Monday 30 April 2012


It's back down to earth with a bump today, but I will have my memories . . .

Sunday 29 April 2012


. . .  and it's absolutely filthy outside.  Windy and lashing with rain.  On days like today I am incredibly thankful and grateful (in a very humble sort of way) for my four walls and a roof dwelling that keeps me snug, warm and dry.  You'd never think it is nearly May, it is so dark and gloomy.  It looks as if it has been raining all night and I gather there are flood warnings out - in areas with a hosepipe ban. 

Yesterday was truly a lovely day.  At about 1:00, we all arrived at the South Lodge Hotel to be greeted by DG who efficiently and loudly escorted us to the private room in which we had our meal.  A lovely room it was too with big doors that opened onto a little garden area.  Such a shame it was so wet and miserable because it would have been nice to have our coffee out there, but never mind, it was a super view anyway.  DD had colour coordinated and themed everything around owls.  I love owls in a non- nature/wildlife, rather soppy, decorative sort of way and everything was owly.  The cake, the place labels, the card, the gift tags . . .  you name it, there was an owl somewhere nearby.  She had used friends who have their own little business from home - paining on glass or plastic (or card), cake making, flower arranging, fimo models.  She knows I love to support local enterprise so I was so thrilled that she'd done that.  The cake and the flowers had been done by two of  'my mums' - mums of children currently in my class.

The food was very good too, and not shockingly expensive.  We all ate from the set menu and it was scrummy.  First of all I had pate (smooth and very delicious) and accompaniments - a lovely chutney that tasted home made, gherkins, olives and semi sun dried tomatoes with what tasted like fried bread but crispy and crunchy all the way through and with no hint of fattiness or grease.  After that I had duck on garlic mash with green beans and 'natural jus' (which caused great merriment as we tried to explain to DG what it was).  The duck was perfectly cooked and the jus delicious, but there was rather too much garlic mash and I felt the beans could have been cooked for a few more minutes.  Didn't stop me eating them though!  After that I had a 'trio of ice creams', a rather pretentious way of describing three scoops and some chocolate sauce and finally it was all topped off with some very nice coffee.  I was presented with gifts, we had a bottle of bubbly (yum) and it all made me feel very special and very loved.  What more could one ask for?  Thank you, everyone, it really was lovely.

And then it was home for a bit of a rest after which the cake was cut and a bit eaten.  I really couldn't face any more food that day but several of the family proceeded to cut slices off the ham, open the pringles and generally play slight havoc with today's food arrangements - which actually doesn't matter one little bit!  I had to admit I did finish off the wine: after paying a fortune for a bottle at the hotel, there was no way I was leaving any behind so it came home with us.  Fortunately it had a screw top.

So, on to today.  It's going to be a stay at home and keep warm kind of day.  I've put my precious tomatoes outside but in a sheltered place.  I've started another pair of socks.  Don't smile - this time they are a gift for a friend.  And then after that I am going to use a bit of my Hobbycraft present to get some plain sock yarn to have a go at some patterns - ribbing, perhaps.  Oooh, don't I live an exciting life?  :0)

The cake (which got a bit bashed on one side but was still absolutely brilliant - gotta love that owl!)

. . . and the flowers which are in a lovely spherical bowl with 'bubbles' in the bottom, standing on a mirror - very artistic!

Saturday 28 April 2012


Not exactly a restful day today but it will be very pleasant.  Nearly all the family are converging in Chelmsford for a nice lunch together.  It's going to be great!

Yesterday was so busy I didn't have time to feel my usual Friday afternoon tiredness.  Plenty of paperwork to be getting on with, three meetings and then more paperwork as a result of that meeting.  Next Friday will be no better - two meetings with 'outside agencies' - people from various support services assigned to a particular child - with resulting paperwork attached.  Stll, it keeps me out of trouble, doesn't it?

It's still raining.  Not right now but on and off.  Yesterday we got lucky.  They got all their playtimes fore and aft and it didn't rain at the beginning and end of school either.  Plenty in between times though, some very hard.  Proper April showers and no mistake!  No need to use the hosepipe although, in fact, we don't have a ban around here, much to everyone's surprise.  I'm really not sure why not but there you go!

My grafted tomatoes have arrive.  Titchy little plug plants that I need to get into pots this morning and then keep indoors (on the window ledge, I guess) until frost danger time has passed, whenever that will be.  It's still jolly cold at night but because of the cloud cover there's been no frost.  I wouldn't like to bet on the chances of no more frost this spring though.

Well, better get going.  There's a house to dust and sweep!

Friday 27 April 2012


Just a quick message because I'm tired after yesterday evening's meal out and a bt rushed.

Chance of rain - huh!  At times the heavens simply opened and sent those proverbial cats and dogs down with enormous fury.  Especially just as the children arrived at school.  Drowned rats doesn't begin to describe them and the classrooms looked like laundry day!  Hope today is different!

Thursday 26 April 2012


Well, blow me down, after a night of howling winds and lashing rain, I have just looked out to see that the clouds are clearing, the rain has stopped and there's a blue sky.  Not only that but the iGoogle forecast says only 'chance of rain'.  You never know, maybe we will get our playtimes today.

Yesterday, being Wednesday, was library day.  We are very lucky: as we have our local library sharing the same roof as the school, once a fortnight every class has a session in the library.  The little ones find and read books to themselves or to each other, finishing with a story from Jenny, the librarian, while the older ones start to learn library and research skills.  My library time clashes with outdoor play in the afternoon so the children miss play.  However, as they had been stuck in for much of the day, the rain had cleared and the sun was shining, I took my class out for ten minutes of run around before going to the library.  And they were much calmer, settled and engaged in the library than they usually are.  I think I'm going to do the same thing each time it's library.  They obviously need that little break beforehand.

Yesterday turned out to be a special day for the school.  One of our parents is a policeman and will be escorting the Olympic torch as it travels through this area.  Yesterday he brought the torch to school, took two assemblies (one for the Infants and one for the Juniors) to talk about it, show a film about the concept of the Olympic torch and then bring it round to each class so that all the children could hold it and have their photo taken.  They were all thrilled to bits.  It's a lot heavier than I would have thought and anyone running with it needs a very strong arm indeed!

On Tuesday, as I said yesterday, I received an invitation from the family to a birthday celebration lunch.  It's at the South Lodge Hotel which looks lovely from the web site.  If the weather's anything like, we can wander around the grounds too.  I'm getting quite excited about it now!  Roll on the weekend!

Wednesday 25 April 2012


. . . and what a lovely day I had yesterday!  I arrived at school nice and early to find that someone - several someones in fact - had been decorating my bay with banners, balloons and so on.  I have to say it looked really nice and sent the children hyper when they came in!!
Numerous cards, good wishes and presents later, we worked through the day (no playground duty a.m. because it was chucking it down, so sad!!) and just before home time in piled the parents with card, a lovely flower arrangement and a gorgeous basket filled with goodies.  How kind of them!  I took one look at the basket and thought 'knitting' so now it sits in my living room with my knitting projects and current patterns inside.

I forgot to take a photo of the basked before I dismantled it, which I'm cross with myself about, but here's the flower arrangement.

And a few shots of other flowers I received from very kind friends.

Then it was home (it took four journeys to load up the car) and a bit of a relax until DD and DG turned up to make dinner for me.  She made a delicious mix of roasted peppers and red onion with green lentils and feta.  It was scrummy.  She also gave me an invite to the family do on Saturday.  It's at one of the hotels in town and we have a private room.  Ooooooooooooooooh!  So I have that to look forward to now.

So what with all of the above, plus the meal at the Flyer tomorrow evening and the lovely gifts, including vouchers for Waterstones and Hobbycraft (yay to both) and six lovely, extremely fresh eggs . . .
. . . things are good.

And now it's back to reality again.

Tuesday 24 April 2012


What a miserable day it was yesterday!  Well, to be fair, it was OK until lunchtime and then it started raining and doesn't seem to have stopped yet.  Playtime yesterday afternoon was indoors and, unless something dramatic happens, it looks as if today will be the same.  I do three playground duties one week and four the next, last week they were all wet playtimes and this week looks like going the same way.  I blame the hosepipe ban myself.  It wasn't like this until that happened!

