Tuesday 31 May 2011

Tuesday morning

It's nice and sunny here this morning, but still very cold, so cold that the heating has clicked on. I ventured out to the freezer to get the stuff for the day in just now and the warmth hit me as I came back in. Very nice it was too.

I got quite a lot done yesterday. The tea loaves are now sliced, wrapped and frozen. I spent quite a long time pottering in the garden, cutting back the sage quite severely, planting out some seedlings that really aren't seedlings any more, digging over, weeding and generally sorting things out a little bit. And then, after I put the hose away, it started raining. Ho hum! Never mind, it was a very welcome sight and means that I won't have to water today so no complaints from me. it was a substantial amount of rain, never torrential but quite hard at times, and lasted most of the evening on and off and into the night. Just what was needed. Maybe we could order some more later on today, please!
I also did a little bit of washing and an awful lot of networking - too much really. The bedroom is still a mess - what a surprise!

And now it's Tuesday. I shall pop into Morrisons for a few magazines and also to get some bits and bobs for tomorrow lunch when I have a friend round. I found a recipe on the Rosemary Conley site for a cheese and tomato quiche that has a flour tortilla as a base, instead of pastry. I know L is a Conley fan and uses her recipes, so I thought I would make it and see what it's like. I can always open a tin of tuna if it's a disaster. It's low fat and uses low fat cheese which I have my doubts about but I'll give it a go and see. Quiches do freeze OK so the leftovers will provide some nice lunches for school. I'll let you know.

I also want to do a little more garden stuff, including putting some goodness from the compost heap onto the flower beds, and I MUST write to the council and instruct them to take the old fridge away. It's been sitting there for months now. I will get the letter written as soon as I have finished this blog post so I'd better hurry up and send and get on with it.

Monday 30 May 2011

Recipe: simple tomato soup

I'm enjoying this at the moment and thought I would share it as it's really nice

Ingredients for a big single portion or two portions in soup plates:
small glug of olive oil (1 tsp)
small-ish onion, finely chopped
400g can chopped tomatoes
a tsp Marigold low sodium vegetable bouillon powder
two sprigs oregano (or some dried, but I think fresh is nicer)
a pinch of sugar
a squidge tomato puree

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a saucepan, add the onion and gently fry until softened.
Pour in the chopped tomato and then swish a little extra water around the inside of the can or carton to get the remains and add that too. Add a heaped tsp vegetable bouillon powder, the sugar and the oregano.
Stir, bring to a gentle boil, cover and leave to simmer gently for about 20 mins.
When the onion is soft, remove the oregano and zizz the soup with a stick blender. I then pushed it through a fine sieve, but one wouldn't have to. It does make it lovely and smooth though.
Add the tomato puree and stir. Check seasoning and adjust. I added no salt or pepper, the Marigold was enough. I've been cutting out unnecessary salt, so it's fine for me: others may prefer to add a little salt.
Bring back to a simmer, pour in a soup bowl and add a dollop of natural yogurt, if you like. Enjoy.

Scrummy. And about 175 calories for the lot. If you didn't use the olive oil it would be about 135 calories, but I like the flavour it imparts.

Garden extra

I wasn't intending to 'do' vegetables. However, there was this one yellow courgette plant left over after DD had taken what she wanted. It was so brave and such a survivor, even to the point of flowering in its tiny little pot, that I took pity on it and now it's in a large pot with a good dose of compost from my composter to encourage it on. Fingers crossed.

Note to self: cut back the sage in order to enjoy the lilies!

Dessert tonight . . . yum yum

Nothing special, I just like the colour and pattern.

Lookee-look-look. Proof!!! The rosemary cuttings have taken! I now need to get them potted on before the roots get too tangled (they are two to a pot at the moment. That means a trip to the garden centre for some potting compost and some pots. Drat!

I must be getting something right, somewhere. Or maybe George talks to them!

Two recipes for Sweffling

The recipe for the lamb and apricot meatballs can be found here. Next time I would make more sauce, I think, and I did add some tomato puree to it. I think it is truly a scrummy recipe and definitely one to make again. It's quite partyish too.

The korma is more problematic because I make it up as I go along with whatever I have available but here's the basics of it. I used chicken breast, but I have made it with turkey fillets or I'm sure it would be nice with pork loin or that lovely lean lamb you can get. It's very unauthentic so apologies to any curry purists who might be reading, but it's delicious (I think).
If I miss anything out, I will come back and edit.

A glug or two of oil (I used olive, ghee would be more authentic)
One medium/large red onion, thinly sliced into half rings
One sweet potato, peeled and chopped into medium sized chunks (dice size)
One red and one orange pepper (small peppers, so if they're big, use half of each, or just one or the other), cut into smallish bite sized pieces
Two garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or crushed
Four skinless and boneless chicken breasts, cut into thin slices across the grain (I cut them while they were still frozen which made it easy to get nice thin slices)
A jar of Patak's korma paste (yes, sorry, I cheat here) - I used about half the jar, but it's to taste really
One can low fat coconut milk
A small can of sweetcorn (sometimes I use a handful of frozen peas as well)
About seven or eight dried apricots, cut into thin slices (sometimes I use sultanas instead)
Four or five chestnut mushrooms, sliced
Some flaked almonds. I used pre toasted ones, but sometimes I use the non-toasted ones. Either is nice.
Chopped fresh coriander (optional)

In a large pan, heat the oil, add the onion rings, stir well and leave to sizzle slowly until soft.
Add the sweet potato and continue cooking gently, then do the same with the peppers.
Then add the garlic, cook for about a minute and then remove the lot with a slotted spoon so that any remaining oil stays in the pan. Add more oil if necessary.
Add the chicken, a few slices at a time so it's not crowded and it fries rather than steams. Brown each side and then remove. When the last batch of chicken has browned, put back all the chicken and the fried vegetables and stir gently but well. Add more oil if necessary.
Add the korma paste and stir in well, allowing it to 'cook out' for a minute or so.
Add the coconut milk and stir it well so that the korma paste and milk are well combined. Add the apricots. Bring to a gentle boil.
Cover the pan, turn the heat down and allow the lot to simmer gently for about 20 mins, stirring occasionally. Enjoy the aroma!
Finally, add the sweetcorn (as much as you want from the can, don't have to use it all). Add the mushrooms and gently stir it all well together. No need to actually 'cook' the mushrooms, they are fine just heated and remain firm and flavoursome.

