Sunday 31 August 2014

The Last Day! Sunday

Good morning.  I'm rather later than usual today as I woke and dozed over a book for several hours.  It felt great!  Now I am up, the sun is shining and I can't feel any after effects of the dozes.  No stiffness or headache, so that's good.

This will be short as there's not a lot to say really.  A lazy day yesterday balanced with plans for a lazy day today.  Very nice too.

I hope you all have a wonderful day, however you spend it.

Saturday 30 August 2014


The Last Weekend has arrived.  It's windy, quite cold and rather wet.  Things might cheer up later but I don't really mind all that much.  I've planned an indoors day anyway.

I don't have a lot to do.  Checking over the planning, maybe a bit of weeding, some tomato picking (yes, they ARE ripening, just so, so slowly), a bit of kitchen stuff and I have a cupboard at home that needs a good clear out.  If I can do it at school, surely I can do it at home as well.

Talking of school . . .
I left home at nine and got back around four and now my classroom is really ready.  Really and truly ready.  The children could walk in today and that would be fine (hope they don't though!).  The reading display is up, the 'books are best bunting is up, the writing display is up.  The maths display - er - isn't up but that's OK.  My table is tidy, their tables are tidy and their table boxes are ready too.
I was tired by the time I'd finished but pleased.

With all the clearing out, I find I have a whole load of trays - the trays that the children put their things into - surplus to requirements.  As storage is not wonderful at school and I have no wish to keep falling over a pile of trays in the bay, I have brought them home and they are stacked up in the garage.  I have told the ground manager so if anyone asks for spare trays, he knows where some are.  I think there are plenty around though - I've seen stacks all around the school, including grey trays that date back to before our first OFSTED, whenever that was.  In those days you had months and months of notice of an inspection and one of the things that the then head did was replace all the manky grey trays with nice new coloured trays.  For ages afterwards we called them OFSTED Trays!!

That's about it really.  I now need to make breakfast - fried tomatoes and egg - and then decide whether to have a PJ day or get dressed.  I think the latter, just in case I feel like going anywhere.  Be prepared and all that!

Friday 29 August 2014


End of the 'working' week.  Today and one weekend to go.  Where have those six weeks gone to, I wonder?

It might be a bit chilly this morning but it is lovely and sunny and looks to be a pleasant day, fingers crossed.  I do hope so.

Yesterday was another at home day.  I did a bit of gardening, made a delicious tomato soup (here) and some courgette and lemon jam (here) and generally just rested my knee and ankle and read.  It was lovely.

Today's my last session in school.  Lenka comes to clean and I will get right out of her way.  Once that's done I'm not sure what I want to do today.  Just chill, maybe . . . or pop along to Hobbycraft perhaps?  I don't know.

I do know I will be picking runner beans though.  They're glutting at the moment.  I'm popping a few bags in the freezer but, nice as they are, they're just not the same as fresh picked.  So guess what I'm having for dinner!  :-)

Have a super day.  I'm off to make my second mug of coffee!

Thursday 28 August 2014


We really are on the countdown now.  Four days to go, that's all.  Just four.  So it's a shame that after a rather pleasant day yesterday (sunny, warm but not hot) I should open my curtains and see rain this morning.  I gather September is forecast to be pleasant with warm sunny days.  I hope so, for the sake of my poor tomatoes.

When the carpet cleaners came, I showed them the job and then disappeared to school.  At just before twelve, Beth and Alex turned up and we hopped off to the Flyer for a spot of lunch and a chat.  They had been to the allotment and donated me three - or is it four - courgettes and a head of broccoli.  I will have the latter for dinner tonight, probably with carrots and runner beans and maybe a few sausages.

The courgettes are because I was pointed in the direction of courgette and lemon jam and I thought I might have a go.  People say nice(ish) things about marrow and ginger jam, after all.  If it is not nice, it's not nice and that's all there is to it!  I doubt it's something I would give as a gift, simply because of the name, so I can use my odds and ends of jars as I'm getting rather short of the nice jam pots.

After getting home I watched some stuff on the telly and got a bit irate at Bake Off, not because any supposed mis-doings but because of the 'clever' editing that pointed the finger, probably rather unfairly, at someone while someone else simply threw his rattle on the floor rather than making the best of things as another contestant did in almost the same situation.  Even the preview shown daily through the previous week was craftily edited and didn't actually happen that way!  Come on, BBC, you don't have to create stuff like that.
And . . .  breathe!

As for today . . . I shall see how I feel about school.  Right now I feel inclined to stay in and rest (and make that jam) but if I do go into school I would then not need to go in tomorrow.  Decisions.

Better have another coffee while I ponder, hadn't I?

Wednesday 27 August 2014


Why is it that when I would like to (and have the time) to sleep in I awake bouncing and ready to face the new day whereas when I expect to get up early it's so hard?

Today, this morning, I am having my big carpet cleaned.  This carpet runs from the hall, through the whole of the downstairs apart from the kitchen and the loo (it's semi open plan), up the stairs and along the landing so it's quite a big job.  The cleaner said that they would move things around, etc, but I am sure he didn't realise how much 'stuff' there is on the floor.  So I decided that as I always woke early, I'd do a bit of a clear this morning, before they arrive.  So why am I tired and why do I want to go back to sleep?  Sheer indolence, I suspect!

Anyway - yesterday.  Well, it rained and rained and rained, only clearing up in the evening when we were treated to a little sunshine before it clouded over again.  Today is supposed to be nice though.  Fingers crossed.

I decided not to go to school (I have to get out of the house this morning so will go then) so I set to and used up the plum pulp from the jelly made on Monday, adding some stewed apple, sugar and allspice to make a cross between a sauce and a jam.  It didn't make much so if it doesn't work it's not too much wastage.  I've posted the recipe on the other blog.

That's about it really.  I ought to get on with clearing the floor but needed my daily blog first!  Oh, and a coffee!

Tuesday 26 August 2014


A very good morning to you.  It's dark and gloomy outside and I am prepared for several months of waking in the dark now.  I woke just before five and it was still very dark.  At around 5:40 the sky is lightening but it's still too dark to tell what the weather is without stepping outside.

