Thursday, 30 September 2010

Juggle like mad or run and hide?

I knew last night was going to be interesting at the Governors' meeting at the school, but I was elected Chair of Governors. And that was being chucked in at the deep end, up the creek without the paddle and all the other sayings that mean in over my head!

The existing Chair decided he needed a break from it after about 4 years of doing the job, but there is really only me to do the job in his stead - we are short of Governors by three; of those that are there, five are excluded from the job by virtue of being employed at the school; one is going to live abroad any day; three more are brand new and were attending their first meeting, and the other one was just attending for the second time. I did manage to get the outgoing Chair to be the Vice-Chair, so that I can call upon him for help and support, but I will be spending sometime over the weekend doing an online "Taking the Chair" course on the local government portal, and reading, reading, reading all the papers I have now acquired.

I'm also helping a lovely lady on the estate with a community blog, running an afterschool gym club once a week, helping to run the big gym club, doing stuff at church, and slowly giving up on housework. The poor chickens have been shortchanged this week as I usually go up there and sit and natter at them now and again whilst I am looking them over, but there hasn't been the time this week for too long sat looking, and the rain has been atrocious too. More forecast for tomorrow!

I am SO looking forward to our holiday at the end of the month. No computers, emails, phone calls, housework beyond the bare minimum to keep the place tidy, little washing, no ironing, no school uniforms to wash, no chickens to feed and clean out for a week - gosh, what will I do!?!
We are looking forward to walking, sightseeing, and long, cosy evenings watching DVDs and reading!! And two eight-hour train rides will be bliss! We are going here whilst my uncle is in residence here to look after everything for us.

Happy Birthday, Adam

There was a boy back in primary school that I sat next to for a year when we were about 8, I think, although we had been in classes together since we were four. Adam's birthday is two days after mine, so it is today. I have no idea what he has done with his life or where he is now, although I did see his mother once a few years ago - but I always remember his birthday!!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010


I was very disappointed to read in the Daily Mail that the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England is encouraging the country to Spend and Not Save. Someone with an interest in economics may argue his point, but he hasn't convinced me, and I will continue to try to stash some cash away each month - and I won't be going out spending for his benefit!!

38 and counting.........

It was my birthday yesterday and one of my friends helpfully pointed out that I would soon be 40. I think not, my dear - that's a whole two years away and there's lots to do before then!! On the other hand, at least once I am 40, people will stop saying, "Oh, you're nearly 40!" Perhaps it will be a badge of honour to have made it!

Yesterday was a lovely birthday: the girls brought me a birthday candle stuck into a cupcake at 7am and sang Happy Birthday to me, and they gave me their presents - some nail varnish and a big selection of smellies for the bath. The FH doesn't "do" presents but told me to get myself something, so I did - Nigel Slater's Tender Vol II - all about fruit. (I saw it at half price in Tesco and thought it would be lovely - and it is!!) More cards arrived in the post. A friend came around for a chat with a present - a beautiful glass worktop saver with a huge picture of veg on it - she knows me well!! Later on, the FH cooked me a lovely lunch of steak, mushrooms, carrots, cabbage and potatoes. I went to gym later still, where I got another card. When we got home from gym, I made some pudding and the FH and I had a glass of wine and sat together to watch "Keeping Mum" - hilarious film with Maggie Smith, Rowan Atkinson and Kristin Scott-Thomas. I was thoroughly tired when I went to bed, but happy!!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Mincemeat musings

I made the mincemeat according to Froog's instructions, and then, after I had it all jarred up, I looked in my Delia's Happy Christmas book to see how the methods compared. Froog uses Delia's recipe with some adaptations.

Delia puts all the ingredients (she also adds some whole almonds) apart from the brandy, into a large bowl and leaves it to soak for at least 12 hours. She doesn't jar it whilst it is hot, but advocates stirring it occasionally as it cools so that the hot fat is distributed through the mincemeat and coats the other ingredients. She still hasn't added the brandy.........that doesn't go in until the mincemeat is "quite cold" which I take to mean - COLD - not "nearly cold". I suppose that means that none of the brandy is evaporated off during the cooking and could result in a more boozy mincemeat. Then she puts it into the jars.

I have more brandy now so I am thinking of looking for more jars and making a second batch using the Delia method to see if my chief taster can find a difference. I will need more as I always make loads of mince pies, so I may as well experiment a little. I am also thinking that the slow-cooker may have been a little too hot for this - I put it on the Auto setting - and I will try the second batch in the low oven. I may also treat myself to a proper zester so that I don't have to just grate the lemon and orange peel.

It may take a while to accumulate the jars, so I'll post the results in a week or two.

Garage sale gleanings - and mincemeat

Four and a half jars of mincemeat - just been put in the jars and smelling wonderful!