A good start to our new theme with six children away!!   Ho hum.  That means I will need to recap. on the essential stuff covered yesterday, which will be a right pain for those children who were there.    A bit of a nuisance really!  I had to laugh though - our first investigation involves  keeping two petri dishes in the dark.  Could I find the box I used last year anywhere?  No, I could not.  I ended up getting the chamber pot out of the cupboard to invert and cover.  It does look rather amusing but where has that box gone?

Today it is sticks of celery in coloured water to see what happens to the water!  Should be - er - fun!

And I am now officially old and can get free eye tests and, I think, prescriptions.  The eye test bit is fine but seeing as I very rarely trouble the GP anyway, the other will be an occasional benefit (I hope). 

Right, now where did I put that zimmer?

Monday 23 April 2012


Having looked outside, it seems completely dry right now, although the forecast is rather bad for today - lots of rain, it says.  We shall see but I do hope that it will be OK at key points in the day, such as playtimes and hometime. 

Yesterday was a good day.  The lasagne was scrummy (more of that later), I finished one sock and started its partner, I got some tidying, etc, done and the planning is now all printed out, which is a good feeling!

I was rabbiting on about my yogurt maker yesterday.  I forgot to add that it's very forgiving - I put it on yesterday morning and then forgot about it until now and the yogurt is lovely - thick and good!  I'm not sure how long one could leave it going for but 22 hours is definitely a lot longer than the instructions indicate.  Ooops.

Well, that modified lasagne worked well.  The tomato sauce was a variety of veg cooked in passata.  I added lentils, Marigold stock, herbs and seasonings, tomato puree . . . I think that was about it - and it came out flavoursome and thick but also sloppy (we all like sloppy lasagna).  I was able to use less sheet lasagne than the recipe indicated because of the shape of the dish.  The cheese sauce was also good: I never make it the roux way now, I mix the grated cheese with cornflour and add it to the milk when it comes up to the boil, then season.  Less fat and it's delicious.
So it was far from authentic in any way, but it did taste great and it all got eaten up, DD and DG doing the final honours between them.  We just had it with a simple salad and the whole meal came together so well.  Definitely one to do again but my way, not the recipe in the booklet.  Boo to Weightwatchers for sacrificing taste for lower calories.  Actually, to be fair, I didn't try their idea for a sauce and one day I will.  It might have worked fine, it just doesn't sound very cheesy.  I'm afraid the tomato sauce was just dire.

Next weekend I have a houseful.  All the spare beds will be in use.  Saturday's meals are all sorted and organised for me so I only have to think about Sunday.  I think I will keep it simple and as make-ahead as I can.  At the moment my thinking is another dish of the lasagne (it really was good) as the vegetarian dish, some home cooked ham slices (I have a gammon joint in the freezer) and a large mixed salad.  With it, I can serve crusty rolls and some cheese with a fruit platter.  Nothing too challenging and there's bound to be some ham left over for tea and for school lunches the following week.

Today we start our Jack and the Beanstalk theme.  Last week was a science week to catch up on 'forces', for which time ran out last term.  Today it is 'what do seeds need to germinate?'  Exciting stuff, yes?  Yes, it is!!!

Sunday 22 April 2012


It looks as if it might be another April shower type of day today, as yesterday was.  It's so very cheering when the sun shines but it really isn't warm enough to sit out yet, which is a shame.  It can't be long now, thought, before the sun gets going properly and we all complain of being too hot.  We're never satisfied, are we.  It's too wet or too dry or too hot or too cold . . .

I tried three new recipes yesterday.  I know that sounds extravagant, but it wasn't so bad really. 
The first one was a dip for lunch, creamy garlic and herb dip.  It was very nice but too sloppy and would have done best as a salad dressing.  It was low fat - philly light and my o% yogurt with garlic, chives from the garden and some seasoning.  Without the yogurt it would have been stiff enough but it would have been higher in calories.
Next I made turkey meatball korma.  Well, I say I made the recipe but, in fact, I adapted it pretty considerably in that I added extra  veg, some lentils and goodness knows what.  I didn't see the point of having meatballs though, especially as I zizzed up a piece of turkey breast as the minced turkey was sold in too large a quantity for my needs.  It was OK but not one I would do again: I wouldn't bother with the meatballs, just use diced turkey.
And then I started making the vegetable lasagna for dinner today when DD and DG come round.  Now, I know the idea is to reduce the calories and so on, but really, boiling veg and then draining and adding passata is not my idea of a flavoursome tomato mixture so, again, it was adapted: lentils to add both texture and flavour, extra veg, herbs and some marigold stock seems to have resulted in something a bit more likely tasting.  I have decided I won't use the suggested so-called cheese sauce made with medium fat soft cheese and skimmed milk whisked together, but will use Heston's cheese sauce made with some good flavoured cheese but not loads of it.  Hopefully that will do but if not, too bad, I just won't make it again, that's all!  That's the trouble with some low calorie recipes.  Taste is sacrificed for calories.  I'd rather have the taste and eat a little less.  OK, so eating less involves some self control, but that's always easier when there are guests.

I do love my yogurt maker.  It's something I would really miss, odd as that may sound.  I eat a lot of natural yogurt one way or another.  I always have a good dollop on porridge, muesli or bran flakes (with fruit), I always make my own fruit yogurt now, it goes into milk jellies, cheesecakes, etc, and it's actually jolly nice all on its own.  And it's so easy to make.  Using long life milk takes away the need to scald the milk and bring it back to room temperature and the only problem is when I forget I'm making some and leave it in the machine too long - and even that isn't usually a problem.  I'm of the drinka-pinta-milka-day (remember that?) generation, born not too long after the war when Britain was still in austerity measures and when your pint of milk mattered!  I've never been a great milk drinker, have my coffee black and rarely drink tea, so yogurt is a great comfort to my inner child conscience!

So, on to today.  It's going to be a 15 on, 15 off day until upstairs is ready for my guests.  Wish me luck!!

Saturday 21 April 2012


Weekend!!!!!  Yessssssssssssssssssssss . . .

Yesterday was SEN day and I got things done that have been hanging fire for ages so that was a great relief.  Particularly good was the afternoon when I had an informal 'meeting' with one of our LSAs to discuss and write an IEP.  I felt it was highly successful and we came away with a very useful and relevant piece of paperwork, which isn't always the case although I do try very hard to make it so.  Education is obsessed with bits of paper, you know.  Yes, it's all worked out on screen but then you have to print out multiple copies of everything to scatter around.  Paperless office?  Huh!!!  They don't believe you unless it's all on a bit of paper!

One of my little dears gave away a secret.  She was chatting about her holiday (her family is going away for a few days over the weekend) and suddenly segued into talking about a surprise for me on Tuesday - 'a nice surprise, Mrs Clark, do you like nice surprises?'  I almost said 'I like naughty surprises' but remembered to whom I was talking and did the conventional thing.  So I have that to look forward to, whatever it is! 

There's nothing specifically planned for today, thank goodness.  George is coming, unless it rains, in which case he isn't coming. 
The snails are crawling back from wherever they went to over winter and have started to attach my hostas, so I'm afraid I will have no mercy!  Slug pellets!  You think they'd learn, wouldn't you?
I'm trying a couple of new recipes, which I will tell you about if they are OK.  One's from one of those freebie mags I mentioned earlier and the other is from BBC Easy Cook.
I hope to finish off R's sock which means lots of sitting with the telly on.  Oh, the hardship! 
And I suppose I need to do some housework at some stage.  I have guests next weekend so I can't procrastinate for much longer.

Friday 20 April 2012

Scrummy porridge

This was so nice I thought I'd share.  It's nothing new, just delicious.

1/4/cup of porridge oats
3/4 cups water
1/4 cup semi skimmed milk
pinch salt
about 1/4 tsp Truvia (new sweetener)
some mandarin orange segments (a small pot's worth)
dollop of good 0% fat thick yogurt (preferable home made, because it's scrummy)

Cook the porridge as usual.  When it's cooked, add the Truvia and the oranges.  Pour into a bowl and add the dollop of yogurt.  Enjoy! 
I did.


