Friday 30 September 2011


. . . and thank goodness it will be the weekend soon.  Because of the cold and a few little upsets, I am feeling ridiculously tired for so early in the school year and am starting to wonder how I can deal with this, given that it will all get a lot more demanding as the term goes on.  I don't think it's age related:  a number of my colleagues are also looking very weary.  One of the things about working in an 'outstanding' school is that there are pressures.  pressures to not only maintain standards but to improve and when you are already giving all you've got, working out how (and where) to improve is not at all an easy matter and can be quite stressful.

From all of this you might have guessed that it is performance management next week.  Targets to review, new targets to set and another thing to add to an already busy weekend as those of us who are team leaders get everything ready.  Oh, the joy!

Thursday 29 September 2011


Croak, croak, croak.  No, it's not a frog, it's me trying to talk.  To be fair, it comes and goes and it is always worst first thing in the morning but it's quite uncomfortable and frustrating when I need to raise my voice as firstly nothing much comes out and then, if I push it further, it's much too loud and harsh.  Ah, well, nearly the weekend again - two more days, that's all.  And we are now more than half way through the half term too!

What a glorious day it was again yesterday.  Although the mornings and evenings are much cooler, it was warm, sunny and very cheering.  I guess it can't last all that much longer so I'm enjoying while I can, leaving the classroom door and windows wide open to let the fresh warm air in.  We now have extremely efficient double glazed windows and doors and it can get hot in the classroom.  On the other hand, come the winter it is very much appreciated!  Swings and roundabouts, isn't it?  I'd rather have it that way than the way it is over in the demountables - baking hot in the summer and freezing cold in the winter.

Wednesday 28 September 2011


Wasn't yesterday a beautiful day?  Tuesday is my playground duty day - in the morning for the whole school and then in the afternoon for the infant playtime.  It was a little dull in the morning and still damp from the overnight fog, but the afternoon was glorious.  Sunny and warm.  Long may it continue.  The nights are pretty chilly though and I no longer need the bedroom fan on overnight.  I guess it won't be long before I will have to close the window overnight too or risk the heating clicking on.

I had to laugh yesterday.  Mrs X was out in in the playground when she saw a little lad laying into another little lad.  Hurrying up she separated them and said the usual stuff, including 'We mustn't go round hurting people like that.'  Little lad replied 'I didn't hurt any people, I hurt him'.
Goodness knows what species he thinks 'him' is but he was soon put straight!

I didn't pick any tomatoes yesterday, I decided to leave them on the vine for another day.  Today is supposed to be nice and sunny so there should be a good picking this evening, I hope.

Better go and run the bath now, or I will be late.  Have a good day!

Tuesday 27 September 2011


It's about 6:15 and I am already tired and wanting to go back to bed.  No, not really, but I've just finished making the batch of mulled wine plum jam and it's far more rush and riot than I am used to in the mornings!  

I had to really.  It was supposed to be made yesterday evening when I brought home the sugar but I was just too tired (really too tired) to cope with jamming then.  So I set to this morning and now I have eight pots plus three and a half mini pots of really rather gorgeous jam.  A bit for me and most for others.  In the end I didn't mull the red wine with the appropriate spices, I used ready mulled wine instead, having seen it in Morrisons.  A lot easier and the mulling spices come through deliciously.

So what with all the other preserves plus the cranberry jam I intend to make nearer the time (because the keeping time is shorter), that's more or less my Christmas gifts sorted out.  Excellent!

Monday 26 September 2011


Yesterday never seemed to stop from beginning to end, but it was a good day.  I had DG all day because DD took her Tonk cat to stud and, as the journey might take some time, DG would be happier at home.  As it was, the traffic on the M25 was light for once, the cat settled quickly and she was back early afternoon.

When she brought him over, DD also brought some pickings from the garden/allotment.  After looking at them and at what I had in the fridge, I decided to concoct an 'allotment chutney' recipe, mainly based around vegetables and with a spicy base.  It was fun to do, a bit nail biting because I have always followed recipes before, but I think it worked out OK.  Time alone will tell!  It was abviously the day for experimantation.  I had some nice looking pork ribs for dinner so I slow baked them and then threw together some ingredients to make a sticky sauce to finish them off.  With that we had roasted garden veg (peppers, squash and tomatoes) and it was all very delicious.  Everything got finished anyway - no leftovers for today.  For dessert we had some autumn raspberries that I picked from DDs allotment in the morning.  They were still sunshine warm when we ate them and very delicious they were too.

At last I managed to start the mulled wine plum jam too.  I got as far as cooking the plums in the mulled wine and then found I don't have any jam sugar, so the rest will have to wait for tonight.  It won't hurt and, I suppose, gives the flavours time 'to develop'!

And now the weekend is over and it's back to work again.  The big question is will my voice survive?  Again, time will tell!  Have a good day yourself.

Sunday 25 September 2011

Sunday: garden update and other stuff

The cosmos has been wonderful this year.  Too much of it, really, for my small patch, but oh, the pleasure it has given me has been huge.

Pink and white . . .

. .  . beautiful in close view . . .

