Friday 31 August 2012

Friday morning

Last day of the last week of the summer holidays today and the last day of the month as well.  On Monday it'll all be back on the road again (apart from the children - they come back on Tuesday).  I'm getting there with the classroom.  Displays are up, books are out, various rotas are done, order is returning.
My cupboards are dreadfully untidy, too bad to tackle all at once so I have another resolution - to sort one thing out each week.  It could be more than one thing, of course, but not less.  A big thing or a little thing, no matter, as long as it gets sorted.
So today it is things like (checking list) labels on books, sorting out the hymn rota for this half term, tidying and sorting the constructional and other equipment, sorting out a stack of videos someone gave me and tackling my shelves.  Better take some dusters with me!
So I'm nearly there.  With any luck I won't need to go in tomorrow and will be able to come home fairly early on Monday!

I am very pleased to report that the cassoulet I made yesterday was fantabulous.  Absolutely delicious and I could have happily eaten a lot more but was full up.  It's very substantial, containing as it does sausage, chicken, gammon, butter beans and cannelloni beans.  I also added a bit of chorizo (because I had some and love the flavour) and some courgette to the other vegetables and next time I will also add some red pepper to the mix.  It wouldn't all fit into my slow cooker which, admittedly, is small-ish so I took off some of the liquid and added it in the final stage.  There's three stages, the last of which is a simmer up back on the hob after adding the pulses, so it worked fine.
It was definitely rather heavy on the pots and pans, but I would do it all in the same pan if I was going to be at home, which would make a big difference to the resulting detritus.  And really, to be fair, I only noticed the impact because I don't put my non stick pans in the dishwasher!

Now I have to decide about today.  I've dug out an old recipe (from Slimming World, I think) which I remember as extremely delicious and dead easy, called 'Best Ever Chicken Balti' and am thinking about it.  Or I could ring the changes with some salmon baked in a foil parcel - I have broccoli to use up and could roast up some onion, pepper and mushroom or could have a salad with it.  Or I could have another portion of cassoulet - there are five more portions waiting to be frozen this morning.  Oh, I dunno!  Decisions, decisions!!

And I see that a few more recipes from the book have been posted up on the internet.  It'll help pass the time until the book arrives.

Better go and make brekkie and lunch or the day will have gone before I realise it!  Have a good 'un!

A nice, peaceful view from the gardens at Hyde Hall, taken last September.

Thursday 30 August 2012

Thursday morning

An old photo because my camera is out of commission at the moment - very frustrating!
I am very pleased to announce that I actually did make it into school yesterday.  Not early, I admit, but I got there before the person I was meeting up with.  As I think I have said, the other Y1 teacher last year, J, will be retiring at Christmas so she doesn't have a class this year.  My new colleague, Andrea, has covered my class for SEN day over the past two years so I know her well and we get on well.  I first met her when we both played in the church band.  She is a brilliant musician and a very lovely lady.  We agreed that I would rough out planning for the first week (OK, the first four days) and when we have our PPA on Wednesday we go over all sorts of stuff together, including ongoing planning.
I got the boards backed, some display starters up, the lettering printed off and laminated, the afternoon playground rota written (and fingers crossed no-one throws a spanner in the works) and, of course, the List Of Things To Do written.
Today will be just as busy, but I will get there . . .

Food wise, I did the sweet and sour and oh, my goodness, it was good.  It was more filling because I decided to cut the rice completely and added broccoli and mushroom to the mix (because I like them).  It was totally scrummy but I will change just one thing - I will add the cornflour mixture right at the end rather than when the sauce is added.  Apart from that - well, it was better than any sweet and sour I have had from our local take aways, that's for sure.
So what with korma and sweet and sour maybe this once a month takeaway won't happen so often.  Why pay loadsa money when you can make better yourself?

Today I have to make a choice.  I could make another skinny pie, I could go off-Biker and do baked salmon or I could have cassoulet (yes, another bikers adapted recipe.  I have to make the cassoulet today because of the meat being used (oh, the hardship!!!) and it seems silly to cook something else when there will be a hot dish waiting and ready when I come home, so I guess cassoulet it is!

Here's the recipe.  The only thing I haven't got is the red wine because if I bought it earlier I might have drunk it all!!  And before you gasp in shock, 'all' means one of those little single glass bottles, so there!!  I don't need it until later in the recipe, so I can start off, whizz down to Morrisons when it opens, then get the rest done.  And I am hoping that it will fit into my slow cooker so I can just leave it to simmer away gently all day, filling the house with scrummy smells!   Mmmmmm.

After the korma success I decided that I would like to make some more spicy recipes on a more regular basis so I dug out an old Slimming World book, Curry Feast.  It has some jolly good recipes in it but I have one niggle.  A lot of the recipes call for 1/4 teaspoonful of 'artificial sweetener'.  Why?  Not why the sweetness, why the 'artificial'.  That is taking shaving off the calories to a ridiculous degree.  1/4 of a tsp of sugar is negligable when divided among 4 people.  Even if you need to add more (and I must check to see if it tells you what kind of sweetener, the equivalent volume or the much sweeter kind) the effects will be negligable.  I don't get on with artificial sweetners - they leave a nasty taste in my mouth.  Fortunately, it is something easily remedied.

Right - better stop waffling about food and get on with the Golden Time frogs!  And the tray labels and the peg labels and the name badges and . . .

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Wednesday morning

Well, after a day when I failed to actually end up at school at all (yes, you read that correctly) I have to today as I'm meeting my colleague to plan for next week.  I'm guessing she's as reluctant as I am because she's set the time for 11:00, after going to a friend's for coffee!!  What happened yesterday - well . . . er . . . I went food shopping and then . . . er . . . well, you know.   Yes, you do!

