Wednesday 30 April 2014


I looked out this morning to see that it is very dull and quite foggy.  Maybe that's a sign of good things to come.  Yesterday brightened up and by the evening it was beautiful.  I'm hoping the fog will lift and the sun decides to play ball.

Mind you, yesterday evening was fun anyway.  Grandson is away on a residential field trip from Monday to Friday so Beth and I went to the Hare for an evening meal and a good chat.  More than a little indulgent, I think, seeing as I will be there again this week with some friends, but never mind.  They had the new Spring and Summer menu and the smaller plate list was longer again.  I always have one of them now, it's just about right for me and doesn't leave me either feeling uncomfortably stuffed or guilty because I have left some.  They are very obliging and when Beth asked if she could haveone of the main meals but a small plate amount they agreed straight away and charged the small plate amount.  Really good!
Mini-burger, chips and coleslaw - very tasty!

Today I have my mentor meeting with my student.  I enjoy these, they are helpful and I reckon I learn as much as he does in a different way.  Then, for the rest of the day, it's back to what passes for normal at the moment.
This half term is whizzing past at an alarming rate.

I'm enjoying my breakfast as I type.  Yesterday I forgot I was going out and got a meal out of the f reezer.  I can't waste it so it's curry for breakfast, yay!  It should keep me going until lunch anyway!

Have a great day!

Tuesday 29 April 2014


It's a bit of a dull and gloomy morning, unfortunately, and no sun appears to be fighting through the cloud cover so my fingers are crossed for outdoor games this morning.  Last week it was actually raining at this point in time and it ended up OK so I can hope.

Yesterday was a delightful day with wall to wall sunshine and some warmth too.  I was on playground duty in the afternoon so was able to take advantage of it.  The first swimming lessons went well too.  At this point I need to say I do not teach swimming.  In fact, I stay in the classroom while parent helpers take one group at a time across to the pool and bring them back afterwards.
The children all came back happy, there were no tears and a lot of happy talk.  So THAT'S all right!

Today is my PPA and coordinator time.  Loads to do and not all that much time to do it, so I shall be busy.  After school I have a meeting with someone, so that's my day well wrapped up.

Apart from that, I am just about organised for LBTL.  The food is (mostly) bought, there's a list of things to make at the weekend, I'm well under my fiver and I should eat OK, although in rather a liumited way.  But then that's life for many, many people and, if they don't have the wherewithal, either equipment or knowledge, it's going to be a lot harder.  This is not a boast, it's a comment, but a lot of my meals will be cooked from scratch and it really is making the fiver go further.

I hope I'm not offending any of my readers but I am sometimes saddened that people seem very worried about making their money meet the family need and then talk about buying take away pizzas, eating ready meals, and so on.  A little bit of culinary knowledge would go such a long way to sorting their financial issues out.  Maybe I am lucky in that I enjoy cooking as an activity and I am aware that people do often cook from scratch and still find it hard to make ends meet, but an awful lot don't.  It's sad.

And, again, here's the link if anyone would care to support me as I Live Below The Line for five days and raise money for ActionAid.  Many thanks.

Monday 28 April 2014


Another birthday flower.

Well, it was lovely weekend again.  The sun shone yesterday and it was nearly warm enough to sit out.  I had fun 'creating' a couple of frugal recipes for LBTL (on the other blog).  The planning was all done and dusted and one of the Birthday Bottles is no more!

Beth and Alex came over and we all thoroughly enjoyed Welsh rarebit on toast followed by some fresh fruit.  Absolutely delicious and very simple to make.  I had a bit of cream that needed using up so I added a dash to the cheese mixture and mmmmmmmm.

Apart from that it was all a bit busy one way and another.  Maybe I am going back to school for a rest!  :-)

Today is the first swimming afternoon.  The class is split into three groups and they go one group at a time to the swimming pool for their lesson.  It means that everything else is very disjointed and you can't do anything that requires teaching input.  However, learning to swim and developing the skill once you can swim is important and we are very lucky to have access to our own pool.  My class is also very lucky that the swimming is this term, the warm and sunny term.

Here's to a warm and sunny day today then.

Sunday 27 April 2014


Good morning, everyone.  It looks quite bright outside at the moment and I'm hoping there won't be so much rain.  However, having said that, given that it was actually sunny very early on yesterday, maybe I shouldn't hope too much.

I went into town, as expected, yesterday morning and remembered why I don't go in very often.  It was pretty busy for the time of day and would only get worse.  It was damp and soggy.  And it costs a fortune to park!

Anyway, I got my cheques paid in, trawled around Wilcos and the pound shop and more or less managed to get everything on my list for not too much money before coming home.  I meant to go to WH Smiths to spend a birthday voucher but decided not to.  I'll do that next weekend.

Then it was home to make a few more paper pots and plant some dwarf beans.  I read that dwarf beans can be grown in containers as they don't need anything like the root space of runners and that they need only little support so I'm giving them a go.  I like dwarf beans and they freeze reasonably well too.  For the cost of a packet of seeds it's worth a try, I reckon.

From last week's sowing I now have little runner bean seedlings (lots because some are for Beth), the cucumber has germinated, as has the dill, the basil and the tomatoes.  I've planted far too many, of course, so I might pot some on and offer them at school for a donation to LBTL - if they thrive, of course.  I could take rosemary cuttings and do the same, couldn't I?