. . . and while it's not actually raining right now, it quite obviously has been and it still feels jolly cold.  May 20th and the heating is still clicking on morning and evening at times.  Hopefully it will warm up soon as the evenings are lighter and it would be jolly nice to sit out in the garden.  In the meanwhile, inconvenient as it is, the rain is really rather welcome and the sensible part of me wishes that it would continue for some time to come.  Drought is not a good word and while it's nothing in comparison with the difficulties it causes in some countries, I want to be able to water my garden with a minimum of effort.  Yes, lazy, I know, and I/we have an awful lot to be thankful for, don't we?

I was right about yesterday - morning play was a washout, they came in early at lunchtime and five minutes before home time, as the parents were gathering outside the classroom, the skies blackened ominously and down it tipped yet again!  So outdoor PE was washed off, substituted by maths and I was able to get the science assessment done in the afternoon.  Yay!

I was pleased that my small hob to oven casserole dish arrived.  It should have, given the price of the extra postage for next day delivery, but you never know with our postal service, do you.  I'm really pleased with it and will christen it as soon as I possibly can!  It's plain white so will double as a serving dish as most of my tableware is plain white (not the china though).

As for today - SEN day, loads of paperwork to get sorted, end of the week.  As I'm up stupidly early, I will finish off next week's planning and that will get it off my mind for the weekend!!  And the kitchen needs a tidy and wipe over.

Thursday 19 April 2012


 . . . and it's still raining.  Not hard, I admit, but it's very soggy underfoot and outdoor PE today is in danger of being washed out . .  . yet again.  It's also chilly as I know because I went out to the freezer - twice, as it happens, because I forgot to bring in my cheese and pickle roll for lunch today first time.  My toes are still thawing.

It was PPA yesterday and J and I found that last year's careful theme planning is really paying dividends, as there was precious little to change.  Last week we prepared two weeks of maths planning so that was all done and dusted too.  This half term's theme is one of my favourites, all about germination and plant growth and full of nice, simple, achievable investigations.  Excellent stuff!

I was a bit naughty yesterday.  You see, so many recipes nowadays require (or mention using) a flameproof casserole, one that can go on the hob and then into the oven.  I have a big one, two big ones, in fact, and a middle sized one which also doubles as a very useful steamer, but I don't always want to make large quantities of something and freeze most of it.  As I'm trying to run down my freezer at the moment, that is, in fact, the very last thing I want to do.  I need a smaller hob to oven dish.  Well, I say need, I suppose I mean 'would very much like and use quite a lot' . . .
So I did a search yesterday and found that there were very expensive Le Creuset ones (very heavy, I used to have some decades ago) and Pyroflam.  They both got very good reviews so I went for the cheaper, of course.  Frugal 'R' Us!  I ordered the one litre size which seems to be just the size I want.  OK, so that's not naughty, I hear you say?  Well, the naughty bit was paying rather a lot for the one day delivery, because otherwise it could arrive over the weekend or not and I needed to know where to have it delivered.  So it was a one day delivery, posted to school - and it is arriving today!  Yay!!

Remember that little jumper and socks I posted a photo of a few days ago?  Well, L loved them and posted a photo of her little grandson wearing them yesterday.  How cute he looked, one big smile from ear to ear and very smart too!  I'm really pleased it's turned out so well and am now looking for another pattern to start.  The second sock for R is coming on and should be finished over the weekend so I will need something to take its place.  Ravelry, here I come!!

Wednesday 18 April 2012


Good morning, everyone.  No frost today but brrrrr, it's still cold, as I found when I took a few things out to the freezer this morning.  I really should have put something on my feet first!! 

It's ironic that as soon as the hosepipe ban starts, so does the rain!  Yesterday was a beaut - pouring as the children came to school, pouring at morning play, OK at lunchtime and in infant afternoon play we had about five minutes and then it started again, not for long but hard enough to take them all back in again.  Then the wind picked up in the evening and, because of the howling gale blowing through my home, I discovered that the spare bedroom window was open - properly open, not tilt and turn - and there was considerable dampness on the window sill, so goodness knows how long it's been open.  The handle was turned up, right up, not sideways for T&T or down for closed.  Ah well, that'll teach me to check them a bit more often, won't it?  Once the window was closed properly and the heating turned up for a short time, all was warm and cosy again.

Yesterday evening was a bit of a food crash disaster.  I had a proper meal planned but was rather tired (I know, only two days back) and succumbed to the delights of bread, butter, cheese and a few leftover biccies, none of which I particularly enjoyed, but there you go.  Back on the waggon this morning and moving on is the name of the game, for sure.

I'm somewhat addicted to those glossy food mags.  You know the ones - the likes of Delicious, Olive, BBC Good Food, etc.  They're fun to read, relaxing, pleasurable and they have this habit of including 'free' little recipe booklets, some of which are amazingly good.  In the last cycle of mags there were two 'healthy' type booklets, one with thirty recipes in and the other with forty.  One is entitled '30 Healthy Recipes' and the other '40 Low-Fat Recipes'.  You know, there are more useful, sensible, accessible recipes in each of those booklets than in a six month reading of the main mags and I will be using them as a basis for my culinary efforts for the next six months or so.  I can't cook all that often as I have a freezer full of pre-cooked dishes to work through and a desire to be more frugal, but I will definitely be using them.  One has even been christened in the bath, it's so interesting.

And for my reader-friend who thinks I'm weird to find recipes fun to read, ya boo fizz, so there!  :0)

Tuesday 17 April 2012


It was so cold in my bedroom this morning.  I like to sleep with the window open a little bit (they're tilt and turns so it's quite safe) and close the window if it's going to be very chilly, but although there's no frost, it felt really cold.  The forecast isn't good - rain, rain and more rain today, so I am prepared for indoor playtimes.

The first day back went well.  No-one cried - and nor did the children!!  The children wrote a good diary, their maths was good and generally we had a very positive time.  Nice!  And so on to today . . .

I hope my regular readers like the colour change.  Now that the so-called 'warmer' weather is here and it is certainly a lot brighter, I wanted something to match and I did like the freshness of that background.

Monday 16 April 2012


And so here we are, back to work today.  All over Facebook there's the sound of parents clapping their hands in glee.  It's quite sad really from more than one perspective but they're my bread and butter (indirectly, of course, don't be silly) so no complaints - not many anyway!

Here's the little jumper I was talking about yesterday.  Cute isn't it?  And just look at those titchy little socks too.  I hope L likes them.  The clever designer knit look of the patterning is just a result of the yarn colours, nothing to do with me and the matching at the raglan seams is also sheer good luck!

I'm now onto practising those little bunny bootees I was talking about last week.  It all seems fairly straightforward so far, but I will need softer yarn.  Knitted in acrylic, it's very stiff and solid: it's meant to be to some extent, of course, being double knitting yarn and 2.75 needles, but the acrylic makes it very unyielding and harsh for little toes.  Still, this is just a practice and the end product will be made with purpose bought yarn, not with my odds and ends.
And then in between times, I'm getting on with the socks for R too.  Never a dull moment here, you know!

Remember that banana fool recipe that I told you about last week, the one where I wasn't so thrilled as it separated before it was time to eat it?  I mentioned that I had frozen some to see how it reacted.  Well, I got one portion out yesterday to see and I have now renamed it as banana sorbet.  OK, the ice crystals were large because it didn't get its semi-frozen beating to break them up, but now I know it works I will churn it in the ice cream maker before storing in the freezer.  A squeeze of lemon or lime juice should tart it up a bit.  Definitely one to do again and, when I'm feeling lavish, a scoop of it on the banana bread I made and froze should be very tasty indeed, especially with a squidge of maple syrup or caramel sauce.

Enough mental meanderings - I'd better go and have my bath and get my stuff together.  I do not want to be late today!

Edited to add:  I rather fancied a colour change, seeing as winter is over (supposedly) and Spring is springing out all over.

Sunday 15 April 2012

Vegetable chili tortilla

This was nice, very, very nice.  DG had seconds and when asked if he liked it said 'No, I DON'T like it, I LOVE it!'  So I thought I'd share.

