Monday, 30 April 2012

Glorious food

On Sunday, after the wonderful day in London, the rain was still lashing at the windows, so it was a perfect day to cook.
I made amazing muffins. These are an all time favourite and have been used to feed the hordes at school and work to raise money for good causes. They are a continuously evolving thing and we have never had the same result twice.

Yesterday I did them with gluten free flour, but actually prefer them with original wholemeal. In lieu of chopped dried apricots and blueberries, in went 50 gm of dried sour cherries and for pumpkin seeds/walnut pieces I used an Aldi seed and fruit mix. I used one courgettte and one carrot and courgette gives a lot of moisture to them. There is a lot of baking powder in this recipe, but for gluten free self raising flour I halved it and it was fine. The rise is good. I think there could have been less of that sharp taste of soda, so a bit less next time. Anyway, the results are like a meal in themselves. Do have a go.

Amazing Muffins

300g wholemeal flour

50g    porridge oats

6 level teaspoons of baking powder

250g dark muscovado sugar

2  medium carrots, peeled and finely grated

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg or allspice

6 eggs, lightly beaten

150 ml sunflower oil or light olive oil

150 ml natural yoghurt

75g walnut pieces

100g dried blueberries

100g dried no soak apricots, chopped

50g pumpkin seeds plus extra for decorating

Pre heat oven to 180’C/Fan 160’C/Gas Mark 4

Line some muffin tins with paper muffin cases ( or use a silicon muffin tray)

Mix all the ingredients for the muffins together in a large bowl

Spoon the mixture into the cases to ¾ level

Sprinkle over a small amount of the pumpkin seeds.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until risen and browned.

They are known as amazing muffings because everyone says they are amazing!

I then made Broccoli and Stilton Soup all from left overs and a chicken bacon and mushroom casserole in the slow cooker.

Will I?

Ride the bike to work this sunny morning? Will I leave it outside the hospital with a plastic bag tied over the saddle in case of rain? Will I feel odd in a skirt and sneakers? Will I be able to carry everything I need for lunch/the day and my high heels in the tiny bikers back pack I have? Will I be able to pop into town at lunch time and do some odd jobs - on the bike or on foot?  Why yes, Elizabeth, you will.

The charity bike ride has been cancelled - due to lack of interest - can you believe it? But nothing is going to stop me riding my bike.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Bawds and Bards

In this inclement weather four of us with a Spirit of Adventure headed for London for our 'Bawds and Bards' walk. From London Bridge we passed through Borough Market. Abuzz with foodies and food and wonderful smells. But there was no lingering. We were off to see the walls of Marshalsea Prison where Charles Dicken's father was incarcerated and where Little Dorrit was set. We followed along the narrow lanes to Red Cross Garden a delightful tranquil little garden with a row of very desirable (i.e...I want one!) cottages.

Not far from here is Cross Bones Graveyard - a burial site for Winchester's Geese, licensed prostitutes who could not have a Christian burial. Paupers were also buried here. The gate of the site is covered in momentos to those who were buried there.

We then dropped into The Anchor for a drink. This was a let down. Despite its history, there was little atmosphere. Few of the bar staff spoke English well or even at all, which should not be a reason to grumble, but in such a historic pub it would have been nice to have a bit of local colour. The service was stunningly slow, in fact more people cancelled their meals while we were waiting at the bar than ordered them. Our intrepid book club team (down to four due to the weather) found two packs of Tescos sandwhiches left on the table by earlier disgruntled customers, so not wanting to waste them and having been watching over them for an hour with no return of their owners, we had them for lunch. One each!! Frugal or what??

Fortified with bland sandwiches and a glass of red we headed for the River. On the way we passed The Clink, the old prison where a gibbet hangs today. We all thought a gibbet was for hanging people, like the gallows, but were wrong. It is a nasty item of invention.

But we had to pass it to get to the Ferryman's Seat.
It is very narrow, and was quite a challenge to wedge this rear end into it.

There was a play on at The Globe so we could not get a look around, but we did see this keen theatre goer dressed for the occasion....

Southwark Cathedral was next. It wasn't going to be, but the choir was rehearsing so we trooped in to listen. It was great. Made even more appealing by a very keen volunteer who asked if we liked a bit of gossip - er, yes!! and she proceeded to go into gory detail about the true blood line of the Tudors... what a raunchy lot they were...

William Shakespeare and the Shakespeare window above him depicting characters from his plays and the seven stages of man.  

This brought us to our final spot, the Old Operating Theatre Museum. For this bunch of Medical Secretaries it was just fabulous. Up in the bell tower of a church, there are some horrificly fascinating medical instruments, pictures and stories. Each of us have our own Consultant (well they have us if the truth be told....) and it was amazing to read that the surgeons of old had 'Dressers' who prepared the patient's details, gathered information about their condition and generally ran around after the surgeon. Not much has changed.

Dinner was in The George. The last galleried coaching house in London. Great food, great atmosphere, fast fast service. An excellent way to end a wonderful day out.

A very big thank you to Juliet - it would never have happened without all your hard work and planning.

Thursday, 26 April 2012


It is early days, but having discovered spinning there are signs that it is becoming a bit of a habit. Three times in one week so far....For years I have resisted it, convinced my legs could not take it and it would be hard work (Duh!). For some reason though, it appeals and I can do it without collapsing in a heap. It gets the heart beating, blood pumping and the endorphins flowing. I slept like a baby last night.
The link is for anyone who might be confused with spinning as in wheel and yarn and princesses and pricked fingers and the activity that Wikipedia thrilling describes as INDOOR that floats a lot of boats.....

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The Prom

is looming. Prom is such an Americanism. It is the Year 11 Boat Party really, but they all call it the prom. Han has her dress; it is very pretty and feminine. She is tiny and although she was one of the models for the recent Prom Fashion Show, her choice of dress has no bling, no bared back, no bustle and no slits. Over the last few weeks we have put together the various bits to go with the dress. A bag, on sale in Accessorise, (the dress was a tiny fraction of the price of the dresses she modelled, even though we did get it in London). A pair of shoes, a shawl that I bought for her Granny and forgot to give her, but it turns out to be perfect for Hannah's dress.  We got flowers for her hair and tonight, the amazing Dawn came and did her hair as a practice run. With a Japanese hairstyles web-site as a guide, Dawn turned Han into a 'princess'. Hannah's words. She looked lovely and Celia B who was here for our craft session agreed.

There will be no pictures posted until the day, but it was wonderful to see her so happy with how she looks and feels about herself.

TA DAH!! Lent Blanket

Today is a TA DAH! day.

The Lent Blanket is done....and I am very proud of it. A few weeks ago I asked about wonky squares and it was only as I did the last few did the answer come in a dazzling moment of clarity.
The book says to do 2 chains before/after each corner and two chains in the actual corner. This instruction was followed to the letter, but the result was a wavier and wavier square. I thought blocking would resolve this, but no, they just pinged back into their natural curly shape. It would have been wiser to reduce those chains down to one on the before and after the corner bits, but that realisation came way too late. When doing the border the same thing happend. It started to wave, so some decreasing was in order to get it to lie flat.
One thing became very clear, I love to crochet borders, that long line, that rythm, the weight of the blanket across my knees. Looking forward to the next one.

So here it is, complete with the odd pucker. It still looks and feels nice and maybe it will bring some warmth and comfort to an elderly soul somewhere in the North of England.

Lying on the carpet with wavey corners (about to be pressed)

Draped over a chair in the only slice of sun to get through today.

It is now off to SIBOL.....and the next WIP is sitting here looking good. A request from Han.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Another Sunday

This weekend has been about catching up at home, because on my usual domestic day, I was in London with JG, getting rained on and not taking photos! But we were talking, we saw some amazing paintings at the Royal Academy and it was very good for my soul. She is an insightful, creative, funny, warm woman and I look forward to our next day out together.

So, the bike has had a few outings. A quick test run last Sunday. A ride to one local town on Monday night after work, 6 miles all told (although down hill miles don't seem to count really). We went to a spin class on Tuesday night and for a newbie I was ok. It was tough and impossible to get my arms and legs going at the same time, but I worked on the premis that pumping those pedals is key....

Today I rode to another village near here and this time took my camera. There is a pond at the end of the road and a lot was going on.

With the Olympics looming it looked like a rehearsal for synchronised swimming. Love the swirls in the water and the curly tail feathers.

There were some ducklings which were really hard to see in the water with the reflections of the trees and sun on its surface. This next photo is not great but it was fun fiddling with all the settings on PICASA. The water surface is so lovely.

I was being watched...

He was waiting patiently while his rider let a family with small children say 'hello' and pat his friend, who is not in the picture.

One of a pair of geese.
The ride home was not as challenging as I feared and it was a great feeling, riding in the sunshine.
Big J and I spoke. Sometimes, distance distorts ones perception and the time difference does not make it easier. The only time we have to talk each week is usually lots of fun, today it was very serious and we both felt strained. Thank goodness for good sense, he suggested we come back later and talk again. Good call. I think it is because it feels as if everything needs to be covered in that small window of time that it can get a bit fraught. He is staying on for two more weeks, so we have a month to go before he comes home. Then we all go on a summer holiday.....yip yip yippeeee!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Remembering the good things

Today I collect my new bike from the shop. I have committed to doing the ride for Help for Heros and our own Trust's charity fund. I have signed up for a spin session at the gym on Tuesday as part of the training and I suspect my legs will be very sore on Wednesday. The sun is shining and it is cold. It is a lovely day and my girls are well. Adam is well and so is Big J who I saw live on screen this morning in his hotel room in Hong Kong. Everything is hunky dory.

But I am feeling a bit blue. I spoke to my mum this morning. She is very far away in Cooran in Queensland in Australia. She and Dad live in a beautiful but pretty isolated area. They have both had ailments, they are not getting any younger and none of their offspring live near.

My sisters are going to a mutual friend's 50th soon, in Bali, (very close to Australia if you live at the top end, as one does). I miss my sisters.

My brother and his lovely wife and daughter are in Hong Kong - I miss them too.

Big J does look well, but still he does not have a return date. It will be great when that is decided. We are a bit in limbo and yes, I miss him, a lot.