On a more optimistic note, that chicken korma recipe was the tops.  It was totally delicious.  I was somewhat dubious at first but I was wrong.  OK, I did change it slightly.  I didn't have rice with it and I added yogurt instead of that bit of cream at the end, because I preferred it that way.  I found I didn't have any saffron (thought I did) so I had to add that later.  Also, very, very un-ethnically, I added some peas and broad beans to the mix at the end: oh,. and two chopped apricots.  And you know what - it was absolutely delicious.  I made the sauce in the morning and added the rest just before eating and, as I'd cut the recipe down to half, I have another portion waiting for another day.  I wish I'd made the full amount now, but there you go; if I'd hated it, there would have been more waste.

For dessert I tried the breakfast fruit trick also on the H D programme - that of gently heating soft fruit in a non stick pan with a little mixed spice before serving with yogurt.  I also added just a tiny drizzle of maple syrup and it was really wonderful.  So this morning I am doing the same but with added plums and on a couple of toasted crumpets.  Now, crumpets to me speak of cold winter evenings sitting round the fire with butter oozing down your chin from where it has leaked through the holes of the toasted crumpet, so it will be interesting to see how they taste with spicy fruit, yogurt and honey.  Hopefully, delicious.
(Edited later to say yes it was, yum yum yum, won't be long before I do that again!)

And as for today.  Yes, into school although I really, really don't want to.  Into school to plan and prepare the bay for next Tuesday.  Sigh!

On a happier note, I'm trying the sweet and sour chicken tonight.  After the success of the korma, I have high hopes.  And I will perhaps have just a little rice, we will see.  It depends how veg packed the sweet and sour looks.  I bought some chicken thighs yesterday, for the sweet and sour and also for the cassoulet, which I want to make on Friday.  The s&s asks for chicken breast, but I reckon thigh has a better flavour and it's just as quick and easy to cook.  I'd better go into the kitchen and de-skin and de-bone it and mix up the sauce so it's all ready when I get home, whenever that will be.

Both this and the korma recipe have a dauntingly long list of ingredients at first glance.  I'm a girl who favours the 'five ingredients' type of cooking!  However, when you look more carefully, most of what they ask for is cupboard stuff - herbs, spices, condiments . . . and I have most of that already, so these recipes are not worryingly expensive either.

You can find the sweet and sour recipe here

Tuesday 28 August 2012


I have no idea if it's going to help, posting these in here, but I guess it can't hurt.  And any 'real life' friends who find their way here and read can jolly well keep me on track.  Please . . .

1.    Eat well.  'Proper' meals, mostly home cooked from fresh, low fat, calorie aware but not neurotic.  Vary tastes and textures to prevent boredom.  Don't get faddy!!!

2.  Weigh once a month and put the scales away between times.  First of the month seems a memorable time.

3.  Take away and wine once a month only.  They're nice but a waste of time and money really.

4.  Use the Wii step while watching telly.  Five minutes at a time for now.

Well, I've got to do something.  Fingers crossed (and mouth closed!)  :0)

Tuesday - and the holiday is over . . .

. . . in practicality, that is.  On the school web site it shows as going on until Friday and it also shows that the children come back on Tuesday.  But, practically speaking, this is it.  It's into school this morning, to try to make sense of the considerable mess I left at the end of last term.  No, that's really not fair, I didn't leave a mess, of course, I didn't, but there were things there was little point in doing because it would be better to wait until after the cleaners had, as usual, been wonderful!  By then I was well into the holiday and then it was Streele Farm and now - now - it's all caught up.

As always, I will walk into my bay, sigh, open the windows to get in some fresh air, raining or not, and then start a list.  For half an hour I will walk round, noting everything that's going to need doing, organising and prioritising. 
And then I start!

A considerable part of today will be getting the stickiness off their trays.  Last year's labels - no, the labels from the year before - didn't come off all that well and, because I was short on time, I made and laminated new labels and just blu-tacked them over.  Today it's the pay-back and I've bought a bottle of Sticky Stuff Remover (yes, that's what it is called) from Lakeland.  Wonderful stuff!

To report on the skinny pie:  yes, it was pretty good.  It wasn't *real* pastry, of course, it couldn't be, but it held its shape, came out of the foil dish easily (I was worried about that without any oil around the dish), it looked right and the filling was really scrummy.  Deeply savoury and spicy but with a hint of sweetness from the ketchup and brown sauce and very satisfying.  Definitely one to do again - well, I have to as I have five little pots of pie filling to freeze!  With it I had a carrot pulled from the garden (is there ever anything that tastes quite as good as a garden carrot?) and some broccoli.  I have this lovely steamer pot, acquired molto cheapo from Matalan.  It's not huge as many steamer pans are but it's not tiny either and I often use it to gook all my vegetables using just the one ring.  Today it was carrots in the water and broccoli on one of  the steamer sections.  After some serious efforts I have become accustomed to eating my veg without any salt, either in the cooking or the eating, and I think I prefer them that way now, so steaming is ideal.
Anyway, it was a delicious meal.  And I need to start taking photos!

Today it has to be something that won't take long when I get home so I'm having a go at the Korma-lite (that's what the Hairy Bikers called it!) because I can make the sauce this morning, set the chicken to marinade and then basically just heat it up this evening and simmer to cook the chicken bits, which won't take long at all.  I'm intrigued - korma without almonds or coconut milk or cream?  Well, actually, I lie - you do put a tiny bit of cream in right at the end.  I like korma, but I like the deeply savoury ones, not the ones you buy in the supermarket or even from takeaways which are becoming increasingly sweet and sickly.  So - there's half a teaspoon of caster sugar per portion in this recipe and we will see . . .
Here is the recipe.