As with most of my efforts, it's not original.  I caught one of Delia's How to Cook programmes this week and she did something a bit similar.  Just a bit similar, but it set the old brain cells a-clickety clacking around and this was the result.  No picture, I'm afraid, which is a shame because it did look rather nice.  Also, I'm afraid amounts are vague because I tend to cook these things by 'instinct' (or, sometimes, sheer greed).  And I bet Delia's tastes a lot better, but mine is healthier!

It's quite filling.  I made four for the three of us.  I had one and was satisfied.  In fact I'm still feeling quite full at coming up four-thirty.  DG scraped the dish virtually clean!

Vegetable chili tortilla

Ingredients to serve 1
Some vegetable chili (can be meat chili, of course) - I made a pot of chili yesterday with my leftover vegetables.
A flour tortilla.  I used Weight Watchers Mexican style wraps.
A little oil to brush around the oven dish
some flavoursome cheese, finely grated (I used a mixture of Cheddar and vegetarian Parmesan - well, Sainsbury's Value Italian style . . . because it's OK for vegetarians)

Heat the chili and turn the oven on to 180C

Make a cheese sauce by mixing about 2/3 of the grated cheese with some cornflour, heating the milk and, when it's nearly boiling, pouring in the cheese/cornflour and stirring until it thickens.  Season with salt and a little pepper.  You don't need a lot of sauce.

Lightly oil an oven proof dish big enough to take the rolled up tortilla, either lengthways or cut into 2.

Spoon the chili down the middle of the tortilla and fold over one side, then the other, so they overlap.  Carefully place, overlap underneath, in the oiled dish, cutting it in half to fit if necessary.   It can be a bit messy to lift but if you have plenty of chili 'liquid' it doesn't bake dry.

Spoon over the cheese sauce, sprinkle over the remaining cheese (that was not mixed with cornflour), give a final grating of pepper and bake in the oven until it is all hot and bubbling and the cheese has browned on top.

Serve immediately with a salad.  Yum yum!


Last day, end of the casual times for a while.  It's been a good fortnight, one in which I have felt more fit and well that I have for a while and in which there has been plenty of time for resting, relaxing and generally unwinding.  For once I don't feel I need another week to recover although if you came along and offered one I wouldn't decline!

I finished that little jumper and very cute it looks too.  I'll post a photo when I get it off my camera.  I also had a go and some little baby socks which I don't think are as small as they need to be.  Hardly surprising really, seeing as I used DK yarn and size 4 needles instead on the ones on the pattern, but they'll do for someone, I am sure.  I will try the smallest size and see if that works better - once I have finished this pair, that is.

The other piece of news, such as it is, is that the vegetable chili worked out really well and now I have a pot of spicy deliciousness for lunch and other meals.  I think I will need to jiggle my meal plans around to avoid having to freeze a pile of it.  I'm trying to run down my freezer a bit and I'm not going to succeed if my leftover veg meals produce such a bounty as this, am I?

Today is going to be slightly on the boring side.  It's mostly going to be getting ready for the next term.  DG and DD come for lunch so that will be very nice and a break in the dullness!  Better get going, I suppose . . .

Saturday 14 April 2012

Saturday morning

And here we go on the last weekend of the Easter holiday.  I intend to enjoy it in my own quiet way, between planning and so on.

Yesterday, when J came over, we had a lovely time, chatting and knitting.  J makes socks too!  She's also a member of OUSA so a good gossip was in order.  We laughed, giggled and rambled our way round four hours that went incredibly quickly.  She got some of her sock knitted.  I gor some of mine knitted and then had to undo it because I'd dropped a stitch in a place where I couldn't rescue it with a crochet hook.  Doh! 
We are going to do it again because it was great fun!

Today George comes.  There's a fine crop of weeds awaiting his attention, a patch of grass to cut and lots of similar bits and bobs.  On the hob there's the startings of a vegetable chili which is this week's way of using up the leftover vegetables.  It will have onion, chilli, red pepper,  sweet potato, carrot, celery, cauliflower and mushroom - and red beans.  Maybe also pop in a handful of peas from the freezer for the colour factor.  And I might throw in some red lentils because I usually do.   Tomorrow perhaps we can have some in wraps with yogurt and a salad (must check if DG likes wraps) and I can have the rest later on in the week as a main meal.  I haven't made chili for simply ages.

What I'm NOT going to do is go into school.  I am so glad that I went in before Easter.  It's not all completely ready, I know, but it's OK, it's going to be fine.

I am going to finish off the little knitted V neck jumper I am making and get it all sewn up and ready to give to L on Monday morning.  And start R's second sock.  Hopefully this one will go a little more smoothly!!!

Friday 13 April 2012

Honey, mustard and lime salmon with red pepper and cucumber

OK, I'll be honest here - I set out to make a recipe from Rosemary Conley's April Diet and Fitness magazine but found that I didn't have all the ingredients so I slightly adapted.  However the main credit must go to Ms Conley.  There's lots of good recipes in the April edition so get it!  :0)  I did look online for the recipe but couldn't find it.

So . . .
Honey, mustard and lime salmon with red pepper and cucumber.
Looks colourful, doesn't it?

1 salmon fillet
1/4 of a red pepper, deseeded and cut into strips.
about 1/6 of a cucumber, peeled and cut into strips like the pepper
salt and pepper
a squidge of runny honey
a small dollop of dijon mustard
a good tbsp lime juice (and some zest, if you have it - I used bottled lime juice)
half a small, mild, red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

crushed new potatoes to serve

heat the oven to 200C
Place the red pepper and cucumber strips in a small ovenproof dish and season with salt and pepper
Lay the salmon fillet over, skin side down.  You can take off the skin first but it actually comes off a lot easier once the fish is cooked.
Combine the honey, mustard, lime juice and chopped chilli and gently pour over the salmon, making sure every bit of the salmon has some on.

Place in the oven and bake, uncovered, for about 15 mins, until the salmon is just cooked.  It didn't need basting but you can, if you like.

I served it with new potatoes which I crushed with the back of a spoon and I poured the juices from the oven dish over the potato.  And very nice it was too, which is why I'm sharing it.


This is not a new recipe, far from it.  Mum used to make this for us when I was a wee one.  I may even have posted this recipe before.  My lunch time guest today really liked it so I thought I'd share it.  It can be made in advance and kept, covered, in the fridge

Ingredients, per person (if you're feeling very hungry)
2 eggs (or one, if it's for a light meal)
a dollop of mayo
some finely grated cheddar (don't need a lot)
seasonings and herbs as wanted - I don't use salt but I do pepper and sometimes I mix in fresh chives and/or sprinkle over some paprika.

Hard boil the eggs.  Shell and cool them.
When cold, cut each egg in half and spoon the yolk into a bowl.  Place the whites on a plate or in a small serving dish, cut side up.
To the yolk, add a small dollop of mayo (the light version is fine), the grated cheese and any seasonings desired.  Mix well, mushing the yolk as you do so.
Spoon the mixture back into the whites and sprinkle over a little extra cheese if desired.  Cover and chill until needed.

Serve on a bed of shredded lettuce or a selection of leaves, accompanied by other salad veg.

No photo, I'm afraid.

Friday morning

It's cold and misty outside at the moment.  Looking out, the mist makes everything look spooky and mysterious - I like it!  With any luck it'll evaporate away to reveal a fine, sunny day.  Yesterday's weather was very April-typical, wasn't it, with sudden, hard showers, some of which included hail.  Not nice if you were caught out in one, not nice at all.

Yesterday lunchtime I went out with a friend, J.  I suppose it was a late lunch as I got round to hers at about 1:30, but that was OK because the pub we went to, the Hare out on the Roxwell Road, was virtually empty and we had a lovely chat together without straining to hear each other because of any surrounding 'environmental' noise!  The food was good, the atmosphere nice and gentle and calming and the company was, of course, outstanding!!  All in all, it was a lovely time and it's somewhere I really must go more often, maybe in a fortnight's time when I have more visitors.