At this point, either allow to cool, sprinkle with the flaked almonds and freeze (I got six good single portions from it) or bring right back up to piping hot, sprinkle over the almonds and some fresh chopped coriander if you have some and serve with rice.

I know it all sounds a bit muddled and complicated but it isn't really, it's just the typical method for a casserole. Cook the onion and harder veg, add the meat, add the seasonings, add the liquid, cook, add any 'soft' veg near the end.

Monday morning

No school!!! NO school! No SCHOOL!
However I say it, it sounds brilliant. I think that of all the days in a half term break I enjoy Mondays the best. OK, so it's a bank holiday anyway, but that doesn't impact because just about all our bank holidays are in holiday times (no complaints, just saying).

I'm expecting to have another day at home, doing pottering-around stuff as and when I feel like it. People who work to a timetable regulated by strict timings will understand the pleasure of having the occasional day with nothing set in stone. More than occasionally and it starts feeling aimless, so I have to impose structure. Just now, however, it feels good.

These are the things I might achieve today.
Three reports written
Some gardening
Some washing, drying and ironing
Some 'networking'
A tidier bedroom (hollow laugh)
Baking a couple of tea loaves.
Might go swimming, might not!
Might look round Matalan, might not!

I have a friend to lunch on Wednesday and, as I made cupcakes last time, this time I have decided it is tea loaf. It's so very easy. Soak sugar and mixed dried fruit in cold strong (strained) tea for several hours, then add SR flour and an egg and bake. So easy peasy and so delicious. Usually I use a packet of the mixed dried fruit you can buy, but I had a nosey in the depths of my cupboard and found some dried pineapple that really does need eating up, plus some lovely dried cranberries that I bought fairly recently as well as some sultanas, so I've used a mixture of those three. It makes two small loaves and one can go straight in the freezer, sliced, for another time.
Here are the actual quantities (which can be a little either way):
340g/12 oz mixed dried fruit, washed.
230mls/7 1/2 fl oz strained cold tea
120g/4 oz demerara sugar
230g/8 oz self raising flour
1 egg
. . . and the oven temperature is 180C for about 75 mins or until done according to the skewer. You might need to cover it towards the end.

I've got two more bloggy things to do but I shall make them separate messages or this will be way-ay-ay too long.

Sunday 29 May 2011

Sunday morning

It seems to be another dull, cloudy, windy day but I must get out there in the garden and do a bit of work. If I don't it will be too late to get the seedlings out! As it is, a courgette in a tiny pot is flowering and really won't last much longer without a bigger growing space.

I've had a lovely morning so far. Yesterday evening I prepared the strawberries and left them overnight in sugar and lemon. This morning it all went in my big pan and has boiled away into the most wonderful tasting strawberry jam. Four nice little pots of it, one for my friend's birthday present, one for DD/DG and two for me! I suspect we will make great inroads into one pot for tea tonight as I'm planning to make scones! Slurp!
I am a bit annoyed with myself though - I obviously didn't leave the jam to stand in the pan long enough and the berries have risen instead of staying equally distributed. It makes no difference to the taste, it's just jolly annoying!

Looking out, the sun seems to be trying to break through, so I think I will make an early start and get those plants out in good order. Then I can potter in the kitchen without feeling guilty! I want to make a pot of my home made chicken korma today. SO much nicer than the ones in jars, although, I suspect, equally unauthentic.

Saturday 28 May 2011

Saturday evening

. . . and it has been another very productive and extremely satisfying day.

The apple mint jelly was/is absolutely delicious. DG insisted on having some on the crust slice from the bread baked earlier this morning, and that slice disappeared very quickly. That's not exactly what I made it for but no complaints from me (or him)!

The lamb and apricot meatballs in a same flavoured tomato sauce came out very well indeed. I've just had one portion for tea and am mighty glad that there are six more portions in the freezer.

Of course, when one makes a jelly, there's all the fruit pulp left over. After pushing the remains of the apple through the mouli to get rid of the skin and core, I added sugar and raspberries to make a scrummy mix to go with yogurt - six portions, freezer!

In Sainsbury's yesterday, there were some rather good looking organic strawberries on BOGOF so, of course, I got two punnets. After umming and ahing (because I also got some from the Farm Shop so have quite a lot), they are now nestling under jam sugar and lemon juice, ready to make strawberry jam tomorrow. I haven't made strawberry jam for years and am very much looking forward to it. A friend has a birthday this coming week and a pot of the apple mint jelly plus a pot of the strawberry jam will make a very acceptable present for her, I hope.

And finally, there was some minced lamb left over so it is slowly simmering in the oven and will be used to make some shepherd's pies. How *would* I manage without my freezer?

Saturday morning

Here I am, nice and early, enjoying the silence, with two guests sleeping sweetly upstairs, the bread in the bread maker has about half an hour to go so is making the house smell wonderful, the next batch of natural yogurt is made and cooling, five portions of Jamie's beef in ale sit in the fridge chilling before being taken to the freezer having cooked wonderfully in the slow cooker and the sugar has been added to the apple juice that dripped out of the jelly bag overnight and it all now awaits my attention before becoming apple mint jelly. And once that's made I will have to eat lots and lots of roast lamb to use it up! Oh, the hardship!

It's great having the time to do these things but, as always, I feel held back by the fact that I am just cooking for one most of the time. It's kinda frustrating. Maybe I'm in the wrong job - maybe I should set up a local meal maker company!! Chelmsford Casseroles sounds good!

This morning I have a few chores and some fun planned. I must make the lamb mince (bought yesterday) into lamb and apricot meatballs as planned, I must make the apple and mint jelly, I have a kitchen to get back in order afterwards and some washing to do. But that aside, DG has brought his Wii Monopoly with him and we're all going to have a game before walking round to the Flyer for some lunch. Should be a lot of fun.

