Monday, 31 August 2009

Monday and a bank holiday

Also the penultimate day of the summer holiday. Where has the time gone? It seems no time at all since I spent that first Saturday packing and generally sorting things out for the drive down to Somerset.

Yesterday, DD brought round a big bag of damsons for me. At the moment I'm not sure what I'll do with them - might make a few pots of jam, but the idea of making some damson gin is very appealing too and maybe using them for flapjack fillings or puree in yogurt. I will have to have a think. So in the meanwhile I think I will 'boil the divil out of them' (to quote DD), push the resulting gloop through a colander to get rid of the stones and then freeze it.

The other think I want to do is make another pile of flapjacks to take into school on Wednesday for the staff meeting - just cut into little squares, they might help to lighten the load a trifle!

So today is . . .
damson boiling
wee bit of shopping
kitten worshipping - er, I mean visiting DD and DG
laminating stuff
ironing (has to be done, unfortunately)

Any chance I might get it all done, I wonder?

Meals are all saved stuff, so I don't have to think too hard about that. More of that quiche (yum) for lunch with a salad and some slow roasted lamb for dinner.
Should be a good day!

Photo: A view on a canal trip several years ago. Not brilliant quality but it brings back some happy memories!

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Guess what

I can make pastry.
I can make pastry.
I can make pastry.
I can make pastry.

And there's enough left over for three lunch sized portions - one for tomorrow and two for the freezer. Oh, and the salmon cakes were pretty good too!

I'm feeling very chuffed at the moment!

Last Sunday of the holiday

So what are my plans for the day.

Well, I know I said I wanted to avoid school work, but it's very difficult to completely avoid it this close to the new school year. I'm going to sort out the reading groups, get the reading records completely ready, finish the housepoint charts and laminate and trim a pile of stuff all ready for taking in on Tuesday and getting up, away or whatever needs doing to it!

Also, I'm going to take in a few toys that DG has now grown out of and not played with for ages - some 'pastry' cutters for the play dough, a plastic tea set and a 'road' set, with very sturdy cardboard sections of road that can be joined together to make all sorts of interesting road layouts.

Then there's a loaf to make, a salmon fishcake to create and the quiche pastry to have a go at! You never know, maybe this time . . . I hope so as I have all the ingredients in for the filling.

And finally, there's swimming, I hope, this afternoon and DD and DG round for tea. Should be most enjoyable.

I was cross with myself yesterday - the printer ran out of black ink (it's been telling me to change it for weeks but I never do until the quality actually shows me that it's out) so I got out a replacement, unwrapped it, peeled off the protective strip, replaced the empty one with the new one, did a test print . . . and realised that instead of changing the black cartridge, I'd changed the colour one, which was far from empty. There was nothing I could do about it as I don't have any of those protective clips to cover the important bits and stop them drying out. So that was a probably half full cartridge wasted. What a stupid thing to do!

Photo: Fuschias at Blickling Hall.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Saturday evening

Verdict on day:
Flapjacks: wonderful
Pastry: left till tomorrow
Shopping: economical!

Why, oh why, does anyone know why those individually wrapped salmon fillets are so outrageously expensive. I got, today, from the Morrison's fish counter, a nice bit of salmon that I poached over white wine and was enough for a good piece for dinner tonight with mayo, new pots and a side salad and enough left over to make salmon fishcakes for me tomorrow. It cost £1.51. That's two meals worth of fish there! Amazing, isn't it?
I don't think I've ever poached salmon before, shameful as it is to admit, I've always baked it in a foil parcel. I'll definitely do it again though, it was easy peasy! Next time I might add some lemon juice to the poaching liquid though.

I also finished the little jumper I've been knitting apart from sewing on the buttons, because I haven't got any. I'm not going to be able to get to the market now until next Saturday, so it will have to wait.

All in all a very peaceful, placid, satisfying day. Nice . . .

Saturday morning

. . . and the last weekend before the new school year. I intend to try to keep this as free as possible from school work and just do ordinary, relaxing, homey, familiar stuff. Having done my menus out for the next week, I have a small shopping list, but shopping is a pleasure at present in the new Morrison's, so that's something to look forward to.

I've dug out an old recipe for flapjacks, taken from a wonderful book given to me as a wedding present, decades ago, 'Good Housekeeping's Cookery Compendium'. It was actually first published the year I was born, which is a nice touch, although the edition I have was published in 1955.
There's a story attached to it. In the early 1970s, my mother used to help an elderly gentleman and his wife, who was very ill. When she died, the gentleman gave me the cookery book as a wedding present and as a way of saying thank you to Mum for all that she had done. I think that's lovely: it makes the book very special to me and, although it's pretty battered and very old fashioned (imperial measures for a start!), I keep going back to it again and again.
Anyway - I will make some flapjacks today, some for tea tomorrow when DD and DG come round and some for after school keep-me-goings next week.

I also think I might have another bash at shortcrust pastry. I'm useless at it; in all the years I've tried, I've never managed a decent shortcrust, which is shameful. However, I fancy quiche for Sunday tea and home made is so much nicer (and more economical) than a bought one! To do that, I need a pastry case, so here goes - I'll have another try! You never know. Watch this space, as they say!

A few days ago I posted a link to a blog that showed how to make never-fail mayo using a stick blender. The only problem I have with it is that it makes too much for one - 250mls of oil is a lot - and has to be eaten within a few days. I wondered if I could halve the amount by lightly beating the egg and using just half of it. Tried it yesterday evening and yes, you can, it's just as successful. So no more Hellman's for me! The remainder of the egg will be scrambled, with another egg, for my breakfast this morning.

Economy Gastronomy is the name of the game here, I reckon! Good for me and certainly good for the bank account, which has taken something of a battering recently!