Yesterday was a very wet day here.  I don't think it stopped raining once and my heating kept clicking on.  Dismal for any August day but all the more so for a Bank Holiday.  I wonder if today will be any brighter.

Fortunately for me I didn't have to go out at all apart from dodging the raindrops (unsuccessfully) to the shed or to pick the beans and pull the carrots and back again.  That being so, I ended up having a PJ day and very nice it was too.  I wasn't totally idle;  I made some more onion marmalade after the success of the first lot I made and I made some plum jelly.  Both recipes are on the other blog.

Dinner was lovely - turkey from the freezer with tomatoes, carrots and runner beans from the garden.  Such flavour!

Today I am back in school to move tables, book trolleys and tray containers about to get maximum use of the fairly restricted space in my bay.  By the time I get it right, it should have burned a few calories, that's for sure.

I probably won't feel much like cooking so I shall get a lasagne out of the freezer and have it with runner beans left over from today.  That will be easy and taste great.

So now I'd better get the porridge on!

Monday 25 August 2014


. . . Bank Holiday Monday too so, of course, it is raining.  It doesn't rain every Bank Holiday but it does rain enough times for it to be expected and not too much of a surprise.  When I was little it would have been the cue for a day trip somewhere - the coast, if possible, or visiting dear old relatives maybe.  Nowadays people tend to set out on the Friday for a weekend away and Monday is travelling home day.  Well, I hope the rain doesn't dampen too many spirits and that everyone drives carefully and safely.

As I anticipated, yesterday was a very good day.  I made my plum and apple chutney although the fruits all disintegrated into mush and I was a bit exercised as to when it was ready for bottling.  I hope I've got it right anyway.  I also made two loaves, using up the last bit of a bag of wholemeal so my bread will be of the healthy variety for a few days!

Lunch all cooked well and, after doing his gardening, Alex devoured everything as if there was no tomorrow.  All that was left was a small portion of runner beans which I can use today.

As for today - well, no school work, I have decided.  After all, it is bank holiday.  I have a kitchen to tidy after yesterday's efforts (before I mess it all up again with today's) and then I have a lot of plums to use up.  I think I might have a go at plum jelly as these plums do seem to mush into liquid rather easily and jelly is easy to make.  After that I will make some more onion marmalade.  The last lot ended up absolutely wonderful after a few months' maturing and I need, definitely need, some more!

Something my bloggy friend, Diane, said yesterday got me thinking.  Basically, she said she doesn't do much preserving as not may people in her home eat preserves.  Now, I'm in the same boat because there's only me and there's a limit to how much one person can manage.
However, at school there are always so many lovely people who work so hard to enable us teachers to do our jobs properly.  Office staff, cleaners, the caretaker, all the fantastic 'mummy and daddy helpers', not to mention a number of my colleagues with whom I work . . . and I do like to give a token gift at Christmas and at the end of the year.  And, of course, there is always family.

At present, these little jars of deliciousness make a wonderful gift and that's what most of them are used for.  I just keep a few apart for me and I thank my lucky stars that chutneys, at least, keep for many years, improving by the day!

But what shall I do when I retire?  I love making my preserves.  I love using food that would otherwise probably be chucked away - apples and plums that people give me, bless them.  What shall I do when I retire?  I shall have to think through that one!

In the meanwhile, there's breakfast to make and  lunch to think about!  I'd better go and check what's in the freezer!

Sunday 24 August 2014


. . . and brrrrr, it's certainly cold this morning, very shiversome but lovely and bright.  I dislike the very hot weather so no complaints, especially as it warms up during the day anyway.

After thinking that I would have a lazy day yesterday, it ended up quite the opposite.  I didn't have that planned cooked breakfast because by the time I had sorted out the day-before's mess in the kitchen I wasn't hungry any more.

I set to and started to make the apple and tomato chutney which was very easy (as is most chutney, to be honest) and came out very well.  The thing with chutney is that it's a real act of culinary faith: it is never at its best when you make it and you have to wait three or four months for a fair test of its qualities.  This one seems OK though.

Then I remembered the rest of the cranberries from when I made the cranberry sauce earlier in the week so off I went to the freezer and out they came with the last of the strawberries from last year and some rhubarb from Beth's garden this year.  I love my strawberry, rhubarb and cranberry jam recipe and now have six normal sized pots and two and a half little pots.  I'm not sure if these will be 'formal' presents, although I know Beth will be after one at least!  There are still some strawberries in the shops so if Morrisons have them on special I might get some to make another batch.  It really is a very delicious jam, just the ticket on hot buttered toast on a chilly morning.

In the afternoon I went into school yet again and managed to get my desk area sorted out so that's all the 'deconstructing' finished now.  It won't take nearly so long to get the classroom built up again.  I know where I want everything to go, it is just a case of moving furniture and putting up lettering, labels, posters, etc.  It's a huge relief to know that everything behind the closed doors is in good order and I only have myself to blame for the time it has taken.  After all, it was my rubbish and no-one elses!

Beth emailed me to ask if Al could come and stay overnight: of course I said yes straight away.  He's here now, of course, and will be going home at some point in the afternoon or early evening.  He loves his Sunday dinners so I thought I would roast a chicken but discovered that I didn't have any in the freezer and was not inclined to go shopping again so I will wrap two chicken breasts in bacon and roast them with a couple of sausages to keep it all moist.  A few roasties and some runners from the garden should do us a treat and I might knock up an apple and plum crumble for dessert, seeing as I have all the fruit to hand.  Tea will likely be tomatoes (home grown, of course) on toast - I just slice them and fry them in a little butter, sprinkling over a bit of sea salt before serving.  It's gorgeous.

The kitchen plan today, apart from the dinner, is apple and plum chutney, possibly plum and apple jam too and I need to make a couple of loaves of bread too.  I ought to start investigating other kinds of bread in Thermione apart from just white or wholemeal.  Maybe rye, seeing as the extra kneading wouldn't be a problem?  I shall think and research a bit.

Anyway, that's the plan for today - only time will tell if it all happens!  Now for coffee . . .

Saturday 23 August 2014


Another photo taken in Dad's garden
After having two snoozes after waking, I finally hobbled down at around seven o'clock with is ridiculously late for me.  Unfortunately, the snoozes have left me with a sinus-y type headache so I may just have to take things easy today (any excuse!).  It is a gloriously sunny morning but none too warm as yet although it should heat up a bit later.  I haven't seen the weather forecast this morning so have no idea what they think is in store.