And I have three reports to write. :0)

Friday 27 May 2011

Friday evening

The visit to the farm shop earlier was an absolute pleasure. I'm sure it's not the best farm shop in the world, but it was still lovely. Strawberries picked that day from their greenhouses (the PYO aren't ready yet). Frozen fruit and veg to scoop into poly bags and have weighed, including some broad beans that look absolutely wonderful. Rhubarb, which has now been stewed with some sugar and some strawberries, one of the world's best flavour combinations. Some bramley apples that are half way to becoming apple mint jelly now. Some organic lamb mince that is slowly thawing in the fridge, destined for lamb and apricot meatballs. Some extra large, fresh eggs, less than half the price of those in the shops - bring your own egg box!

I could have spent a lot more - there was some nice looking cheese, for a start, but there's a limit to how much I can store and use without either over-eating or having to throw out. I'll be back there again though.

Friday a little later on

Multiple blog messages is a sure sign that there's no school, isn't it? :0)

I've got going with the cooking because I found I had the ingredients (most of them or good substitutes) for what I want to do with the minced steak. Half of it is slow simmering in the oven and will stay there for hours, probably. The other half has been pulverised into spicy meatballs.
The bolognese-y type mixture in the oven has, apart from the usual, some red lentils and a handful of oats. I always add them: apart from the obvious frugal element of it making the meat go a lot further, they both add richness and flavour and the oats help to create a lovely thick sauce. They take on board the meat flavour and you really can't tell they are there in terms of texture.

The meatballs are a concoction of onion, garlic and red and green pepper (all minced in the mini-chopper) with chili, curry powder, garam masala, dried leaf coriander, pepper and a very little salt. The recipe also called for breadcrumbs but I haven't any bread in the place (it's all in the freezer) so instead I put some oats in the chopper and zizzed them down to a rough powder. They're cooked now and I've tasted one and mmmmmmm. I must remember that for another time: oats are 'healthier' than bread!

And finally, I have a simple mixture of minced onion and garlic, olive oil and chopped tomatoes slowly simmering and thickening on the hob. Frozen in little pots, it can then be seasoned with herbs or spices as wished before using.

The house smells wonderful!

Friday morning

. . . and the day has come. It's half term. Well - I suppose if I'm being strictly accurate, it isn't half term yet, but it feels like it.

Today I intend to:

1. Go shopping at Sainsbury's. I have a reasonably long list because I intend to do some batch cooking this half term and have the recipes to hand.

2. Investigate a Farm Shop on the other side of Chelmsford. I did a Google for Pick Your Own and this popped up: a place I had no idea existed. There is another PYO way, way out from this side of town, but I think the western one will be easier and quicker to get to. The picking hasn't started yet but I can investigate the place and get familiar with it. I might buy some stuff there too. :0)

3. Make some beef in ale, some bolognese and some spicy meat balls. The meat is out of the freezer, chillin'. The Beef in beer will cook in the slow cooker and the other can do first on the hob and then long and slow in the oven. Not Handy Andy for this.

4. Make up the bed for DG's visit overnight.

5. Write three reports. If I do three a day, they'll all be done bar editing by the end of half term!

6. Might even go swimming, although the chances of that are small!

Thursday 26 May 2011

Thursday afternoon

School's out! Half term has begun. I'm home and not working. Bliss.

We got rain. Boy, did we get rain? Half way through outdoor games, of course! I'd just finished explaining to the year 1s how to do each bit of the jumping station (for sports day) and they'd all just started practising long jump, standing jump, jump into a hoop or mini hurdles when it started. Ho hum.

However, it turned out to be a good opportunity to discuss How To Behave If It Rains Half Way Through Sports Day and, more specifically, What Not To Do If It Rains Half Way Through Sports Day!

It carried on bucketing down all through lunch break and most of the afternoon. It cleared up for afternoon play, praise be, but it's just started again. Well, those poor plants surely needed a good soaking and we haven't had nearly enough yet.

Oh, I was sorely tempted to get a takeaway this evening and a bottle of something chilled, dry and alcoholic, but my stronger side won through and I'm sticking with the goulash, strawberries and yogurt. I think I'm glad . . .

Thursday morning

. . . and a cold, windy, cloudy, chilly morning it is too. Rain, maybe? It would be typical - the day we have outdoor PE it rains. The day before the start of the half term, the weather breaks!

Funny how we're never satisfied, isn't it? When it's sunny and dry, we say the garden needs a good soaking. When it looks as if it's going to rain, we say it's the wrong time.
Ah. well, given that no amount of grumbling will make a blind bit of difference, let's move on.

I did a trawl around some recipe sites and found a Jamie Oliver recipe for beef and ale stew which looks promising, a recipe for spicy meatballs that can be made with any minced meat, another meatball recipe - this time for lamb and apricot meatballs, which looks really delicious and which I will definitely make, and a beef goulash recipe. I've dug out some casserole steak from the freezer so I'll start with the latter. I also discovered a bag of eight chicken fillets which I had forgotten about so must look for interesting chicken recipes too. Moving stuff around made a lot more space in the chest freezer so I am sure I now have enough room to empty and defrost the upright.

Today is the day we tell the children who their next teacher will be and which bay they are going to.
And this evening I am doing NO WORK AT ALL! :0)

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Wednesday evening

I found the most intriguing recipe in June's Olive magazine, which I intend to try at some point soon. It's cornflake icecream. You have to start with cornflake milk, which is just cornflakes soaked in milk overnight and then strained. The rest is just cream and egg yolks and sugar made into a custard and then frozen.

Any of my readers made it?

Garden extra

The pansies are still flaunting their prettinness in the old barbecue. Three died but the other three have taken over and are closing the gaps.
The sunflower has a bud. I'm not sure whether its one bud or several, I will have to wait and see. These plants were given to me so the outcome will be a surprise!
The campenula could be flowering by the time I get home from work this evening.
The bush that thinks its a tree is at its most radiant, glorious best . . .
. . . with millions of tiny, starry pinpricks of pink.
And, wonder of wonders, the rosemary cuttings still live . . .
. . . as does the mint. Now, that *is* a miracle!

Wednesday morning

. . . and it's jolly cold outside at the moment. Not frosty cold, thank goodness, but cold enough to make me shiver when I went out to the freezer a while ago. Judging by the sky, it will be sunny and will warm up soon enough though. But we need rain!! Probably it will come as soon as half term starts and continue on through the whole of half term. Just what the gardens need, but not the children!

So, today, Wednesday, is a day that runs on its tracks for most of the day. Reading Revelry, phonics, maths, family assembly, ICT in the computer suite, Library, PPA, playtime, storytime . . . and perhaps a staff meeting, I'm not totally sure about that last one.

