Friday 31 December 2010

Friday: a little later on


It's already smelling delicious and it's only just gone into the oven. Of course, there's all the preparation, which does take some time - the slow frying of the onions, the adding of the paprika being careful not to let it catch, etc. It's in a slow oven now, simmering away gently with foil over the top of the pot as well as the lid so there's no loss of liquid. I shall give it a couple of hours without disturbance, then see how it's doing. I think I will add the potato then, and maybe some carrot and parsnip: I will have to taste it first and see what the taste buds say. Perhaps just potato and maybe sweet potato would be better. There's also a few chestnut mushrooms left over from last weekend and they may as well go in too. And the red peppers, of course! Decisions, decisions!

I haven't made goulash (or goulash-variant) for decades (shame on me) but I do remember a recipe for something called 'chicken paprikash' which must be more or less the same recipe/method. A real blast from the past, that recipe - right back to early days of teaching and marriage. I wonder if I still have the recipe somewhere . . .

When I get back on the healthy eating, I shall certainly be eating well, that's for sure!

Friday: New Year's Eve early morning

. . . and looking ruefully around, what I see reminds me that I didn't get much of what I'd planned done yesterday. I've really slowed down this holiday, partly, I think, because I've been a little under the weather for quite a lot of the time. Nothing major, nothing to stop me doing things, but enough to be a bit miserable. I woke up today and felt 'bright'. I wasn't aching at all and I have been for most of the time, down my arms, back and legs. Again, nothing much, just a niggle and a nuisance. Sometimes you're not really that aware of having felt a bit off colour until you start feeling better again - that's how it's been, I think. Anyway, it's rather nice to feel a bit more on top of things again!

After all the cooking creativity of yesterday, I have just a bit more to do today. When I was in Tesco yesterday, they had some nice stewing steak and I bought some to make a sort of goulash type thing. I'm not following a recipe as such - after all, the word originally meant 'mishmash' which sounds about right to me - but I am using onion, herbs, paprika (of course), red wine, chopped tomatoes, red peppers (should be green, I gather, but I prefer red) and beef stock, plus other herbs/spices. Several recipes I looked at stated caraway seeds and I have some so may as well use them. I might also add some root vegetables towards the end of the cooking time to make it into a complete meal. It won't be at all 'authentic' but isn't that just the way with these soup/stew type things. There's as many different versions as there are people making them. I was going to use the slow cooker but I think maybe I will use the big pot instead and bung it in the oven for long, slow cooking. The house is going to smell delicious, isn't it?

I'll need to take a drive over to DD at some point with the moggy chicken and I MUST remember to put out the bottles for recycling! The rest of the day will be taken up in doing what I intended to do yesterday but didn;t get round to - housework!!

Better go and put those bottles out now, before I forget!

Thursday 30 December 2010

Thursday: early evening

I've been home for a while now and, thankfully, am sorting out the last remains of the wonderful, delicious Kellybronze turkey.

After a whole lot of umming and ahing I went for the simpler options and the results are:

Nine portions of Christmas crumble - this was so tasty when I made it last year and these portions are a bit smaller, but there's more of it altogether.
Four portions of turkey 'balti'. I put balti in inverted commas because it isn't really, of course, but it's a simply wonderful recipe and I will use it regularly. It's flexible and adaptable and just scrummy
Five portions of sliced turkey in gravy with stuffing (as previously mentioned)
Six portions of turkey and ham hotpot - it's still simmering on the hob so I won't know exactly until it's separated into portions
Four portions of reduced turkey stock, which will be a great base for soup or a chicken dish.

OK, so . . . working out exactly how many portions this turkey provided . . . (cos I'm 'frugal')
five huge portions on Christmas day (plus seconds)
four huge portions on Boxing day (plus seconds)
at least three good portions for Brother from Scotland
at least four good portions for parents
slices for teas - say six portions altogether
the leftovers as above, so that's another twenty four meals
three or four portions for DD's nursing cat who seemed to have lost her appetite, the kitties were not gaining weight and who hasn't looked backward since being spoilt with wonderful turkey!

OK, still not cheap, but a darn sight better value than it seems at first sight and, considering the quality, damn good value. Kelly's of Danbury will certainly have my custom again next year and I would gladly recommend them to all my readers.

As an afterthought, how can anyone throw away a turkey carcass? I just cannot understand it - what a waste of flavour and money!

OK, end of turkey rant. The rest of today has been calm, gentle and easy going. I cannot believe that there's just four days left until term starts again. I guess that I ought to start thinking about it all tomorrow. Maybe!

The other thing I did today was for DD's moggy-mum. I was intending to get some reduced turkey thingies, but when I got there the shelves were absolutely bare, so I got some value chicken instead. Now, this rather goes against my principles. Goodness knows what sort of life those poor chickens had but sometimes needs must. Anyway, at home it all got boiled up until the meat was falling off the bones, then the stock was reduced down to a jelly and poured over the meat (the bones were then chucked out). Tomorrow, I will mix it all up and portion into little bags for DD's freezer, with some to use immediately for moggy-mum and, maybe, for the others too. This, with her normal and proper food, should keep her appetite going so that she has plenty of milk for her darling little babes.

It's nice to feel a part of it all.

Thursday: early morning

Goodness, DD doesn't half keep her house hot! I wonder if I dare creep along and turn the heating down a bit . . . yes, I think I do!

OK: maybe that will be better shortly. Sorry DD!

Indigo to the contrary, I slept really well overnight, waking several times but getting straight back to sleep again. It's always a bit problematic sleeping in a strange bed, especially when it's really a sofa, but I've slept enough in this one for it to be OK.

When I get home I have a houseful of chores awaiting my attention. Bedding and towels all need to be done - washed, dried and ironed. There's dusting and sweeping, a fridge to finish clearing and cleaning and a freezer to organise. I finally found some boxes that will fit nicely inside the freezer so I can organise what's in there. They're actually 'boot' boxes and I found them in Morrisons at a special price of three for a fiver. So I bought six. One for bags of veg, one for bags of fruit, one for small packs of meat/fish (e.g. sausages), one for . . . oh, you get the idea, I'm sure. They have lids but I doubt I will be using the lids much, there's no point.

I also ought to think about taking down some of the Christmas things, but they can wait until New Year. Right at this moment I'm not sure whether I will have company or not for new year but, to be quite honest, I don't mind either way. I always appreciate a bit of solitude and am not the least bit concerned about being on my own with a good book, some music (or rubbish TV), some tasty food and a few glasses of sparkly stuff.
So I could light all the candles, lower the lights, disconnect the phone, drink to the new year at a sensible time (e.g. around half past nine) and then retire happily to bed!

That's looking ahead though. As I said, once I get home, today is basically housework and chilling. And catching up on missed TV . . .

Sounds good, doesn't it?

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Wednesday: evening

I really wasn't looking forward to the drive to Braintree. Apart from the weather, the only times I've ever driven in Braintree, I've got lost good and proper. Most people seem to have a great sense of direction. They know that they're heading the right way (or not) even when they have deviated somewhat. Me - I have absolutely no idea. I could be heading south and truly feel I was heading north. So, what with this and that, I was feeling pretty stressed this morning. So I did feel a right wally when it turned out to be one of the easiest drives I have ever done, fog or no fog.

The rest of the day has been taken up with looking after DG (as much as he needs looking after nowadays) and playing with the cats. A very easy day indeed. So why have I slept twice already and why am I ready for bed at six forty-five?

That's it really. A bit of a nothing day in a way, but I have been able to rest and that's not such a bad thing. Also, as I am sleeping in the same room and a very noisy Tonkinese, being able to take out my hearing aids and not hear much at all has a distinct advantage. Indie may not sleep well - I reckon I will!

Wednesday morning

. . . and what a damp, dull, misty-almost-foggy day it is, to be sure. It's so depressing, especially after the whiteness and brightness of the snow and frost. To be sure, the snow has virtually all gone now, only a little bit remains where it was piled up when I cleared a pathway to the shed, and that's a great blessing. I'm hoping very much that it will clear a bit in the next few hours as I have to drive DD to Braintree this morning and I'm not looking forward to driving in such heavy mist.

