him to have one because of the times of the sale tonight. He is not going to his art club this afternoon as it would just be too much rushing around for him in one day. I guess that being his age is a bit like how I felt when I was pregnant - I could do one "big" thing each day, but no more! Sometimes we just have to pace ourselves a bit more carefully and not expect miracles.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Coughs and colds

The girls have both got a bad chest at the moment - the EFG is much the worse at the moment and has had a temperature today as well as a hacking cough. She was awake a lot in the night last night as well, and is not up to going to school tomorrow. I have had her snuggled up under a duvet on the sofa for much of the day, watching TV, reading and playing on her DS. The YFG is not as ill at the moment, but she is not 100% either as she has the cough and has been complaining of a headache today. Not sure what tomorrow will hold for her - she wants to go to school because she has a school dinner booked, and she likes to have that once a week treat, but we will have to assess her health in the morning.

I have had an interesting day, pootling around and getting a few things done. I made beef casserole and dumplings for tea but because they are all feeling a little ill, none of them had a huge appetite and there is enough of the steak and gravy left to go into a steak pie tomorrow. I also made apple batter last night when I had the oven on for the pizza and that is being eaten slowly - it smells gorgeous when I heat it up a portion at a time in the microwave - a real hit of cinnamon which makes the kitchen smell wonderful.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

A quiet day at home alone

That was yesterday to a tee. The FH went out early, the FGs went to school and I had the whole day until 3pm to do whatever needed doing. I did the early morning chores - got the helpful machines working (the dishwasher and the washing machine) and then started baking. Three kinds of cake (malt loaf, ginger cake and chocolate brownies) and three kinds of biscuits (oat biscuits, choc chip and cherry, and custard biscuits) followed and the house smelled wonderful! Some of the produce has been eaten already, some is in the tins in the kitchen for the week and the rest is in the freezer for later. I tried to make enough for two weeks as I am so busy next week that there won't be a chance to bake, I am afraid.

I do like making the things that I know that the family love, but I also like to try out new things. The YFG has an annoying habit of not liking something today that she loved last week - it is so frustrating! Thank goodness that the EFG and FH don't have that tendency. I have subscribed to two recipe websites which are sending out a cookie recipe a day between now and Christmas so that I have lots of new ones to try. Last year, the teachers at school all got cookies from the FGs so they may get new and exciting ones this year! Depends on how adventurous I feel...

Our turkey is really beginning to look like a turkey - he has a long red neck and is beginning (poor thing!) to look quite ugly. I still don't think that he will be Christmas Dinner, and we have a joint of beef lined up for that anyway, so he'll be reprieved into the New Year - possibly until Easter. Obviously turkeys are more slow growing than the chickens we have got, which are quite aggressive in their rate of growth. I'm just not sure how the turkey will be feeling when all his mates have been dispatched - he may get lonely.

The delightful little boy of four who has recently moved in next door is teaching the YFG a few words of Portuguese - and she is thrilled. She walks to school with him and his mum on fine days, and we all go in our car together on wet ones. A good example of neighbourly co-operation, I thought. He likes to come and play with her on Saturday afternoons - they sit together on the sofa and play on their DSs, or bounce on the trampoline and she is just like a mother hen with a precious chick.

The weather is cold today but there is no snow here, although some is forecast for tomorrow morning. It has been a bright, sunny day which has been glorious in the sunshine although very cold - about 3degrees C when we went out to gymnastics this morning at 9.30am. It had risen to 7 by the time we came out at lunchtime. Still makes me want to snuggle in with a blanket and not do anything. Shame, as I have more uniforms to wash and hang to dry, and tea to cook before I can sit down this evening. I think that pizza may be on the menu tonight as it is quite popular for a Saturday night here, although a hot pudding might go down well too! Tomorrow is a real winter warmer - beef casserole with dumplings.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Winter winds are coming

and the children are so excited at the thought that there might be snow tomorrow. The TV weather forecasters have been telling us all week of an "arctic blast" of air coming down from the north this weekend, and of snow showers. The YFG is hopeful, so hopeful, that there will be enough snow for a snowman that she has written a story tonight about a huge award-winning snowman that she and her friend plan to build! I think that the snow might look more like a sprinkling of icing sugar than the drifts that she is imagining....