. . . or further away . . .

. . . except for this one which has grown and grown and grown, put out a few blooms earlier in the summer and since then has steadfastly refused to flower, putting all its energy into being bigger than everything else in the garden, as if it wants to replace the bush that thought it was a tree.  Last week I told George we'd probably have it out soon.  You can guess what has happened - suddenly it is covered with buds!
The tomatoes are now earning their keep.  Eight yesterday, nine today and, as you can see, there's likely to be another good picking tomorrow too.

This is the bay that 'died' last winter.  Pretty good, isn't it?  I should call it the resurrection bay!

So much for the garden.  It seems to be giving me one last huge effort, as if it knows that time is shortening with the days and the angle of sunlight and is determined to force me to remember it in the dark days to come.

DG is here with me today.  He's sitting in the recliner in the corner with his laptop connected up (I am so glad I got a wireless thingy that enables him to connect to the Internet here), snuggling under a quilt and singing softly to himself.  He sings so sweetly (when he wants) and I will be sad when his voice finishes breaking, which can't be long now.

When DD dropped him off, she gave me the key to the allotment with instructions to go down and pick all the ripe raspberries I can find and eat them!  I think that's one order it will be hard to disobey!  She also bought a bag with some other produce - red and green peppers, courgette, a baby butternut squash - which I think I will turn into chutney, using some of my ripe tomatoes as well, seeing as I have a bowlful of them with more coming.  I don't have a recipe so I will trawl through what I do have and work out some proportions of vinegar and sugar to vegetables.  It can't go wrong really!  However, I will save one red pepper and the baby squash to have roasted at lunch time.  I have some ribs I want to cook in a sticky sauce and roasted tomatoes and red pepper will be an ideal accompaniment.

Well, I'd better get going.  There's plenty to do, that's for sure.

Saturday 24 September 2011

Saturday morning

Already the weeks are zooming by.  I'm quite glad this week has come to an end - two days of doing different stuff is a rather pleasant thought and already I have been up, had a hot honey and lemon drink (very soothing and comforting) and gone back to bed for another snooze.  There's a pile of tomatoes in the kitchen, more ripening on the plants and I have enough plums to make the mulled wine jam this weekend too.  I have some idea now of my parent helpers this term so I know how many of what I need to have made and ready for the festive giveaway!

I also have a pile of carrots.  I love carrots but there's too many for me to eat so I think carrot cake or carrot muffins are in order here.  I think I have recipes in my recipe folder but, if not, there will be plenty around.  Or maybe carrot fritters or something similar?  We will see.
Because of the pile of tomatoes, it's time to start thinking of making yummy tomato sauce I think.  I feel another recipe hunt coming on.

The soil and manure (in pong tight bags, you will be glad to know) is all still in the car so at some point I need to lug them round to the back and fill the willow deep bed thingy - when I have decided exactly where I want it to go, that is.  There's also bags of bulbs to plant.  I keep saying then need planting and never get round to doing it!  Must get my act together.

Of course, I won't get half of all that done.  I'll probably sleep, read and sleep.  And watch Doctor Who.  But whatever I do, it is the weekend.  Yay!

Friday 23 September 2011

Friday morning

This has been a most difficult week and, combined with the cold finally landing and splattering itself onto me, I've been busy, weary and yuck!
Things will get better soon . . . and I am picking tomatoes by the handful now.  That has to be good, doesn't it?

Wednesday 21 September 2011


Sorry about yesterday's missing blog. I had a bit of a rubbish time after school on Monday and, as a result, yesterday I was so weary I couldn't really get my head around things much. But never mind, here I am back , having had a really great night's sleep, ready to move on again.

On peeking outside I see that it has been raining and there's a distinct nip in the air, unusual for September. I gather that the Daily Mail reported a long cold winter to come with snow in October. Well, all I can say is that if that forecast is as accurate as the one in Spring that predicted a long and hot summer I will not be packing away my summer clothes yet awhile!

It's PPA this morning and then, after play, time out to go over some important paperwork. Tomorrow I am out all morning on a course. Friday is my SEN day. It's all go! And by the end of the week we will almost be half way through the half term, one sixth of the way through the school year. Crazeeee!

The tomatoes continue to ripen in handfuls - I picked nine yesterday. Not bad but there's still an awful lot of green ones and I'm not sure I want all that much green tomato chutney. I wish it had happened mid-August, but it didn't. That's life!

Monday 19 September 2011


Now how do I get around this?
I've woken early after a fantastic night's sleep, well before the alarm  but no problems because this has been a sleepy weekend and I've done a lot of it - sleeping, I mean.
In between snoozles yesterday I managed to produce some demerara flapjacks (dead easy and very delicious) and some chutney.  I was looking for some recipes to use up the remaining apples from J and I found Nigella's recipe for Christmas Chutney, which uses apples and dried cranberries, both of which I have in abundance here.  As I also had all the other ingredients in the cupboards I set to and ended up with five pots.  More Christmas pressies, you see!  OK, so the apples I used were not the Granny Smiths of the recipe, but 's fine.  At some point soon I need to make a list of the preserves I have and how many of each, or I'm going to get in a merry festive muddle in a few months!