I wanted a photo to lighten things up a bit so here's an old one from Streele Farm, as this year's efforts are still on the laptop.

Monday 27 August 2012

Monday morning - bank holiday

Goodness, I did eat well yesterday!  After some considerable dithering, I had one of the courgette muffins for breakfast.   I'm used to muffin batter being pretty sloppy so I was surprised when it mixed up rather stiff, but the end results were absolutely gorgeous.  By the time I ate it, it was just slightly warm and very fragrant and a real treat.  It was also, to my surprise, quite filling and kept me going (with the inevitable second mug of coffee) until a late lunchtime.  Here's the link again, for anyone interested.

Lunch was that sort-of-deep-topped pizza.  I decided to try the Hairy Dieters way and just brush the bottom of the pan with a titchy bit of oil and virtually dry fry the veg and, by golly, it worked a treat.  I've always been a bit suspicious of the Conley technique of dry frying, but no more.  What didn't work was piling the base (which was a wrap, if you remember - a Weight Watchers wrap, to boot) with so much topping because when it came to serving up, the base couldn't sustain the weight of the topping so it was almost spooned onto the place rather than sliced.  Still, never mind, it was scrummy, as was the apple and blackberry crumble with custard.  There was enough to make two single portions as well, which I will freeze, plus a portion left over for dinner tonight (and custard)  I can live with that!  I tried to cut down the butter in the topping and it ended up rather more crumbly than it should have been but the taste was great anyway!
And when DD and DG left, the took with them half the muffins and several cookies

And then for tea I had boiled eggs, toasty soldiers (no butter on the toast but the loaf was home made) and one of the chewy oaty cookies I had made on Saturday.  Very satisfying all round.

So, on to today.  I have to get going with some school work.  A shame, but all good things come to an end at some point, don't they?  And on the culinary front I want to have a bash at the skinny meat and potato pies.  Well, 'pie' anyway, because this is what I'm doing.  I will pop round to Morrison's when it opens at ten to get the few extra things I need.  The list of ingredients looks long but most of it is store cupboard stuff which I already have.  I shall make up the filling.  Then, and this is me being 'clever', I will just mix up enough of the pizza base mix to make one pie, use one sixth of the filling and what I do with the rest depends on how it goes.  If it is a success, I will freeze the rest of the filling in single pie portions.  If I'm not impressed, I will freeze is slightly larger portions.  I'm really hoping it will work, fingers because I do like pie now and again and already have some ideas of a turkey and apricot, or a turkey and Stilton pie filling. And - big AND - if I follow the recipe exactly, the pie will be about 335 calories (it says on the recipe).  Can't be bad!

Fingers crossed . . .

Sunday 26 August 2012

Sunday morning

I often think there's little that sets the day up better than an early morning bake followed (or accompanied) by a hot mug of coffee.  Yesterday I made the chewy oat cookies and, I am pleased to say, they are delicious!  Today it was the courgette muffins that I intended to make yesterday but didn't get around to actually doing.  Now the house smells wonderfully sweet and delicious and I feel virtuous!   And hungry!  Mind you, the use of the word 'courgette' in the title is a bit misleading given how little courgette is used.  50g in the whole recipe - and that's hardly one of your five a day.  'Very tasty muffins with a little bit of grated courgette' would be a better title.  I think I am going to pop over the the Frugal Girl's blog because I'm sure she posted a recipe for courgette bread that used more courgette.

Next on the list is the fruit mixture for the blackberry and apple crumble and following that I will be preparing the veg for the lunchtime pizzas.  I'm going to use a wrap (or two) for the base of the pizzas - one will be vegetarian, one not.  I picked up the idea of using a wrap as a base a while ago and it works well for those of us who like a very thin base with a goodly pile of topping.  Those who like a deep pan base would be sadly disappointed, I fear!  I cheated yesterday and bought a pot of cool salsa.  Part of it went into the courgette bake I had last night and most of the rest will do for the pizzas today.  Then the vegetarian one will have a heap of vegetables (yes, DD, probably a few cubes of courgette too) while the other will have some veg and some strips of ham.  OK, so maybe I ought not to call them pizzas really but whatever they are, served with coleslaw and a mixed salad, they will be scrummy.

I spend yesterday morning watching the four Hairy Biker programmes back to back.  I don't know if you've been watching them, but I missed them, one way or another.  How to love food and lose weight is the title and I watched all four back to back through the morning and early afternoon (which is why I didn't get the muffins made).  It was inspirational in parts.  Not the losing weight, although for two big men who dearly love their food, they did amazingly well, but the way they took delicious and substantial food and made it less calorific/more healthy without, it seems, sacrificing any of the taste.  One canny idea was using a pizza base mix instead of pastry for a pie - I'm trying that one because, with accompanying veg, you have a very substantial meal for a very reasonable number of calories, not to mention a snack in hand for a lunch on the move.  And I can't wait to try the korma and the sweet and sour chicken.  And the idea of using opened up leek leaves instead of sheet lasagne is very well worth a try.  My kind of cooking, without a doubt.

I've ordered the book! 

Saturday 25 August 2012

Saturday morning

Courgettes (etc) Galore (with thanks to DD for letting me use her photograph)

After we got home yesterday, one of the first things DD did was check out her allotment.  A while later she was hammering on my door, begging me to  adopt a couple of her courgettes.  What's in the photo is the rest of what she picked.  She's going to do well on the courgette eating this week, she and DG, and my dehydrator is really coming into its own again.  As for me, I shall be making courgette bake, some courgette muffins, maybe chocolate courgette loaf as shown on the Frugal Girl blog (if I can translate the USA way of giving amounts) and use some in a sort of tomatoey, mushroomy, red peppery mixture that I can freeze.  There's a limit to what one person can get through but as they are fresh picked they should keep for a while.