Then I set to and had a go at adapting that cheesecake recipe from last week.  The difference was that I used tinned mango and, as it was in a light syrup, I didn't add any extra sugar.  It seems to have set OK but fingers crossed that it won't collapse as I turn it out of the tin.  It'll still taste nice but . . .
You see, I have a friend coming over from Southend for lunch.  Another J!  All these Js!  She won't mind collapsed cheesecake and it would taste fine but I would be rather mortified.  At some point I have to steel myself to trying this recipe with the vege-jel, a vegetarian jelling agent that works very differently to gelatin and which I've never really used before.  But if I can get to grips with it, I can make the cheesecake for DD when she comes round on Sundays, and that would be good.

Well, I have a visitor coming and the house is not really in the state it ought to be for visitors, even one as laid back as J, so I'd better go and get it sorted.

Thursday 12 April 2012

Bacon, feta and mango salad

This is what I made for my meal this evening.  It was jolly delicious, I thought.  Knowing what I am like about forgetting what I've done, I wrote it straight down.  Apologies for the vagueness of the quantities.  It was very much to taste. 

Bacon, feta and mango salad

Ingredients: to serve 1

For the salad
2 thin sliced rashers of back bacon
a little oil
some feta, cubed (about 1/5 of a pack)
1/4 of a mango, sliced or cubed
shredded lettuce
4 or 5 cherry tomatoes, quartered
some red onion, very thinly sliced
For the dressing
a little olive oil
a little red wine vinegar (more than the oil)
runny honey
Dijon or grain mustard
salt and pepper

Combine all the dressing ingredients (amounts are really to taste, I kept adding and tasting – not much oil though), preferably in a little pot with a lid. Put on the lid and shake the pot well to combine all the ingredients. Shake again just before dressing the salad.

Add a little oil to a non stick pan, put it on a very low heat, add the bacon and let it gently fry, turning once, until it is crispy. Remove from the pan, letting any fat drip off (or wipe over the bacon with some kitchen towel) and break into pieces.

Place all the salad ingredients in a bowl and mix. Add as much of the dressing as you want and toss the salad until everything is covered with dressing.

Serve immediately.

Thursday morning

Four days to go, that's all, and then it is back into servitude.  I've enjoyed this holiday.  Apart from anything else , it's the first one in a while when I haven't felt unwell and disinclined to do anything but sit and whinge.  This one has been much better, thank goodness.

Yesterday was a culinary day.  If you've read my other blog you will know that it was chickpea day and I made some hummus for lunch and some patties for dinner, both more or less successfully, the patties better than the hummus.  You get such variety in the hardness of pulses and this particular carton had fairly bullet like chickpeas that didn't really mush properly.  I really ought to cook my own, that way I'd have more control.  Anyway, the hummus wasn't as smooth as I like, but the flavour was OK.  The patties were great - really scrummy and tasty and the texture of the peas was just right for that.

Then I tried the banana fool and although it tasted good I'm afraid it did separate a bit before I get round to eating it.  That's the trouble with using whisked egg whites.  I did freeze some portions so I will find out what's happened there as and when I eat them.  I also froze some of the cheesecake and will report back as and when.  Bet you can't wait - this blog is so exciting at times!!!!  (not)

To make the fool I needed some instant low cal custard.  Now I know - it's a bit urghhh, but when it's just me and I want a bit of custard, what's a girl to do?  Instant is the only sensible way to go because you can make just enough for one.  Anyway, I thought I had some but didn't, so off I went to Morrisons and treated myself to some mags while I was there.  One of them was a craft mag and inside there is the loveliest pattern for some knitted bunny booties to which my immediate reaction was 'I HAVE to make these'.  Fortunately, a friend is having a baby in the summer so there's my excuse.  It's double knitting yarn, of which I have plenty stashed away, so I can try with that, get the feel for the pattern and then get some good yarn to make them as a gift.  And if they're not as cute as the picture indicates, well, there's no loss.

Yesterday I was muttering about recipe books for one.  I went onto Amazon and it appears that there are a few, including the Delia book I mentioned yesterday.  One of them looked quite good and I may buy it at some point.  But I may also start a folder of 'one' recipes, when I find them, too.   Every little helps, as the saying goes.

Wednesday 11 April 2012


What a lovely, sunny day it was yesterday.  I know we need the rain and I am glad when it falls but it was so cheering to see the sun shining and hear the birds chirping.  It does my heart good.

It was another inconsequential day filled with pleasant little happenings to raise the spirits and cheer the soul.  I didn't go out, I didn't see anyone, but I did a fair amount of online communication and it was all very satisfying, one way and another.

I got the first setting of seeds planted, finally.  Just one row of each.  Next weekend (not the one coming up, the following one) I will plant another strip of each and a fortnight after that I will plant the last lot.  And then we will see!  I know they will germinate at different rates and the radishes, for example, will be ready long before the others, but that's OK, no problems.  There was another quite heavy frost last night and I'm thinking I really ought to cover my apple tree overnight.  I must cut up a big bin liner and see what I can do, before the frost damages the emerging leaves and blossom (does frost damage leaves?).

I realised that I had some very ripe bananas so I dug out a 'cheap as chips banana loaf' recipe and set to.  It's so jolly easy:  you mash bananas, beat them with eggs and sugar, add flour and bake.  I had a brainstorm and added some coffee granules to the banana egg mix, leaving it for a few minutes so the coffee liquidated (?) before folding in the flour and you know what, it was jolly nice.  It has a fairly pudding-y texture but is delicious spread with butter.  Sadly, I won't be eating it like that - one of its helpful features is that it's fat free and I intend to keep it that way, so I had a bit yesterday and the rest is going to be frozen in single slices to have for school lunches and also for desserts with fruit and yogurt on top.

That mandarin cheesecake terrine thingy, the recipe for which I got from L last week and which is a Rosemary Conley recipe, is still going strong and I'm going to see how well it freezes.  I found another recipe on the same site (her 'TV' site, which has videos of her chef making the recipes - jolly helpful it is too) for a vanilla banana fool which also looks rather nice and which freezes well, he said, so, as I still have bananas to use up, I will make this today.  Very few recipes are just for one and as I usually prepare single meals it can be a bit of a pain.  I'm always on the look out for freezable recipes.  Given how many people cater just for themselves nowadays, you'd think that someone would bring out a recipe book along the lines of 'One is Fun', that very old Delia series of so very long ago, either for single portion dishes or for dishes that can be frozen in single portions.  Preferably both!

Sock update:  I've finished the heel and am on the last lap on sock no. 1. 

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Pitta Pizza

This can be prepared in advance and makes two pitta pizzas (they're quite small). Serves two for a light lunch or one for a main meal

One pitta bread- I used one from the Sainsbury value range which is fine, just a bit smaller than the usual ones.
Tomato puree
Mixed herbs
25g cheddar, finely grated (it spreads better grated finely)
Prepared toppings - you don't need a lot, I used one shallot, chopped, about 1/6 of a red pepper, chopped, one chestnut mushroom, chopped and one lean bacon medallion, cut into strips.  I gently fried the veg in a few squirts of olive oil until they were just starting to blacken without burning, then removed them from the pan and cooked the bacon strips for a minute.  Choose what you fancy in the topping line really.
Some  feta, crumbled - again, not a lot needed.

Insert a knife into the pitta and gently cut around the edge so that it separates into two slices.  Thinly spread some tomato puree over the 'inside' and sprinkle over some dried mixed herbs and a grinding of black pepper.  Then add the grated cheese.
Next it's the prepared toppings - arrange them so they are well distributed. 
Finally, sprinkle over the crumbled feta.
Place on a non stick baking tray and heat in oven set at around 150 C.  When heated through and piping hot, serve with a side salad.

Jolly yummy and totally flexible!


. . . and the Easter holiday is galloping away at an alarming rate now, sadly.  That always happens - the first half proceeds nice and slowly with plenty of room to breathe and the second half is here and gone in a twinkling of an eye.  Vrooooom . . .  and, yes, it gets worse the older I get.

