Thursday, 27 September 2012

A lovely parcel

I love getting parcels through the post, and yesterday I received one from Morgan at Growing in the Fens. She has had a giveaway and I was lucky enough to share a stash of little cookbooks with two other bloggers.

They had to have a bit of a dry out, as it was a bit soggy here yesterday. DD has already looked through them and decided which recipes I need to try out! There was also a little card:

I was quite excited to see this, because this is how my Mum taught me to read. I remember Peter and Jane very well! I tried to teach my children to read using the same books, but didn't have quite the same success. They both love reading now, but I can claim none of the credit!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Excited by a water bill!

Back at the beginning of the year Southern Water dug up our road and installed water meters to everyone who hadn't already signed up to one. I was not happy, and not just because I couldn't get on my drive! As a family of four, where the washing machine should probably be subject to the EU working time directive, I considered that we would be considerably worse off. So I was very surprised when the bill arrived today, and it is LESS than it was before! 

Apparently we use as much water as a household of two with no garden. Now, I have not been deliberately frugal with the water. I am no Frugal Queen! We have a water butt in the garden, and when that runs out I use spare water from the kitchen. (The water which runs from the tap while the boiler gets into gear.) We don't have a dishwasher, but I do plenty of washing up. DH showers every day and DD is a proto-teenager. (Need I say more?) So, without being smug, and without expecting an answer, I must ask - what on earth does an "average" family of four use all that water on?!

Sunday, 23 September 2012


We like sprats in our family. I think that makes us a bit unusual, because they are difficult to find around here. DH was very happy to find some in the local supermarket yesterday. We don't have a local fishmongers, and are a significant distance from the coast, so these little fishy morsels aren't available very often. He bought the lot! Sprats are similar to whitebait, in fact young sprats are sometimes sold as whitebait.
They are a little fiddly to prepare, but worth the effort. The heads are cut off, and the innards removed. This is DH's job! They don't need filleting but he did de-tail them, but this isn't really necessary. They are simply coated in seasoned flour and fried until brown and crispy.

Sprats are fairly cheap compared to most fresh fish; this little lot cost just over two pounds. They are lovely with bread and lots of vinegar.


Saturday, 22 September 2012

Where did all the apples go?

We have a venerable apple tree in our garden. It is a remnant of an orchard that was here before the houses were built sixty years ago. I love it; it is a central feature of our small garden. It provides shade throughout the year, and a bountiful supply of apples in the autumn. We usually pick enough for us, my neighbours and anyone unfortunate enough to come to the door during apple season. I spend October peeling them and freeze enough for a weekly crumble right through to the next summer. But this year we had a very meagre harvest:

I can only put it down to a freak hail storm that we had just after blossom time. Although I won't miss the peeling I will miss the apple crumble and apple cake! Perhaps it's just as well...

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Sheffield Park Gardens

Sunday afternoon around here was a bit of a grey day, but as DH had spent most of Saturday replacing various broken fixtures in the bathroom, by Sunday afternoon he was in serious need of Fresh Air. We headed out to Sheffield Park Gardens which is another National Trust property. We really do have a lot of them in this area! The house at Sheffield Park is privately owned, but the gardens are quite breathtaking.

They are arranged around a series of lakes which do a fine line in water-lilies.

The autumn colours were just beginning; a promise of future glory.

The children were quite happy lying on their stomachs, disturbing the  aquatic life with a stick. There were also some rural visitors to the garden...

All in all, a very gentle afternoon out.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Gluten-free people

I look after a Sunday School group for ages 5 to 7. Not that it's called Sunday School any more! This week the teaching material suggested icing gingerbread men to help us talk about our friends. The children were then to eat them, which is slightly disturbing! One of the little girls is gluten intolerant so I trotted off to the supermarket to examine the gluten-free aisle. I couldn't find gingerbread men, which I suppose is quite a lot to ask, so I bought some gluten-free plain flour and had a play. 

These are the results! I only had a teddy bear cutter, so the heads were done freehand, with some wonky results. I used a normal biscuit recipe and simply used the gluten-free flour instead of the plain flour. The biscuits tasted fine, they were a little bit more grainy than normal and slightly more crumbly. The children all used writing icing to decorate them and were a lot more creative than me!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Red hot chilli peppers

This morning I met some friends at a local farm tea rooms for some much needed chat and carbohydrate intake. (I gave up Being Good for the morning!) While I was looking round the farm shop this rather beautiful chilli plant caught my eye.

I admit it; it was an impulse buy! It cost me £2.99 and I really like the ruby red colour of the peppers. There's a bit of a red and green theme to my blog this week!

Of course, I haven't got a clue how to look after it and it came without instructions. How hard can it be? Quite hard, I suspect!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

A new knitting project...

I had barely finished kitchener stitching my latest owl puff together when I started casting on for my new project.