Apparently the ones along the window ledge, which are called Honey Bear squash, are very sweet and can be used in sweet dishes as well as savoury.  I have one, left over from some we took on holiday but didn't get round to eating, so I shall have to do an Internet recipe hunt.

Although I really didn't want to leave Streele Farm, it was nice to get home again and I certainly slept very well in my own bed.  This morning I am looking forward to a nice long bath (last week showers were more convenient), followed by a baking session.  Courgette muffins and chewy oatmeal raisin cookies.  They both look jolly tasty, not too difficult to make and the muffins, at least, should freeze fine.  There's a bit of holiday washing to do and then some holiday ironing.  Not a large amount as there was a very efficient washing machine and a tumble dryer at the barn so we did a wash half way through the week.  After that I need to sort out a couple of lists for a friend and then the weekend's my own.  I want to catch up on the Hairy Bikers' programmes where they adapt recipes to make them more healthy (I gather they are on iPlayer) and I need to do just a little bit more shopping at some point as DD and DG will be over for lunch on Sunday and DD has made it clear that she expects a courgette free meal!  I think I will make home made pizzas - they always go down a treat - and then a Streele farm blackberry and apple crumble.

One of the highlights of Streele Farm has always been picking the blackberries.  Year after year we have come back with bag loads which we have turned into seedless jams, flavoured vodka, etc.  This year - well, it was a poor and sorry show.  There were a few ripened fruits but generally they are weeks behind where they should be and we came back with a very small amount, just enough to make a couple of blackberry and apple crumbles and no more. 

Too many courgettes and not enough berries.  That's nature for you!

Edited to add:  Just opened the blinds and it's chucking it down out there.  Won't DD's courgette plants love that!  :0)

Friday 24 August 2012

Home, sweet home!

All over for another year now.  We all agree that it's been the best yet and I can't believe how lucky we have been with the weather.  It's supposed to turn wet and nasty over the weekend too.  Last year we were the guests who wished we had chosen the week before - this year we're the fortunate ones.

Not a bad journey either.  A bit of a tailback at the Dartford Tunnel, but I've known it a LOT worse.  Something we did notice - people are driving much more slowly on the M25.  Perhaps it is to save petrol.  Usually I am pootling along at 70 in the inside lane with cars whizzing past.  This time 70 was the middle lane with both cars and lorries going a lot slower on the inside and  the cars on the outside lane really weren't going all that much faster.  Precious little vrooming past this time.

And so now we move on.  This time we weren't able to book for next summer - they are not sure they are accepting booking as the farmhouse is having some pretty significant work done - garages, en suites, extension, a new, circular driveway . . .  So we have to wait, save and see.  We are top of the waiting list and they will let us know as soon as they know.  The chances are that it will be fine, but it felt odd leaving without knowing we were coming back.  It's become a second home to us in a way.

Things feel a bit flat . . .

Friday morning

. . . and a few photos.
The Barn

Evening shadows

Sunny days

Red sky at night . . .

Crocodile Wood

Thursday 23 August 2012

Thursday morning

It's the last day of the holiday today.  We don't count tomorrow as we have to be out of the Barn by ten o'clock.  At this particular moment I wish we could stay here for ever.  The peace, calm and gentle beauty of it all is almost enslaving.  It's not 'real' life here - not for the guests, not this week with its warm, sunny, splashy, lazy days and its cool, star filled nights, a daily paper delivered and no post to have to deal with! 

True teacher that I am, the thought of a new term, a new year and a new class is starting to bounce energetically around my brain.  So  much to do, one week to do it in.  I shall take the weekend 'off' to recover from the idleness of this holiday and to get the washing and ironing sorted, Monday is a bank holiday so, of course, one cannot work!  And then it's in at the deep end.

Yesterday was lovely.  A walk down Blackberry lane to Crocodile Wood for a picnic, then a drive to the bowling alley in Tunbridge Wells followed by a gentle swim.  The water was lovely - just over 30 degrees according to the thermometer, just right for a leisurely up and down, up and down, chatting as we did so.

Most early mornings this week have been misty, quickly burned off by the sun.  This morning was the most beautiful of the week with a clear sky and mysterious hollows.  How can we leave it all?

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Wednesday Morning

. . . and another warm, sunny day too.  We have been so lucky with the weather this far.  It's been like the first time be came here when it was similar, although even then we had a wet day, I seem to remember.  Since then it's been less than summery.  But this year - wow!  No complaints.  And one of the nice things about living/sleeping under thatch is that it is cool at night.  There's not been one night when I wished for my bedroom fan, not even over the weekend when the days were scorching.

The one blip has been the lack of a reliable (or, at times, any) internet connection, not only because of my blogging and networking and modding but also because we rather use the laptops instead of maps, etc.  But we can't fault the staff - they've been working very hard on it since we reported it and things now seem to be in order again.  Fingers crossed.

On Friday we escaped a Chelmsford that was gearing up for three big events - the V Festival at Hylands, a huge international Scout Jamboree and a 'march' that was threatening to become confrontational.  Now I have no idea what happened with the march, as we haven't watched much telly, I gather from the paper that the V was successful and as for the scouts - I guess they are jollying along, enjoying the fine weather as much as we are.

As we trundled down the A12 to the M25, the V traffic was building up, almost all the way back to the motorway.  Over the last few years we have found ourselves heading home on the same day as the start of V and a right pain it has been too,but this year we missed it.  The traffic on the M25 was light, no tailbacks at the tunnel, thank goodness (and another first) and it wasn't till we got to Tunbridge Wells that the first hold up occurred.  Over the years we have worked out a few little short cuts, you see, and as we got to the first one we saw that it was blocked off.  Great!  Fortunately, by following our noses, we managed to get back onto the road we wanted and bowled merrity along.  However, it must be the week for blocking off roads that Clarks' needed because the road to Rotherfield was also blocked off.  The diversion signs were more helpful this time and we got there.  After that is was a quick shop and then on to the farm whee we had a picnic and our first swim, while they finished off the Barn for us.  I hasten to add, this was by arrangement - we didn't just turn up early hoping it was OK.

