Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Preparing for Christmas, or not...

Christmas is coming a lot faster than I would like this year. My normal approach to the festive season is to make numerous lists and organise everything well in advance. By this time of year the pudding has been made, various packages have been secreted around the house and I am well into making my Christmas cards. This year, apart from making stockings, my approach has been to ignore it and hope it will go away! 

Yesterday DD went off with a friend to a "Christmas Card and Decoration" workshop, put on by a local lady who works for one of the papercraft companies. The results were very impressive. 

This was my favourite!

This is hanging on the banana tree for the time being!

DD did, of course, have access to lots of papercraft tools. We couldn't begin to reproduce these at home, but I have been jolted into action. Plans are under way for rather simpler creations, and some might actually get made. As for the pudding, it's not Stir Up Sunday yet!

Friday, 26 October 2012

Mock Turkey

I have been really enjoying "The Wartime Farm" on the BBC. This is the first of the Farm series that I have seen and I have been very impressed with it. So much so that I spent some of my birthday money on the book!

I had particularly enjoyed the Christmas episode where Ruth knocked up a "Mock Turkey" or "Murkey" for Christmas dinner. It is basically made of stuffing which is  much my family's favourite part of a roast dinner. I had to give it a go! There are lots of recipes for Mock Turkey out there on the web. This one is basically sausagemeat, bread crumbs, herbs and seasoning held together with grated onions and apples. The results are shaped into the shape of a turkey, using parsnips for legs, and then covered with bacon.

As I don't suppose World War Two housewives had food processors I grated the onions and apples by hand. Onions and I don't mix, and by the time I had finished I looked like I had been weeping copiously. Instead of buying sausagemeat, which in my supermarket comes ready seasoned and "herbed", I skinned plain sausages. The psuedo-fowl was baked for an hour and a half in a medium oven.

Of course, it tastes absolutely nothing like turkey. I liked it as I am a sausage fan. DH and DS were similarly keen, preferring it to the real thing, but DD was not so enamoured, labelling it "stodgy". I still have to work out what to do with the leftovers. I am sure the original cooks wouldn't have let any go to waste!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Autumn comforts

Autumn is normally my favourite season. I enjoy the light, the colours, the fruit, the cooler temperatures, the Christmas preparations. I am often to be found kicking piles of leaves and searching for conkers. However, these last few days have been particularly dank and murky in my part of the world. We have been shrouded in mist and permanently damp.

For some primordial reason, weather like this makes me want to bake bread. Well, I do cheat slightly! I own a reliable Panasonic SD-253 bread maker which has been faithfully kneading dough and baking loaves for at least 6 years. Today it produced fresh bread for breakfast and rolls this evening.

My other instinctive response to gloom is to light candles.

I am very fond of these tea-light holders. I bought the first one with some birthday money last year, and the second one is a supermarket bargain. Something about them cheers me up instantly.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Learning to crochet

For years I have tried, and failed, to learn to crochet. After all, I have been knitting for ever, so how hard can it be? My lovely Mother-in-Law, whose hook flies as she turns out square after square, bravely took on the challenge of teaching me. It was fine when she was there, and a hopeless tangle of knots when she wasn't. I tried to learn from the internet, but got lost in a maze of double crochets and turning chains, not helped by the different English and American terms. Finally I bought a couple of "teach yourself crochet" magazines. I bought the first two in the series, which were reduced and came with hook, yarn and clear pictures. I have resisted the rest of the series! Slowly, stitch by stitch, mistake by mistake, I am making progress.

Now I have embarked on my first project. My stash of yarn is slowly growing and my craft supplies are taking over the corner of our living room. This offends DH's ordered soul, although he has been very patient. To put him out of his misery I am attempting to make a project bag designed by Lucy from Attic 24. For my birthday DH foolishly let me loose in our local craft shop. Lucy's bag is stripy, but I am trying to reduce my stash rather than add to it, so I bought some variegated yarn. I needed new yarn because mine was all DK weight, whereas this bag needed something with more muscle.

It is Sirdar "Click" chunky yarn. The bag is worked in treble crochet if you are British, or double crochet if you are American. It is a simple pattern, even for a complete novice like me. At first it was very frustrating as I felt I was doing each stitch three times, but now I feel it might actually be finished one day.