Photo: I haven't taken any photos over the last few days so it's back to an oldie! A view across Blickling to the lake.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Friday morning

. . . and the old teacher brain is in full gear. I've made and printed off all sorts - registers, ideas for talking to children about books (for the parent helpers), labels, golden rules posters, worksheets . . .

I wanted to got it all done early because I'll be going out with two friends for lunch and may not be in a working mood when I come back. We're off to the Blue Strawberry again, for a belated birthday celebration. It should really have happened earlier in the school holiday but what with one thing and another, it didn't! It should be a good time and I'm looking forward to it very much.

After that, I have no idea what I'm going to do. If I feel up to it, I'll pop into school and do some laminating - I'll see how it all goes! I feel a lot better about the state of the classroom after yesterday's mammoth sort out and re-organise, so I won't fret if I don't get in today.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Another day in school

Part of a day anyway. I did such exciting things as refilling the glue containers, checking all the felt tips and dry wipe pens and naming the trays and pegs. We're getting there and there's still two more days scheduled in school before the children are back - that's next Tuesday and Wednesday. Wednesday is an INSET day but there will be time to get the last minute things done.

After that I went swimming with DD and DG, which is why I now feel very pleasantly weary.

On the food front, I've discovered a super easy way to make mayo, based on one egg, 250ml sunflower oil and the seasonings, all zizzed with a stick blender in a tall container. Takes less than a minute and really works - every time. And it tastes SO must better than even the posh stuff in a jar. For details, click on the link.

And now I'm off to bed - sleep well one and all!

Photo: Haven't posted one for a few days, have I? Another one of Indie.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Back to school

Not for the start of the term but to start getting my classroom ready. I was very glad that I'd done so much work at the end of last term so there really wasn't a lot of tidying up required, but there's still plenty of work to do before it's ready for the new class.

For once I slept in and as I was due to take DG to the Y holiday club it was all a bit of a rush. OK, so I also wanted some kitten adoration time too. Will had doubled his birthweight and Lyra isn't far behind and they're both still so very, very gorgeous. No photos though as it was quite dark and Ava takes exception to them being moved out of the nesting corner at the moment - which is fair enough.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Tuesday and a fine morning

I stayed up very late last night, which is most unlike me. Hence I woke comparatively late this morning - nearly 6:30! I was late to bed because I've started knitting for a friend who is expecting a babe rather unexpectedly. The pattern (bought in a cute little shop in Mayfield last week) said it was 'for experienced knitters' and I can see why - I've already discovered several mistakes! Hence the late night as I was sorting out the mistakes as I went.

After my success with the ginger and lemon drink yesterday and also considering the bag of blackberries and the stack of filled jam jars from last years jamming, I've searched for a blackberry cordial recipe courtesy of Google (how would we manage without search engines nowadays?). There's two main kinds - well, three really, but the third involves alcohol which isn't the idea this time! One is the plain simple cook with water, sugar and lemon juice, push-through-a-sieve kind while the other is similar but involves sweet spices such as cloves, cinnamon, all spice and the like. They all involve massive amounts of fruit; consequently I'll need to cut them down to manageable proportions to make just a little bit. Watch this space!

So, what with knitting and cordial making, today is looking to be another productive day!

Photo: Indigo, DDs adolescent Tonkinese, utterly mad but gorgeous.

Monday, 24 August 2009

I found a lovely recipe for a refreshing summer drink here:

It was quick and easy to make and absolutely delicious to drink. I can thoroughly recommend it to you and will definitely make it again. I think it would be a delicious addition to sparkling white wine as a refreshing champagne cocktail.

It's been a culinary day today. I carried on sorting out the freezers, made the ham and lentil soup from the left over ham stock and then made the ginger and lemon cordial. What I didn't do was go swimming. For lunch I had a plain ordinary ham and turkey salad, but made a dressing by mixing some 'special edition vinegar' (from that farm shop in Somerset) with some olive oil. That's it, nothing else - it was delicious.

So that's another day more or less over, bar dinner and rubbish telly. Nice, relaxing and also to some purpose.

Photo: I call this 'this is the life' with a sub heading 'start the way you mean to go on'


. . . and more kitty photos because they're so cute. The light one is Will and the darker one is Lyra and the left hand side bulge is Ava, the mum.
All I can say for certain about today is that if it gets hot again, I'm off to the pool at the gym.
As well as that, I have a ham on the boil which should do me for meat for salads through the week with some lovely home made soup as a side-effect, probably destined for the freezer for school lunches (eaten within the month!!!). Oh, and one more thing: I need to sort out the freezers as they're in a right mess.
Have a good day!

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Sunday evening

And what a hot day it's been,` especially in the afternoon. It still feels pretty sticky now too.

This morning was most productive. I made a beef casserole (more lovely stewing beef from Morrison's - no fat to cut off at all) and from that casserole I made two individual beef crumbles, two portions of casserole and a small pot of extra gravy. One crumble was my dinner (so I know it tastes very good) and the rest is now in the freezer for later on.

This afternoon DD, DG and I headed towards the gym to for a swim and sauna. It was most refreshing and now I feel very pleasantly tired.

Then back to DD's for tea and more kitten worship. They've fattened out considerably in two days and seem very confident. The (probably) boy is beautiful. Gray tabby with some lovely markings. The girl, who appeared to be solid dark grey on Friday, has developed some beautiful light markings on her face and her legs and paddy paws are also lighter. She also now has some tabby markings but whether they will stay time alone will tell. They really are a most attractive pair and DD has called them Will and Lyra (after the children in The Amber Spyglass).

Photos: None other, of course!! Aren't they lovely?

Many will shudder

. . . at what I cooked last night, but it was nice, I though, so here goes. It's a sort of chicken supreme 'risotto' thing!