We're doing seeds so I think they will be interested in this.
And the sun has come out!

Saturday 26 April 2014


 . . . and 'dibber to you too' do I hear you say?

I've sort of coveted a dibber for a while now.  I saw a lovely one at Hyde Hall, all shiny and metal and obviously a thing of quality as well as beauty and it showed in the price.  I could not justify spending £XX on something that just makes holes in the ground.

So I was well pleased today when I saw one in Wilkinson's.  It's not shiny, it's not metal and it certainly isn't a thing of either beauty or quality.  It's plastic and yellow and very much bottom basement.  And it cost me £1.15.  

But I bet the holes it makes will be just as good!!!!

Wilko Garden Dibber
It's yellower than this one but apart from that . . . identical.

I'm ready for the next lot of leek seedlings now, dear daughter!  :-)


Phew.  It's the weekend.  A couple of days to rest and recover.  A couple of days to do more or less what I want to do when I want to do it - one advantage of living on my own, I guess.  It will be nice to have the time to appreciate all the flowers which are looking cheerful along one side of the room.

Until a few minutes ago the sun was shining beautifully and I watched the shadows gradually retreat as they caught the sun.  A minute later I glanced out again and the sun had gone, the shadows had returned and it looks like rain is coming.

It's absolutely ridiculous - we've been back at school for four days and already we are tired.   It's nothing to do with age - the youngsters are saying the same thing.  It's just a very wearing occupation, I think.  I work with a great team connected with my class though, TAs, LSAs and teachers alike .  It's a great feeling and a real privilege to be heading up so many fantastic and skilled people.

Mind you, something else has also made me very proud of the school I am fortunate enough to work at.  I can't give details, obviously, but we've been challenged this week with a situation (not a bad one) that we don't often meet and I am very, very proud of the way everyone has worked to meet the need and provide the best.  That's the sort or thing that makes our school outstanding, I believe.  Well done to everyone concerned.

And now it's the weekend.  This morning I am off into town to pay in some cheques (good!) and get a few bits and bobs.  Then I'm coming home to do some gardening stuff (weather permitting) and by the evening I will be ready to crack open one of my birthday bottles and I might even sacrifice one of the steaks I have in the freezer.  After all, I've bought them so I ought to eat them, frugality notwithstanding!  I saw, in a Halogen oven group on Facebook, that you can cook steaks in a HO with the air fryer attachment so I will try it that way and see how it goes.  A few accompanying chips will work well too - in fact I might do some extras and freeze some so they are ready for Live Below The Line, which I start not tomorrow but the following Sunday.

I've just glanced over my grafted tomatoes and notice that one has flowers.  How did that happen, they're still indoors?  Have they made too fast progress?  Did I buy them too early?  Time will tell, I guess but I hope they will be OK.

And in the time it has taken to finish off this message the wind has increased, the gloom intensified and the rain has started and looks set to continue for a while.  I'm glad I was up early enough to see the sunshine because it was beautiful.

Friday 25 April 2014


Wow, what a day it was yesterday.  It was only a birthday but everyone made me feel so special.  So many cards, four and a half bottles of wine (!), rather a lot of flowers and other lovely stuff too.  I was somewhat overwhelmed by the end of the day and close to tears (happy ones, of course).

I had my birthday meal on Saturday with my lovely family so in the evening I treated myself to a take away.  Of course I ate some and was full rather quickly so guess what this evening will be - yes, you've got it in one.  Second day Chinese always tastes better, I think.

The bottles will go in the fridge for the weekend - not all of them, of course!!

Apart from that, it was a good day with me teaching my lovely class in the afternoon.  My student had them in the morning.  I find I am missing them rather a lot at the moment and it is difficult to sent them off to him when they come to me to ask things like may they go to the loo, get a drink, etc.  Me, possessive?  Surely not!  What a thought!!!

Well, Lenka is coming today and I can't let her see the kitchen in its current state so I'd better go and do something about it, hadn't I?  Thank goodness for dish washers!

Thursday 24 April 2014


It's just starting to get light here.  The sky is a middle grey and the houses are just starting to uncover their faces.  I can't tell the weather from here and I'm too lazy to get up and find out but let's hope it's heading for a pleasant day.  I'm on playground duty morning and afternoon so I'm hoping for sun.  The children are happier in the sun.

It's been a strange old week so far.  I have a student on his second SCITT placement so haven't actually done an awful lot of direct teaching but it's been hard work all the same.  Mentoring is no doddle.

I had a lovely surprise yesterday thought.  Just before staff meeting I was confronted by some little girls from last year's class and their mums, together with several bunches of flowers and a bottle of nice white (now chilled and ready).  Very sweet of them.  So that's a great start to the old birthday today, coming down to see those lovely flowers.  So kind.

I can't believe another birthday has arrived.  It seems only a few months since the last one.  A sure sign of getting old, I guess.

Today we are doing the old 'what happens to the water when a plant drinks' investigation and, as always, there will be left over celery.  So that means cream of celery soup or perhaps I can blanche it and freeze for LBTL (as it's free).  Or is that cheating?

Which leads me very neatly to the next request (sorry).  Today is Beth's last day Living Below The Line.  Mine starts in around ten days' time.  if you would like to support us by donating to ActionAid, you can do so through this link.
Many thanks.