After my shopping in town yesterday, I had to pop into Morrisons to pick up a few things and ended up buying (don't laugh) a rather nice looking full turkey leg! The whole portion, not just the drumstick. There's a lot of meat on it and it was very good value. As it can be quite hard to find turkey at other times of the year, I was rather pleased to buy it and it's now in the freezer until such time as I fancy a bit of Christmas out of season!

Reading Diane's blog has reminded me - it's bin day today, thank goodness. The bin is full to the point at which I cannot get one more think in without it overflowing. I will put out some black bags of rubbish too, in hopes, but they don't have to take them, of course. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't: - I expect it depends on how far around their route they are as well as more general things like weather and overall mood. I'm not complaining - I think they do a grand job and life would be a lot tougher without their services.

Well, I have a full day ahead, what with one thing another, including this drive to Braintree, so I'd better get started!

Tuesday 28 December 2010

Tuesday: afternoon

Well, town was a bit of a disaster really. As I drove in I thought 'Funny, it seems very deserted' and so it was. It was deserted because most of the shops didn't open until ten!!!

Never mind, I had a wander around the shops that were open, managed to get DD's mains recharger, went to Linen Direct and got another circular tablecloth to match the ones I bought just before Christmas. OK, so they can only be used around Christmas but, at that price, who cares? I also got a matching runner which I can use when I have the white linen cloth on. I meandered into Holland and Barratt and was tempted beyond that which I was able to resist by some jelly beans. I marched into Bon Marche and got two skirts, suitable for school, for £7 each.

However, the main rerason for going in was to use the spend £25, get £5 off Lakeland vouchers - and at least I realised BEFORE I tried to use them that it has to be between Jan 4th and Feb 28th. So that's another trip into town after the start of the new term. Oh, dear, what a shame! :0)

Tuesday: a day of grace

I call it this because from tomorrow I will be staying with DD and DG for a few days and then it will be bang into New Year, so today is the last calm day for a while. I know that solitude is a real fear for some people, but I have been living on my own for so long now and like it very much. I am fortunate, I know, that I have a job which is extremely sociable and a family who stays in contact and with whom I meet up regularly and frequently, so when the alone times come, they are a boon and a blessing. They give me a breathing space, a time when I can just be me without any other expectations than those I place on myself.

Alone does not mean lazy though. In fact, today promises to be very busy and productive. I took yesterday very easy indeed so dealing with the leftovers is taking a couple of days rather than the one day it ought to have taken really.
I made the banana loaf, of course, and the celery soup (very nice indeed, six portions plus one for today) and also the slices of turkey in gravy with stuffing (five portions) and the latter two are chilling in the fridge in preparation for transfer to the freezer when I can be bothered to dodge the raindrops. The loaf will have to wait until I get some easy-leave from Lakeland before it gets sliced for individual wrapping and freezing.
The turkey was so large that I couldn't fit all of the carcass into my biggest pot in one go, so I boiled up half yesterday, now all dealt with and separated into meat, stock and throw away bits, and the other half (essentially what's left of the crown) is currently boiling up in the stock with some added water.

The world seems to be divided into two - those who hate leftovers and just chuck them, seeing them as a waste of time and those who see leftovers as a golden opportunity. No prizes for guessing which camp I am in!! :0)
I am currently exercising my mind over what I want to make with the turkey remains. There's a lot! It has to be reasonably healthy, tasty and capable of being frozen. That doesn't cut down my options by very much! At the moment the plans are to make:
Christmas crumble (made last year and so very delicious)
Turkey balti, using a rather tasty balti recipe I found half way through the year)
Turkey korma
Turkey pie, using a short crust topping.
The other kind of pie, with a potato topping. When it's made with lamb it's called shepherds pie, mince is cottage pie, vegetables is gardeners pie. What do you call it when it's made with turkey? Gobblers pie?
And, hopefully, there will be enough stock left to make a hotpot - cubed root vegetables and turkey cooked in the stock. Really it's a very chunky soup and takes me right back to childhood when it was our favourite post-Christmas meal.

That's why I love turkey leftovers, one reason anyway. What I make is likely to provide the basis for main meals of a month, which actually makes the whole thing so much more economical. Those Kellybronze turkeys are jolly expensive but when you consider what they yield with just a little bit of extra work and thought, it puts it into perspective rather more.

The other main thing today is a trip into town. I've run out of some Lakeland stuff, I need to go to Boots and I need to see if I can get a cable for DD's mobile (she's lost hers). It'll be a nightmare so I'm going in very early and hoping to get the bulk of it done before the crowds build up. A shame that it's raining but better that than snow and as it's definitely above freezing now, the pavements should be a lot easier to walk on now, thank goodness.

I hope that's not Famous Last Words!

Monday 27 December 2010

Monday early afternoon

. . . and life is plodding along slowly and steadily. I found a recipe for banana loaf that is smelling absolutely wonderful as it cools. I found another recipe (on the wonderful Cottage Smallholder site so it HAS to be good) for cream of celery soup that doesn't have cream, is low fat and which cooks long and slow in a moderate/cool oven. The bananas were over ripe and needed using up and the celery, which was kept in the shet, got frosted!

I'll have a think about the turkey at some point later on and maybe I'll get some ironing done.

Or maybe not! ;0)

Monday morning: bank holiday

And so Christmas is nearly over. The guests will be going home today. Indeed, Brother-from-Scotland went home yesterday, leaving here early morning and phoning mid-afternoon to say he was home safely. It was so good to see him for a few days.

In the afternoon yesterday we had the Phone Call from Brother-in-America (and Sister-in-Law) and we all took turns to have a nice little chat about things. They were just waiting for the snow to hit - it seems that a huge wodge of snow was travelling up the east coast, dumping huge loads of snow as it travelled, and it was due to hit their area in a few hours. They didn't seem too concerned; that sort of bad weather is not particularly rare for them so I guess they were prepared.

DD and DG came over for the day so it was a case of preparing another 'big' meal - except that with leftovers and the vegetables I'd prepared before hand (twice, in fact, because of that freezer going kaput) it was not much of a hassle at all, just a case of putting things in (or on) and taking them out (or off) reheated (or cooked). I deliberately did extra roasted veg though, because I want to make roasted vegetable soup today - it's gorgeous!

Which brings me neatly to a confession. The old healthy and sensible eating has gone totally belly up over the last three weeks or so. For the last week I haven't posted anything much in the other blog, the Food Diary, and I'm amazed people are still opening it. Amazed, but pleased, and I have promised that from now on, it is resumed and will be added to daily whenever possible.
Anyway - although there's still a lot of 'stuff' to eat up (which I refuse to throw away unless I really have to), I'm going to start the long train to healthy eating again with the aim of being right there again by next Monday for the second half of the campaign.

In the meanwhile, there's leftovers.

The turkey: Well, that's easy enough. There's more slices to cut off, some of which Mum and Dad will take home with them and then there's the remains, which, as always, will be boiled up, the meat separated from the rest, the stock strained and the more or less bare bones discarded. Then there's the single portion meals to make. Christmas crumble, for a start. Turkey, ham and Stilton pie. The turkey version of shepherd's pie. So many things to make and do with what's left!
Last time I was in Lakeland, I saw some little oval foil dishes, a perfect size for single portions of crumble, pie, etc, so this year, instead of having to use my little ceramic dishes, I will use them. This will provide me with a lot of meals in the next few months.

The custard: Good, home made, fresh custard (well, not so fresh now, but you know what I mean). I think I will slacken this off with a bit more cream and then run it through the ice cream maker to make a 'superior' 'real' ice cream. Also, I might put some crumbled Christmas pud in some of it. That sounds nice. That will be spooned into individual plastic pots for useful and delicious desserts, nicely portion controlled.

The cheese: I'm hoping Mum will take some home with her. The rest of the cheddar will be grated and frozen in 30g portions, the rest of the Stilton will go into the sauce for the pie fillings and the rest of the Brie will be eaten!

The ham: This will be cut straight down the middle, half for me and half for Mum and Dad. Snacks, salads, into the filling for the crumbles and pies. There will be no problem finishing that up!

The Christmas cake: Again, some for Mum and Dad, some for DD and DG, some for DS and a bit for me. It keeps!

