Saturday 30 June 2012


Well, Olympic week is over.  The Infants' closing ceremony was good.  Parading round the field waving flags, singing our two Olympic songs, giving out the results of the medal table and dousing the flames (OK, taking the tissue paper out of the cardboard cone, if you want to be totally accurate).  Quite sad, in a way.  I have one abiding memory though.  Although it was sunny, there was a fresh breeze blowing from time to time.  While they were all sitting down in front of me, suddenly a very strong wind blew straight across from left to right and, as if they were puppets on one string, every child lifted up his or her flag to catch the wind which blew the flags straight out.  The look of sheer delight and awe on their faces was unforgettable.  Being the Infant coordinator, I was standing up in front, leading it all, so I caught the full beauty!

When we were looking for songs for this week, we couldn't find very much, but there were one or two ideas that I tossed around, reworded and made to work for us.  I was quite pleased with the last verse of 'It's the Olympic Games' which we sang to the tune of 'Skip to my Lou'.  The children liked it anyway!

We did our best, slow or fast.
Whether we're first or whether we're last.
Young or old, we've had a blast!
It's our Olympic Games!

And now it's the weekend.  I'm up at stupid o'clock because I went to sleep at stupid o'clock yesterday evening.  Well out of it by 7:30, in a chair, upstairs just after eight and straight back to sleep again!  I've had a good night's sleep!!!  Really I have.

Friday 29 June 2012


End of the week again.End of Olympic week too.  It's been good fun one way and another although I will be glad to get back to what passes for normality on Monday.  Yesterday was Australia and in particular Aborigine artefacts.  The children were fascinated and so was I.  J, my co-year 1-teacher, has Australian connections and not only does she know a lot, she also has the artefacts to prove it. 

I had to check the spelling of 'artefact'.  It's one of those words that looks accurate both ways to me.  I now know that in America they spelling with an 'i' and here it's an 'e'.  So that's something learned.

I've just been out to water my tomatoes and, to my great delight, every plant now has baby tomatoes growing.  Nice and early this year - well, earlier than last year anyway.  Last year, as I have whinged far too often, the fruit didn't start ripening until the end of August/beginning of September, which made the eating season quite short.  I'm hoping for better things this season.

As well as that I pulled my first radishes from the little willow planter yesterday and noted that a few of the little gem lettuces are about ready.  I also noticed several dead snails (serves them right) and evidence that a cat has been scrabbling in the soil - all the baby carrots are broken and torn.  Grrr.  So that's me off to the garden centre for some moggy deterrent tomorrow. 

Better get going.  I have a kitchen to tidy and a lunch to make.

Thursday 28 June 2012


Good morning, everyone!  It feels quite a lot fresher than yesterday at the moment, thank goodness, With the front window and the back door, the house feels pleasantly fresh.

When it's our library day I like to take my children out for a ten minute run round before we go there - they need the exercise and library is scheduled when there's afternoon play.  Yesterday, some of my more energetic little boys decided that they would play relay races so they started zooming up and down the playground, tagging each other in a relay sort of way.  When they were puffed out, they all clustered around to chat.

Energetic Little Boy 1:   Mrs Clark, we're training.  We're practising so that when it's the *real* Olympics we can take part!
                                                              (not a clue where they got that idea from)
E L B 2:   I know, let's practise something else.  What else do they do at the Olympics?
E L B 3:   er . . . how about a hopping race?
E L B 1:   Good idea.  Come on . . .

And off they all swarmed to hop madly around the playground leaving me to wonder when hopping became an official Olympic sport!

Wednesday 27 June 2012


Well, the mini-lympics yesterday went like a dream.  It was fine and sunny but not too hot, the children were noisy but well behaved, they ran and raced their socks off and cheered each other on with great gusto.

In the afternoon we looked at Greek buildings (ancient ones, of course) and then used the ends of Dienes rods to create mosaics by printing.  It was certainly different but they seemed to enjoy the discipline very much..  Today it is Spain and Picasso!

In other news, I am being thoroughly spoilt as having visitors means that I come home to find dinner cooked for me.  Very nice too!!!  I could get used to this.

Tuesday 26 June 2012


Well, having declared my indifference to the Olympic games, I have to say that yesterday was quite a nice day.  We had an opening ceremony with a torch relay (the 'flames' kept detaching from the torch, which was fun!), a dance from the dance club and a Mexican wave as the torch ran past - OK, so it didn't run by itself, you know what I meant.

Today, if the weather holds, we have our mini-Olympics.  Some speed races with medal certificates and also some novelty races, just for fun.  And then, if there's time, it is all in the hall to learn a couple of songs.

Fingers crossed for the weather!

Monday 25 June 2012


I have a terrible confession to make.  I'm not particularly interested in the Olympic Games.  Don't get me wrong, there are bits I enjoy - gymnastics, for example - and I will probably get as wound up as anyone else if a British athlete seems to be doing well, but really, honestly, I can't say my life would be any less complete is it was happening elsewhere or even not at all.  Isn't that terrible?

This week is Olympic Week at school.  The idea is to do special stuff.  I'm finding it hard to get all excited about it and I guess I will be the only one.  Ah, well, it's only one week!

Sunday 24 June 2012

Darn it!