Wednesday 23 April 2014


. . . and in a tearing hurry so this will be very brief.

A lovely day yesterday, despite rain early and late.  Outdoor PE happened, it was lovely to see the children again, planning for next week is now done (yay) and it's one day down, twenty one to go!
My chilli plant has flowers - buds anyway!

Have a super day, everyone!

Tuesday 22 April 2014


The planning is done and printed off, the resources are made, the notices for the window are printed, it's new term time.

I'd rather stay at home and tend the garden, I think!

Monday 21 April 2014

Worked it out!

I seem to have finally worked out a way of getting several photos across the top.  A bit long winded and I'm sure there's an easier way, but it's better than nothing,


Just playing with Photoshop Elements.


Hardening off.

Yesterday may have started off bright, dry and a bit sunshiny, but by around midday the clouds were lowering and most of the rest of the day was very wet indeed.  Such a shame for those out on holiday sprees but rather good for my garden.  I won't have to water today.
I've just glanced out of the window and, where it was sunny a short time ago, it is not cloudy and dull so I'm wondering if today will be more of the same.  We shall see!

After Mum and Dad had left I did some kitchen stuff, sorting out some of the left over food.  I have more to do today as well but it's all in hand and it won't be long before it's back to normal.  Today is getting ready for school day, essential but dull, so I guess I will be on Facebook quite a lot!  Also there's washing, ironing, cleaning, etc, to get sorted.

Better get started then.

Sunday 20 April 2014

Live Below The Line

Last year I was embarrassed at asking for donations.  I felt awkward and 'greedy', even though the 'cause' was a fantastic one.  This year - well, I'm going to ask again and maybe it will get easier with time.

If any of my readers would like to support Beth and me while we Live Below The Line for five days (Beth started today and I start on 11-5), it would be brilliant and we would be very, very grateful.

You can read about Live Below The Line here.

You can read about ActionAid here.

And if you wish to donate, here's the link for that.

Many thanks for reading.
(more to come in the next few weeks.


Good morning, everyone, Happy Easter to you!

I was expecting to wake up to rain, rain and more rain but it's still dry and very light although there's no sun.  Yesterday was a surprise - after a cloudy, sometimes dull morning with a few drops of rain, the afternoon and evening were sunny and pleasant.

They were pleasant in other ways too.

First of all I finally managed to get the seeds into soil.  I planted (in paper pots) runner beans, tomatoes, peppers, celeriac and outdoor cucumbers.  Apart from the runners they were all freebie seeds and I have no idea whether they will actually be any good but dear me, what have I got to lose?

We all went out for a meal in the evening, a lovely family meal, to the Hare at Roxwell.  I had a smaller plate meal, hunters chicken with peas and chips.  I know it doesn't sound terribly exciting but it was delicious and I enjoyed it very much.  It may have been a smaller plate meal but it certainly filled me up and there was no room left for dessert.  Alex went for sticky ribs and I was most impressed with the way he managed to consume the lot, plus a starter, plus a dessert!  I know he's a teenager but I have no idea where he puts it all!  Hollow legs is only the start of it, bless him.

I was thrilled that Dave and Anna were able to come and also that Beth could make it.  She's not well at the moment and I appreciate her making such an effort - thanks very much, love.  I hope you're not suffering too much from it this morning.

Today, this morning, my visitors go home.  It's been a lovely few days and, actually, in the last month or so I've had visitors more than I have been on my own.  I like solitary living but it's been nice all the same.  It's going to seem very quiet.

There's kitchen stuff to be done though.  In the slow cooker the remains of Thursday's roast chicken is gently glooping away to make a good stock and in the fridge there's a whole pile of lamb that needs sorting out.  Shepherds pies for a start and some of the slices (or what passes for slices in a slow roast lamb) in gravy.  And there's a pile of veg that was under the lamb so all meatily infused with deliciousness is going to make a soup of some kind - probably a quick mash in some stock with some shreds of lamb added is all that will be needed, with some seasoning, possibly.  After all, I have to think of school lunches again, don't I?  So that's bread rolls to make, I reckon.

And then I intend to rest.  Tomorrow will be filled with school preparation.  The end of the (holiday) world is nigh and all that stuff!  And I will have to wait all of five weeks (three of them four day weeks) before the next one.  Oh, dear!

Finally, at the end of a right ramble, just to say it was lovely to read some comments at the end of yesterday's entry.  I was beginning to wonder if I'd offended everyone!  Please do feel free to leave comments - I love reading them and do my best to reply.  :-)

Have a lovely Easter and bank holiday Monday!

Saturday 19 April 2014


Another cool, sunny morning here in Essex although I gather it is due to cloud over later and tomorrow could be pretty wet.  It would be good to have some rain - the beds are dry and need a good soaking.

I now have wiring along my fence.  Proper wiring (thanks, Dad) so I can train my tayberry first one way and then the other.  Maybe, in couple of year I will be getting a decent crop.  The biggie now is that it's in a pot so unlikely to do all that well as there's insufficient root room.  It would be great if one of the patio slabs could be lifted and the plant could go in there.  I need to think about that one - I certainly cannot do it myself.

I'm now planning where I want my little vegetable plants to go (when I've got them, of course).  I *think* that I shall try some french beans in a pot after reading that you can do that and they're fine.  Ages ago I tried runners in a pot and they were a dismal failure as they need lots of root space, but it seems French beans do not.