Library is lovely. We are lucky enough to share a roof with the branch library and every Wednesday it closes its doors to the general public and has classes in, one class at a time, half the school one week and the other half the next week.
The little ones look at books and hear stories. The older ones are taught library skills, research skills, etc. They also bring their library tickets and borrow/return books too. It's quite a highlight of the fortnight and we're very, very lucky to have this resource on our doorstop with a linking door so we don't even have to go outside to get there.

Well, time is moving on and I have a few resources to make and print out so I'd better go!
Have a good day!

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Tuesday evening

Two more days.

And the photo is my front path at the moment! :0)

Tuesday morning

. . . and it's the weekly PPA and coordinator's time for me this morning. Only three days before half term now.

As readers of my 'other' blog will know, I'm back on the sensible eating track again and having some unconventional breakfasts at present. Today it's turkey in gravy (frozen from Christmas). The main reason for this is that the upright freezer needs a defrosting: it did anyway, but even more so now because I left the door slightly ajar on Saturday for a short time and a thin layer of frost has built up over everything, although there's been no thawing, thank goodness.
The other reason is that I like it!

By the end of this week and into next week, I should have eaten enough of the frozen single meals that the remainder will fit in the chest freezer without too much hassle. Then I can defrost, reorganise and stock up again. So, reports to the contrary, I have something to look forward to over half term - cooking some batches of stuff using much of the meat I already have frozen , having bought it on BOGOF or some other good offer. Not everyone's idea of fun, I agree, but I like it!

So far I'm planning:
A good panful of a sort of bolognese - good beef mince in a flavoursome tomato sauce - some of which will have extra added vegetable, beans and chilli. It's just about my favourite stuff and is so very versatile.
Some beef meatballs in a tomato sauce
Some chicken casserole.
Some curries. I have a super Slimming World curry recipe book which has instructions for curries so good that they make the taste buds tingle! I'll also make some korma of my own devising
Some small pots of tomato sauce for use in all sorts of things.
Some beef in beer, stroganoff, goulash . . . that sort of stuff.
I won't get all of this done, but some will be and by doing so I use up some stuff that ought to be used pretty soon.

It's just as well I am planning to stay at home over this half term, isn't it?

Monday 23 May 2011

Monday evening

I woke early today. I mean early for me, middle of the night for everyone else. Bright eyed and bushy tailed at three o'clock is a waste of good sleeping time, even for me.
Despite feeling pretty tired and worn out, it's been a good day, made even better by the fact that I have done my last morning playtime duty until September now. Next half term is my half term off - bliss!

Literacy was good, maths was good, theme was good. I'm smiling!

Photo: This is my neighbour's front garden. This is the view over to the countryside which starts the other side of the road. I've posted a few photos over the hedge. I know - what hedge? All dug up and ready to be landscaped and I've negotiated to include my front pathway as well. Not the standing space, I cannot afford that yet, but it's a start, isn't it? They're still having a little bit of garden, so it won't be completely bleak. It must be every little lad's dream - a digger in the front garden - so the two next door are living it for a few days!

Sunday 22 May 2011

Sunday evening

Ever heard the saying 'Penny wise, pound foolish'? Well, that was me. A week ago I needed to get more soap for the dishwasher. It's terribly expensive and, in comparison, the supermarket's own kind was an attractively frugal alternative. So that's what I got.
Unfortunately and annoyingly, the quality is so poor, I found I was having to rewash quite a lot of things, they simply weren't coming out clean. Today I just got fed up, stalked around to Morrisons and bought some brand capsules and some brand powder. I was pleased to see that the capsules were on BOGOF, so that kind of made up a bit.
And the naff ones? I will use them for cleaning Handy Andy.

This afternoon I was not particularly looking forward to an afternoon working on the PC. Fortunately, DG popped round to see if I would like to go with her to her allotment, where I could sit and read and chatter while she worked. Nice idea so I did, although I helped by watering all the beds for her while she planted out some courgette and butternut squash plants. I hope she likes courgettes - she planted loads and loads of them, green, yellow and white. When I think of the state that patch was in before DD took it over, I realise what an amazing job she has done with it. There's a way to go yet, of course, but it bears no comparison now to how it was then. Well done, DD.

And then it was home for tea. Pate, lemon curd (home made), bread (home made), cakes (home made) and a nice cuppa. Sheer pleasure.
What a lovely day!

Photo: just for Joan! :0)

Sunday morning

Yesterday turned into a very culinary day.

First of all, I found a recipe for soft wholemeal rolls/baps. It took a long time: there don't seem to be many about out there. That went well and the results are delicious - one I had for dinner with my burgers, several have now been filled with cold meat, individually wrapped and put in the freezer for school lunches and the remaining rolls have been frozen just as they are.

A while later I fancied baking a cake. I have no idea where the urge came from but I'd been stuck in front of the PV for a while and needed a break. I found a Tana Ramsey recipe for lemon drizzle cake which was absolutely delicious except that I made the beginner's mistake of not checking if it was cooked through. You'd think I would know by now, wouldn't you? When I took it out of its paper lining, some of the middle dropped down and out and splodged all over the working surface!
Next time I will use two smaller loaf tins rather than one larger one as the top had started to over cook, even with paper over. There's enough left to make it worthwhile though, so no problems: some is for tea tonight and the rest has been frozen in small portions.

And finally, when I went shopping, Morrisons had some nice looking lean pork mince so, as I wanted to try a recipe posted by Maggie on her wonderful food diary, Kitchen Diaries Challenge 2011, I bought some. Pork burgers with thyme and lemon, actually diddy little patties, like squashed beat balls. Unfortunately, I couldn't get spring onions so used a red onion instead and had to use ordinary garlic instead of wet garlic, but the results were still absolutely delicious. Three portions for the freezer and one for today, yum yum. So much for running the freezer down to defrost it!!

I spent a lot of time in front of the monitor. OUSA has virtual hustings going on and a small group of us had the task of selecting appropriate questions from the many that were sent in. I woke early with a bit of a headache today which, I think, is due to too much computing. Maybe a few breaks are in order today.

Well, must go and pop in the ingredients for a white load for when DD and DG come to tea this evening and the coffee is smelling good so must be about done. It's all go, isn't it?