The alcohol: Not too much left, thank goodness, and the wine is in a box, so will keep longer term. The Campari (my treat to myself as no-one else likes it) will be gone by New Year - I promise!! The beer will go into some beef in beef, destined for the freezer in - you've guessed it - single portions!

The chocolates: Well, a potential disaster there. I will unload some onto Mum and Dad and - we will see . . .

I think that's about it really. There are extra vegetables, but they will not be a problem. There are extra eggs, but DD will have some.

I've heard it asked, is Christmas worth all the time, effort and money. Are those short celebrations really worth it.
I suppose that if one counts all the preparations and planning as a hassle and all the sorting out afterwards as something that just Has To Be Done, then maybe the answer is probably 'no, not really'.
If, like me, one really enjoys the planning, the preparations, the cooking, the home-making, the satisfaction of meals enjoyed and the joyful frugality of making the very most out of what's left afterwards then the answer is a resounding YES!
And if one sees it as a recognition of an amazing event, the time when God became a baby in a stable, then the whole thing takes on a new shine. Maybe I don't necessarily choose the 'best' way to celebrate. Maybe my way is selfish and self indulgent, but the chance to be with family, to care for each other, to giggle together, to work for them is, for me, a fantastic gift, one I am very grateful for and which, I hope, will never just be taken for granted.

So, as I said, Mum and Dad go home after breakfast. I have two days to potter and relax before I get busy again. Some pottering will be food based and some will be sit-in-a-chair-watching-rubbish-TV based. I guess there will be plenty of snoozing and reading. Yes, the bedrooms will need to be sorted and yes, the kitchen based stuff will make a mess, but it's all good fun and won't be a hassle! Happy days!

Sunday 26 December 2010

Sunday morning: Boxing Day

It's stupid o'clock and I'm wide awake, despite a late (late for me) bedtime yesterday and having been on the go almost all day. Looks like a good nap this afternoon and/or an early bedtime tonight.

What a lovely day it was. No snow, sadly, and very, very cold all day, but inside it was warm, bright and cosy.
All the careful planning and preparation paid dividends in terms of effort saved on the day. Apart from the usual 'is the turkey cooked properly' panic, things went very well on the catering front with no disasters. Apart from turkey, there was not an awful lot of other food left over and I'm actually going to have to cook some vegetables today. Last year there was enough leftover to provide most of the Boxing Day dinner too!

DG was thrilled to bits. He had two main presents, the Wii with Wii fit plus, Sports Arcade and another game (I've forgotten what), which he knew was coming.
However, there was a rather large, mysterious looking box, wrapped in Christmas paper, with no label on it. On Christmas Eve he was informed that it was for him. Great excitement all round and huge efforts by him to find out what it was. DG has always been happier knowing in advance what his presents are: he finds it hard to cope with the uncertainly and knowing seems to enhance the pleasure for him. However, this time, despite his best efforts as 'Parcel Inspector' (dressed up in my coat, hat and scarf) questioning all present, much to our hilarity, he had to wait until 'opening time' to find out.

It was a Hogwarts trunk, with a letter from Professor McGonagall, informing him that he had been accepted for Hogwarts School and that the trunk held everything he would need. And so it did. Wand, Harry Potter glasses, Gryffindor school tie and scarf, Hogwarts robes, text books, cauldron, crystal ball, time-turner and a large jar of Every-Flavour Beans (nice version). It was fantastic: imaginatively conceived, beautifully labelled and packaged by DD and he was totally thrilled with it. The Wii didn't get a look in and quite right too. For the rest of the day he played with it in various ways: it was the most wonderful gift!

And so to Boxing Day. A little bit of housework, a little bit of cooking, a lot of chatting, reading, sleeping . . .
I hope we all have a good one!

Saturday 25 December 2010

Christmas candles

This one is Liz's candle - a bright and shining inner light.

Saturday morning: Christmas Day

It's the lull before the storm. Not yet time to put in the turkey, not yet time to start the Christmas muffins (Nigella recipe and now a family tradition), the dishwasher has been emptied, the breakfast table laid . . .

It will all start at about half past six with the Heating Of The Oven, and will accelerate from then onward, so I'm making the most of the calm and still to both relax and to gather my thoughts together. After all, it's only a roast dinner! Just another roast dinner, that's all. :0)

A bit of our tradition has changed. Usually everyone is around by 11:00 and we open a bottle of bubbly, toast each other and then open the pressies. This year I think we are waiting until after dinner as DD and DG won't be arriving until dinner time. I think that will work better, certainly it will be more convenient for me, I think.

Here's the dinner menu (I hope)
No starter, no-one ever wants it.
Roast turkey (or in DD's case a spinach, feta and toasted pine nut pie)
Two kinds of stuffing
Two kinds of gravy
Pigs in blankets (yum yum)
Roast potatoes
Roasted root veg. Carrots, parsnips, onions and sweet potatoes. I'm in two minds whether to do the parsnips separately and put on a maple syrup glaze.
Delia's braised red cabbage with apples
Brussels sprouts (yum yum)
Cranberry and apple sauce
And then a choice from:
Christmas pud (made my Mum)
Mince pie (also made by Mum)
Ice cream
And to go with these there's cream, brandy butter or custard (proper, home made custard!!!)
And finally, if there's any room:
Cheese and biscuits, petit fours, coffee.

After that it's present opening time - no it's not, it's clearing up time. I do try my best to keep the decks clear as we go, so there should only be the plates, cutlery, glassware, etc, rather than the heavy pots and pans. Then it's presents . . .

For tea (if anyone wants any), there's ham, salad, sausage rolls and Delia's wonderful vegetarian sausage rolls, crisps, Christmas cake (beautifully made by DD), mince pies, biscuits and, most welcome of all, a good cuppa tea!

After that, if anyone's hungry, they can get it themselves!!

Better go and weigh out the muffin mixtures.

Friday 24 December 2010

Friday afternoon

. . . and it's quiet again. Mum and Dad are asleep, I've been rushing around in the kitchen and the evening meal is more or less prepared or ready to go in the oven. DD, DG, DS and Partner (that sounds so formal and I love her to bits too!) and Brother from Scotland (as opposed to Brother and Sister-in-law from USA) have not yet arrived and are not likely to for another hour.

Big Turkey is now in and de-chilling, the gravy (both kinds, meat and veg based) is more or less made, the custard is made(and it's scrummy - the Birds packet stuff is going in the bin), the sprouts are prepared, the onions have been parboiled . . . in short, I think (hope) I'm as prepared as I can be at the moment. The trickiest thing will be remembering to take stuff out of the freezer at the right time and I have a Little List to deal with that - sorry, Nesh!

If I wasn't going to be working in the kitchen, I'd pour myself a glass of something comforting and alcoholic, but I guess that's not such a good idea really! Yet . . .

To all those busy house people catering for family meals today and tomorrow - cheers! May your turkey never be undercooked or your sprouts overcooked!

Friday morning: Christmas Eve

A lovely, peaceful, quiet early morning of which I am making the most as the rest of the day will be busy.

This is just a very quick entry as I need to sit down with my notebook and pen and get the various things I have to do listed. If I don't, I'm bound to forget something or other and that would never do! It's now that I start to be very glad that the vegetables are mostly prepared and that other stuff is also ready and waiting to be thawed and used. Be Prepared! :0)

Finally, here's a card to everyone who has been kind enough to read this blog. Just click on the link.
Thank you very much.

Thursday 23 December 2010

Thursday evening (almost)

It's dark, anyway - that makes it evening for me.

Mum and Dad are here after a pretty simple and straightforward journey that took longer than usual because they got caught up with a marriage cortege that seemed to take for ever to get from the church to the reception! Cold day for a wedding - I bet the bride and her bridesmaids were cold.

What isn't done won't get done now. I'm shutting down and taking a break - apart from the cooking and clearing and washing up and . . . stuff!

Look out - here comes Christmas!

Photo: A local lady (her daughter was one of my year 4 pupils once upon a time) has set up a private business as a florist and, as I like to support local businesses when I can, I asked her to make me a couple of candle arrangements for Christmas. She brought them round today, the photos are the results and I'm so pleased with them. I will definitely be using her again!
Look for Inspire Floristry on Facebook.