Yesterday ended up very wet and increasingly windy as the day progressed so I stayed snug and warm inside and pottered.  I made the tomato soup I blogged about yesterday and there's enough for today as well, so that's good.  It's so much nicer than the can of Heinz I was originally planning to have and certainly not more expensive, although whether it is cheaper, I haven't worked out.  I mean, how do you cost out a handful of red lentils, for example?   But generally, home made soup of the homely, non-posh, stock pot kind is a lot better value than buying cans of the stuff and a darn sight more tasty too.  And so easy - just chop it all up, bung it in a pot with liquid, cover, bring to the boil and simmer for a while with seasonings to taste, then blend to your preferred consistency.  I must start making my weekend soup again.  Basically, it's whatever vegetables I have left over at the end of the week (cooked or uncooked), in some sort of stock, usually with lentils added because they thicken and taste good but not always, usually zizzed down, but not always.  It's never the same from one week to the next. 

I didn't get the seeds into the planter, of course, which was a shame, but there's today - or tomorrow - or whenever.  And the garden has received a thorough soaking which is very much a Good Thing.  I do need to put the hose away though.  At the moment it's uncoiled and meandering around the garden after I soaked the beds last week (before the ban, I hasten to add) and it doesn't look 'good' (apart from being untidy anyway).

The pitta pizza I made yesterday (after having it at a friend's house last week) was delicious.  It wouldn't suit if you're the sort of person who likes a deep crust, but I prefer a thin crust and this was so, so easy.  I'll post the recipe (such as it is) in a separate entry.  It was good and filling with a side salad and had bags of taste.  One to do again and again and again . . . thanks again, Liz.  I always come away from lunch at Liz's with a new recipe to try.  This time it was two.

I spent quite a lot of time knitting.  I now have two pairs of socks which are now stashed away in the relevant drawer in my bedroom and I have now started the socks I am making for R.  I suppose it depends on the weather and how much I stay inside today, but I am hoping to have one of the pair made by tomorrow and to be able to send them off by Friday.  Then I need to try a different pattern.  Ribbed or cabled, perhaps.  I will think on it.
I suppose it also depends how wide awake I stay.  Having stayed up watching DVDs until just after midnight, I woke at four thirty, ready to start the day.  Now, that's not enough sleep in anyone's book, so I expect I will be dozing on and off through the day.  Thank goodness for comfy chairs and rubbish TV, great for encouraging drowsiness!

Monday 9 April 2012

Tasty home made tomato soup

1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 small carrot. peeled and finely chopped
half a rib of celery (I used the outside rib and piulled off the strings - better flavour), finely chopped
a few squirts of squrty olive oil
splash of water
small carton of passata
handful of red lentils
seasoning (I just used black pepper)
about half tsp sugar
tomato puree

Place veg in a pan and toss in the oil, mixing well.  Add the splash of water and place on a very low heat.  Let it slowly fry for about 15 mins.
Add the passata, some pepper, the lentils and the sugar and some extra water (I swished out the carton and then added it to the pan).
Bring to a gentle simmer, cover and allow to gently simmer for ages.  Stir now and again and add more water if it's getting too thick.
When all the vegetables and the lentils are cooked, zizz until it's as smooth as you want.  Add more water if it's too thick.  Add some tomato puree and bring back to a simmer, stirring well.

I added a dollop of natural yogurt.

Makes enough for 2.


. . . and it's raining with a steady determination that indicates it isn't going to stop in a hurry.  I'm glad - it's what we need so desperately: gentle rain that keeps coming and which soaks in instead of running off.  I'm not so glad for the children though, or their families - a day off all together and it rains!  So very British, don't you know!

Yesterday I . . .
made a sock (very nice and very comfortable and I think I know what I'm doing now so . . .)
worked out a pattern for a baby sock - toddler/small child sock anyway
made a scrummy roast dinner with an equally scrummy fruit crumble for dessert
changed some light bulbs
filled the willow planter with soil
started using the compost bin again
started writing my Food Diary again (do I hear you say 'about flippin' time too', gentle reader?)

Things are going well with the sock knitting.  Even with 4 ply, because there aren't too many stitches on each needle, it seems to grow quickly and there's not too much plain knitting before the interesting bits come along.  I will knit the other sock today and then start on the pair I promised R I would make.  Apart from the fact that I am making something rather useful as well as something that looks good, it justifies sitting down and doing not a lot else - after all, this is holiday time for me!

In between drizzly times and adverts yesterday late afternoon, I meandered out into the garden to get the willow planter soiled up.  Several days ago in went a big bag of good quality potting compost stuff but I got no further at that point.  Yesterday, I attacked the compost bin.  My bin is one of those that you feed via a lid on top and get the resulting compost out via a 'door' at the bottom.  Ideally it's a rotational thing: by the time it's reached the bottom, it's lovely, crumbly, nutrient packed compost.  The problem was (last Autumn) that the top was full but the bottom wasn't dropping down, so there was a gap where I should be digging out the compost.  Yesterday I took a peek and over winter it has dropped - there's room at the top again and I was able to dig out lots of compost for the planter.  I then sprinkled over some water retaining gel crystals which, I hope, will help if the summer is very dry and there's still a hosepipe ban.  I then finished it off with another bag of potting compost.  And now it's getting a good soaking from the rain. 
As a result of there being no room at the top, I have been putting all my peelings, etc, in the food recycling bin, but I can now stop doing that and compost them again instead.  Yay!!!  Maybe I ought to get another bin but I really don't think a small garden like this is big enough to sustain two compost bins.  Three raised beds, a strip at the front, sundry pots and a willow planter . . . that's all.  But it's a nice feeling to be using my veg waste again.

Today I woke early.  I've been getting into bad habits over the last two or three days, going to bed late and waking late.  Six thirty is very late for me!  I still went to bed late last night (oh, OK, so normal for most people, late for me) but woke earlier too, which was nice.  I like my early mornings.  So I went into the kitchen and made the mandarin cheesecake thing I mentioned a few blogs ago.  It's now sitting in the fridge and I have my fingers crossed, metaphorically speaking.  Here's hoping it works because I do not like the idea of wasting the ingredients.

I was going to plant the seed tapes in the planter today and probably still will, as long as it doesn't rain any harder.  I won't have to water it afterwards, that's for sure!  However, I think the planting out of the wallflower is going to have to wait.

And now I'd better go and make breakfast.  Have a good Bank Holiday everyone, rain or no rain!

Sunday 8 April 2012

Easter Sunday morning

After two entries yesterday, I don't have an awful lot to write about, even with my talent for making mountains where molehills used to exist!  I watched quite a lot of DIY SOS programmes through yesterday evening: they do make me giggle with all the joshing and sparring much more than Extreme Makeover does with all its shouting and screaming and general noisiness.  I prefer understated humour, I think.  And I did some knitting - after all, I have a lot of wool to use up now.

Today is Easter Sunday so I'm doing a roast dinner for DG and me.  That's roast lamb (of course) with new potatoes, broccoli, carrots and maybe cauliflower, followed by strawberry, blueberry and apple crumble with yogurt (or cream, but I intend to be 'good').  That's a meal I could almost make standing on my head (except that the food would fall out of the pans,  gravity being what it is) and which really just takes time in the kitchen.  In fact, I'm off in there now to get stuff ready.

Have a good day and don't eat too much chocolate!

Saturday 7 April 2012

Saturday early evening

Ooooh, I've been a bad girl.  My bank manager is NOT going to be at all pleased with me!  But I've had a good time!

Firstly, the living room is looking quite a lot better.  A bit of putting things away always helps.  Once I've swept the floor it's going to look pretty decent really - slightly cluttered but OK.

After that I went shopping.  Now, how was I to know that Sainsburys had 25% off clothes?  Such a shame and I thought I was very controlled under the circumstances: three T shirts and a long cardigan is hardly breaking the bank at Monte Carlo, let along Chelmsford.  Apart from that I was very good and stuck to my shopping list - er - apart from the magazine and the recipe book (yes, DD, another recipe book) because, after all, it is Easter.  Oh, and the bunches of daffs but they don't count because . . . well, they just don't OK?