Edit: Just popped back in here to say it's raining!! Really, really raining! The sky is very overcast and solid grey so maybe it's set for a time. Fingers crossed. A real soaking would be wonderful.

Saturday 21 May 2011

Saturday evening

Last year I had a flourishing bay bush in a pot but after the winter months all the leaves turned brown and fell off, one by one. I should have protected it through the bitterly cold weather. A few weeks ago I cut it right back, meaning to then dig it out of the pot and discard it, but didn't get round to the second part. The other day, lo and behold, I noticed that it's sending up new leaves from the bottom. It has therefore been granted a stay of execution . . . and I am hoping.

And here's the second one, with two more snapping at its heels. Yum yum!


Two very funny things were said by children yesterday and do you think I can remember them to tell you? So frustrating! Sorry.

Yesterday was good after a week that has been pretty difficult. A Very Important Meeting went extremely well and I also had the time to work individually with a few children and do some observation in the afternoon. Half the bean plants went home so the responsibility for not snapping the stems is now out of my hands! The others should be ready on Monday - the criterion is that the plant is big enough to need a little support stick!

There's four teaching days to go now until half term. I can feel the 'report mood' coming closer, thank goodness. Unlike some of my colleagues, I really don't mind spending lots of time over the half term on writing them. Three a day and they all more or less get done without too much hassle. More than three and I'm quids in! Being an early riser, I can get them done early mornings. OK, so it means I need piles of books and assessment paper all over the place, but that's really no problem!

So today I intend to write more of the literacy statements and then I'm kind of tied to the computer while discussions go on regarding virtual hustings questions in-between bits of housework and making some wholemeal baps, if I can find a suitable recipe. Planning is more or less done, thank goodness (and thank you, L).

I do have to pop into school. Fool that I am, I left my camera there and I don't like to be without it really. And if it's warm, maybe I can sit out in the garden for a little while later on.

I do like weekends!

Friday 20 May 2011


Having made some really rather nice soft rolls last weekend, yesterday evening I was seized with the urge to make some more. This time I made the dough in the food processor and started rising it in Handy Andy, to get it thoroughly warmed all the way through before placing it on top of the oven to rise. Then I went to work on the PC, started getting tired and decided to have an early night.

Fortunately, before I dropped off to sleep, I remembered the dough. I rushed downstairs, knocked the dough back, formed it into rolls and then put them in the fridge, covered, to prove. This morning all they needed was a little warming in the grill over the oven which was heating and now they have just finishing baking. The house smells glorious, there is a warm roll for breakfast to go with my scrambled egg (yum hum) and thirteen others to make into rolls for next week's school lunches (to be frozen until wanted) or straight into the freezer for another time.

I might do it like this again. It's remarkable hassle free and it's rather a nice start to the day, very traditional too.
Must try them using wholemeal, or half and half.

Thursday 19 May 2011

Thursday morning

. . . and I feel a lot brighter after a fantastic night's sleep, a filling breakfast and a not-too-strong black coffee! It's rained overnight and everything looks bright and clean at the moment. I have gone over and over my planning and everything is in place so fingers crossed for a better day today.

Edited to add that yesterday morning I ate that single ripening strawberry. It was gorgeous. The taste of sunshine wrapped up in pink.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Wednesday eveing

. . . and after my rant this morning it set me up for a horrible day, one way and another. Nothing really dreadful, just one thing after another and now I'm worn out and miserable.

Poor old me, eh? Self pitying person! Better snap out of it, quick!

However, I did get one wish fulfilled. When I came in to write this message, lo and behold, the visitor counter was at exactly 10,000. Nice!

Wednesday morning

After weighing myself for the first time in months over the weekend and giving myself a thorough shock, I am back on the old healthy eating and feeling a lot better for it. I'm very angry with myself for letting it all go (yet again) and I do wonder if I will ever get 'there'. Each time it happens I have less and less confidence in my ability to push it through to the end. Not a terribly helpful mind-set, is it? It's better to feel good about oneself, but right now I'm not managing that terribly well at all.

There's something about 'junk' food that is addictive. It's not very nice, sometimes actually nasty with an unpleasant aftertaste, and yet one eats more and more of it without getting any of the satisfaction one gets from a small amount of home cooked food and certainly without most of the flavour and texture. So why? Why?

I am very thankful that there's supplies of cooked from fresh stuff in the freezer, making things very easy after a long and busy day. Perhaps a few weeks of healthy eating, taking me up to half term and then time to cook some nice meals from scratch, will do me the world of good because right at the moment I feel miserable: stodgy, weak willed and a right failure where eating and weight are concerned. Not at all nice.

Tuesday 17 May 2011

Tuesday morning

Tuesday is PPA day and Coordinator time day. So why am I a bit disgruntled? Because it's a jolly nice morning's work and I want to teach it myself, that's why!

Regular readers might remember the art sessions that involved painting and printing to make, firstly, a tree skeleton and then leaves and blossom. Nice and messy with results that look like an explosion in a blossom factory. Well, we did that yesterday and Creative Little Child painted the best tree skeleton I have ever seen from a Y1 - in fact, forget the year 1 bit, it was better than I could do! I'm looking forward to the finished results.

Apart from that is it, again, just a normal day. Happy and gentle with activities that I hope the children will learn through. I like days like that.

Photo: The first of many.

Monday 16 May 2011

Monday morning

. . . and it's back to school. Did I get the reports done? Did I heck!! But it was a nice weekend all the same. The banana cake and the rolls went down very well. DD took some rolls home and the three that are left will do for lunches.

There's nothing out of the way planned for me today, just an ordinary Monday with violins to set the day a-rolling. Art this afternoon - that will be nice.

Photos: in the garden. The strawberry is looking nibbled at but it isn't, it's just the way the light caught it!

Sunday 15 May 2011

And finally (maybe)

They are delicious (had one with my curry instead of rice).

500g strong white

8g dried yeast

1 tsp salt

quarter pint of hot water and same of milk, so it's blood heat

And another . . .

Goodness, you can tell it's report writing time - I suddenly have lots and lots of things to blog about! Not to mention suddenly having this great urge to bake.