OK, so how about those flapjacks.  When my children were little I made this recipe a lot and ex/late also rather liked them.  I haven't, however, made any for a couple of decades but when I pulled the book down from the shelf, I remembered the page the recipe was on (318) and which of the several on the page was the one I used to make.  I wish my shorter term memory was as good as that!
You melt 1tbs of golden syrup with 5ox butter and 3oz demerara sugar until all the sugar has dissolved.  Pour the resulting goo into 8oz rolled oats with a squirt of lemon juice and a pinch of salt and mix well until all the oats are covered with the goo.
I used a rectangular baking tray, although the recipe says a round cake tin.  It would need oiling well but I use a little trick I picked up from one of Jamie Oliver's food programmes.  Scrunch some kitchen parchment under a running tap, then shake it out and spread it over the bottom and up the sides of the tin.  Works a treat!  Spoon in the flapjack mixture and spread it well with a palate knife.  Pop into an oven heated to 190C (a little less if it's a fan oven) and cook for about 35-40 mins.  Take out, cut into squares/slices and then leave to cool in the tin.  Once cool, the paper lining makes easy work of lifting the whole thing out which then breaks easily into pieces.
This recipe makes crunchy flapjacks unlike the plum flapjacks I made last week which produced gooey, chewy flapjacks.  Both are really delicious!

Sunday 18 September 2011

Sunday morning

Good morning, all.  It's still dark here and I was up pretty early but I really don't mind.  Yesterday evening I found it impossible to keep my eyes open and managed to sleep my way through most of Doctor Who (thank goodness they have it on iPlayer and repeat it this evening) and Poirot.  I gave up, went to bed and was asleep within 15 minutes.  Even with my early wakening, I must have slept for about ten hours and I wish I could say I feel better for it but, sadly, the reason for all the sleep is because I have been fighting the first cold of the new school year with the related aches and sniffles.  Two tablets down this morning and I'm feeling fine for now - and intend to stay that way!  Long live ibuprofen!

Yesterday wasn't quite as productive as I hoped.  I made some yellow plum jam which looks gorgeous - like bottled sunshine!  I went to Lathcoats only to find that their plum season is over (and I missed it - drat) but that the apple season is in full swing.  You can't pick their apples but they had about twenty varieties for sale in the shop and, a really nice touch, there was a table at the end with every apple on sale, labelled, plus a chopping board and a knife, with an invitation to slice off a sliver and taste.  So I did - and bought some Coxes, a couple of HUGE apples called Honey Crisp (which actually originally come from Minnesota according to the helpful apple calender on their web site) and a couple of Meridian apples, of Kentish origin.  It's definitely an apple a day for me this week - or more!

You can see the difference in size.  The apple on the left is a normal sized Cox, the one on the right is a normal sized Meridian and the one in the middle is a Honey Crisp - and I chose the smallest ones there.  Some were nearly twice the size of this one!  Apples for sharing, beyond a doubt!

Again according to their apple calender, it seems that they have forty three different varieties of apples growing at the farm, on sale freshly picked from August through to November.  I can see I will have to pay several more visits!

After that it was over to the garden centre for some bags of stuff, a sprayer thing, some more tomato food and some Bordeaux mixture of my own.  Then home, where I sorted a few things out, including finish off the plum jam, before going over to Lesley's for cake and bubbly to celebrate her husband's 6oth birthday!  By the time I got home the aches were beginning to bite hard so I rested and relaxed (and went to sleep)!  And that was it!  End of the day!

So today is flapjack day.  I've found the recipe I want to use which is in a wonderful old Good Housekeeping Cookery Compendium which was given to me (old) for a wedding present.  There's a story behind it, of course.  The lady who owned it was very ill and my mum regularly took the lady's husband to the hospital so he could visit her.  When she died, he gave me the Good Housekeeping book as a thank you wedding present, which was so very kind and so very useful.  I used it a lot in those early days of marriage before Delia's cookery course took over: not so much now but I still dig it out from time to time and today is one of those times.  It's a very simple recipe: marg (it will be butter), sugar, syrup, oats and a pinch of salt - and I will add a squeeze of lemon juice too.

Apart from that, I suspect I will be snoozing on and off, but that's OK.  After all, it's the weekend!  Yay!

Saturday 17 September 2011

Saturday morning

I went into the garden after dark yesterday and took some photos.  This one is of the beef tomato plant.  This morning I went out, picked the large one on the right and ten minutes later it was frying in the bacon fat!  It is ironic that as the days get shorter and colder, my tomatoes decide to start ripening at last.  I have picked loads this week and there's loads more to come.  At present I am keeping up, just, but next week will see me using some for tomato sauce or whatever . . .