I wanted to get in a couple of tins of chicken supreme for the food cupboard. From experience, I know that unless you buy the more expensive ones, there's not an awful lot of meat and they're not terribly big chunks. Unfortunately, all Morrison's had in was their own brand.

So, I used the following:
some butter (could use oil)
2 shallots, peeled and chopped.
Half a red pepper, seeded and chopped
a small can of peas (could have used frozen ones)
2 skinless and boneless chicken fillets, cut into chunks
a splash of white wine (optional - could use chicken stock)
Some mushrooms, sliced. I used chestnut as they hold their shape better and have a great flavour.
A splash of double cream (also optional)
Some thickening granules - also optional but it makes the sauce a bit thicker.
A carton of microwave rice - the kind that you heat for two minutes and then serve. I already had the special fried rice in the cupboard so that's what I used.

This is what to do:
In a pot, melt the butter and then add the onion, cooking it until softened. Turn up the heat and add the chicken chunks, stirring and frying until coloured all over. Then add the red pepper and stir again.
Pour in the contents of the chicken in sauce can with a splash of white wine and stir well. Cover and simmer until the chicken is cooked, then add the mushroom and the peas and simmer for about five minutes.
If wanted, add the thickening granules and stir until the sauce thickens to how you want it to be , then add a splash of cream.
Heat the rice as the packet suggests, then pour the contents of the rice into the mixture and stir gently.

I didn't add any seasonings, but you could. A bit of garlic and some chopped fresh chili would be nice. Apart from the can and the chicken, everything else was store cupboard stuff and other stuff could be substituted or added, e.g. sweet corn, mange tout . . .

It made enough for three big portions if that's all you're having, four if there were other vegetables too.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Silly me!

As you might have noticed, I quite like taking photographs. This interest has only developed since I got a digital camera - the same one as I still use.
After a few months into ownership I asked about another battery pack. The amount I would have to pay was so much that I decided I just couldn't justify it.
So for years I've been recharging and recharging the battery pack in-between photographic sessions, muttering rude things now and again when the power goes before the end of the visit (or whatever).

Last Wednesday, I disconnected my camera from the mains in the morning and we waltzed off to Batemans as described in an earlier blog. After ten minutes of pointing and clicking the battery was flat, much to my annoyance and concern, as it had been on charge all night. I though maybe it had worn out and was no longer holding much of a charge.

So, when I got back to Streele Dairy, I Googled and found that you can get replacement packs at less than a fifth of what I would have had to pay several years ago. I ordered two and when I got home on Friday, there they were, delivered that morning - most impressive. So now I have three useable batteries, which is great. I wish I'd done it ages ago.

So what was wrong with the initial battery? Nothing - I'd connected up the camera to recharge the battery but not switched the power on!

Silly me!

Saturday and back home

. . . to greet two new arrivals, born early yesterday morning. Yes, another of DDs cats has had two kittens, one very dark grey, quite a solid colour, so not much tabby there, and one a light gray with some obvious tabby markings. We think one's a boy and one's a girl, but it's very hard to tell at the moment. So great excitement all round!

The journey home was OK until I hit the A12. There was a hold up at the Dartford crossing - isn't there always? - but apart from that it was good until . . .

It's the V Festival here this weekend. 160,ooo-ish people are expected. Well, I reckon at least half of them were on the A12 yesterday morning! Once they had been signposted to the inside lane it got a lot better. I took the outside lane and sailed past the exit I usually take (it was the V exit), thanking my lucky stars I know the area.
It could have been a lot worse and I'm sure it was, later on. My experience was before midday!!! Last year wasn't nearly so bad - maybe people have been asked to arrive earlier, if possible.

As for today, it's clearing up the remains of the holiday and working out a schedule for the last week of the holiday. There's things that MUST get done.

Photo: New kittens (one of them, anyway!)

Friday, 21 August 2009

Friday morning

. . . and it's all over, bar packing, loading the car, etc. It's been a lovely two weeks and I'm sad to be leaving.
That's it really! :0(

Photo: Blackberry Lane, Streele Farm.

Edited to add another photo - Mist over Streele Farm early this morning. I rather like this one!

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Thursday morning and another farewell.

This time it's Mum and Dad who have just left. It's going to feel very big and empty without them and I'm sort of oddly glad I'll be off tomorrow. It's been wonderful, these last two weeks, but it's time to jump back into the river of everyday life again and swim on.

Today? Well, that blackberry expotition up to the other side of the grounds is a definite, as, weather permitting, is a swim in the pool. Packing is a necessity plus giving the cottage a little clean out so it's left in a reasonable state. The leftovers have to be eaten up! I might go on a drive, I might not.
We will see.
The sun's just gone in, the sky is cloudy, the wind has picked up and a few drops of rain are falling. It's probably just temporary as the forecast is for good weather - here's hoping!

Photo: Batemans, taken on the mobile yesterday!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Just such a lovely day

It started with the latest blackberry hunt which proved very profitable in terms of fat, ripe, juicy blackberries in the bag (and then in the freezer), although those brambles certainly fought back a few times! On the hunt I met Jacqui, owner of the business, who directed me to another patch of brambles in quite the other direction, along a footpath by the trampoline (for those readers who know the farm). So that's tomorrow's expedition!

Then we set off for Batemans, taking in Mayfield on the way (it did make for a somewhat 'scenic' route and some interesting driving - thanks for taking the load, Dad). What a lovely place - very quirky with some delightful buildings and some unexpected views through narrow alleys. Next year (yes, we're coming back next year - again) I will allocate half a day to Mayfield, especially now I know where to park! The 'locals' were so very friendly and it was altogether a most pleasant stop off indeed.