OK, so I have DD and DG coming here for tea. Yesterday I bought some soft rolls from the shop for then. But, you know, they're not all that nice really. Sort of bland and chewy and cloying. I decided to grab a recipe from the Internet and make some, by hand, no bread machine involved.
So I did! And they've just come out fine. It's a bit difficult to spoil bread once you have the knack and the recipe and the tip of putting a dish of water in the oven to provide steam has helped to keep the crust soft (which I wanted) as will the muslin I have placed over them as they cool.

But the interesting thing is this. The recipe (which was supposed to make 8 large baps or 8 smaller ones, and of which I made half quantity!!) gave me 12 rolls of the size I wanted with enough left to make two more. Now, I didn't want to faff around with another baking tray so had a think and decided to experiment with Handy Andy, my amazing Halogen cooker.
I used the low rack and the non stick circular tray that came with him. I rolled the dough into a sausage and popped it into H A, then gave it about 20 mins on just below the reheat/wash temperature, followed by about 15 mins at 200 C. It is slightly over-brown on top (my fault) but it's come out fine, well before the other rolls.

I will remember that for the future. Now, the question is, do I put those other, shop-bought rolls in the freezer? Yes, I think I probably do! Then they are there when I want some fresh breadcrumbs.

And a few other photos.

This is why the bush that thinks it's a tree hasn't got its come-uppance yet, despite not knowing its place. It is so gorgeously pretty at this time of year.

Must remember to get the cream in . . .

I just like this photo. I might show it to the children because you can see the seeds developing very clearly. It is a chive flower.

Such pretty little sisters in their spring bonnets, smiling at the sun.

Are you going to Scarborough Fair . . .

Parsley . . .


Rosemary - and the cuttings are growing, yippee.

And thyme

. . . and chives

And mint - not killed off yet, maybe there's hope.

And oregano

Sunday morning

When I said I wanted to get the literacy comments written yesterday I actually meant this weekend. Having said that, I achieved the grand total of - one! However, I did go shopping, do shedloads of washing, get the kitchen properly sorted out, make and back a banana cake and make some yogurt. And do some moderating, exchange zillions of messages with friends, watch Doctor Who . . .
So guess what I'm doing today. If I can get half of them done I will be pleased. But I can feel the RATs closing in again.

Goodness, it was cold yesterday evening. So cold that I turned up the heating for a short while and closed the bedroom window. It was windy so I wasn't concerned about frost, but even so, brrrrrrr. I haven't felt the temperature today yet but, unless there's been a dramatic change, it won;t be all that warm yet. I hope we do get some warm early mornings because I love eating my breakfast in the garden before the mad rush that is school starts.

I've treated myself to 'proper' coffee this morning and need a top up, so off I go! Back soon with some photos.

Saturday 14 May 2011

Saturday morning

It was past six thirty when I woke this morning after my very late evening yesterday. I can't remember the last time I slept that late so I was extremely pleased. It's a gloriously sunny morning with a fresh breeze and promise of sitting out in the sun to come. I've popped out and watered the more vulnerable plants good and early. I'll do the rest later.

I've promised myself that today I will get all the literacy comments written on the school reports. Yes, gentle readers, it's *that* time of year again. Of course, there's so much else to do - housework, washing, ironing, gardening, etc . . . OU students have a word for it. TAT: Tma Avoidance Tactics, only in this case it's RAT: Report Avoidance Tactics. Wish me luck - I may be gone some time.

I had a compliment yesterday. Nice Little Boy was in class and I was sitting at my desk, doing some work. I leaned back, arms behind my head and lifted my hair into a 'ponytail' to air my neck. N L B came up and said 'Mrs Clark, when you have your hair in a pony tail you look really beautiful.'
Note to self: check with his mum to ask if he needs his sight testing!

See you later!

Friday 13 May 2011

Friday evening

This is VERY late for me! Even on a Friday - especially on a Friday, in fact. This evening a bunch of us from school were at the Civic Theatre watching one of the infant teachers taking the lead role in Gilbert and Sullivan's Ruddigore. She was brilliant, absolutely amazing. What a voice! But I'm very, very tired now!

The reason for no earlier posts wasn't because of that though. Blogger has been down all day so I wasn't able to post. Rather a pain, but I guess it happens sometimes.

I'm glad it's back though, because I'm nearing my 10,000th view/visitor thingy. I'd like to know when that happens, if possible, so will be sort of checking through the weekend - sad. me? Never!!

And now I'm off to bed. With any luck I'll sleep beyond four!

Thursday 12 May 2011

Thursday morning

We didn't get that rain forecast for yesterday, although if felt and smelt as if we were due some during afternoon playtime, and we even felt a very few little drops. The black clouds were rolling over and elsewhere must have been rained on, but not us! The fresh coolness was lovely though, very welcomed.

And I really don't want it to rain today. We have outdoor games this morning. Wouldn't it be good if we could order the weather on Amazon. Sun by day, rain by night. I wish!

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Wednesday morning

. . . and I've been bustling around making cup cakes for this evening's meeting. Nothing particularly amazing, just cake, pink icing piped on and glitter sprinkles. Sweet, gooey and utterly calorific. Just the thing for the end of a busy day!

It is supposed to be raining, but it isn't, it's nice and sunny. I'm glad I did some watering last night. At the moment it's not getting dry too quickly but, once the all day heat starts, watering will be a twice a day job, morning and evening.

That's it really. Today is a busy day with lots of 'stuff' - assembly, ICT suite, Library, PPA . . . oh, and maths, reading and phonics! It's all go!

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Tuesday evening

Another lovely, warm, sunny day. Such a shame the poor year 2s and year 6s have SATs this week. And I have to keep my class quiet because the only thing separating my bay from the first year 2 bay is a curtain. Poor little bunnies.

Apart from that it's been a normal, ordinary day with little to mark it out as different. I took my recorder club for the second time and they've been practising - sort of - and seem a little improved this week. We will see . . .

I've just spent some time watering the garden, only to log on and see that Google is forecasting rain here tomorrow. Never mind, it won't have hurt.

Monday 9 May 2011

Monday evening

What a lovely day it has been today. Sunny, fresh, bright and spring-like. The children have worked well, we had a lot of fun planting runner bean seeds, not to mention the ongoing investigation into the best conditions for germination. And I actually talked about photosynthesis too. I wonder if anyone will remember the word tomorrow.

