Saturday, 28 November 2020

Saturday

 Morning, everyone.  Sorry I'm a bit late but I did an early morning shop to avoid any crowds.  They I needed to put things away and after that I was so hungry I had my breakfast and I've only just remembered!  Ooops.

Yesterday was quite a productive day.  I made some cranberry sauce in Thermione after a bit of a panic when I thought I didn't have any frozen cranberries (they were hiding) and that is now in the freezer in two containers.  Then I rather fancied making some caramelised red onion chutney as Leonie (my Thermomix 'consultant') said it was a great recipe.  And so it was - I'm definitely making more (did I say this yesterday?) for gifts.

The chat with Jackie was really pleasant, as was coffee with Beth.  There's a M&S food hall fairly close to hers so I seized the opportunity to pop in there and pick up a few things.  They do a nice range of sweets that are OK for vegetarians/vegans so I got some for Christmas so Beth can dip into the bowls just like the rest of us.

That was about it really.  In the evening I stitched and watched telly and got all tearful at THAT moment in 'An Extra Slice'.  Very aaaawwwww, wasn't it?

Today, I've done my shop and really the rest of the day  is going to be spent moving things from garage to house and sorting bits and bobs out because - just in case I haven't mentioned it enough already - tomorrow is Christmas Tree Day.  Woo hoo!

Right, well, having remembered to write and post this, I will love you and leave you and get on with stuff.  Hoping your day will be as pleasant as I expect mine to be.  Take care and be safe.  xx

Friday, 27 November 2020

Friday

 Good morning, everyone.  My goodness, it's cold outside.  There's a heavy frost and a freezing mist, everything is white (not snow, just frost) and, yet again, I am so thankful for central heating and a cosy home.

On that subject, I got the annual letter yesterday, telling me that my winter fuel payment will be landing in my account at some point.  It makes me feel a little easier about turning up the heating from time to time, especially in the evenings when I'm not so active as well as a bit guilty.

Yesterday was, of course, a day for playing with my new toy.
After all my comments about never making puff pastry, too much hassle, etc, I noticed that there's a recipe for quick puff pastry and, as I had small amounts of butter in the freezer, I decided to give it a go.  In went the butter (it has to be in small portions, not as a chunk) and the plain flour plus a bit of salt and some cold water.  On went the machine and after a very short buzz, out came puff pastry dough.  After a brief chill, I did the rolling and folding (even Thermione doesn't manage that!!) but without the resting in between and ten minutes later I had a slab of puff pastry.  I had to test it, of course, so I used a very little to make cheese and marmite straws and the rest was cut into four portions and is now in the freezer.
And it was delicious - so, maybe, from now on I will be making puff pastry!  You never know.

The chat with Chris was lovely.  For people who live very quiet and uneventful lives, we always seem to have plenty to talk about and yesterday was no exception.  It was great fun.

Today is comparatively full.  I need to tidy up before the cleaners arrive and, as today is a whole house day, that means my bedroom.  It's not awful, it just needs a bit of work.

Before then, I have a scheduled Zoom chat with my friend, Jackie.  We missed each other last week so fingers crossed for today.

In the afternoon, while the cleaners are here, fingers crossed, I'm popping over to Beth's for coffee and a good natter.  We can sort out Sunday's arrangements and generally have a good time.

So that's today.  I will probably do some more thermo-playing as well but I have no definite plans yet.  I'll see what I fancy doing.  I've got a post purchase demo with Leonie on Monday afternoon where we make something in tandem.  She said she has a lovely recipe for meatballs that uses some of the new features and a new addition, the blade cover which fits in the bowl, over the blades, to keep the food off.  I'll look around Cookidoo and see what else hits the eye.

Well, I will sign off now - have a wonderful day, stay warm, safe and well.  xx


Thursday, 26 November 2020

Thursday

 Morning, everyone.  It's mildish and dry outside and we had some sunshine yesterday after a very dull morning.  Nice.

I really enjoyed personal training yesterday, delivered online with a programme devised to match the equipment I have - a step, a balance ball, a balance board and weights.  My balance has never been amazing; as a child I was fine on a bike but anything like roller skates were a disaster.  Now I'm getting old(ish), balance becomes more important so it's worth working on and it's definitely improving.  We might be back to face to face next week, maybe not.  It depends what Lindsey's 'ruling body' comes out with and she says I have the choice anyway.  

Not long after that, Thermione III arrived and I had a joyous hour or so unpacking her, connecting her to my internet and washing all the bits and pieces that came with her.