Thursday morning

It feels as if the day is already half over but it's not yet seven. I woke just before four, got going rather more quickly than usual for a holiday day and by five I was scraping the frost off the car preparatory to braving early morning Tesco.

It was an 'interesting' experience. Jam packed, but not with other shoppers, dear me, no. It was packed with thousands (it felt like thousands, anyway) of huge cages containing stuff that needed to go on the shelves or empty because the stuff on them had already been put on the shelves. You'd have thought they could have moved them out of the way at least. There was a lot of Internet shopping going on too, but it was those cages that caused huge holdups, actually blocking access to quite a lot of shelves completely. They'd better move them before the crowds start or it will be an utter nightmare.
Still, shouldn't complain, I'm sure it has been a lot easier then it will be in two or three hour's time.

It's a strange feeling - you're pushing your trolley round, that feeling of 'have I got enough' or 'what if they want x, y or z' starts to sweep over you and before you know it, there's so many extras in your trolley you won't need to go shopping again until Easter! I fought it, I really did - but . . .
Oh, well, suppose there's a blizzard and we're cut off from the rest of civilisation for weeks. I used to be a Girl Guide. Be Prepared, that's the thing! Now, where on earth can I put everything? Restorative coffee first, then decide.

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Wednesday evening

Well, we're more or less about ready. The house isn't immaculate (is it ever?) but it's ready for guests. As Mum said over the phone, if it was spick, span and spotless, they'd think they were in the wrong house. It's warm, cosy, comfortable and looks lived in - that's OK by me. :0)

The turkey arrived mid-afternoon. They send you a link to a tracking page for delivery day and at ten this morning I was a bit dismayed to see that delivery was delayed because of bad weather. However, two hours later it showed as on its way, I was pleased to see. It's all ready now - some of the remaining feather stubs have been plucked (some were just too obstinate), it's been plugged with lemon bits and onion with some rosemary, smothered under and over the skin with lemon butter and black pepper, baconned to within an inch of its life and well wrapped in foil before putting it back into its insulating box with the ice pack and now it's chilling out in the shed. The gibletty bits, plus the wing tips, are simmering away to make stock and, I have to say, smelling most delicious. I will use that stock, plus some lovely reduced down stock from a roast chicken I had a short time ago, with some white wine, etc, to make the gravy for Christmas day. The stock from the actual roasting will be collected for all sorts of things including my favourite turkey dripping on hot buttered toast. So unhealthy as to be unthought of, but, oh, so yummy!

Longer time readers of my blog will remember that last year I was pretty pleased and dismayed to discover that I had been sent a huge, enormous turkey, way larger than I had ordered, the extra weight free because their turkeys had grown very well. it was so large I had to cut off the legs to get the thing into the extra large roasting dish Mum brought with her.
This year it's larger, but not as large. I seem to have got an extra 2k of turkey for my money (rather than the 3,5k of last year), but it will fit in the dish, I am sure. It looks delicious.
Kellybronze! Nothing but the best!

Changing the subject completely, I'd like to post a link to a blog I follow. It's written by a young lady called Tor (Victoria) who has cystic fibrosis and is really pretty ill, but with such tremendous courage and an outlook that puts most of us to shame. If you have time, please read this:

I'm off to bed soon. I intend to set the alarm for four and buzz straight off as soon as I can to Tesco to do the remaining bits of shopping before the crowds build up. And what isn't bought after that we will do without!

Sleep well!

Wednesday morning a bit later

A few photos of the nativity crib that goes up every year. I first bought it from a little wood carving company in Devon, by mail order, after seeing some of their stuff at a friend's house and finding a small ad in a parenting magazine. It was almost prohibitively expensive and I could only justify it by saying that it would become a sort of family 'heirloom', something of great sentimental value.
And that is just what it has become. As well as memories of happy Christmases when we were all together, I remember weeping over it the first Christmas I was alone after the divorce, and again the first Christmas after my ex died. I remember the fun as the children got it all out and arranged it, and more recently, DG's wonderful stories of what *really* happened which drew tears, not of sorrow but of laughter. In one of them, Mary went off with the Angel of the Lord (or was it a wise man?) leaving Joseph to mind the baby and feed the ox and ass. Last year we lost a lamb - or rather, I think I know where it is but can't get at it. It's inside the 'table' the crib is standing on and I'm sure there's a parable there somewhere!
I wonder if that company still exists. Their work was wonderful. I remember a superb Noah's Ark with a wide range of two-by-twos from across the animal kingdom, and an amazing rocking horse that I would never dare let the children use, it was so expensive. I am so glad I persuaded myself to buy the nativity. It was a financial sacrifice then, but time and experience has given it worth well above and beyond what I paid for it. It was one of the non-negotiables when we moved out, and goodness knows, there weren't many of them at the time.
The 'angel' doesn't go with the set. It was made by Tom Mealing, a lovely man, not passed on, who worshipped at the church my parents go to. He was very gifted at carving and used his talents for the church in various ways. It just seems right to put his Worshipper with the Christmas characters

Apologies for the poor quality of the photos - somehow the colours and the lighting always produced grainy photos in my living room.

Wednesday morning

Great excitement - the tracking page for my turkey delivery is up and running. Ooooooooh!!!!! I'm going to have to make sure there's a clear run in the kitchen before it's delivered, so I can deal with it and then get it wrapped and out in the shed, which is working wonders as a chill room at the moment, thanks to the cold weather.

Apart from that it's kitchen, sweep upstairs, bathroom and loo - and then it's just about ready really! I always worry about not having enough food in. Despite the knowledge that I have plenty, there's no way we'll go hungry and anyway the shops, some of them, are open on Boxing Day, I still get this last minute feeling of panic! I gather there were queues to get into the Morrison's carpark yesterday. Morrison's? My goodness! I'm not getting stuck in that. I have a few things to get yet - things like salad veg, crisps, alcohol and some more stamps - and I will go to the 24 hour Tesco very early tomorrow morning.

IGoogle says it's snowing in Chelmsford. It isn't snowing here, but it's jolly cold and the pathway I swept to the shed is glistening with ice. I must be careful, it looks pretty lethal at the moment.

Take care!

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Tuesday evening

. . . and everything has gone to plan, more or less. It's been a tired day though. I've fallen asleep twice this evening and can feel myself going again. Struggling to keep awake and failing significantly.

The living room now looks merry and festive. I took Aunty May's card, which I hadn't posted before she died, out of its envelope and now it's on the sideboard, with the Christmas candles, especially one I call Liz's candle, after a friend who died just after I started this blog - I lit the candle and spent a time in meditation while it lit up its space, just like Liz did.

And now the challenge is to stay awake a bit longeeeeeeeeeeeee

Tuesday morning

Yesterday's lunch out was lovely. It was great to see Liz again and have a natter about all sorts of things. It's only a five minute walk to the Flyer and it was a truly delightful winter's day. Crisp snow, invigorating air and bright sunshine all worked together to make a most enjoyable trudge to the pub and back again. Although it was so bitterly cold, it wasn't slippery, there was too much crunch in the snow for it to be dangerous.

After that I set to and started getting things sorted for the festivities. I got out all my red candles and holders and put them together. I unwrapped and polished the wooden nativity set which is now in its usual place. I put the wreath on the front door and finished off the family presents. It is starting to feel very festive now. As I feared, putting the Christmas tree up so much earlier has resulted in it just being part of the general furniture now, without the impact that it has had in other years. For me, that is - I'm sure it will all look nice and festive to my guests, hopefully.

When I opened Google this morning it told me that it's snowing in Chelmsford. I went to the window and, lo and behold, so it is! Settling too, on my nicely brushed pathway to the shed. I will have to get going with that broom again, as soon as I can. It's only a light covering, but even a little can be lethal if it melts and then freezes. It looks ever so pretty but the problems it is helping to cause are really not very funny.

I have two days to get everything done now. Thursday is all booked up and my guests arrive in the afternoon. The turkey is being delivered tomorrow (I hope) so I can get that ready for the oven and pop it in the shed where it can chill in safety until needed.
The schedule is, therefore:
Today - housework, generally getting everything totally ready, tidy, clean, etc, so that just a quick dust and sweep will be needed on Thursday.
Tomorrow: the kitchen. Say no more!! Also, of course, the turkey, assuming the weather permits it to be delivered. It had better be - I cannot imagine what I will do, just me, with a 7k turkey after Christmas!!
Thursday: Shopping for the things I dare not get in earlier - crisps and alcohol, plus salad things.
So busy days, but not terribly stressed. Quite nice, in fact.