Yesterday Sharon came round to do our hair and now we both feel decidedly neater and more presentable.  It is odd the difference a hair do can make to ones state of mind.  I set to and started using up the fruit I have for preserving by making six pots of plum jam with star anise which is absolutely delicious and will make great gifts for folks.  Today I am starting off with apple and tomato chutney and then we shall see.

Beth and Al stayed for lunch and we had cheese on toast - very plain and very delicious - followed by a drink made with my home made drinking chocolate powder.  Beth also agreed that it is extremely delicious so I think I have another gift idea here.  I think I need to learn how to weave little baskets and then I could go into gift production.  When you see what they charge for a little pot of jam in a basket with a few shreds of tissue paper and a bow - well, I could be quids in, couldn't I!

I also made the pigs in blankets for our Christmas in November (I hope Sonja reads this) and they are now safely tucked away in the freezer.  There were a few slices of bacon left over so this morning I shall treat myself to a cooked breakfast.  I'd better get going then - it is past eight o'clock so no wonder I am feeling hungry!

Have a good day!

By the way, the recipe for the plum jam is on my other blog.

Friday 22 August 2014


Marigolds from Dad's garden.  Nothing to do with today's entry but they are bright and cheerful on a morning that is far from bright and cheerful!

Last day of the 'working' week and what a productive week it has been, to be sure.  After a good long spell in school yesterday I am now delighted to announce that all the cupboards in the bay are tidy and very organised.  Sorting the art cupboards was something of a revelation - I doubt I will ever need to order glue again in the years I have left in teaching, for example!

There's a bit more to do but not all that much.  The drawers under my table are fine but I will go through them anyway, just to be on the safe side and to tidy them up a bit.  I have last year's assessments to file away somewhere for half a term (in case OFSTED comes a-visiting in the next two months) and there's 'stuff' on the shelves above my table that need to be dealt with.  Also, last year's timetables, etc need to be taken down and the new ones put up, but I consider that as the start of building the new environment for next year.

There's a couple of very helpful sites for primary resources  Actually, there are lots, but these two are great for display resources.  After I'd tidied up I went onto one of them, Twinkl (twee name, great resources, and no, I haven't missed an 'e' from the end), downloaded and printed posters about reading, generic types of books, punctuation and similar delights to make the bay a great year 2 'learning environment' (that's the idea anyway).  They will have to be laminated and blu-tacked up next week because today I am working from home.

Viv and I got the planning done in the third week of the break but I have to go through it and make it mine, transferring it to the particular format I prefer (because it works for me!).  Whether I will continue doing that for very long depends, but it will help for starters.  I want to do that today.

The other thing I have to do today is tidy up a bit because at 11:30 Sharon, my hairdresser, is coming to give me and Beth our regular hair makeover.  I always feel better after she's worked her magic!  Then B and A are staying for lunch.  Cheese on toast, I think, or maybe beans on toast with grated cheese on top.

But before I start working, my first coffee of the day!   Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Thursday 21 August 2014


Brrr - it's chilly right now.  Where did I leave my slippers?

Yesterday was a funny old mix of a day.  I intended to go into school, truly I did, but instead I set to and had fun in the kitchen.  I dug out some frozen cranberries and made some cranberry sauce for Christmas in November.  I made gingernuts to take to a friend's house.  I had bought a huge carton of tomatoes reduced in Morrisons over the weekend so I quartered some, drizzled them in olive oil, roasted them for ages and then mouli-ed them to get a nice, thick, simple passata which is going in the freezer.  Obviously it is not as flavoursome as it would be made with garden tomatoes but as they aren't playing ball right now, this is a useful substitute.  Having fresh passata ready is so convenient and tastes an awful lot better that the stuff in cartons.
And you never know, the garden tomatoes might yet get the idea.

After all that I was quite tired so I sat down and had a nice snooze.  I decided that it was holiday and I didn't HAVE to go into school if I didn't want to, so I didn't.  It felt holiday-ish.

And then in the afternoon I went round to Nicki and Pete's home for coffee (well, tea, in fact) and cake.  I like to go bearing gifts so I took some runner beans, some home made chutney and some gingernuts.  Nicki is pregnant and has some morning sickness so they might help, ginger being good for that sort of thing.  We had a good old chat and I had a guided tour of their semi-new home which is amazing!

I wrote up the recipe for the cranberry sauce.  Nothing special, fairly bog standard but made without a recipe.  And it's quite nice too.  It is over on t'other blog which seems to be getting a decent number of hits at the moment (for a little, unimportant blog, I mean).  I'll have to keep it up a bit more consistently, I think, if this keeps up.

Right, well, the question is do I have time to make some strawberry, rhubarb and cranberry jam before I go to school?  I wonder . . .

Wednesday 20 August 2014


No, not in the sense of 'here be . . .' but the name of the house/gardens we visited yesterday as part of the NGS.  A fascinating garden, packed with interesting, unusual plants of all shapes, sizes and colours.
Here are some of the photos I took.


I do love these chilly nights and early mornings when I can wrap up and snuggle into soft and fluffy things.  I have to keep checking the heating to make sure it hasn't come on, especially after opening the French windows to breathe in the fresh, cool air.  Right now, though, it is still virtually dark from the back windows although lightening up if you look at the front windows, a reminder, should one be needed, that summer is almost past and autumn is gently knocking at the door

Yesterday was a grand day.  I went with two friends to look round a garden as part of the National Gardens Scheme.  It was only about ten minutes drive away, out of Chelmsford on the Roxwell Road.  I had no idea it was there but, of course, it is not open all the time, just on set days.  Something to check on because I think Mum and Dad would love it.  After a good stroll round and many photos later we decamped to the Writtle Tearooms and had a most delicious lunch before going back to Js for a good chat.  Both are retired colleagues on mine so there was a lot to talk about one way and another.

This is where we went.

There are some nice photos amongst the many I took so I shall do a second post with just photos.

Today I am back in school again.  It was lovely to take a day out but duty calleth.  Today it is the art cupboards which, frankly, have got into a bit of a muddle but I don't think there's a lot to throw away - I hope.  Then it is the shelves over my desk and then - then - I can start moving the furniture around!