Here she is in the kitchen, taken just now, with apologies for the lighting.  My Thermos have always stood on a thin plastic chopping board.  She has built in scales which can be damaged if you drag her across the surface but it's safe to slide the board.  Life is too short to remember to lift!
Diane, the scales now weigh in one gram increments.

This is a close up of the interactive bit, the touch sensitive screen.  I called up a recipe that I intend to make, we always have home made biscotti for Christmas and I often bag some up as gifts.
If you press the down arrow, it scrolls to the full recipe.  When you press 'start cooking', it takes you through the whole process, step by step, setting the machine for you and prompting when you need to add something.
I will probably use cranberries as well as or instead of apricots and make sure I use Christmas spices.

I started with rice yesterday, which could be done in the old one but which now has a rice cooked setting and uses the absorption method.  I'm usually poor with rice and it comes out claggy but this rice was much better.
Each meal today will use Thermione but breakfast and lunch are not now things, it just uses a different method now.  I will be boiling some eggs for breakfast, using the egg function - Diane, a new feature is that on some settings the blades no longer turn or turn intermittently, like an occasional gentle stir.
Lunch will just be a reheat.
Dinner will be a Cookidoo recipe, chicken with peppers as it uses one of the new features.

After a chat with Beth via Facebook, we have decided to move Christmas Tree Day to this coming weekend.  There's every chance that the following weekend she will be going to pick Alex up from uni and that, of course, takes priority.  I didn't want to leave it for a fortnight so it's this weekend.  So I will have to get all the presents, currently on one of the beds in the guest room, sorted and wrapped.  Maybe a very pleasant task for today.

I'd better stop now and start the day.  I'm on my second coffee so it's about time really.  Have a lovely day and be safe.  xx




Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Wednesday

 Good morning, everyone.  It's dull, it's dry and it might cheer up later.   Yesterday turned out very pleasantly with some lovely late-Autumnal sunshine to cheer everyone up.

Yesterday morning I set to and made - yes, actually made - some sweet pastry for mince pies.  I didn't make it by hand, that's always a disaster, but I used Thermione and it seemed to work out really well.  The baked mince pies don't look too rock solid although I haven't tried one, they all went into the freezer when they had cooled down.

(apologies for the light)

I also got the vegetarian sausage rolls made although I'd bought the puff pastry a few days ago.  I had to taste the inside for seasoning and I follow Mum's trick of taking a little and frying it in a pan to taste.  It was absolutely delicious - Eileen, I added some garlic granules to the mixture and that worked really well.

So now my freezer harbours:
turkey stock from last Christmas (for gravy)
pigs in blankets
a small gammon joint
Christmas puddings
a dozen mince pies
two dozen vegetarian sausage rolls
. . . and a partridge in a pear tree . . .  (not really)

Stuffing next, I suspect, but not yet.  I need to clear more space first.

We won't starve, will we?

Dad and I exchanged emails yesterday about Christmas.  He's pretty much decided it would not be a Good Idea to come over.  He's has several letters telling him that he is in the super-extremely vulnerable group which he most certainly is, for both health and age, and what's coming out 'officially' at the moment is hardly reassuring.
Assuming he doesn't, I'm thinking I will drive over at some point just before Christmas, taking with me some goodies and gifts.  I won't go in but, all being well, we can talk in the car port for a short time or even ion the drive or pavement.  Then, on Christmas Day, maybe we can have a family Zoom for a short time.
We will work something out, definitely.

Did you see the final of Bake Off.  I still wish Hermine had not been eliminated but I think maybe it wouldn't have changed the outcome.  I won't give anything away in case you have it recorded to watch soon but I'm very happy with the result, well deserved.

I got notification yesterday that my new Thermione will be delivered at some time today.  Woo hoo!  So I will be going onto Cookidoo (the TM recipe site - rather silly name, isn't it?) to put together some collections of recipes to try out over the next week or so.
The machine connects automatically to the site when you turn it on and then any recipes you have put into a 'collection' can be called up on the screen at the front of the machine and it takes you through the recipe, automatically setting everything correctly for each stage.  It's really ever so clever.
As I said yesterday, there are thousands of recipes available with more being added regularly so it really is worth the annual subscription.

The only thing I find a little - er - limiting is that at the moment there is no way you can upload your own recipes.  I suppose there's considerable scope for Getting It Wrong and it might muck up the settings/machine/site - I don't know.  You can still use your own recipes, it's just that all the settings are manual.  Oh, the hardship!