This half term has always been my favourite. I may not have inherited my parents' green thumbs as far as gardening is concerned but there's something about May that stirs the blood, excites the imagination and invigorates the mind. The children are getting it too - they rush in, eager to see what has happened to the cress seeds and I hurriedly quell the shrieks as they discover . . .

I just LOVE teaching year 1!

Sunday 8 May 2011

Sunday evening

End of the weekend. Work tomorrow. Five days too - how will we manage? :0)

It's been a busy and very pleasant day what with one thing and another. There was some more liveliness on conferences (maybe not so pleasant), I went off to DGs birthday tea (now a 'proper' teenager with size 9 feet to match), the lamb for lunch was absolutely delicious and the sauce (just the roasting veg and liquid, blended with my stick blender) was perfect, and the weather is cool and pleasant now.

Have you ever heard of a 'Nerf gun'? No, I hadn't either, but it appears they are the latest 'must have' toy around here and DG, autism to the contrary, has succumbed to peer pressure and wanted one very, very much. Bless his uncle D, he bought one for DG's birthday present, and the look on DG's face when he realised that a) it was for him, b) mum was OK about it and c) it was bigger than the ones the other boys owned, had to be seen to be believed. It wasn't long before he was out with the other lads in the flats, having a whale of a time.
I'm afraid I was boring and gave him money! Practical Nan!

Sunday morning

It's very damp here at the moment, although it isn't raining right now and we could do with a lot more before the soil is properly watered. It's also a lot fresher, thank goodness. Yesterday ended up pretty muggy and humid and I finished the day with one of my increasingly rare one sided headaches which still lingers now but isn't anything like what it was overnight, thank goodness.

Yesterday was a lazy day. I was so tired I kept dropping off to sleep; once I nodded off while sitting at the computer! The humidity didn't help, but it wasn't just that, it was general tiredness. What with that and some frolics on FirstClass, I didn't get all that much done. So today I have all the chores I really ought to have done yesterday but didn't. Ho hum!

On a happier note, after the successful slow roast lamb over Easter, I have bought a smaller lamb joint to have another go at it. I'm hoping the results will provide the basis for some of my dinners in various ways this week as well as today. Must remember to put it in at about 8 o'clock.

Saturday 7 May 2011

Saturday morning

Aren't chive flowers beautiful. Sorry about the quality, but the light isn't good (and nor is the photographer, blaming her tools)!

See, I haven't managed to kill the mint yet. Quite the contrary, the cuttings I took from the top and shoved in round the side seem to be well and truly alive and growing.

And the Heuchera is still making valiant efforts. This poor plant has been totally hidden under a larger plant for years, so much so that I had forgotten it was there, so it's got to be a survivor. See the rain puddling in the new leaves - a most welcomed sight.

And those sunflowers are more than double their original height now . . . they're not supposed to grow taller than a metre but, as Dad said, you never know with sunflowers.

I seem to have missed yesterday's posting. That wasn't intentional and I'm so sorry if you came a-looking and found nothing new. Yesterday morning I was pretty busy, I suppose, and in the evening I was so tired after working a four day week (!) I snoozed on and off all evening and went to bed very early.

In fact, I was so busy yesterday morning that I totally forgot - yet again - to put out the green recycling box with the glass and tins before leaving for work. That's a real pain, because I've forgotten for several weeks now and the box is embarrassingly full. I reckon a trip to the nearest bottle bank is now on the cards.

The Very Good News is that we have had some rain overnight. Not enough, I am sure, but sufficient that the ground is still wet rather than all soaked away or evaporated off and it won't have done any harm. It's still overcast and gloomy so maybe there's more to come: I do hope so.

Yesterday was busy but fun. I had the pleasure of showing someone around the school, I had a couple of meetings, got some useful paperwork and testing done and sorted stuff out. I almost forgot I was on afternoon playground duty because I was in the middle of testing, so that was a tad embarrassing, but I was forgiven.

Oooh - just looked out and it's raining very hard and puddling too, which means that the ground is already pretty soaked. It does in my garden anyway. If it carries on I doubt George will want to come. We have an agreement that if it's raining too hard it's OK for him to cancel. Gardening is no fun in the pouring rain. But I'm not complaining, it's just what the plants need. As L said yesterday, 'If it rains, I don't have to sit out in the sun and then I can get on with my reports.'! How true.

Thursday 5 May 2011

Thursday morning

Now that school has properly started, I don't seem to have an awful lot to write about that is in any way 'different'. It was lovely to be properly back with my class and the sunshine certainly does bring out the best in them. They're bright and breezy and I love the way they bring the sunshine back in with them after playtimes.

I started giving the Ruddigore tickets out yesterday and, as a result, I have a bag full of tenners and loose coins. £12.20 is an awkward amount: it should have been £13, but one ticket was a comp because of the group booking, so that's been shared around the whole group. Thank goodness it didn't come to something like £12.37p - I couldn't bear all those 1ps or 2ps!

I had to laugh - I have done one particular investigation with my class now for a number of years and it's always worked within the day. But not yesterday. For some reason, exactly the same investigation in the other year 1 class worked a dream but mine didn't. So I've left it out overnight and fingers crossed!! I've also got the results from next door if I REALLY need them, but I hope I don't.

So another day starts. Sun is again expected but a part of me really hopes for some rain soon. I'm keeping up with watering the garden OK, but it's a bit of a drag at times. A good soaking would make all the difference! Fingers crossed.

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Wednesday morning

Good morning, everyone. Wasn't it a lovely sunny day yesterday, although the bright sun belied the temperature which was decidedly chilly in the wind. And it was pretty cold overnight too. Now that the heating has been turned off, I'm noticing the difference in the early mornings.

I had a bit of 'worry' with the heating last week. I noticed that the house was feeling very warm but, glancing at the posh thermostat in the living room, it didn't show the heating as on. Checking the radiators, however, showed that they were well and truly warm. Strange. It took me a day of wondering before taking a closer look at the thermostat and realising that the batteries needed replacing! Did so and things are back to normal again. However, in the meanwhile, I'd turned the heating off on the boiler control. However, it's so jolly cold this morning, I've just turned it back on again.