I'm going to do the runner beans as last year, training them over a couple of arches.  They looked so good last year and cropped very well in my fairly sheltered little patch.  The main problem was that some failed to germinate so this year I'm starting them in paper pots and taking it from there.

The tomatoes will go in the growhouse or along the house wall where it is warm and sunny.  I seem to have rather a lot of tomato plants of various kinds so it should be interesting.

I'm doing carrots again but not radishes.  I have some celeriac seeds (a freebie) so I might have a little go with them.  After all, I can't lose, can I?  And the cut and come again salad leaves will go in the same little planter as last year.

For a very little garden with minimal growing space, I will be thrilled if I achieve all this!  Fingers crossed.

Friday 18 April 2014

Garden post (well, it is that time of year)

Still can't remember its name but it's very pretty.

The redlove apple is absolutely beautiful at the moment.  Masses of blossom.

Grafted plans, hardening off

The last three are the strawberries, loving the sunshine.  Lots of buds and a few flowers too.  Excellent!


Friday already!  Four more holiday days to go (including today).   It's been a lovely two weeks but all good things . . . etc.

So yesterday - good day.  My friends arrived and settled in.  I made a wholemeal loaf for one of my friends who loves brown bread.  I made lemon biscuits from the easy peasy recipe I posted in Teacher's Recipes a while ago and we had a roast dinner!

Instead of using cinnamon for the biscuits, I used lemon zest and a few drops of lemon oil and, though I say it myself, they were delicious.  I must try it with orange zest and orange oil next time.

The wholemeal loaf came out a treat.  I used to say I couldn't make good wholemeal bread but now that Thermione does all the kneading I never have a failure so I guess the problem was with me, not the bread itself.  White, half-and-half, wholemeal, they all come out well risen and delicious!

The roast chicken was pretty good too.  I always roast chickens in my halogen oven, Handy Andy.  I would say the purchase was worth it, just for roasting chickens.  It does a grand job.
Ever since I read Diane on the subject, I have always brined my chicken for 24 hours before roasting.  It's simpler than it sounds.  I'm not scientific about it, I just bung some salt in a big bowl, add water, submerge the chicken, breast side down, add more water to cover, cover the bowl with clingfilm and pop into the fridge.  Then, before roasting I take the chicken out of the brine and dry it all over.  That's it.  The chicken doesn't end up salty in the least and I haven't had a dry roasted chicken since I started brining.
Then it's into Handy Andy for half an hour upside down on the low rack and with the extender collar, and then just over half an hour right way up.  So, so easy.  No basting, no fuss at all.

With the chicken we had some purple sprouting broccoli from the garden.  I have just two plants but they have  certainly earned their keep and I an hoping against hope that they are still producing when I do Living Below The Line (see, I had to get it in here somewhere) as garden produce is allowed as long as you count the cultivation costs (which are zero in this case as the plants were a gift).  The broccoli was scrummy and I must beg Beth for some more this autumn.

I have some dough rising and I think it's nearly ready so I'd better go and check.  Then the leg of lamb is thawed and waiting for a long, slow roast on a bed of vegetables with white wine and lamb stock.
So I'd better go!

Thursday 17 April 2014


Good morning again.  The days are ticking off rapidly at the moment and before I know it, it will be back to school.  I must make the most of these last days.
It's not so chilly this morning, by which I mean there's no frost.  It isn't warm, thank goodness.  I hate sticky, claggy early mornings.  Early mornings should be cool and fresh and sparkling.

Apple blossom which is currently making my garden look lovely.
I'm rather worried that I am too organised with LBTL.  I have the menu sorted out and I have many of the items in and ready.  I bet things change between now and when I am due to start though.

I had a bit of a weeding session in the garden yesterday - not that there were many weeds thanks to George but the whitebells have taken over the middle bed and I wanted to get some out while I can tell what I am pulling up.  The ground was bone dry so I did quite a lot of watering too, which helped.

Inside I made Beth's bread for LBTL and it is now safely stored in the freezer.  Two nice looking little loaves which should be more than enough for the five days.  And later on I finally got round to making Jack's lemon pasta with salmon thingy - can't remember the proper name - for dinner and jolly nice it was too.  I've blogged about it in Teacher's Recipes, here!

I've been tending the four grafted tomato plants and the chilli plant and they all seem to be doing very well, so well that I suspect I will need to pot them on into the large pots before I can get them outside.  Ah well, never mind, it's rather nice to look at them now and again and think ahead to the summer harvest!  So nice that, unfortunately, I went online yesterday evening and ordered some more including an intriguing 'black tomato' which cost way more than I ought to have paid but there you go, the deed is done now and I may regret it!  The other things I ordered were a couple of peppers and a yellow tomato (I do love yellow tomatoes, they have a sweet-tangy flavour).  I justify all this by saying that I have three to feed, not just one!  I know - no excuse really.

So, on to today.  My guests arrive this afternoon so before then I have to do some shopping, some bread making, some tidying, some ironing and generally get things ready.   Better get going then!

Enjoy today!