Better get going then!

Monday 20 December 2010

Monday morning

On the iGoogle page, it informs me that the current temperature around here is minus 11 C. Even if that's a couple of degrees out, it's still bloomin' cold. The heating was on when I meandered down the landing in the middle of the night, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, but, my goodness, that's c-c-cold! It also forecasts more snow, but I doubt we will get much here, if at all.

This morning is upstairs time. Guest rooms, landing, bathroom - all will get a good going over in preparation for arrival on Thursday and Friday. None of it is too bad, it just needs a general freshen up and clean. If I have time, I will also tackle the living room which seems to have unravelled itself since the Chinese and Chat.

Lunch is at the Flyer, meeting with Liz for a natter. Depending on the roads, I might take the car and go into Morrisons for so-called 'last minute' stuff. I'll have to check the dates carefully, but it should be possible to get cream, etc, now that will be OK until after Christmas. I will also get a bag of sprouts, if possible - they will keep fresh in the shed too. If the roads seem too dangerous, I will walk, and lug back what I can.

I'm not sure about the afternoon - I'll see how I feel after the morning's activities.

Must remember to put the bin out. There's no collection next Monday, of course, so I'm hoping they will get here today. At least it's so cold that the smelly veggies must be totally frozen and are not smelling!

Stay safe!

Sunday 19 December 2010

Sunday evening

It's been a very pleasant day. I got all the cooking stuff done that I'd planned, I read a bit, networked a bit and generally relaxed. This evening was great. I turned up the heating a little, poured a glass of sparkly stuff and settled down to watch a DVD of Julie and Julia. I've had this for several months, unopened, and came across it while tidying up the kitchen (a bit).

It was lovely! No school tomorrow, no niggling feeling that something hasn't been done, no worriesd about whether I've got the differentiation right or whether the activity matches the objective and the desired outcome. Just a most enjoyable DVD over a few glasses and a sense of growing relaxation.


Sunday morning

For the first time in I don't know when, I slept on beyond four or five. It wasn't a solid sleep but good enough, and waking at seven fifteen was a surprise. It feels pretty good, once in a while, I must say! I wonder if it was the new duvet: it was certainly much more confortable and snuggly. The old duvet is now waiting by the back door - it will go into the shed and cover the freezer to keep it just a little bit warmer. That may sound odd, but freezers don't like to sit in air that is too cold and - well, I would say 'too cold' just about describes it right now! As long as I don't cover the ventilation grills, it should work a treat.

Yesterday wasn't really a day of rest and I didn't fall asleep during the day, surprisingly enough, but it was a gentle and pottering day. I made biscotti for the first time and will make them again, they're really very easy and moreish. I made some cookies from a recipe given to me by a mum-friend from school. The breadmaker worked its usual magic and produced a white loaf and it's now starting to do the same thing with a wholemeal loaf, which takes an hour longer. Both of these, plus any brothers and sisters, will go in the freezer. There's quite a lot of empty space in the new freezer and filling them with bread seems a good idea. DD can have a loaf each Sunday when she comes over, so it won't be wasted.

I was very disappointed to see Pamela go out in third place in Strictly last night. I felt she was the most beautiful dancer of the three of them and the judges seemed to agree with this, but I guess they did perhaps play it safe in their exhibition dance and she's not a 'celebrity' of today in the same way that the other two are. I remember her from decades ago, making me giggle many a time, but a modern audience wouldn't necessarily recall those times.

So on to today. The snow is lying thickly, of course. It doesn't look as if any more has fallen overnight and the forecast for today is sunshine and to remain below freezing all day. That being so, I will either stay snuggled in my warm little house and do homey, housewifey things or I will don my wellies and trudge out for a walk. I could do both, I suppose! I'm pretty sure DD and DG won't be over for their Sunday tea. DD still isn't feeling wonderful and their road (narrow, winding, busy, cars parked on either side, ungritted) will be well nigh impossible to negotiate without bumping other cars. Best not to even try! A shame, but, of course, for two weeks we are not restricted to weekends only. Yay!!

I'd like to get some more potatoes ready for roasting and in the freezer this morning. I know I already have some, but I managed to get a bag of King Edwards yesterday, which do make the very nicest roasties. They won't go to waste and, from a controlled eating perspective, it makes it so much easier to just have one bit of roast potato in a meal.
I will also sit down and make a serious list of everything that is ready and what still has to be done, bought or prepared, and then timetable everything. I do like to be clear exactly where I am with everything at times like this.

If I get all of that done, I will be very pleased. :0)

Photo: just another of yesterday.

Saturday 18 December 2010

One more photo

. . . just because I like it, with thanks to Whoops-a-Daisy Angel and her mum!

It might have been too cold to go out . . .

. . . but I did anyway, just to take some photos.
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas . . .

View across the fields.

The back alley

Rosemary in the snow

Saturday afternoon

It's snowing like billy-oh. Too cold to go out so I'm relishing the warmth, the cooking smells and the pretty sights through the window.

The biscotti smells and tastes delicious, but I'm inventing a new variety - biscotti thins. I'm afraid the 'sausages' went very flat on the first cooking, so the slices are long and thin, but even so, they are scrummy. However, next time, I must make the dough a little firmer, I think.

I'm very glad I did the shopping early. I got a fair lot of bits and bobs and now all that really needs getting is the dairy, the fruit and veg, and some alcohol. We certainly won't starve!
Photo: from the front door a short time ago.

Saturday later on (sort of)

I did get back to sleep for a short time but am up again now. Never mind, it's a chance to get stuff done and, goodness knows, there's enough of that to keep me out of trouble.

I dug up another recipe just now, which I want to make - spiced Christmas nuts. I thought it looked interesting with cumin, coriander, chillis, celery salt, black pepper, caster sugar and sea salt. Oh, and mixed nuts, of course. I got the nuts when I was in town on Wednesday so it's all go! Luckily, we got paid yesterday so I can get what I need without worrying about breaking the bank. Of course, frugality will be the order of the day in the new year, but I rarely need to do much shopping for weeks after Christmas, so it all turns out even in the end.

The snow hasn't arrived (yet) so I think I will make use of this and the fact that I'm awake early to get to Sainsburys and buy most of the Christmas extras before the crowds arrive. It's things like nuts in shells, drinks, butter, etc: things that can go into the shed which is quite cold enough to keep everything fresh and chilled. It would be a job well done!

It's going to be a funny old day, I think.

Saturday morning - very early indeed

Went to bed, went to sleep, woke up, read a book, went to sleep, woke up, came downstairs. It's one of those nights when I'm so tired I can't sleep and ache enough that the bed feels very uncomfortable. I'm going to replace the duvet, I think. It has lost its light, fluffy feel and is a bit lumpy and bumpy and hard to snuggle into. I'll put it on the list for whenever I get into town.

Having had a sausage roll (ooops) and two coffees, I can feel the drowsiness creeping over me again and I will go up soon and try to sleep. Luckily there's no need to get up before about eleven and no pressures regarding planning and other school stuff. George isn't coming because the ground is rock hard.

Later on today, I'm hoping to have a go at making some fruit and nut biscotti. I've never made biscotti but the process looks pretty simple really and the particular recipe I want to try looks luxuriously delicious - sultanas, cherries, chopped dates, pistachios, almonds and hazelnuts. Yummy yum yum!
Mind you, if today is the sleepy day I expect it to me, they might have to wait until tomorrow!

Night - see you later!

Friday 17 December 2010

Friday evening

Term is ended. The holiday has started - at least, it will have started on Monday but there's no more school for two weeks and three days. Phew . . .
Despite the aches, kept at bay with paracetamol, it was an OK day. The children were VERY noisy, VERY excited and VERY tired, but there were no major disasters and we made it through the day without too many blips.