Then I decided to pootle along to Wyvale as it's not too far from Sainsburys.  The one thing I really wanted they didn't have but I did get three plants.  I got that replacement for my thyme which hasn't survived the winter and which needed moving anyway, I got a rather nice perennial wallflower which they are obviously developing now in different colours as this is more a pinky orange rather than the glowing purple of the two I already have.  That is going to go in the bed at the front where the honeysuckle used to be because there's a gap there now.  And then I got some English bluebells in a pot.  Now, I'm not sure whether that's 'ethical' or not, but my other bluebells are not English.  The newbies are going in the front, so they don't run up against the others.  I also remembered to get the seeds J and I will need for next half term's science so that's done and crossed off the responsibility list.  And finally I got an anti moth and bug thing to hang from my Redlove Aunty May apple tree.  You never know, it might help!

Then (and this was the big mistake) I decided that as Hobbycraft wasn't so far away from Wyvale, I would go there and get the yarn for those socks I am going to knit for a friend.  Unfortunately, after popping those two balls into my basket, I noticed that they had a 'discontinued' area and I went to look.  Not only did they have some of the Regia yarn I'm using for the socks (although, unfortunately, not the shade my friend wants), they also had some Crofter DK. 
I think I need to draw a veil over what I did after that but suffice it to say there isn't nearly so much yarn on the discontinued shelf as there was before I entered the shop.  And I should have several pairs of hand knit socks to keep my tootsies warm come next winter.

Nice day, eh?

Saturday morning

. . . and here I am wearing TWO newly knitted socks and jolly comfortable they are too!  A friend has asked if I will knit her a pair too - it's the colours that have attracted her, not the quality of my knitting, I am sure, but I was very glad to agree.  I like knitting and I won't have to pay for the wool.  I can't lose really, can I?  And the more I do, the fewer mistakes I will make (hopefully!).

I was highly embarrassed yesterday.  I was slobbing around (dressed, fortunately) thinking I really must do something about the state of my home which, I am ashamed to confess, is a right dump at the moment.  No excuses, seeing as I have been off work all week!  suddenly there was a knock at the door.  I'd already had one cold caller and guessed this was another so stormed to the door ready to say 'No thank you, whatever it is, take me off your list, goodbye' only to find that it was a very old (not elderly!!) friend who I haven't seen for ages.  Oh, no!!!!!   Well, she knows me and my little ways and I hope she wasn't too horrified - too bad if she was because we had a nice cuppa and a chat together and I have finally got her email addy which makes it a lot easier for me to keep in touch now. 

As a result, I have deferred my trip to the shops, given the kitchen a good tidy up and am about to start in on the living room.  Can't have that happening again, can I?

The house is smelling delicious.  When I went out to the freezer to get the lasagna for this evenings dinner, I saw a pack of strawberries and blueberries.  I remembered I had a couple of cooking apples in the fridge that need using up and also that I need something for dessert for tomorrow's lunch, so the three fruits are now stewing together over a slow hear and I am deciding whether to make fruit crumble, pie or something cold with some of it.  I'm tending towards crumble right now because it can all be made well in advance and it's a bung in the oven and leave thing.  And DD and DG love crumble.  I think also that I will take off some of the juice to mix with my natural yogurt and reserve some of the fruit for my porridge.
And mmmmmmmm - the house smells gorgeous.

Right, better get on with it, I guess!    Bath and get dressed first, then some housework!  Actually, it goes to show how things have changed - when Mum did the housework (when we were little) she did it first and then had her wash and got changed after it was finished because it was dirty, sweaty work.  It's an awful lot less physical nowadays, isn't it?
And now I MUST stop rambling and get going . . .

Friday 6 April 2012

Because of the day . . .

From heaven you came, helpless babe.
Entered our world, your glory veiled.
Not to be served, but to serve
And give your life, that we might live.

There in the garden of tears
My heavy load he chose to bear.
His heart with sorrow was torn.
'Yet not my will, but yours' he said.

Come see his hands and his feet.
The scars that speak of sacrifice.
Hands that flung stars into space
To cruel nails surrendered.

So let us learn how to serve
And in our lives enthrone him.
Each others needs to prefer
For it is Christ we're serving.

This is our God, the Servant King.
He calls us now to follow him.
To bring our lives as a daily offering
Of worship to the Servant King.

Graham Kendrick

Sock it to me!

a.k.a. Friday - Good Friday, in fact.

Anyone who recognises the above sock phrase must be ever so old as I don't believe Rowan and Martin's Laugh In has been on telly since the 70s.  I remember giggling inanely over some of the 'jokes', most of which I would now wonder why I found so amusing.  It was loaded with in-jokes, catch phrases and canned laughter  and was extremely 'American'.  It was the thing to watch and 'sock it to me' has stuck in my memory over the years.

Anyway, I digress.  One sock down and the other about a quarter done.  Although I say it as shouldn't, I'm quite pleased with it really: for a first go it's not bad.  There are mistakes, of course, but I know why and what I did to go wrong and I can see to using five needles rather than four would help tremendously.  A shame they only sell them in fours, isn't it?  Apart from using techniques I already knew and applying them to this context, I learnt a new skill.  The toe is sewn up using something called the Kitchener stitch - a bit complicated until you get the rhythm of it and one of the places where I went wrong, but the thought of undoing it was so daunting that I didn't.  You see, as you stitch along two rows of parallel stitches using a tapestry needle, you cast off one stitch at a time.  I just couldn't face the picking back that would be necessary if I undid it! 

The one I have finished fits really well and I can see that I shall have warm, cosy toes when the weather gets cold again next autumn.  Or even this evening as I woke to another frost this morning: not too hard, I hope, as some trees are already in blossom and plants are growing fast.

The sock!

The heel

The Kitchener stitched toe - it lies beautifully flat
Apart from knitting, I went round to my friend, L for lunch.  L and I taught foundation stage together years ago and she took the other Y1 class with me for two years recently before her retirement.  You may be thinking that there's a lot of retirement at my school and you'd be right.  There's a cluster of us around the same age - in a way a bit of a ticking bomb - although as it's working out we're not all leaving more or less at the same time as some are going earlier and a few brave souls are continuing on beyond.
Anyway, it was round to Ls for lunch, a really good chat and a look at her holiday photos.  She recently had what she calls the holiday of a lifetime and had a wonderful fortnight amidst sun, sea, sand and magnificent buildings. 
I always learn a new recipe from L.  Yesterday she made pitta pizza which was delicious.  She used a wholemeal pitta as the base, spread it with tomato puree and a little grated cheese (I think she said cheddar and red Leicester), then added veg and come strips of cooked bacon and some chunks of feta before warming it up in the oven.  With a salad it was really scrummy.
And then the dessert.  I won't attempt to describe it here but here's the link.  It's a Rosemary Conley recipe and it was absolutely delicious.  I intend to make it as soon as I get the ingredients in.  The nice thing (apart from the low calorie-ness of it) is that it is so flexible - no, not literally!  I can see it made with strawberries or pineapple or . . . and it's so easy!

As for today, the weather is promising so I want to do some garden stuff.  My seed tapes came yesterday so I want to get them in - one row of each anyway - as it says sowing can start in March.  I want to get the rosemary cut back and there's other bits and bobs that need doing too.
And I have a sock to finish!

Thursday 5 April 2012

Thursday morning

Officially in the garden next door but it also blesses my garden!
Thanks to an extra late (for me) Poirot that I hadn't seen before - Third Girl - plus knitting that kept me going, I wasn't in bed until just after 11 yesterday evening, had trouble getting to sleep despite the tiredness and, consequently, only finally woke at about 6:30 this morning.  Unheard of.

From the above you will deduce that socks won over cross stitch and DG and I wended our way to the retail park yesterday late morning.  He needed some card too or I would probably never had persuaded him to come!  It took ages to find a basic pattern: there were fancy sock patterns galore, in expensive books that seemed to assume that you knew all the tricks of the trade, so to speak, but I had to ask a nice shop assistant who was sitting at a desk (knitting pretty little bootees - the assistant, not the desk!) to help me in the end as I was getting nowhere and DG was getting a bit fed up.  Armed with pattern (also bloomin' expensive) I looked for yarn and plumped for some 'designer' yarn from Italy, supposedly by Kaffe Fasset.  Yeah, sure!  However, it was his colours - blues, purples and greens that look rather lovely when knitted up.  The effect is stripey, of course.  Expensively stripey though!  In fact, I'm a bit horrified when I consider quite how expensive these socks are but never mind.  Learning a new skill is never to be sniffed at, even if it is something as ridiculously unnecessary as knitting socks!!  And I did use what was left from some gift vouchers too.