I made it in the slow-cooker - looking divine...

The rug we picked up at the garage sale for just £2. It was destined for the conservatory but then we thought we would try it out in the lounge and it looks fine. We had been wanting something in here for a while, and the colours go well with our pink walls and green curtains.

Just to see the detail on the corner

This is a lamp which hold a tea-light. I thought it would be nice to have on the table in the conservatory, but I took the photo in the lounge as it was dark outside. I haven't seen a lamp like this before, and for 50p, I couldn't resist.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Musical Mondays

I have some photos but Blogger is not co-operating! We went to a garage sale at one of our neighbour's houses yesterday after chapel, and I bought a few bargains - that is what the photos are for. Maybe tomorrow!

The girls and the FH have been at band practice and then the FH went to a residents' committee meeting for the estate where we live; his car refused to turn over tonight so he had to get a lift there and back. We'll have to look at it in the morning as he needs it to bring the girls to gym tomorrow...

Sunday, 26 September 2010

All go here!

I have Froog's mincemeat in the slowcooker, roast potatoes in the Remoska, carrots boiling and broccoli steaming, the fire is alight and the school uniforms are almost dry on the airers, ready for ironing later - the only fly in the ointment today is flipping James Bond!

The powers that be have had at least two JB films on each week for weeks now and it is driving me mad - the FH loves to watch them ALL, even though he has seen them all hundreds of times. The YFG went out for a walk with the neighbours and Sinbad the dog, so the EFG and I thought we would settle down in front of the fire to watch The Secret Garden (the Maggie Smith version) since it was raining but hey, JB came on only about 20 minutes into it, so we had to give over and let JB reign supreme..........I was told that it was OK as I was planning to go and "play at cooking" so that is what I did. Good job I love him really as it would have been a good case for murder! Funny how he occasionally mutters that he never sees me because I never watch TV with him - shame he is so bossy about what we have to watch.

I am saving up for a new tv in the kitchen but shhh - I'll be in charge of that one!! Hopefully I will have enough pennies in the pot by Christmas, but it won't be before then as the credit card bill has arrived with the Train tickets and car on it for the holiday at the end of October - I must get my priorities straight - bills first and luxuries later!

The chicken-poo shovelling has had to be postponed due to driving rain this afternoon; I had thought that there was a small window of opportunity when the YFG went out for a walk but it soon started up again and she came home drenched. I am hoping for drier weather tomorrow!!

The menu plan for the week ahead is looking like this:
Today - smoked haddock, carrots, broccoli and roasties, followed by leftover cake.
Monday - pasta and sauce
Tuesday - chicken casserole (perhaps in the slow cooker), birthday cake if I get round to making myself one!
Wednesday - cod, chips and peas - all from the freezer
Thursday - Toad in the hole, gravy and vegetables
Friday - FH on duty so up to him to go freezer-diving!
Saturday - HM pizza.

We have loads of fruit in the freezer, so there may be some crumbles this week - pear would be lovely as we haven't had that for ages.

Hope you all have a good week.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Feeling revived!

This afternoon, I had a bath and then fell asleep on my bed for a good hour - and I do feel a lot better! I didn't feel too tired this morning at gymnastics, but when the YFG and I had had a quick trip around Tesco and then had a cup of tea when I got home, I was beginning to wane!

We have the woodburner alight tonight for the first time since the summer. The lounge is nice and cosy, and the gang are all sitting around, watching Michael MacIntyre - he is a hilarious comic, and he very rarely swears or says anything terribly rude, but he IS just funny in himself somehow.

We have loads of fire wood for the winter, and probably next winter too. I have been reading a website which predicts another cold winter like last year, with considerable snowfall again. It's here and is very interesting: the thermohaline current which drives the gulf stream is waning badly - and there are satellite images which show that on the blog. The influx of fresh water from the melting ice at the pole is not helping, and the whole lot adds up to cooling for us here! Global warming IS happening, but the by-product of it for us seems to be that we may get chillier.

Chicken-poo shovelling is on the agenda tomorrow, so I had better go to bed!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Macmillan morning

I finally sank into my bed at about 12.30am this morning after setting the alarm for 5am to get up again. The baking was finished, but there was all the icing to do so I went to have a sleep whilst the cakes cooled! The coffee morning was successful in that we have raised about £150 - can't be sure as people put more odds and ends of money in the pot after I had counted it, so I will have to do it again tomorrow. The weather (damp and grey) affected the turnout so we were short of a few people, but the mood was cheery and people had a good chin wag!

The FH and UJ have gone to Tattersall's Arena in Newmarket tonight for a Help the Heroes Brass band concert, but I am not waiting up for them, so I will have to hear all about it tomorrow - we've been to gym tonight and I am shattered.

Night, everyone!