Wednesday 16 April 2014


Brrrrrrr - these early mornings are certainly cold at the moment.  Yesterday I woke very early and came downstairs without wrapping up warmly: within a short time I was shivering.  This morning I wrapped up in dressing gown and slippers and it's much better.  The reason?  There's a frost!  We've likely had more frosts in April than we have in the whole winter past.  OK, slight exaggeration, but not too much!  I'm very glad I haven't been seduced into putting out my tender plants by the sunshine during the day.

Sharon came round to re-chop my hair yesterday and I have to say I was as pleased as the first time.  Beth also came round to share the appointment and she, also, was really pleased with the results.  It's lovely not to have the fringe dangling in my eyes now.
So that's another customer Sharon has gained.  We've made the next appointment!!!

Beth and I also had a good chat about LBTL.  She's doing hers next week from Monday to Friday so there's a number of things we can't really share, fresh stuff mostly, but we are sharing rice, pasta and a few other bits and bobs.  Bless her, she said she saw those smaller bags of porridge in Lidl yesterday (I must have just looked straight past it)  so the porridge for breakfast idea is now on again!  Having had that chat, I can now prepare my definitive menu for the five days (which will get changed as I get nearer to the starting point, of course!
You'll hear quite a lot about LBTL over the next few weeks so I apologise in advance!  :-)

Tomorrow some friends arrive for a few days with me so today I will be planning meals and shopping.  I have a voucher for £10 off if I spend over £40 in Morrisons (which I am sure I will do) so that will help.  I'm planning a couple of roast dinners (chicken on Thursday and lamb on Friday) and we're eating out on Saturday.  Breakfasts will be toast with things on.  All I really have to think about is desserts and lunches.

Right, well, enough rambling - I mist go and boil my breakfast eggs and get started.  It's nearly seven o'clock and I must get going!  Have a good day, everyone.

Tuesday 15 April 2014


Today's big blog news is that yesterday I signed up to do Live Below The Line again.  I can't do it the set week so will have to do it the following week and have yet to decide whether I want to start on Sunday 4th or Monday 5th May (a bank holiday so that's two days out of my work place).  Beth's doing it too so we're making a team that others could join too, if they want, and we're raising money for ActionAid, one reason being that every penny raised will be matched by the government.  They seem very good at spending money on themselves, this government, so let's see them spending a bit on those less fortunate.
(more about our chosen cause another time)

So I started by planning.  How on earth did I do it last year without using My Supermarket?  If you've not come across this site, do take a look.  It is a way of costing and comparing across most of the big supermarkets including Aldi and is very useful.

Anyway I started off by thinking vaguely of the sort of meals I would like to make and started looking up the cost of various items.  I remembered that I had last year's plans saved so found them and realised that this year would have to be quite different because Alex isn't doing it this year.  I shall, therefore, be meat free for the five days apart from boiling up some chicken bones that I got free from the butcher.  In fact I might do that today so I know just what I have got.  Three cheers for freezers!  However, where do I stand when it comes to boiling up a chicken carcass after a roast that I shall be having on Thursday?  The stock and the bits will be in the freezer, it's stuff that many (dare I say most) people would throw away.  Can I count it as free?  I don't know.

I did have to rewrite my initial plans when Beth said she wouldn't go halves with the porridge oats, sadly, so it's now porridge for breakfast every day.
As last year, I feel it's a bit silly to buy things specifically for LBTL when I already have them in.  So when possible and when comparable, I will be using storecupboard stuff and count the cost of a complete packet when costing - so I won't buy any value rice,  use the value rice in my cupboard, but will take 40p off the £5.00 I am allowed for the week (or 20p if Beth goes halves with me).  Ditto with porridge as I have loads in the cupboard and it would be really idiotic to buy more.  That, I think is one of my main criticisms of the project - it doesn't encourage you to make the best of what you already have.  But, to be fair, why should it?  That's not what it is all about and immediately creates an uneven playing field.

One good thing is that things like seasonings, oil and, joy of all joys, flour can be used on a cost what you use basis and garden produce is permitted.  So I will be living off leeks, parsnips and broccoli, I guess!  And it's back to baking bread with plain (value) flour.  And I can use SR flour for pancakes.  Yay!

The other big news (for me) is that it's been six weeks since I had my hair all chopped off and, thank goodness, Sharon is over this afternoon to cut it again.  I always knew my hair grew fast but it didn't really register when it was long and I regularly hacked at the fringe anyway.  It's really starting to annoy me now so it will be nice to get it cut again.

I popped over to Wyvale yesterday and spent rather too much money on some grafted tomatoes and a grafted chilli.  I was going to order them online and they would have been a bit cheaper, but not once to count the postage.  So I have four tomatoes: a plum, a beefsteak, a cherry and a 'normal' one and may get a few more not-grafteds for the whicker bed and a trailing one for the hanging basket.  Then I need to pray for a blight-free summer!  The reason for all these tomatoes is that I will be providing three of us with them and we all like tomatoes.  Beth has decided, quite rightly, that there's no point both of us growing tomatoes and, as she provides me with plenty of veg and fruit, I can provide her and Alex with tomatoes.  Sounds good to me.  I'm hoping the chilli will do OK too as I'd like to freeze or otherwise preserve some for the winter.

I'm getting sleepy again now after a very early wake so, seeing as I can, I shall go back to bed and see if I can snooze a bit longer.