It's the weekend, yippee.  Last night I made some lemon curd, one pot to barter for eggs, one pot for DD and DG and the last nearly-a-pot for me!  It's such an easy recipe, made in the microwave and foolproof as long as you follow the instructions!  This morning I set some nice yellow plums in sugar to make 'whole fruit plum jam' which really ought to be called 'half fruit plum jam' as they have to be stoned.  The recipe says stand overnight, so late this afternoon I ought to be able to make the jam.  I'm going to make some flapjacks later on today and, possibly, that plum jam in mulled wine that I've been intending to make for weeks!  I have to get more plums so it's over to Lathcoats to see what they have.  I need to go to the garden centre too, which is just over the road, so it is worth the journey. 

I've decided to get some fleece to cover the tomatoes overnight if the forecast indicates an early frost.  They're pretty sheltered against the house wall, but even so I'd rather not risk it.  I want my value for money from these plants!

With the planning done and the resources nearly made, it's all looking good, rain or shine!!

Friday 16 September 2011

Friday morning

Incey wincey, taken yesterday morning.
Really Friday.  I'm back to 'hasn't the week gone quickly' which has replaced 'what day is it?' as a recurring phrase.  It always amazes me how very quickly one gets back into the routines and responsibilities of a new school year and 'hasn't the week gone quickly' is a major part of that!

Yesterday was good.  The children and I worked hard, learnt things and generally had a satisfying day, a day when I arrived home in the evening tired but relaxed.  Sometimes, when things go wrong, I worry and brood and generally have a restless, wakeful night.  I think a lot of teachers do.  The saying 'the only person's behaviour I can control is my own' may be very true, but when there's things buzzing around your mind at 200mph, it's not an awful lot of help, I find.

Today is SEN day.  Three meetings.  Eeek!  I will be all talked out by the end of the day!  I'm glad it's the weekend tomorrow and I won't have to talk much at all!

Thursday 15 September 2011

Thursday morning

I took this photo last week.  Any idea what it is?

This year most of my PPA and other cover times have been moved.  It's caused some initial confusion although I think I've got it sorted in my head now.  One thing I am very pleased about though - my coordinator time is now today, after morning play.  And what is timetabled for then - why, my not at all favourite subject, outside games! 

Shame, isn't it?  :0)

Wednesday 14 September 2011

And what have you learned today?

Little Girl comes over to me, pats me several time on the arm and then starts talking, completely ignoring the fact that I am working with and talking to another child.

Me: (somewhat irritably because this has happened before) - words to the effect that I'm working with someone, she is not ever to pat me like that again (it's a pet hate, no pun intended there) and she must wait until it is her turn as there are 28 other children in the class . . .  blah, blah . . .

Off goes L G.

Later on:
L G:  Mrs Clark, Mrs . . . oh . . .
and she stops and waits for me to finish what I was saying to someone else before I turn to her.
Me:  Well done, L G, that's really good,  You saw I was busy and you waited politely until I had finished.  I'm very proud of you, give yourself a pat on the back!  (they like pats on the back)  Now, what did you want to say?

Just before the end of school:
Me:  Can you remember what you learned today, L G?
L G:  I learned that I talk too much . . .


I did explain again!

Wednesday morning

The nemesia has been lovely this year and just keeps on flowering.  It has such a gorgeous, vanilla fragrance.
Playground duty is now Tuesday (not Monday)
PPA is now Wednesday (not Tuesday)
Therefore - it is computer suite TODAY!

OK, having got that one sorted, it's going to be as good day.  PPA, ICT, Art and then a visit to the library!  I think I've explained before, we are fortunate enough to share our roof with the local library and every Wednesday they open just for the school.  Each class has a slot there once every two weeks, to return and borrow books, look at other books, hear a story and, as they get older, learn library and research skills.  J, the librarian, is also a qualified teacher and the children love her.  It's a fantastic opportunity which works both ways.  The children get interested in borrowing library books, the library targets for book lending are reached very quickly and the danger of closure therefore retreats as it is an obviously used resource, touch children who might never normally set foot inside.  The summer reading project is always very well used as they plug it well before hand with info and come-hithers such as bookmarks and other little freebies.
We're so fortunate to have such a great resource.

Apart from that, the tomatoes are now coming in well.  I picked six yesterday and there will be more today.  If this carries on at the same or accelerating rate, I will have enough to make my first lot of red tomato chutney soon.  Must dig out some likely looking recipes!  I still have apples to use up and I might have a go at apple and orange jam.  L, the lady I barter with (fresh eggs for whatever I have just made) said that the apple and lemon jam is absolutely delicious, which is good news as I had not made that before.  One to do again, definitely.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Tuesday morning

It's playground duty today.  Morning and afternoon so the chances are I won't forget.  Apart from that it is a full day with my class, with plenty to keep them busy, which is great.

The very strong winds overnight don't seem to have got this far south.  Certainly there are piles of leaves and other rubbish in corners but no damage in the garden and the tomatoes are still as solidly supported as ever they were.  There's plenty ripening and no more sign of blight.

The eggs were delicious.  I cracked open the two titchy ones and one of the bigger ones, which turned out to be a double yolker.  Scrambled and on toast, they made a most delicious and filling breakfast.  Yum yum.

Better get going - there's lots to do.