I personally dread snow because of the misery it can cause on the roads - I am just plain scared of driving in snow, and actively avoid it if I can. I got caught in it one night driving from St Andrews back to Cupar in Scotland and it was horribly frightening. I was only about 22 or so, and relatively inexperienced at driving in snow - and I was alone in the car with no one to advise me. I crawled home and vowed never to go out in it again. I am happy to walk in it, throw the odd snowball, and watch it fall but that is about the limit of my enthusiasm for the white stuff.

I plan to bake tomorrow so I am going to go to bed now and take along a couple of recipe books for inspiration for baking!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Garden and chickens update

The garden has been neglected, I am afraid. This always happens in the autumn as it is my busiest time of year with the work that I do: people always want to buy more books in the run-up to Christmas so I have a lot less time available to me for other things. I manage to keep up the laundry and the cooking, but the housework gets a little neglected some weeks, and the garden is way down the list of priorities for me. The colder weather means that the FH is more reluctant to be out there as well - and to be honest, he is such a help to me in my work that he is often assisting me and has little spare time either. (He is snoozing right now, though - a pre-lunch nap to get the energy for lunch, perhaps!)

The garden situation at the moment is that there are heaps of horse manure on some of the beds, waiting for drier weather so that they can be dug into the beds. One bed still has some leeks growing at one end of it, another has the freshly-planted strawberry plants, which are settling in quite well now, and there are broad bean seeds just germinating in one other bed. That must mean that the green stuff growing in most of the others is weed! Argh!

The chickens are OK. The younger meat birds are growing well, and the older ones are being eaten at the rate of one a week with the occasional one being put in the freezer so there are about 7 or 8 left. Must go and count them! The laying birds are not - laying, that is. This causes me a moral and financial dilemma. I am feeding 16 "laying" birds, which obviously costs me quite a bit, and I would normally be repaid in eggs, which I can use myself and sell a few surplus ones to my neighbours. At the moment, though, there are no eggs being laid and so if I want eggs, I have to buy them. If I had not got hens of my own, I would just buy free-range eggs and that would be that. However, my budget is not stretching enough to allow me to buy free-range eggs at the supermarket AND still feed these hens of mine. I don't feel happy about it, but that is the situation. I am having to buy cheaper eggs apart from when I can source cheap, free-range eggs, which is not often.

Got to go and do the ironing now - and then maybe some baking.....

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Tesco rage!

Last night was a bad night for me! It started off OK - I went out to a lovely lady's house and sold books to all her invited guests. We all had a good evening, chatting and looking at beautiful books. It got to 9.45 pm and the party was over. I had decided that if the party was finished before 10, I would go and do my shopping. After all, that new Tesco in the town is a 24 hour one, and I thought that at 10pm, the aisles would be less crowded, and I would get my shopping done OK.

I was right about the aisles being clear - I floated around the store and filled my trolley with a good load of shopping. I hadn't been shopping for a couple of weeks apart from for fridge food and fruits/veggies, so there was some stocking up to be done. The shop floor staff were helpful, guiding me towards things that I couldn't find, and didn't seem to mind the odd interruption to their shelf-stacking (well, I wouldn't object either - it looked a bit boring!!). The staff outnumbered the customers by a considerable margin.

It was all going swimmingly and I got some great bargains in the "reduced to clear" section, including some packs of salmon, cod and haddock which had been reduced from more than £3 each to about 60-odd pence each - fab! Then I hit the checkouts - and it felt like a brick wall. All the checkouts were closed and I had to scan the whole lot through a self-service till. It took ages, and because I made a joking comment to a member of staff about a reduced level of service at that time of night, she fetched a line manager to speak to me patronisingly about the security risks of having access to cash in tills - he reckoned that there might be a hold-up (his words!!) so it was better that the staff had no access to cash. I politely said that now he had told me that the tills close at 10pm, I'll be sure not to shop there again at that time of night. I have since written a letter to the manager explaining my disappointment at the service offered, and suggested that if a hold-up is a serious risk, they should consider employing more security staff.