Thursday, 23 September 2010

The baking is underway - at last!

The vanilla cupcakes are done, the chocolate ones are in the oven, the cheese scones are ready to go in, and the carrot is grated for the carrot cake. Also lined up are ingredients for lemon sponge and gingercakes, as well as the famous Twink's hobnobs - if you haven't tried them yet, you really should! I just need the oven to be bigger so that I can fit more in at once and it would all be a breeze - but as it is, I have time to sit here for a minute, have a drink and catch my breath.

If you are going to a Macmillan event tomorrow, I hope you have a great time, and let's all hope we raise a fortune for Macmillan!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010


I still haven't started this baking and I am beginning to panic!! Can't even decide what to make beyond the cupcakes, Twinks and lemon sponge - must go and look through the recipe folder and think about what went down well last year as well as what would keep OK for a day or two if it didn't sell........

Fifty things I love

Inspired by GTM, here's my list.......for today. I think that some of these things will change with the seasons and with how I feel, but some are definitely for always. They are in no particular order.

  1. My family
  2. The smell of my girls' freshly washed hair
  3. The smell of bread baking
  4. The feeling of a clean bed made with freshly laundered sheets
  5. Roast lamb with mint sauce
  6. God
  7. Blackcurrant squash
  8. Hot baths
  9. Recipe books
  10. Surprise presents
  11. Hearing my cockerels crowing
  12. The miracle of the chick hatching out of the egg
  13. Katie Fforde's novels
  14. Old Furniture
  15. Hot water bottles and cosy rugs
  16. Old fashioned films
  17. Roaring wood fires in the woodburner
  18. Anne of Green Gables films
  19. Patchwork quilts
  20. Chocolate microwave sponge pudding
  21. My church and our church family
  22. A cup of tea
  23. Honeysuckle
  24. Growing vegetables
  25. The jars of jam on my shelf
  26. Knitting
  27. Scotland
  28. New notebooks
  29. Sandra Bullock's films
  30. Shadow the cat
  31. BBC Breakfast
  32. Baking for the family
  33. Davina's exercise DVDs
  34. Coaching gymnastics
  35. Books
  36. Skirts
  37. Geography
  38. Genealogy
  39. The Inn of the Sixth Happiness
  40. Roast chicken
  41. My wedding ring
  42. Packets of seed with all their promise
  43. Warm bowls of porridge
  44. Blue skies in autumn
  45. Lavender
  46. Traditions
  47. Jam tarts from Sainsbury's FreeFrom range
  48. The Sound of Music
  49. The Mma Ramotswe books - magical
  50. Oxburgh Hall
Well, that's all quite sedate and traditional, which I think is a fair reflection of who I am and what I like, so there's nothing new there! It's quite an interesting exercise - and I am pretty sure that the list will look quite different in some aspects if I revisit it in six months' time.

I must go and get baking now!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

A bird in the hand........

is much better than one in the chimney! I was peacefully ironing this morning, whilst watching some drivel on C4, when I heard a noise coming from the stove pipe - a fluttering of wings. Sure enough, when I moved the plate at the back of the stove opening, a small bird flew out - it was rather black with soot so I am not sure what it was but I suspect a sparrow. It flew at the windows and then we managed to catch it and let it out. Hope that doesn't happen too often!

This warm weather is lovely but most unseasonable - the temperature today has been about 6 degrees above the average for the time of year - and when we came out of gym tonight at 8pm, the thermometer in the car still said 21! No wonder we were hot. Another scorcher is predicted for tomorrow but I won't be sorry if it is a bit cooler as the conservatory at the back of the house is really making the office and the kitchen HOT!

I have been inspired by a friend who blogs; she shared "50 things she loves" earlier this week so I am currently preparing my own list, but the trouble is that I haven't been able to stop at 50 so there is a bit of editing required! Hope to be able to share that tomorrow but I haven't had time to start the baking for Friday yet so I must make that a priority for the To Do list in the morning.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Put up the flags!

I have completed my tax return!!!!!!! I hate doing it with a vengeance but it is such a simple thing to get to grips with once you have collated all the information - and I always put off doing it because the Thought of doing it is so much worse than actually getting on with it. But 'tis done. At last. Until next year.

UJ came over to tea last night, and brought pears, beetroot and runner beans. The harvest is slowing down now. We had a roast chicken and lots of veg with roast potatoes, and then, later on when all that had settled, I made Rhonda-Jean's chocolate self-saucing pudding which was lovely. I also made another couple of the banana and chocolate cakes, but someone had helped themselves to the other half of the bar of chocolate I had kept so I had to open another one - hopefully I have hidden it more effectively this time! It is UJ's 71st birthday today, so I sent him home with the smaller 1lb loaf cake to enjoy today and this week.