After that I'm off to a friend's for tea.  It's going to be a busy day!

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Hot chocolate recipe.


It's over on t'other blog!


Good morning to a cool, fresh, sunny day here in the South East.  There's a bit of a breeze and I shut the French window fairly quickly as the heating was clicking on!  I wonder if it will warm up much before the end of the holiday or whether we will have to wait for the usual Indian summer at the end of September.  I love them.  Refreshing, cool mornings and evenings and warmth during the day.  The children are happy and the cloakroom area is not cluttered up.

What a busy day it was yesterday.  All spent in school surrounded by decreasing piles of clutter and an ever growing list of Things To Do - but minor things, not great big things like cleaning out cupboards, etc.

The Cupboard over the Pegs is now all turned out and there is actually some space in there.  I can't remember the last time I had space in that cupboard, I really can't.  It feels very good.  There was also space in the Cupboards over the Sink (yes, I'm now thinking of them in capital letters!) so I was able to move often needed stock from the first cupboard to the second so that it is easier to get to.

At a pinch, the Cupboards under the Sink could be left but I don't want to.  Again, there's stuff in there that hasn't been used for ages and I want to either throw it  away or make it more visible so that the children can use it during their Golden Time.  I reckon there's a lot of space just waiting to be discovered in there.

The Cupboards under the Window were only built less than a year ago so I know that they are tidy and orderly.

Around a week ago I bought a little filter coffee maker on one of our local Facebook selling pages.  I only started using it at the weekend and yesterday I bought some decaf filter coffee so now I can use it every day.  It makes just two mugs (four cups) of coffee which is perfect for me and it's an easily made treat!  I'm drinking some as I type this and it is very good.

When, oh, when will those black tomatoes ripen?  They are taking for ever, they're half black but the bottoms are still green and they feel too hard to be ripe.  It's frustrating.
Where the tomatoes are concerned I'm really delighted with the cherry tomato plant, it's been cropping for a while now.  Although the big plum tomato plant is fairly slow to ripen, the fruit is wonderful.  But the rest - I'm not overly impressed really.  I shall have to think carefully about next year's supplies and not be too seduced by the more interesting shapes and colours, I think.  With my small space, I have to be more sensible.

Now I am off into the kitchen to make a Jamie Oliver recipe from the Times magazine.  It's for drinking chocolate and the recipe makes the chocolate powder that you then make into the drink.  I will let you know (or not)!

Monday 18 August 2014


And here I am, back home after a very pleasant short break with my mum and dad and an extremely good night's sleep.  I didn't sleep so well while I was there - no idea why not but never mind.

I have some photos of Dad's garden but they are still on the camera so I will have to wait!  Needless to say, it is all looking good.  His tomatoes are ripening massively by the day, the runner beans are fantastic and the corn - well, let's just say I am jealous.

It was a lovely drive home yesterday.  It was sunny and cool, there was very little traffic about and it is a lovely cross country run anyway.

Now I am home it is all back to normal again.  I have some bread dough rising in Thermione, the tomatoes are quartered ready for frying and I shall be going into school.  Today's agenda is the cupboard over the pegs and sorting out the book trolley.  If I get those done I can then rebuild my classroom ready for the new term and I will feel much better about it all.

I hope it's a good day for us all.

Sunday 17 August 2014


A very quick one because I started working this morning and lost count of the time!

It's raining now and looks set for a few hours yet.  I'm hoping it will clear up before I drive home later.

Saturday 16 August 2014


And here I am, comfortably cared for at Mum and Dad's for a few days while S and M look after my house back at home.  I had a lovely drive over yesterday morning: it's a country run and it's such a lovely time of year to be driving country roads.  Already the berries are starting to glow red and apples are dropping from the wild apple trees along the route.  It was very tempting to stop and pick some up but I do have quite a lot to deal with at home still so I exercised much self control and drove on.  However, I think I will be driving out to some local country lanes to pick blackberries soon.  And I must splash out and buy some plums too.  Apple and plum jam is dee-licious!

So I am here for a few days of chat, family affection, catching up on all the latest news and generally chilling.  Very nice too, especially as I shall be back in school on Monday.

I was very interested and rather relieved to discover that Dad's tomatoes (the same as the ones he gave me) also have blossom end rot. When he heard I'd had the same problem he reckoned it must be a specific vulnerability, either of that type or of that batch of seed.  You see, Dad had been gardening almost since he learnt to walk.  He's very experienced and very knowledgeable.  That makes me feel a bit better about tomatoes.

It's very peaceful here.  My parents live down what was a country lane that doesn't actually go anywhere so the traffic is minimal and it is nowhere near a busy road.  Plenty of birds visit as does the occasional black squirrel from the common a short distance away.  I feel rested just thinking about it.

So on that note - have a lovely day, whatever you are doing.

Friday 15 August 2014


Good morning, everyone, welcome to Friday.  It's gloomy, breezy and it looks as if rain is in the offing.  Just the ticket for a car journey!  Ah well, at least it isn't far, unlike the journeys Beth and Sonja took yesterday.  Sonja was stuck in motorway queues for a very long time and Beth got caught on the M25 in torrential rain.  Not fun!

As for me, I had a grand day with Alex.  We mooched around in the morning.  He did, anyway, while I designed bunting for my displays.  We had lunch at the Flyer and I was amazed yet again at the amount a mid-teenager can tuck away.  Then we went into school and I continued to tackle well over a decade of 'stuff'.  There's now two papersacks completely full and several bin bags worth of other rubbish - old files that are falling apart, plastic pockets, oh, all sorts of stuff.  No wonder I was finding it difficult to put things away.  Steve has been warned (Steve is the ground managed) that there's a lot of rubbish to take and bin.

I now have piles and piles of files and I'm having to harden my heart and decide which to chuck.  Some are very old and very battered and really not nice at all but I'm a shocker at throwing anything that might be 'useful'.  Useful is as useful does must be my motto and some of them just HAVE to go!  If they're not good enough to hand on (and some are not) they are not good enough to keep.