Anyway - I'm sure you will hear more in the next few weeks.  Diane, which version do you currently have?  I ask because I'll let you know what I think and it will help to know what you are currently using.

The other event for today is my hour of personal training which I'm looking forward to very much.

Well, I'd better get the day started with a bath and getting dressed.  The kitchen is reasonable but my corner of the living room  is . . .  not!  So I will start there.  Then I will go upstairs to the spare room and go through all the Christmas bits and bobs - cushions, tablecloths, etc, and lay what I want to use on one of the beds.  That will be fun!
All the while keeping my ears open for the front door bell, of course!

Have a great day, everyone.  xx

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Tuesday

 Good morning, everyone.  As I'd hoped, yesterday morning was beautifully sunny although it stayed cold and frosty well into late morning.  It's much milder this morning so we will see.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Thermo demo yesterday.  Not quite the same as a real demo but thoroughly effective all the same and did the job!  On a real demo, the consultant (Leonie) cooks a real dinner (you provide the ingredients) and you have your dinner made and ready for you.  Yesterday, Leonie cooked one thing to show one of the new features and that was her dinner!  It's really only the new features I need to see anyway.

Another difference is the speed of delivery.  My first Thermomix took two to three weeks to arrive, ordered through the consultant and only through the consultant.
Now, it takes one or two days and the customer can order it direct from the site.
Maybe it won't be long before you can buy it in certain shops, although one really does need a demo to understand quite how versatile it is.

As you have probably guessed, I have bought the latest model and when it arrives Leonie and I will do another demo, each making something in tandem, something that uses one of the new features.  I'll have to either sort out a laptop Zoom connection or set up a gopak table in the living room in front of the PC.  It should be fun.

Dad's chat was trouble free although I had to invite him.  He says he has Zoom installed but I wonder if he's done it properly and as soon as we are allowed, I'll go over there and take a look and see what, if anything, he has done (or not done).  However, for now it's OK so that's good.

In between the two Zoom things, I set to and made some cheese straws - biscuits really as I used Christmas cuttyers.  They're not in the freezer away from temptation (I hope).

Today the diary is absolutely clear so I think I might get on with some Christmas cooking.  I have everything I need to make what we call Delia's Not-Sausage Rolls so I will get them made and into the freezer.  It's very handy because they cook from frozen so I just open freeze the uncooked rolls and pop them into a box so they can be cooked a few at a time when needed.  I expect Beth will have some on Christmas Tree Day - she absolutely loves them.

Then there's the mince pies.  I may as well and do the same thing; pop them in the freezer although I may freeze them cooked rather than raw.

I really must start making a list of what needs making and then tick the completed items off.

This afternoon, weather permitting, I might very well go for a walk.  People are saying there's big changes on a local new development so I, being nosey, would like to take a look-see.

So that's today.  A day on my own but it should be a really good one and I'm looking forward to it.  Have a good day too, happy and safe.  xx

Monday, 23 November 2020

Monday

 Good morning, everyone.  It's a cold and frosty start to the day and I was glad to get back inside after taking the Christmas Pudding to the freezer!  Maybe that means another sunny day like yesterday which was gorgeous here.  Very cheering!

Well, Stir Up Sunday lived up to its name here.  I'd set the fruit to soak in Cointreau (not so fond of brandy or rum) on Saturday and I got all the other ingredients together because that's what one is supposed to do, not that I usually follow that rule. 


 After our gourmet lunch of beans on toast, Beth and I did the necessary and here they are, steaming happily.  This was the bit I was most worried about as I've not steamed a pud before although I am very familiar with steaming veg.  I was reassured by a Good Housekeeping online article that said it's actually very hard to over cook a steamed pud.


I had difficulty finding pans that were tall enough.  In the end the larger pud went in the Instant Pot bowl and three little ones fitted nicely in my everyday steamer. something I bought for a fiver ages and ages ago in Matalan and have used regularly since.

And here are the little puds cooled and out of their containers.


The recipe I used was from BBC Good Food magazine, lighter than a conventional pudding, no suet, just breadcrumbs, but it was much easier to do than I had expected and, of course, we both stirred and wished and although we didn't share our wishes, I wouldn't be surprised if they were much the same.
https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/lighter-christmas-pudding

They all smell absolutely amazing!  We will be taste testing one diddy one next weekend (of course) while the others have been carefully wrapped and are now in the freezer as the instructions say keep in a cool dark place for two weeks or in the freezer for three months.