This has opened up the whole Tesco debate for me again. I had been planning to have a delivery again, but then thought that I would go on this occasion because I was in town anyway, and would get the chance to look at the reduced items. It would also be less crowded at that time of night. I did stick to my guns about the range of things that the Tesco is now selling and only bought food and cleaning items - I was not tempted by the homewares, books, electrical items, stationery, clothing and shoes! I didn't buy any special Christmas stuff beyond two jars of mincemeat, and I kept to the list - very strictly. So I was successful in a way.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Happy day

I have enjoyed today, in a variety of ways. It started with a long lie-in this morning - I didn't wake up till past nine and the YFG sneaked in to the bed for a cuddle before we got up. We had some breakfast together and then I helped the FH to pack some books in to the car so that he could take the FGs off to do a booksale for me this afternoon. It was about an hour away, and they would be travelling over lunchtime, so I packed them some sandwiches and snacks to munch on during the afternoon. They left here at about 11.30 and I started pottering around the house.

I picked things up and put them away; I sorted laundry and did numerous loads of washing - some got dry, some didn't - I am hoping for a good drying day tomorrow! I made bread a different way: I made enough dough for three loaves and mixed in a very old Kenwood Chef that my aunt gave me years ago. It saves some of the work of the kneading but I then turn the dough out onto the worksurface and knead it myself as well. Then I separate the dough into three balls and put them to rise in the loaf tins - for ages! They rose over a period of about 3 hours, and I didn't knock them back any further but just cooked them, and they are lovely loaves of white bread. Last week I bought an electric slicing machine (Kenwood). It makes very short work of slicing the loaves, so that I can now produce home-made sliced white bread which I am storing in the freezer until we need it.

I also did some baking, but I wanted to make something different from those recipes which I have been using lately. So, I made a fruitcake for the FH which I don't make that often because he has to eat it all himself as the FGs don't like dried fruits in general. I also made some custard cookies, the recipe for which came from on the forums. It is a recipe which uses icing sugar instead of caster sugar and then adds custard powder to the flour. The cookies came out very golden in colour which I suppose is down to the yellowness of the custard powder, but the testers said that they taste good. I would double the recipe next time I make it though, so that I could freeze some. Lastly, I made a chocolate tray bake which was in honour of the FH's birthday tomorrow. I will be working tomorrow evening so we had a singsong tonight and wished him a very Happy Birthday for tomorrow.

The FGs and FH returned home at about 5.45pm and had had a good afternoon of sales. Sometimes these little sales can not be as profitable as one would wish, but this one had been good and they came home happy! I was pleased for them, and for me, as when the FH has a bad sale, he can be rather grumpy!!

Today has been relaxed and enjoyable for me because I have been doing things that I enjoy, and I have had some peaceful time to myself. It was refreshing, and I feel better able to get on with the week ahead! It should be available on prescription!!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Apologies for absence - again!

It has seemed a very long week! I haven't recovered from last weekend yet, and already I am looking towards next week's workload. I have had some school meetings, some book sales and parties in people's homes, gymnastics three times, some visitors and lots of housework to catch up on. The ironing has been overwhelming but I got there in the end!!

There is a lot of media attention on the financial problems of the world right now. We are carrying on here pretty much as normal. We don't carry any debt so there are no huge worries about repayments but the savings that I have managed to squirrel away are suffering from the interest rates dropping - it may be good for people with mortgages but I am getting less return on my few pounds in the bank! We are being a little more careful in general, but I am continuing with my pantry keeping, and it has been beneficial to us because of where we live, as I have explained before. The chickens are being eaten (we have one ready for tomorrow!) and we are continuing to enjoy the meat that they provide as an exceptional treat. Unfortunately, the hens who are supposed to be laying are not, and I am having to buy eggs now. This is a source of frustration to me.

Christmas is coming, we are told all around us - the shops are full of cards, wrapping paper, gifts and posters advertising specials. I am only buying those things that I know I need - no "just in case" bits and pieces this year. I am getting a few extra-special holiday groceries in each week, so that I don't have to have a hugely expensive shopping bill in the week before Christmas. We don't need to eat fancy foods for more than a week - it is enough that we enjoy the day itself, remember the reason that we are celebrating, and seek out the company of those who are special to us. I am going to start to think about the menus for Christmas day and Boxing Day in the next week or so as those are the days on which we are likely to have guests and on which I may want to serve special foods, but we are fairly traditional in our tastes and I know that there will be a good selection of home baking on the menu, along with some simple but traditional dishes.