Today I have been hitting the housework and getting a little straighter after the weekend, as well as beginning to make some arrangements for the Macmillan coffee morning on Friday. I want to make some cupcakes tonight and freeze them un-iced so that I can grab them out of the freezer on Thursday night and just decorate them. It will be easier if I can do some of the work ahead of time. The weather has been fine and blowy today which has been excellent for getting the washing dry - cue a heap of ironing for later on!!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

New places, new people

I've led a new after-school gym class today at a school right in the northern part of the Fens. I took assistance along in the form of an Assistant Coach as I had been warned that we had 20 children from KS2 to deal with, and I knew that that was too many for one person. We arrived a little ahead of schedule, which was fine as it gave us time to get the mats on the floor. There aren't enough yet, but the Head has ordered more, which should be there at the end of next week, although probably not in time for our session next Thursday. There were 18 children who actually turned up as two were off sick, apparently. Of those 18, one was a huge challenge, two were handfuls and the rest were great. The huge challenge was a child who obviously had some anger management issues, made a racist remark to another child which I shall have to report to the Head in the morning, and generally annoyed the other children to distraction. This child had no attention span, let alone a short one - I could have managed a short one, but none at all is a problem. So, I am going to have to ask for help with this child - I am hoping that the Head will send in a TA to help the child to "access" the session more appropriately as the behaviour we saw today could be dangerous for the other children in the session. Schools today are keen to be inclusive, but gymnastics is a sport where we need the children to focus and behave as we only have one pair of hands and sometimes children have to wait for a turn! Apart from that, the session was fun, the kids had a laugh but learned some new skills too, and we are keen to teach them plenty of gym - we have four more sessions with these children and then we are going to have some KS1 children after half-term.

Tonight I have been with the YFG to an information evening at the secondary school to learn more about the curriculum she will be following, and to find out about the new review and assessment system that they are going to be using. I am already getting "i-behave" emails from teachers about both of the girls - positive ones - but soon I will be able to go online and look at their attendance percentages, their targets, etc all on a website which is updated daily as far as attendance is concerned but at least half-termly with reports and targets. It should cut down the paperwork and postage for the school, and we will be able to access the information at home. I met a few of her teachers and her form tutor, and they all say how well she has settled in - thank goodness. She is pleased that she knows where all her classes are now, and she has signed up for art club, choir and the Anti-bullying council, so she is keen to get involved.

The EFG is also doing well, although she has some frustrations - the art class isn't exactly what she thought it would be, but she is enjoying the art, even if she thinks that the teacher doesn't like her! She's cross that her old French teacher said that the EFG would have her as her teacher if she did it for GCSE - but she has another teacher instead, and one we are not entirely confident in. He was her Spanish teacher last year and even I found him a little too laid back when I met him at the parents' evenings. I said that I would have to resurrect my GCSE French from way back when and give her a hand - I got an "A" so I ought to be able to remember some of it!! It was only about 22 years ago - the mere blink of an eye....

I have posted my entry to the East of England Autumn show at Peterborough to sell some chickens in the poultry sale. A pair of Silver-laced Wyandotte bantams (Bruce and Betty) are off, as well as the Gold-laced Sebright pair and a trio and a pair of GPOs are up for sale. I have no idea how to price them so I have agreed with the Secretary of the show that I will price them on the day with the help of the Stewards, who know more about this than I do - it depends on how good the birds are, he says, so hopefully mine aren't too bad. We shall see.

The posters for the Macmillan coffee morning on the 24th September finally arrived today, so I shall be going round the village in the morning to put them up everywhere, and then I shall have an hour or two over the weekend browsing through my baking books and looking for inspiration. I often say that, but I am pretty sure that a large lemon sponge and some Twinks hobnobs will definitely be part of the line-up as well as some cupcakes of some kind since I now have two rather splendid wire cupcake towers upon which to display them. We raised about £180-£200 last year, so I am hoping we will get somewhere near that again this year.

I must get around to watching this week's episode of the Great British Bake-off on i-player, but it is a matter of getting access to the laptop at a convenient time as the sound is dire on this desktop machine. I do like to watch it as I seem to learn from Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry all sorts of tips and hints, and I love to see the "signature" bakes from the contestants each week. I have two bananas heading for the brown spotty/mushy stage, so I should be able to make another chocolate and banana loaf this weekend, as long as the FH doesn't decide to eat them. I am trying to control his wheat intake so that he can lose some weight (it is working - 3lbs off last week) but that means that he often eats fruit for breakfast instead of cereal. It is one way of getting some of oour vast stock of frozen fruit eaten - stewed plums for breakfast make a change from the standard fare!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Raining again in the Fens

The rain started up again this afternoon after the girls got home from school. It is tipping it down out there now!