Having just boasted about the clivia, I realise I have to hide it away in my bedroom for some days as I have two cats a-visiting with their people.  Clivia is poisonous for cats!  Grrr, the flowers will be going over before I can take it back down again.
Oh, well, it's a good excuse for another photo!

More garden stuff . . .

I was sorting out my bag and found the receipt for the Wyvale shop when I bought one of the tomato plants.  It's called Golden Pear Drop which I think is a lovely name and, contrary to what I told Diane, it is a cherry tomato, not a plum (so it says online anyway).  It just looks like a mini plum tomato!!!

I found this picture online. 
If mine ends up looking half as nice, I will be very satisfied.  At the moment it's very green (well, it would be) but with promising little baby tomatoes and a lot of flowers . . . now we need some sun!

Fingers crossed.

And in other news, after saying I wouldn't be using the arches until next year, I put one together yesterday, just to check how and put it out and it looked so very nice that I have gone a-hunting online and bought a couple of passion fruit plants.  They are both evergreen, which is ideal, both hardy, both like partial shade, one is pink and the other blue so they will go in the garden.  I think I will now definitely use the other arch for runner beans.  After all, runner beans were originally grown as flowering plants, not as a vegetable - I can use it as both! 
The arch kind of changes the focus of the garden.  It gives it a sense of having pathways rather than beds on a patio and it creates some height too.  I rather like it and hope it will last for a few years anyway.  If, after that, it gives up the ghost, I may consider spending rather more on something more substantial.

Sunday photos

The clivia has, once again, proved that it is a toughie among plants.  It has survived my care for yet another year AND flowered.  Last year it flowered twice so fingers crossed . . .

Mini jungle in the garden.

Ladybird, ladybird - please don't fly away.  Hang around and debug.

Saturday 23 June 2012

Saturday and tomatoes

Yesterday was a very busy day, so busy that I didn't have time to feel tired in the afternoon.  Several mini-meetings, lots of minutes and info to type up, some stuff to organise and some stock to order.  I slept well last night!

I had to laugh - poor children.  They were out lunch play when the heavens opened so they all came in, got books and had just settled to reading them when it stopped and they all had to go out again.  Five minutes later it was 'in time', as they call it!  It was just like the hokey cokey - in out, in out!!  I was working at the laptop just outside the bay and caught a few disgruntled comments but chose to ignore them as it was supposed to be my 'break'.  It was like that most of the day - some very pleasant sunshine interspersed with pretty heavy showers.  Flaming June it was NOT - it was quite chilly at times during the day and certainly overnight.  Snuggling down under the quilt was very necessary.

When I got home, round popped Amanda (another witch) with a parcel that had been delivered to her because I was out.  it was the stuff I ordered last week from Greenfingers, so I opened it all with great excitement (sad, I know!).  I'd ordered a scoop (very mundane), a vegetable planter, three tomato support cages and two garden arches.  Half price sale, you see.

The scoop is just what it says - sometimes handfuls of soil out of a bag isn't enough; the scoop is bigger and the shape means less spilling (I hope) and more accurate depositing.   I've got an almost identical one but with holes in, for scooping peas, etc out of boiling water!

The planter was half price and very cheap and I don't know how long it will last but it is basically a strong poly bag with supports - but shallow and a reasonable size.  I'm thinking of lettuce, carrots, etc - things that don't need deep roots.  Maybe tumbling tomatoes but not uprights because the support canes won't go in deep enough.  We will see.  I doubt I will put it up this year anyway. 

Vegetable Planter
The photo has been copied from the Greenfinger site and I'm hoping the plug will make amends for the copying . . .

The garden arches - well, as my regular readers will know, my garden is pretty minimalistic and I have three raised, brick-walled beds with the rest paved.  For a while I have wondered about having an arch between the left bed and the middle one and between the middle and right beds.  All the arches I have seen have not been wide enough.  However, not only do these seem to be wide enough, they were also incredibly cheap (half price) so I got two in the knowledge that if they don't fit or if I don't like the look of them, I can always give them to DD for her allotment, so they certainly won't go to waste.  Again, I will leave it for this year and have a think.  I could either go the practical route and use them for runner beans or I could go all girly and try climbing roses.  As with the planter - not this year now, although I will fit the bits together, just to check that it all works and fits.  I think that will be today's job.

And finally, I bought three tomato cages and I really am pleased with them, so much so that I have just gone back in and bought some more (still half price, phew).  I got them set up straight away and am a bit 'annoyed' with myself because larger pots would have been better.  I didn't know when I potted up the tomatoes, but the lesson has been learnt for next year!  You won't remember but last year I had to create a complicated and not terribly attractive support structure for the tomatoes that involved canes, string and attaching to the wall of the house.  That meant that the pots were stuck there all summer.  These cages look pretty supportive and, with any luck, I can more the whole kit and caboodle into the shady part of the garden when going away.  My only concern is that they might get too top heavy but we will see. In retrospect, I think larger pots would have been sensible but too late now!
The extra ones are because I am expecting some more tomato plants from DS  (if you're reading this - hint, hint).  I have the larger pots.  I have the compost.  I even have the scoop now!  I just need the plants. 

The tomatoes seen to be getting on a lot better than at this time last year, despite the cold weather.  I'm hoping to be able to start picking and eating before the autumn this year.  Fingers crossed.