So then on we went to Batemans via some beautiful, but narrow, country lanes.
What can I say about Batemans? It wasn't posh, it wasn't grand, there were no 'national treasures' in terms of fantastically valuable china, paintings, ornaments, and so on, but it was just so very 'English home'. The house itself was not huge but not small, left very much as Kipling would have known it, with lots of fascinating little bits and bobs. It was very hot inside (and out) but we enjoyed looking around. Then we went down to the mill and saw the water diverted through to start the milling process. It's incredible that such a comparatively small amount of water should have the force to drive such heavy machinery. It was crowded so we left the mill and moved on to wander round the gardens which, again, were friendly and unintimidating.
Today was a 'Family Fun Day' there and there were loads of happy children, all having a simply wonderful time. There was a storytelling corner, a craft marquee, face painting and lots of little games such as 'splat the rat'. It was just fantastic.

After an easy journey home - on the main road this time - Mum and Dad had a rest and a snooze and I chilled out in the pool. And to cap it all, Mum is cooking dinner. Bliss!! What more could I ask for?

And the Dairy is definitely booked again for next year! YAY!!!

Photos: A view in Mayfield and apples at Batemans (taken on my mobile as the battery ran out on my camera).

Wednesday and the sun is shining again.

Today we hope to visit Batemans, the house that Rudyard Kipling bought for just over £9,000 in 1902 and which was originally built in about 1634. Apart from the house and gardens, which look fantastic, there's also a water mill that, according to the web site, 'usually' grinds corn most Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2:00. We may get lucky there then and I'm sure we'll come back with some bags of flour of some kind.
Batemans is very close by and, guess what, the drive will take us through Mayfield, which I never did get to see last week!

And if it's really hot by the time we get home again, a dip in the pool will do nicely, thank you very much! What a hard life we are living here, to be sure! Shame there's only today and tomorrow left, isn't it? Then it's back to reality again on Friday.

Photo: The lake at Hever.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Hever Castle

Lovely! The weather was conducive to having a good time, of course, but it really is a lovely place to visit, with the old castle full of Tudor (and other) stuff, the pleasant gardens and the excellent facilities for children - adventure playground, water maze (with accompanying shrieks whenever anyone got sprayed), the yew maze and so much grass to run on.
As with many of these old places, there was really too much to take in, but the exhibition of miniature houses was a real delight and an antidote to all the culture in the castle itself.
There were a lot of people there but there still seemed to be plenty of room apart from a few of the rooms in the castle, particularly the room with a lot of Anne Boleyn artifacts - her book of hours, letters that she and Henry exchanged (not the originals) and so on - because people were hovering to read and look closely.
Another thing which was a delight was a section of yew hedge cut into a set of chess pieces. I was able, with permission, to take a photo from an upstairs window, but I've had to crop it quite a lot so it may not be as clear as I would like. Never mind!

Photos: The castle and the chess pieces hedge

Tuesday morning

. . . and the weather has turned warm and sunny at last. For the next few days, at least, the sun should not just be visiting but coming in and staying for the whole day! Tomorrow, especially, is supposed to be very warm, with storms on Thursday.

M&D arrived safely after a rather long, slow, tiresome journey and settled in quickly. The beef crumble and runner beans (with good meaty gravy) went down a treat and as D had also brought some carrots from his garden, we feasted well!
AND there's enough beans and carrots left for another meal! Excellent.

We're hopefully bombing off to Hever Castle today, which should be very interesting. I took DD and DS there when they were little, but didn't really get to see what I was interested in at that time; so this is a long delayed catch-up. Then, this evening, we're eating out, which should also be good. M&D are great company and we get on very well - lucky me, I know.

Photo: today's sunrise

Monday, 17 August 2009

Monday morning and it's still dark.

That's the trouble with an early night and going straight to sleep. You've had your seven hours and want to be up and doing while the rest of the local world is still sweetly dreaming.

Today will be busy - well, busier, anyway. Mum and Dad arrive sometime after lunch. They're trying to avoid some of the M25 by joining it later round rather than at the A1 junction, a change of route which may add miles but is likely to be quicker. So it's beds to make, shopping to get, a dinner to prepare and a possible late lunch to plan, as I'm not sure whether and/or what they will have eaten before setting off.

Apart from that, there's the daily bagful of blackberries to gather, although I might leave that until M&D have arrived as they'll probably enjoy a stroll around before dinner.

Yesterday's blackberry hunt was most sucessful. There was a patch with such big, juicy berries that the bag was filled in no time at all; they're now nestling in a corner of the freezer and there will be loads more to pick today! I'm glad I brought my chill bag with me.

However, note to self: do NOT go picking blackberries wearing a floaty skirt. Bad move!

Photo: I've been playing about with frames for my photos, to use in a sort of Powerpoint 'scrapbook' of this holiday. Some frames are already in Photoshop and some were created by Photoshop but put in front of a photo using Word (because I know how to do it in Word). This frame was a picture of some weaving that I converted to a frame shape, then sort of marbled it using the liquefy function. I changed the colour to match with the flower picture more, grouped the two, copied to Paint and saved there because I haven't worked out how to paste from the clipboard into Photoshop yet.
Remember I'm just begining! It's too fussy and could be a lot better, but haing a go is how to learn.

Sunday, 16 August 2009


They're covering the hedges in abundance here and, as they are so far from the main roads, can be picked without any fear of contamination. There are also some small-plum like berries that could be either sloes or damsons. I will ask Mum tomorrow - she's bound to know.

Next week will be serious berry picking week - I want to make more jam when I get home and also make some puree for freezing. In fact, the puree has priority really as I still have some jam left from last year's picking. It's so satisfying, going out into the lanes, picking the freely available produce and then transforming it into something so wholesome and delicious.

Makes really good Christmas presents too!

Photos: Blackberries and a close up of a bee on flowers which, I think, needs a bit more editing for extra clarity!