This week has been a busy one so far - a massive sorting out and tidying up for winter in the garden, although there is still more to be done; a rabbit-cleaning out session, moving hen houses around, pulling up dying beanstalks, etc. There was also gym yesterday, and today I have been washing, changing beds, and chatting! One was a long chat with a friend who's really going through the mill at the moment - I was with her for several hours this afternoon; the other chat was just a brief one over a cup of tea, with a friend who came to buy some eggs. The hens are not laying a lot at the moment as they are beginning to moult, so I had to go and scour the henhouses for some eggs for her, and then I only managed to find four.

Nothing wise or wonderful to share tonight, but hoping that everyone is well, and hugs all round!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Confessions from the Fens

It won't make tabloid headlines, but there are a few things I feel a little bad about - I haven't done any exercise for the past four weeks as, although it worked whilst we were in a routine, the last two weeks of the holidays were totally without routine, and we all had a rest, so the exercises went by the wayside. I felt better when I was exercising five mornings a week, so come tomorrow, I will be starting them again. Same time slot in the morning, same DVDs. I similarly fell off the Slimming World wagon as the diet wasn't suiting my IBS stomach, so I am trying to modify it somewhat to balance the needs of losing weight without living two feet from a toilet all the time!

I didn't get the scones made for the village show, either - I wanted them to taste fresh, and thought that the best time to make them was either going to be late Friday night or early Saturday morning. That just didn't happen, as those times were dominated with being tired after gym and then in the morning, with getting everything normal done before I go to gym at 9am. I didn't manage to get up any earlier to fit it all in....

On the PLUS side, I spent an hour and a half today cleaning out all eight pens in the "new" chicken shed - so then all the chooks had a lovely time rearranging the straw and generally doing their own housekeeping - you can imagine the conversations (well, I can, but then perhaps I'm weird!), "What has she been doing to my house? It wasn't this when we went out to lunch, Bruce!" "I know, I know, Betty, but look - clean straw - have a good rummage and if you find anything to eat in then, give me a holler and I'll be in!" "You're always thinking of your stomach!" Bruce and Betty are the pair of Silver-Laced Wyandottes, and they are gorgeous!

The BEST news of the day is that the last hatch of the year has happened - we have 10 chicks in the box under the lamp in the lounge. There are 9 Light Sussex and a brown one - it's either a Brown Sussex or a GPO - we'll be able to tell when it gets a little bigger. There are still another 15 (I think) eggs in the incubator, so there may be a few more chaps in the morning, but I am thrilled with 10 so I won't be disappointed if this is our lot. They are lovely little birds, and with 9 of them being yellow, look like traditional "chicks". Very happy mama here tonight.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Tired out again

Getting back into the swing of things is harder than I thought it would be! Another busy day today so I am off to bed now. Will be back tomorrow - I hope :-)

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

A tiring Tuesday which brought on a restful Wednesday!

Gym was just plain hard work last night! With the HC on crutches still, the main burden of the setting out of the equipment fell to me, although the sports centre manager was a star and helped me to put the double trampette and the A bars out. Then, later, a couple of Y10 girls came in and helped as well, so between us we had it all out by 4.15pm, ready for a rest before the kids came in to start at 5pm.

There were a couple of new children and one with an obnoxious father who took a bit of dealing with, but the class itself was OK. Those children left at 6pm and the second class came in - about 25 or so, I think. It worked out in the end, but I changed groups a couple of times to help people out, although I had a lovely group of 4 girls to start with - particularly nice girls! I'll try to teach them again next week...

And then we had to put everything away again.....oh, my! I perspired, I glowed, I just plain sweat! The weather yesterday was humid anyway, but by 8pm, I was rather tired!

Why do I do it then, if it is so hard? Well, I enjoy it - I enjoy the company of the other coaches, I love teaching the kids and seeing them "get" a move, and I love doing something that absorbs me so completely - I don't think about anything else whilst I am there. So I keep going back.

The first week of term is hard because the kids are coming back and getting back into the swing of it all, the parents are thrusting envelopes with their payments in at me left, right and centre, new kids and parents are asking 101 questions, and the new kids sometimes take some time to settle in - but often the parents take longer to adjust to our way of doing things eg obnoxious dad last night was filling in the reg form for his daughter and as the other kids were on the floor in a big circle, he says in an annoyed tone of voice, "Can she not get involved in this then?" to me as I am filling in paperwork for another parent. So I said, "Of course," and sent the EFG to help his daughter into the line. I didn't really feel like explaining that most of the time, new kids are nervous, like his was, and it doesn't do them any harm to watch for a minute and understand what is going on.

