Monday 31 December 2012

New Year's Eve . . .

. . . is going to be a bit of a non-event around here.  Just a quiet evening in and an early night, probably.

Whoever you are and however you intend to celebrate (or not), I wish you a very peaceful and enjoyable New Year.

Sunday 30 December 2012


Sunday already.  The start of the second half of the Christmas break and thoughts are, unfortunately, turning to planning, resources, future assessments and the like.  There's a fair bit of work to be done that wouldn't have been done last week anyway, 100% fit or not and it all takes much thought before I can sit down and produce the paper versions.

It's still quite breezy here but dry and hopefully it will stay that way.  Mind you, I haven't watched any weather forecasts recently so have no idea what's in the offing, weather-wise.  I doubt it's snow, but you never know with the weird and wonderful weather we seem to be getting nowadays!

I got the turkey hotpot and the lentil and chestnut soup made at last yesterday and I'm well pleased with both.
I suppose I shouldn't call it hotpot because it isn't, it's just a turkey soup/casserole, but that's what mum called it and the name has stuck.  Anyway, this is how I did it.
I peeled and cut into chunks two smallish onions, one leek, three medium carrots, two parsnips, one sweet potato, one ordinary potato and half a smallish swede (and a partridge in a pear tree!) and softened them all in butter in my large pan.  I then added all the turkey stock (and very good, tasty stock it was too), a bouquet garni, two bay leaves, a couple of handfuls of red lentils and some pepper.  It all simmered away for a while until the veg were soft and the lentils had mushed.  I finished it off by adding the drained contents of a tin of butter beans and the rest of the turkey (quite a lot) and simmered it all up again for about five minutes.  Most of it is now in the freezer but there's a bit in my breakfast bowl!  It's really delicious! 

The lentil and chestnut soup was just following a recipe and it also came out well.  Here's the recipe (I think I posted it before but here it is again).

And that really is the end of the turkey!!!

Saturday 29 December 2012


The last entry finished off 'If I get half of that done it'll be a miracle'.   Well, no miracle appeared, I did a bit of Morrison's shopping and felt really rough when I got home so that was that!  Once the shopping was away, out came the crochet and I settled down for an afternoon of snoozing and crocheting.  I think I have just about 'perfected' my pattern now and am using a bit of my lovely Christmas yarn from Beth to try the final  version out, fingers crossed.

While in Morrison's, I saw they had some kettles at half price.  This one was a good one, a Breville, and nice looking too.  I've been umming and ahing about my kettle because the 'on' light no longer works and it is taking longer and longer to boil.  It's quite old as kettles go: it was one of the appliances I didn't replace when they kitchen was redone with the extension because I liked it, there was nothing wrong with it and it did a good job.  It's certainly earned its space over the years but now it will be retired to the land where all good kettles finally go.  Which reminds me - must go and do the next boiling up thing with the new kettles to prepare it for use!

That's about it really.  Still feeling a bit rough as the cough has now started and the muscles are aching, but it's a step on so I'm trying not to whinge too much.  The sinuses have settled down though, which is a blessing!  I'm counting them!

Friday 28 December 2012


Nearly the end of the first week of the school holidays and how it has dragged!  I don't usually say this, do I?  However, it's true, time has really slowed down and it feels as if it ought to be more like the middle of next week.  I guess that as soon as I am feeling better, time will speed up again and I shall blink and find that it's back to school the next day (and no planning!).

I AM starting to feel better at long last now.  The aches and the giddiness have subsided and it's all descending onto chest and sinuses but at least things are 'moving'.  I won't go into any more detail here!

Over the last few days I've had some fun designing and crocheting some 'hand warmers'.  These are not exactly fingerless gloves as there are no fingers that stop short and just a hole for the thumb, but they should be jolly useful when on playground duty in the colder weather.  The number of times I have to pull off my gloves in order to deal with a request from a child.  This way I won't have to.  A colleague had her birthday towards the end of last term and, me being me (and busy), I didn't get round to getting her a gift.  I think a pair of these would be quite nice.
However, I can't find my pot of sewing-in needles and there are a number of loose ends, plus a dinky little flower to sew onto the back.  If it doesn't turn up, I will have to go to Hobbycraft (oh, the hardship) to get some more.  I can be sure of finding some there: Morrison's sells needles but not the wide-eyed ones needed for sewing in wool ends.  I am rather fussy about the finishing off - a loose end astray spoils the whole product for me and I try to secure every spare end neatly - not always that simple and easy.
Once they're done I will try to remember to post a photo.

I do also have to go to Morrison's too though.  I want to finish off the leftovers today and I need some root veg, etc., for the chunky soup.  Once that's done and it and all the remaining bits are in the freezer, I can sort out the fridge and get everything in order again.  There's a fair amount of stuff in the shed but that will be generally absorbed into household eating.

And then I will make the lentil and chestnut soup for New Year's Eve.  That's the soup I intended to make for Christmas Eve but which never happened.  I'm determined to make it by hook or by crook.  It looks and sounds lovely.

And if I get half of that done it'll be a right miracle!

Thursday 27 December 2012


Just look at the time.  I've been up for about three quarters of an hour, that's all.  I did have a wakey spell in the night but even so . . . this is amazingly late for me.  No complaints.

Yesterday was nice.  B&A came over for a Christmas dinner and stayed until around four or five.  It wasn't any kind of hassle - I cooked (or reheated) turkey, roasties, roast parsnips and carrots, sprouts and red cabbage with lovely gravy (Beth, being vegetarian) had a pie and her own gravy).  There were mince pies for dessert and cheese and biscuits.  A good spread and easy to do because most had been pre-prepared one way or another.  Another plus point is that apart from the roast potatoes there's enough left over for me today so no need to cook any more.

Today is the day I deal with the turkey trimmings.  After boiling everything up yesterday I didn't have the energy to deal with it then so the whole kit and caboodle went into the fridge.  It should make it easy to skim off the fat, which is a bonus!  If I can manage to get to Morrison's today I will buy some more root veg and make the chunky turkey soup I am going to serve when M&D come over next week at some point.

Thank goodness for freezers!!!

Wednesday 26 December 2012

Later: some ramblings and a couple of recipes (not mine)

I seem to be doing a lot of these 'later' posts.  I think it's because there isn't anyone here to talk to.  Normally the house would feel full - Mum, Dad, John, Beth, Alex and me either staying, coming or going - so the contrast is somewhat startling.  Not whinging, just saying.

As there's no-one to pick at the turkey, I decided to get it all sorted.  Now I have seven vacupacks of two portion turkey slices, two of chunks of brown meat, a dish of slices and bits for the next few days (definitely potted turkey at some point soon - so scrummy) and rather more bits and pieces in the stock pot than I would usually have, given that people would be picking bits off the carcass all day normally.  In fact, I have so much to boil up that my biggest casserole pot didn't go anywhere near so I have pressed my maslin pan into service with a makeshift lid consisting of the splatter guard covered in foil.  It works fine too!  I added bits and bobs for flavour, like the ham skin that came off the ham on Sunday, helped to keep the turkey moist on Tuesday and is now imparting the last of its flavour to the panful of goodness.  Also in there ire the other ham trimmings.  I decided to also deal with the ham so there's some vacupacks of sliced ham with some on a plate for use over the next few days.  It was rather a fatty piece, not the best I have ever had, I have to say, so all those trimmings went into the pan too.  The fat itself will be skimmed off, of course, it's the flavour I'm after.  There's also some onion, carrot and celery, the lemon that was in the cavity, some herbs . . . all sorts of things really.

The potted turkey is a Clarissa Dickson Wright recipe and if you've been watching 'The Nation's Favourite Christmas Food' you will have seen it.

Ingredients to make quite a lot:
225g leftover turkey, brown and white meat
80g softened butter
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
grated nutmeg
1/4 lemon, juice only
extra butter for melting

Place all the ingredients in a blender and zizz, leaving a bit of texture.
Pour the blended mixture into ramekins, packing down firmly.  Chill in the fridge.
When the mixture is firm, melt extra butter and pour over the top of each ramekin to seal and return to the fridge.
Take out before using as it should be served at room temperature

My thought:  this might work well with some dried cranberries added and zizzed.  I will try with a bit and see.

I was mentioning to a friend on Facebook that I boiled the ham in coca cola (she was boiling hers in cider - hmmm, sounds good to me).  It did turn out delicious and I will do it again like that.  However, what I didn't do was then glaze the joint and bake it for a short while and I think that I will try that next time too.  Often, after New Year is over, Morrison's has hams on sale and very good value they can be too.  It's comforting to have a spare ham in the freezer, just in case, as they say!
It was a Nigella recipe and you can find it here, Sue, if you're interested.

After all that effort I am now feeling fragile so I'm off to check the stock pot, pop in my hearing aids, make sure things are ready for lunch and then sit down with a coffee and a book.  After all, it *is* the school holidays and it's only Wednesday of the first week!  Planning?  What planning?

Wednesday: Boxing Day

I'm very glad I don't have to do any boxing today!  The aches wouldn't stand for it!

As I thought, yesterday was a funny old day.  Kinda lonely in a way, but I was very grateful for social networking, emailing and phone calls that kept me in touch with people I know.  I was very thankful I wasn't catering for six - one was bad enough!  Mind you, that did involve dealing with a large turkey - completely dealing with it, I mean.  Today I have to sort out the slices I will want in the next few days, make some potted turkey (I LOVE potted turkey on hot toast), vacupack the rest, boil the carcass, pick off the . . . oh, you know the whole rigmarole, I am sure.

If I can get to the shops today, I will buy some fresh veg and make a turkey soup - hotpot, as we all call it, although it isn't a hot pot at all really.  Mum and Dad are hoping to come over next week at some point and they love turkey hotpot with grated parmesan and croutons.

And B&A are coming over today so I shall be making another 'Christmas' dinner.   Mustn't forget to pick out some choice bits for Beth's cats.  They love turkey!

None of the above is going to be a hassle but I will need to spend a few hours in the kitchen to make it happen.

Tuesday 25 December 2012

Turkey pondering

Perhaps it would look a lot less as if it had been trampled on in a riot if I had actually used a sharp knife to carve it.

I did try, honestly.  I used my best knife and I used my good knife sharpener thingy, but even so, it was not good.  In fact, it was bl**d* awful!  The fact is, all my knives need a proper professional sharpen to get the edge back again, even the little ones.

But how do you do this nowadays?  We have a key cutter/knife sharpener shop in town.  But how do you get your knives there when you are forbidden by law to carry knives?  In the olden days you wrapped them in an old tea towel, popped the resulting bundle in a carrier bag, marched down to the shop and hey presto, lovely newly sharpened knives.  All you had to do was pay the bill.  And in the even more olden days, when we lived in Aston, a little village south of Derby, a man came round now and again with his own equipment and did the necessary close to your own front door.  I bet he made a bomb close to Christmas.

My dad had a proper steel.  Not one of those that you whisk the knife up and down in the manner of a professional chef.  One on his workbench, solid and heavy and requiring oil.  I used to 'help' him sometimes.  He was remarkably patient, I reckon.

I think I will pop into town once normality returns and ask at the shop what the regulations are.  Because there's no doubt about it, my knives need a proper sharpen!!!

The turkey still tastes great though!

Turkey update

Well, it's out, looks done, the thermometers say it's done, it smells brilliant, the juices are running clear but there's an old fashioned part of me that is worried all the same.  Two and a half hours just doesn't sound long enough.   Eeeeeeek!

Christmas Day.

It's very strange, waking up to an empty home (apart from me, of course) on Christmas morning.  It's very strange to be not making Nigella's Christmas muffins for breakfast right now, a family tradition for several years, so strange that when the turkey is cooked and out, I might make a batch anyway, maybe for elevensies with a glass of port and either what's on the telly or a nice Christmas DVD.

It feels strange but yes, the turkey is in and due to be finished in an hour and a half.  I know what Mum means, it does seem an incredibly short cooking time when one is used to long-and-roast-the-divil-out-of-it, but I'm giving it a good go, even to the point of roasting it upside-down and uncovered.  If it doesn't work the way 'they' say it should, I will go back to Delia's trusted and tried methods next year.  I have to say, it's starting to smell VERY good indeed.

It is also strange to be setting my own agenda today.  It's always family driven on Christmas Day.  Breakfast by half eight, usually, pudding in the slow cooker minding its own business in a kitchen corner, chatting, waiting for B&A, A&D to arrive, opening the bubbly at about eleven (goodness, I don't even HAVE any bubbly -  Dad always brings it, ooops!), then the pressies, then into the kitchen for some hard work, Mum laying the table, dinner when everything's ready after a manic kitchen-time and then a long, slow unwind to a buffet supper/tea as and when I can muster the energy.  The only time I get to use the big teapot with the owl tea cosy is when the whole family is round.

Today?  Not sure.  Taking it carefully, that's for sure.

Breakfast, I think, will be a bacon sarnie using the bacon that I laid over the top - I mean bottom - of the turkey.  After all, if I don't eat it, no-one will!  I haven't had a bacon sarnie for yonks.  
Then bath and hair wash - my hair feels dire after several days of high temperature - and into clean pjs for the rest of the day.
After that, Christmas muffins (maybe) and a DVD/programme/book/whatever
Then have a think about what I fancy for lunch.  Turkey, of course, and sprouts maybe.  I'll see if I can separate a few pigs in blankets from the rest in the freezer and rescue some roasties, carrots and parsnips from its chilly depths too.  Pud - just ice cream, if I feel like it, I think.
Then a good clear up in the kitchen before sitting down to open the pressies under the tree, maybe with a coffee, maybe a glass of wine, maybe port - or maybe a coke or J2O glitter berry (lovely!).  Nice to have the choice.
After that I doubt I will want to eat any more for the rest of the day!

Or maybe I will sleep!!  Depends on whether the current okay-ness lasts.  Fingers crossed it does, please

Whoever you are, however you are celebrating, to all my gentle readers, I wish you a very safe, happy, trouble free, enjoyable Christmas Day.  God bless us, every one.

Monday 24 December 2012

Quiet Christmas

Well, it's agreed to cancel the family Christmas we had so carefully and happily planned.
Brother from Scotland is going to M&D's so that's good for them all.
B&A are going to a friend's for Christmas Day and B is taking some of the goodies bought over the past few days that are no longer needed here with her.
B&A will come to me on Boxing Day, virus permitting, of course.
B is coming to pick up the presents she put under the Christmas tree - it's not fair to expect Alex to wait another day, assuming that they come on Boxing Day.
D&A won't pop round here tonight as where they are going there will be a baby and an elderly person so it wouldn't be fair at all.

A bit of a silver lining (if one is looking for a silver lining, which I am right now).  It gives me the chance to try the cooking method for the turkey that is recommended by the Kellys in the leaflet that comes with the turkey.  It's very simple and, to my old fashioned eyes. looks too quick for a turkey.  But the pressure is off, timing doesn't really matter, if it isn't cooked it can go back in the oven again, and then I will KNOW.  I've been wanting to try it out for years now.
And when it is cooked it will be cooled, sliced and vacupacked before freezing so should keep good for a long time and be ready when needed.  I will make up the gravy, freeze it and vacupack that too.
Must check how to freeze sprouts.  I think they need blanching first.
And the lentil and chestnut soup I was planning to make for tomorrow evening will do nicely for New Year's Eve. 

Another silver lining - I can watch the Doctor Who Christmas Special 'live'  rather than repeat or iPlayer.  And I have two lavish Nigella books I've never had the time to properly read.

But none of this will happen today . . .  PJs for me today and, probably, tomorrow too.  Ho ho ho!  :-) 

Christmas Eve

I thought I was getting better but it is fighting back, darn it.  We have a family phone conference (smile) at ten this morning when we will decide but I suspect it will all be off until a weekend in January when everyone can make it together!

It's not just me not being well enough to cope, it's also that mum and Dad are in their eighties and should not be exposed to this sort of infection.  It would be silly to put them in this position deliberately.

Ho hum!  So very sad.

Sunday 23 December 2012

Sunday later on

Not cancelled, just postponed.  Christmas with the Clarks is hopefully now on Wednesday, not Tuesday, with a family conference tomorrow before the final decision is made about holding it then or whether to cancel completely.  As everyone said, they really don't want to catch what I've got.  And I agree.  :-)

I'm so grateful for an understanding, sympathetic, flexible family.  Such a relief.


Feeling utterly bleurgh and want to cancel Christmas.

That's all!

Saturday 22 December 2012

Saturday a lot later on

I have a wonderful daughter and grandson!  They came over, got loads of Christmas stuff out of the garage, did some ironing, set up the Chistmas table and the nativity crib, sorted out the kitchen and generally did what I had intended to do, had I felt well enough.
And she's coming over tomorrow to help set up the Christmas tree too.  She's a wonderful lady and Alex is a wonderful young man and I love them both to bits!

I'm sure it's not flu, I'd not be able to type this if it was, but it's just a nasty virusy sort of thing that, hopefully, will; be leaving through the back door by tomorrow.  In the meanwhile, there's tablets and I am thankful for them too.  Here's to a good night's sleep!

Saturday a little later on

I'm not long back from the Big Shop at Sainsbury's and all I can say is 'aaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhh'.

I am so very glad I didn't leave it until later.  It was quite bad enough at that time.  I met several people I knew and we all said more or less the same thing - aaarrrggghhh!
Unfortunately, there were several things I couldn't get.  No peppers, no sprouts apart from those on a stem and they're a hassle and expensive into the bargain.  A few other things too, so I will be popping to Morrisons later - at least I have a guaranteed parking slot there, in the school car park!

Right - better go and put it all away, sort it all out, make room in the fridge (the turkey is arriving today and I don't think it is cold enough to put it in the shed, darn it) and then I'm having a sit down and wait for when I can safely take some more meds.


Early, isn't it?  Even for me it's early.  I've had the most peculiar night - well, past 15 or so hours, in fact. 

(whinge alert)
At lunchtime yesterday I started feeling not so good - aches and pains and a headache - so I popped some paracetamol which saw me through the afternoon.  By the time I got home it was around five and the aches had come back double plus.  Think hot and cold and uncontrollable shivers.  So it was more pills and early to bed.  But I felt distinctly unwell all through the night.  Very hot, very cold and the aches were not nice.  I was starting to worry about getting all the work I have to do done today and even more about flu/cancelling Christmas, etc.   At two I sat up, took some more tablets and read for a while and started to feel a lot better and now I'm weary and not 100% but coping fine.  I hope that was the worst it will get, whatever 'it' is.

Happier stuff - yesterday we were presented with some wonderful gifts from the parents, we being me, my TA and the three teachers who provide cover for me - PPA cover, coordinator time cover and SEN day cover.  Ideally it should be the same person but it isn't.  Anyway, I digress - I came home with flowers, bucks fizz, chocolates and a large amount of money in the form of a Hobbycraft gift card.  Wonderful and so, so generous of them.  I shall enjoy the spending thereof, that's for sure.

I note that Sainsbury's has been open since midnight so I could go and do the main shop right now - well, not right now because I'm in bed things but you know what I mean.  If I leave here at five I will be well ahead of the crowds, won't I?  When I get home I can have another snooze until the turkey arrives.  Yay!!!

I'd planned to take it easy this morning and potter doing little things, and so I will.  I think I will put up the Christmas tree on Sunday evening with some carols playing and something chilled and alcoholic in my glass.  By then I should be more or less ready for the throng.  And I should have caught up with my sleep too.

And I MUST remember to get the gammon out of the freezer!

Friday 21 December 2012

Friday - and the last day of the Autumn term!

Just for once, yesterday's plans went like a dream, despite the lashing rain that kept the children in all day.  Wet playtimes and lunchtimes can be a nightmare but perhaps they are just too tired to create much havoc because they remained placid and compliant more or less all day.  They were just a bit noisy at times, but that's normal for a wet day.  I counted my blessings.

It's interesting - I would have said that The Snowman and its accompanying partner 'Father Christmas' are Christmas Classics, but when I asked the children, more than half of them didn't seem to have seen it before.  Perhaps it *is* getting quite old now but, nevertheless, they sat still, gave it their rapt attention, laughed at the funny bits and generally showed themselves to be an ideal audience.  I had some of the other class in as well, if they had finished all their work, and they were equally enthralled.  The old magic still seems to be active.  And I see there's a new 'Snowman' film - the Snowman and the Snowdog' or something like that, so I guess that will give it all a new lease of life for another generation.

We got James and the Christmas Tree finished.  As before, they produced a few sentences (for the conclusion this time) on whiteboards for joint editing before copying the corrected version out in best.  And they did very well indeed.  I have seen their confidence  grow steadily this week as they have experimented with 'wow words' and different punctuation in the knowledge that it can all be rubbed out and an adult will help, once they have had a go themselves.  Also, I am thrilled with the way they have all used their phonic knowledge rather than asking for a spelling.  I could quote from a number of efforts but this one epitomises it for me.
'. . . and he coodunt bleeve his ighs'
Read it phonetically!
'Couldn't' will be a stormy word early next term (words that have to be known because they do not work phonetically) so they'll learn that soon along with a little lesson on contractions, and I think 'ighs' is a gallant attempt at a word that is NOT intuitively spelt!  Good for you, little M.
(And the choice of phrase isn't bad either).

We managed to get everything given out.  A few children had forgotten their carrier bags but I'd brought some in from home, so that was OK.  Into their bags went paper chains, Christmas card, Christmas tree decoration calendar, hand and foot reindeer, stand up angel with doyley wings and a few other bits and bobs accumulated on the way plus, to their huge excitement, a little something from me!  And now the bay looks very bleak and bare in comparison.  I will get the beginnings of next term's display up today so I don't have to come in during the holidays.  I don't mind going in but the heat is not on and it's so jolly cold!

Today they are bringing in a toy from home to play with, there will be another DVD, we have a special assembly in the morning and Carole by Candlelight in the afternoon.  And that's it - end of term.

And then the work starts!!!

Thursday 20 December 2012


Two more days left and not before time either.  The children are exhausted and dropping like flies, many of them succumbing to the notorious winter sickness bug that's doing the rounds right now.  Being so weary does make them more vulnerable, I think, and even my placid little class of year ones is getting collectively and increasingly snipey and bad tempered as the week progresses.  My colleagues haven't escaped either - several of us are feeling under the weather one way or another but we're struggling through to the end because that's what teachers do.

Yesterday was busy (when isn't yesterday busy?) but we did get a lot done one way and another.  The story of James and the Christmas Tree only needs an ending now and I think that they have surprised themselves.  With five year olds, it's not necessarily lack of writing 'ability' that slows them down, it is lack of what we call 'stamina' - the ability to work hard for longer periods and to remain focused and undistracted.  This is particularly true when it comes to more extended writing.  When you think of the complex thought process little ones have to go through to produce a piece of writing, it's hardly surprising, especially whe you consider that for a significant number the basic secretarial skills are still part of the process rather than being automatic.  Issues like which direction to write, pencil grip, letter formation, spaces between words, spelling of basic words - these are all things that fill the mind so that the actual ideas, sentence construction, choice of appropriate and interesting words to express those ideas, punctuation, connectives and conjunctions, structure, generic features, etc, can get pushed to one side, understandably.
I think they do jolly well, given all of that.

As for today, well, today is when we take all their Christmas creations off the walls and hand them out.  Paper chains, hand and foot reindeer, stand up angels, Christmas tree decoration, card and calendar , not to mention present from teacher and card from friends.  And if your mummy is a helper, you also have a thank you gift to take home!  We will do all that this afternoon after which time I will pop on a DVD because I think we will be fit for not a lot else.

Now where did I put 'The Snowman'?

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Wednesday evening

After a little stroll through some old messages today, I have realised that some somewhat dubious comments have found their way here since I got rid of that annoying 'prove you're not a robot' security thing.

I guess I should have realised and been more on the alert, but |I wasn't.   I think I have cleaned everything up now and have marked certain sites as 'spam' so they should no longer appear, but if you do see anything at all dubious (and I am old fashioned about that sort of thing), please would you alert me to the fact and I can deal with it.  I am very sorry if anyone has been offended by them in any way.

And I will check the spam every day from now on!


. . . and it's very damp and foggy outside, at least it was when I looked half an hour ago.  It's expected to start raining at some point and I gather that there's a lot coming over.  As if we hadn't already had more than enough!

Three more days and we're still up to our eyeballs in work - planning, spiders, tracker, meetings - and the children, of course!  Slow, slow, stop, stop, slow is the name of the game right now as they grind to a sleepy, snuffly, slightly stroppy halt.  Having said that, they're making a jolly good effort to write a story about James and the Christmas Tree.  Monday was the introduction and beginning, yesterday was the problem, today is the problem sorted and Thursday will be the conclusion and then it's a few quick staples into a cover and they will have made jolly good little books!  I have to say, the phonic sessions are really bearing fruit as far as ability to spell is concerned, not just for the quicker, brighter children but all through the class.  It is freeing them up to develop ideas rather than wondering how to spell the words they need and rejecting good ideas because (Big Elephants Can Add Up Sums Easily) the words are 'too hard'.

Yesterday afternoon we were all so weary I abandoned making cards and instead we watched the DVD that cannot be named.  It was a big hit - they cheered, clapped, sang along, did actions and generally relived the show all over again.  And I - well, I nearly fell asleep!  Today is PPA (problem sorted writing for them), then I am due at a meeting in pre-school and in the afternoon it is Christmas art and then to the Library!  Nothing too stressful then.

And when I come home, it should be to a very clean house.  My self-Christmas pressy is happening today.  Four hours of housework.  The house isn't anywhere near as tidy as it ought to be but that won't stop any washing, dusting, cleaning and polishing.   My bedroom is out of bounds but everything else can be done, including the windows.  Money well spent.  Yay!!! 

And finally, a big thank you to my parents.  They were due to arrive here on Sunday: they always arrive here the day before Christmas Eve.  However, having realised that I don't stop work until Friday afternoon, they've said they won't come until Monday, to give me time for shopping, preparation and a bit of rest too.  Bless them both.

Tuesday 18 December 2012


Good morning, everyone.

I know you are all fed up of hearing about Shine Star Shine but this is possibly the lest mention - perhaps.  The DVDs came yesterday and I took mine home to watch.  It's come out really well, the company has made an excellent job of it all and I am delighted.  I watched it through yesterday evening and had a very enjoyable hour.  I think I am going to play it to the children today.

Monday 17 December 2012

More Monday

Something I meant to say and forgot.

On Friday evening someone brought a pack of mini pancake rolls filled with bits of duck - duck in filo pastry rolls, in fact, mini ones.  They were quite nice so I got some more yesterday.  I was going to dip them in sweet chilli sauce but I didn't have any.  What I did have was a leftover bit of the smooth cranberry sauce I made on Saturday, in a dish, so I used that and, mmmmmm, it was absolutely scrummy.  One to remember!


Not a lot to say really.  I've woken up tired and am hoping that things will pick up at some point before school.

Today is a 'special' violin lesson, to which the parents are invited, followed by normal work, whatever normal means at this time of year!  No swimming, that's now finished.  So it's Christmas cards and 3D angels, I guess.  Ho hum!

And do I want to hold a KS1 staff meeting after school?  Nope, not really.

Sunday 16 December 2012

Recipe: smooth cranberry sauce

This is nice.  It's not too sweet, retaining just a little of the cranberry sharpness but not in a 'puckered cheek' sort of way.  The smoothness makes it good for adding to your turkey sarnies the next day.  It's nice with cheese too, especially the sweet, salty crumbly cheeses.

Ingredients to make six pots (depending on the size of your pots, obviously) - easily halved
2 lbs cranberries, washed and picked over.
1 lb sugar
grated zest of two lemons
1 pint water
good glug of port (optional)

This is a three step operation.
1.   Heat the sugar and water to boiling until all the sugar has dissolved.  It will need frequent stirring.  Add the cranberries, bring back to a boil and simmer to a pulp.
2.  Push the contents through a sieve to remove all the skins and seeds.  I mouli-ed it first and then sieved it as it seemed easier.  Yes, it made more mess but that wasn't a problem as I rinsed the mouli and sieve straight afterwards so nothing stuck.
3.  Put the smooth mixture back in the pan (I rinsed it out between times), add the lemon zest and boil slowly for about ten minutes.  Remove from the heat, add the port if used and pour into jars.  Screw on the lids while the contents are still piping hot.

Dead easy!

And you can make lemon curd with the zested lemons afterwards!


Good morning, everyone.  Welcome to what seems to be a clear, comparatively mild morning - certainly there's no frost and no rain.  Hopefully it's going to be a good day!

Yesterday was good as well.  I managed to attack and defeat the huge pile of ironing that was threatening to rival Ben Nevis in height (only a slight  exaggeration there, I fear) and which has now been reduced to manageable, neat and tidy piles awaiting a trip upstairs to be put away.  I sorted out the aftermath of rhe Pot Luck Supper and then made another mess by making pots of smooth cranberry sauce, intended as gifts.

I haven't bought any Christmas gifts this year, they're all going to be home made.  I have cranberry chutney, cranberry sauce, shortbread and I will also have pots of home made lemon curd (to use up the lemons that I zested for the cranberry sauce).  There's quite a lot of them because I have quite a lot of people to say thank you to, one way and another.  Lovely parent helpers, colleagues, other staff who are so helpful, friends . . .

Within the family, we now have a tradition where we give little gifts only and make a donation to a school in South Africa.  It's a jolly good idea but it's not rigidly enforced so those who want to gift do and those who don't - don't!!  I a bit of both - home made gifts and a donation.
I'm not sure whether doing it this way saves me any time as I would do most of my shopping online anyway, but creating in the kitchen is a whole lot more fun, believe me!!

Today I am off to a bargain shop in town to get some stuff for the children's prizes for the Christmas Tree decoration competition and then I will be tackling some more washing and ironing and making more shortbread as some (quite a lot) got eaten on Friday.  And I will be continuing with sorting out the bedrooms.

Oh - and I might do some planning too.

Saturday 15 December 2012

Recipe: sticky sausages

The recipe I used as a starting point is here.

I used two packs of good quality, meaty chipolatas and twisted each one into two cocktail sausages, giving me forty eight in total.

I mixed about 2 tbsp lemon infused oil with the remains of what was in the honey jar plus some maple syrup (I didn't measure but was quite a lot).  I then added about 2 tbsp soy sauce and a good dollop of dijon mustard and whisked it all together.  The oven was set to about 180C, I put the sausages in a roasting dish, poured over the sauce, mixed it up well with my hands and popped it in the oven.  I checked every ten minutes and stirred everything up well.  That's it - half an hour later the house smelled wonderful and they were done.  Dark, sticky and scrumptious.

Following a tip, I cooled them spread out on a sheet of greaseproof paper because I didn't want them to stick together and then stored them in the fridge until evening.

You could use the same sauce for drumsticks and ribs too.


Well, actually, it isn't.  Saturday, I mean.  It's Friday evening and my brain is a-buzzin' so I though I would write my blog entry now for posting tomorrow morning.  A bit of a cheat?  Well, maybe, but I know a lot of people write their blogs in a planned and very organised way, sometimes prepared days or even weeks in advance, especially those who get some financial gain from it.  And good for them, it's OK if you can, I guess, but I'd rather have the freedom to write when I can and about what without any adverts marring the pristine beauty of my pages (and if you believe that . . . ) - and I'm just not that organised.

So - why is my brain a-buzzin'?  Because I have just hosted a lovely Pot Luck Supper.  It should have been a Chinese and Chat but so many people were not able to come that I first cancelled it and then thought 'what the heck' and made it a pot luck supper for whoever was able to come.  We ended up with nine of us (out of about twenty two) and we have had a wonderful evening.  June, dear June, who was my year one colleague last year and who is retiring at the end of next week, came along and the whole evening was packed with reminiscences and laughter (so much laughter) plus a visit from Secret Santa.  It's been just lovely, one of the nicest evenings in a long while.  And I've been left with enough food and drink (OK, wine) to last me into the New Year and beyond!!!   No complaints there.

For this Pot Luck Supper I made sticky sausages.  I used a Nigella recipe as a basis but had to adapt it and it was utterly and totally delicious.  They all got eaten - a sure sign of success.  One to do again, without a doubt, the sooner the better.  I'll post what I did as a separate entry.
Today has been fantastic but very tiring.  For a start, it rained all day so the children couldn't go out.  We're a bit tough with playtimes and if it is drizzling, they go out, but this was far more than a drizzle.  Fortunately (if that's the right word), they were so tired that they stayed pretty subdued all day, regardless of the lack of fresh air and exercise.  As it was SEN day, I didn't take my class, but I was working just outdies the bay and could see that they were worn out and utterly weary.

It was Christmas dinner and the food wasn't all that bad, given that it was a school dinner.  Not hot enough, of course, but pretty well cooked.  I enjoyed it anyway.

We had a specialist support  teacher in and, as always, she was incredibly supportive and helpful.  As SENCO, I am finding that the support services are becoming a lot sharper, musc more on the ball and ready to work with, rather than dictate to, the schools they are serving, with advice that is valid, reliable and helpful.  Exactly what we need from these specialist support teachers and an awful lot better than a few years back when they came in with the latest ideas, the buzz talk and the glib solutions (which didn't actually solve anything).

And now it is the weekend.  Downstairs is pretty tidy, thanks to our pot luck supper.  We will not mention upstairs right now, OK?  And I can feel my brain unwinding and calming down . . .

And I will send this tomorrow . . .

Friday 14 December 2012


Last day of the penultimate school week of the longest autumn term I can ever remember.  Nearly over now, yay!!!
This week has been a bit of a blinder really - show on Monday (but at home in the evening), evening show on Tuesday and Wednesday, a farewell party last night for a retiring colleague which I can now mention because it's no longer a secret and this evening it's pot luck supper here.  This is living it up for me!  Not sure I can stand the pace much longer.  Thank goodness the weekend is here tomorrow with all its opportunities for doing precious little (ha, flippin' ha).

It is SEN day today too, so I can take things at my pace which, I suspect, will swither between very slow and full stop.  I'll have to pick up again this afternoon because we have a specialist support teacher in.  And at lunchtime we have school Christmas dinner.  Wonderful!  It does mean that the Infants have to be ready from 11:30 onward.  With all the children participating (apart from one or two) it takes much longer than usual to get through them all and our lovely dinner ladies end up being rushed off their feet.  It's all go at school, believe me!

And now I'm back to getting downstairs fit for visitors this evening.  Bye - I may be gone some time! 

Thursday 13 December 2012


In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan
Earth stood hard as iron
Water like a stone

OK, so maybe we haven't got the moaning wind, but the rest is a perfect description of my world when I peeped out earlier.  Brrrrr - so cold!  I gather it is expected to warm up a bit tomorrow but right now it is cold and bleak and frosty.

The whole Christmas Show thing is now over, all bar ordering and distributing the DVDs of the recording of last night's performance.  In a way, a pity it wasn't Tuesday that was recorded because last night was punctuated by little glitches all the way through.  It started most inauspiciously with me forgetting the narrators' books and, bless them, they boldly and bravely spoke out from memory while I rushed back to my bay to find them.  A king dropped his gift with a loud clatter, one of the stars dried at one point,  but dear me, it was little children doing what comes naturally and they were all absolutely charming.

The singing was OK though apart from the last song where they got a little over-enthusiastic.  I indulged in a little bribery and corruption beforehand - house points for the class that sang the best.  Bad me!  It worked though.

This next bit is for Sarah - here are the words:

It's Christmas time, it's Christmas time
At the closing of the year
It's Christmas time, it's Christmas time
As the merry bells ring loud and clear.
It's getting closer every day
With a star that shines to light the way
It's Christmas time, it's Christmas time
Merry Christmas to you
Merry Christmas to you.

 . . . and hopefully I will get round to notating the accompaniment at some point!  See - very light but the children liked it and it was right for the end of the show.  And a lot better than 'we wishhhhhhhhhhhhh you a Merry Chrissssssssssssstmas . . .' etc

The children are all going to be so tired today after three performances - several were tearful in the bay after the show - but we have the perfect antidote today.  Pantomime!!  For several years now we have booked a travelling theatre group to come in and do a pantomime in the morning for the infants and in the afternoon for the juniors.  They are very good and the children have a wonderful time.  I'm looking forward to it very much.  And thank you to the parents' association for funding it.

And then in the afternoon - well, more Christmas art, I guess.  Baubles, maybe, or stand up angels with doyley wings or perhaps we will start on the Christmas cards.  We will see!  All jolly good fun anyway and an easy ride for them.

Must remember to order a DVD today!

Wednesday 12 December 2012


Brrrrrrrr - what a bitterly cold night it has been.  The temperature is well below freezing and there's fog too, so everything is covered in frost.  It should look beautiful once the day dawns but I am VERY glad I'm not on playground duty today.  Yesterday was bad enough.

Nags sometimes work!!  After a short nag and a practice yesterday morning, the singing was so much better in the show.  I was well pleased.  There's a bug attacking the children at the moment.  I was two down, Andrea had to move a child into a different group for her class dance because so many were away from that group and one of the narrators was away.  Thankfully, the narrators read rather than memorising and the little lad who took her place did a grand job with only a few slips.  Also, one of the lads singing a duet was also ill so the other lad sang a solo and managed really well.
Fingers crossed for tonight.

Today is more or less a normal day.  PPA, ICT and some art in the afternoon.  Hand and foot reindeer, I think, to get us started off well.  Ho ho ho!

Tuesday 11 December 2012


Well, I'm sure you will be glad to know that the first of the three performances of Shine Star, Shine went well.  The costumes stood the strain well, the cast remembered all their words and spoke up really well, the acting was great, the Kings remembered to stand up on time and the only down bit was that some of the singing was lacklustre.  Cue for nags in Infant Singing today!

Just between me and my blog readers, I was really chuffed at how well the children have taken to the song wot I wrote!  The first time through is a duet by two little year two boys with lovely 'childlike' voices and then the second time through everyone joins in.  It was the best singing of the whole show, which, seeing as it's the last song, was great!  I could see several of the audience wiping tears away surreptitiously.  It was beautiful - the five stars standing on the bench behind, the manger scene with Mary, Joseph, the Angel, the Shepherds and the Kings and the two little lads in front singing their hearts out.  Very Christmassy!

The rest of the day passed in a haze of not-a-lot-of-stuff-going-on.  By the time they had got changed and had a playtime, there wasn't an awful lot of time left before lunch.  The afternoon was taken up with swimming and that was that.  The hardest bit was making sure they all took their costumes and their swimming bags home with them!  Some seemed determined to leave one or other behind.

And today - well, it's a full day of work for once.  That will be a relief for us all, I think.  And then the second performance will be at six o'clock.  So a long day, not only for the staff but also for the children, although better than previous years when the first evening performance was at seven o'clock.

And now I'd better go and get ready.

Monday 10 December 2012


So here it is - Christmas Show week.  Christmas Show three days, anyway.  First performance at 9:30 this morning and I'm having serious wibbles.  I have a terrible feeling I have forgotten something crucial but I can't think what it is.  Not a nice feeling at all.  Eeeeek.

Maybe the whole cast has gone down with a lurgey.  Maybe the electrics will fail half way through.  Or there will be a fire practice.  Or the hall will flood.  Or . . . eeeeeek (again)

Rather more seriously, I think we're as prepared as we are ever going to be now so it's all up to the children.  And I am sure they will shine!  I hope . . .

I'll let you know!!!

Sunday 9 December 2012

Chocolate cranberry shortbread

This was so, so nice, I'm posting it as a recipe.

Chocolate cranberry shortbread

2 oz caster sugar
4 oz butter, well softened

5 3/4 oz plain flour, sieved
1/4 oz very good quality cocoa powder (I used Green and Black)
scant 1oz sweetened dried cranberries, chopped very small (I chopped them in my mini chopper)

You will also need:
Large baking sheet lined with teflon liner or similar non stick liner
I used a star shaped cutter

Mix the sugar and the butter together until well combined but do not cream too much or it will spread when baking.
Sieve in the flour and cocoa powder, add the cranberries and stir to combine.  I used my hands towards the end.

Lightly knead into a very dry dough and shape into a ball.  Place on a floured surface and roll out to about half to three quarter cm thickness.
Cut out shapes using cutter of choice.  Recombine the trimmings and re-roll, etc, until all the dough is used up.  Place shapes on the lines baking sheet, cover lightly and chill in the fridge for half an hour.

About half way through the chilling, turn the oven to 140C (fan oven).

Place the baking sheet in the oven (middle or lower shelf) and bake for about 20 mins, perhaps a little less.
Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly on the sheet and then transfer to a cooling rack.  Shake over some icing or caster sugar.

Try not to eat any while still soft - it's so much nicer once it is cold and melting in the mouth.

This shortbread will freeze.

You could use other dried fruit or candied peel.  Dried cherries would be nice.  Remember to chop them very small.

Use 6 oz plain flour, the grated zest of half an orange and some orange oil.  Ditto with lemon oil and the grated zest of one lemon.

Or it's nice just plain - two, four and six.


It feels as if yesterday was nothing but shortbread, all day.  I now have two big boxes full for freezing.

I did two different kinds.  The cranberry and vanilla ones were lovely.  I'm not so sure about the chocolate ones, I think they need some ooomph.  I will get some white chocolate today, melt it down and zizz it over the shortbread.  I think that will work fine.  They taste fine but I think the texture isn't quite short enough.  I'm going to have another go this morning, using a touch more flour.

Apart from that I spent most of the day sleeping.  It's this cold, of course, so sleeping is probably the best thing for me.  It seems to be lifting a bit now - I woke this morning feeling not quite so disgusting, thank goodness.

 Today I need to do some shopping so will be hammering on Morrison's doors at ten.  After that it's normal stuff.  So I'd better make that shopping list before I fell asleep again! 

Saturday 8 December 2012


Another weekend has arrived.  It only seems a few days since the last one.  As always, I have a great long list of Things To Do and won''t get half of them done, but never mind.

First on the list is more shortbread.  Cranberry and vanilla, I think.  I have a lovely big bag of dried cranberries which I will chop up small.  I'll make one batch and see what I think.  I want to make some lemon and almond ones too.
I will also cook tomorrow's dinner today so all I have to do is reheat.  I've been meaning to try roasting spuds one day and then reheating them the next to see which is nicest.  This is a good opportunity to try it out.

Yesterday was good.  It was my SEN day but the morning was all taken up with show things including the dress rehearsal, watched by the juniors.  I probably shouldn't tempt fate, but it was really very good indeed.  I hope they keep it at that standard next week.  Now I am racking my brains to think of anything I haven't already done/sorted/organised.  There's bound to be something, isn't there; there always is.

Now I'm off into the kitchen to make the first, experimental batch of cranberry and vanilla shortbread.  Wish me luck!

Friday 7 December 2012


It was a very odd day yesterday.  Very odd indeed.  Starting at ten seemed to go down well with many parents, judging by comments overheard but for us, in school, it was weird waiting around for things to get going when normally we would be well into things by then.
The roads weren't good and the pavements were shockingly slippery.  As for the playgrounds, they were so dangerous we kept the children in all day and they were cordoned off (playgrounds, not children).

The rehearsal went ahead, not at the planned time, of course, but that didn't matter.  It went well, I think.  I'm just so submerged in it all I only see the mistakes, but those TAs and cover teacher who were seeing it for the first time said that it was lovely with a couple of real tear-creating moment (in the nicest way).  Today is the dress rehearsal when we also perform to the Juniors and see what delights the parents have provided in the way of costumes.

I woke in the night remembering that the Kings are still presenting  two shakers and a paint pot to the baby Jesus, and couldn't get to sleep again.  Never mind, I have suitable containers now and will cover them with shiny paper when I get to school.  Every year I forget that detail and I swear I will go online and Google for gold, frankincense and myrrh one of these days!

Yes, we started the shakers.  It was very interesting watching them dealing with sellotape, masking tape or glue as they tried to stick their two plastic cups together after putting in the filling.  I'm afraid one highlight was watching a little lad carefully place tape on one of the cups, carefully lift the other cup up to lower it on top of the bottom cup and watch in dismay as his filling fell out all over the table!  Something learnt there, I suspect.

And after school Julie, Linda and I met at the Hare for our Christmas meal together.   Ooooh, it was lovely.  They had given us a big round table near the fire so we had bags of space for all out clutter (pressies and cards) and J and I decided to go home by taxi and have wine - so we did. 

And now it's getting to feel a lot like Christmas . . .

Thursday 6 December 2012


PPA =  planning, preparation and assessment.  That wonderful 10% of teaching time that we have out of class to do what it says on the label - planning, preparation and assessment.  It's a relatively new thing, statutory and it's marvellous.  I didn't get mine yesterday!
ICT = Information and Communication Technology.  It was supposed to be our time in the computer suite yesterday.  We didn't go!
D&T = Design and Technology.  We are making shakers.  Yesterday we didn't!
SM = Staff Meeting.  Cancelled.

And the reason for all of this was - SNOW!!

Yesterday I said it was a very cold and frosty morning and so it was when I looked out at four o'clock.  Cold, frosty and clear.
At seven o'clock I meandered onto Facebook to see several friends' statuses proclaiming 'snow' in a variety of ways.  What?????   No!!!  Couldn't be.  I rushed to the front door and was nearly submerged in a blizzard.  OK, slight exaggeration maybe, but it was snowing very hard indeed, huge white snowballs that had covered the already icy ground to about 4-5cms..  Where did that come from?  It was just about the biggest shock of the year. 

So I trudged my way to school, deciding to go round the front as I wasn't sure when the doors would open and didn't want to be without shelter (there's shelter at the front).  Just as well too, because another colleague and I waited - and waited - and waited . . .  It turns out the roads were very bad indeed, driving conditions were shocking on ungritted roads and there were jams and accidents all over the place.  It took the caretaker around forty five minutes to do a journey that would usually take about ten minutes and in that time one TA arrived to wait with us and two colleagues were at the back in one of the external classrooms.  That was the sum total of staff.
Once we got in and had made copious numbers of phone calls, it was decided that the school would not open until ten, messages were posted all over the place to inform the parents and we made arrangements for supervising the few that would, inevitably, turn up without parents in tow.
Fortunately, other staff started arriving and by ten there were enough adults to provide legal levels of supervision.  Some never made it and eventually turned tail and went home again, having spent hours in their cars.  Four who were sharing a car left the car in town and walked the rest of the way, arriving very wet and extremely cold.  One arrived at lunchtime - more than four and a half hours in her car.  People showed huge commitment to getting to school.
It was a grand example of everyone working together to make it happen, especially as the secondary schools closed at ten when it was clear that there wouldn't be enough supervision.  I felt for Beth.  She took Alex to school in horrendous driving conditions, was on her way home when she got the news that the school was closing so had to go back again to pick him up.  She was in that car for three hours and it's only across town.  Usually 15 mins max.

Anyway, we made it work eventually but, as my PPA is 8:45 to 10:45, it didn't happen.  Andrea, the other Y1 teacher, never made it in at all.  After playtime (if you have wellies you are allowed on the field in the snow; if not, it's the bottom playground for you!) it took so long to get sorted (wellies, changing socks and tights, wet things on a radiator that is much too small . . . etc, there wasn't enough time for the computer suite - so we did maths instead, poor kids!
The afternoon was my mistake - I forgot we had a dance rehearsal so D&T went by the board.
And staff meeting, of course, was cancelled so that people could get home as soon as the children had gone as it was starting to freeze again and there was a lot of slush on the roads and pavements.  Nasty, especially for those who had longer distance to travel.  I was home by four and I can't remember the last time I got home from school so early.  Probably the last snowy day!!

So - on to today.  In anticipation of a big freeze and nasty driving conditions this morning, the school will open at ten o'clock.  Our second run through of our show will now start as soon as possible after that, we will run through and then have our infant playtime when it's finished and that will be the morning done and dusted.  Time for a bit of phonics and not a lot else.
But we might start making those shakers this afternoon!  Yay!

Wednesday 5 December 2012


Another very cold and frosty morning today.  I do like the freshness that fills my lungs when I step out of the house and about half past seven on these chilly morning.  Much nicer than damp drizzle.  And I'm not on playground duty today, which is a bonus!

Yesterday was such a busy day.  Rehearsals virtually filled the day with the first complete run through in the afternoon.  It really wasn't bad for a first time.  Plenty of room for improvement, of course, but lots of good things and no real disasters.  We could have put that on as a main show and it would have been not too bad, but our shows are better than 'all right' (I hope) so it's all systems go from now on.

Today is PPA, ICT, D&T and SM!  SM is Staff Meeting.  Do you know what the rest are?

Tuesday 4 December 2012


It has all turned topsy turvy again, weather wise.  After a very cold weekend followed by a milder Monday with rain, it has turned cold again and there's quite a frost out there.  I suppose that's about right for December and I remember when I were a lass t'was cold and frosty every day!

An interesting day yesterday.  As I said, I was out of class for interviews.  I do enjoy interviewing when I'm on the asking side!  It's only recently, as a senior management team member that I have been involved in this sort of thing and it's good.  There was stuff to sort out after the interviews were over so it was a pretty busy day all round.

Today is 'disrupted'.  There's all the adevnt stuff from Saturday to do, two ecards to open and read, songs to practice, a dance practice after play and then, in the afternoon, the first full run through.  We will be worn out by the end of the day.  I guess I will be able to fit in phonics and maybe a little bit of literacy or maths, but that's all.

And I must remember to make crowns for the kings!!

Monday 3 December 2012


What a weather change.  It's gone from very cold, frosty and sunny to milder and wet.  Yes, it's raining again!  I suppose it may have started off as snow, I don't know, but it's just rain now.  We really didn't want snow so it's a great relief.

Yesterday was quite a culinary day one way and another, with some good food and a recipe rewrite!

Firstly, I was gently pottering around in the kitchen at around ten when I saw Beth and Alex making their way to my front door.  Very surprising - except that Beth texted me on Saturday about it!  I totally missed her message.  Never mind, not a problem, the house wasn't so bad - which was just as well because she then informed me that Anna would be arriving for Alex's science tutoring!  Anna is my son's partner and she is not only a lovely lady, she is also extremely intelligent and a good teacher.  Al really enjoys his sessions with her.
When they arrived I was right in the middle of shortbread so I just carried on and Beth came in to help while Anna taught.

I ended up rewriting some of the shortbread recipe after the first batch came out slightly too brown for perfection.  I was being very careful too, after the same thing happened last week.    It could be my oven, of course, but I don't think so . . . anyway, I reduced the temperature to 140 (from 190), used the lowest shelf, baked open for fifteen minutes and then covered the sheet with greaseproof for the last five minutes.  And that worked a real treat, so that's what I will do from now on.

Beth helped me make some more mini mince pies, some of which promptly got scoffed.  They are lovely!

Then it was time to sort out dinner.  The slow roast pork was indeed absolutely delicious, the cider, stock and meat juices made a delicious gravy and the potatoes were - mmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
And, Annabeth, the crackling was very successful.  I the end I didn't use a high heat, I put it in with the potatoes and kept pouring off the fat as it rendered out.  So now I have some nice pork fat too.
Alex scoffed a whole lot of pork - he's making up for lost ground now and is constantly hungry - and he also took some home.  There's also enough for at least two more meals for me, probably more like three, so I will eat well over the next few days.

I'm not in class today as I'm involved in interviews.  A great shame because I wanted to start off the advent calendar with my class.  Maybe I will leave it until Tuesday.  It's also a shame because I have sent my class an email link to a Jacquie Lawson card each day next week.  They're interactive and great fun.

Better go and get ready for the day!  Hope we all have a good'un.

Sunday 2 December 2012


It's another very cold, very frosty morning with vivid clear skies and central heating working its usual magic.  I do love these bitter, dry, clear mornings but more so from the other side of the glass, that's for sure.

I didn't get nearly as much done as I had expected yesterday but I did make 20 pots of apple and cranberry chutney which will do nicely as pressies once I have made the labels.  I find that I have now completely run out of jam jars so I guess it means a trip to the Jam Jar Shop to buy some more pretty quickly, as I will need some for lemon curd which always seems to go down well as a gift.

 I also cooked a slow roasted shoulder of pork which turned out beautifully - it was a real fight not to eat quite a lot of it yesterday, but as it's for lunch today, I resisted temptation.  I peeled and halved some small onions, topped and tailed some chantenay carrots, made up some stock and used some dry cider, all of which went into the bottom of a roasting dish with some pepper, a bouquet garni and a couple of bay leaves.  This was carefully covered and bunged in a slow oven for ages - about seven or eight hours altogether, I think.  As it cooled I took off the skin which I will attempt to crackle today in a very hot oven.  It it doesn't, it doesn't.
The resulting liquid will be reduced down and thickened, if necessary, to make a gravy and I will make some apple and cranberry sauce to go with it.  Some dauphinoise potatoes and some peas will finish it off nicely.
Next time I think I will try to make it a bit more eastern with perhaps a star anise or some five spice.

This morning it is the turn of the shortbread but before I tackle that I have to give the kitchen a good tidy up as it's a right mess at the moment.  I've already sorted out a whole pile of plastic takeaway containers, thrown miscellaneous ones away and  the remaining ones are going into school for storage.  The dishwasher needs emptying, things need putting away and then all it will need is a good wipe over before I mess it up again!!

Better get started then.  labels first, then into the kitchen.

Saturday 1 December 2012


And so it is December.  First of the last, so to speak, and heralded in by a very heavy and beautiful frost.  Gratitude for central heating comes very high on my list at the moment.  As long as it just stays like this.  I love snowdays but not just before the Christmas Show. 

Yesterday was a good day with lots of stuff done, meetings held, decisions made and it was all generally very satisfying indeed.  Today I still feel the buzz so intend to make the most of it.  Morrisons had cranberries in so I bought some to make cranberry chutney for gifts.  I need to get some other things so will have to go shopping first, but that's OK.  The processor will be pressed into use as there's a lot of chopping and slicing involved!

Then there's the usual washing, drying and ironing to get sorted and the house to clean and tidy (or the other way round) and I must remember that with Christmas stuff looming, I need to do a proper job, not just the bits that show.  I also have a bit of carpet to clean using the new toy!

And then I want to start making shortbread thingies - shortbread freezes well enough so it's something I can do well in advance.

With all that on, I must make two lists - one for shopping and one for doing.  George comes a bit later today as he's taking his driving theory test today.  GOOD LUCK, GEORGE - but when did he get old enough to start learning to drive???

And finally I need to go into school.  Yesterday I went into the Jacquie Lawson card site and bought her latest Advent Calendar.  Last year's was a sheer delight, based on London, loved by my children and my colleagues alike.  This years is based around an alpine village.  It arrived in my mailbox seconds after I ordered it so today I go into school and install it on my laptop connected to the white board.  Can't wait.
Here's the link and I recommend it unreservedly.  Never was £2 better spent!

As it is Saturday, I'm going to spend more time trawling around my mailbox before I start the day's work - nice and relaxing.  Have a lovely day, gentle readers, and stay warm!