When it was time for the children to come in, the parents also trooped in with gifts galore. There are four of us, of course, plus Faith and Andrea, my supply covers. I was staggered at the generosity shown to us all - I was presented with a lovely hand made card (Little Pickle and Lively Little Lad laid joint claim to it) with all the children having signed it inside, a big bunch of flowers, a planted display which can be replanted after Christmas, a bottle of sparkling stuff and (unfortunately but deliciously) the biggest box of Thornton's chocolates I have ever seen. It's huge!!!!
(note to self - tell mum and dad not to bring choccies with them)

As well as all that, some of the children also presented me with individual gifts, which was amazing. They are all lovely and are very appreciated. Thank you, one and all.

Lara (other Y1 teacher) and I were gobsmacked to receive, from our wonderful team of TAs and LSAs, a letter.
It said:
Joy and Lara,
Happy Christmas from your loyal team
[followed by their five names]
We would all like to take you both out for a meal after Christmas to say a Big, Happy Christmas from us all.

Now, isn't that something worth looking forward to? When we asked where they were thinking of, they said it was up to us to choose. Nice one! Thank you so very much to A, L, A, S and K. We will have a great time, I am very sure!

I'm sure there's a lot more to say but I am so utterly tired and drained that I can't think straight. Take away, home delivery Chinese is on the cards tonight. Not terribly healthy but definitely relaxing!

Friday morning

. . . and the last day of this term. Not a snow day, unless something very dramatic happens between now and about seven o'clock, which it won't! Thank goodness.

Why do green vegetables smell so bad after a time? I have just opened the fridge door and was knocked over backward by the escaping pong. After a search, I found a few very old sprouts and some manky cabbage hiding under a bag of potatoes (which are also getting a bit old, but not pongy, thank goodness). To my shame, they (the sprouts and cabbage) are beyond redemption and are now in an old carrier bag, sitting outside the front door until I leave for school, when they will see the inside of the bin! Phew!

I'd love to say I have planned some truly meaningful activities for the littlies, that will stretch them intellectually and socially, and enable them to make some outstanding progress, but the truth is that the most challenging things they will meet today are their performance of 'When Santa Got Stuck Up The Chimney' and the Christmas quiz, specially devised for tired little minds.
Sample question:
What do children hang up on Christmas Eve?
1. Their coat
2. Their PE bag
3. A picture of their pet
4. A stocking

See what I mean!

It's jolly cold outside. It's freezing hard and the roads will be slippery after all the rain yesterday. If you go out, please be careful!

Thursday 16 December 2010

Thursday evening

It's snowing. Pretty wet snow right now, but the temperature is dropping rapidly.

I took the car to school today. When I drove home this evening there was a tiny little bit of snow in the rain that had been falling almost all day. By the time I got home and walked throught the house to the back window, it was much more snow than rain. Now it's just snow and quite hard too. I don't want a snow day tomorrow - not the last day before the Christmas holiday!! Everyone has worked hard on the Carols by Candlelight we always hold in the afternoon, and we are half way through a DVD which the children really want to finish watching tomorrow.

Fingers crossed it doesn't settle all that much!

Thursday morning

As the saying goes:
Christmas comes but once a year
And when it comes it ain't 'arf dear!

Looking at the massed array of little thank you gifts scattered around my floor, I can't help but agree. Thank yous for mum/dad/other helpers, the cleaners, the office staff, the SEN staff, the senior management team, my TA and LSAs - it's scary, seems never ending and I am thankful that I can make preserves, which are acceptable gifts.

Yesterday evening, while I was in town, I had a little wander and managed to pick up some small gifts and also some tablecloths with a Christmas theme (very cheap from on of those small household linen shops). I got three, two rectangular ones and a circular one, which will see me through the festivities quite nicely. I can use the good white ones for Christmas dinner without worrying about whether I can wash and dry them fast enough for the next day!

Nearly there now!

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Wednesday evening

It's been another long and tiring day. I was in school at seven thirty, more or less, to sort out what needed sorting out in the hall after yesterday's performance. Thankfully, the teachers whose class chairs we had used had kindly agreed that their children could retrieve their own chairs when they came in at eight forty-five (I was so grateful), so I didn't have to lug thousands of chairs from the hall to the bays as I did after the first performance (oh, OK, it wasn't thousands, but it felt like it and it set my shoulder aching badly again for a while). Steve, bless his cotton socks, sorted out the rest of the aftermath (thanks, Steve, much appreciated) and that was just about the end of Whoops-A-Daisy Angel.
There seems to be an awful lot of brackets here - sorry!

I've received some wonderfully kind and appreciative comments from parents whose children took part in the show. One or two almost reduced me to tears (yes, I AM tired, but even so, they were lovely). But I want it on record here as well as on Facebook that something like WADA does not succeed because of one person. It succeeds because a whole team works together to MAKE it succeed and I am extremely grateful to all of the Infant staff who have worked so very hard since half term. I may get the limelight as the coordinator, but there's no way it would have been the success it was without all of us working together. Thanks, one and all, you are fantastic.

So, on to today. I greeted some very tired little mortals when they came in. Not as many tears as I expected and, thanks to my class-based team being aware and looking out, things went OK today. Slow, not a lot of 'progress', but we avoided the worst of the tired tempers and anguish!

After school I hurriedly tidied up my bay in preparation for the Christmas Fair (postponed from a week last Friday because of the snow) and then whizzed into town to pick up my new hearing aids.
That sounds a very simple process, doesn't it, but in reality it wasn't simple at all. Being digital, there was a lot of individual programming and I was linked up to the computer big time while levels were set . . . and so on. Quite tiring really.
Judgement is reserved at the moment, because an awful lot of hearing is in the way the brain interprets the messages and my brain has become accustomed to a very different type and quality of sound input. The aids were put to a serious test straight away because I rushed straight back to school to help with the Christmas Fair, on the Water or Wine stall. I coped . . . and feel quite positive right now. We will see how it goes and what I will say at the first 'check-up' in a fortnight's time.

Of course, after three evenings working, once I got home, I flaked out. Goodness, I am so tired again. The fair was fun but . . .

Two days to go!

Wednesday morning

Goodness, it's turned cold again. When I came out of school at about six forty-five after the show last night there was already a frost and I needed to scrape the car. It's obviously a lot colder now and, as I need to take the car in this morning (I'm taking all the children's pressie bags in today), I will need to allow ten minutes of running the engine before it is time to go.

If they were tired yesterday (which they were), the children are going to be extremely tired today. That means, among other things, that their normal reactions, whatever they are, will be intensified and we will keep a sharp eye out for any who seem close to the edge. I think undemanding stuff is on the cards, with a DVD to continue watching this afternoon.

I was pleased to be able to use my coordinator time yesterday for something other than Whoops-A-Daisy Angel: I got two important things done: next term's afternoon play rota and the letter about Creativity Club.
The year ones don't have many clubs. They are usually all used up by the end of the day. We do, however, run a set of six after school clubs for them in the Spring term, led by each of the Infant teachers in turn (weather permitting, of course), based on art/craft activities. Given that each half term has six full weeks, I really needed to get the letter out. If there is enough interest, we have two groups and re-run the whole thing over again after half term.
The afternoon playtime rota was also pretty urgent as the one from this term cannot be used for the remainder of the year, one teacher being no longer available at that time. This actually made it a lot more straightforward to work out, thank goodness. The one for this term was a right headache!

And finally, after school I'm off pretty sharpish into town to collect (and pay for) my new hearing aids. Yippeeeee.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Tuesday evening

. . . and yes, it was a long and wearisome day indeed, one way and another. But the children gave another lovely show, despite their obvious tiredness, the parents loved it and now it is all over. Whoops-A-Daisy Angel's mum gave me a lovely bunch of roses yesterday evening after the show and tonight, at the end of the show, the head presented me with a beautiful Christmas arrangement from Beehive Florists, our fairly local and 'artistic' florist shop, with a delightful accompanying note. It was nice, but a wee bit embarrassing because it truly was a team effort and everyone on the team worked hard, but I wasn't going to say 'no, thank you' now was I? Those two presentations, plus the lovely yellow roses a couple of friends gave me at the Chinese and Chat means that my living room is a veritable bower at the moment.