One thing that I will be looking for especially is a new 1000 piece jigsaw. We have our own tradition since we moved to this house of having a Big Christmas puzzle to do that we leave out over the holiday and we all enjoy sitting around and placing the odd piece here and there. I will be having a good look in all the charity shops over the coming weeks to see if I can find one.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Shopping at home

I went shopping in my freezer last night - came out with a good few bargains! Frozen plums for dessert tonight, bread for breakfast, rolls for lunch, cookies for the biscuit tin and a cake for lunchboxes. Accrued benefits of earlier baking and freezing sessions which were well worth the extra effort for the ease afforded now!

Early start today as I have to go and see my favourite school's headmaster -the children raised over £600 in a sponsored read and the local pub donated another £600 odd to the school for books so the head and staff have to choose £2000 worth from my catalogues. They are feeling a little overwhelmed by the task so I am nipping in there this morning to lend a hand!

Monday, 10 November 2008

Favourite plants

Just a couple of photos of two of my collection of Christmas cacti. They are flowering now, and they are beautiful!

I always manage to acquire one or two new ones each year to add to the collection and I am eagerly awaiting their arrival in the shops in the next week or two!!

Christmas Festival weekend

We have survived! It was jolly hard work over the four days - it took Thursday to load up and travel there and then set up the stand - then we were trading 9-5 over Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I was pleased with the stand by the time we had finished it, and it offered a huge range of books for the customers to browse through and from which to make purchases.

The show wasn't as large as it has been in the past, and some customers were a little disappointed with the lack of stands - there were a lot missing from previous years. The Showground also double booked Usborne so there were two of us there. The other poor chap came off worse as he is a "beginner" with Usborne and doesn't carry the amount of stock I do, not has he the experience of doing big shows. The Showground said that they now had a policy that such a show could support more than one of us. Sorry, but we didn't agree. He and I were selling the exact same range of books, and it looks unprofessional to have two of us there - and no end of people commented on there being two of us. The other stallholder was a nice chap, and we talked about things together.
This was a cosy corner for slightly older kids to browse through the fiction titles and make their own selections (photo above).

And so the FGs were at their aunt's house for the weekend: they helped to bake Christmas cakes on Saturday afternoon and had a trip to the cinema on Sunday to see "Mamma Mia!" which they enjoyed. We missed them and were very glad to have them home again last night. Big hugs all round!
The FH is exhausted after the weekend, and has been asleep in the chair in the lounge all morning so I had better take him some lunch. Today it is raining and is forecast to go on and on. Baking is on the agenda, I think, as the freezer and tins are empty. I did get a new gadget delivered yesterday - an electric slicing machine, so I will be able to slice my home made bread to an acceptable thinness for lunchbox sandwiches now, saving a little more money.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Time has flown - again!

And I haven't been here since Monday! And the week is nearing its close already.....where have we been?!

Monday was school, band practice, shopping, and chicken curry for tea. Tuesday was gymnastics after school, then tea, bath and bed, and yesterday was a big one - so much went on. I went to school for a 9.15am meeting, stood around till 9.30 to find that the meeting has been postponed and I hadn't been told. Then I dashed off to town to get change, pay a bill and do a little bit of shopping. The YFG was excited about school as she was having the Bonfire Day special school lunch, and was so looking forward to that. She enjoyed it and told everyone all about it several times. When I picked her up from school, we came home to find that the FH had forgotten to take the EFG's kit bag with him to pick her up for her exercise class, so we had to go haring off to catch him up. When we got back, the YFG's friend came round to play and stay for tea. I made them pasta in cheese, garlic and ham sauce, followed by chocolate cake (menu of their choice) and then cooked for the FH and I later. The friend's parents came to pick her up at about 7.15pm and told us that they might be moving. That saddened me as I am beginning to think of the mum as a friend, and the YFG gets on so well with the little girl that it will be a shame to see them move away, although they don't seem to be planning to go too far.

This morning, I have been packing books into the trailer again for the big East of England Christmas Festival at Peterborough. This is a three day show so we are going there this afternoon to set up the stall and then we have to trade 9-5 over the Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This is a huge show and we have had a stall there every year since it began about 5 years ago. The FGs will be staying with my sister for the weekend, so they will be having a little break from home too.