Friday 22 June 2012


Another week (almost) down, four to go.  We're ready for the break.  Every year, for most of the year, it is easy to forget that overwhelming sense of weariness that hits at about this time.  I'm not completely sure why that should be but I see it in my colleagues' faces and know that mine reflects the same thing back to them.  I wake tired and go downhill from there!

The above sounds like a moan.  It isn't, honestly, it's just saying it how it is.  And I think it is essential to acknowledge it because otherwise all the little niggles would become great big crashes between us and that wouldn't help one bit.

And - most importantly - if the adults are feeling frazzled, the children are probably feeling equally so, if not more.  A little understanding goes a lot way.  Their pace of work has slowed down, their usual joie de vivre has gone walkabout and they are getting nit-picky and snappy when feeling under pressure.  The wise teacher acknowledges this and makes room for it!  And thanks his/her lucky stars that the end is nigh.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Can I do this?

Inspired by Diane, can I upload (is that the right term) a dull and boring video clip shot on my camera?

Hmm - it took for ever but it looks like I can.  Now, will it play?  Publish and try!


When I woke up not all that long ago it was dry.  Dull, but dry.  I know it was because I went out to talk to the tomato plants - er - I mean check that they didn't need watering or anything.  Now it is raining rather hard and with an intensity that indicates it isn't going to stop any time soon.  That's a shame as it's probably put paid to any thoughts of outdoor games this morning, darn it.  Maybe this week has been summer . . .

Tomato in the rain.
This is the nice little tumbler I got from Wyvale last week.  I reckon it has almost doubled in size and already has some titchy littly tomatoes.  It's a golden plum variety which should taste scrummy as well as looking interesting on theplate.

Next week may be autumn but it is also Olympic Week so I'm busy gathering together resources.  The normal timetable goes to pot (apart from sundry unmoveables) and we do other stuff.  It should be fun and we are very much looking forward to it - but it will also signal the end of June.  Time is running as fast as the 100m sprint!

Wednesday 20 June 2012


I love Milly-Molly-Mandy.

Do you know the books?  Very old fashioned they are.  I first read them when I was a little girl and they were olde-worlde even then with Grandpa driving to market in his pony and trap and candles in the bedrooms. 
When I read the story where Little-Friend-Susan came to stay and Mother made lid potatoes, nothing else would satisfy me but for my Mum to make lid potatoes in EXACTLY the same way, with 'a little salt and a little pepper and a lot of butter'!

So what better while we were doing our Long, Long Ago topic than to start reading MMM stories to the children.  It's always a bit of a question mark - all words - 'proper' stories with few pictures, but every year the children rise to the occasion and beg for more.  So we are still reading them at the end of the day; there's a lot of stories to get through.

Today it was the one about when teacher came to stay ('MMM gets to know teacher').  When I got to the bit where teacher shows MMM how to make a row of paper sailor dolls they all looked puzzled so I showed them with a strip of paper and a picture of a teddy (my drawing 'skills' - for want of a more accurate term - are nothing like Joyce Lankester Brisley's!!!) and I wish I could show you their faces as I unfolded the strip after cutting the bear shape out and showed them the little row of bears.  Sheer, unadulterated happiness.

Who says children are too sophisticated nowadays for the simple things?  Not me!
Billy Blunt, Miss Muggin's Jilly, Little-Friend-Susan and Milly-Molly-Mandy herself.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Tuesday evening

Phew.  Finished the phonic screen.  No comments about it because it might get me into trouble!
The house remains a mess but I don't care right now!
It's been a pleasant, warm, sunny day.
No rain!  YAY
It's amazing the difference a tiny wee tablet can make to rampant hay fever.
There's four weeks and three days left - not that I'm counting, you understand.

And . . . AND . . .

THE REPORTS HAVE BEEN HANDED IN (and I was first!  YAY again)
Happy and celebrating.  Cheers.

Monday 18 June 2012


It's raining.
It's chilly.
My hay fever is playing up.
The house is a mess.
The phonic screen (spit, spit) starts today.
There's still five weeks to go before the end of term.

But . . . BUT . . .

I've finished the reports.


(well, OK, they still have to be corrected, signed and the absence figures entered but that's minor!)

Sunday 17 June 2012

Two blogs

I don't normally publicise blogs very much, although I have mentioned a few in my time as a blogger.  However, very recently I have come across two that I feel are worth a specific mention.  They are poles apart in content, style and aim but I think they are both worth visiting.

The first you are very likely to have heard about already.  It's a David and Goliath story and, like the original, David ended up with the power.  It's the NeverSeconds blog, started by a junior school girl as a writing project with her dad and focusing on her school dinners!  It went viral (if you visit it, just watch the counter whizzing round - it is mesmerising), the LEA banned her from taking the photographs on which the blog depends, as a consequence it just went more viral, the LEA caved in after receiving what must have felt like an avalanche of protest and  . . . well, go take a look.  It's been going since the end of April and has (at the time of looking) received around 5.3 million - yes, MILLION - hits  and raised a huge amount of money for Mary's Meals.  I think it is brilliant but I hope the pressure won't get to Martha and spoil her pleasure in writing her blog.
The blog:
Mary's meals:

The second I discovered today after following a friend's link on Facebook.  It is the blog of the famous author, Michael Rosen, and he has some very perceptive comments to make regarding current educational/government stuff which really speaks to my heart and mind.  Very, very different from Martha's blog but, for me, equally interesting.  Given that the Year 1 phonics screen (NOT a test - they say, ha-flippin'-ha) starts tomorrow, I was particularly interested in his comments about it.  Go and look.  It might make you chuckle (I did in a very rueful way), it might make you angry, but I doubt it will leave you untouched.
The blog entry about the phonics screen:
The blog:


There was I, yesterday late afternoon, windows open, enjoying the fresh air (it was none too warm but that was OK, what are cardigans for?) when the wind started to blow ferociously and the vertical blinds started to rattle.  Suddenly it was feeling very cold and I got all shivery.  The windows were closed and I went to check the heating to find that it had clicked on.  In the middle of June!!!  Crazy weather!  It was so chilly I went up to get a quilt and snuggled under that until the house warmed up a bit.  Brrrr . . .

On other news, I saw, in Morrison's, a likely looking portion of pork ribs, not too expensive and with at least some meat on them.  So on Friday evening I concocted a sticky mix of honey, lemon, garlic, mustard, chili, tomato puree, smoked paprika, a pinch of five spice, salt, pepper, soy sauce and Worcester sauce.  Oh, and a spoonful of mango chutney.  In other words, whatever I could lay my hands on!  I gently roasted the ribs under foil until they were done, then removed the foil,  turned the heat right up, poured over the sauce and cooked them until the sauce was all gooey and sticky.  And very tasty it was too!

Saturday 16 June 2012

In memory.

At Grandad's magic castle by the sea.

Holiday! The smell of sheep and sea
And sun cream. Patient Skipperdog to pat,
A vegetable garden on the table mat,
I buzzed around, a happy bumblebee.

An upside down house; stairs and stairs and stairs,
Of secret rooms and ceilings in the sky.
Grandad singing cheerful lullabies,
Donating coins to infant millionaires.

And from my treehouse attic room I’d dream
Of morning time, and Grandad calling down,
We’d navigate the steepness to the town,
For buckets, windmills, hats and soft ice cream.

A world away, but fresh in memory
At Grandad’s magic castle by the sea.

(reproduced by permission of the author, DD.  Please ask for permission if you wish to copy it)

Rest in peace, Devon Grandad

Friday 15 June 2012

Friday evening

Just a little extra to make up for being late yesterday. I remembered to take photos of our versions of Concentric Circles and here they are.

(fanfare of trumpets)

Not bad for littlies, are they?  Mind you, they remind me of nothing so much as Kaa's eyes in the Jungle Book.  Remember?

Trust in me, just in me
Shut your eyes and trust in me
You can sleep safe and sound
Knowing I am around

Slip into silent slumber
Sail on a silver mist
Slowly and surely your senses
Will cease to resist

Trust in me, just in me
Shut your eyes and trust in me

Friday morning

It looks as if the wet weather is back!  Yesterday evening it all clouded over and there has obviously been rain overnight.  I hope it hasn't been too bad elsewhere - the forecast was not good last time I looked.

Walking of weather, we now have a weather chart in the classroom.  Having decided that snow didn't need to be an option, it will revert to winter again - just wait and see!  I stayed late at school to get it up, also our versions of Kandinsky's Concentric Circles.  Any infant teacher worth her salt knows Concentric Circles.  It's just right for littlies and earlier this week we used Dazzle to create a concentric circle picture each, which have been combined together to make our own versions of the original.  I have to say it does brighten up a dark corner no end!  I'll try and remember to take a photo today, if the camera battery charges up in time for school.
The original (obviously).  Super colours!
I'd love to see the original in the flesh, so to speak.  I remember when DD was doing A level art and did a project on Marc, she and I pootled off to Munich for several days to have look at some of the originals.  They were breathtaking.  A photo, however well done, simply does not convey the power and impact of the originals.  They were lovely.
Very different to the above but, oh, how I love it! Not a very critical comment, I know - but I know nothing about art!

The spring blossom pictures have more or less all come down now - well it's not supposed to be spring in a few days' time - and there's space for another art project.  It will probably be something in the style of Mondrian but I'm not entirely sure of the medium yet.  There's several options and I don't have to choose yet!!

Thursday 14 June 2012

Thursday evening

Better late than never, as they say.  

A few amusing snippets (I find them amusing anyway).  Children talking about God:
God moves at the speed of light and we move at normal speed which is why we can't see God but he can see us!  (clever reasoning for a littly)
Child 1:  God can hear everything that we say all the time.
Boy 2:  Cooo - he's got VERY big ears then!!!

I love children!

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Wednesday morning

The sun is shining.  No rain!  At the moment it's gorgeous outside.  I wonder if it will stay like that!  All day?  That would be great.

We did get our field walk yesterday.  It dried up a bit after play so we stayed out and jolly interesting it was too, especially in the garden club area.  There was loads to see and loads to learn.  Well worth getting slightly damp.

Google maps and Google Earth are brilliant resources for an infant teacher.  Starting with the whole world in space, identifying continents (some are getting really good at this) and then gradually zooming in until we are over the school - well, they found it awesome!  Literally awesome.  And then plotting where we walked, the areas we looked at and togther producing a map - Google is such a help.  It literally opens up the world!  Now they want to zoom in on other places too, including where they went/will be going on holiday, where granny lives, places we have talked about (e.g. the Himalayas) and so on.  And I don't see why not!  It's not in the planning but they are excited and interested and that's worth its weight in gold!