Monday 14 April 2014


Hyde Hall on Saturday
. . . and a very good morning to you.  It looks to be a very pleasant day today although it is a bit chilly at the moment, being fairly early still.  It's about now that I like an early morning saunter around the estate (ha ha), looking for what's coming up, what's growing well, what's not, etc.  So that takes all of one minute.

Yesterday didn't quite turn out as expected but hey, no problems.  We are halfway through the holiday and I am deep into relaxing and letting the world meander by as it will!  So I made the 'goo' for the smoky lentil burgers but didn't get any further because while it was chilling I went to sleep and when I woke up I fancied making some cheese scones so I did!  After that they had to be sampled, of course, obviously.  So I never did get to shape and cook the burgers.  It's not a problem, I will just do that today and the flavours will have had a chance to 'develop', as the cookery books say!

The cheese scones, by the way, were lovely so here's the recipe.

Beth came round and while we were chatting I sat and made loads of paper pots with my latest acquisition.
A bit artistic in a weird sort of way!
 Today I can sow some seeds and Beth will bring some of her seeds round, especially the baby corn as her cat, Theo, loves nibbling the shoots as they come up and that means no corn!  They should be safer round here.

So I want to sow runner beans for a start.  It's time they were in but there's still too much of a thread of frost and, with the nights being so chilly, the ground isn't warm enough.  Also, last year I planted straight into the soil and lots didn't actually come up or started and then died.  Perhaps by growing them inside to start with, they will survive at a better rate.
I have to look through my seeds and see what else to sow.  The freebie herbs, for a start, and the red pepper, also a freebie.  I can't lose if they don't come up, can I?  Also I need to clear the rest of the leeks and start thinking about sowing some carrots. I had two rows last year - maybe three would be better this year. The broccoli is still producing happily, earning its space in my little bed, so it can stay.

Another freebie is some celeriac seeds.  I've never grown celeriac, nor does it appear on my list of tasted vegetables - not to my knowledge anyway.  I might grow a few of them, just to see.

The strawberries seem to be surviving which is excellent.  I'm now umming and ahing about netting to keep the birds off.  There's always something, isn't there!

Apologies for all the garden talk.  It's just the time of year, the sap is rising, the birds are courting and I notice my garden!  And now back to mundane things - better unload the dishwasher!

Sunday 13 April 2014


Good morning to all my readers.  Having just meandered out to the shed, I can safely say it's a jolly chilly morning too.  No frost however, thank goodness.

Surprisingly, yesterday was not that warm either.  I left the french window open for a while and the heating clicked on.  A shame after Friday's warmth and definitely a day to sit inside, not outside.

We kept warm in the morning though with a nice stroll around Hyde Hall, me, Beth and Alex.  It wasn't as interesting as I had hoped, this spring garden special, but they did have an interesting set of stalls in the barn.  We headed in there in search of ice cream and stayed to taste, chat and generally enjoy.  I ended up with a jar of chutney and a bottle of sauce and Alex, having tasted his way through several very hot chutneys, decided to buy one himself too.

Back down at the visitors reception/shop/eating place we had an early lunch and very delicious it was too.  Beth had a jacket potato, Alex had a panini and I had the soup (which was red pepper and sweet potato) and a wedge of walnut bread.  Goodness, it was filling!

Shopping there tends to be expensive but I did indulge in a healthy looking pot of thyme (I never manage to keep my thyme alive) and something called a paper potter, a gadget with which you make little plant pots from newspaper.  They are tiny, just right for sowing seeds and then planting them out as the newspaper rots down after a while.    There's information about it here.  Of course, having just looked for the aforementioned link, I have noticed that they also make a larger version so guess what!  Yup - arriving in a few days' time!

Still on the gardening theme, I had to pop into Morrisons for a few bitds and bons and bought a garden mag called 'Kitchen Garden'.  It had some packets of herb seeds, none of which I already have: basil, tarragon, dill and coriander, so I may as well give them a try and see.  They're all annuals apart from tarragon (the packets say) so no harm done if they don't 'work'.  If they do work I shall have to look up recipes!

I have so many herbs now I am starting to wonder if I ought to buy a raised bed just for herbs.  I wish I was a carpender because there are some attractive planters around but they are just so expensive.  In B&Q we saw a lovely tiered planter but, at £100, it was just too expensive to contemplate.  It was a very simple design and, with the right tools and know-how, it would be simple enough to make.

Enough waffling!  Today should be a quiet, gentle day with not a lot going on.  It would be nice if it was also warm but I doubt that very much at the moment.  Still, let's be grateful for a warm home with four good walls and a leakproof roof!

I would like today to be a Jack Monroe day!  In other words, I am having a go at a couple of her recipes - the smokey red lentil burgers and the pasta recipe that calles for fish paste and lemon, can't remember the name and can't be bothered to run upstairs for the book!  Fingers crossed!
I also need to make some more bread and that's my first task, setting the dough off.
Have a good day!

Saturday 12 April 2014


Good morning to a chilly Saturday but it should warm up soon and, hopefully, be as lovely as yesterday when I sat out in the garden and felt warm.  It was great although I have just realised I forgot to bring the chair in!  Oh, well!

The day didn't start off well - Lenka came round earlier than I had expected, I was still in the bath, didn't hear the door and so missed her.  Most embarrassing.  She's coming on Monday instead now.