Now all the cupboards over the sink are spick and span with only necessary stuff in them.  The next biggie is the cupboard over the cloakroom area.  I'm dreading it, although some of the stuff in there can now go into the more easily accessible cupboards - things like pencils, rubbers, white board pens, etc.  Maybe it won't be as bad as I think it will be as, on reflection, I did give it a good turn out a few years ago.

Then it is just the contents of the trays - the sticker tray, the labels tray, etc.

And then I can start rebuilding for the new year - replacing tatty labels, putting up lettering and posters, sorting out the book trolleys, and so on and so forth.  In other words, making it all a pleasant environment for the children.

I'll be ready!

Thursday 14 August 2014


Thursday already!!  We are now nudging up to two thirds of the way through the summer break.  It has been so good so far: hopefully the last two weeks will be equally great.

Yesterday, again, was good.  Most days seem to be great and I'm not sure whether I'm just very fortunate to have a good life or a good attitude (probably both).  Even in the things I whinge about (and I do, don't I?) there are good things to be found.   I'm glad I am a half full kind of girl, not a half empty one; half empties can be very draining.

Anyway, yes, it was good.  I managed to whizz around and get the place reasonable - the bits that show anyway.  At the last moment I remembered that I had no biscuits to go with the coffee so I set to and made some of my easy peasy biscuits.  J arrived as they were going in so we had warm biscuits and they were lovely.  There's plenty left over for a hungry teenager today too!

Then I chose ironing over tidying out the fridge and I was glad I did because I now have a lot less to do today (I did a load of washing yesterday evening).  Sheets and duvet covers do take an awful long time to iron but I watched rubbish daytime TV and that helped.

I was intending to go into school today with Alex in tow but I'm not sure now.  He's a bit addicted to a Facebook game and I don't think we can access Facebook at school right now.  We shall see.  We are, however, going to the Flyer for lunch so that will be lovely.

It's another cool morning today after a cool night and a cool yesterday.  It feels almost autumnal and I suppose we are not really all that far away from another seasonal change.  I love autumn with all her glorious and glowing colours and the smoky, misty smells that hang around when the daily clamour has died down.  It's going to be another lovely day!

Wednesday 13 August 2014


Half way through the week and I feel I have actually achieved something this week.  After a second day in school all the planning is done and I have two completely tidy cupboards.  That means totally tidy, not just looking tidy, with what seemed like millions of old resource sheets and out of date information sheets chucked out and the files newly labelled to match this year's curriculum.  Excellent stuff.
(You should see the recycling sack!)

As a result, I was very tired by the time I got home and knee and ankle were aching badly so it was ho for an early night!  That's why I am up stupidly early this morning which is more than a bit of a drag.  I shall be tired this afternoon but never mind, I hadn't planned to go into school anyway, not today.  I'll be in again tomorrow (with Alex in tow)and I think I will be accelerating towards tidiness and all round readiness very soon.  Next week is more or less all taken up with stuff but the following week, the last week of the holiday, is more or less clear and I intend to spend as much time as is required in school so that I am totally ready on September 1st.

One thing that I am rapidly coming to appreciate is the greater independence of Y2 aged children.  For example, I don't need to faff with making individual labels for their books.  I can prepare generic labels and they can write their own name on the label.  That will save me some time at the PC.

Anyway, enough rambling.  I have a friend coming round for coffee this morning and as the house is a right tip I need to do something about clearing and cleaning.  Not too much, as my lovely Lenka is round this Friday, but enough not to disgrace myself.  At least with this early awakening I have plenty of time!

Tuesday 12 August 2014


Cool, a bit cloudy, a bit breezy - that's this morning.  Rather nice really and very comfortable.  Yesterday we had sudden, very heavy showers and perhaps today will be similar.

The showers didn't bother me as I was busy in school all day.  V (my new Y 2 colleague) and I worked on the first week's planning and got that up and sorted.  It is a relief to know what I will be doing in three weeks' time and even more of a relief to know that I understand it and can see my way through it.  My brain told me it was OK but it's nice to know that it really will be.  The only thing we didn't do was the phonics and we will do that today.

Then it was back in the classroom and I bit the bullet and started throwing away the piles and piles of year 1 resources that I have gathered together since the year zero (or so it seemed).  Half a paper sack on and there are still a number of files to clear but I will get there.  Once I have done that I can start putting things away.  It's going to take several days but it has to be done and, oddly enough, it feels good to start sorting it all out, albeit in the holiday.

Once home, I finished off the spiced apple cordial which is now in the fridge where it should keep for a good long time.  Over the years I have tweaked the recipe a fair bit and I think I will post it on the recipe blog at some point.

Today, as said earlier, is back in school again.  We will get the phonics planned and then carry on with sorting out the classrooms.  As I'm starting to think 'retirement' sometime in the next five years, I have to consider that too.  I'll need to completely clear the cupboards when I finally go so it feels good to be making a start.  One downside, perhaps the only one, of being in the same classroom for so long is that clutter does build up and up and up.

Well, I'm just enjoying my first coffee of the day and then I have beside me my class list and the timetable of all the 'stuff' through the week - PE slots, ICT time, violins, assemblies, etc - to transfer onto my own timetable.  Work, work, work (again).  It feels quite nice really.

Monday 11 August 2014


Well, the remnants of Bertha came, wandered around a bit and moved on leaving cool, windy weather in her wake.  We had some really torrential rain, so heavy that I couldn't see the fence at the end of the garden at times, and wind that made me glad that I'd tied things up carefully and closed the growhouse door.  Hovered, there's no damage that I can see so that's good.

I started the apple cordial yesterday and now need to strain it through a jelly bag or similar.  Then I shall push the pulp through my mouli thingy so's not to waste it.  I'll need to get going with that because today and tomorrow I shall be working in school.

That's about it really.  Life suddenly closes in when school looms on the horizon!  But first I need coffee . . .

Sunday 10 August 2014


I expected to wake this morning to howling gales and lashing rain.  It had obviously been raining quite hard as even the sheltered places were very wet but all is calm and damp and cool.  Having said that, looking out of the window, the wind is picking up so maybe there's something more on the horizon.  At least I don't have to water the outdoor tomatoes today!