Good for Google!

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Tuesday morning

Did you notice my (cough) deliberate mistake yesterday?  :0)

Despite it being very wet yesterday, we managed to get playtimes in, thank goodness.  Even afternoon play, which was cut a bit short, so they got a bit of fresh air and a run around. 

And it's not promising for this morning either.  It doesn't appear to actually be raining right now, but it is windy and overcast and . . . and . . . the rest of the week's literacy depends on us being able to get out for a 'field walk' this morning.   I've had to think around this so that, if necessary, it just involves a quick jog out and back in again!  It all the years I have done this particular bit of Geography/science, I can't ever remember it being rained off so fingers crossed this isn't the first time.

Right - on with the reports!!!

Monday 11 June 2012

Monday morning

Guess what!  It's raining - what a surprise!  A wonderful start to the second half of the so-called summer term!  Yesterday morning was so lovely but it didn't last beyond early evening.  I'm going to be grateful and agree that as the experts tell us we still need a lot more rain, it has to be a good thing.  I doubt those caught up in the floods in Wales will agree with me though.

Yesterday was a day of paperwork.  I had a few breaks - I find I cannot keep going as I used to be able to.  After a while my brain gives up and I find myself writing total rubbish which is a sign for a break!  I had intended to do a bit of refreshing gardening in the evening.  On Saturday I went to Wyvale and found dahlias at three for a tenner.  I like dahlias and these were very pretty shades of pink and just right to fit in a space in my middle bed where the bulbs are now dying back.  So I dug some whitebells up, cleared away some leaves and made a nice space.  Ah, well, it won't go away and at least the ground will be well soaked when I do get round to planting them.  I also found some trailing geraniums which will soften the bricks around the beds and a yellow tomato which looks as if it is a tumbling variety from the way it is growing.  I think I will treat it as a tumbler and place it on a few blocks to raise it up - or no, I know, I will plant it in a big pot (for watering) and put the pot in one of my raised planters.  It will make a nice display as well as being useful!

The vegetables in the willow planter are growing like fury and I have had some radishes.  The mini gem lettuces are thickening out nicely and the carrots are also sending up nice green growth.  But, if you remember, I was trying seed tape.  Never again.  Given that some of the seeds didn't germinate, it has made for very sparse lines of shoots and the most recent rows I sowed have been sprinkled seed, not from the tape.  You live and learn!  The other thing I have now done is planted some salad leaves seeds in another pot, so in three weeks or so I should be starting to harvest them (given some warm sun).

And today.  Back to school.  It will be lovely to see the children again and I can hardly believe that the school year will be over in six months!  Amazing!!!

Sunday 10 June 2012

Sunday morning . . .

. . . and all is calm and bright here.  The sun is shining, the wind has dropped (for a time, anyway) and it is a glorious early June morning, a bit nippy but it will warm up soon.  So it's a huge shame that I have to stay in and do paperwork stuff - but I do, so no grumbles, just get on with it!

Yesterday was a pleasant day.  I had to go into town first thing so I took the opportunity to have a wee stroll around and went into some of my favourite shops including, of course, Lakeland, where I stocked up on some easy-leave, as I had run out, plus a few other bits and bobs.  I also meandered around M&S food hall and picked up two packs of chicken and one of fish goujons for a tenner.  I used the chicken to make a curry with that left over mixture from the Jubilee party, so that's all sorted and there's a few more meals in the freezer now.  The fish will either provide me with one or two dinners, depending on how hungry I am and what I intend to have with them.  I also bought a new handbag in Bhs because my old one, which is not so old really, had started going where the handle meets the bag.  I suppose it was my fault - it was extremely cheap in the first place.  This one was not so cheap and should last longer. 

Today?  Well, it's work, work, work and quite right too.

Saturday 9 June 2012

Saturday morning

I had to check to see what day it was before writing the title.  That's half terms for you, isn't it?

There's not an awful lot to write about today really.  Yesterday just happened, came and went, nothing exciting.  I did use up the rest of the barbecue sausages (just in time) by taking off the skins, breaking each sausage into four bits and rolling each into a ball in flour.  I then browned them in oil, removed them from the pan and made a sauce with onion, carrot, celery and red and green peppers chopped very fine and softened in the remaining oil, then cooked with chopped tomatoes with herbs, a good sloosh of red wine and some tomato puree.  Then back in went the sausage balls and it all simmered away for about 20-30 minutes (I wasn't timing it).  I ended up with three portions and one meatball to eat there and then and it was tasty!

A friend asked about the apricot muffins.  They were just made with a bog-standard plain muffin recipe and, as I seem to be out of sultanas, etc, I added some chopped  ready to eat apricots instead.  I chopped a load for the coronation chicken last Sunday but didn't need all of it so this was a good way to use it up.  Nothing special or complicated but tasty - and it took longer for the oven to heat up than it did to mix up the batter!
As is always the way, I then had muffins to use up!!  I gave four to my friends before they left, to take with them and then used another two as a base for some individual trifles I felt 'inspired' to make.  They worked jolly well in that role, something I will remember for the future.

