Sunday 30 September 2012


A very early good morning to you!  It's stupid o'clock so I will probably get some more sleep later on.  It seemed very silly,, however, to lie awake trying to get to sleep when there's work to be done and I'm ready to do it.  So here I am, downstairs, smelling the breadmaker doing its work and blogging instead of working.  That's life!

I really did intend to go into school yesterday afternoon.  Honest!  I sat down after lunch for a short time and woke two hours later by which time I really couldn't be bothered.  So what I was going to do will have to wait!  :0)
It was helpful to have some time in sleepland as yesterday was what I call a 'hungry day' - a day when I could have eaten anything and everything in sight, should I have had it in the house.  So it is just as well that I didn't really, isn't it?  I'm feeling hungry again now, buit that's normal given the time, the smell of bread baking, etc.  I can wait!

After my excursion into Amazon via Nectar, last week earning plenty of Nectar points when I bought my camera, and having reviewed my winter show situation and decided something needed to be done, I began to wonder if I could do the samer to get into the Hotter site.  I almost always buy Hotter shoes nowadays,  For a start, they seem to be the only shoes that last me any reasonable length of time and also they fit comfortably.  Worth the extra, although they really aren't that expensive in comparison with any reasonable quality shoe. 
So into Nectar I went and yes, I could get to Hotter, so across I went, bought a couple of pairs of shoes and earned the Nectar points.  I'm saving them for redeeming when I do the Christmas shop.  And now I'm set up with shoes and boots for winter.

Talking of winter, I needed to pop into Morrisons yesterday afternoon for some strong bread flour and a headline in one of the papers caught my eye - OK, so it was the Daily Express so not necessarily terribly reliable but anyway . . .
It proclaimed that we are in for some 'arctic' weather with snow in Scotland and frosts so  I indulged in a little fantasy about snowdays before half term.

It's Sunday, so DD and DG are round for lunch.  Tomorrow, they are embarking on a project together, to eat as they would have eaten during WW2 - rations and all - as much as they can.  With that in mind I thought I would provide a more substantial lunch than usual so we're having vegetable pot pie, roasted root veg and broad beans.  Yum yum.  That's why the breadmaker is in action.  I'm making some 'home made' bread for them and as soon as this loaf is finished I will oput another one on.  Thinking of it, I could make a Grant loaf, couldn't I?  Maybe during the morning . . .

And now I MUST do some work!!!

Saturday 29 September 2012


Weekend.  Planning done.  All good.  However, because of the new phonic organisation, I have a rather full weekend making resources, going into school this afternoon to get stuff laminated and all set up, making record and evaluation sheets - etc . . .  What a shame!  Never mind, it has to be done.  Maybe I can take Sunday off to get the housework, etc, done.

I think my system is back to normal after Thursday's little blow out.  No more calf cramp, no more muggy head feelings.  That's good!  Hopefully it hasn't had a major impact on my monthly weigh in, although I did step on the scales Thursday morning, just in case!  I think it's called 'hedging your bets', isn't it?

I've just come back from the kitchen where I was starting off the weekend soup.  I've used the pumpkin DD gave me, plus carrot, celery, tomatoes, onion, garlic and a red chili and right now they are slowly roasting in a little oil and some mild curry powder.  I may add some red lentils later on; I will see what it turns out like without.  I will definitely add some chopped tomatoes or passata (depending on what I have in the cupboard.  Definitely one to push through the mouli as pumpkin has such a silky texture.  It should see me through a working week of lunches, hopefully.  That's the idea, anyway!

Friday 28 September 2012


What an awakening!  Last night I met up with friends from school at the local pub to have a meal and a drink together.  It was lovely (more about that later) but I had three glasses of wine, which is three more than I've had since we came home from Streele Farm.  This morning I woke with cramp in one calf - ow, ow, ow - and in my sleepy haste to get out of bed to stretch the muscle I missed the side of the bed, fell out and landed with the other leg under me which promptly cramped too.  I had to laugh in between the squawks of ouchness, it was rather funny in a painful sort of way.  Fortunately, it wasn't bad, nor did it last very long, but I suspect it was the wine and the subsequent slight dehydration that was at fault there.  So now I'm sitting here with a slightly muggy head (only slightly, I didn't have all that much but I've been off the wine for over a month now so am not exactly used to it), a rumbling tum and stiff calf muscles.  Great start to the day, eh?

We did have a good time last night.  These evenings are open to everyone but, in fact, it's just a smallish group of about ten of us who go, those of us who live near enough to walk.  We all go back a long way and we were all mummy helpers at the school before being taken onto the staff in one capacity or another.  There was a lot of reminiscing and A and I nearly cried with laughter as we recalled one particular incident.  A used to be my classroom assistant so there's a lot of shared memories and laughter, but this is one of the best.

We were doing phonics.  Little Boy Who Is Now Grown Up (yes, it was that long ago) was making valiant attempts to make the word 'cat' with his letter cards.  He tried it all ways round before deciding on cta.

Me:    What a great try, LBWINGU.  What do you think about it?
LBWINGU:   (looking hopefully up)  I've got all the right letters, Mrs Clark.
Me:  (feeling wicked)  You have got all the right letters, but not necessarily in the right order . . .

. . . and then I caught A's eye and we both laughed - and laughed and laughed and  . . . oh, for the longest time.  The children just sat there, silent and dumbfounded, while the two supposedly most sensible people in the whole room made utter fools of themselves. 

For those who don't get it, I refer you to the late and great Morcambe and Wise's greatest ever sketch, 'Grieg's Piano Concerto with Mr Andrew Preview (Andre Previn)' - totally unforgettable and the funniest of all their funnies by a mile.

Thursday 27 September 2012

Thursday morning

One more day after today and we are half way through the half term, one twelfth of the way through the school year, ridiculous as that sounds.  We have come a fair old way along the road in the past few weeks and I'm pleased.

Yesterday evening was a very useful staff meeting, based on our delivery of phonics.  It's now much closer to what I feel comfortable with (not that comfort is necessarily a Good Thing, but in this case maybe it is) and I think it's going to work a real treat!  Planning it in was a bit of a headache, just because it's a change, but I got there so all the planning is now done for next week.  It will get easier!

Another photo.  No way was the reality as dramatic as this photo, but I used the 'sunset' setting and it looks very 'arty', doesn't it?  I think it will make a good card.

I'm beginning to think I ought to get myself one of those digital photo frame thingies because I'm quite pleased with some of my photos and it would be nice to have them showing in some way.  Or maybe that's just being big headed and show-offy.  Don't want to be that!

Wednesday 26 September 2012


Good morning on a somewhat damp-but-not-actually-raining-at-the-moment early Wednesday morning.  It's obviously been raining but right now the skies are starry and there's not a lot of cloud so it's cold!

Yesterday was nicely ordinary.  Even the observations were pleasant, good in fact, and I learnt and, hopefully, taught useful stuff. 