I had a day out of class yesterday - interviews and then PPA. Today I'm in almost all day. How WILL I manage? We're going to investigate how plants drink water (well, sort of) with flower heads, celery and food colouring. The germination investigation was started off yesterday and next week the old runner beans get planted. It's all go in year 1 , I can tell you!

A couple of our staff are members of local operatic societies and next week they are in a performance of Ruddigore. We're a sociable lot and it's any excuse for a get together, so I've organised a party to go and see it. Yesterday I picked up our fifteen tickets from the box office and today I will be hounding people for the money, before the bank manager starts whinging!

Have a good day! May the sun shine on you.

Tuesday 3 May 2011


It's back to school now. Properly back to school, I mean, into the usual curriculum stuff which, this half term, is rather good and interesting for the children. It's always a good sign when the teacher is looking forward to the work!

Yesterday was a very pleasant day and I do feel thoroughly rested now. I was very bad in the evening and tried out a web site called Just Eat, which has local takeaways under a sort of 'umbrella' and where you can order and pay online and then they deliver (assuming the order is over a certain amount). I went Indian and it was jolly tasty so I guess I will be using them again. It was interesting to note that quite a posh local place is listed there so I'll give that a go at some point.

Better get started, I suppose. The work is planned, the breakfast is last night's leftovers - weird but rather tasty - and I need to iron something reasonably neat to wear. Have a good day!

Monday 2 May 2011

Monday morning and yum yum

I found four very over ripe bananas in the fruit bowl this morning. Not wanting to throw them away, I Googled around and found a very simple recipe for banana cake which is now baking in the oven and starting to smell rather good.

The cake took three of them so I looked in the fridge and found some double cream that needed using up, some blueberries and sone strawberries. So I blended up the remaining banana with strawberries, blueberries, cream, milk and some honey and it's made the most gorgeous smoothie ever - quite a lot too, so that's my healthy eating out of the window today. Smoothies are thought to be healthy but this one ain't, not with the cream! But yum yum all the same.

Monday morning: Sage

I have two purple sage bushes. They were originally planted, not for herbal purposes, but because of their leaf colour and fragrance. Over the years they have grown and grown and become pretty huge and I have loved the way they have trailed over the edge of the beds and down. However, they're getting too much now so yesterday I had a go at chopping one of them back. I'm no expert but I was quite pleased with the result, so today I'm having a go at the other one. I'm sure you can tell which is which in the photos above!

Oh - and they help to make the most delicious Christmas stuffing - so they're more than merely decorative.

Monday morning: picture post

It's so lovely and sunny this morning that I thought I would have coffee in the garden. I treated myself to a big pot of fresh coffee (not instant) and meandered outside, only to find that it's actually pretty chilly with a very fresh breeze a-blowing, not at all comfortable for sitting and drinking coffee. So I took a few quick photos and came back in.
Here are some of the photos:

Still pretty, still with cheeky faces following the sun around from side to side.

The perennial wallflowers are doing really nicely now. I'm so glad I replaced the old, woody ones.

This is the herb bed to the left of the garden. Not completely herbs, of course, there's a bush, some hostas, heuchera and the euphorbia, plus, when I get them in, some cosmos. But there is thyme, rosemary, oregano, chives and parsley and the mint I will probably kill is in the greeny-blue pot to the side. There's a great big gap in the middle and I'm not entirely sure what to put there in the longer term.

This is the middle bed. It looks a bit scruffy at the moment because the blue and white bells and the other bulbs are all dying back, but there's exciting stuff coming up: campenulas, lilies, irises, pinks, lupins, nerines . . . well, I find it exciting anyway. A miracle every spring.

And this is the bed on the shady side of the garden with colour mostly being provided by the different coloured foliage. See those curly 'canes' - that's where the sunflowers will be and they have definitely grown considerably. Behind the bush that thinks it's a tree (which is getting another chop come the autumn as it's sending up new growth right from the middle bottom which will be the basis for next year's bush)I will probably plant some delphiniums. And the strawberries are in that black pot to the right, close to the very much pruned back sage.

Only a little garden, but I get a lot of fun out of it at the moment.

Sunday 1 May 2011

Sunday evening

. . . and I've not long finished watching Doctor Who (repeat from last night), this time with the screen setting right so that all the subtitles could be seen. I don't know why I didn't realise that it was wrong yesterday evening. I thought they'd just made a right mess of the subtitles with the result that I really couldn't follow the story at all. I have to say it made a lot more sense this evening (thank goodness). Who'd be hard of hearing, eh?

It's been a gentle day. I did go to the garden centre at one point, which proved to be more expensive that I had expected it to be, because the petrol warning light came on so I stopped off at Sainsbury's to fill up - and I did fill up this time seeing as I have recently been paid. Very, very expensive, that was! When I got home I did a bit of clipping and cutting back and generally tidying up, scattered a few slug pellets around the hostas and the baby lupins and generally took it easy whenever there was a back twinge with the result that it's really not feeling too bad at all now. I had bought some mint and some parsley, so the parsley went into the herb bed and the mint into a nice big pot. I'm dreadful with mint - I kill it off every year and every year I optimistically buy some more and hope.

I've planted three sunflowers in the bed by the big hedge separating my house from next door's. It's a bit of a dark spot and everything leans towards the light, but I am hoping that the nice curly wurly metal 'canes' I have stuck into the ground next to each one to fasten each growing sunflower to will mean that they will grow upright with their heads always facing into the garden. We will see!

Photo: the baby sunflowers - I swear they have grown considerably since I took the photo this morning! Not a terribly exciting picture, is it?

Sunday morning later on

Aren't strawberry flowers pretty? And there's several promising looking baby strawberries too. These are the ones DD gave me for my birthday present last year and, amazingly, I've managed not to kill them! Yet . . .

Sunday morning

White rabbits and a pinch and a punch for the first of the month!
There, that's got the traditional bit over and done with.

Yesterday was a bit of a nothing day. Having cancelled my family visit and also having cancelled George's weekly gardening hour, I managed to rest and relax my way through the day, being very careful most of the time and, as a result, not attracting too many painful twinges.
I did rather foolishly go out and plant a few things, which was perhaps not a terribly good idea, but I was glad to get them into the beds and the aches died down again.

The weather was glorious though, wasn't it? Warm and sunny but not too hot. Just the thing for an extended weekend. And there's still two days to go.