Today was made sadder by the news, sent to me by email, that my dear Aunty May died at some point last night. She was 97, tired of life and ready to 'go home', as she expressed it and I am not sad for her, but I am very sad for us. Her Christmas card sits on my table, ready to post, and she won't see it. I feel for my Mum and Dad. They have been friends indeed, looking out for her for many a long day now, visiting regularly and frequently, caring for her in many different ways. It was only a fortnight ago that my mum washed and named all May's clothes in preparation for her move from her sheltered accommodation to the nursing home that was to be her last earthy home.

I remember a time when I was eighteen. We had just moved back to England from Belfast. I had finished A levels and was looking forward, assuming one A level pass, to start at Southlands College of Education in September to do my Cert. Ed. and become a primary teacher. The house my parents were buying was not finished so we spent the summer at Kettering, where the whole of May's generation were based, living with my Nanna and Grampy. May and her husband, Bill, were very kind to me. We shared a passion for 'classical' music, and they took me round to a friend's for a couple of evenings of sheer delight listening to classical records and talking about them. I was emotionally wobbly at that time - I'd left some wonderful friends behind in Belfast plus a school I loved - and May and Bill's kindnesses helped to ground me. It was a lovely summer and I appreciate those memories.

Rest in peace, dear Aunty, we will not forget you.

Tuesday morning

Oh, dear, bit of a rough night. What with over active brain (yes, really!) and sore shoulder, not to mention foot cramp, it was wake, sleep, wake, sleep most of the time. It's going to be a long and wearisome day today, I think.

On the other hand, it's PPA and coordinator time which is always welcome. There might be a chance of getting most of it too, fingers crossed. The children, of course, will be as tired as the staff, or more so, so it's gentle, undemanding stuff today.

And will it snow? The longer term forecast is a bit dire! I've been so wrapped up in WADA that I didn't really take any note of what they're saying will come in the next week or so. I like snow, but it needs to pick its moments and the week before Christmas is NOT a suitable moment. So it's
Snow, snow, go away
Don't spoil Christmas Day!!

Monday 13 December 2010

Monday evening: One down . . .

. . . and one to go.

Just home from the first of our two performances of Whoops-a-Daisy Angel and it was just GREAT. I'm feeling extremely proud of my littlies right now and extremely proud of the hard-working team who put this all together. For weeks we have eaten, breathed and lived WADA and it's wonderful to see the results!

My goodness, they'll be tired tomorrow!! And so will the children!! :0)

Monday morning

Yesterday was extremely productive! I got all the bags made and filled, including the ones for my wonderful helpers. Those particular ones contain either home made preserves or spiced apple cordial with a couple of drink ideas. I do hope they are liked.
At the moment they're all sitting on a couple of trays, waiting to be taken into school on Wednesday to sit under the Christmas tree and to be given out on Thursday. I'm certainly going to have to take the car that day!
The biscuits got made, finally, although the second lot had to be dumped as I turned on the telly and got engrossed in what was showing, letting them burn. It was the home made Christmas programmes and I found it all fascinating, being interested in that sort of stuff myself.

Later on DD came round and we sorted out family gifts. As some family members read this blog, I'm saying no more, but suffice it to say we had a most satisfying and enjoyable time!

I'm looking forward to today. There's some writing, some Christmas maths and swimming in the afternoon. And a show to put on this evening. I think we will need a dance rehearsal at some point to refresh the memories of those who have been away with this nasty flu-ey virus and who are expected to be back today. I've sorted out my Christmas DVDs as well, just in case there's a blank moment at any point!!

It's cold outside with a very heavy frost. I must remember to take my camera with me, in case there's anything worth snapping on the way! It can be so frustrating when you see an interesting composition and realise you've left the camera at home! I do that far too often.

The photo of the hands and foot reindeer didn't come out too well as they're on a window so I've had to edit it pretty heavily to make them visible, but you can get the general idea!

Edited to add - I meant to celebrate the 1,000th posting but seem to have missed it - this one is 1,003! That's a lorra words!

Sunday 12 December 2010

Sunday a little bit later on - Christmas trees and microwave custard

I'm on a roll this morning. I've just made 18 christmas tree biscuits (would have made more but I'm out of flour, darn it) and will make more later, plus some stars or whatever. They will make nice pressies for my children. I've also had a go at making some fresh custard, using some left over cream from FGriday,. good vanilla essence rather than a vanilla pod and - most significant thing - using the microwave method I use for lemon curd. I thought it might work as the recipes are really very similar and it did!

All I did was this:
I whisked up 15g or castor sugar with one egg yolk in a pyrex bowl until pale and thick.
I then added 100ml single cream (the amount that was left over) and some vanilla essence.

The bowl then went in the microwave and I cooked it on 600 power for 20 seconds at a time, stirring well in-between each cooking time until it was just under boiling and had thickened. That was it! So simple and so easy. I didn't add the cornflour Delia recommends to prevent curdling because I reckon as long as one only cooks it for 20 seconds, the chances of it getting to curdling point are minimal, but I might try it next time to see if it makes any difference.

My goodness, the difference between 'real' custard and the instant sport is just amazing. It's like comparing bog standard mild low fat cheddar (spit) to the best quality Stilton (I LOVE Stilton, by the way!). There is just no comparison, in fact, and I wonder why it's taken me so long to make the real stuff. As with a number of other things, I won't be going back!

Sunday morning

After a very sleepy day yesterday, I rather woke up in the evening and spent some of my time profitably in making 30 little bags to hold my children's gifts. Mum taught me the method when she was last over and it's really very simple and straight forward, just a little bit of sticking and some folding. Maybe I'll take photos of the process at some point so you can see how it works.

While I made the bags I watched a DVD I bought quite a while ago, might even have been last Christmas, called Christmas Cottage. I wouldn't bother, if I was you. Sickly, sentimental, some funny bits and powerful bits, but overall quite a bit rubbish, I thought. I won't watch it again. It reminded me of another 'feel good' film I watched a long time ago called 'A Winter Without Snow'. Now that I did enjoy. Perhaps it was because it was based around a performance of the Messiah, a central theme that would strongly appeal to me at any time. Must look on Amazon and see if it's available - I'd like to watch that again at some point.

Having had such a lazy day yesterday means a very busy day today, so I'd better get going.

I managed to remember to take some photos of the decorations made for the class Christmas tree. Lovely, aren't they?

Saturday 11 December 2010

Saturday evening

So much for plans. I've spent the whole day, more or less, either falling asleep, sleeping or waking up. Precious little has been done (apart from the kitchen, of course, and a bit of washing) and I'm still feeling very dopey now and ready for bed. I guess I really needed a day off. and taking one was a sensible thing to do.

Wasn't Strictly great this evening? I loved all the dances but, for me, Pamela and James have that little extra something that marks out a winner. I suppose I'm biased. Her age, the fact that she was an OU student, the way she's losing all that weight and looking so wonderfully healthy all count, but most of all, she is a dancer from head to toes, inside and out, and is just gorgeous to watch. I do so hope she gets through.

Photo: I remembered to take a few photos of those snowmen - aren't they lovely?

Saturday morning

It feels really weird, coming downstairs to a very tidy and spacious living room. I suppose that speaks volumes for my housewifely 'skills', but usually my rooms is a 'working room', so there's stuff out and about. Not today thought, it all looks super. Until you walk into the kitchen, that is. Another less than perfect trait I have is that I don't have this urge to get the kitchen perfect before I go to bed. On the contrary, I consider the time much more profitably used in sleeping., It's mornings when I can hustle and bustle and get things done. So now the dishwasher is humming away merrily with its first load, and by about nine the kitchen will be good again.

The rest of today will be a mixture of stuff - washing and ironing is a priority, of course, as is finding some crafty stuff for the children to do. They really aren't going to be fit for much and we do have a writing activity for them in the mornings, so gentle craft stuff is ideal for the afternoons. The other major thing will be making some more cards as I find I am short of the home made variety, also, if time some little bags for the children's gifts. I always make books marks and pop in some sweets and a few party poppers, so these little bags will be just right!

I may have DG with me too. DD has been poorly and it depends on how she's feeling really. Hopefully she's a lot better how.

Better go and check the dishwasher, I suppose!