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Saturday morning

I didn't get to Mayfield yesterday. I spent some time meandering around Crowborough and buying some bits and pieces including some useful 'disposable' (but I never do, I rewash and reuse them until they fall apart) little pots with lids, just the right size for pate, dips, chutney, etc, for my school lunches. They're 114ml and are supposed to be 'ideal for baby food' as it says on the wrapper and can be used for freezing stuff in.
I also thought I might use them as portion sizes. One pot of rice, one pot of peas . . . etc. It looks about right!
I was well pleased to see them and bought out the shop - all four packs of them, 12 pots and lids to a pack. Should last me for several years, if I'm careful.
Bet you were really interested in that little bit of info! Not! :0)

The other thing I got was some scrapbooking card with scalloped edges, three sheets each of 20 different colours. That will be very useful for when I start scrapbooking. I was very impressed with the pages DD and D made last week.

Both of the above were in those little shops you can walk past without really taking them in. I call them clutter shops - shops which have all sorts of basic bits and bobs all jostling for space on the shelves and which can be an absolute treasure chest. At the back of the plastic pot shop there was a little section with all sorts of basic kitchen gagets that one can be hard pushed to find nowadays; things like runner bean slicers and pie funnels.

When I got home I boiled the gammon I got in Morrisons. That will do nicely for sandwiches next week. However, I could have wept over the stock that it produced. Normally I'd either reduce it right down and freeze it, or I'd soften some onion, carrot and celery in a little butter, add various seasoning, some lentils or split peas and the stock and, when cooked, zizz to a lovely thick soup, some for now and some for the freezer. However, being away, it was not to be so down the plug went that stock. Oh, dear!
Then I made the beef casserole for Monday evening. That's now in the freezer with a separate box of what will become 'good meaty gravy' for Dad in particular to have on his runner beans! I can't decide whether to serve the meat just as it is or to turn it into a pie or savoury crumble. At the moment a crumble appeals as I have all the ingredients to hand.

DS and Partner are due to arrive early this afternoon. Before then, I have to clean the floor a little bit - the evidence of DG's running in and out last week are there for all to see and it does need to be sorted. Now, where do they keep the hoover in this place?

Photo: The useful little pot with my mug of coffee to show the size.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Friday and a sad event

DD and DG go home today. They're looking forward to seeing their cats again, having missed them this week, but I will miss DD and DG very much next week. I've checked the motoring news and the M25 doesn't look too bad at the moment - long may it stay that way.
To fill the gap, DS and Partner are coming tomorrow to stay one night and then on Monday Mum and Dad are arriving and staying until Thursday.

So it's all go, packing and tidying up, then in come the staff to clean, replace the sheets, etc and I think I will pop out and explore the village of Mayfield, which, I gather, is very pretty with some interesting shops and had the added benefit of being very close by. Then I have to do yet more shopping for the weekend and for Monday's evening meal. Mum and Dad are bringing some runner beans from the garden so I think a nice piece of braised steak or similar would go down very well.

No photo this morning but maybe I will have some of Mayfield later on!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Scratch fruit crumble.

Being away from home means that many of the ingredients one takes for ranted are unavailable, but this looks and the component parts taste very good. None of it was actually measured out in any way, sorry.

For the filling:
I cored and sliced four smallish eating apples, melted some butter in a frying pan and set the apple slices to frying gently and slowly turning golden. I halved and stoned six small windfall plums, cutting off any bruised bits and added them to the pan, stirring and turning carefully. I then added fifteen to twenty fresh picked and washed blackberries. Over all of that I sprinkled some granulated sugar (the only kind I have here) and a sloosh of white wine, heated it all to simmering point and allowed the sauce to reduce down, stirring very gently now and again. Finally, I added a good squeeze of lemon juice and poured it into the baking dish I intend to use.

For the topping:
I rubbed together flour and butter, then added a pinch of salt and some sugar as for a normal crumble mix. At this point I'd usually also add chopped nuts or oats, but, as I don't have either, I have broken a weetabix into crumbs and stirred it into the rest of the topping. On reflection, I could have grated some lemon zest and added that too, but it's too late now.

The rest is the usual for a crumble - sprinkle the topping over the filling and bake in a medium oven until cooked.

On top we will have blackberry cream. Yesterday DD made this by making a sweetened blackberry puree, whisking up some double cream and folding the puree into the cream (we had it over brownies - sheer holiday decadence).

Should be scrummy, so I thought I'd share it with you!

Edited to add - yum yum yum!! :0)

Thursday morning

. . . and a full day planned for DD and DG's last full day here. So it was very depressing to draw back the curtains and see the rain falling steadily and determinedly, looking as if it intends to carry on for several hours longer at least. So I whizzed over to the ten day forecast which told me to expect a 40% chance of showers. More like 100% here. Maybe the showers will dry up later and the sun will dare to peep out. Fingers crossed.

My turn to cater today! We're going out for a pub lunch - no, not a cop out on my part, it's a planned treat to a place we went to last year in Rotherfield.

In the evening I'm making chickpea burgers and wedges (home made) and with it I'm hoping to make a carrot and sultana salad and there's leftovers of the lentil mixture DD made yesterday which, she assures me, will be just as nice cold as hot. DG will have a choice - veggie burgers or 'real burgers' (his words). Dessert, I guess, will be ice cream with blackberry cream sauce.

The plan for today was going to be:
Pub lunch
Tidy up
Pack (DG/DD) or cook dinner (me)
What a shame.

Photo: A very wet morning. The building in the middle is the pool house - shower, loo, changing room and pool toys as well as technical stuff like temperature controls, etc..

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Wednesday evening

. . . and I've been thinking (hard work, I know!).