So after all that, today has been a bit slower! I have ordered tickets for the FH and UJ to go to a concert featuring Soham Comrades Band at Tattersalls in Newmarket at the end of the month - a solo euphonium player from the world-famous Grimethorpe Colliery Band will be playing with the band. I have watched two episodes of the Great British bake off on iPlayer. I have been reading the book, "The 19th Wife" which I picked up in the doctor's surgery yesterday for 50p when I took the FH for blood tests. I've done a little washing, and ironing and looked after the chooks. Bread was made this morning - I decided that if I didn't feel too enthusiastic about work, I had better get the machines going to do some so one made a wholemeal loaf, which has been sliced and frozen, and I made a dough for a couple of French sticks in the other. The girls and FH ate most of one of them with raspberry jam when the girls got home from school.

Hope everyone is well - and good night, all!

Monday, 6 September 2010

A good day all round

I didn't cross many things off the "To Do" list with which I started the day - I haven't finished the tax return, I haven't done the filing, I haven't found a membership card I need.......but hey, I have done other things instead - funny how it goes like that!

I have cut the back lawn, which was Hard Work as it hasn't been cut all summer as it has had chicken arks here and there all over it and they have made the occasional bare-ish batch which has been reseeded. About five trips to the compost heap saw the job done and the compost heap overflowing a little. I have taken the EFG to band practise tonight, and I have dug up some self-set lavatera plants from the veg beds - they seem to have a tap root which heads for Australia and is a challenge to get out. I heaved on each one when I had loosened them with a fork, and had to use both hands - it made me let out a big sigh each time I got one out and there was imminent danger of me falling backwards with the force! I cleaned the lounge and hall this morning, and had a couple of conversations with people about gymnastics too as we start back there tomorrow. The HC is still on crutches...

Busy day all round, but I feel pleased with what I have done and I will have to tackle some of the things I missed tomorrow. Must find that membership card!

Shhh! Don't tell.....

I splurged tonight. I went to Sainsbury's and I bought this. Go on, have a quick peek!

Had a look? I have several of her books and like to try some of her recipes occasionally, and use them as inspiration for slight deviations. The FH calls her the Artery Clogging Cook, so we don't always follow the recipes to the letter.

Anyway - it was on offer at £12.99, and I used £12.50 of Nectar point, so cost to me was just 49p. Bargain!

The chocolate and banana loaf

It worked! The recipe made a 2lb loaf and a 1lb loaf - the original recipe said to use a 1.2l loaf tin, whatever size that is. The family have eaten the 1lb loaf and the 2lb one is in the freezer.

So, I used:
150g margerine (Stork, in my case)
185g light brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
150ml milk
300g plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 mashed bananas - brown with spots!
50g Tesco value dark chocolate - that amounts to half a bar, chopped up
50g walnuts, chopped

I turned the oven on to 160c as it is a fan oven (apparently, you'd need it at 180C if it wasn't). I popped Lakeland loaf liners into the loaf tins, and then I used an electric hand beater to cream the margerine and sugar together. Then, in one go, contrary to the instructions, I added everything else and gave it all a jolly good stir.

I filled the small pan first and then the larger one, and placed them side by side on a baking tray, and put them on the middle shelf of my oven. They cooked for about 50 minutes, then I tested them with a sharp knife and removed the smaller loaf. I cooked the larger one for another 12-14 minutes, and then it was done. The outside does go a nice chocolate brown colour, and the inside looks yummy and they smell gorgeous! I made the gang resist the temptation to eat them until they were cooler, but the recipe does suggest that they are nice served warm - perhaps with ice cream for a pudding?

The official recipe is to be found at if you'd prefer. I will edit the photos in later when I have retrieved them.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

An observation from yesterday

The YFG and I went to Tesco's cafe yesterday for a cheap date! She had a bowl of chips and a drink and I had a mug of tea - grand sum of £2.80!! The attraction for her is that we sit in the balcony where the cafe is situated and we can watch the shoppers below - we look out for people we know, people who look interesting, etc and we do a bit of People Watching, and I sit there and wonder who these people are and what their lives are like! We find it fascinating.

At about 3pm on a Saturday afternoon, there were quite a lot of people in there. One thing struck me as I looked at what was in the trolleys and the people pushing them - the older the person was, the more likely it was that the products in the trolley were "top" brands: Ariel/Persil washing powder in big boxes, Andrex loo rolls, etc. Younger people tended not to have so many of the "big brands" in their trolleys, either choosing the Tesco own brands or the Value ranges. I sat there pondering why that was.....I wonder whether it is because perhaps those brands were the ones that were in existence before the supermarkets came along in the 70s and 80s, and those people have grown used to them so they stick with them. I know that when my mum died in 1998 and my dad and uncle had to start doing more things without her guidance, they stuck instinctively to the brands she had always bought and used, and to some extent they still do, 12 years later - its partly habit, perhaps, and partly some reluctance to change. I have been using for so long now that I am used to the downshifting challenge and very rarely buy "big branded" anything - there are some exceptions like Heinz ketchup, as no other tastes quite the same, but that is about it!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Scone recipe deviation

I finally got around to trying the scones with fruit tonight - the last batch are still in the oven. I added 3oz Tesco Value mixed dried fruit to the recipe, and the FH says that they are brilliant. Instead of cutting them out with a 3" diameter cutter, which means that one can only get 8 or 9 scones from the mixture, I am using a 1" cutter and getting about 24! They are also rising more evenly than the first batch as I stopped myself from twisting the cutter in the dough to release the dough; instead I am just pushing it down very firmly and then lifting it out of the dough. It seems to do the trick!