I gather that all is well back home too.  Thanks, S.

The Barn from the back

A view from the back of the Barn

Monday 20 August 2012

Monday evening

Sorry for the long silence, but the Internet connection at the farm is not very well and to add insult to injury, DG's laptop can now connwct up but mine cannot!  Grrrr.

Anyway, just to let my gen;le readers know that things are fine (apart from the Internet withdrawal symptoms) both here and at home, and we're having a super time. 

I'll be back as soon as I can!

Thursday 16 August 2012

Thursday morning

Getting close.  The bedroom is ready for my house sitting friend, the fridge is losing its bits and bobs, the living room is full of piles of stuff, I'm getting excited . . . And it is sunny!

The recipe I tried yesterday evening was absolutely delicious.  Courgette bake.
This is what I did, more or less.

Zizz up some bread to make bread crumbs and mix them with grated parmesan (you could use chedder I guess, but grate it finely).  Add a little pepper or a spice like smoked paprika, or maybe a few herbs.  Sprinkle over some oil and mix well.
Over some ripe tomatoes, pour boiling water, then rub off the skin and squeeze out most of the seeds.  Discard the seeds and skin and roughly chop the flesh.  Chop or slice some red pepper and add to the tomatoes.
Finely chop some garlic.

Oil the bottom of an oven proof dish.  Throw in some sliced courgettes and season.  Spoon over some creme fraiche and sprinkle over some chopped garlic.  I then stirred it all together - it looks rough but that doesn't matter.
Spread over the chopped tomatoes and peppers and season again.  Add herbs if wanted.  The original recipe suggested basil, but I'm not that fond of basil so I didn't.  I added a bit more chopped garlic.  Smooth the surface.
Finally, add the cheese and breadcrumb mixture and gently smooth the top, not pressing down too much.  The oil should have distributed through the whole mix well by now.  if not, stir again before adding.

Pop it in the oven at around 160 to 180 C.  The temperature doesn't matter too much, nor does the cooking time, but I gave it well over half an hour because the top will go all crunchy and scrummy.  The creme fraiche did separate but it didn't matter, it was still really delicious.

One I will do again for sure!  It would be nice as a way of using up leftover vegetables from the day before, in which case it wouldn't be courgette bake, of course!

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Wednesday morning

Wasn't it a gorgeously sunny day yesterday?  It was here, anyway.  Warm and pleasant with a bit of a breeze most of the time.  It was Ok when I went to bed too but a couple of hours later I woke feeling very hot and sticky.  On went the fan and it was better again but I did rather envy, in a sleepy sort of way, those with air conditioning in their bedroom (yes, M and D, I mean you!!). 

This morning I woke to glorious sunshine, but I gather that bad weather if very much on the way and I can see already that the sun is dimmer and the sky is no longer blue.  Ho hum - on the day George is coming to garden too.  We will see!

The courgette fritters were really tasty.  It was two eggs to eight tbsp flour (I used SR) and then all the vegetables, cheese and seasonings.  Easy to make, easy to cook, and I have several for the freezer.  Tonight it is courgette bake - vegetables (including courgettes, of course) in a creme fraiche sauce, with breadcrumbs and cheese over the top, baked in the oven.  Scrummy!
For lunch I am finishing off the tuna pate from yesterday so need to get some nice crispbreads to have it on.  All very tasty!

Tuesday 14 August 2012

A tuna recipe

Well, hardly a recipe because I bet most of my readers already know it, but it was jolly nice so I'm sharing it.

Take one tin of no-drain tuna and empty it into a chopper/zizzer thing.  Add some low fat mayo or salad cream (the end result will taste different, of course, so it's what you prefer).  Add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice and some spices, if you like (to taste) - I didn't.  No salt as I used tuna in brine and that made it salty enough.  Zizz it well until it is the texture you want.  Add more mayo if needed.
Spoon it out and spread it on delicious home made wholemeal bread and butter.  Eat and enjoy.

It makes quite a lot.  I used half and the rest in in a pot in the fridge for tomorrow.

Tuesday morning later on

. . . and after some internet trawling I have decided that I will do courgette fritters today and a courgette bake tomorrow.

The fritters are really an 'add anything' idea.  I will use finely grated onion, grated courgettes (of course), some chopped peppers and some chopped semi-sun dried tomatoes with grated parmesan, all of which need using up, plus seasonings and maybe some smoked paprika - and the thick batter, of course.  The recipe said that they can be frozen so I will try that with the ones I don't eat.  The accompanying veg will be runner beans - I'm not missing out on runner beans.

It's making me feel hungry just thinking of it!  Slurp.

Tuesday morning

It's raining - in fact it's been raining for a while, judging by the state of the ground.  Unfortunately it is also very humid, something I find hard to cope with, so the fan is on already.  However, when I opened my mail box I found the most encouraging message from someone I hardly know who uses forums I help to moderate.  That's made my day and suddenly the rain and humidity don't seem to matter.  It's amazing the difference a few words of kindness and appreciation make.  I must do it more often myself.

In the end I roasted half of the big green round courgette with some onion and some mini plum tomatoes in a mixture of garlic oil, olive oil and a little butter and had it with some meatballs in a rich gravy.  It was absolutely delicious!  Tonight I think I will fry some slices in a little butter and have it with runner beans (from dad's garden) and some meat something from the freezer.  As I'm going away I am trying to use up all the bits and bobs - can't leave bits and bobs for a house sitter, that would be very rude!!