The other thing I have left over in the fridge is a mixture of curry paste (korma) and mango chutney, also left over from the coronation chicken.  I wonder if I will get around to using that up. 

Today I woke to blue skies with clouds chasing each other across and an emerging sun.  How lovely - here's hoping it will last through the day.  I hope none of my readers have suffered any damage from either wind or rain. 

Friday 8 June 2012

Friday morning

. . . and it is still chucking it down, blowing up a blast and generally behaving more like March than June.  It was a very pleasant evening yesterday and I was hoping it might have continued on into today but no!

My guests pottered off to Oaklands Museum (or, more accurately, Chelmsford Museums at Oaklands Park) and came back a while later to say it was very good but crowded with children on some sort of holiday scheme so they didn't stay as long as they expected.  Definitely one to go back to though, so I'm glad their time was not completely wasted.

In the evening we went out for a meal.  As my friend, Julie, and I have been to the Hare at Roxwell a few times for lunch and have enjoyed it, I decided to take my friends there.  There's a bit of family history with the Hare: in the olden days (i.e. when the children were young), my son was friendly with the son of the people who ran it when it was called the Hare and Hounds and he played round there quite a lot one summer.  Later, as older teenagers, both worked there at weekends.  One of my cul de sac neighbours was actually managing the pub at the time and remembers them (such a small world, isn't it?).

Anyhow, in we went and sat down.  When the lady (we suspect the manager) came up she explained that they had introduced a 'small plate' menu.  So many people were so apologetic they they had not finished their regular plateful that she had introduced this as an experiment with a limited range of dishes which she intended to expand on should it prove a success.  Well, this was right up our street and we said so.  The number of times we have asked for 'a small portion, please' when we're eaten out, only to be brought a huge plate 'filled up and running over'.  Sometimes we've had our fill and it looks as if we have eaten nothing at all.  Such a shocking waste which rather spoils the evening for us, being reasonable frugal mortals!

There were two starters, five mains, desserts were the same as the main menu, and a list of drinks, so yes, a restricted choice, but we were pleased with our choices, the food (as always) was very tasty, piping hot, properly cooked and there was just enough for us to feel pleasantly satisfied but not uncomfortable.  They don't do adventurous cooking, it's good, 'plain' pub fare.  We went for the fish goujons with 'hand cut chipos' (bit affected, that) and peas or steak with oven roasted tomatoes and new potatoes.  Joy of joys, they had strawberries and cream as a dessert choice so we all went for that. 

I know some people expect to get absolutely stuffed when they eat out but none of us like the over full feeling at all, so this meal was a delight.  And, looking around discreetly, out of the eight tables that were in use, four had people eating from small plates, so I very much hope they will feel that it is worth keeping and expanding.  Such a good idea!

So if you live around Chelmsford and like pub food, served pleasantly, piping hot and tasty and not too much of it, do give the Hare a try.  It's out on the Roxwell road, immediately after the first turning to Roxwell - you can't miss it.  We will definitely be going back there, sooner rather than later, I hope. 

I ought to add that I haven't been asked to write this by the Hare management, they don't know that I am doing a little review on my blog and I have received no recompense of any kind for it.

Thursday 7 June 2012

Thursday later on

The sun came out, would you believe.  After breakfast we went into town where my visitors raided out local M&S and managed to get whet they had been looking for without success in their own local store.  However, they decided that they wouldn't risk Hyde Hall so I cobbled together a lunch of home made tomato and lentil soup followed by apricot muffins and very nice they were too and as we were eating the rain started.  it hasn't stopped since.
However, my guests had a second plan and that was to visit Oaklands Museum, so that's where they are right now, hopefully enjoying it.  It's been a very long time since I went to Oaklands so I'm looking forward to hearing what they think of it.
And tonight we're going out for dinner - yay!!!

Thursday - and savoury mince

Here we are, more than half way through half term.  At the moment it's not raining but the forecast is dire and I doubt my friends will be able to do what they planned which is a visit to Hyde Hall.  You need dry weather for that really.  Sun can be optional, dry really isn't!

We managed to get into town yesterday afternoon in between showers, and now DG has most of his new school uniform.  Big changes and he looked so smart and adult!!!

The lasagne went down a real treat and I thought I'd post what passes for my recipe for the savoury mince that forms the basis of it.
You need some flavoursome mince (I used mixed beef and pork but you can use any kind really).  Also some chopped onion and chopped any or all of the following (depending on what you have in the house):  carrot, peppers, mushrooms (I use chestnut which don't go slimy and sloppy), sweet potato, celery, sweet corn, peas - oh, just about anything in the vegetable line really.  If you like it, in it can go.  Then I also use red lentils and oats which give flavour and texture/thickening.  The liquids are canned chopped tomatoes and/or passata, wine (red or white) and stock to match the meat and water.  Oh, and tomato puree.  Flavourings can be what you fancy but I usually use garlic puree, chilli puree, some soy sauce and some lea and perrins.  Herbs are bay, thyme and whatever else you fancy.
It sounds complicated but it isn't, it's just whatever is available and is certainly NOT in any way authentic Italian.  Authentic Clark, more like, but very tasty all the same..