I had great plans for yesterday.  Most of them remain plans and I think I need to start a Little List!  Instead, I dozed and read and watched telly and dozed again.  It was lovely but I am becoming extremely indolent and need to get my act together - the holiday is half way through and I have some busy days ahead of me.  Maybe I will get the spiced apple chutney made today and I have also found the recipe for apple cordial which I remember as being very delicious.  I have plenty of apples for that.

As it is Sunday Beth and Alex will be over for lunch and I guess Beth will be over early because it's not really allotment weather.  It's an easy lunch today - just bread, crackers and cheese with fruit to follow.  Easy it may be but one of our favourites and will be enjoyed by all.

Joan - I've just noticed your comment about a photo of the bag.  I will take one and post it up.

I hope the weather isn't too bad where you are.  Have a safe day.

Saturday 9 August 2014


Well, the rain certainly did the trick as far as humidity and temperature were concerned.  After a great night's sleep snuggling under the quilt, it is almost chilly this morning.  The sun is shining but I gather there might be bad weather heading this way at some point.

I'm sitting here typing while my guests are getting ready to leave for a drive up to Yorkshire.  It's been fun having them - safe journey to you both!

After talking about apple chutneying yesterday, I didn't.  So that's on the cards today, especially as someone else is bring over a bag full of cooking apples too.  Excellent!  The first lot are eaters and are really tasty so I shall sort out the most whole ones for eating.  Now I have to decide on some more preserving recipes.  My idea of holiday fun!

What I did do is make another batch of lemon curd as a gift for the lady who is dropping off the apples this morning.  Barter is great! I also had the pulp left over from the lemon drink the day before and made a spread with that (and wished I hadn't later because S and M asked if I could make some more drink so now I have another batch of pulp to deal with).

S and M suggested pizza for dinner and, as we'd had a take away the night before, I said I'd make it.  Now, pizza can be impressive but a doddle to make, it just takes time, so I had a great time preparing everything.  We had it with a simple salad and the last half jar of the red onion marmalade (which is absolutely gorgeous now and I'm definitely making more, it is wonderful!).

I wouldn't say what I produced looked all that impressively cheffy but it tasted wonderful, even though I say it myself, the onion marmalade complemented it perfectly and the salad gave the impression of healthy eating!  It's so nice to have a mix of tomatoes in a salad and when the black tomatoes are completely ripe, it will look even better.  They are taking quite a long time to fully ripen so I hope they are worth the wait.

So - today is breadmaking as usual, preserving and ironing.  I might do a spot of gardening too as there are some baby weeds showing their cheeky little heads and I want to zap them before they get to be a real problem.

But first it is bath, hair wash and get dressed before the apples arrive.  Oh, I do love this holiday!

Friday 8 August 2014


Hello!  Another week nearly over and we're just about half way through the holiday now.  Time to start thinking of work and getting stuff sorted, I guess.  What a shame!  :-)

I took a trip out yesterday and picked up the bag and the apples.  The bag (a sort of satchel really) is lovely and will be perfect for school.  It's big and roomy, it stands out and - and - doesn't have a black lining.  My current (big, roomy) bag has a black lining and it is well nigh impossible to find things quickly!   The children will like it too: it has cute little owls all over it.

I also collected the apples and dropped off the lemon curd.  I need to taste one of the apples but they look as if they should have a great flavour and I have most stuff in place for a spiced apple chutney.  That's the plan for this morning.

When I got home, I set to and made the spiced tomato chutney from the chopped tomato bits.  I am so glad I have a nice large maslin pan because the amount of tomato I had made 13 little pots of chutney, which will be perfect for gifts.  It has cayenne pepper in it so there's definitely a heat to it which will mellow as it rests and matures.  It's certainly not ready for eating now but should be perfect by Christmas!  And all from tomatoes that I might have thrown out!  Can't complain about that!

In the evening S and M bought in a take away Indian meal, I made some lemonade in Thermione, I had some sparkling white (which went surprisingly well) and S bought some orange juice.  It was a lovely meal and we chatted and laughed and generally had a great time.

So - today is preserving day!  As well as the apple chutney, I have the pulp left over from making the lemonade to turn into a delicious lemon spread.  I shall add some ginger this time but should it be root ginger or ground ginger?  Root, I think, this time.

That's it really.  I didn't sleep too well so I'm likely to have a good snooze at some point and, although it's still dry here, we are forecast some serious rain through the day, so I won't be too inclined to wander in the garden at all.  And talking of garden, I'd better go and water the tomatoes!

Thursday 7 August 2014


Good morning, everyone.  It is another gorgeous morning - sunny and cool - although the sky isn't a clear blue and I thing there's stuff on the way.  The weather forecast is not good for tomorrow in the south east and there's some 'serious weather' heading our way from the west over the weekend, especially Sunday, although the more sensible forecasts are not being too dramatic about it.  Heavy rain seems a certainty for both days.  Good for the garden which does need a substantial drenching, not so good for those on holiday.

After feeling grotty Tuesday afternoon, yesterday was much better.  I was a bit wobbly first thing but was fine to drive over to Billericay for lunch and a really good chat with my friend J.  J and I were colleagues at the same school until she retired several years ago now.  We had what could be described as an 'in depth' talk about retirement and she, of all my retired friends, seemed to understand my worries and concerns.  It was very helpful.

However, given that I'm excited about my move to year 2 and am looking forward to the challenges that this, and a new curriculum, will bring, I think it is fair to say I'm not ready to retire yet.  When I do, there are ways of staying in touch with education - private tuition is something to consider, as is offering to do supply, but not through an agency.

I like to take a little something for my hostess when I go out and yesterday I set too and made some lemon curd in Thermione.  It is so easy and so quick and always tastes wonderful and I think I will post the recipe in my other blog again.  I also took a picking of runner beans as I was pretty sure J doesn't have a vegetable garden.

When home again, I waited for S and M to arrive and we then enjoyed the first episode of the new Bake-Off together.  It's one of my favourite programmes.  It is gentle, friendly, interesting, exciting at times and just enjoyable from beginning to end!

Today should be a gentle day.  I am off out at around 10:15 to pick up a bag and some apples and then I want to make the green tomato chutney.  Yesterday I bought all the essentials - sugar, onions, vinegar and sultanas.  By tea time the house should be smelling spicy and 'warm' - I hope so anyway!

Right - off to water the tomatoes!  Enjoy the day.