No, it's not an Italian football scarf!
The stockings that my children use at Christmas were knitted in Albania for DH twenty years ago. I love them; they are quirky and full of character, but they lack one important commodity from my kids' point of view: size! We actually don't spend a lot on stocking presents; they are mostly small trinkets I collect over the year. However, I decided to continue to practise my "knitting in the round" skills by producing stockings. They are another Ravelry pattern and were originally in a Hobbycraft magazine. Hopefully they will eventually resemble these:

Photograph from Hobbycraft magazine
I tried very hard to persuade the children that they wanted the snowflake pattern, but they were having none of it. So stripes it will be! I just hope they are ready for the man in red this year, rather than next!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

It's never boring at Goring!

Today has been a beautiful late summer day and we decided to make the most of it. We packed up swimming costumes, bucket, spade and a picnic and headed down to Goring-by-Sea. This is one of our favourite places on the south coast and we head there whenever we get cravings for the sea. Unlike it's flashier neighbours, Brighton and Littlehampton, it is completely unspoilt. There is nothing whatsoever on the beach front apart from one cafe and some beach huts.

When we arrived the tide was out, and we walked out to the sea for what felt like miles; exploring rock pools, building dams, splashing, paddling and gazing at the big, empty sky. 

There was such a feeling of space.

Beautiful rippling patterns that stretch for miles.
I think these are young ringed plovers.

I would love one of these!
There is a large grassy area behind the beach which is great for picnics and frisbee throwing.

This darter dragonfly took a fancy to DD's hat!
I don't think the cafe has changed much since the 1970s. They do a fantastic line in huge cakes; one belgian bun was enough for four of us. Of course, we had to have ice creams as well so not a good day for our weight-loss challenge, but a lovely one for building family and reminding ourselves of the greatness of God's world.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Pork and apple burgers

Having eaten salad for most of this week, today I decided comfort food was in order. Pork and apple burgers aren't quite so hideously unhealthy as you would think. This recipe is adapted from one I cut out of a magazine years ago, before magazines all had nice web-sites you can link too! They are very tasty and also very simple to make.


450g minced pork
2tsps vegetable stock/bouillon powder
2 eating apples, finely grated
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives


Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. It is easiest, and most fun, to get stuck in and mix it with your hands. Then just divide up the mixture and squish into burger shapes. This quantity makes four large burgers, but of course you can make more smaller ones.

As you can see, the burgers don't have to be beautiful!
 Grill the burgers for about 15 minutes, making sure they are cooked through.

According to the magazine, if you serve this with half a bun it contains 181 calories. Who has half a bun?! We had ours with home made potato wedges and fried onions. At least the children did, DH and I didn't eat them, we just tasted them!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Another owl puff is hatched!

I have finally finished the little owl puff I promised DS weeks ago. Is it just me, or does everything craft-like take longer in the holidays?

DS chose the colour combination of blue and green, obviously having never heard the adage "blue and green should never be seen"! I think I've finally cracked knitting on double pointed needles. By the time I got to the head I'd managed to eliminate the ladder effect you can get when changing needles. Which is just as well as my next project involves knitting on five needles! Pictures will be forthcoming when there are more than a few rounds to show you.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

An interesting find...

My parents-in-law have frugal living down to a fine art - like most of their generation they have re-used, upcycled, mended and made do for all their lives. As well as sending us home from our recent visit with masses of garden produce, Dad also loaded DH up with screws, fittings and fixtures for some shelving. Although I suppose nails etc are interesting to some, I found the tin they were stored in much more intriguing.

It is a beautiful little tin with nursery rhyme scenes on the sides and lid. According to the base it was made by A.S. Wilkin Ltd and stored "Cremona and Red Boy Toffees".

It has little holes in the side where you could make a yarn handle!

No one on the internet seems to know quite when it was produced, but the consensus of opinion seems to place it during the 1960s. They seem to be quite rare and sell for about £25. I won't be selling this one, but I think I will have to find a better use for it than storing nails!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

A September Challenge

In an ongoing quest to shift a few pounds DH and I have set ourselves a challenge. During September we are going to Be Good. No more sneaky biscuits, evening chocolate bars (who me?) or calorie-laden cakes. We have weighed ourselves, (no numbers here, far too embarrassing), and we will see how we have done by the end of the month, which is also my 40th birthday.

So I kicked us off with the Hairy Bikers/Dieters' version of sweet and sour chicken. I have to confess I usually buy the value brand of bright red, slightly glutinous sauce and chuck it over some stir-fried chicken and/or random vegetables. The result is perfectly OK but very sweet.

The Hairy Bikers' recipe has a long list of ingredients but most of these are store cupboard ingredients, so in the end I only had to buy peppers, water chestnuts, chicken and tinned pineapple. As when I attempted the cassoulet, the chicken was the most expensive ingredient as I buy at least Freedom Food welfare standard chicken. It worked out at about £1.75 a portion which is quite expensive, although not vast amounts more than the economy jar as that still needed chicken!

We enjoyed the meal very much and we all cleared our bowls. The portions were generous so we didn't need pudding, which was just as well!