I also made a chocolate and banana loaf - I have got to stop buying bananas on a regular basis as there are always some left to go brown and mushy. I'll take some pictures tomorrow when I cut it and when it has been tasted, I'll post the recipe if it is deemed to be any good!

Friday, 3 September 2010

Stuff's happening around the place

Not just around here, but around the world. Watching the news today, it seems like we are going to be facing inflation in food prices, based on problems with the wheat harvest. I thought wheat = bread to start with, but then I listened some more and realised that no, wheat = a whole lot more than just bread! Flour will obviously be affected but the knock-on effect will be far wider - the price of animal/chicken feed will have to rise in proportion as well, which will then impact on egg/chicken/meat/milk prices, I should think, and perhaps pasta too. So Russia has extended its ban on exporting wheat, keeping it for its domestic market, the floods in Pakistan are also causing shortages of food, and the weather here is making the harvest a challenge; I can hear a combine harvester still out in the fields at the back of the house here now. If it isn't raining, the combines are out and about, and they keep working into the night. I have just read in the newspaper that a farmer left a trailer of wheat half-full in his field at 2am, and someone stole most of the wheat from the trailer and abandoned the trailer in a layby a few miles away. That wheat stolen was worth £1200, and represents a significant proportion of that farmer's income that he can't afford to lose.

The FH and I had a sort through the freezers today and were pleased with what we recorded as being in there. There are loads of plums, berries, stewed apples, green beans, broad beans, asparagus, peppers, peas, strawberries, gooseberries, cherries, broccoli, cauliflower, tomato sauce a la GTM's recipe, HM cakes, bread, rolls, rhubarb, chickens (home butchered as well as bought), sausages, mince, sausagemeat and frozen puff pastry to make sausage plait, ice cream, stewing steak, ratatouille.....gosh, I can't think what else - tonnes of stuff! We realised that we really don't need to buy any fruit and veg at all for weeks. We don't NEED to, but this isn't the kind of fruit to put in lunchboxes, so I will have to buy some apples or oranges for that, but not for a while as I have a stash in the fridge. We obviously have loads of meat, too. So, after all that, I went to Tesco and stocked up the storecupboard with flour, sugar, pasta, tinned this and that, loo roll, etc - all my store staples, so that I am hoping I can get away without any major shopping trips at all this month as we make a concerted effort to eat from the freezers. It is only because UJ and HC give us fruit and veg, as well as the FH's friend B, and we grow our own, that we have all this bounty.

I was thrilled and very surprised that the Family and Friends Railcard that I ordered just yesterday arrived this morning, and in the same post, all the tickets for our October trip north. Given that there are four of us travelling, with seat reservations, there is a BIG wadge of tickets, but they came so quickly! You can't beat that for service. We are travelling north from Peterborough, straight through to Aberdeen, then changing for Forres. When we come back, though, we are going from Forres to Inverness, changing for Edinburgh and then changing again for Peterborough. I am pleased as we will see the beautiful Scottish scenery in the morning during the return journey - so good vibes for the weather up there on the 30th October, please!

School has gone well again today, and the girls are both in bed now. The EFG has an early start for a gym course in Cambridge in the morning - she and the FH will be leaving here at about 8am, I think. The YFG and I will be here, and I will be filing all the papers I have on the office floor tonight! I'm off now to read the latest issue of the Home Farmer magazine whilst enjoying a cup of tea. Night, all!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

First day is over

The EFG is pleased that the timetable has been sorted to accommodate her choice to do Art & design at GCSE, and that her friend R is in almost all her classes. She's happy with the form tutor, thinks the new "Head of Progress" (that was Head of Year in my time) is awesome, and is generally happy with her lot.

The YFG has got through the day, made a new friend K, (who she used to know, but hasn't seen since they were 3, so they are forgiven for starting over), lost her way a couple of times, is happy to have been put in a top set for English, isn't sure about having to sit next to boys in some classes, thought the bus was ok (thank goodness!) and is up for going again in the morning. She took herself off to bed at 8.30pm, so she's tired, but I am relieved that all has gone well today.