Monday 12 September 2011

Monday evening

. . . and I am realising just how sheltered my garden is.  The trees all around are tossing their heads madly from side to side.  The cosmos are waving gently.  The tomatoes, by the house wall, are hardly moving at all.  Hoping those more in the eye of the storm are all safe and that there is minimal harm done.  I've drawn the curtain now and shut out the wind.  It's not yet eight and night is drawing in.  I have a comfortable, cosy, safe feeling . . .

On Facebook, some of us OU oldie parents (oldie OU, not necessarily oldie parents) are 'members' of a private page for parents and the latest thing is to live out of freezer and store cupboard supplies for a week (apart from things like fresh milk, etc).  Today I dug out of my freezer a chicken piece in a very garlicky sauce and some roasties (which were supposed to be for LAST Christmas).  That, with some braised red cabbage, made the most delicious dinner and I'm now feeling very satisfied.  :0)

I have a sort of barter system going on with a colleague.  She gives me fresh eggs from her hens and I give her home made stuff - jam, chutney, etc . . .  Some of the eggs are big and some are - er - not so big.  All are very fresh and I have planned scrambled eggs in for tomorrow brekkie!  Mmmmm.  And that's what she said about the jar of apple and lemon jam I gave her last week.  Isn't it great when everyone is happy?  And isn't it lovely to be able to share skills and interests like this?

Monday morning

. . . and it's the start of the first full week back with a day that is filled with 'stuff'.  Violins, Infant singing (which I take) and swimming in the afternoon, which means zillions of carrier bags with swimming stuff in them to put somewhere or other in the classroom.  OK, so maybe not zillions, but it feels like it.  In a small classroom (and our classroom areas are very small for infants), even half a dozen pairs of wellies on a wet day can cause a right kerfuffle so you can imagine the chaos if it rains on a swimming say - wellies, brollies, coats and swimming bags.  Deeelightful!  Looking out, right now it's raining and it's windy.  Very windy.  Another joy to add to the list!

Right now the house smells.  It's not a bad smell, just the lingering remains of the spiced red cabbage and apple that DD and I produced in amazing quantities yesterday.  The final total is two big bowls full which I need to bag up and take to the freezer.  Two or three 'family get-together' portions and the rest in smaller plastic take-away boxes with one portion left out for dinner tonight.  It's going to take for ever so maybe some will end up in the fridge this morning and get done after school.

It's a great recipe (Delia's always are) but it involves carefully layering the ingredients in the pot and for the life of me I can't see why.  A layer of shredded cabbage, a layer of chopped onion, a layer of chopped apple and the sugar and spices go in there somewhere - it's all a great faff when actually all you need to do is bung the whole lot in a big bowl, give it a good mix around and tip it into the pot.  It all gets mixed up the first time you stir it anyway!  From now on that's *exactly* what I'm going to do (assuming normal quantities, that is) whenever I make this recipe.  No point making life more complicated than it already is!

Sunday 11 September 2011

Sunday evening

Phew . . . it's been pretty busy here, one way and another.  Five pots of apple and plum chutney, some delicious plum flapjacks (definitely one to make again although I will use a bigger tin next time) and the second load of Delia's spiced red cabbage with apple is half way to done.  I could not believe how much cabbage DD brought round.  The allotment red cabbages have grown much bigger than the ones on her little patch at home and - well, put it this way, there is enough to keep us going for several Christmasses to come.  Not that it will last that long, of course, it's too delicious.

And now DD and DG have gone home and I'm slowly fading out.  I will try to stay awake for another hour, but you never know!!

Sunday morning

The beginnings of apple and plum chutney

Good morning.  It's pretty wet out there at the moment but no wind worth the mention.  I'm really hoping that it will dry off a little bit later on as there's a bit of gardening I need to do today (having neglected it yesterday).

I had a bit of a disappointment yesterday.  It was going to be one of our Witches get-togethers last night, here.  However one of us was still jet-lagged, one couldn't come anyway, one was still too uncomfortable from an operation earlier in the week and one went down with a migraine, so we decided to sat another date when everyone's better and able to come.  That left me with a selection of nibbles and some alcohol - we all bring something to eat but, obviously, the hostess must provide a few more basics.  I am so glad I decided to go to Aldi yesterday.  They do nice nibbles and their biscuits are to die for - and all a whole lot cheaper.  Also, on her Frugal Cook blog, Fiona Beckett recommended a red wine sold there that she said was very much better than the price would indicate.  I bought a few more things too, including some plums and some tomatoes (both very sound and with good flavour) and was pleasantly surprises at the final bill.  Must go there more often!