As I have said several times, it's lovely here. Streele Dairy is a very generously sized two-bedroomed cottage with a big kitchen-diner and a big living room. It's well appointed and comfortable. The owners could have organised it to have three bedrooms, but they went for space and comfort instead. We're having a fantastic time and there are times when I feel I'd love to live here long term with wonderful views in a beautiful part of England, within reasonable distance of a big town but right out in the countryside, swimming pool available for use at any time (except for during storms), although one would be unwise to swim in the rain unless one likes swimming with frogs! Oh - and a reliable Internet connection! Very important.
I'd happily recommend it to anyone.
Wouldn't it be great if I could settle here for ever? Shed my everyday responsibilities and the daily grind. Live the life of a woman of leisure who only ever has to consider her own needs.

Well, no, probably not. One often doesn't fully value the everyday blessings until one changes the context. Yes, it's lovely here and we will come back, God willing, another time, for another family holiday. But there's a part of me that is starting to miss Chelmsford, my cosy home, my everyday surroundings. And there's a big part of me that's now beginning to think that it will be very satisfying to get back to school routines again, to meet with my new class and continue with them through their life-journey for the next year. It's a huge privilege and one I am happy to take up each year, especially now that I'm safe in Key Stage 1/Foundation Stage for the rest of my working life (all eight years max of it).

If I won the lottery (ha ha, and there goes a flying pig) I'd resign from full time teaching. To say anything else would be foolish - there are loads of hassles it would be great to turn my back on. But I wouldn't resign from school contact completely.
I'd like to start a one-woman tuition company, focusing on children who are achieving just a little below the expected level - the ones who often miss out because they aren't 'poor enough' but for whom a bit of extra support would really help. It wouldn't make a fortune because the fees would cover expenses and little more.
I'd go into my school and resume my recorder tuition. I used to teach recorder to individuals and small groups with some considerable 'success', but then I was given more senior responsibility and something had to go. But I'd love to restart that side of things.
I'd offer to help out within the SEN department. I used to be the SEN teacher, full time, but when the budget got hairy several years ago now, I turned to class teaching and SEN co-ordinating.

Enough of daydreaming - it's great here and I'm glad I have over a week still to enjoy, but it's also very good at home and I am very content there. To be able to enjoy the best of both worlds is a privilege I hope I will never take for granted.

Photo: Red sky in the morning (not quite, it's been edited a bit as I'm sure any digi-photographer can tell)!

By the way . . .

. . . the '. . .to the contrary notwithstanding' comes from the Anne books - Anne of Green Gables/Avonlea/the Island/etc. It's used quite a lot.

Wednesday morning

Yesterday was such a lazy day! We did just about nothing apart from shopping and blackberrying. DD and I snoozed or read most of the afternoon while DG carried on with his Raven game.

One could argue that it's a very expensive way to have a good rest but the truth is that probably we would do no such thing at home, nor would DG be having such a wonderful time with his game, created and organised by him to take the whole week, with different 'challenges' every day.

We may not be 'doing' very much, but we're all having a wonderful time. Fantastic!

Photo: the pathway at the corner of the Oast House.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Tuesday morning and it's becoming a little brighter.

It was dull earlier, very dull, but I think the clouds are lifting a bit.

It's DG's turn to cater today and I've promised to teach him how to make sticky chicken drumsticks and garlic bread.

Apart from that, it's shopping and no idea what else at the moment!

Photo: A dull morning

Monday, 10 August 2009

Monday early evening and it's lashing with rain!

So, you see, 'they' were right after all. It was a gorgeous morning, warm, sunny and with a gentle breeze and the pool was bliss . . . and then p.m. it all clouded over, the wind got up and it was obvious something was On The Way!

This afternoon was therefore devoted to snoozing, scrapbooking, planning the next three days' menus (plus shopping list) and generally relaxing and after dinner DG wants to go to the games room, so that's where we'll be heading, rain or no rain!

Photo: The pool! Not terribly big but big enough to have a good swim to and fro!

Monday and it's fine and dry

We'll see how it develops, but I do note that the forecast has changed from rain to sun and showers. Quite right too!

It's my turn to do the cooking today so there's a pan of tomato goo simmering on the hob - assorted veg gently fried in olive oil and then chopped tomatoes, garlic, marigold bouillon, a pinch of sugar and some white wine added, with some seasonings and so on . . . At this point I would usually think about adding some lentils to thicken and flavour but seeing as I don't have any, I can't! Later on I will fry some chopped chicken in garlic and butter (just a bit of butter!) and add some of the tomato mixture for a final simmering. I'll add some borlotti bans to the rest of the mixture for DD, who is vegetarian. Then scatter on a selection of herby stuff , stir in some tomato puree, sprinkle over some shredded basil leaves and there you go! Yum yum.
Dessert is a sort of plum and blackberry sundae. There's a little plum tree nearby and the plums are dropping. The wasps can have some of them, but not all!
Lunch, to my shame, is opening and heating up a can of cream of tomato soup!! DG loves it! I might try to be clever and make some croutons to go with it though. Or I might not . . .
On reflection, it seems to be a very tomato-ey day today, but then yesterday was very cheesy and it all went down a treat!

I have no idea what we're going to do today. If it had been raining, we would have spent some time in the games room and then done some scrapbooking. DD has started scrapbooking and she's promised to show me some of the techniques and ideas. Sad people that we are, we brought a selection of craft stuff with us!

The photo is for my friend, Al. Some little Streele friends for her Shaun and Cottonsocks.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Later on.

So much for country lore. It's been warm and sunny all day, red sky to the contrary notwithstanding*.
So it's been breakfast, standards, swimming, lunch, shopping (me) or blackberry picking (DD and DG), a walk around the fields (me and DG) or developing what I hope isn't a migraine (DD). And dinner is on the make . . . jacket potatoes with cheese, spring onions and a side salad, followed by icecream and fresh made blackberry syrup (those blackberries were still breathing two hours ago!)