Missing all those people makes me blue.

Remembering the good things is the challenge for today.

All the folk I love

A new bike

A feta cheese and spinach filo pie

Being at home doing the things I like

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

What would happen if I stopped?

Easter is behind us, (we only had one chocolate bunny each, but with banoffee pie made to request as well this weekend, enough with the sweet stuff already!) and Big J is only a couple of hours from landing in Hong Kong, it feels as if lots of things have ended.

But, things never end, there are always goings on. Big J will be back in May for good. (Until the next trip, but not a 4 plus month stint). The girls are working on their skirts. I am sewing in ends and adding another row of squares to my LENT blanket....ok so I did not get it done, but I had a good go. The result will be the same, it will still go to a good cause.

The garden is well saturated now with the rain we have had and I can get some of the potatoes in. This year we are trying Kerr's Pink.

We have booked a very short stay in a cottage in Portugal in June as the girls will be away over the summer again and with me having to share holiday time now with another mum, it was the only time we could all go together.

I am about to sign up to a charity bike ride with my lovely friend Gill who is a bike queen. She has done the London to Brighton, and knows her stuff. She is encouraging me to do this and is being very patient about all my 'buts' and 'what ifs'!! It will mean getting a bike for me, not borrowing one of the girls' which on the last longish ride I did caused more pain and distress than I personally thought it was worth! BUT, that is because the seat was too low and hard, I could not lean into the handle bars and I could not stretch out my legs on the downward pedal motion. Bit like riding a mini bike really. This time it will all be to suit my height and needs and there will be a gel saddle, yes sir, a gel saddle, ideally the size of a tractor seat, if they exist....comfort is key here. The next week or so will involve tracking down a good used bike if one can be had, the saddle and then riding to work (eek). The plan is to then set off after work and do some road rides for training this space.

On top of this, there is my frugal food plan, ebay, decluttering - still, learning more about my camera, sewing a dress for me and my new crochet idea which is jumping up and down in my head and being very pushy,  and which I am really excited about - but have declared it must remain an idea until that LENT blanket is packed off to SIBOL.

So Easter had ended, only one tiny ending in all that goes on in life.

I wonder what would happen if I stopped?  LOL

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Long weekend goings on

Big J and I had a great day on Wednesday. First we saw the David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art. It was really exciting and here is a shot of one of the postcards I bought. (Fingers crossed I am not violating copyright laws here, you can see the edge of the card....)
From there we went to Veeraswamy for a really nice Indian lunch. Crab cakes and tandoori chicken for me and lamb kotas and seafood tadoori for Big J. Not yet over, the next activity was to see the film The Descendants, the one with George Clooney. It was good. Finally a quick drink with some of Big J's colleagues before heading home. Things sort of went down hill then for poor Big J who was laid up in bed for two days, not a well man. The girls and I left him to it yesterday (with his blessing) and went to Devil's Dyke near Brighton for the first time. The weather was glorious. We packed a picnic and not knowing the lay of the land, put the car in the first parking area we came to and walked in from there. We saw lambs and calves in the fields, a rabbit (Em did), loads of birds, paragliders, remote controlled planes and fields of rape blossom and green as far as the sea. I took a lot of photos on the AUTO setting of my camera. These two are my favourite:
Aren't they lovely?

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

catching up

Firstly, Big J is home and well and it is nice to have him here. The Rising Tide EP launch was fantastic. Poor Han developed a migraine early in the afternoon and it was touch and go whether she would be well enough to make it. Her medication kicked in enough for her to sit in the back seat with her duvet and pillow for the drive to Brighton
By the time we got there and had something to eat, she was well enough to enjoy the night. It was a great gig, a good crowd, many who knew the songs. The band was in top form and apart from enjoying the music it was a lot of fun. I was very proud to be step mum to a band member. Big J then arrived home in the early hours of Sunday morning and was determined to beat the jet lag by having a normal day. So off we went for our Sunday morning coffee/walk to our favourite cafe. We then went back to town to have lunch with Celia B and her man - and to celebrate Celia B's 70th. Home for a slow cooked leg of lamb which I simply could not eat, but we all sat at the table together. I like that. Last night Big J indulged me and came to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a film I have wanted to see. It was funny and a little predictable. It really fired my urge to go to India, it may be on the cards for this year, still considering it. And, it reminded me of a conversation I had in my first marriage when I told my other half that when I retire I wanted to go somewhere where I might be able to utilise my skills to benefit other people. At the time I was doing a Masters in Teaching English as a Second Language and I thought maybe I could volunteer my teaching skills. My poor other half was horrified. He asked me if I planned to take off when I was retired, why did I even bother getting married? Good question!! Big J has an adventurous spirit and like me wants to travel and do things in the prime of his life. Phew!! Tonight, like Frugal Queen, see her blog in my side bar, I used the left over lamb leg for a shepherd's pie. I used the meat part of this recipe and it was excellent. I did not go for the rich topping, just mash, but with some greek yoghurt in it! Tonight it is raining and it sounds lovely on the roof. Han is working on her skirt, Adam is out and Big J and Em are watching a film. Happy times.