Must remember to take the camera so that I can take photos again - the stall will be different this time as we have neighbours in a shell scheme so we can't have the end open....not entirely sure what I am planning, but hoping it works OK!!

Monday, 3 November 2008

More baking.......

The YFG loves the slabs of walnut cake that you can buy in supermarkets - it was on offer the other week in Sainsbury's at 2 for £2, but they are not very substantial slabs. My gannets eat the slab and look for more in a few minutes! However, looking for a recipe for a walnut cake like this is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Coffee and walnut, date and walnut, etc - it seems that there are 101 recipes for combinations involving walnuts but nothing out there for a cake using only the solitary walnut. I looked and looked - then I gave up and concocted my own. I now make very finely chopped walnuts in the food processor, make a loaf tin sponge batter and then fold in the walnuts at the last minute - and it works! This is the second time that I have made it, and the FGs and FH love it. It is also, as you can see, a very substantial cake and it takes some eating - well, it lasts a couple of days instead of 10 minutes, so that is an improvement.

And then there was the bread in the Remoska. I thought I would use the same recipe but make rolls instead of mini-loaves this time, and it is a huge success. The 8 rolls nestled nicely in the Remoska pan, and cooked in about half an hour. They tore apart well, and the tops are crusty. Four are waiting to go into the lunches tomorrow and four are in the freezer. And this is SLOW bread - I started the dough at about 10am, left it to rise until nearly 2pm, knocked it back and shaped it into the rolls and left it again, and then baked it at about 3.45pm. It didn't seem to take much hands-on time at all, and it was very forgiving in that it didn't mind being left quite a long time in between kneading and knocking back. This is bread as it should be!!

Doesn't that look great?!

Happy baking, everyone!

Back to school

Both the FGs went back to school today - with a bit of a sigh of relief from me, I am ashamed to say. They are hard work when they are home together at the moment as there is constant competition between them, bickering and one-upmanship - and it becomes quite exhausting after a week. Only when I turn on them both do they come together in a united front against me! This is the part of them going to school that saddens me, as I do see this change in their attitudes to one another as a result of them being at school, and away from the home for a large part of the day. I need to find some way of helping them to re-connect with one another in an appropriate way; I can handle a bit of friendly rivalry but this is becoming a chore to deal with. Any advice out there??

Today I have done only one load of washing as I have no more line space under the verandah and the weather is not good enough to actually peg it on the outside line. I have one loaf in the bread machine and some dough for rolls proving at the moment - I am going to bake the rolls in the remoska. The bread was good, it seems, so hopefully the rolls will be too.

Another cockerel has been eaten this weekend. I cooked him slowly over about 5 and a half hours in the slow-cooker on Saturday evening, and then took most of the meat off the bones, and refrigerated it. The remaining bones were left in the slow-cooker, and I added a couple of onions, a parsnip and some carrots as well as a kettleful of water. This was then left to cook all night and the following morning and we had chicken soup for lunch on Sunday. For the evening meal, I took some chicken breast meat, added a can of condensed mushroom soup, covered it all with a suet crust and made a pie. This was very well received and appreciated! There is still more chicken to be had, so I think it may become a curry tonight.

I am trying not to use the oven much and so that is one reason to cook the chicken in the slow-cooker, and when I cooked the pie yesterday, I also made jam roly-poly with the leftover suet dough, and a walnut cake, so I made the most of the opportunity. Using the Remoska, the bread machine and the slow-cooker, which all use relatively little electricity, should mean lower electricity bills - we can hope!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Pampering day for the girls!

At lunchtime today, the girls and I loaded up the car with a couple of boxes of craft and cookery books, and went to a local village hall for the afternoon. The Guiding group are trying to recruit some local leaders and they organised a craft, pamper and healthy eating afternoon for the ladies of the area. It was fun! My book stall was sandwiched between my sister's Pampered Chef stall and a scrapbooking lady that I know, so I had someone to chat with on either side, so that although we didn't do a huge amount of business, we still had a good afternoon. The FGs were trying out all the pampering ideas on offer - the YFG had her nails painted and a mini-facial, then they both made a decorative box with a soap maker and a Christmas card with the scrapbooking lady.

Apart from that, we have had a restful sort of day - all the washing and ironing is up to date, and the housework can wait until Monday when the FGs are back at school.