Soften the veg that needs it in some oil.  Remove from the pan (I use my nice hob to oven pan) and fry the mince until browned all over, adding the garlic and chili and whatever else. 
Then add the softened veg and stir well.
Add the liquids, the remaining veg, the lentils and oats, any other seasonings and some salt and pepper.  Stir well.  Bring up to a simmer and then either simmer on the hob for ages or ditto in the oven, checking and stirring now and again.  Towards the end, add the tomato puree, adjust seasonings and add more water/stock, if the mixture is thick.  I prefer a more sloppy mixture for lasagne as the pasta soaks some liquid up and it can get quite dry otherwise.  Then use for whatever, it is very flexible.  I've used it for savoury crumble, cottage pie, pot pie, on pasta, on its own with mash and more veg, lasagne, of course, in a sort of hot 'pasty', etc.  It freezes well.

Actually, there are so many variables it's not so much a recipe, more a state of mind .

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Wednesday morning

It was nice to be greeted by the sun this morning after so many damp and dismal days.  I'm sure it won't last all day - it keeps clouding over and it feels extremely humid, but even so, it's a very cheering sight.

Yesterday was a busy day and this morning looks to be even busier.  I have some friends coming to stay for a few days so need to get things sorted and ready (and do a bit of a clean up).  Last time I went shopping I saw that Morrisons has some fairly cheap mixed beef and pork mince that really didn't look all that bad, so I got some, thinking that it could be very tasty, and made a tomato-ey savoury mince with it.  I was right, it really isn't bad at all and already a lasagne for tonight has been prepared and cooked, ready for a re-heating when it is needed.  I did a huge one despite it only being for three because I want to freeze some for school lunches.  Now we have our new staffroom with a proper table and chairs, it is a positive pleasure and a very sociable experience to sit around the table and eat lunch and many of us are now bring in 'leftovers' to reheat in the microwave.  I am therefore hoping there will be at least three portions left over to pop into carefully kept plastic takeaway containers, cover and freezer and then lift out the morning it is required for a tasty lunch.  As well as that, there were two portions of savoury mince left over too and they will follow the same path (to have with pasta or rice). 

This afternoon we hope to go shopping although how much we do really does depend on the weather (which has gone all cloudy again).  We will see!

The garden is growing very fast, looking extremely lush and green although, unfortunately, the weeds are also taking advantage of the warm humidity and will need George's firm hand on Saturday.  We cancelled last week because of the weather and boy, can't you tell!!!!

Well, sitting here won't get the living room tidied up so I'd better go.  Have a good day.

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Tuesday - pictures of Sunday

The decorations started going up

The bouncy castle arrived - and was tested.

The cinema opened.

It all started looking very bright and cheerful.

The food appeared . . .

and disappeared..

Who needs the philharmonic?

And all the while the wind blew

and the rain fell.
And we all had a great time!

Monday 4 June 2012

Bank Holiday Monday morning

I don't think it has stopped raining all night!  The ground is absolutely soaked, the wind is almost howling and it does feel unseasonably cold, but let's be grateful for the large amounts of rain, given the official drought and hosepipe ban that still exists almost everywhere (but not here, surprisingly enough).

Yesterday was grand.  I haven't processed the photos yet but will post a few when I have.  We had a lot of fun and there was a feeling of 'triumph over adversity' which fitted well with the reason for the celebration.  OK, so rain - hardly a danger, but even so . . .  :0)))  I flaked out early (typical) and came in so I am extremely grateful to DD who went out and did my share of the clearing up at the end before she and DG went home.  Looking out now, there's just a few tables, the gazebos and the bunting, flags and balloons to clear away.  Even the ground has been swept and cleared of residual rubbish.  Well done, fellow witches!

(edited an hour and a half later:  in the cold light of day the ground wasn't so spick and span as I thought, but it is now.  I feel I've done my bit towards the clearing up now rather than being a slacker!)

Well, I have a few portions of coronation chicken left over.  I shall have some on lettuce in a salad, as convention states, and the rest could be zizzed into a dip.  I think it would be nice with hot toast and quite warming too.  As the evening barbecue was a bit of a washout, I have rather a lot of sausages and burgers that need either cooking and eating or freezing (they were not frozen previously, thank goodness,  Given that I bought some mince to make lasagne, I think that's me set up for meat for the next week or so.  I quite fancy a sausage meatball casserole!  Must make sure my stocks of chopped tomatoes are high enough!

Apart from sorting out the aftermath of yesterday and a bit of tidying, I intend to do not a lot else today.  Resting, relaxing, sleeping, knitting, watching rubbish TV . . . sounds good right now.

This is actually a photo of a paper plate.  I, always the teacher, looked at it and thought 'useful background picture for a display or display lettering here' and promptly snapped it!  It hasn't been edited so what you see . . . etc.

Sunday 3 June 2012

Sunday around midday-ish

Well, we're pushing on through despite the dampness.  The rain has stopped (fingers crossed) and people are starting to arrive.  Sadly, the other celebration (a picnic on the field) has been cancelled:  We started organising ours before we knew about the alternative and we had booked the bouncy castle, etc, so we couldn't join in with them.
The coronation chicken vol au vents are made, as are the cheese biscuits.  The drink is chilling and the crisps are ready.  Bring it on!