Beth came round and we set off to B&Q to get soil for the strawberry planter she brought round.  Then she and Alex planted up baby strawberry plants she has been cultivating since last year, just for me, bless her.  They were all droopy yesterday but have perked up wonderfully well overnight.  Even if I only get two strawberries per plant, that's going to be several meals' worth, as you can see from the photo!

While she and Al were planting, I pottered around getting odd jobs done and watering some of the big pots which were rather dry.  The oregano is now in the herb bed rather than in a pot and is sending up lovely new growth, as are the three mint plants (growing, not in the herb bed).  I have some special herb 'food' so I think I will treat them to some later on today.  While we were out I bought some salvia plant plugs so I also need to get them out today and hope the weather stays OK.

The redlove apple is covered with buds this year.  It's not self pollinating so I have to pray for insects to come and do the necessary or find a friend with an apple tree who can let me have a twig or two of blossom so I can do the necessary with a paint brush.  It's going to look a picture in a week's time, that's for sure.

I love the different shades of green that you get in the Spring.  There's nothing that emphasises this more than a little bush I have (can't remember it's name) that mum gave me a couple of years back now.  It dies right back each year and then explodes into rainbows of yellow and green in the spring each year.  It's a very nice shape and very attractive.

Well, I'd better stop waffling and get on with some work as I have to be finished by nine thirty-ish.  No peace for the wicked, is there?

Diane, if you're reading, I hope you've settled in well and have already started having a good rest.

Friday 11 April 2014


At the front of the house.  I might use it at the top of the blog at some point but not yet, seeing as I have only just changed it.
One week gone!  Doesn't time fly when you are having a good time?  I've done loads of things but I really need to settle down to the nitty gritty of sorting out the house!  It's not in a shockingly bad state and Lenka arrives today to work her two hours of magic but there's a fair number of things that need seeing to at some point.

I had K round yesterday for dinner and a good chat and we had a grand time.  As I said yesterday, I made another version of Jack Monroe's Cola Chicken with a number of changes.
First of all I used chicken breast (didn't have any thighs and wanted to use what I had) and to make up for the lack of flavour (thighs are by far the most flavoursome part of a chicken, I think) I added half a chicken stock pot.
As well as the chicken I added onion, red pepper, mushroom and peas so it really became a one-pot meal.
I used some chorizo and some smoked paprika and I think they are a flavour made in heaven when combined with tomato.
Also I sussed that basically the recipe is equal amounts of chopped tomatoes (or it could be passata, I guess) and cola which makes life easier from the point of view of making a portion for one.
I think I will write up what I did and pop it in the other blog with all due acknowledgement.

It went down a real treat.  I made much more than I knew I would need so I have three meals to pop in the freezer too.  Excellent!

A few days ago I mentioned ordering some chicken breast fillets.  They arrived yesterday so I unpacked them with keen interest to see what sort of value they were.  Well, I was very pleasantly surprised.  The packs (I had ordered two of them) were supposed to have ten in each but, in fact, there were thirteen in each and they were a very good size too.  That's just over £1.00 each and they're big enough to do a main meal and a lunch the next day if used with vegetables in a stir fry, a casserole or as a salad ingredient so it turned out to be a most frugal purchase.  I used one of them in the cola chicken as I had already thawed out three little ones that I had in the freezer as I wasn't totally sure the order would arrive yesterday.  The rest of them are now individually bagged and nestling deep within the freezer.  That'll keep me in protein for many a week to come!

It wasn't until afterwards that I thought I could have removed the tender little fillet under each breast and frozen those separately, but I couldn't be bothered to unwrap them all and start again so I will just have to remember that next time!

Today Beth and Alex are round to do some stuff and in the afternoon I am taking a neighbour to the station.  Lenka is coming so the house should be shiny by the end of the day and I need to decide which of Jack's recipes to try next.  Decisions, decisions!

Thursday 10 April 2014


Wasn't yesterday lovely?  It certainly was here although, despite the bright sun, it was still just a little bit too chilly to sit out.  Maybe before the end of the holiday it will warm up.  It makes me realise that we could still have a night frost and that one has to be careful with plants.  Despite that, the sun is really cheering and today looks like more of the same!

I really enjoyed yesterday - some friends arrived for coffee and stayed around for lunch.  I did a very simple lunch of rolls (made fresh that morning so really nice) with ham, cheese and smoked salmon pate with cherry tomatoes, chutney and crisps on the side, so to speak.  It was 'make-your-own'!  Afters was a sort of Eton mess, really delicious..  The best bit was the update chat though.  We could have talked for much longer.

It was a bit of a rush before they arrived but after they had gone I treated myself to another glass of wine and a lazy afternoon - perfect for a holiday.

Tonight I have another friend coming round for dinner and I'm going to do Jack Monroe's cola chicken again although this time I will add some veg and probably some chorizo and smoked paprika.  With rice and some garlic bread, that should do nicely, and there's enough sort of Eton mess left over to make a nice dessert as well.  Easy peasy and, more importantly, yummy scrummy!

Taken at Hyde Hall on Tuesday on the bank of the lake.  Does anyone know what they are?

Wednesday 9 April 2014


As hoped, yesterday was really lovely.  It was a clear night so quite cold and the stars were wonderful.  The sun shone during the day although it was quite windy and rather chilly.