I'm not so sure about the heel pattern.  Yes, it works, but I'm sure there's a different way to do it that could be a lot simpler, and maybe that's where Annabeth's fifth needle comes in (see yesterday's comments).  When I've finished this sock and its sister, I will do a  bit of experimenting, I think, and see.  Or perhaps I will wander down to Hobbycraft again and browse in those expensive sock books for inspiration.  For now I have enough to do.  There's a lorra knitting in a sock when using 4 ply yarn and I've just discovered I am a stitch short and I can't for the life of me see where it's gone.

Ho hum!

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Wednesday morning

It was a very pleasant day again yesterday.  DG arrived mid morning and first of all we set off for Matalan where I bought him some socks as DD had requested - rather a lot of socks, as it happened, because we couldn't decide and they were very inexpensive and, let's face it, a teenager can't have enough pairs of socks, can he?   I also got him a pair of track suit bottoms that were there, very cheap and fitting well.  For me, there was a skirt and a cotton cardigan and a cheap bag as my everyday one is wearing very thin.
Then it was off to the Flyer where I gave myself indigestion with cheesy chips while DG filled himself up with cheeseburger and the trimmings.
Finally we ended up in school and I got the old display down, the new (rather arty 3D) display up for next term, sorted out the table boxes and replaced the old crayons and pencils with new ones.  To avoid waste, the old crayons and pencils all went into a couple of trays already for that purpose which the children use when they are 'choosing'.
There's rather more to do but the display was the most time consuming and the one that I really wanted to get done before the start of the term.  I don't like it when the children come in at the start of a new term to blank display boards or, even worse, displays from the previous term.  That's just one of my little peculiarities, not a criticism of anyone else, I hasten to add.
The lettering that I worked hard to make, laminate and cut out looks good apart from one think - I am missing a 'c' so it reads 'Ja k and the Beanstalk' at the moment.  I'm sure I did a 'c' but perhaps it got thrown out with all the cut-offs and snippings.  Never mind, it won't take long to make another one.

Pretty, aren't they?  This went in last year.
As for today, well, I had planned to potter in the garden again this afternoon but, unless the weather improves, I can't see myself doing that.  At some point in the afternoon yesterday it started pouring with rain (no snow!) and it's continued, on and off, ever since.  Great for the garden, not so great for gardeners!  I might start a cross stitch project.  I haven't done counted cross stitch for simply ages and I have several unstarted kits in a drawer.  Or I might follow Diane's example and learn to knit socks - it sounds intriguing and it's a skill that I have never learnt in all my years of knitting.  That would mean a trip to Hobbycraft, of course.  Oh, the hardship!!!
Decisions, decisions.

And talking of Diane - without going into details, she's having a very tough time right now and if you feel you can, please pray/send strengthening vibes/etc, in her direction.  Thanks.

I made a good sticky sauce yesterday evening, in which to cook the chicken drumsticks I bought for DG's dinner.  He loves chicken drums!  It was one of those 'see what you have available and bung it in' type of sauces and I wish I had written it down, but I didn't.  It consisted of lemon juice, tomato puree, diet coke, dried mustard, soy sauce, lea and perrins, honey, pepper, a drop of left over rose wine and the fag end of some apple and orange jam that was lurking in a jar in the fridge.  It cooked down to a sticky state over the chicken and - well, lets say there was nothing left this morning.  Even the roasting dish had been scraped!  One to do again for sure!  Maybe over sausages next time.

You can tell it is school holidays, can't you - my blog rambles!

Tuesday 3 April 2012

Tuesday morning - garden ramblings

I'm supposed to go into school today to do 'stuff'.  I'm not sure I can be bothered.  Shameful, isn't it?  DG is coming round this morning and staying overnight: I'm taking him to the Flyer for lunch so perhaps we can pop into school for a while after that.  Oh, it is so nice not HAVING to do stuff, but one could (does) get terribly lazy!

Yesterday was rather pleasant too.  It got quite warm in the garden in the afternoon and I spent a very pleasant hour or so just pottering out there, making decisions, etc.  I have made a final decision as to where the rectangular willow planter will go (up by the shed, next to the redlove Auntie May tree): as I said before, the most obvious place for it was already taken by tomatoes (or will be) and I didn't want to put it in any place that I like to put my garden chairs.  It's now a third full of soily stuff from a bag, another bag is waiting to be put in and the last third will be compost from my compost bin.

I have decided, after much dithering and with regret. that the rosemary probably does has to go.  It really is way, way, way too big now and is not only crowding other plants but also blocking the pathway.  I will cut it right back, use some of the chop back to take cuttings, as I did last year most successfully, and then see what happens.  It might look really ugly once it's been chopped, it might die (most likely, knowing my luck) or it might work well and I can keep it there for a few more years.
Talking of herbs , I looked at one of the purple sages and saw that there is a shoot right at the base, so I cut everything else right back and just left that one shoot.  If it works, great, if not, then I will get a new plant.  I also took out the thyme, as it was in a poor state and a replacement is on the shopping list.  I can't manage without my thyme.  And the cold weather has 'killed' my bay again.  After last year's experience, I will wait and see what comes up from the base before making any decisions. 
I was, however, delighted to see that the mint is making an appearance.  I'm not good with mint, usually managing to kill it off, but somehow last year's has survived.  I think that's possibly the first time ever.

I need advice - the snowdrops are spreading mightily and there really were too many for one little bed this year.  They are all dropping mini-bulbs at the moment and my question is can I just pick up these little embryos (for want of a better word) and plant them elsewhere?  Will they come up - does anyone know?   Photo immediately above, a bit out of focus but I mean those green oval thingies.
I'm also going to move some established snowdrop plants.  if I had a grassy bank, I would plant some there and let them run wild, but I don't so I can't! 

I love this bush.  It is unkillable and it brightens up the darkest corner of the garden.  When Bryan first did my garden makeover I splurged on a very big pot, loadsa soil and a little plant that had nice leaves and wasn't a holly although it looked like it.  I didn't want anything poisonous with a little grandson who put everything in his mouth and loved playing in the garden.  For a while it looked perfectly ridiculous, a titchy plant in a huge pot.  When the extension was built and I wasn't living at home during that very hot summer, the poor thing nearly died.  A lot of its leaves fell and it was in a bad way.  We chopped it right back, talked to it nicely and lo and behold, it survived and thrived again.  It takes everything I throw at it, drought, poor soil, shady corner, no pruning and still it looks shiny and happy.  I love it!

Another plant I love, albeit in a somewhat 'horrid fascination' sort of way, is my twisted hazel.  It's weird, really peculiar.  It is in a pot as you can see, again I have nearly killed it several times, it's been cut right back and still it refuses to lie down and give up.  What is has given up on is sending branches up and has one long branch off to the right.  I'm hoping that what I have heard about plants is true - that they find their own balance if you let them - because if it doesn't it will get to the point where it topples off the 'stand' the pot is on!

Also yesterday, I went online and cheated.  I bought seed tape.  Seed tape for early nantes carrots, little gem lettuces and radishes (for the willow planter).  I've never heard of it before and yes, it's much more expensive than packets of seed but looks jolly convenient and the seedlings shouldn't need nearly so much thinning out.  I will let you know how it goes.
I also splurged and bought grafted tomatoes again, for delivery at the end of April.  I did the same last year and they were very successful with no disease whatsoever (although I did suspect blight at one point and sprayed, just in case), but they were late ripening and I suspect that was because I dithered for so long, I only caught the June delivery (they deliver end of April, May and June).  I'm getting them in earlier this year and if they have to stay indoors for a while, well, no problems!  I'm sure I can find space for them!

Well, better get going I suppose.  I need my coffee and I think proper coffee is what is called for.  After all, it is the second day of the holidays!  A bit of spoiling is definitely in order!  And I need it after writing this splurge.  It's as long as a TMA!