Anyway, I digress.  I am left with some nibbles (which DG can help me with later on) and some alcohol.  Not a problem, in fact I'm quite pleased because I want to try a recipe for mulled wine plum jam and now I have the wine! 
I still have quite a lot of the apples J gave me - they're so sound that there's not a lot to throw away when I use them, so they're going a lot further than I expected.  So, on the hob right now, is the makings of apple and plum chutney.  As with most chutneys, it is very easy.  Equal weight of apple and plum, some craisins (dried cranberries, but it could be raisins, sultanas, etc) and some shallots, spices (ginger, cloves and allspice), salt, pepper, cider vinegar and sugar.  All but the last item is simmering away to soften, making the house smell spicily plummy.  Once it's all soft, in goes the sugar for a long slow simmer.
I have also found a recipe for mulled cranberry jelly but that will have to wait.  The instructions indicate that it has a shorter jar life, so it's been shelved until December.  Also, it's not using up the apples!
All these jams and chutneys I am making - well, guess what people will be getting for Christmas this year!  It's such fun decorating the jars with festive labels, festive tops and red ribbon or raffia.  This year I might make cards and gift tags to match the labels and tops as well.  A complete package, in fact!

This afternoon DD and DG will be round, laden with red cabbages (well, two anyway) harvested from DD's allotment.  Our task will be to Delia them into spiced red cabbage with apple - loads of it - to be frozen for Christmas and other occasions.  It's a great favourite.  They will stay for tea and, for that, I want to make some plum flapjacks which, if the recipe is anything to go by, will be delicious.  The ones not eaten will be individually wrapped in greaseproof paper for my packed lunches this coming week.

OK, so the apple, plum and onion has had long enough to soften so I must off to add the sugar and set it all a-simmering.  Then I have to brave the rain to get the jars out of the shed!   Have a good day!

Saturday 10 September 2011

A happy compromise

(see, I'm making up for the very sparse entries over the last week!)

George came round this morning.  We took a close look at the sad clump of horizontal cosmos and noticed that while one stem was pretty smashed, the others are still whole, although looking a bit stressed (I planted several together).  So oh, so carefiully, George cut back the damaged one and also carefully liften the others and tied them to a cane for support.  He then staked up the other clumps, in case this storm hits the south east (unlikely, I gather, but you never know).

And as if that wasn't enough, DD turned up with her squirter thing and some Bordeaux solution and the tomatoes got a good spraying - just in time too - we spotted one titchy patch on a leaf stem (now off and disposed of) but apart from that everything was sound.  I feel a bit more relaxed about them now.  And they've now got the right idea and are ripening fast.  Good-oh!

Finally, my amaryllis has surprised me by flowering in an unusual way.  No long stalk, just a couple of flowers.  I wonder why.

Garden update

These came yesterday - the Japanese anemones I ordered last month.  I was too whacked last evening to do anything about them but they must go in today - three round the front and three round the back.   A job for this afternoon.

I thought this was quite cunning.  I have not had much luck with the cut and come again salad leaves but I saw two pots of them in Sainsbury's, greatly reduced but not looking all that bad really.  When I got them home I dug out some compost from my bin, split the contents of the pots and crossed my fingers.  And it's worked well - they are very healthy and sending up new leaves like billy-oh!  Putting them beside the tomatoes means that I don't forget to water them!  And they look nice too.
Thanks, Jackie, for the idea.

On to the strawberries.  As is their wont, they have sent out runners which I have ignored totally up to now.  However, never being one to turn down a freebie, I wondered if they HAVE to be planted while still on the runners or whether I could chop them and plant them.  The latter would be a lot easier.  I think I will have a go and see what happens, unless any of my gentle readers throw their hands up in horror and tell me that's the best way to make them develop triffid tendencies or something equally horrendous!  And yes, that is another strawberry you can see.  I ate one on Thursday (it was so sweet and juicy) and I guess I will eat this one today.

I have to post a few views of flowers, of course.  I am a bit pessimistic about the cosmos surviving if we get the ultra strong winds predicted, but the pansies (below) will survive and they are so pretty.

It's smelling very 'healthy' outside and, because I have the French window open, inside too.  They're obviously muck spread'n' on the field over the road.  Nothing like a whiff of good old country air, that's what I say!

Another post

OK, so now the tomatoes are finally coming in I had several picked this morning.  I fried some bacon and when that was done put the tomatoes, cut up, into the fat that came out of the bacon.  When the tomatoes were fried there was some tomato-ey, bacon-y goo left so I fried a piece of bread - can't waste all that wonderful flavour, can I?

Healthy?  Well, it has one of my five-a-day but no, it isn't, no way. 
Quite the tastiest breakfast one can eat?   Beyond a shadow of doubt!


. . . and here I am with a bit of time instead of just setting off for school.  Nice feeling.  Actually, it's been a great week - I like my new class and I hope they like me, they are co-operative, follow instructions well, work together well and generally they have given me a good time.  Of course, there have been a few things which I need to address, including some playground misunderstandings . . .

Willing Little Boy (coming up to me at playtime):  Mrs Clark, P is crying.
Me:  Oh no, why is he crying?
WLB:  Because I hit him.
Me:  (Slightly less kindly).  You did what?  Why?
WLB:  I hit him - he was being naughty so I hit him to stop him.  Is that having Helping Hands, Mrs Clark? 
(We'd talked about having helping hands in PSHE)
Me: Er . . .

Fortunately it all blew over fairly quickly, but  . .  well, I guess that is next week's PSHE lesson sorted.