Wednesday 6 August 2014


I woke in the night to heavy rain and wind.  Next door's security light had come on so I could see the trees tossing in the wind when I peeped out.  Its still damp and dull this morning with drizzle in the air.  Jolly good for the garden, not so good for children on holiday!

What wasn't jolly good was that I wasn't well yesterday and had to cancel the meal with my friend.  I'm feeling better after a good night's sleep but really, what a nuisance.  Fortunately, N was really nice about me cancelling and we will meet up soon.  At least I have the menu planned.  So sorry, N (in case you read this).

Before the whatever-it-was hit, I dealt with the tomatoes that had blossom end rot.  I've never been troubled with this particular problem before but it appears that the undamaged part of the fruit is perfectly OK so I picked all the affected tomatoes (quite a lot), chopped off all the bad bits and the very woody core and I shall make green tomato chutney which will do nicely as gifts as well as providing me with spiciness through the winter.  Now I'm looking out a good recipe - I can freeze the chopped tomatoes if necessary but I'm hoping I can make it tomorrow.

I did a bit of research into the why of it and am still puzzled.  Fortunately, it isn't a disease so isn't catching, unlike blight, it is a response to growing conditions.  I am puzzled because it is affecting only five out of the six plants that I planted in the grow bag pots.  They have had plenty of water and plenty of root space.  It was new compost too, so there shouldn't have been a shortage of calcium, unless the plants actually needed to go in bigger pots.  They've been fed like the others too and it is only those five that have been affected.

Someone suggested adding dried milk powder to the water when I next water them and I might give that a go.  It appears that it is not the end of the plant and that if the cause is dealt with, subsequent fruits can be fine.  Well, as I don't know the cause, it's a bit tricky, but we will see.

The delivery arrived.  The quilt covers are now out for washing and the mugs - well, what can I say?  Bog-standard white mugs, chunky and with straight sides so they don't stack.  I have no room for non-stacking mugs!  The school mug cupboard it is then - we seem to get through a tremendous number of mugs in a day at school and even two dishwashers aren't enough to keep up at times.  I am sure they won't be wasted.

I'm afraid I spent the afternoon and much of the evening napping, on and off, and I had a very good night's sleep too.  The great healer, sleep is.

Today I will be having lunch with a friend and later on S and M come back to spend a few more days with me.  I need to do a bit of clearing up and I want to have a go at making a loaf without the rising bit.  Just kneading, into the pans, proving and baking.  Someone said it worked as well so I will give it a go and see.

Have a good day!

Tuesday 5 August 2014


Good morning.  It's another delightful morning, quite cool and comfortable and with the sun shining merrily away.  It's a morning that makes one feel good to be alive and even gooder (!) to be at home and not rushing around at work.

Yesterday was a fairly gentle day.  Karoline fixed the laptop (THANK YOU, Karoline), I did a bit of shopping and then rested my knee which is definitely feeling a bit better.  I didn't take any meds for it yesterday either so all is positive.

I have nothing planned today until the evening when I have a friend coming round for dinner.  Therefore, in reality, it will be a busy day.  I need to do a bit of hoovering and some kitchen stuff.

I can't quite decide whether to make smoked salmon mousse/pate for a starter or just serve some rather nice looking mixed olives to pick at.  Main is a honey and orange chicken stir fry with noodles.  There's vegetables in the stir fry so that's it, nothing on the side.  For dessert I'm doing a sort of plum crumble.  It's yellow plums cooked in sugar, star anise, orange zest and juice, with a sort of granola sprinkled on top.  I shall serve it cold with cream on the side.  If I was more confident in my artistic ability I would deconstruct it, but I'm not!

None of it is too heavy or too complicated and I can prepare the stir fry in advance so it won't take too long.

Apart from that, I'm expecting a delivery from John Lewis.  One of my quilt covers is getting very thin and bobbly so not as comfortable as it used to be.  I can't complain - I have had it for well over fifteen years and used it a lot.
I like John Lewis bedding so I placed an order for a couple of covers, both plain white.  I was just two pounds under the free delivery so I looked around and they do value white mugs for £1 so I bought two of them - they won't go amiss in the staff room cupboard.

I suppose I had better get started.  Bath and get dressed first, I think, and then take it from there!  Have a good day!

Monday 4 August 2014


Yesterday was a lovely day for many reasons.
In somewhat random order . . .

Beth and Alex came over and Beth brought vegetables with her from her allotment.  I now have new potatoes (Charlottes - delicious), baby corn, cougettes and green beans.  She went home with some tomatoes and two freshly baked loaves.  I do enjoy this way of doing things.

She also brought two purple sprouting broccoli plantlets which are now in my vegetable bed. There are also some leeks but they're not ready yet.  My little veg-bed will look so productive with corn, tomatoes, broccoli, leeks, carrots and runner beans.

I made ginger nuts but, ooops, I forgot to add the butter so they ended up tooth-crackingly hard.  Never mind, Beth and Alex both seemed to like them and Alex told me I can miss out the butter again sometime!  I'll have another go today, butter included this time.

I made up a recipe for Hunter's Chicken (sort of) which turned out very nice.  In fact, dinner was nice, full stop, with no leftovers.  I've posted the recipe for the chicken on my other blog.

I used the lemon courgette cake recipe, cut out the lemon and added chopped dried apricots and cooked them as muffins.  So delicious!  They are now out of temptation's way in the freezer.  One a day!  Just one!

I was wandering around facebook and got into a chat started by a lady who has loads and loads of apples and is leaving them in a box outside for people to take.  I said something about wishing she was my neighbour only to find that she almost is!  Same town, different area.  So I shall be popping over there to pick up some apples.  She said she has loads and loads.

Alex did a grand job with the garden.  I'm very pleased.  Well done, Al!

I took things quite easy most of the day and both knee and ankle are feeling a bit better.  That's a relief.

I have a pile of runner beans to go in the freezer.  And there's loads more to come too.

It was sunny, warm in the afternoon but nice and fresh morning and evening - just perfect.