The forecast for tomorrow is for rain - so that's another sunny day for sure!! Good-oh!!

Photo: the famous standards - now you know as much as I do! And that's not saying much!
* And for an extra point, which children's books used this phrase quite often - not the 'red sky' bit, the following four words?

Additional information!

DG has added to his list. It now says:

1. Have breakfast
2. Make standards
3. Games room
4. Go swimming
5. Dinner time!

Exciting day!! :0)

Sunday morning and up early again

So is DG, who was somewhat grouchy about the fact until he'd had his breakfast!

The sun's up too, trying to shine through some high cloud. There was a lovely sky earlier on which, I guess, means poor weather later today.

Red sky at night
Shepherd's delight.
Red sky in the morning
Shepherd's warning.

We will see . . . the forecast does say 20% chance of showers.

DG's 'instructions for Sunday' read as follows:
1. Have breakfast (glad to see he has his masculine priorities right here)
2. Make standards
(what the sticks were for, something to do with the TV programme, Raven - beyond that, I have no idea)

And that's it. Nothing else planned. I guess we might squash in a little swimming at some point though!

Photo - today's sunrise.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

What an easy, comfortable, relaxing day.

What have we done?

Well, we lounged about this morning, finally getting round to driving into Crowborough to get some necessary shopping done and discovering a short cut to Morrisons. After that DG prepared a very nice lunch. We lounged some more while DD had a rest. Then she and DG went on a stick hunt (don't ask!) while I did some cross stitch and carried on reading 'Sahara'. Then we meandered to the pool to swim and it started raining, so we meandered back to the Dairy again in disgust. The rain fizzled out as soon as it had started so we had our swim and very nice it was too - just the three of us and a couple of dead frogs which needed to be fished out - poor things. After a shower apiece, DG prepared dinner (yum), after which he and I meandered (we seem to be doing a lot of meandering, one way or another) around the immediate farm fields, me clutching my glass of chilled white alcoholic stuff while he ran on ahead, and now we're all relaxing in our own various ways in preparation for bed time.

So nothing terribly exciting today, nothing in any wayinteresting (sorry, gentle readers) but it has been one of those gentle, calm, happy days that impact on the emotions rather than on the memory. A great start to the holiday - long may it continue.

Tomorrow? Absolutely no idea!! What will be, will be!

Photo: Another from this morning. Calm, gentle and peaceful, just like today has been - a sort of prophetic photo maybe! A view from the kitchen door.

Saturday morning

The sun is risen, it promises to be a lovely day and I was up with the lark. It wasn't a spectacular sunrise, but I've managed to take a few nice photos, some of which I might 'artify' for cards later on, now I've installed Elements on my laptop.

DD and DG are both still fast asleep so I'm enjoying the peace and quiet. It's not quite warm enough to take my coffee outside yes, but I'm sitting with the kitchen door open enjoying the view over to the oast house and beyond.

DG is in charge of catering today. Lunch, he says, will be egg mayo, either in sandwiches or as a salad (depending on where we are/what we do) and dinner will be sausage rolls, thankfully with salad (not vegetables and gravy, as he originally wanted) followed by fruit salad. Lots of salad there - maybe I will lose a few pounds over the fortnight.

Apart from going into the Crowborough Morrisons to do some food shopping, I'm not quite sure what we're doing today. Swimming, definitely, but apart from then, who knows? Nice . . .

Photo: Looking over to the oast house and beyond - the view from the kitchen door. It was a lovely, misty start to the day.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Friday evening

Got here! DD and DG have gone for a swim and I'm in charge of chucking the supper together. Pizza, garlic bread and salad - what could be easier? Oh, and some nice chilled relaxing white stuff, of course!

The M25 was pretty congested for a lot of the time I was on it but it was a lot worse the other way. As I went over the bridge, they'd closed the tolls the other way, presumably because of a dangerous load that needed to cross, and the traffic was backed up for miles. At least southbound, although congested, was moving most of the time, albeit slowly.
No photos as I'm on the laptop and haven't taken any yet to upload.

Friday and travelling day

So exciting!! I plan to leave at 11:30, take in Tescos on the way to get stuff for dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow, and then I should be there by or soon after 2. The cottage won't be ready that early so, weather permitting, I'll take a little stroll around or sit by the pool and read. If the weather isn't kind, I'll drive into Crowborough and find somewhere to have a restorative coffee!

One of the nice things about having been before is that one knows short cuts and I will be taking one that completely cuts out the centre of Tunbridge Wells. Very useful indeed.

DD is bringing her own car this year as I'm staying a fortnight and she and DG are staying a week. it certainly has made the packing easier with plenty of room in the car for everything.

I'd better get on - with any luck I'll be logged on again this evening, but just in case the connection is iffy and I can't - I'll be back in a few weeks!

And it's nice to know the house will be properly looked after while I'm gone! Thank goodness for nice house-sitter friends.

Photo: Where we'll be staying. Lovely, isn't it?

Thursday, 6 August 2009


A much better night's sleep, thank goodness, and now I'm well into the chaos we call 'packing for a holiday'. And when I come back, there will be less than two weeks before the start of the new school year. Where is the time going?

So today is shopping, sorting, ironing, stacking stuff in piles and generally getting everything out. thank goodness for a big living room! Also topping up with petrol.

And, hopefully, I will have some time for reading. At the moment I'm deep into Michael Palin's 'Sahara'.

Photo: It was a photo of part of a stone wall.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Wednesday morning

. . . and having slept very badly for most of the night, I could now quite happily go back to bed! I won't, however, because I'm looking after DG while DD goes to her art classes - a lot more fun than catching up on sleep!