This is one of my tomato plants.  It's absolutely laden, as you can see, and I would be very frustrated if it got blight now.  So every morning and every night I go out, check them over and remove any leaves that show any thing dodgy.  I actually don't think they're blighted (or do I mean blitten?) at all, but it makes me feel better.  The other two plants are more or less equally laden but all so very, very late to start ripening.  Fingers crossed.

It was extremely windy one day this week.  Playground duty was 'fun'.  When I came home I was greeted by the sight of a couple of cosmos that had obviously given up and gone horizontal.  I left it, meaning to deal with it at the weekend, but it's not dead, it's just sideways.  The flowers are aiming up again.  I guess it will have to go as it's covering other plants but there's a part of me that doesn't want to!  Shame.

And thinking of winds - I must remember to put in some supports for the remaining cosmos before the high winds hit on Sunday/Monday.  It probably wont do much good, but I will try.  I've already strengthened the tomato supports and will move all the smaller pots to somewhere more sheltered.

Here's hoping . . .

Friday 9 September 2011


Sorry about yesterday - the day ended up very full with little time of other stuff.  It's taking a while to get back into the routine of things again.  I'm sure I will be with my usual and regrettable flow of inconsequential thoughts very soon!

Wednesday 7 September 2011

Ooops a daisy!

Today was PPA.  Faith took my class.  Therefore it was Tuesday today.  Tuesday is not computer suite day, Wednesday is, so we didn't go to the computer suite.

It wasn't my fault - honest!


I was back to my old tricks this morning.  Wide awake at two-thirty, head a-buzzing with ideas, no chance of getting to sleep.  After reading for a little while I gave up and came downstairs where I got a lot of generic assessment sheets done and printed out before wandering into the OUSA area to look at the forums I help to moderate.

It's going to be a long day . . .

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Tuesday morning

It's wet, cold and windy so, of course, it is the start of the new school year.  Wellies all over the place, dripping coats, indoor play . . . sigh.

The good thing is that I did indeed get my bay all finished and ready for the children with stuff on the walls and work ready and waiting.

And I am in something of a rush so that's it for today.  Have a good-un!

Monday 5 September 2011

Monday morning

Another Hyde Hall photo.
And here we are, back into school time again, the first day of the new term (sort of) with a day's work ahead and the children due back in tomorrow.  The planning is all done and dusted and the bay needs about an hour's more work before it, too, is ready for go!

Yesterday was a nice relaxing day.  I made two sorts of jam, both with apple as a base.  The first was apple and lemon which was a mistake jam:  I thought the apples were the kind that held their shape so I peeled, cored and sliced some for blanching and open freezing.  However, it turned out that they were the fluffy kind - the reason they had held shape before was because I was cooking them in vinegar and sugar for chutney.  So after a few choice expressions of annoyance and some umming and ahing, I boiled the whole lot up to get rid of most of the water, then added sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice and jammed it.  It turned out OK, I think, tasting a bit marmaladey.
The other jam was apple and plum and that was such a doddle.  It set very quickly and without any problems.  I think I will try the mulled version, which uses red wine and mulling spices.

My goodness, it rained yesterday - huge raindrops and so hard too.  It was a surprise after a morning that began dull but then turned into sunshine.  I gather it was the remnants of Irene powering its way around the globe, so Dad said (I haven't been watching the weather forecast recently), and it certainly gave the garden a thorough watering.  No more tomatoes to pick though, sadly.

Sunday 4 September 2011

Sunday morning

Fuchsia, taken at Hyde Hall on Friday

Last day.  Plenty to do.  Very sad but there you are!

I had a lovely lunch and afternoon with an OU friend, Sue.  On recommendation from a mutual friend, we went to the Fox and Raven for lunch: it's been ages since I went there and that's a shame because it was jolly good.  It is huge but the tables are not too crowded together so, although it was quite busy it didn't feel busy, our table was by an open French window so it was lovely and fresh and the food, for what it was, was jolly good.  I had battered chicken and chips and the chicken was both crunchy and moist and very delicious.  the chips were just chips, but crisp and fluffy.  No complaints whatsoever.  Sue had warm marinated halloumi salad which had couscous, broad beans, asparagus, roasted beetroot and leaves and which, she said, was absolutely delicious and very generous on the halloumi.  Dessert was grilled pineapple in toffee sauce (for me) and baked caramel tart (for Sue) both with ice cream.  Very satisfying.  Definitely one to bring DD and DG to at some point, and the fact that it is just over the road from Hobbycraft makes it even better!

Then we came home and had a really good natter together, catching up on all sorts of things, over a mug of coffee.  Truly an enjoyable day.

And to cap it all, when I went out to check the tomatoes, I was able to pick seven!  Wow!  Just little ones, a mixture of cherry and mini-plum, but enough to have fried in what comes off the bacon for breakfast.  I just KNEW they would come in properly once I started back to school!

Saturday 3 September 2011

Saturday morning

Yesterday Lesley and I had a lovely afternnoon at Hyde Hall - it was warm and sunny with a fresh breeze at times.  We couldn't have wanted a better day.  When we arrived we had lunch first and it was delicious - roasted red pepper and sweet potato soup with walnut bread.  I wish I'd taken a photo and even more that I had the recipes.   Lesley had a lovely drink - apple and rhubarb juice.
Then it was up the hill to the gardens.