I also managed to get ALL the ironing done, which is amazing, plus a little bit of mending of a skirt where the waistband was only some wide elastic fastened along the top so it kept rolling over, as well as a bit of hem that had come down.  There's more washing to do, of course, it's a never-ending task, but it won't take long.  The kitchen is tidier than it was - always a Good Thing - and the living room is starting to look a bit going-away-ish with piles of things that need to be packed beginning to build up.

Do you remember the photo of the crocosmia lucifer that looked so colourful.  Sadly, it's more or less over now and the things are seeding madly.  Time to chop off their heads I think and to move some around to the front.  George was going to come over today but not in this weather, so maybe tomorrow or Thursday I can ask him to do that for me.  There's also some plants that need chopping back again and a French lavender that has to come out as it's in the wrong place entirely.  I could try to take cuttings but to be honest it looks very unhappy where it is, very crowded and I doubt the cuttings would take as there's not enough growth.

While I've been typing this I've also been crunching my breakfast toast - home made bread with home made strawberry jam.  Delicious!  Better stop now and get on with a few jobs or the day will be gone and I will have achieved nothing! 

And that would never do!

Monday 13 August 2012

Monday morning

A collection of courgettes.

Aren't these lovely.  They're all courgettes from DD's allotment.  She brought them round yesterday - about 1/3 of what she has picked in the past few days.  I can see I am going to have a courgette based diet over the next fortnight or so - indeed, when we were planning menus for Streele Farm, courgettes figured very prominently.

This evening, maybe I am going to stuff one of the round ones with a savoury mince mixture and bake it with grated cheese over the top.  That should be scrummy.  I will need to halve and de-seed, then brush it over with oil and gently roast until almost cooked, before adding the mince.  Either that, maybe or chop it us into chunks and roast in a little garlic oil with other veg - new potatoes, onion, red pepper, tomatoes, etc, and with some chunks of chicken.  Or I could google for a new recipe.  Decisions, decisions!  Any suggestions, gentle readers?

I'm definitely getting into bad habits.  It was just after midnight when I went to bed and after eight when I woke this morning.  This will never do!!  I'm missing the best part of the day this way.  However, one good thing.  I went to bed (and therefore woke up) to a shiny sink. 

Today is all homey stuff.  I have a huge pile of ironing to do and I'd like to dust and Dyson the living room (which constitutes the major part of my downstairs, being open plan from the hall, round the corner into the dining area).  And I want to get the suitcase down and start putting necessary things in it, which means making a List Of Things To Pack.  And I need to prepare the bedroom for my nice house sitter too, but that can be done later in the week.  I also expect there will be emails to answer from the fallout following the Friday evening/Saturday morning hoo haah, not something I'm particularly looking forward to but necessary.  I will miss the Olympics too, something I really never thought I would say.

Better finish my porridge and get started then!  Happy day, everyone!

Sunday 12 August 2012

Sunday afternoon

I just popped in again to upload a photo of that poor old loaf.  I still have no idea what happened there!

Sunday morning

. . . and what a lovely sunny Sunday morning it is too.  Not too hot overnight, not humid this morning, blue skies and a gentle breeze.  Perfect.  I woke to the smell of baking bread (I love bread makers) but when I took the loaf out, it was a bit of a disaster.  Instead of a nice gentle convex dome, it was decidedly on the concave side.  Not sure what happened there, but the bread is still delicious, not heavy or tightly textured so it won't be wasted in the slightest.  In fact, I am sitting here with a mug of coffee and a slice of the bread, lightly buttered and it's perfectly delicious.  And sitting on the side, just cooling down before being put in the fridge, is a litre of home made yogurt.  Strawberry yogurt for dessert today - yum yum.

Yesterday was good after a night short on sleep.  Funnily enough, I didn't crash during the day but I did sleep well last night.
After sorting out the repercussions of Friday evening's internet stuff and whopping in a complaint, all was sweetness and light.  I got a fair amount of stuff done without pushing myself in any way - what more can one ask for?

Today DD is coming round.  I shall do a vegetable and egg thing for lunch for her and me - can't call it a tortilla because it won't have potato in but it will have onion, pepper, tomatoes and mushrooms.  DG doesn't like egg stuff much so I will give him some tuna and feta.  All this with salad!  And then strawberry yogurt for afters.

Having finished the slice of bread, I can say it was delicious, so whatever happened in the baking process didn't do it any harm.  Good - I don't like waste!

Another shot from the garden centre last week.

Saturday 11 August 2012

Saturday morning

Yesterday was a day of disappointment and enjoyment, started off nice and calm and gentle and finished up with a mini-meltdown online (not me) and having to stay at the computer all evening and well into the night (my night, anyway).  As a result, the old brain was churning away and at three this mornuing I came back down as sleeping was not going to be an option.  I did manage to get back off to sleep eventually and I am sure I will nod off at various intervals during the day too.  It's nice to be able to.

I had planned to have a friend round for lunch but had to reschedule, so I have that pleasure to come next week.  After looking after DG in the morning, we all bundled off to the Flyer for a calorie packed lunch and a lot of chat before parting company.  The afternoon was spent reading and watching Olympics on and off.  As for the evening - well, no details but perhaps, possibly, some had been imbibing too much: whatever the reason they had reached the aggressive, grouchy stage so it all became 'interesting'.  Hopefully all will have settled today and there won't be a repeat performance.  It was bad enough to need to send out an SOS for another mod to come online and that rarely happens.

Today - well, all sorts of weekend stuff really.  Life goes on, whatever happens in virtuality.  Clean sheets, a pile of washing, ironing, etc . . . same as always.  There's a pattern in my life that can be very reassuring and very grounding at times.