I remember the Silver Jubilee.  We'd not all that long moved into our first house.  A teaching friend who lived along the same road got me involved with the planning 'committee' and a very good time was had by all.  Mind you, given that it was for a whole street, there was a lot more organising including games for the children, a buffet and a disco/barbecue in the evening.  The weather stayed fine and it was a great way to get to know a lot of people very quickly.  I didn't have children at the time and husband was on duty at the hospital so it could have been a lonely day but wasn't!  Fond memories.


It's raining.  Oh, what a shame.  I rather hoped the weather forcasters had got it wrong.  Why is it that they only seem to get it wrong when the predict really good weather or snow.  When it's the boring wet stuff they are usually spot on.  Ah, well!!!  Better get on with the vol au vent cases!!!

Saturday 2 June 2012

Saturday evening

Oh dear, oh dear, I did get my days muddled this morning, didn't I?  See, although it said Saturday, subconsciously I thought it was Sunday because I wasn't in school yesterday.  That's my excuse anyway.

So the Queen has her river parade tomorrow and what a shame because today the afternoon turned out pleasantly sunny while tomorrow looks as if it's going to be absolutely dire.  Nice cul de sac neighbours have been clearing their garages for the food to go in, gazebos have been bought (I gather we got the last two on sale in Argos) and bunting is going up.  The witches of Pickwick (and their other halves) can put on a great show.

I have been making the filling for the Coronation Chicken vol au vents.  The chicken breasts have poached in a mixture of chicken stock, garam masala, a stick of cinnamon and sundry other flavourings and is now cooked, chopped and in the fridge.  The liquor it poached in is being reduced because I bet it will make a great base for a chicken curry.  The curry paste has been made.  The home made mayo is ready.  The Greek yogurt is bought.  The vol au vent cases are in the freezer.  It's all go!!!
And any left-over mixture will make a nice dip, zizzed down a bit!  Can't lose, can we?  Rain or no rain, bring it on!

Saturday morning

Well, here we are at the start of the Jubilee weekend and it's classic Bank Holiday weather.  Raining and chilly.  Poor old Queen, having to sit on a boat and sail down (or is it up) the Thames this afternoon.  If the weather stays like this it isn't going to be a whole bundle of fun for her, or for any taking part in the parade.  It was such a lovely idea too, making a very welcome change from the usual street parade.

And us?  Well, we are carrying on with our cul de sac party tomorrow, although the forecasted weather is even less promising that today's.  We're gathering together gazebos, big umbrellas and hoping.  If the wind gets up, even that will be problematic.  But we're British.  We carry on!  :0)

Today is going to be a busy day.  In a short while I will be having my bath and getting off to Sainsburys to do shopping enough for a long weekend.  After that it's making the coronation chicken and sundry other foody things and then tidying up and generally making ready.

Better get going then!

Nice bright photos to counter balance the dreary weather - some views of my classroom last week!

Friday 1 June 2012

Friday evening

Report writing day is over.  I refuse to say how many reports I have written as I don't wish to incriminate myself, but this evening I took a trip with DD and DG to B&Q so that DD could order her new kitchen.  And I have to say, it was a very, very enjoyable experience, much to my surprise.

DD has planned and saved and saved and planned for a long time for this kitchen.  She's drawn up plans, discarded them, revised them, altered them and generally, within the restrictions of her budget and the room layout (small and awkward), made sure she has got just what she wants.

So off we went this evening.  B&Q closes at nine so we left plenty of time - a good two hours.  Such a shame about the traffic around the Army and Navy roundabout . . .
DD knew exactly what she wanted so it was just a case of talking to someone helpful and getting it all sorted with all those additional extras that one never remembers at the time.  The place was practically empty so, after confirming the sink she wanted, we grabbed a very pleasant and helpful assistant who sat down with us and got started.

Well, I never realised it was so complicated!!  Nice lady took DG off so that he could choose the taps he wanted (DD said he could choose, brave girl), two very pleasant ladies got the order all sorted out, managed to find a discount that took a huge amount off the final bill (DD was SO pleased), threw in a free ceramic hob and generally made the whole experience an absolute pleasure with plenty of laughs and jokey asides.  I am convinced that DG's quirky charms won the two ladies over very quickly.  After a while DG decided he wanted to practise being independent in large shops (he is autistic, remember) so off he wandered, back he came, off he wandered . . . he coped brilliantly.
And while he was doing that, everything was programmed into the computer which spat out a very realistic mock up of what it would look like - more or less.  It took some time but the print out was well worth having.

Two hours later, after the store had closed, the whole deal was finally done.  The bill was paid and we were escorted out through a side entrance, tired but happy and excited.  It's going to look jolly good, I think.  And finally DD will have a dishwasher.  Yay!!!

And we couldn't fault the B&Q service.  Obviously, evenings are a good time to go.  I will remember that for the future!

Friday morning

Oh, the joys of the internet and the WWW.

Yesterday, my children were most indignant.  They didn't get to sing Rule Britannia and (which I suspect was the real attraction) wave their flags about madly in the chorus.  Never mind that they did a whole load of other flag waving, it wasn't R B.  So when we got back into the bay I went into youtube and found several clips of the Last Night of the Proms, selected a Rule Britannia and off we went.  My, they did enjoy themselves!  The soloist was jolly good and the children listened attentively to her singing the verses before letting rip!

And so Jubilee Week is over!  The next 'special' is Olympic Week at the end of June.  Should be a whole bundle of fun!