I finished the owly cross stitch yesterday too.  It's very cute; there are a few mistakes but not many and you can't tell unless you know what they are.  I have found my Christmas blog banner, I think.


I'll see if I can take a better photo, with better lighting but, if not, this will be fine.  
I've started the next one now which isn't hard but will take considerably longer.

Today there's two main events, both Zoom related.
The first is an online intro to the most up to date Thermomix.  Yes, I have one but they've updated it and there are loads of new features.  Do I need one?  Of course not.  Do I want one - yup, to my shame.
I can't remember if I said at the time but a while ago now, not long after my gall bladder op, Dave and Beth were round here having coffee and they both spoke very seriously about how I ought to start treating myself a bit more and to 'spend the inheritance'.  It's ended up as a standing joke now - I tell them I've spent more of their inheritance and they both say 'good!'.
Since then, I've made a bit of a dent in the lump sum I got when I retired and, if I do get a new machine, it'll be a slightly bigger dent!
Anyway - after that attempt at self-justification - it will be really nice to see Leonie again and to learn about the new features and so on.

Then, Monday is Chat with Dad day.  That will be later in the afternoon and fingers crossed for the technology.  I'm looking forward to that very much.  

Those two events, plus the usual housework, cooking, etc, should fill the day very pleasantly, I think.  I'm looking forward to it.
Enjoy your day too - stay safe and well.  xx


Sunday, 22 November 2020

Sunday

 Beth sent me this yesterday, an addition to the family history.  It moved me to both laughter and tears. She says it's not finished, she needs to polish it up but it looks great to me.
I thought you might like me to share it with you.   The address edit is mine
Here it is:


A visit to Letchworth

The excitement as we rounded the corner into C***** Lane! Granny would always be at the kitchen window as we pulled in, waving merrily. We used the kitchen door, the ‘family entrance’, coming past the pantry and utility to a kitchen fragrant with baking smells. After hugs all round, Granny would usher Dave and I into the pantry and show us the goodies she had made. Ginger biscuits, pinwheels, something crumbly with coconut in; there would always be two or three batches prepared for the beloved grandchildren. Grampy, being hard of hearing, would frequently miss this, and we would be dispatched upstairs to let him know we had arrived, and for more booming hello’s and big squeezes.

If the weather was good, before much time had elapsed we would all be ushered into the garden, where Dave and I would fidget and interrupt our way through the inevitable garden tour. As frustrating as I found these garden tours at times, interestingly enough both us kids developed a taste for gardening as adults. I suspect seven-year-old Beth would have been baffled at adult Beth’s genuine enthusiasm for tomatoes and marigolds. The adults would admire, plan and discuss the finer points of the garden while attempting to quell two energetic children, with the occasional use of the full names from an exasperated mother adding to the tension- I knew I was pushing my luck when I was called Elisabeth, and heaven help me if it was followed with Joy Fiona because then I really was for it. Grampy was very proud of his lawn, and if it had been wet we weren’t allowed on it, which I suspect was usually the reason for the reprimand.

Eventually the ladies would stop admiring the flowerbeds and retire to the garden chairs to drink coffee, and Grampy would turn his attention from tour guide to children’s entertainer. That usually meant the blocks would come out; oversized wooden bricks kept in Grampy’s workroom, with which we could build forts, schools, houses, boats… the list was endless. If we were persuasive enough, and we generally were, we would also be taken for a spin round the garden in the wheelbarrow. I note that when it came to Alex’s turn some years later, Grampy was not quite so enthusiastic about these joyrides and Alex would get once round the garden rather than the multiple laps we used to take. Poor Grampy!

With the children gainfully occupied, Grampy would then retire behind a coffee cup for some more adult conversation. At some point Granny would slip away to pull together another delicious meal- they were always delicious at Letchworth- and it seemed no time at all before the instruction came to pack away the blocks and go and wash our filthy hands.

At some point in the afternoon, Granny would produce the paper box, a big tub of typing paper, with the holes down the side, scraps of coloured paper, gift wrap and other interesting oddments, plus the tub of pencils, scissors and glue, and that was me occupied until it was time to clear for dinner. Granny never expected the production of a ‘nice picture’; she encouraged experimentation and just having fun with the materials, something that delighted my artistic soul. I remember paper box afternoons as times of freedom, no expectation to conform and permission to just be creative and see where it took me. The end product was never the point, the creative process was, and originality was praised over conventional art. I felt understood with the paper box scattered messily all over the dining room table, and often the chairs and the floor as well, with piles of pens and rolls of Sellotape and stickers. It is one of my happiest childhood memories.