I also snapped off a few photos on the new camera and am ridiculously pleased with the one I posted yesterday evening.  It was just about the only useful one of several as that flippin' spider would not stay still and smile nicely for me!  But, for me (and I know there's got to be lots of faults in it), the one that did work was well worth the others.  It was cropped, of course, I didn't really get that close, but I love the detail, if not the subject!
The zoom is good too.  I took a dead boring one of a tree from right the other side of the school field and it is very clear. 

The panoramic one is fun but gives some odd effects.  Sepia is dull, but right for certain photos.  It also has something called 'happy' colour (how twee) that enhances colour and makes everything bright.  Nice!

This one I took from outside the back of the house, looking over the countryside.  Again, the zoom worked well.  I took it because the clouds looked interesting!  Those buildings and the tree are right on the horizon over the other side of an agricultural area.  It's on the sunset setting although there wasn't much of a sunset.  I just wanted to see what effect it had.

Wish I'd had this at Streele Farm!

Tuesday 25 September 2012

One for Diane and Annabeth . . .

. . . who are expecting photos from the new 'toy'.


As the early morning promised, Monday was a bit of a stinker, weather-wise, although the sun did come out early evening, incredibly!  Wet playtimes lead to restless children (and irritated teachers) so I was glad that mine had swimming to get them moving and keep them active.  It's still cold: indeed, when I went to the freezer to get today's gastronomic stuff, there was a real chill in the air and, looking up, the most radiantly starry night sky I have seen for a long time.  And then the security light clicked on!!

The camera did arrive - just as well, given the exorbitant amount I had paid for a speedy delivery.  First impressions are good.  It feels comfortable in the hand and the controls, though small, are easy to manipulate.  It seems to have a very wide range of functions including a touch sensitive screen which has already caught me out a few times.  I'd post a photo using the panoramic function but it is of my decidedly less-than-tidy downstairs so no way is that ever going public!  I'll try to remember to take one of the school grounds and see how that comes out.
The only thing with which I am not satisfied so far is the wrist strap.  For complete safety I like one that you can tighten around the wrist and my first digi camera, a Sony, had such a strap.  When I got the latest school camera I transferred the strap to that and, of course, forgot to take it off when the camera was sent off for repair, darn it!  With such a strap, even if I fumble and lose grip, the camera still won't fall and I don't really feel that comfortable without it, so heigh ho, heigh ho, it's off to Amazon I go! (again)  Something similar to the Nintendo control wrist straps would be ideal - in fact I think that's what I will go for.

Today will be interesting.  I am doing two lesson observations.  I hate being observed with all my heart, but I quite like observing.  I learn such a lot from my colleagues that I can take on board for my own classroom practice.  Today should be no exception!  Writing up the reports afterwards is not so much fun but there you go!  Can't have it all.

Apologies to those of a sensitive disposition but I am fascinated by the markings on this autumnal spider.  This was taken with the Sony, once I had worked out how to get the focus right.  There's still plenty of photo-frogs to each prince, but I'm getting there, slowly.

Monday 24 September 2012

Monday morning

What a cold, gloomy, miserable day it was yesterday!  Rain, rain, rain with some strong wind occasionally, just to liven things up a little bit.  I turned the heating on in the afternoon because DD was so cold.  I'd just finished moving things around in the shed when it started, luckily for me, or all the stuff would have got a soaking.  Now I can actually get to the upright freezer easily again. 

You should see the inside of said freezer - clean, sparkling and frost free!  Now I have to do an orderly and recorded transfer of stuff from the chest freezer to the upright, which shouldn't take long.  And then I must manage things a lot better!

I made the chicken balti and it's all ready to go into the freezer in single or titchpot portions.  In the end I decided to freeze the remaining chicken in single uncut portions and I cut up the beef and that also got bagged into single portions.  They're now in the freezer.  These special offers can be remarkable useful if you catch them just right.

The other exciting news (exciting for me anyway) is that the camera will arrive today.  Hardly unexpected, seeing as I paid over the odds for a speedy delivery, but I'm excited all the same.  A new toy to play with.  Yay!  If it arrives in the morning I can do a quick battery charge-up and try it out on the children p.m.

Today will be ordinary (I hope).  School, not wet playtimes (although I don't hold out much hope as it's still raining now), violins and swimming (no, proper swimming, not puddle swimming and no, not me, the children).  Days like today tend to pass very quickly.

Sunday 23 September 2012

I forgot to say . . .

. . . on the main entry today - did you know that you can get Nectar points on Amazon?  I didn't, until a friend told me and I keep forgetting.

You have to go in via the Nectar site, log on there and then link across to Amazon.  Then, whatever you buy at that visit, you get points added to your Nectar card.  I *think* that my camera purchase carried double points too, which would be a Very Good Thing Indeed.

I'm saving mine up now, and will use them for the Christmas shopping.

Home made soup - the ultimate in frugal food

It has to be, doesn't it?  I don't mean the posh kind where you poach a while salmon in champagne before discarding the fish and using the stock reduced down to a thimbleful . . .
I mean the kind where you boil up a few bits and bobs and end up with a wonderfully warming, tasty, healthy bowlful - several, in fact.

Today I made roasted root veg soup and this is how.  All the veg was leftover from the week or what I always have in anyway.

2 carrots, peeted and cut into smallish chunks
2 parsnips ditto
2 medium potatoes, ditto
2 or 3 small onions (or one larger one), peeled and sliced roughly
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tbsp sunflower oil
a sprinkle of cumin - I suppose it must have been about 1/2 tsp, maybe a little more.  Use your own favourite.
some marigold stock powder.  I use the reduced salt kind.  You could use a meat stock.
Boiling water
a good handful of red lentils - sorry, I didn't weigh them
Salt and pepper to taste

I also had the last few tomatoes that I salvaged from my blighted plants, ripe but the skins are hard and they're not very juicy, so I chopped them in half and used them too, for a bit more flavour.

Place the chopped veg (including the garlic) in a poly bag, pour over the oil and give the whole thing a good mixing.  This way it stops your hands from getting oily and messy which I hate.  If you dont mind, you can just use your hands to toss the veg in the roasting dish.  When all the veg is coated, tip it into a roasting dish, grate some black pepper over it all and slowly roast at about 160 C.  I left them in for well over an hour, turning them now and again.
When the veg is all soft and roasted with crunchy bits, sprinkly over some Marigold powder - I think it was about 1 good tsp.  Add boiling water and put back in the over for 10 mins or so.  This loosens all the lovely bits from the side and bottom of the dish.
Pour into a saucepan, add the lentils and more water if needed and simmer gently until the lentils are cooked.
Zizz well.  I used my stick blender and then pushed it all through a sieve.  Check seasonings and adjust if wanted.  Heat to piping hot and serve.  I will put a dollop of yogurt in just before I eat.  It was very thick so could make a lot more by diluting with more stock, milk etc.

And why is it frugal - well, partly because of the cheap ingredients, all of which I had in the house but also because out a few vegetables and seasonings I have now got the main part of my lunches for every day next week.  Good, filling portions that will only need a piece of fruit to complete the meal.  That really cannot be bad, can it?

Sunday morning

Good morning, gentle readers.  It's another chilly start to the day but there's no frost as far as I can tell.  I did wonder because when I wandered out to check the defrosting freezer, the gauge read as zero.  However, I suppose that if the temperature is low and there's still ice inside, it would read close to freezing.  As a result though, there is still some ice at the top and I guess that will take half the morning to melt.  I could attack it with a hair dryer but, frankly, with more interesting things to do, I can't be bothered.

Totally irrelevant photo I took yesterday in the garden.  Most things are showing signs of age now but these little beauties brighten up their corner.

Yesterday was, as I suspected it would be, very productive.  I finished off the seedless blackberry jam and have five pots full - one for K who gave me the berries, one for DD, one for L in exchange for some fresh eggs, I hope, and two for me!

I made the roasted veg soup and will do a separate entry with the recipe.  It's tasty and frugal.

I went shopping and came back with more than I expected.  Sainsbury's had a special offer - two packs of chicken for a tenner and three packs of beef for a tenner.  So I got some!  I've decided that the lemon chicken recipe isn't really suitable for freezing so that's gone back into the pile.  To replace that, I will make another batch of  'Best Ever Chicken Balti', a recipe I found in a Slimming World magazine which is pretty quick, easy and very delicious.  I'll do that today.

I made the butternut squash and chickpea curry which was easy.  It's quite sweet in a savoury sort of way and, eaten with a more spicy curry, is very delicious.  It might be too sweet if it's eaten on its own and I am having a rethink about the containers I will freeze it in.

I looked through my recipes for something beefy (lean stewing beef, so slow cooking needed) and found Beef Paprikash which I cooked in the slow cooker for about five or six hours.  Another totally scrummy dish, very meaty and savoury.  As it was cooked in the slow cooker, there was still a lot of liquid which was tasty enough for me to pot separately as a soup.  An unexpected extra.

Do you remember my idea of freezing curries in what I call 'titchpots', each of which containing a third of a full sized portion.  Well, yesterday evening I had my first titchpot meal.  Chicken curry in a hurry, chunky puy lentil dahl and the butternut and chickpea curry, arranged on a plate with a dollop of natural yogurt on the middle.  It was so gorgeous!  I will definitely continue with this idea.

I don't think there's anything else . . . oh, yes there is - I bought a camera.  I've been thinking and researching for a while now.  I know I bought one from a friend, and it is a super camera, but not one that can be carried in a handbag and not all the convenient in the classroom as one has to use the view finder so the 'eyes in the back of my head' ability disappears temporarily.  I got a Panasonic, well reviewed both online and also by a friend who has one, a good zoom, said to take good close ups and easy to handle.  I also treated myself to the convenience of a second memory card and a second battery pack.  Not a case though, as I already have one.
If my school camera hadn't been playing up, I wouldn't have indulged, but there's still no news about it, it's been sent off and goodness knows when it will come back.  We use technology a lot in the classroom now, and camera use is one of the biggies.  My purchase was more or less planned for but what wasn't planned was an impulsive decision to have it delivered speedily, so on Monday I should be getting a parcel and by Monday evening I should be charging up batteries, raring to go!  Yay.
What did seem very silly was this - they do this particular camera in several colours - black, red, silver and white.  I really fancied the red one but it was about a tenner more than the black one for exactly the same technology.  Daft!!!

It seems to be all spend right now.  I'm continuing my investigations into the Thermomix and following Diane's culinary adventures with great interest.  I did think about getting one in the new year but I might investigate the finances a bit more and go for an earlier date.  We will see . . .

Today?  Well, there's a bit of planning still to do and I have a chicken balti to make, a freezer to finish off, refreeze and reload and family round for lunch.  What a lovely day it will be!  I hope yours is too!

Saturday 22 September 2012

Good news - another happy post!

You probably won't remember, but when we (DD, DG and I) came home from Streele Farm this year, it was the first time we left not knowing whether we would be able to go back the next year.  This was because there are big plans afoot regarding renovation of the farmhouse which means that the family will need to use the Barn to live in for a while.  Very sad, we were, and wondering what could possibly replace Streele Farm for a gentle, stress free, relaxing holiday.  We thought Center Parcs might be fun but, well, not the same.  Not gentle, for a start.

When I got home yesterday, I opened my mailbox as always and there was an email from Jacqui, the owner of the farm, letting me know that the Barn would be available over July and August if we wanted to book.

Yes, I have responded!!!!!   And let DD know.


. . . and it's the weekend.  Yessssssssss!  So why am I up so early?  Well - you know what I'm like, but today I can go back up for a bit more kip later, if the spirit moves.  So far it isn't, but it's early days! 

I got a lot of stuff made and organised yesterday.  It was SEN day and there were no meetings or serious paperwork so I banged on with preparing phonic resources and organised them in folders.  Excellent stuff!

We were all of a flutter though - we have a new toy.  It's a new photocopier.  The old one was very poorly indeed.  When we used the top tray the machine uttered moans and groans reminiscent of me getting out of bed in the early morning and it kept jamming!  The new one is swish and - wait for it - best of all . . . it prints colour!  AND we have been told that it's cheaper to photocopy colour than it is to print multiple copies on the printer, so please use the colour function.  Woweeeeeeeeee . . .   I tried it after school.  I was sticking into their theme books a sheet describing the crisp tasting and realised that I'd printed one too few.  So off I went and made a copy.  The colour reproduction is very good - you really cannot tell the difference.  Oh, and it takes thin card too.  Excellent!

Diane tells me (as you will have seen from the comments yesterday) that I have  made blackberry cheese or even blackberry leather!  Nice one.  What a shame I wanted blackberry jam, eh?   She said it would be good with cheese.  Hmmmm - well, it is certainly good, absolutely delicious, in fact., with an intense berry flavour and I can see me using it in porridge, in yogurt and in stewed apple, etc, and I'm wondering which cheese would be best.  Today I'm having another go at jam in the new pan using the defrosted berries and those K brought for me yesterday.  Her little girl, who was in my class a while ago, assured me that 'we picked the best and biggest ones for you, Mrs Clark'.  Her older brother just looked amused!!!  Yesterday evening I simmered them and squashed them and at the moment they are warming up a bit before I push them through the mouli to get rid of the pips, etc.  Then I have another go and I won't make the same mistake again!  Proper pan = faster setting, must remember.
Update:  it is now a puree, one litre of the stuff, sitting in a bowl looking delicious - which it isn't because I haven't added any sugar yet.  It smells good though.

It's going to be a busy and productive day all round.  I want to go shopping early, then make the jam.  After that I have a couple of recipes to try - chickpea and butternut squash curry and sticky lemon chicken.  Also I have the leftover soup to make, although there isn't an awful lot of leftover veg this week so I may resort to chopped tomatoes and lentils as my base!  I'm going to get the newly cleared chest freezer defrosted so that tomorrow I can move stuff from the chest freezer and also do an audit of exactly what's in there.  I never want waste like that again!

Yesterday I made the Hairy Dieters red pepper hummus and, for the first time, I'm not so sure about one of their recipes.  I've never, ever been happy with home made hummus, but I've got it planned for lunch with crispbread, so we will see.  It might just possibly be one not to do again, for a change!

On top of that, there is the minor inconvenience of housework, washing and ironing.  Maybe . . .

Friday 21 September 2012

What kind of idiot . . .

. . . tries to make seedless blackberry jam at this time of the morning?  Me, that's who!  And ooops! 

I was given some blackberries by K, our wonderful ICT technician at school.  I had stewed them and pushed them through the mouli but I was getting concerned about leaving the puree much longer.
I also decided it would be a good opportunity to use my new maslin pan for the first time.  Big mistake!

You see, I rather overestimated how long it would all take, my experiences before being with an ordinary pan with a base that is thick enough but nowhere near as thick as a proper preserving pan.
So I checked for setting point - no, not yet.  Decided it was more than five minutes off, came back five minutes later to find a lovely, gooey, thick syrup.  Ooooops!
I've jamjarred it, of course, there's nothing wrong with it except that you probably need to cut it with a knife.  The flavour is wonderful!  It will do for porridge, rice pud, yogurt and the like.  But I can't really give a jar (it made just two jars) to K.

Happily, she emailed me yesterday evening asking if I would like some more so I have an opportunity to redeem myself.  One of my weekend tasks will be to make proper seedless blackberry jam.  I've taken the last bag of frozen berries out of the freezer to add and I won't make that mistake again. 

Proper preserving pan = a faster set!  Now I know.


I thought I'd do a 'happy' post today. Maybe I mean a 'gratitude' post. Anyway, whatever one would call it, here it is.

I am happy and grateful because . . .

Yesterday afternoon we did crisp tasting. It was a way of exploring the sense of taste and they had to taste three different flavours of crisps and say which was which. Great fun all round. However, there were some left over and I was so, so sorely tempted, crisps being an abiding love and a major crisis point in any healthy eating plan! I have to admit, I nibbled a few (yes, really 'nibbled' and 'few', that's not a euphemism for 'crammed half a dozen in my mouth at the same time') and then came to my senses and guess what - threw the rest in the bin. Yes, I did!  Now for me that was major, mega-huge, and I'm well pleased.

When I got home, there was dinner, nicely thawed and waiting for re-heating. That may seem like nothing in particular but, after two very early mornings and busy days, I was worn out. It was almost like having someone there, already cooking dinner for you - in other words, no work!

Also when I got home I walked into a lovely, cosy, warm house. It's been jolly chilly and the heating had clicked on. It just made me feel happy!

And then, after dinner (and right now), I knew I had no lesson preparation for today so I could just sit and unwind. While I was unwinding, I knew that I'd left my classroom nice and tidy, put up a display and generally left everything just as it should be. Such a lovely feeling

And finally, I've had a great sleep, not woken too stupidly early and it's the weekend soon.  Really couldn't ask for more!

Thursday 20 September 2012


Stupid o'clock again!

The trouble with this is that it becomes a self-perpetuating circle.  You wake up very early, do your day's work, get home, have dinner and fall asleep, so you reckon, very sensibly, that you may as well fall asleep in beds rather than wake in the middle of the night stiff, aching and cold in your armchair.  So you do.  Consequently, you then wake very early because you've had the sleep you need.  And so it goes on - and on and on and on.

For me, it's not a problem.  I can always find something to do.  It only becomes a problem when there's something planned for the evening (hardly ever) or when people start noticing and commenting!  And I can live with that.

I love my little class.  They're very sweet and very gorgeous and there are plenty of 'characters' to keep me on my toes.  Going into school is a huge pleasure at present!  Three cheers, long may it continue!

Today is possibly the most 'normal' day of the week.  With my class all day, no PPA, coordinator time, SEN time, just me and my class.  Don't get me wrong, those times are essential and very much appreciated.  But it is nice to have a whole day with my children.  And no playground duty either.  Three more cheers!

Wednesday 19 September 2012


You can really tell I'm back at school.  Early to bed last night means early to rise this morning with no chance of another snooze because by the time I am tired enough it will be time to  wake up!  Never mind - by this evening I will have absolutely no trouble getting to sleep whatsoever!

For a lovely sunny day, yesterday was bloomin' chilly!  Playground duty am and pm meant that I had the joy of appreciating the cold blasts of wind that kept swooping around the school field and made me wish I had put tights on.  Brrrrr.  It feels chilly now too, but not enough to wish the heating on.  I like getting both done on the same day rather than spreading it out over more days.  OK, I have a couple more afternoon duties each week but that's OK, it is infants only.

As I have some time right now and feel strangely disinclined to get on with school stuff, I think I will pootle out to the shed and sort out a few more ancient food packs.  As I said a few days ago, it is an absolute disgrace, letting my freezer get into such a mess, and I intend to keep a much, much  tighter control on things from now on!  (famous last words!!!)

Off I go.  I may be gone some time  :0)

Edit:  Just come back in because I remembered something.  Do you remember I was bemoaning (oh, OK, whinging - bemoaning sounds better) the fact that the Streele farm blackberries were late and there were none to pick?  Yesterday K came up to me with two empty jam jars and lids to return to me and a punnet crammed full of blackberries, asking 'could you use these?'.  They are now simmering on my hob to make puree before jamming.  What reminded me is that I thought I had used all my berries up from last year but I've just found another bagful in the freezer which will be fine for preserving.  So that is probably the Christmas thank yous to my lovely parent helpers sorted.  I wonder what spice would go with blackberries in jam . . . any ideas, gentle readers? 

Tuesday 18 September 2012


Someone was asking me about my leftover soups yesterday.  Now the weather is a little chillier, especially mornings and evenings, and the days are getting shorter while the nights are getting longer, it seems that there's this primal urge to create warming, filling, wholesome soupy/casseroley things that fill the cracks with glowing goodness and satisfy more than mere hunger (although they do a good job with that too).

This is what I do. 
I take a look at what I have and select.  I find some things are not suitable - or I don't fancy putting them together.  Some stuff can carry over into the new week's planning.  That doesn't get used.  There's always an onion or two.
Then I look at what I have in the cupboard that will go with the veg.  It might be lentils, it might be pulses (butter beans make a wonderfully velvety soup, I find), it is more than likely to be chopped tomatoes . . .

I chop the onion and virtually dry fry it in the titchiest bit of oil until soft and colouring - on a very low heat.  Then I add the garlic and any spices used. 

While that's doing, I peel and chop the veg and prepare the stock, marigold for choice because then DD can share the soup.  I then add the peeled and chopped veg to the onion and carry on gently dry frying to 'release the flavour'.  I know that sounds a bit pretentious but I love the moment when the veg realise that they are starting to cook and release a delicious aroma.   Then in goes the liquid.  If I'm using chopped tomatoes or passata, I usually add some marigold powder.  I add a little salt and, usually, plenty of ground black pepper.  Lentils and canned pulses go in at this point too.  It all comes to a boil and I cover the pan and let it simmer away gently until everything is soft and mushy and delicious.

Then I take a rain check.  Sometimes it tasted great just the way it is, like a very modified minestrone.  Sometimes I fancy a rough mash so it's lumpy.  Sometimes I zizz it with the stick blender and then push it through a sieve (or use my mouli thingy).  It doesn't take long, there's little waste and the texture of the end product is wonderfully smooth.

Finally I check the seasoning again and Bob's your uncle!

Sometimes I roast the veg - chop it all up and mix it with a very little oil, the minimum you can get away with, some seasonings and a couple of peeled, whole garlic cloves.  Shove it all into a roasting dish and roast until there are a few black bits and there's that wonderful roasted smell wafting around the kitchen.  Then I add the liquid and proceed as above.

And if you have enough leftover soup already in the freezer for that week, you could do a curry instead!

Monday 17 September 2012


Good morning, everyone.  Another new working week has begun.  Third week in and it is as if the holiday had never happened.  The routines and structures come back so quickly and so naturally it makes me wonder how I am every going to manage when I retire.  I will miss the 'imposed' disciplines, that's for sure although, maybe, by then I will have grown up!  I saw something on Facebook the other day that went something like 'Everyone gets older: not everyone grows up'.  Hmmmmm . . .

As I had hoped, yesterday was a gentle day.  Some kitchen pottering, family round for lunch (the soup was yum but I will definitely cut down on the ginger next time), some telly (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory - a favourite) and a very tasty dinner.  I realised I haven't used Handy Andy (my halogen cooker) for a while so I did the tandoori chicken in that and it came out very nice indeed.  It was just yogurt with cumin, garlic and turmeric with some salt and pepper for the chicken breast to marinate in for a while before cooking.  I could have added some red food colouring for the 'authentic' look but I couldn't find where I've put mine and, anyway, what's the point?  I found I didn't have enough yogurt for the mint drizzle (there was some in the yogurt maker but it wasn't ready) so I left it out and that, in hindsight, was a shame.  The chicken wasn't dry at all but it would have benefited from a sauce.  One to do again though!

I spent some time going through my freezer.  I was ashamed to see how much stuff I had that was way, way, way too old and which has now been ditched.  What a shocking waste: I am so ashamed of myself!  I must, MUST, get my act together with this side of things and be less impulsive with my cooking.  Eating one and freezing three portions is fine, but I have to stop making huge potfuls of stuff.  I'm not feeding a family now, only me (and have been for a long time).  I think that I must have regular 'eat from the freezer' weeks where the majority of my meals are from there.  In fact, looking at this week's planning, I guess I'm into one now - good start!

Remember my resolutions?  Well, so far so good.  Yesterday I did have a very strong urge to hop onto the scales and see but I managed to resist it until after I'd eaten, by which time the urge had vanished (funny, that).  I go with the Hairy Bikers - weight first thing in the morning, before breakfast and after a wee!  I know I've lost some weight because of the clothes, but not how much.  Two weeks before I know - and that's OK by me!

Sunday 16 September 2012

Sunday morning

. . . and things are properly back to normal.  All the aches and whatevers have gone although I expect I'll sleep a lot today - that's the plan anyway.  Every time I sat down in my comfy chair yesterday I went to sleep.  No complaints there: with all the planning out of the way, I was glad to be able to relax without worries.

Earlier in the week I was rootling in my bookshelves for a cookery book to read (yes, sad individual that I am, I read cookery books for pleasure) and found a fairly old (e.g. over five years old) book called The Hi-Lo Cookbook, Hi-Lo meaning high energy and low fat.  There's some extremely likely looking recipes there and , as the saying goes, because woman cannot live by Hairy Dieters alone, I'm going to have a go at some of them - the ones that immediately appeal to start with

So yesterday I made roasted pumpkin and tomato chowder (although I used butternut squash) and it's really rather nice, except that the seasonings are too spicy for me.  I had already zizzed it and pushed it through a sieve to make it ultra smooth and velvety (very nice) so I added a couple of diced potatoes, simmered the soup until they were soft and then just mashed them in.  I'm very pleased with the results - still the velvety texture but with some soft lumps to chew.  And it worked - for me the taste is now just right.  I've made a note on a post it and stuck it on the page!  An added advantage is that it serves six and I will need enough for three today (plus seconds, I suspect) so there should be at least one portion left over for freezing to be used for a school lunch at some point.  Can't complain about that!

You can tell autumn is starting to bite.  Leftover soup for lunch yesterday, more soup for lunch again today . . .  and it's not yet officially started!

Today is a Take It Easy Day, I think.  I have a bit of washing and ironing to do and that can wait until there's something to watch on the telly (or until I fancy a DVD) and I want to try another recipe from the same book for dinner tonight - tandoori chicken with mint drizzle.  I'll let you know!

Saturday 15 September 2012

Saturday morning

Look at the time!  Stupid o'clock right enough.  Yesterday was most peculiar.  I woke up with a bit of a headache: nothing much, just a few twinges.  As the day went on I started feeling yuck.  Mostly tummy stuff but nothing that stopped me working.  Enough to make me leave school as soon as I possibly could and I'm glad I did because once home the shivers started   Not nice feeling like that, not nice at all.  So it was heating on, hot cuppa, paracetamol and bed.  Bed at about half past six, would you believe!  As I warmed up under the covers I fell asleep and that was that - I feel a whole lot better now, despite the time and I should be able to catch a bit more sleep before most sensible people are awake and up.  I wonder what that was all about now . . .

Despite the above, it was a very useful day yesterday.  I got loads done, useful, helpful, necessary stuff.  It's a very satisfying feeling to be up to date with stuff.  As the school year moves on, one finds that if one doesn't deal with what comes in straight away, one ends up six foot under - and yes, the use of 'one' is deliberate because I know I am not the only 'one'!  At the moment there's time.  It's when there's no time and/or no energy that the problems start.

Enough of whinges.  Looking ahead, it's a planning free weekend.  I have a friend around this morning for a chat, George should be here to work his usual magic on a garden that is starting to look decided autumnal and I want to blitz my bedroom at some point.  Also, I've found an old book on my bookshelves that has some likely looking recipes in it and I want to try one when DG and DD come over.  It's a thick soup (yum) just right for days that are getting noticeably shorter and make one think of soups, stews, casseroles and other such comfort food.  With that in mind I intend to start my old habit of making 'leftover soup' on Saturdays - basically, any veg left over from the week goes in and it ends up either as a minestrone type soup or as a zizzed chunky soup, depending on the veg.  It's frugal, it's tasty and it is likely to do me for several lunches during the week.

Now that we have a nice big staffroom with a good sized table, lunches are becoming something of a social occasion and more and more people are bringing in 'leftover' type meals to warm up in the microwave.  It's really rather pleasant to sit around the table chatting as we eat.  The 'new' (nearly a year old now) staffroom is proving to be a decided blessing in many ways.  We're lucky . . .

Friday 14 September 2012

Friday morning

Well, I made the lamb curry last night.  It's not for eating right now but for freezing so I can't make comment with any personal authority but the little nibble I had seemed to indicate that it was perhaps a little too hot for my taste but really quite tasty and I can add a bit of yogurt to cool it down.  As always, I added extra veg!  Not authentic, but it makes up for the lack of rice.  I have a nice little collection of titchpot curries in the freezer now, so I can have my first Fakeaway (that's that the Hairy Bikers call it) tomorrow evening.  A trio of curries.  Sounds good, doesn't it?  Now I need to build up my Chinese titchpots too.

Aren't we having a wonderful Indian summer.  The mornings and evenings are chilly, true, and getting darker by the day, but during the day it is just wonderful.  I love the way the children come in after play smelling of sunshine and glowing with health and happiness.  I love that we can have the door and windows open.  I love watching the clouds scudding across the sky playing 'catch me' with each other.  Everyone is more cheerful when the sun shines.

And today is Friday.  SEN day.  Last day of the school week.  I have a long list of things to do today and it will be good to get them crossed off, that's for sure.
And then it's the weekend.  A planning free weekend too.  Lovely!

Thursday 13 September 2012

Thursday morning

. . . and I nearly forgot to write my blog.  There was a very worthy and commendable reason though - I was working on next week's planning, having been inspired by my new co-worker in Y1 who HATES planning over the weekend.  OK by me!!  So it's all done and even sent over to her.  Nice to have a planning free weekend, isn't it?

Yesterday was another really pleasant day, albeit a very long one, what with staff meeting and then staying till six to keep to my check list - which is working brilliantly at the moment, my table has never been so tidy!  So I got home at about 6:16, cooked dinner (skinny pie and carrots from the garden, yum) and I was in bed and falling asleep by 8:30.  So I didn't have time to make that Hairy Dieters curry last night - maybe tonight instead.

Today shouldn't be as long, although you never know in teaching, do you?  You just never know!

Welcome home, Diane!  I've missed reading your blog!

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Wednesday morning

. . . and I'm sitting here feeling thoroughly satisfied after a most delicious breakfast.  First I had a properly poached egg (and by 'properly' I mean in a small pan of simmering water) on a toasted crumpet followed by some of the melon I didn't have yesterday.  Rather over-ripe melon so I had to cut a few bits away but so delicious.  All of that, with a second coffee, has set me up good and proper for the day.

After pondering over my new cookery book (oh, the hardship!!!) I've decided that I will cook the potato, lamb and spinach curry next.  It looks delicious, I bought the lamb yesterday and I have all the ingredients apart from the potato, which I can get today.  If I can get my act together tonight after staff meeting, I can do the preliminary bits and then bung it all in the slow cooker overnight.

School is still lovely.  All going well and I'm happy and relaxed.  It won't last, of course, it never does, but I may as well bask in it while it does!  I was rather lazily pondering over education and politics yesterday evening, between snoozes on my recliner, and I wondered if there would ever be a minister for education who had actually had a satisfying previous career in teaching so who really knew the practicalities of the job from the inside.  Someone who understood the ins and outs, the difficulties, the impossibilities, the commitment that the overwhelming majority of teachers have to their children, the ridiculousness of the demands sometimes made, the overwhelmingly hard work that most children, whatever their ability, put in to their work, the utter heartbreak when they (and their teachers) are told that their best isn't good enough for those powers from on high.  And, of course, above all, the sheer joy . . .

Let me know when you see those flying pigs . . .

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Tuesday morning

Another happy day yesterday.  I paid for the camera so it is now mine and my Hairy Dieters recipe book arrived a day early.  I spent a joyous evening reading through and, oh, my, there are so many recipes I'm going to try, I can see that they will keep be going for months.  I'm going to have to make half quantities - one for me and one for the freezer - or I will just have too much stored away and my freezer is already rather loaded up.  I think that I have to be disciplined and make one new thing a week.  It'll make the fun last longer.

Everything is ready for school - a most comfortable feeling - so I can spend the rather earlier morning than I would really like getting up to date with online things.  I've hardly looked at the OUSA forums for a couple of days, which is unlike me!  Now's the chance to catch up!  Brekky was going to be a poached egg on a crumpet but yesterday evening I was too full after the first course to want the dessert I had already prepared (spiced apples and raisins in yogurt) so it went into the fridge for this morning.  I've got some melon to use up too so it will be a fruity breakfast!  The rest of the day's eating is freezer based stuff so I'd better go and get it all out to thaw!

Monday 10 September 2012

Monday morning

. . . and it's back to school after a lovely weekend doing something that I really enjoy - cooking stuff.  Only five days until the next weekend!

First of all, I followed through on my bright idea of little pots of take away style Chinese and Indian meals and re-potted one of the single portions of korma and sweet and sour that were waiting to go into the freezer into three little pots of each.  I found (or rather, it was handed to me on a blog plate) a recipe for a chunky green lentil dahl which I halved and made up (VERY generous portions) so that's more little pots.  I need one more Indian and two more Chinese-y recipes to make up and then I have three different mini-meals to put together.

I remembered that I have called a meeting today so when I made the oat cookies I baked some of them and froze the remainder in single cookie shapes, ready to bake from frozen when needed.  The baked ones, together with a few home made ginger nuts, will make a nice munchy plateful for my colleagues to lighten the load.

The tortilla pizza I made for dinner went down a treat.  It was really nice.  I had dry fried some onion, red pepper and mushroom, I spread some tomato puree over the wrap (a small one), then added the veg, topped with some halved cherry tomatoes, some very thin slices of chorizo and a little finely sliced Parmesan.  Salt and pepper, of course and in a medium oven for about 15 mins, maybe a little less - I wasn't counting.  The tortilla had crisped up and the topping was scrummy.  Most satisfying!

So it's back to school now.  All is ready, I have the comfortable feeling that I left everything neat and tidy and that there will be no nasty surprises waiting when I get there.  PPA for an hour and no playground duty today.  Good-oh!

Sunday 9 September 2012

Sunday morning

From the garden

Goodness, I slept like a log last night!  All that bustling about in the kitchen must have worn me out good and proper.  It was worth it though - I now have four chicken kormas and three sweet and sours ready, labelled and bagged, for the freezer.  I had the other sweet and sour portion last night and it was lovely, except that I over chilli-ed it so it had more 'bite' to it than I expected.  Something learnt there.  I added extra veg - some broccoli, some carrot very finally sliced on the diagonal and some mushrooms and that made it a very substantial meal with plenty of my five-a-day in it.  No rice though, I preferred it without.  Now, when I fancy a take  away, I don't need to pay the earth!  I'm hoping that the Hairy Dieters book, when it comes, will have other takeaway type recipes and then I can do what I've always wished the local Chinese and Indian places would do - a varied selection of very small portions.  I know they do 'set meals' but the set meal (in the singular) for one is dead boring and the portions are still larger than necessary.

So - bright idea number one today - if there are other likely recipes, I will make them and freeze the results in small pots (of which I have plenty) so that I could have three different items in the same meal for, I bet, half the price or less of a bought takeaway.  Worth a try anyway.  I do so love these flavoursome, spicy dishes, but there's always too much and they are always expensive (in comparison).

I also set to and MADE myself change the lesson planning.  I'd got it all done by Friday but then decided to go along another route so had to change all the theme planning.  It's done now, as is the maths and the 'what are we doing this week' posted for the window, all printed out and ready and very satisfying it feels too.  Sorting through and organising my resource files (or starting to anyway) means that I have a better idea of what's in there and I know I have most of the paper resources for this coming week - so that's also great.  No point reinventing the wheel, is there?

While I was in Sainsbury's yesterday morning I got four little non-stick pudding moulds - the kind you use to make individual sponges.  Seeing as the HD's skinny pie is definitely on the menu on a regular basis, these will be ideal in which to cook it

On to today.  I didn't get the chewy oat cookies made yesterday and I'm glad I didn't because this morning I noticed that the person who wrote up the recipe on their blog also said that one can scoop the raw cookies onto a baking tray with a non stick surface, then open freeze them before bagging.  That way one can bake one at a time, or however many one needs, ideal for someone who lives alone.  So that's what I am going to do.  I will have them there but the need to cook and cool will deter the casual snacking.  Clever!

DD and DG won't be coming round today (sad) as they are off to a lunchtime party in Maldon (nice) so I have another day to chill, relax, sort things out and generally be thoroughly lazy!  And make those cookies!

Saturday 8 September 2012

Saturday evening

Just thought I'd share this with you.  Another pretty sunset here this evening, somewhat - um - enhanced by my camera which I have definitely decided to buy.  It'll be mine on Monday!  :0)

Saturday morning

. . .and to state the bleedin' obvious (as the saying goes), it's the weekend.  YAY!  It's been a good week.  Nice class, lovely to see friends again, the weather has been glorious, I've had fun playing with a camera and I've eaten sensibly and healthily.  What more could any reasonable teacher ask for, eh?

I can now take close ups of spiders!!  I couldn't work out how to do it as the camera just focused on the background with a muddy little spludge where the spider was, but now I can and here's proof . . . (with apologies to all those with a sensitive disposition) . . .

I have a little 'guardian' to help with the healthy eating.  Here's what I printed, laminated and magnetted onto the fridge door.

Cute, isn't he?  Alfie the Adipose!  The colour is not right, I need to sort that out. 

I also have these little chaps staring at me as I open the fridge door.  Birthday magnets to match all the other glories DD sorted for my 60th birthday celebrations.  I LOVE owly things.

Seems to be working.   (and the colour is better - I wonder what made the difference)

Today I have planning to finish, I need to go shopping and then I'm having a serious cooking session.  I hope to end up with four portions of chicken korma, four of sweet and sour chicken (both those wonderful Hairy Bikers' recipes) and a batch of chewy oat cookies.
And then I will need to seriously clean and tidy up the kitchen - and make room in the freezer!

Hope you've got a good day planned too.

Friday 7 September 2012

Friday morning

. . . and the end of the first week is in sight.  It's been a good week - a great week in some ways - and I seem to have got loads done, one way and another.  I'm getting to know another group of little people who are also getting to know me and my cupboards are looking increasingly tidy as time goes by.  I've slept like a log each night too.

We had a bit of a sunset yesterday, which was a good opportunity to try out one of the settings on the camera I am thinking of buying.  I was twiddling around with the buttons and discovered that there's a sunrise/sunset one.  This was good, because capturing them has always been very hit or miss with the point and clicks.  So out I went and below is one of the results.  A little on the dramatic side and I neglected to take a few on the ordinary setting to compare, but it makes a nice photo.

Nothing exciting about the menu today but Amazon has told me that my Hairy Dieters book should be with me by Tuesday so that's something to look forward to.  I've heard lots of good things about recipes in the book, not just the ones that were on the programmes or web site, but others as well.  Can't wait . . .

 . . . but I will have to!

Thursday 6 September 2012

Thursday morning

. . . and I'm looking forward to going into school!  Yesterday was good - great fun, sunny, not as warm as Tuesday but still very pleasant indeed.  Long may it continue.

I have a new toy - sort of have, anyway.  A local friend is selling her camera and I've got it for a few days to play with it and see if I like it.  I do rather.  I've looked up reviews and they are pretty good, the camera is in good order and it's quite a bit more complicated than a point and click (although I would still want a point and click for those times I'm just snapping away) so I will learn a bit more about photograph stuff.  It seems to do good close ups, although I couldn't get it to focus on a spider, it wanted to focus on the fence behind.  There must be a way to do it manually though, and I will learn!  Looks as if I have made up my mind to buy it, doesn't it?

The poorly camera has gone in for repairs.  Fortunately, it is still under guarantee or whatever it's called, so it should not be expensive.  I do miss it.

I'm finding the sensible eating a lot easier to manage now that there's a very strict routine to my days.  Yesterday went fine again and I'm now planning my next week's eating.   The resolutions are holding out, which is amazing!  Today's nosh is porridge, crispbread with hummus, yogurt and fruit, with chicken casserole from the freezer for dinner tonight.  Amazon should be shipping the Hairy Dieters' book in the next few days, so next week there will be a whole new load of recipes with which to have fun.  Good-oh!

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Wednesday morning

Yesterday was fine.  Really, very fine indeed.  It's always a great relief when the new year starts off with a bang!  The weather was fine, playground duty was fine, life was good.

Not a lot else to say really.

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Tuesday morning

. . . and up with the lark - actually, probably before the lark as it was still dark when the old eyes opened and started focusing for the day!  I have a nice comfortable feeling that all is in order, everything is ready, the sheets are copied and trimmed, the books are labelled, the displays are up, the powerpoint for phonics is ready and all I need is fine weather, given that I'm on playground duty am and pm.

I even managed to do some more sorting out yesterday afternoon.  In the olden days I did a lot of recorder tuition.  That was when a) I didn't have nearly so much other responsibility and b) I was young enough to be happy to go rushing here and there all over the school at odd times, gathering pupils from their classes and returning them again afterwards.
We did jolly well too.  In all my years of tuition and teaching up to exam level (a few even reached grade five descant and grade 4 treble), I never had a fail and the huge majority gained distinctions.  I'm quite proud of that.  But those days are long gone now.  I neither have the time nor the stamina, sadly.  So the fairly huge stack of music, all now out of date anyway in terms of exam material, has been sitting in my cupboard gathering dust and taking up valuable space.  So yesterday I sorted it all out, kept only the resources I could use with beginners recorder club and, after a nostalgic wallow and throwing out all that was in a really bad condition, handed the rest over to the music coordinator.  I also found some old choir stuff too (I used to take the school choir - not very well, but I was the only one able and willing) which went to the Head.  So that's another useful space in my cupboard, soon to be filled by my geography coordinator stuff (currently somewhere it really ought not to be).

As well as that, I sorted and distributed a whole load of 'scrap paper' brought in by one of my lovely mums last year, jolly useful for wet playtimes, golden time, etc.

And just to cap it all, I went through some of my resource files (work sheets, display stuff, etc), found some resources I'd forgotten I made and generally managed to create order out of mild chaos.

So, all in all, very satisfying.  Plenty more to do, of course, but I'll get there!