I did!  The grass was like a lush carpet, so soft, warm and yielding.

Dramatic, isn't it - I only saw one of this, whatever it is.  Anyone know?

Hyde Hall is one of the higher points of Essex, so there are some rather attractive views from various points.  This was about half way up.
One of several large ponds/small lakes.  The walk around this one was shady and fresh and very peaceful, despite a more or less full car park.

If you look closely, you can see that this sedum is covered in wasps.  All the sedums (seda?) were, it was weird.  They all clustered on the flower heads and the others around were ignored.

There were a number of African inspired sculptures around.  I particularly liked this one, called 'Our First Child'.

Pretty and unexpected, just sitting in the corner of one of the lawns.

This was called 'Circle of Life'.  Simple and effective.

Of course, we went into the shop and I treated myself to some very attractive bulbs - well, not the bulbs exactly but the flowers that will grow from them, including a tulip that looks like a rose, there are so many layers of petals.  Maybe, just maybe, this year I will remember to plant my bulbs - perhaps tomorrow.  After all, it IS September now.

Friday 2 September 2011

Friday morning

Nearly the end of the last holiday week and there's still loads to do in school, although not a lot of it is essential now, I'm nearly there with the necessary stuff.

Yesterday, DG came into school with me and had a whale of a time playing at being a supply teacher in my class, organising Golden Time and voting in the new School Council reps.  It's almost a shame I'm going to have to do it again, he was so efficient with his imaginary class who, of course, did everything he told them to do without argument.

While he got on with that, I got on with the next biggie which was sorting out the book trolley and the toys.  None of it was dreadful, all of it needed sorting out and reorganising.  It's a lot better in that corner now - just need some cushions for the bench and I can use some old ones of mine until I manage to get to IKEA.
The trouble with all of this is that I keep getting diverted by other stuff - a sign for the loos and which is for boys and girls, for example, which seemed to be a big worry at the end of last term.  Personally I'd have thought it was pretty obvious, but then I'm not five years old.  That led on to other signs - book trolley, have you changed your book today, stories, information, dictionaries and word books, dinner boxes, water bottles . . . all the old signs are now three years old and seriously battered.  Once you've replaced one, all the other need doing too!  As I'm typing, I'm thinking of more that need doing - I have nothing about Barnaby Bear for a start!  And so it goes on.

I'm not going to get much done today either, so emergency measures are in place.  The cupboards can wait but some big things in them can be stored at home - the Christmas tree and the large, empty plastic boxes for a start.  That will free up necessary space for other stuff that is currently out on the tables.  As long as everything is ready for the children, that really is all that matters.

So I have about two hours today in school and after that it's ho for Hyde Hall!  Nice.

Thursday 1 September 2011

I am so sorry (and embarassed)

This morning I found something new on my dashboard - an invite to use the new Blogger layout - so I did.  It was a bit confusing to start with because it was all so different but soon I was merrily clicking around to learn the new layout.  I noticed there was something in the spam folder (didn't know I had a spam folder) and when I investigated, I found this, from Sudha, posted in April this year:

Heya¡­my very first comment on your site. ,I have been reading your blog for a while and thought I would completely pop in and drop a friendly note. . It is great stuff indeed. I also wanted to there a way to subscribe to your site via email?

No, I really do try to answer every comment anyone makes to my blog.  For me (and this is a personal feeling, I don't apply it to anyone else), not to reply is not polite.  To make it worse, Sudha asked a question and didn't get an answer.  So, Sudha, if you're still reading, I'm so very sorry, I really wasn't just ignoring you.  I have only just seen your comment (which is now under the relevant message, I hope) and sorry again, I don't know how or even if you can subscribe by email . . . not being all that technological!

Note to self - check spam box regularly

Thursday morning

It really does feel as if I'm back at work now.   After two days - well, partial days anyway, back in school I can feel the sap rising again.  I'm in today too and, courtesy of DD, I can have the whole day in if I want.  I usually have DG on Thursday mornings but he's coming over here and will watch a DVD on the big interactive whiteboard while I get on with my stuff.

I need to find things to do/make with all those apples too.   Some will just freeze after blanching, which will be very useful.  They're not the mushy kind of cooking apples: they hold their shape quite nicely, which is good for apple pies and tarts.  In my book there's a recipe for apple jam which is easy enough and which I could tart up a bit with some cinnamon.  There's also a recipe for apple lemon jam and apple ginger jam, not to mention all the jellies.    And what has just caught my eye is a recipe for apple and orange chutney which looks jolly good.  Finally, there are curds - apple and lemon curd, apple and orange curd . . . but they have to be eaten fairly quickly.  Oh, and finally again, I could, of course, make some individual crumbles!  Yum hum.

I'll start with the blanching and freezing and then see what I have left, I think.  If I open freeze them, they can all go together in a bag or box - much more convenient.

So I'd better get going, hadn't I?