Friday 10 December 2010

Friday evening

A surprising late entry - or maybe I mean surprisingly early, given that it was Chinese and Chat here this evening. At just past ten o'clock on previous occasions, things have still been going at full swing and I've been huddled in a chair thinking 'I must NOT go to sleep, I really must NOT go to sleep'. This time, everyone else flaked out by nine forty-five and went home. What made the difference was that yesterday evening it was the whole staff do (which I didn't go to), where the school took over a restaurant for the whole evening and, from what I hear, where things got lively at about ten and went on for considerably longer. So, just for once, I was more wide awake than my guests!! There's a first for everything, isn't there?

It's been a simply lovely evening, filled with chat, giggles and downright raucous laughter (sorry J and K next door). Most of the Chinese got eaten up - maybe there's three single portions left (which will grace the inside of my freezer, assuming it doesn't all get eaten tomorrow) and a rather embarrassing number of prawn crackers. I forget that when one places a big order, they throw in some bags of prawn crackers free. And best - er, I mean worst - of all, there's a large number of bottles of alcoholic stuff left and the givers wouldn't take them home again. Oh, dear, what a shame, I'm heartbroken, etc! :0)

And now I face a weekend filled with not a lot really, not even planning. I need to search for some Christmas craft stuff, but there's enough undone from previous weeks to inform next week's planning without any extra effort. :0))) Even the house is pretty tidy. Of course, there's washing and ironing, that doesn't stop, and I have pressies to sort out for numerous folk at school. There's also probably some stuff needs doing for for the show on Monday and Tuesday (the show that would have already been done and dusted, had it not been for the snow) but nothing terribly urgent really.

And talking about the show, the dress rehearsal went really very well indeed. The watching juniors paid us the compliment of listening and watching intently and clapping energetically at the right times. And let's be honest, the blips are what makes the whole thing memorable for the parents. As for us staff, we've been so immersed in rehearsals that all we can see is what didn't go right. However, more than one of the junior teachers said that it was magical, the best they had ever seen the infants do, fantastic, etc. So I guess Whoops-a-Daisy Angel is going to be a big hit! Nice thought! I'm now not worried at all not, it's going to be great!

And now it's the weekend. Five more days and we are a third of the way through the school year. more or less. Where is the time going? Why is life flying on so fast? Why am I still awake and up at this time of the evening . . .?

Night, all!

friday morning

. . . and I've been very busy getting the downstairs of the house tidy and sorted for tonight's do. It's jolly good to have to do it so near to Christmas, as it means there's not so much to do after the end of the term before the family descends!
I'm leaving the sweeping until after school though - it seems jolly inconsiderate to make such a noise at this time of the morning and my neighbours are good people who I would hate to annoy. But a lot of other stuff has been done. I think, as with so many things, the anticipation is worse than the reality!

Today, all the children are arriving in their show costumes. It's dress rehearsal day, starting as soon as we possibly can, with the juniors watching. The children come in their costumes, with their uniform in a carrier bag to change into afterwards. Mine are snowflakes and I gather glitter and tinsel has been flying in all directions at home while those wonderful grown-ups exercise their considerable creativity in devising those costumes.
After that there's another important Christmas event - the school Christmas dinner. Just about the whole school takes part, very few children are sandwiches on that day, and it takes from 11:30 to 1:15 to get through the whole school. Year 1 start at 11:30, so maths will be severely curtailed today.
After all that excitement, what can we do in the afternoon but another Christmas Craft - stand up angels with doyley wings this time. Nowhere near as free flowing as yesterday's activity, but I doubt they will complain, they'll be so tired by then.

And at some point I need to persuade the head to judge the Christmas Tree decorations. It was funny listening them talk about how they made them. it was 'Mummy this and Mummy that' with the occasional 'Daddy' input too. One little lad had both of his older sisters and his older brother involved, as well as mum and dad. Of course, one can tell which decorations truly are child centred and which have been adult driven with the occasional shake of glitter from the child, but they do look lovely on our little class tree and the children keep admiring it all hugely!

The evening will all be taken up with Chinese and Chat, of course. Lovely. I doubt people will stay for terribly long into the night - last night was the whole staff Christmas do. I didn't go, but just about everyone else did so they will be pretty tired today! I'm sure they had a wonderful time.

Thursday 9 December 2010

Thursday evening

What a super day it's been. First of all it was the pantomime. A retelling of Dick Wittington, full of laughs, noise (very, very noise), songs and drama. Three very talented young people playing a variety of roles with very speedy costume changes behind a screen. And our Infants just lapped it all up. They were totally and utterly involved, completely a part of the story, wonderfully engaging with the characters.
I kept a sharp eye open for my autistic-y children. One was happy to sit on my knee for a short time and covered the ears each time there was shouting but still had a great time. The others loved every moment of it!
This little theatre company got it absolutely right for our little ones - songs, jokes, interaction, suspense. I look forward to hearing how they were received by the juniors in the afternoon. As I did my wee coordinator talk at the end, one of the company said we were the best audience they had ever had. One takes that with a pinch of flattery salt. However, they said it again in the staffroom at playtime and again, later on, to office staff, so I guess it was more than just conventional flattery. I am very proud of 'my' children. The adults did OK too!!

And then, in the afternoon, we made snowmen. No, not real ones, model ones. A bit like yesterday's reindeer only rather more complicated, more techniques involved, more to remember, more to work out.
I modelled the most significant parts to them, showed them the one I had made, elicited ideas as to HOW I had made certain parts, gave them the freedom to use their own ideas, showed them the materials and tools and left them to it. Minimal support, lots of 'what do you think' type questioning.
The results were fantastic. My two 'special' LSAs and I just stood and watched them in amazement and appreciation of the varying skills they demonstrated. It was an afternoon to remember and the results are enhancing the classroom environment no end at the moment.

And, best of all, at the end of the afternoon, the children left the bay happy, content and fulfilled. Isn't that what it's all about?

How can I match that tomorrow??? I LOVE Christmas at school!

Photo: just to cap it all, we had a gorgeous sunset.

Thursday morning

It's going to be another nice day today, I hope. The Friends of the School Association has paid for a theatre company to come and perform a pantomime to KS1 in the morning and KS2 in the afternoon. Should be good!!!

So that's before play sorted. We might actually get some formal work done after play, you never know. And then this afternoon it's something arty and Christmassy. Nice!

It's still so flippin' cold though. There are big patches of ice on the pavements that have not cleared for over a week now and, I gather, the cold is due to continue into next week rather than warming up. Not nice at all!

The arm is getting better slowly. it still hurts but not at medication level. Not a problem!

Wednesday 8 December 2010

Wednesday evening

. . . and no staff meeting. As S said in the note that came round informing us of this, 'no grumbling now'! And no staff meeting next week either because of the Christmas Fair. Oh, dear, oh, dear, what disappointment! How will we cope?

I had such fun with the this afternoon. Hand and foot reindeer it was, and they had obviously not come across this before. I played it very straight, while talking and modelling.

Right, first you take your shoe off.
(puzzled looks)

You put it on a piece of beige paper and draw round it. Then you put your name inside the shoe shape.
(slightly comprehending nods - they know all about putting their name on their work and so they should, they've been nagged - I mean reminded - about it often enough)

Oh, look, you have some bits of paper left - what do you think you could do with that?
(lots of 'helpful' suggestions but we finally got there)

Yes, in the recycling bag! Well done.
Now you need an orange sheet. Draw round one hand, then draw round the other. That's harder so you can ask a friend to help, if you like.
(frantic modelling about how to Make Best Use Of Paper So We Don't Waste Any)

Oh, look, you have some bits of paper left - what do you think you could do with that?
(better response this time - they do pay attention sometimes)

OK, now you have to stick the hand shapes to the foot shape like this.
(did so and showed the results. Light dawning on little faces and the magic of Christmas began all over again for me and, I hope, for them too)

Now - what else do you think we need to do?

And so it went on, to mounting excitement. And when they tried it themselves, they did a fantastic job. This is where I got the idea. We don't do the smile, the eyes are black circles with eyelashes and the antlers are stuck behind the head, not in front - it looks better that way! And now one of my sets of windows is covered with Rudolphs of various shapes and sizes . . . quite disconcerting they can be too, so I don't look at them too often!! The children think they are brilliant!

The second full rehearsal went well too. Fingers crossed!

And tomorrow looks like being quite a normal day - apart from the pantomime in the morning that is.