I have booked the train tickets for our trip in October, organised the hire car, bought the railcard, and done quite a bit of mooching around thinking about things. I have, I admit, been clock watching rather a lot - knowing the school day, I kept thinking of what they would be doing all day!! Maybe I'll be able to focus a little more tomorrow.

The scones (post below somewhere) turned out well, so I thought I would experiment and try them with some dried fruit, not least because there is a cookery class for "fruited scones" in the village show on the 11th September, so if I can get fruit into those scones, I think I am onto a good thing. I'm not sure how much fruit to add, so the FH may get several trial runs to eat - he won't complain, I'm sure!!

Photos from last weekend


This is the welcoming entrance to Lutton St Nicholas church. Lutton is a small village just outside Long Sutton in Lincolnshire.

My uncle, P, is the churchwarden there and he told us that this church has been here over 600 years. It is in a bit of a state at the moment as the congregation continues to raise money for its repair. These annual Flower Festivals have raised over £20,000 in the last 6 years and the work is progressing well, although there is still a lot to be done.

This arrangement was loosely based around a Zoo theme, hence the letter Z nearby.

The Mothers' Union banner in the corner of the church reminded me of a similar one which had a prominent position in the church I attended as a child - a church not disimilar to this one.

The beautiful interior and east window. Now that we attend a Methodist church in a "modern" building, I do miss the atmosphere that this kind of church has - I had a good fix of it on Monday. It includes the slightly damp smell, the polish and the flowers.

This arrangement was carefully constructed around a pillar and was quite striking. There's the back of Uncle P in the background.

The entrance gate with the sign over it. My cousin was married in this church in 2005, and I have a lovely picture of her coming up the path with my girls behind her as part of the group of 5 bridesmaids which she had. It was a February wedding so they wore raspberry pink dresses with velvet capes - they were gorgeous!

And there will be scones for tea

I am now going to go and have a try at making scones. I want to try Paul Hollywood's recipe from The Great British Bake-off but it isn't in the book (why ever not?). I did, however, find it here. I'll let you know later how they turn out! Have a flick through all those links - saves me typing when I could be baking!!

I'm back - they turned out really well but I had a moment when I panicked about the recipe. Don't use the one from that link above as the quantity of milk is wrong. Use this one! This is from the BBC website and it works. I will try to edit a photo in here later when we can sort the camera out - it takes the photos but has them trapped inside!

The girls have gone

I watched them disappear off down the street on their way to catch the bus - two girls in the same uniform with ponytails swinging as they walked, backpacks on and carrying PE kits. The EFG is only just managing to maintain a few inches of height over the YFG so they are a similar height now. We took photos this morning to mark the first day for them - Y10 for the EFG is the beginning of all her GCSE work, so I must not overlook the importance of the year for her too. I have told them that today of all days, the answer, "I forgot!" is not acceptable when I ask them what they have been doing today - today, I need to know!

Sincere thanks for all the good wishes - some here in comments and a few on Facebook too - thanks everyone. The FH was impressed when I told him that people as far apart as Dorset and Forres were thinking of the girls today!

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

End of an era tonight

It feels like we are teetering on the brink of something here tonight! The YFG has had a bath and gone to bed to study the plan of the school and try to learn it, she says, although she will be asleep by now. I have just sat and sewn the last name tapes into her new uniform, and I have the camera at the ready to take photos in the morning. Primary education is over now for us, and we are moving firmly into a different part of her life, and because she is the last one to move into this new time, we are all moving to a slightly different space.

The EFG and the YFG don't get on terribly well, but the EFG has risen to the "big sis" challenge and made arrangements with her friends to take the YFG to her classroom when they get off the bus in the morning, and to be available for her at lunchtime for a short time if she is needed. It's hard for the elder child as they have to go through all this on their own, but then they are expected to look after the younger child when the experience comes round to them - I was also the elder child so I have been in the position myself. I'm proud of the EFG for her kindness towards her little sister in all of this transition. I am sure that once she has the first few weeks under her belt, it will all become much easier for her.

Today the EFG went to the cinema with her friend, and said friend's dad provided the transport. When the YFG found out that there was a cinema trip in the offing but that it didn't include her, there was a little upset, so she and I and her friend went to see "The Last Airbender" this afternoon. I saw it with the EFG on her birthday, and liked it then - and liked it more this time, so I was happy that we had gone back. I was able to take more notice of the soundtrack this time and I loved it! The poor lady on the ticket booth was rather flustered today and sold me three tickets to some 15 film, so I had to go and get a refund for that and sort the right ones out.

When we returned home, I was delighted to find that the FH had spent the afternoon ironing and had nearly done it all! My hero - I had been dreading that heap for a while - there were a couple of weeks' worth of ironing there; now I just have to sort out whose is whose and put it in the bedrooms!