Have a good day yourself, wherever you are.

Parental tomatoes - not that I am jealous or anything, you understand!

Friday 10 August 2012

Friday morning

Wasn't it hot yesterday?  I should have guessed that it would be after the morning mist-almost-fog.  After sorting out dinner late afternoon I sat in front of the fan for a while, which helped considerably.  Some friends have been posting photos on Facebook of their day at the Olympics and they look as if they are having an amazing time but you know what?  I'd much rather be at home, staying cool, with the best views via the telly screen!

Today I HAVE to sort out the kitchen.  That's something of a recurring theme around here, isn't it?  I've got out of the habit of finishing the day with a shiny sink and I guess I need to get back into it again.  So in I go right now and get started - well, maybe not RIGHT now, when I've finished reading everything online, played a few games of sudoku on my favourite site, had another coffee . . . 
Poor old kitchen!

Taken at the garden centre and added here for a splash of colour!

Thursday 9 August 2012

Thursday morning

. . . and it is nearly the end of the week yet again.  At this point I would normally be celebrating half way through the half term.  As it is, we are nearly half way through the summer holidays.  Oh, my!

I was out again yesterday - the car had to go back in one more time to finish off the work.  I am very glad that my daughter lives nearby and didn't mind me popping in or I'd have spend some very boring hours hanging around in town.  I used to put my car in to a lovely 'private' mechanic who almost always had a courtesy car available for use.  Jolly useful, it was too.  Anyway, when the car was collected, I drove DD to an appointment and then after that we went to one of the retail parks and have a Pizza Hut buffet lunch (delish) followed by a stroll around Comet and then Hobbycraft - and no, I didn't buy anything.  I seem to be getting quite good at not buying anything, don't I?

Back home again I turned the Olympics on and went to sleep!  Just as well really as I was kept up a bit later than usual with some mild fun and frolics on a site where I help to moderate some of the forums. 

Back to the weekend, my parents have a lovely garden which they keep in beautiful condition.  Here are just a few photos I took.

And they tasted delicious too!

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Wednesday morning

Last Saturday, while I was at Letchworth, the three of us drove off to a rather nice garden centre about twenty minutes' drive away.  I can't remember the name of the place but it was very like our Wyvale but with a bigger 'shop', a very nice eating area and a big pond.  After a most acceptable cheese scone with coffee (most cheese scones don't have anywhere near enough cheese, but this one did), dad read his paper while mum and I trawled around the shop.  There were some lovely things - expensive tut, agreed, but very nice tut.  I wasn't tempted really though, not even with the kitchen stuff - perhaps I am growing up at last.  After collecting dad, we strolled around the grounds for a while and I took a few photos.  A very pleasant visit indeed and a place I'd like to go back to in the late spring.

Tuesday 7 August 2012

Tuesday morning

I'm in a bit of a rush this morning because the car has to go back in so that they can finish what they didn't have time to do last Thursday.  I am just hoping that it doesn't rain because I have a ten minute walk to DD's from the garage and I really don't want to get soaked.  With any luck, that will be the last time for several months.

I'm just finishing off editing, cropping, etc, the photos from the weekend, so here's a few of Stotfold Mill.

View from the car park - rather stormy clouds at that point, but it came to nothing.

Taken from the road - the front of the mill.

Inside.  It's fully working but not everything is 'authentically old'.  There was a devastating fire in 1992 and much of the inside had to be re-made, using old plans and information as a guide.
I made a smock ages ago.  No idea what happened to it.  This one was in a display.  I used to love smocking and a lot of DD's little dresses had smocking on.  I ought to have worked for the big London shops - they paid a fortune for that sort of work at the time.
This was rather nice - a model showing the moving parts of the mill.  You pressed a button and it all started moving, turning, etc.  Nice.

There were some very attractive views of the river . . .

. . . and of the wildlife.
Definitely a place to revisit when the mill is actually in action and also to do the nature walk.

Monday 6 August 2012

Monday morning

Judging by the puddles on the roof of the garage, it's been raining hard overnight.  We're back to the 'funny old weather we're having' topic of conversation with, so I gather, a gulf stream that is in the wrong place again!  Here in the 'dry south east' we're having enough rain to keep everything nice and damp and to avoid having to water the garden, but elsewhere I gather it has been dreadful again, with more flooding.

Changing the subject, yesterday we paid a pleasant visit to Stotfold Mill and nature reserve, a lovely working mill on the Ivel.  Unfortunately, it wasn't actually milling yesterday but it was still interesting and worth visiting if you are ever in the area.  There's a very pleasant nature walk too but there wasn't time for that - it will keep for another day, but we spend some considerable time on a kind of veranda watching a pair of swans and their five cygnets and discussing the wild flowers and grasses that were growing in abundance along the river's edge.  I have photos but haven't had time to upload them yet, so will post a few later.  I also have a bag of wholemeal flour ground at the mill and a bag of rolled oats, bought in the shop there.  So that's bread and porridge sorted out for the next little while.

Today, apart from the usual stuff, it will probably be watching the Olympics.  This 'red button' thing is really useful.  I'm not always interested in what is on the main channels, but there's always something more interesting to find using the red button.  Watching all those competitors being so very active is very exhausting, isn't it?  :0)

And I must pay a visit to Mr Chapman.  Mr Chapman is the best butcher in the area and his sausages are to die for, they truly are.  Usually when I am here it is Saturday and not only is he only open until midday, the queues are out of the shop and right round the corner so no thanks!  I can feel a shopping list coming on!

And it's time for the first coffee of the day - better go and make it!

Sunday 5 August 2012

Sunday morning

Having a lovely time with my parents so this will be brief.  Eating runner beans, broad beans and courgettes from their garden (OK with a bit of cooking in between) and revelling in a very exciting evening of track with resulting gold medals.