And then it's washing and ironing. Groovy!!!

Photo: Exmoor, edited from a photo taken about a fortnight ago

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Savoury rice

Assume a roasted chicken with most of the sliceable meat already eaten. As we know, that's just the start. The chicken was roasted with a cut up lemon and some shallots inside and some lemon butter pushed between the breast skin and meat. And very nice it was too. I poured off the stock and the fat which separated and set.

Yesterday, I boiled up the carcass until the remaining meat fell off, separated the meat from the bones, etc, (which was then chucked) and strained the stock.

Today I made a very tasty savoury rice by simmering some onions, red pepper, baby corn and mange tout in the chicken/butter fat, then adding some basmati rice, some sliced chestnut mushrooms, the remaining chicken, some sultanas and a handful of sunflower seeds plus the stock from the original roast and from the boiling, with a little salt, all simmered until the rice was cooked and the stock was absorbed.

It made enough for four good helpings and was absolutely delicious. So seven meals from a roast chicken - not bad at all. The chicken itself seemed expensive (organic, free range, corn fed, etc, etc, etc), but not when it's all used like this. Thank goodness for freezers!

A nice brekky recipe

(or lunch, for that matter)

You need:
a slice of tasty bread (I used homemade wholemeal, sunflower seed and honey bread - it's not sweet, the honey was instead of the usual sugar), fully toasted on one side and lightly toasted on the other.
Bacon, chopped into chunks and gently fried until cooked properly.
Some bits of left over chicken
Some chopped tomatoes from a can
Some grated cheese
Butter for spreading
Seasonings and herbs to taste

Use the grill to toast the bread and then keep it on high.

Add the chicken to the cooked bacon in the pan, then add the chopped tomatoes, bring to a boil and stir until thickened. Add preferred seasonings.
Spread butter over the lightly toasted side of the bread. Then pile on the bacon, chicken and tomato mixture. Sprinkle over the grated cheese.
Put under the grill until the cheese has melted and is bubbling and starting to change colour.

Serve and eat immediately.

It's delicious! And filling!

Tuesday morning

. . . and it's dull outside. That hasn't stopped the children living in the house to the back of me from playing energetically on their new trampoline. Up and down they go, giving them a clear view into my living room, if they were actually looking this way (which they're not). They're having a wonderful time and it's a delight to see!

DD and DG are feeling strong enough to come round here for lunch. That's good because there are a few vegetables to use up so I shall make tomato, lentil and vegetable soup for lunch. Nice and thick and comforting. The recipe is of the the usual 'bung it all in and keep tasting' type, which usually works a treat and there are loads of herbs in the garden for seasoning.

Other chores include continuing with getting things ready for packing, carrying on with the washing and ironing and getting on with my counted cross stitch. It's lovely to have time for this during the day - after the day at school my eyes are usually too tired to cope with such fine work.

So it's off to the kitchen I go to make that soup!

The photo is a view from Curbar Edge, taken several years ago now.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Monday morning and a beautifully sunny start

I'm sitting here wondering what I can do today. Everything seems a bit aimless at the moment and I really need to get a grip on myself. How will I cope with retirement if I can't even structure things properly during the six week break?

OK, so here's the plan:
Start my list of things to pack (just for Al)!
Dig out the leaflets, maps, etc for the holiday area.
Start dealing with my bedroom - it's not awful, but there's a lot of things that should be put away.
Play with Photoshop a bit more - I need to get to grips more with 'layers' and the 'Dummies' book is very helpful and simple to understand.
Do some weeding - it's shocking the way those weeds have taken hold in a fortnight.
Oh - just remembered. There's a whole lot of washing and ironing too. That's a shame!

It looks like there's plenty to do after all - I wonder if I'll get any of it finished!

Photo: the Chatsworth horse.

Sunday, 2 August 2009


It was another pretty lazy day yesterday. I went over to see DD and DG who are now out of purdah and contactable again. They don't sound too healthy, both owning wonderfully hollow coughs at the moment, but they assured me that they are feeling a whole lot better now.

I've just realised that this year will be the first year we will go to Streele Farm without being accompanied by those wretched Rugrat babies. DG, for all his autism, creates wonderful games for himself and his friends (usually taken from somewhere in the media) and for the past two years we haven't been able to take a step backward without being accused of treading on one of them. This year the ruling passion is for 'Trapped' and 'Raven' and yesterday he was planning an exploration, either to the African jungle or up a mountain, all to take place on his top bed. He has a cabin bed with a sofa underneath that functions as a bed and which I gather he prefers to use at the moment, keeping the top bed for his explorations. All I can say is I don't miss the Rugrat babies - not one little bit!!

Apart from that, I'm starting to build up little piles of things that will need to be taken to the farm, so my best efforts at tidying aren't all that tidy really - but at least it's legitimate mess.

And with a roast chicken dinner to prepare, I must be off and doing.

Photo: a view in the village of Ashford (in the Peaks)

Saturday, 1 August 2009


I may not have got much housework done yesterday, but I did manage to make lots of cards using my 'artistic' efforts. It was satisfying and that's me set up for cards for occasions, notes, etc for a few months to come.

Apart from that, a lot of time was taken up with coughing. I might not have had the dreaded flu, but the cold I did have has left me with a tight chest (no comments, thank you!) and a cough to raise the dead. I'm mighty glad to have got it over and done this week and not next, just before going away on holiday. Same for DG and DD who are coming with me for a week. Flu is bad enough at home, but if they'd had it while we were away, it would have been utterly miserable.

So today, what am I doing? Well . . .

Photo: Exmoor, edited in some arty way or other! Well, two arty ways, actually, rather inexpertly split across the middle where the horizon is. I will get better at this!!