Hopefully today will be just as nice.
It's looking hopeful.  Sunny but not hot, not yet anyway.  The kitchen is cluttered but reasonably tidy and I may take some time to put away some of that clutter.  In fact, I will, because I feel like it.  Amazing.
I also want to make some more gingernuts because I had promised someone.  In Thermione they take next to no time and the washing up is minimal!
And finally I have to finalise a menu for tomorrow.  I've got the starter and the main course sorted.  I have some golden plums so ought to be able to work something around that!

Better make breakfast now. I fancy bacon and banana pancakes with maple syrup.  Shame it doesn't make itself!

Sunday 3 August 2014


It is lovely and sunny this morning, but not hot.  In fact I was able to sleep under the quilt all night which was lovely.  I do like to snuggle down!  I'm glad the sweltering heat has gone away for a while although I gather from the BBC weather site that we might have some more humidity later on.

I also see from a Blightwatch message that blight has struck somewhere in CM3 (not this area) so I am keeping my beady eyes open.

Sadly, the six tomato plants my dad gave me all have blossom end rot, which is a right pain.  I know it is not the end of the plants and I suspect I have been over-watering them, but I'm a bit gutted.  I need to read up about it and see what I can do about it.  The other tomatoes seem to be doing reasonably OK, including the accidental ones.

There are zillions of runner beans to pick so we will have some for lunch, together with the courgette recipe I made last week and fancy again while Alex can have a piece of chicken, oven baked in something or other, maybe a barbecue sauce as he likes that.  Sainsbury's had King Edwards in so I bought a bag because they do make the best ever roasties.  Dessert can be fresh fruit, I think.

I'm slowly getting things straight after the holiday.  The knee is still being a pain and various other aches and pains jumped up and shouted yesterday.  I am sure they are the result of limping and thus straining other parts that don't normally get used in that way, so I'm not concerned, just uncomfortable!!  Thankfully, I can rest and relax now.

I was a bit disconcerted to see a puddle of coffee under my coffee maker this morning as I made my usual weekend treat of a proper cup of coffee.  Yes, the machine is leaking which means off to the online shops to buy another one.  I wouldn't bother but my mum and dad love their fresh coffee and, to them, cafetiere coffee just doesn't wing it.  Ah well, it could be worse!

This morning, as well as the lunch, I want to make bread and gingernuts (for a friend who is pregnant and sick so maybe the ginger will help) and if Beth turns up with courgettes I want to make another courgette cake, this time with some chopped apricots.

I have a friend round for dinner on Tuesday so I am starting to think about what I can make.  I fancy something chicken-y and nothing too heavy.  I've decided on salmon mousse for a starter and already have the salmon trimmings.  Now I can have fun trawling through various web sites and through my favourite cookery books.  I may be gone some time . . .

Better get started then!

Saturday 2 August 2014


I realise that it is stupid o'clock, but I am wide awake and see no point in trying (and failing) to get back to sleep again.  It's Saturday - I can go back to bed when I feel tired!  So here I am, coffee beside me . . .

As I said a few entries and several days ago, it has been a long time since I went to Center Parcs.  We (the 'children' and I) went to Sherwood the year it opened and as soon as we got home I booked another week the following year.  That first visit was the only time I have ever taken the children out of school in term time.  I had been given some unexpected supply work and could afford it, we went into the travel agents and they were full of this 'new place' so I booked.  We had a simply wonderful week, that very first time, and the children cried as we drove away.  I was pretty sad myself.

After Elveden opened (much closer than Sherwood), we spent three (I think it was three) happy holidays there before it really because too expensive and anyway the children started taking holidays with their dad.

So - this year it was back to Elveden for me and Beth and a new experience for Alex.  All our holidays with Alex have been the self catering, quiet, low arousal environment and safe cottage with a swimming pool sort so, in many ways, this was definitely a huge change.  For a start we had rooms in the Lakeview hotel rather than a villa.  We've always had a week before but this time it was a five day break, Monday to Friday.  And there were people.  Lots and lots of people, strangers, noisy and unpredictable.

We were able to make the most of the swimming on offer as new arrivals can use the pool from 2:00 and on departure day you can use the pool all day, if you want.  So we had a refreshing dip not long after we arrived, before we unloaded and we had a jolly good swim yesterday after we had left our rooms and handed in our keys.

Apart from walk, eat and swim we didn't do much else.  All three of us, while not being in any way 'good' swimmers, love the water and are very confident in just meandering around, floating, relaxing and generally having a good time.  Alex headed for the swift and splashy stuff while Beth and I rested and relaxed in the main pool and the slow river.

We had to organise meals, of course.  I've never eaten out so much in such a short space of time and, while the food was good and we enjoyed it, I think we were all looking forward to more simple fare by the end.  Funnily enough, what I remember with most enjoyment are the two evenings when we went for a 'late' swim followed by instant soup and fresh rolls back in the hotel rooms.  It felt just so 'right', if you know what I mean.  Fresh, home made soup was not an option, of course!

It was a very different holiday to the ones we have loved at Streele Farm for so long.  I was worried about the crowds and the noise and, yes, it was crowded and it was noisy.  I think we all had a bit of a 'blip' on the first day but we got used to it to some extent.  The swimming was very different with all the facilities - death ride (that's what I called it because I could never remember the proper name), wild water rapids, hot tubs, wave machines, flumes, slow rivers and billions of children all having a simply wonderful time.  I am never really bothered by the noise of children enjoying themselves which was just as well this week because they did . . . and they were . . . very!

Now I'm home - we're home - and I have four weeks of holiday to organise.  The diary is filling up, which is very nice, and there's a pile of washing waiting my attention.  The ironing board won't be empty for very long!  The shopping list is about ready - I think I will go to Sainsbury's today and get the car washed at the same time.

Food will be simple.  I am having bacon and home grown tomatoes, fried, for breakfast, some home made soup and bread for lunch (if I get round to the making of it) and probably a very easy salad for the evening meal. I'm all chipped out!!
And water: lots and lots of water.  One forgets quite how dehydrating swimming can be!

There will be a few photos when I can get them off the laptop.  Not so many - it's not a wonderful views sort of place and once you've taken a few 'trees' photos, you've taken them all.  But there are a few.

Have a lovely day!

Friday 1 August 2014

Friday evening

I'm back.
Sorry for the lack of blog.  The problem with the laptop didn't get sorted which was a right pain.

I'm very tired right now so will do a proper entry tomorrow.

It's nice to be back.