Normal service will be resumed very soon!  :0)  Have a great day, everyone.

Saturday 4 August 2012

Saturday morning

And I ask you to rise, remove your hats and pay a moment's respect to some late, lamented friends.

RIP, tomato plants, victims of the blight.  Yes, all of them.  I'm gutted.  They were doing so well, so much fruit coming along.  I managed to save one little truss that is now on the window ledge.  Some of the tomatoes had started ripening so maybe . . . but this makes them very expensive tomatoes indeed.

Oh, dear.

Friday 3 August 2012


The sun is shining and everywhere looks bright and happy.  A very pleasant start to the day, even if I have just been out to find that my spraying a few days ago hasn't helped one of my tomato plants which has succumbed to the dreaded blight.  That leaves just two plants and one of those looks doubtful.  Curse this warm, wettish weather!  It's not the end of the world, I know, but very disappointing!  Fortunately, my replacement brown bin has now arrived (the old one went walkabout recently) so I can bundle the failure out of sight.

Whe I was little (cue, nostalgic reminiscences, possibly boring, sorry) we lived not more than three houses away from a family that had a nursery business.  Not babies but tomatoes.  To my child's eye their greenhouses seemed to go on for ever ad infinitum, although I am sure there weren't as many as I remember!  Very often we were send down, clutching a few coins in our hot little hands for 'a bag of tomatoes, please.  There, in the shed, was a tray of glowing red orbs, fresh picked and smelling the way all self respecting tomatoes ought to smell.  They were carefully placed in a brown paper bag, the ends twised over and money and bag exchanged hands.  We would carefully carry our load home again (all of 50 metres, maybe a little less) and proudly hand it over to mum knowing that there would be tomatoes for tea.
Even better it was when we were told to ask for 'a bag of split tomatoes, please.'  They were the less than perfect specimins, not fit to sell on to the shops, sold for a few pence.  Nowadays, with freezers being so commonplace, they'd sell like hot cakes and wouldn't be nearly so cheap, but then it was only possible to buy them in small amounts because they wouldn't keep.  And we carried them home in the sure and certain knowledge that there would be fried tomatoes for breakfast, lunch or tea.  Always a big favourite and they have remained so to this day.
And occasionally we were given one to munch as we left the shed.  Not often - money was tight for all, and running a business like that was extremely hard work and every penny counted - but that just made it more of a treat, not expected but gladly received and enjoyed on those rare occasions.

We lived in a village and as well as the nursery there was also an egg farm.  Organic, free range in the days before organic free range became such a hot potato (forgive the mixed metaphor there) and a little further away which meant a short bike ride down the road towards the village centre, then a left turn at the mory-all (memorial hall to non-villagers) and up the hill for a dozen cracked (or whole, depending on what they were needed for) eggs, then a glorious zoom back down the hill, round the corner and along home where mum was waiting to do whatever she needed those eggs for - cakes, boiled, scrambled, fried, whatever!  It was always delicious.  And oh, the excitement if one turned out to be a double yolker . . .

I've just Googled out of sheer nostalgia.  My dad's carefully nurtured vegetable garden is now all grass and the proper, permanent sandpit that made us the envy of all our friends is no longer there, the only greenhouse is sight is the little one behind the garage and instead of those rows of greenhouses three houses along, there is what looks like a glorious garden.  The mory-all is now quite a substantial building with a proper little car park.  Google-strolling up the hill (you don't burn many calories this way), there's a whole load of houses I don't recognise (well, we did leave the village forty six years ago now) but, to my delight, the egg farm seems to be there, anyway (or was when the photo was taken) and a sign outside announces that there are free range eggs for sale (but not how much they cost!).   Imagine walking up the hill in the morning sun to get your fresh laid breakfast egg.  Do they still sell cracked eggs or has H&S stopped that one, I wonder. 

I guess I will never know!

Thursday 2 August 2012

Thursday morning

It's another dull start to the day but maybe it will be like yesterday, brightening up later.  I've noticed that the nights are starting to draw in somewhat - I shut out the gloom quite early yesterday evening.  After all, we are over a month away from the longest day now.

Yesterday was another quiet day apart from lunch out with Liz.  She's never been to the Hare so that's where we went to have a lunch that, despite its 'smaller plate' label, was more than enough for a good main meal and which did me, food-wise, for the rest of the day.

Today is busier.  I'm taking the car in shortly for its service and MOT and while that's being done I will walk along to DD's and spend the morning there.  After that it's home for a short while and then back out for an early dinner with L and J.  It's all go, isn't it?

And that's the day gone . . .

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Wednesday morning

This will be very brief as I am quite bleary eyed after last night and can't get my thoughts together. 

It was jolly nice to come down to a clean and tidy living room this morning.  Must try to do this more often.  Mind you, the same can't be said for the kitchen.  It's not dreadful (my version of dreadful, anyway) but it is certainly not tidy at the moment.  However, I don't expect I will be spending much time in there today.  I need to tidy, put some yogurt on and also start off a loaf but I can't do the latter until later as I am out for lunch but that's about it, apart from making tea or coffee.  As I'm out for lunch, I won't need a big evening meal and I have a portion of the rice from yesterday evening to heat up.  I must say it was absolutely delicious - Delia wins again.  And I should say it will be easily cut down to a single portion which I can cook in my hob to oven casserole.  There's a bit of work to start with and then the whole kit and caboodle goes into the over and you don't need to touch it until it is cooked over an hour later.  I should think it would also be easy to ring the changes with flavour: make it more fruity, more spicy, more curryish . . . plenty of variation there.

Goodness, I'm tired.  I might even do the unthinkable and go back to bed for a while.  My eyes keep closing!   Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz