Saturday 31 August 2013


The last day of the month.  September tomorrow.  Two thirds of the way through 2013.  Where has this year gone?  I know Autumn doesn't officially start until two thirds of the way through September but it starts feeling Autumn-y and certainly the evenings are increasingly shorter and the mornings correspondingly later to lighten.  Even today, while the sun is shining brightly, it is none too warm inside with the windows open.

Sorry I'm so late.  When I switched on the PC this morning it started up and then stopped.  I forced a shut down and tried again but nothing.  Oh, darn it.  So after doing the shopping I popped into school via the library and grabbed the laptop.  Once home I decided to connect it up to my new printer (which took some time) and now here I am.  I shall have to ask Eddie if he can help (again).  I'm not concerned about losing anything as there's a daily backup, it's just a right pain.

After a day in school yesterday, I feel I am more or less ready.  There's a few more things that need filing away but I can do that on Monday after whatever training we are having - something to do with fire safety and how to use the fire extinguishers, I believe.  I'm not sure why because if there is a fire (or the alarm goes off) our first and crucial responsibility is to get all the children out and to a place of safety but I'm sure all will be revealed in due course.

Today is a lazy day, which means that I will be buzzing around in the kitchen, reading, snoozing or watching telly in between getting the washing and ironing done and so on.  This weekend I can't defer to sometime in the next week, can I?  Normality returns to my life.  Ah well, eight weeks until half term!

Friday 30 August 2013

A few garden photos

I have a feeling one of my chillis is a Scotch Bonnet - that means very, very hot.  The other is a Cayenne pepper.  Oh, dear!!!

Mind you, will they ever ripen?

The hundreds and thousants are ripening at a fine rate of knots now though.

And the runner beans just don't stop.

Can't complain, so I won't.


Another still and very peaceful morning with a promising looking sky.  There's a hint of pink up there with makes me think of 'red sky in the morning' but the forecast doesn't hint at any rain.

Yesterday turned out to be one of those days when everything went according to plan, more or less.

The window was measured up and it should be fitted before half term.

The cake rose beautifully, Jenny came, saw and enjoyed and we had a grand old chat.  I now have eight individually wrapped slices of sweet deliciousness waiting to go into the freezer for school lunches.

I managed to find a printer that fulfilled all my requirements for under £100.  It was dead easy (even for me) to install, set up, etc, so I am no longer printerless.  Phew.

I managed to get more fence paint and a wider paintbrush from B&Q, but not any bags of granular salt.  They only had the big bags which, while being much more economical, are impossible for me to lift, so I'll have to go back another time for that.  Actually, I might look to see if I can order some online and get it delivered.

I didn't do any fence painting but I could have, I just decided it was too hot!

The meal and chat at the hare was lovely - a fantastic way to end a very good and enjoyable day.  We were there quite a long time but, as they weren't full, it didn't matter.

Today is school, lunch at the pub with Beth and Alex, school again and then home.  Hopefully I will then be absolutely ready for next week!

And I love my new printer which does back to back printing automatically (when I tell it to!) and I was highly impressed with the colour and clarity of the photo printing.  Great stuff!

That was yesterday.  Today is school, lunch at the Flyer with Beth and Alex, school, home!  Not particularly exciting but there you go!  The exciting times are past and gone.

And now I need to make and print the reading record sheets.  It helps to start off organised anyway!

Thursday 29 August 2013


Good morning!  At the moment it's another cool, dull, grey start but so was yesterday and look how that turned out - warm, sunny, absolutely glorious!  Fingers crossed.

I've just wandered out into the greyness to pick tomatoes.  They're really coming into their own now and are ripening faster than I am eating them.  Excellent!  By the weekend I will have enough to make a first batch of tomato sauce for the freezer.  There are three pots on the window ledge - one for the bigger ripe tomatoes, one for the ripe hundreds and thousands which I eat like sweets and which go on my salads and one for the tomatoes that need to ripen a bit more.  They light up the whole kitchen with their glowing presence!

I took these to school yesterday to munch on.  They are so sweet and juicy and the larger ones are just the size of marbles.

See what I mean?

I spent more or less the whole day in school yesterday and got plenty done.  The three meetings ended up as two meetings with one deferred until Monday when I have to be in school anyway.  All the planning is now ready.  There's still a fair bit to do with organising groups, etc, but I can do a lot of that at home.  I reckon one more day (Friday) will have me totally spick, span and ready for the new school year.

Today is a not-at-school day.  In a short while I will be making a Victoria sponge so that when Jenny comes later on this morning there's cake to go with the coffee.  Before then Doug is arriving to measure up my big french window.  Unfortunately, it has broken and, while it is safe and secure, the whole unit has to be replaced if I want to go in and out of my house that way.  Ah well, thank the Lord for savings.

After coffee, I need to get a new printer.  For ages it has been playing up, refusing to print in black despite cleanings, replacing the ink, etc, etc.  It's been a right pain.  One good thing is that I have started printing school stuff  AT school which is what I should be doing really, but even so, there are times when you need a hard copy resource now, not tomorrow morning - and there's always the change that the school system is playing up as well.
Also, weather permitting, perhaps I can get a bit more fence done too.  That would be good.

Then this evening it's out with Linda and Julia to the hare for one of our girly evenings.  I'm so looking forward to that!

All in all, a  very pleasant day . . .

Finally, a nice little story.  When Beth went to her allotment after the holiday there were - er - zillions of courgettes, more or less, waiting to be picked.  She handed some to me and around to all her neighbours but had all these still left.

So she put the ones in the plastic box out the front with a notice 'please take one'.  A couple of hours later they had all gone!  Nice.

Wednesday 28 August 2013


Wasn't it a glorious day yesterday?  Warm, sunny, a fresh breeze - just perfect.  Today looks like being more of the same too.

Perfect weather for painting a fence, isn't it?  I got one panel done yesterday so I am just half way through.  I can tell that I will need another can of paint so that means a trip to B&Q at some point.  I also need some more granular salt so it won't be a one pony visit and I may just possibly slide into Wyvale too, while I'm there.  And I also need to go to Lidl at some point to get some more bread flour.

I ended up not actually going into school, although I did do some work at home.  Today I have to, for meetings, so I will be able to get plenty done.  I may tackle one of the half fences panels when I get home or I may not, it all depends.

Yesterday I found a caterpillar crawling over me yesterday.  I'd never seen one like that before so I took some photos before firmly removing it from the garden!  When I asked if anyone knew what it was the responses were mixed - but the general feeling was that it shouldn't be seen in this country, so I sent the photos off to the RHS for some advice.  One of the benefits of membership.
It could be a tomato hornworm (bad news) or is could be a tobacco hornworm (not so bad news), neither of which are natural to this country, so it seems that as well as being on blight watch I am also going to be on caterpillar watch from now on!
This is its bum!  By far the more interesting end!!!

What do you think?

Tuesday 27 August 2013


Another panoramic view - the pool area.
Cool, cloudy, has been raining but more or less dried up now, breezy.  Hopefully the sun will come out soon and it won't rain again because after I've come back from school I want to paint another fence panel.  Two done so far, four to go!  If I get one more done today (it takes longer than you think) I'll be half way there.  I have to say, the two that are done do look nice, even the parts done in my cack handed way - and thank you to Sonja and Milli for starting it off!

I enjoyed yesterday.  Having decided that work was a no-no, I rested, relaxed, baked and cooked and knitted to my heart's content.  I discovered another 'one to do regularly' recipe, made some half and half wholemeal rolls and a loaf which will will see me through the next week, got on with Alex's aran sweater that I am making and generally buzzed.  Lovely!
The colour's not right.  It's a lovely dark, warm cherry colour, not pink like this.
Today, of course, things change.  I will be in school later on this morning, notebook in hand, generally sorting, making, laminating, displaying, labelling, etc, etc. etc.
Tomorrow I have two meetings, possibly three.
Then home to do another fence panel, hopefully, weather permitting.

Monday 26 August 2013

Cheese and onion drop scone recipe

. . . over in Teacher's Recipes.
You must have a go at these - absolutely delicious.

Bank Holiday Monday

. . . not that it has any significance really, being absorbed into the main break, as it is.  It 'feels' good though and I intend to take it as a holiday, even though the new school year is looming and blocking that light at the end of whatever tunnel I may be passing through, whispering to me of all that needs to be finished before next Tuesday.  I'm actually ready to get back to work now.  The holiday has been lovely, one of the happiest ever, but I love my work and, aged as I am, retirement does not call to me, not yet.

After such a windy, soaking, miserable day on Saturday, yesterday was totally the opposite.  Warm, sunny, a light breeze and just a typical summer day.  Peeping out, today could go either way but the forecast is good!

Yesterday Beth and Alex came round bearing allotment gifts - back beans, broccoli, courgettes (of course) and a cucumber, very twisted and contorted but absolutely delicious!  I'm wondering about going for a cucumber plant next year - they grow up, supported, not spread out like courgettes.  I may ask for advice from the fount of all knowledge, aka Dad.

The lasagne I made was absolutely scrummy.  A while ago there was a programme where famous chefs cooked frugal food.  It was fun, worked in some ways but not in others and I remember one chef looking at a frugal ready meal lasagne at either 75p or 95p (I forget which) and saying 'you couldn't make it for that'.  At the time I thought 'I bet I could', but I never tested that.  Well, now I know I can . . . bigger portions, much, much healthier, all made from scratch and cheaper too!  I was well chuffed.

The programme didn't really work on a number of levels but there is definitely a gap in the food programme genre for good, genuinely and practically frugal cooking without hard-to-get, expensive, use once ingredients and employing down to earth utensils and techniques.  I hope someone gets their act together on this one.

Well, today's breakfast is a cooked one - bacon and cheese and onion drop scones - so I'd better be off.  The kitchen needs a tidy before I start today's food adventures!

I took some panoramic photos on holiday.  Here's one of them.

Sunday 25 August 2013

Vegetable lasagne recipe

. . . posted on Teacher's Recipes.  Do pop over and take a look.

Small pleasures

. . . in no particular order:

Using my beautifully roomy corner bath.

My aged recliner.

Picking herbs and veg from the garden.

Having a wide range of kitchen utensils to use.

Topping up the water softener.

Being able to see clearly again through my new glasses.  Even the smallest print.

The smell of freshly baking bread.

Having the wherewithal to potter in my kitchen and create delicious meals.

Waking early and greeting the fresh new day.

Chatting to friends near and far (good old Facebook).

Sharp knives.

A sense of humour.


Who would have thought the weather could/would change so suddenly and so considerably.  On Friday we drove back feeling far too warm in the car, even with the air con (which doesn't work that well, unfortunately) and, once home, breaking into a sweat each time I did anything strenuous.  It was a warm day, humid too, at times.
And then yesterday - sheeting rain, wind, a considerable drop in temperature towards evening and flooding!  South Essex has had it really bad with flooding in Southend and Rayleigh.  We tend not to have flooding problems round here (fingers very firmly crossed) but there were lots of deep, wide puddles everywhere.  It's stopped raining now, there's a wonderful early morning freshness in the air and a clean, green smell everywhere.  Lovely.  It reminds me yet again of why I love being an early riser.

After a sleepy, restorative day yesterday, this morning I woke feeling bright eyed and bushy tailed so, after the necessary coffee, I set to and made some pasta dough in Thermione, followed by some bread dough that is now rising.  I used the proper flour for the pasta dough plus a very little splash of olive oil and it did make a very pleasant to handle, pliable dough that is now in four long sheets for the lunchtime lasagna.  The little end bits I cut into short strands and they're now drying.  I shall use them in a soup at some point in the next few days.  I love it when there's absolutely no waste.
The lasagna will be a vegetable one and I am sure the runner beans we will have with it will be delicious, even if it is hardly a conventional combination.

I've been looking and looking for a single portion lasagna dish.  Not too big, just wide and long enough to take one sheet of dried lasagna, deep enough for the necessary layers and with straight sides.  You'd think it was an obvious thing to provide but I can't find one anywhere.  Using fresh lasagne this time makes it easy but I find breaking the dried sheets a very hit and miss affair and I don't always have the time to make fresh..
Lakeland did a lovely deep dish (maybe they still do) but it was way too big for me.  You can get small dishes but not deep enough.
I will keep looking.  One day . . . or maybe I could use a loaf tin!

And now I must check the bread dough and make my beans on toast.

Saturday 24 August 2013

Saturday: home, sweet home.

It's very nice to be home again.  I'm a right home-body by nature as well as by nurture and I love my cosy, comfortable little home and my productive little garden.  After the initial sadness at leaving Streele Farm subsided and after the journey was over and done, I have been very content and relaxed.

I wasn't looking forward to the drive.  I don't enjoy driving in the way that I used too - too much of a worrier, I guess - and the M25 can be a right pig of a motorway.  Yesterday, however, we just sailed through.  No problems around Tunbridge Wells, no problems getting onto the motorway, only the normal hold up at the Dartford crossing (I noticed that 'they' were rationing access to the tunnels in order to keep a steady flow the other side - I've not noticed that before) and no problems north of the tunnel either.  I couldn't have wanted for an easier journey.  We left after nine and got to Beth's around 11 after taking things (and speed) at a comfortable rate.

I was glad it was an easy journey for Beth's sake too.  After a week with a niggling tooth, it flared up on Thursday evening and she got precious little sleep overnight.  She had been going to do the drive back but, of course, that was out of the question.  After a stop at Rotherfield chemist for some co-codomol and some clove oil (both of which worked a treat) it all seemed to settled down a bit and she brightened up noticeably, thank goodness.  Not an infection, I suspect, but something that definitely needs seeing to fairly quickly before it turns into one!  Clove oil is really old fashioned but it had an almost instant effect.  I've never used it but I'm thinking I ought to get some in, just in case.

Once home, after a nice chat with Sonja and Milli, I popped out into the garden and picked enough runner beans to last several meals, a couple of handfuls of tomatoes and noted that there are loads of radishes and salad leaves just waiting to grace my salad bowl.  Good-oh!
The leeks are coming on brilliantly and the broccoli also shows promise!  Everything has been well watered and is flourishing, thanks to Sonja and Milli's loving care!

I have just waved goodbye to them.  They're off on their travels again, departure being delayed by the heaviest rain I have seen in a very long time.  It was sheeting down: no weather to load up a car with luggage, let alone drive.  It's settled down again now and at least the garden has received a much needed deluge.  Now let's hope it clears up before I need to go into town to collect my new glasses!  Fingers crossed!

Friday 23 August 2013

The Last Day

So here we are at the Last Day of Streele Farm.  It's a very, very sad morning for me, but the sun is shining brightly as if to say 'there are other lovely places in this beautiful country'.  And there are - I'm holding on to that - but right at this moment there's a lump in my throat that is threatening to choke me and the tears are not so far away. .  . 

Goodbye, dear Streele Farm . . .

Thursday 22 August 2013

Thursday again

(while waiting for two loaves to prove)

On Teacher's Recipes, Diane commented about how lovely it must be to have the pool.  It's wonderful and I so enjoy my gentle up and back, up and back for however long I want.
I used to belong to a local health club, just to use the pool.   However, it was expensive and became not worth it so I discontinued membership.  However, I have been missing the swimming.

I thought I would just look up our local public pool(s) to see how much/when/etc and had a pleasant surprise.
Firstly I can now get into the public swimming times free.  That's right, totally free.  Being over 60 has some advantages.  I have to go down with proof that I am over 60 and proof that I live in the borough.  Of course, I will have to pay for car parking but I can swallow that.  It's got to be better than the health club fees and I could find out about buses, I suppose, should the need arise.
The second is that while I am not keen on swimming at busy times (won't do it, in fact), the first swim starts at 6:30 with an early bird public session.  For me that's well into the morning!!!

I think I have myself a plan!!!

Borrowed from Google Images


The last full day of holiday today so, of course, I wake at half past three!  Doh!!!

Yesterday was great.  After a leisurely start we set off out to visit the Observatory Science Centre at Herstmonceux (how on EARTH do you pronounce that???) and spent a wonderful three hours or so looking, listening and doing.  Once home again, we had a great swim.  It was a hot, sunny day with a refreshing breeze and the pool was so inviting!

Today we will have to do some housework.  I know the Barn receives a good clean between guests but we don't wish to leave a mess so out come the dusters, sprays and sweepers!  We will also pack everything we don't need for tomorrow and get it into the car.  Minimal hassle tomorrow morning is the aim.
We will swim too.  If it's a hot day we might swim  twice . . . you never know.

Look at that blue sky!!!
Lovely lilies and reeds on the pond there.  Very attractive.

Edited later (at 6:49) to add  that it is raining.  Booooooooooooooooooooooo!

Wednesday 21 August 2013


Misty mornings have their own beauty.  Today is lovely and the mystery deepens as the sun just starts to break through.  I think it's going to be another lovely day.

That's about it for now.  Hope it's lovely and sunny where you are too.

Tuesday 20 August 2013


Half way through now!

On holiday, I always seem to have one day when I feel vaguely not-well, tired, listless and just not right.  That was yesterday but it was OK because I could rest and relax after a night when I really didn't sleep all that well..  I then slept in the morning, I slept in the afternoon and I even slept a little bit in the evening.  And went to bed around nine.  As a result, of course, I was awake rather early this morning and am just starting to feel tired again.  I think a coffee in bed and another snooze is in order.  I'm making the most of it - in a fortnight I will be facing my new class for the first time.

It was a gloriously sunny day yesterday.  Beth and Alex went pig sticking (stick picking) in the morning and swimming in the afternoon.  I expect today will be more of the same.  No complaints.

Sunrise yesterday: view from my bedroom window.
And now I'm back off to bed with a coffee and a book.  Ah - holidays . . .

Monday 19 August 2013


After quite a warm night we had an attractive sunrise and now the sun is shining brightly.  Quite the best early morning so far.

Yesterday was very mixed.  Sun, cloud, rain, wind - we had it all.  We got our swim in and then lounged around for the rest of the day, eating way too much and generally having a pleasant time.

Today is more of the same.  That's holiday for you - I'm doing less than for most of the summer break and it's lovely.

Summer morning!

Sunday 18 August 2013


Second day.  It's still too dark to tell what the weather will be like but the  forecast is reasonable for this morning with rain predicted for the afternoon.  So I guess that's swimming a.m. and maybe a wee ramble p.m. depending on how wet it turns out to be.

We went to Tesco yesterday, having decided we really couldn't be bothered to go twice the distance to Lidl, and we were pleasantly surprised by the bill.  A lot more than usual, of course, but there are three of us, one of whom is a bottomless pit, and there were several 'treats' included.  We'll have to go back for a few more things but all in all, not bad at all.

I'm sitting here gazing out of the window.  It's just beginning to lighten up a bit and the trees are shadows against a grey sky.  Sunrise is beautiful here at Streele Farm but the best view is from the Dairy rather than the Barn.  If I remember, I will meander out the front to watch.  We're on our own here, more or less.  There's no-one in the Dairy although I think there's a couple of the Family (the owners of this glorious place) staying in the Farmhouse at present and there's no staff on site.  To all intents and purposes we're alone and, for someone like me who likes to be alone and is surrounded by people big and small every day at work, the sense of isolation and solitariness (is that a word?) is sheer bliss.

And in the time it has taken for me to edit a few photos, the grey has turned to green and colour has returned to the world.  No sun yet.

We had the log burner fulfilling its prime directive again last night.  It is lovely to have a real fire crackling away in a darkened room and the evenings are cool enough to make the extra warmth a pleasure.

Saturday 17 August 2013


The first full day at Streele farm and it's sunny.  Not that it is likely to say sunny all day.  The forecast tells me that it will be fine all morning and up to about 3:00.  After that it's likely to rain all evening and through the night.  The rest of the week looks pretty good.  Not baking hot (none of us like baking hot all that much) but plenty of sun.  No complaints here.

So the plan is to go swimming this morning, then have lunch and do the food shopping in the afternoon.  If the evening is cool like yesterday we will light a log in the wood burner and enjoy the flames and the warmth.

Here's a few photos.  The light was not good so apologies for the quality.
Part of the bouquet of lilies we found on arrival (together with the sponge cake with coffee icing - yum)

Rose hips

More rose hips

The log shed


Leaves (stating the bloomin' obvious!)

Behind the Oast House is Streele Farmhouse itself.

Friday 16 August 2013

Friday later on

Arrived.  The country air is fresh and stinky free.  The internet connecting is fine.

The holiday starts here!

Taken last year. It's cold, damp and dull at the moment.


. . . and it's raining!  Also, someone, somewhere, is -er - improving the soil on their fields and it's a bit pongy outside.  My parents call it 'good, fresh country smell'!  Hopefully the rural countryside of West Sussex will be rather less stinky.

Yesterday was a busy day but I'm all ready now apart from the actual getting stuff into bags bit.  I have lists!
I have done instructions for Sonja.  Once again - thank you for house sitting, Sonja, it is a huge weight off my mind.
I've gone over the route one more time, although by now I can see it all in my mind's eye.
I'm ready!

Something else marks today as a great day.  I have picked the first hundreds and thousands tomatoes to take to Streele farm (and eaten one - very sweet and juice).  Yay!  Last night I gave all the tomatoes another spray of Bordeau solution so it's now a case of fingers crossed and hope for the best.  I can do no more.  Here's hoping.  Blight, blight, stay away!

Right, well I'd better start packing everything up and ticking things off my lists.  I'm taking my laptop so I should still be blogging but if I don't it will be because the connection is dodgy, that's all.

Here's to a good day for us all

Thursday 15 August 2013


Cool again, although not so cool that I can't open all the windows and the back door.  Rain is forecast for the next few days which will be jolly good for the garden!  It's a shame if it is raining for the journey as I do dislike driving in rain but there's not a lot I can do about that so I won't fret.

Yesterday, after a cool start it warmed up a lot and it was quite hot for a while in the afternoon.  Cooking the roast dinner was trouble free and uneventful, albeit rather hot, and my guests enjoyed it very much indeed.  I'm not usually much use with roast beef.  For a start, I like it properly cooked through which would make the purists shudder.  But this time it went OK and we all enjoyed beef, Yorkshires, carrots and onions, broccoli and roast potatoes.  Good old British roast dinner - just what they wanted!

In the morning Beth, Al and I took the goodies to the food bank.  One friend, who had been unable to come, brought round some contributions anyway so we had quite a lot to take, much to our satisfaction.  Then it was back home to wave a duster around the rooms in a rather vague manner and generally shift piles of stuff from one corner to another in an effort to tidy up a bit.

As I thought, the runner beans are not quite ready to pick so Sonja and Milli will have the first picking.  The good thing is that by the time I get home again there should be plenty.  Ditto for the hundreds and thousands.  They will be going full throttle in a short time and there will be loads of sweet, marble sized fruits soon.  I may get the first taste tomorrow morning but we will see!
The little red one at the bottom is the tomato I dropped in last week, to start them ripening.  It seems to have worked too.

The radishes, sown three weeks ago, are now well ready for pulling so I'll take a good bunch with me and leave the rest for my guests.`

Well, the bread is rising and I need to go and check how it's doing before it escapes form the pan!  Have a good day.

Wednesday 14 August 2013


It's another cool start to the day after a cosy, comfortable night snuggled under the quilt.  Yesterday wasn't warm, as predicted, but there was some sunshine and it was pleasant.  I prefer this sort of weather to the blazing heat of the heatwave a few weeks ago.

Today has a lot going on - picking Beth up from the garage where she's leaving her car for a service, taking the Monday food to the food bank, shopping, getting ready for my visitors, cooking a roast dinner for late afternoon - and so on.  Also I have to do the washing of the holiday clothes and start putting things out for packing.  It's all go!

I was just dozing in my chair yesterday afternoon when there was a knock at the door and there was a friend I haven't seen for a while.  What a lovely surprise.  So I made a cuppa for us and we had a good chat.  It was super.

Earlier in the day someone came to look at my French window which has been playing up.  Sadly, he couldn't repair it, made it secure and will send a quote for a replacement.  Booo - but thank goodness I have savings.  I'm not totally surprised or dismayed as I did suspect something of the kind.  Shame about the savings but I guess that's what savings are for!

A couple of random photos:

There was a lovely clear moon yesterday evening and I managed to get a few clear shots.  Here's one.  I love the way the features show so clearly.

After a couple of tweaks, I think the definitive recipe for Crunchy Flapjack Biscuits is on Teacher's recipes.
You can find it here.

Tuesday 13 August 2013


I opened the French window just now and closed it again hurriedly.  Brrrr - it's pretty cold outside at the moment, too cold for me to want to throw open all the windows and air the house.  I shall do that later on, once it has warmed up.  The BBC weather forecast tells me that it is currently about 11 degrees and will rise to 19, so that's pretty cool in comparison with the last week or so.  Just right for me though as I will be bustling around getting the house ready for my guests tomorrow.  It's about time it had a good clear-out!

We had a good time at our Picnic for a Pound.  Four families and assorted children came and lots of stuff was donated.

Looks good, doesn't it?  I will take it all down tomorrow as the Food Bank is not open today.
Well done, Beth - both for having the idea and for doing all the organising.
I wish other people would also take up the idea but we're 'little' people and don't have the clout required to get an idea like this off the ground.  Never mind!

I'm pleased that the hundreds and thousands finally seem to be getting the idea and are starting to turn orange.  About time too!  I suppose they will really start turning while I'm away so that will be nice for my house sitter.  Ditto for the runner beans!


Well, a bit more internet trawling and then I am off to have breakfast, get dressed and start the day's work or it will never get done and that would never do!

Monday 12 August 2013


We are now officially into the second half of the school holidays.  Time flies, doesn't it, when you're having a good time!  There's this week, then a week at Streele Farm and the last week is really back to work with a vengeance.  Ah well, there should be another one next summer!

I was pleased with yesterday's dinner.  As I mentioned, I tried making pasta with value plain flour, giving it a good blitz in Thermione first, and it was fine.  I don't have a brilliant palate -  I'd totally fail the palate test on Masterchef - and it seemed fine to me.  No complaints from Beth or Alex either.  With it I dug a vegetable sauce out of the freezer, cooked some chopped bacon for Alex, grated some not-Permesan, made a simple side salad with garden stuff, concocted a vaguely 'Italian' salad dressing and made some garlic bread with a very stale loaf.  It was dead easy,  trouble free and tasty!  I'm glad there are leftovers for tonight.

The next challenge is ravioli.  Diane gave me several ideas for fillings (on Teacher's Recipes - many thanks, Diane) which got the old imagination going.  I think the first effort will be something in the line of tuna and soft cheese and I shall have to think about seasonings.  Last but one Christmas ago D & A gave me a book that basically maps out flavours that have a natural affinity so I will dig that out and see what it says.  The sauce will just be creme fraiche based with a seasoning of not-parmesan and herbs, etc., I think.
Photo borrowed from Google Images - and mine will be circular.

The biggie today is Picnic for a Pound.  I'm really hoping this goes well, that people have a good time and that we get donations for the food bank.  I don't think many are coming but that doesn't matter.  The rolls are defrosting, the butter is softening and the jam pot is waiting to be opened!

So it's just fingers crossed for the weather now.

Sunday 11 August 2013


After another comfortable night I see that it has been raining.  Just how I like it - rain at night, dry during the day.  Several more weeks of that would do me just fine, thank you!  Long may it continue.

Yesterday I had my sight checked.  No big deal, I know, but it's been seven years since the last one.  I hadn't realised it was so long but last time I went they detected 'something' at the back of my eye and I had a whole series of tests, having to have time off school, lots of anxiety, etc, before it turned out to be nothing at all, just a sort of 'freckle'.  It rather put me off as I find medical things very anxiety creating and tend to avoid them!  Silly?  Yes!

Anyway, increasing difficulties with seeing clearly close up finally drove me back.  The results are:
'WOW, haven't you looked after your glasses well'!  Well, yes, I'd be lost without them.  They're not THAT old!  Anyone would think I'd lifted a pair from the local museum to take along!  It was funny!
My close vision is worse (yes, knew that), especially my left eye.  Interesting.  My left ear is the better of the two so I guess it's a balance!  :-)  No wonder I've found reading and other close work increasingly tricky.
My long sight has improved quite a lot.  Didn't know that - good.
Both eyes are very healthy with no other issues whatsoever.  Phew.  I have to admit I was worried.  I didn't want another fuss and bother like last time.  That sounds very ungrateful and I'm not:  I am glad that things were picked up and acted on but that doesn't mean I have to enjoy it, does it?

Actually, the optician (a slip of a thing who looked as if she ought to be going back to school next month) was very efficient and after she'd done all the testing, etc, took the time to show me the photos they had taken of my eyes and show me why they both looked very health and problem free.  I appreciated that very much.

And last of all the glasses and sunglasses I bought cost less than last time and less than the time before (many, many moons ago).  I've always dreaded the choosing of frames because, let's face it, you need them because you can't see, so you can't see to choose!.  This time there was a sort of camera that took photos so you could.  Brilliant!

Then it was back home.  I spent most of the rest of the day hoping the new glasses come very soon.

Apart from that I made some more pasta with value flour (don't shudder, Diane!) and cut it so thin it resembles spaghetti almost.  We're having it for lunch today with a tomato and bean sauce I managed to find in the freezer.  With that I will make some garlic bread which should satisfy the Bottomless Pit (aka Alex) who will also have some bits of bacon sprinkled over the top.

I also need to make bread.  I usually do this on Saturday morning but being out meant that it didn't get done.  I don't need any for me but I haven't made any for Beth and that would never do!

Better go and get the dough started then, hadn't I?

Saturday 10 August 2013


Another cool night, another fresh morning, another promise of sunshine to come.  I like days like this.  We did get a bit of rain yesterday but nothing to get excited about and the garden needed its evening refreshment as usual.

A great day yesterday.  First of all I counted up the money I have squirreled away for the food bank (not buying rubbish magazines and some of what I have saved on my Cheaper than Chips project) and went to Morrisons where I was able to load up my trolley with all sorts of things: tins of food, packets, dry goods, personal items such as deodorant, baby powder . . . oh, all sorts, just making sure that everything was on the list provided by the food bank.

And then I picked Beth up and we rather nervously and tentatively headed off for the Food Bank which turned out to be central with plenty of parking, thank goodness.  As this is one of Alex's projects for his DoE work, he was well prepared with a whole list of questions he had written down ranging from factual information to personal responses.  I thought they were a good set of questions - well done, Al.

Pippa and co were brilliant.  They showed us round everything, explained how everything worked and was organised, plied us with coffee and biscuits much to Alex's satisfaction and answered all Alex's questions and more.
By the time we came out my head was reeling with it all.  It's an amazing work, repeated in towns and cities all over the country but the tragedy is that in a country like ours it should not be necessary.  Sadly, the fact is that as benefit cuts bite deeper and deeper, people have used up their small safety net of savings and when the benefits office plays silly devils with the timing/sending out of benefits people can be left with so little that they have to choose between paying the rent and buying food.
Pippa confirmed that the huge majority of their clients are not 'scrounging, workshy and lazy' (to quote someone who shall remain nameless) but are decent, honest people who want to work and pay their way (and sometimes have low-paid jobs) but the benefits system has let them down temporarily and they are highly distressed and embarassed (and often depressed too) to find themselves in this position.
Thank God for the food banks, for those lovely people who manage and run it on a voluntary basis and for those who support it in various ways.  If you read this, please do consider if you could support their work.  If everyone who could were to donate just one item per week it would make such a difference.  It's not such a huge sacrifice, is it?  You can find your nearest Food Bank on the Internet.

Once home, I had a rather scrappy lunch and then sat down to do some knitting.  The shawl I am making which caused me such problems in the beginning is now going very nicely but, as every other row adds four stitches, the rows are getting longer and longer and the needles are getting more and more crowded.  I think I'm going to have to invest in a circular needle or I will never cope!

When I woke up (!!!) I picked up my eggs and J treated me to half a dozen titchy little eggs for free, which was  very kind of her.  They are perfect for making one person pancakes!  Then it was home to make pasta for the very first time.  It was most satisfying!  Next I want to see if I could use ordinary flour.  I know it won't be the same but it will be so much more frugal - 3p for 100g as opposed to 16p..   I know one can grind corn into flour in Thermione so perhaps I could try giving ordinary flour a good long zizz to 'soften' it.  I can but try - it won't be wasted anyway.
Photo borrowed from Google Search
Here's a link to the recipe for pasta with bacon, mushroom and cheese that I made yesterday evening and which I've posted in Teacher's Recipes.

Today I am out to have my eyes tested and then it's stay-at-home all day which will be very nice, because I seem to have been in and out, in and out most of the week.
But first of all - breakfast!  Beans on toast, here I come!

Friday 9 August 2013


Another cool night and fresh morning.  I like the way the weather is at the moment.  I love that I can snuggle under my quilt and I love that I can throw open all the windows first thing to freshen everywhere up.  It's a delight.  What I am noticing, however, is how much darker the early mornings are getting again.  When I woke before five it was still dark.  I suppose we are coming up to two months past the longest day so it is inevitable and I do love the dark mornings too.

A pleasant day again yesterday saw me first doing some food shopping and then off to a picnic with Beth and Alex at the allotment where she now has garden firniture to go with her little shed.  We had a grand time.  It was quite warm but the table and chairs are in the shade and it was just perfect.

Then I went home to write the cost on each item I had bought before putting it all away.  I find this a very useful thing to do.  It helps me keep closer tabs on my spending but also it shown me clearly how prices are going up.  For example, a fortnight ago Basics mayo was 38p but yesterday it was 40p.  In fact value/basic ranges are creeping up in price which could make life very difficult for those who are really on the edge.  On her blog, A Girl Called Jack, Jack Monroe described how one day she went shopping and found that the value jam she bought had taken a great hike from 29p to 35p, a huge increase in percentage terms.
And one has to be so careful.  Yesterday I saw basic iceberg lettuces at 90p.  They were poor, light specimins with no 'solid' feeling at all.  On the shelf above were the main range icebergs.  Good, solid, heavy, substantial balls of crunchiness.  And the price?  Just £1.00.  Where was the value in the basic version there.  I reckon that the £1 lettuce probably contained nearly twice the weight of leaf as the basic and, if the scales had been working I would have checked that.  But they weren't.

Lesson: Basic isn't always good value but it's hard on the person for whom finding another 10p is a real challenge.  Another version of the 'poverty premium', I guess.

I didn't get either because just along the shelf were some living lettuces.  My previous ones had finally bolted and turned bitter so are now contributing to the welfare of my garden in the compost bin.  So I bought a couple of pots and potted them on as soon as I got home.  Better value than the others and much nicer tasting too.

In my hunt for ways to use up the current courgette glut somewhat, I had a go at a recipe I found on the Internet for cheesy courgette biscuits.  The first attempt was interesting, as I have described over in Teacher's Recipes, so it's very much a work in progress right now.

Today is a biggie.  Today Beth, Alex and I go to see the local Food Bank and to see what, if anything, we can do to support it (apart from contributions, I mean).  It's exciting but, somehow, quite scary as well.  I'll let you know!

And then, in the afternoon, I think I will have a go with my new gadget and see what sort of pasta I can produce!  You may, or may not, hear more, depending!  We will see.

Thursday 8 August 2013


What a lovely cool night it was.  I stayed cosily under the quilt, fan turned off, and slept like a log all night.  Wonderful!  yesterday was also pleasant, weather-wise: sunny warm but not over-warm and with a lovely fresh breeze.  No sweat!!!
Today looks like being more of the same.

To my huge relief, I am now hearing stereophonically again.  In other words, I went into town and picked up my broken hearing aid which is now as good as new.  Phew, what a relief.  I then made an appointment to have my sight checked as I know I need new glasses.  I believe I can now have free sight checks which is nice.

Heading back towards Lakeland, I decided to pop into Debenhams to look at purses there.  I've had the most wonderful little black purse for well over a decade now.  I bought it for next to nothing in the market, it's leather and has done a grand job.  However, it is now very old and very battered and doesn't always close properly so I can find a shower of cash all over the bottom of my bag.  I therefore decided to get a new one at some point.
See what I mean?

To my delight, there was one that was just perfect.  Light coloured (I wanted light coloured to make it easier to find in my somewhat capacious purse) and slightly larger and, better than best, had an owl on it!

That neither explains nor excuses the handbag I also saw and bought though.  So much for frugality.

The frugality took another severe battering when I went into Lakeland (no surprises there then!).  I bought several bits and pieces that I needed and - er - a pasta maker.  You know the sort: heavy, rolls out pasta dough and cuts it into bits thing.  A gadget - one of the species of cupboard clutter I had vowed to ignore and disregard from here on.  Ooopsie!
So there's got to be fresh pasta on the menu a bit more often . . . and I need to Google search for info/recipes

Having shocked myself by my weakness (yeah, sure), I recovered over lunch with a friend with some non-stop chatting and laughing.  It was lovely.  Later on I had a surprise visit from Beth and Alex, dropping off a courgette and picking up the garden mint and courgette loaf I had for her.  And then in the evening I get on with my knitting and didn't go wrong, not even once.  I must be improving!

Today I have an appointment with Beth and Alex down at their allotment for a picnic.  I haven't been there for a while and I gather that there are changes.  The shed's up, the furniture is out, things have been moved around . . .  I'm looking forward to it very much.

I'm taking flapjacks (which are smelling wonderful in the oven as I type) and something to drink, and I might take some little pots of citrus yoghurt (recipe over in TsRs - do pop over and look) as well.  Apart from that. the day is more or less a clean sheet so I might get some long overdue bits and bobs completed.  That would be good.

Almsot half way through - where is the time going?

Wednesday 7 August 2013


Another cool, fresh morning and a cool fresh home as the windows are all open.  It's not exactly sunny at the moment but the clouds look reasonably high so I'm living in hope!

Before I go any further, an ad for my other blog - I've posted two new recipes.  Please do go and look:
Pasta with a sardine sauce (my own)
Garden mint and courgette bread (from 'Freshly Baked and the link to that site is in the entry: do go and look, it's a super site)

It was a fun day yesterday.  In the morning I went round to a friend's to have coffee - there were four of us and we have all worked together in year 1 at school at some point or other.  We had a jolly good catch-up chat and an admiring look around June's allotment and at her hens, who, most obligingly, had produced three eggs for her to collect while we were there.

Then it was back for lunch and a lazy afternoon knitting and snoozing before I had a go at the two recipes listed above.

I had a good laugh at myself.  For a week now I have been looking at a tomato that had started turning orange and then seemed to stop turning any more.  I was puzzled as to why the red colour wasn't coming.  Then it struck me - it's *supposed* to be an orange tomato!!!!   Doh!
I did feel silly!

Tuesday 6 August 2013


Well, I was right.  I said yesterday that there was more rain to come and my goodness, indeed there was.  It wasn't too bad during the day but in the evening we had some very heavy downpours.  All good for the parched earth and it means the only plants I need to water this morning (or check that they need water) are the ones under cover!

Yesterday the car went in after several mishaps/misunderstandings that meant that it couldn't go in last week as expected.  It's all done and dusted now - MOT, service and road tax are all up to date, thank goodness.  I was a bit concerned that a problem might prove ridiculously expensive, but it didn't, it was a lot less than last year and, if I was doing one of these 'Today I am glad . . .' posts, one would be 'Today I am glad that I have enough savings to cover the cost .' or even 'Today I am glad I don't have to start looking for another car.'

The garage is close to Beth's so I spent the day there.  We went out for lunch, me, Beth and Alex.  At first we tried Lathcoat's coffee shop but it was closed so we ended up in the Writtle Road nursery and had a delicious meal.

i was glad we went over to Lathcoat's though, because I had run out of yeast.  I hate running out of a basic like that (basic to me, that is).  I know Lakeland has large packs of dried yeast (I refuse to buy those sachets, they are ridiculously expensive) but that means a trip to town and parking to be paid.  Morrison's didn't have any.  But the farm shop did - so I bought three packs with a nice long shelf life which should keep me going for a while to come.
Now I can try the garden mint and courgette bread recipe I found the other day!

Picture borrowed from Google

Just as an afterthought - how can Lakeland sell the packs of dried yeast at £1.25, Lathcoats at £1.35 but somewhere like Amazon charges over £3.00 plus postage?

Monday 5 August 2013


It's been raining!  When I popped out to look at the garden, down came the raindrops so I beat a hasty retreat!  It's stopped now and the sun is out but I have a feeling there's more to come yet.

There's not a lot to say really.  Yesterday was one of those gentle days where nice things happened one after the other, the highlught being when Beth turned up with potatoes, courgettes and some corn on the cob.  I shall have some of that tonight!

Today marks the start of middle third of the holiday.  I'm hoping that it will go more slowly as I want to enjoy every moment!  Two weeks until Streele Farm.  Looking forward to that.

I hope your day goes well.

Sunday 4 August 2013

Ooops - I forgot

A few blogs ago, when I was talking about the barter Beth and I indulged in, I forgot to mention that she brought over one of her 'plaits' of garlic.  Luvverly!  That should keep me in garlic for a couple of months.

So sorry I forgot, Beth.


The leeks seem to have survived the planting and are nice and upright and looking at home.  I haven't killed them - yet!
Good morning, everyone.  It's another promising start to the day, sunny and fresh with a bit of a breeze trembling the tops of the trees.  I've done my usual survey of the estate - oh, OK, back patch - and all seems well.  There are tomatoes still for tea!

I remember, before we had the threat of blight so it must be last century, one summer holiday, every morning (so it seemed) I would go out and pick half a dozen tomatoes, fry them in the bacon fat and have the most delicious bacon and tomato breakfast, sitting out in the already warm garden.  Maybe this summer will be the same as there are loads ripening and there might be a glut.  It will be nice to hand produce to Beth - it's usually the other way where that's concerned.
Or maybe it was all a dream!

I had a kitchen day yesterday so it was lucky not to be too hot.  First of all it was the weekly bread: with Thermione's help it is down to a fine art and it all went as smoothly as ever.
Then I started thinking about lunch.  I've blogged about lunch over in TsRs so do take a look.  The resulting Definitely-Not-a-Caesar-Salad was really delicious, thanks to a series of happy circumstances.
Then I dithered and doodled regarding dinner and finally made a sort of tuna pasta thing which was nice.  Not as nice as the salad but I'll make it again.  It would have been nicer if I'd used full fat Philly, not the light version, but one has to consider calories as well as pennies!
Neither of them are ultra-frugal a-la-Jack but they're both low cost and good value.

For a little time I've been thin king about finding a recipe that will make nice rolls.  The rolls I usually make are the same recipe as the loaves and I wanted to vary things a bit.  I found a recipe for 'soft white bread rolls' so I gave them a go, with Thermione's help, as usual.  It made six decent sized rolls but the funny thing was that I fell asleep while they were proving and when I woke I rushed them straight in the oven and they emerged looking wonderful, just as crusty and beautiful as those you buy in the supermarket for 25p each or five for £1.  I don't know what they taste like, hopefully better than said supermarket rolls.  I'm having one tonight for tea so I will report back and post the recipe if they're OK.  Maybe that's where I've been going wrong with rolls.  Maybe I have been under proving them!

When I went shopping I met two just-ex pupils, one nearly pupil and several I taught at sundry times.  That's the thing about living very close to the workplace and I love it!  It was great to have a little chat.

Apart from that, I continued with my knitting, watched some Poirot and sundry other bits and bobs, dozed a few times and generally had yet another lovely day (monotonous, isn't it?)

Today is going to be a kitchen morning.  It needs a good clear up, things need putting away and so on, I have a pile of washing to deal with and it is generally past the point of managing easily in there.

Then Beth and Al are over for dinner.  Lovely!

Saturday 3 August 2013


What a downpour we had yesterday morning!  Just what the gardener ordered and the lightning and thunder cleared the air amazingly well for a while.  I've just been out to do some early watering and it's beautifully fresh and 'clean' out there right now.  The forecast is wonderful - bright and warm with a breeze.  With any luck I will be able to sit out and chill with a book at some point.

I know I say this to the point of utter boredom, but yesterday was lovely.  A gentle potter around the kitchen that resulted in two loaves of bread and a very nice salad for lunch.  Some reading, some knitting, a little bit of housework (ooops) and a visit from Beth and Alex.

They arrived with baby leeks and two broccolis and they left with half a dozen eggs, two loaves, a cucumber and a lettuce, the latter two from my parents.
The leeks and the broccoli plants are now safely planted in my veg bed, which is beginning to look remarkably productive.  The parsley has lived and is growing, the radishes are up, the carrots are just showing their feathery little shoots and the runner beans are doing what runner beans do best - climbing and flowering.  However, I do, at long last, have some baby beans a-growing and have the evidence to prove it!
OK, so you definitely need a magnifying glass to see it, but it's there!!!  A baby bean!

Even if they never turn red (which I am sure they will) it was worth getting the hundreds and thousands for the sheer visual pleasure.  There they sit, producing zillions of titchy flowers that are rapidly turning into equally titchy little fruit and looking beautiful in the summer sunshine.
Less than 1cm across - so cute!  And there are literally hundreds of them already.

I would love to be able to take radishes, tomatoes and runners with us to Streele Farm this summer.  Fingers crossed and good weather permitting . . .

I seem to have not an awful lot on today.  Food shopping (after list making), baking some more bread, picking up the eggs, a bit of the usual stuff and plenty of snoozing as I was wide awake at four this morning.  George comes later on so the garden will look pretty good too.

Better go and make breakfast - my tum is rumbling!

Edited to add:  I forget to say that I concocted quite a tasty dish yesterday so have posted it into Teacher's Recipes.  Do take a look.