When I was sorting stuff out for yesterday's dinner (I like to get it all sorted in the morning because I'm tired come the evening) I found that the planned broccoli was somewhat over its best (yuck) so I popped into Morrison's and saw they had sprouts, which I love.  Afterwards I wished I hadn't bothered, they're never that good at this time of year.  However it was more than compensated for by the wonderful roasted squash (not courgette as I said yesterday) given to me by DD from her allotment.  Honey bear squash.  Quite a new  variety, I gather, and I chopped it into bits, skin and all, roasted it in a little oil and oh, my goodness, it was absolutely gorgeous.  And I've got half left over for today, to have with the chicken korma.  And it will go very nicely with that, I am sure.  I think the flavours will complement each other very nicely.

As yesterday, not my photo, but it gives you an idea of what it looks like.
And on that happy note I will stop.  Have a lovely day, gentle readers!

Monday 3 September 2012

Monday morning and the holiday is over!

It's very strange.  For most of this holiday I have been bouncing out of bed good and early, bright eyed and bushy tailed.  Today I slept through the alarm (which never happens usually as it is very loud and piercing) and had some difficulty getting my eyes open.  Mind over matter, I guess, and we don't have to be in until 8:30 so no problems.

The order of the day is Staff Meeting and then into class to prepare for the invasion tomorrow.  Having worked quite hard last week, I don't have an awful lot more to do today in terms of preparation for tomorrow so I can perhaps sort out another cupboard!

I had what OFSTED call an 'awe and wonder' moment on Saturday, which I forgot to mention yesterday.  I was sitting at one of the children's tables by the window, idly sorting those new found felt tips into groups (they were in boxes of the same colour to start with) when I saw a woodpecker - yes, actually a woodpecker, I checked on Google - merrily pecking away at bugs along the low wall.  He was beautiful.  I think he was a juvenile green woodpecker as he had all the right markings and I cursed my out of action camera as he was very bold and wasn't disturbed by me standing right by the window.  A site found by Google tells me that the green woodpecker can 'often' (yeah, right!) be seen pecking at ants in back gardens.  Well, all I can say is that if he thinks the school field is a garden, he's going to get a shock come Tuesday !!!
Not my photo, unfortunately, but just what my handsome youngster looked like.

Yesterday for lunch I made mini tortilla quiches.  Now, we all know that there's no substitute for a nice crumbly shortcrust shell but, given that they are about a million and one calories per portion, that wasn't an option. 
So I did what I've done before and used a tortilla wrap, pressed into each mini quiche tin and the edges trimmed around before adding the fillings.  No, it's not pastry but it does, it's OK and I can keep the pastry for best!  After chatting to DD, I am going to try baking the trimmings to see if I can turn them into some sort of cracker type thing as there was a lot wasted.

So - today!  Back to routine and timetable.  Back to being a bit pushed for time again.  Back to being surrounded by lots of people again.  And the food planned is the fruit, yogurt and crumpet thing as described previously; crispbread, hummus, orange and apple for lunch; and then, for dinner, a skinny pie using one of the portions of filling from the freezer, with broccoli and maybe some roasted honeybear courgette, which DD tells me is delicious.  As the oven will be on for the pie, I may as well.

So - better go and get started!  New year, new class, new habits?  We will see.

Sunday 2 September 2012

Sunday morning

Isn't it staying dark in the mornings now?  It's light now at 6:20-ish but when I woke it was dark and it wasn't so dreadfully early - not for me anyway!  With it being September and with the new term just over the edge of the cliff, not to mention the very chilly evenings, summer is truly over, what there was of it. 

I popped into school yesterday and I'm jolly glad I did as I now feel much more comfortable about the state of the classroom and, in particular, the state of my cupboards.  I might not feel quite so hypocritical now when I urge the children to keep their table boxes tidy.  And I was highly embarrassed when I started sorting the black hole that is called 'under my table' (as in 'just put it under my table, dear') because out came a box which, upon investigation, turned out to be a box of lovely, shiny felt tip pens.  Ooooops!!  They're in their proper place now and will be used.  I also sorted out my table drawers and chucked an awful lot of old stuff away.  Diaries going back years, old notes, pens that haven't worked for decades, etc.  I now have a drawer in which to put the week's sheets rather than having to keep them on my table where they always get lost!  I've set targets for the children for keeping the classroom tidy and I have now set targets for myself, keeping my area just as tidy.  One can dream . . .
And there's three black bin bags full of rubbish!  The cleaners will have fits wondering what's happened to me!  And there will be more to come, believe me!!

Joan, you will laugh at this.  A few days ago, Joan sent me a link to a checklist for the new school year from Flybaby.  Now, Flybaby is American and, my goodness, couldn't you tell!!!  There's no way that particular list would be much use over here except for a giggle or two but the concept - ah, now that's a different idea altogether.  I now have a checklist for the end of each day and for the end of the week, nicely laminated and blu-tacked on the notice board beside my table.  So many thanks, Joan.  I'll let you know.

For dinner yesterday I had the next portion of Hairy Bikers' cassoulet and, if anything, it was more scrummy.  Perhaps partly because the flavours had developed (the rest is now in the freezer but this portion I kept in the fridge), but also because on Thursday I forgot the very last thing which was to sprinkle over some grated orange zest and chopped parsley.  I'm not sure the parsley did a tremendous amount but the zest - oh, my goodness . . .

So - today.  Very last day of freedom.  End of the holiday.  Nice food planned.  Porridge, tortilla quiche and salad for lunch and then soup and a courgette muffin for tea, plus fruit and yogurt, etc, of course.  Sounds good to me.  I hope yours is too!

Saturday 1 September 2012

Saturday morning: a recipe

This is not authentic but it is delicious so here it is - hope you enjoy.  The list looks long but most of it is spices and other store cupbourd basics and I had them all in the cupboard - in fact, I didn't need to go out and buy anything, which pleased me no end!

Best ever chicken balti

Ingredients to serve 6
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
1 tsp chilli powder
1.5 tsp garam masala
1 tsp minced garlic (I used garlic puree)
3 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp Greek yogurt (I used the 0% fat kind)
2 tbsp fresh coriander (missed this out as I don't like the stuff)
2 tbsp mango chutney
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
4 tbsp oil (didn't use anything like this much!!!)
2 green chillis, chopped
2 tbsp single cream

I also used:
Half an onion, chopped
1/4 yellow pepper, chopped
1 chestnut mushroom chopped
. . . and I was making it just for 1 so the other ingredients were reduced accordingly.  Thank goodness for a variety of measuring spoons.

1  Blend together the tomato puree, yogurt, garam masala, chilli powder, garlic, mango chutney, salt and sugar

2.  Heat the oil (I just brushed a little around the pan with my pastry brush), add the onion and simmer gently until softening and translucent.  Add the pepper and mushroom and simmer for another couple of minutes.  Stirring helps!

3.  Add the tomato mixture and cook for about 2 mins, stirring often.

4.  Add the chopped chicken and a little water, stir well and continue to cook until the chicken is cooked, stirring now and again.  It doesn't take long.

5.  Finally, add the chillis, coriander and cream, stir in well, and cook gently for a few more minutes until back up to heat.  if the sauce is too thick, add a little water to get the consistency you want.

6.  Serve with boiled rice and/or nan bread.  (which I didn't, because I didn't want to - it was filling enough without)