At just over an hour’s drive away, day visits were frequent, but sleepovers even better, with different books, toys and tall beds complete with sheets and blankets. Beds had to be made every morning with baffling ‘hospital corners’ and eiderdowns; at night those corners had to be tugged out a little or they’d squash your feet, but my goodness they were warm. I’ve never quite grown up enough to get through the night without needing a visit to the loo, and was comforted by a soft glowing plug-in light to guide my way. Evenings meant games of Sorry, Whot or pick-up-sticks and staying up late ‘because you’ve been so good’, whether we had or not. I can’t remember ever losing that privilege and don’t suppose I would have done it again if I had! I do remember being sent to sit on the stairs and ‘think about what I had done’. At home I was sent to my room when I was naughty, and I rather liked my room and my own company so it was rather ineffective; at Letchworth the stairs were ideally situated to be glared and tutted at by anyone passing through, getting a coat or visiting the toilet, and as such was utterly mortifying. I vividly remember several stair sitting moments, although the crime that sent me there in the first place has long since been forgotten.

To go back a little, meal times should have their own mention. They were, as I’ve said, always delicious. Both grandparents were early risers, and the house would be woken with the smell of hot coffee. Us children would start with fruit juice, and on the table would be a variety pack of mini boxes of children’s cereal; a novelty, as we were never allowed these at home. ‘Shocking waste of money’, Mum would say, reaching for the large, value packs, and having raised a child with a good appetite myself I concur, but as a child it was a wonderful treat. The poor Cornflakes would always be left at the end, but Granny would never insist we ate them, there’d be a fresh variety pack that morning and a bowl of cornflakes for Granny, insisting she didn’t mind a bit and really liked them. We’d round off with hot buttered toast and feel stuffed.

At the main meal, second helpings were expected, and encouragement would be given to finish off the last potato or slice of pie ‘lest it get lonely on it’s own, dear’. Hot meals were served the old fashioned way, in warmed dishes to be served at the table rather than plating up in the kitchen, with Granny at the head of the table and Grampy presiding over the water jug and wine bottles. Cold meals would include big dishes of crunchy salads and items we never had at home, like pickled onions, which Mum hated, and home made vinaigrette. Cloth napkins with special rings would lie by the side of the plate, and there was always a dessert spoon in place promising of more yumness to come. Even the water was made exciting by the addition of ice cubes, complete with a spoon to fish with if you were unlucky enough not to get a cube or three in your glass.    

There would also be those exciting extra meals, ‘Elevenses’ and ‘Supper’, which felt a little naughty somehow, these not being meals we had anywhere else, but always welcomed. At mid-morning, Granny would mix the Nesquik or pour out fruit juice and bring down the tins of home baked biscuits. We could choose two, with a frequent third being offered conspiratorially, with Mum gazing out of the window and saying it was a good thing she hadn’t seen that, and that she did hope that children who ate THREE biscuits wouldn’t leave their dinner in a few hours. We never did. Supper was taken post bath, in pyjamas, just before bed. Whether it was a reward for good behaviour, or a bribe to get us up to bed, I don’t remember too many bedtime shenanigans.

Longer visits would include an outing, be it to Woburn animal park, Standalone Farm, picnics on the Common or a visit to the sweet shop, which still sold old fashioned sweets from two for a penny, meaning you could get a pretty decent haul for your 20 or 30p. Sundays would mean dressing in one’s nice clothes and being taken along to Norton Methodist, to be cooed over with a multitude of ‘I don’t suppose you remember me’s and ‘My, haven’t you grown’s, with several of the old folk calling my mum by her full name, Joyce. After all her ‘Elisabeth!’s it was very satisfactory to hear Mum being treated to the same! Granny regaling us with tales of ‘Naughty Things Your Mother Did As A Child’ was another favourite, and I seem to remember there was a partner in crime called Pamela who featured rather heavily too.                                                

All too soon, the stay would be over. The final morning would involve Stripping The Bed, a task thought of in capitals and taken very seriously. It is a courtesy everyone seems surprised and touched by when I do so elsewhere as an adult, but it was an integral part of our stay. Top sheet, bottom sheet and pillowcases in the washpile, cellular blankets, eiderdown and bed cover neatly folded on the end of the bed. Sheets would be taken down to the kitchen, where Granny would be packing biscuits and cakes into a big margarine tub, for us to take home. Then toilet last hugs and into the car for the drive home, with grandparents smiling and waving at the roadside until we rounded the corner, and out of sight.