A and I pootled over to Hyde Hall arriving at about 10:00 and, on my membership, both got in free.  We meandered around the gardens, appreciating the plantings and seeing promise of much beauty to come in a month or so.

We had a coffee/chocolate to warm us up afterwards, heading off home to have scrambled eggs on toast before I dropped A off at the station to make her way home.  It's been a lovely week or so with first S and M and then A staying over.

I did my usual looking for interesting shapes and textures to photograph but, infuriatingly, the battery went flat and the replacement battery was also flat.  Serves me right!  I did manage to take a few photos before the power ran out but there were lots of things I would have snapped but couldn't.  Never mind, it won;t go away, will it?

I saw that there are some interesting 'specials' coming up at Hyde Hall.  This weekend there's a Spring Gardening event, There's a Spring Plant Fair a few weekends later and then after that there's a Craft and Design show which I really would love to go to.  It's lucky that I am a RHS member so won't have to shell out any ore than the petrol (although that will be bad enough!).  As I said to A, I have to recoup the cost of the membership, don't I?

I went a bit bonkers yesterday and ordered rather a lot of chicken breasts.  It's not quite as insane as it sounds really, they were on a very special offer and I do eat rather a lot of chicken one way and another so it was quite a frugal act.  I have loads of poly bags so they will be wrapped and frozen individually.  I'm expecting them to arrive today but, hopefully, not when my guests are here.

Today I have friends over for coffee and then lunch.  I've decided to go simple and have nice bread with things on - cheese, ham, pate, etc.  Tasty, easy to prepare and not too time consuming. However, that means I have to set to and get on with a bit of housework.  Oh, well, it makes me do it.  I'd better get going on it while the bread it rising.

Tuesday 8 April 2014


. . . and it looks as if today will be pleasant, bright and sunny.  I'm feeling my fingers crossed anyway because with all the rain yesterday we didn't get to Hyde Hall so we plan to go this morning before I drop A off at the station to make her way home.

Despite the rain, yesterday was good.  For lunch a concocted what I called a creamy curried carrot soup which will also double as a mild curry sauce.  It was jolly tasty as a soup and the sauce bit was an accidental side shoot!  I shall try some of it tonight with chicken.  Vewry frugal!
We also had some natural yoghurt into which I mixed the left over apple crumble from Sunday and it was just gorgeous.  Another thing to have tonight as there's a little bit of crumble left over.

Then dinner was baked salmon, chips (home made!) and broccoli (home grown).  With it I made a simple sauce from onions gently softened in butter, some philly and some cream.  It was lovely!

As I mentioned, we're hoping to get to Hyde Hall for a couple of hours this morning.  It opens at ten so if we leave at nine-thirty that should work well.  Then it's back for a quick lunch and then A leaves.  Sad, but it's been a good weekend!

I have some friends round tomorrow so I need to sort out something for lunch and then do a small shop.  Then I have a pile of ironing to sort out so I will watch a dvd and dash away with my smoothing iron for a while.  It may be holiday but real life goes on - and on -  and on . . .

Have a great day!

Monday 7 April 2014


What a foody day it was yesterday.  I had a grand old time working oiut menus for various food issues and this is what we had.
Breakfast was pancakes, fresh made, of course, with banana, yogurt and maple syrup and I was bad and sprinkled some sugar on the top of the folded pancake.  Mmmmm.
Then for lunch it was jacket potato with various toppings (cheese; bacon, onion and mushroom; tuna; cottage cheese) with salad, followed by apple crumble and custard, just right for the wet weather.
Tea was a scratch tea really.  Soda bread with various things on, yoghurt and then cinnamon and choc chip biscuits and banana bread.

Goodness, I feel stuffed just thinking about it!

Today it is scrambled eggs on toast for brekky, probably home made roasted carrot soup for lunch and salmon with chips (or little roasties) and purple sprouting broccoli for dinner.

We were hoping to take a trip to Hyde Hall today but the weather forecast is not promising so we will have to see.  I love Hyde Hall but not in the rain!  Fingers crossed!

Nicked - I mean borrowed - from the Hyde Hall site.

Sunday 6 April 2014


Good morning.  Second day in and the euphoria is still floating around like a white, fluffy cloud!  It's been raining overnight but I don't care - I don't have to worry about wet playtimes, cancelled PE lessons and rows of damp shoes and socks after naughty littlies have been jumping in puddles.

After shopping yesterday, while A was away at her meeting, I made a couple of loaves of soda bread and some banana bread; both were highly delicious!
Apart from that I did very little.  Just right for the start of a holiday, don't you think?  Even dinner was very simple.  I wrapped some salmon in foil after dotting it about with shavings of butter and put it in a steaming pan over the new potatoes that were boiling away.  With a simple salad it made an easy and delicious dinner and there are plenty of potatoes left for a potato salad today.

So today I'm not sure about breakfast, it depends when A wakes, but dinner will be jacket potatoes with a variety of toppings (cheese, tuna and mayo, bacon and mushroom) with a salad on the side, followed by apple crumble and custard (made by Thermione).  I'm not sure about tea, we will see how we feel but I think it will be egg based as I have rather a lot!

But now I need to sort out the kitchen as I left it in an almighty mess yesterday.  Then I can get everything prepared for lunch so that there's not a lot to do when Beth and Al arrive.  And - NO PLANNING - because it's not needed but also because it's already done, yay.