It will not be perfect; my "rounds" are anything but circular! However, one day I may be able to see the corner of my living room again.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Easy peasy chocolate fondue.

A few weeks ago Morgan at Growing in the Fens very kindly sent me some little cook books, including this one on healthy eating:

I was a bit surprised that it contained a recipe for chocolate fondue! That wouldn't top the list of healthy desserts for me. This recipe uses evaporated milk rather than double cream which presumably gives it the "healthy" status. I've never made fondue before so I was eager to give it a try. The children were also keen!


25g/1oz cocoa powder
170g can evaporated milk
25g/1oz milk chocolate, chopped

Chopped fruit.


1. Put the cocoa powder into a non-stick saucepan and stir in the evaporated milk little by little to make a smooth sauce. I suspect the "non-stick" is important here for the well-being of the saucepan.

2. Add the chocolate. I used dark chocolate rather than milk as that is all I had in the cupboard. I am not fussy about cocoa solids; this was the value range of chocolate!

3. Put the saucepan over a medium heat and, stirring continuously, bring to a simmer. Keep it at a simmer and stir for another minute. The chocolate should have melted and the sauce should be thickened.

4. Serve with whatever fruit you have. It is a good way of using up fruit that has been occupying the fruit bowl for too long. I served the sauce in individual cups. I added some sugar to our sauce as the dark chocolate made it a bit bitter for children.

The children particularly liked the pineapple. DD rated it one of her best puddings ever, so it's just as well it only takes 5 minutes to make! It's also fairly cheap as the evaporated milk costs around 45p and I used about 9p worth of value chocolate.

Monday, 15 October 2012

An Autumn walk.

Yesterday was a beautiful day in our corner of England so we grabbed the opportunity to enjoy some outdoor sunshine. DH has been ill for the last few weeks but he decided that he could manage a short stagger around Wakehurst Place, one of our favourite local haunts. We made it as far as the lake...

Apparently it was "Autumn Sunday". There was certainly plenty of vibrant autumn colour:

I particularly enjoyed these cyclamens. I have tried to grow them at home but so far only have one paltry specimen. These are stunning and go far beyond the scope of my camera!

We are very blessed to live where we do.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Living Simply

As I was buzzing around the supermarket this morning I saw something that made me stop, and it's had me thinking ever since. In the magazine aisle there was a publication dedicated to simple living. It was full of beautiful photography, with articles on such topics as baking bread and country walks. It was also £4.99 a month! It had an article entitled "Things to wake up and want..."

In my little blog biography I say that "I try to live a simple life". I am trying to work out what this means. To me it means appreciating what I have been blessed with, using resources wisely, treading lightly on the earth, enjoying God's world and living in community with others. Although I do not claim to have the frugal lifestyle of some of those bloggers I admire, to me a simple life includes contentment with what I have. Needless to say, I didn't buy the magazine!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

"Death Comes to Pemberley"

I had read all the Jane Austen novels by the time I was fourteen, transported to a world of landed gentry and gentle romance. Watching the BBC adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice" was a thread running through my early relationship with DH. The poor man had to live up to Colin Firth!

I am also a great fan of PD James. I like her style; realistic without being too gritty. I really do not get on with the Scandinavian noir which is so popular at the moment. And who can resist a detective who is also a poet?

So I approached "Death Comes to Pemberley" with some trepidation. Could it possibly live up to its promise and combine my two favourite genres? Would the characters be true to the original? Could PD James capture Jane Austen's style?

As you would expect from PD James it is a very clever book. Although it is based around a murder, it is not a traditional "whodunnit" with the denouement coming in the last chapter. The language does read like Jane Austen's prose. I particularly liked, "If this were fiction, could even the most brilliant novelist contrive to make credible so short a period in which pride had been subdued and prejudice overcome?", written about the brevity of Darcy and Elizabeth's courtship. By the end lots of ends are nicely tied up.

It is well worth reading. I borrowed my Dad's copy, but I may invest some of my birthday money in my own copy. I also feel the need to re-read the original, which I suspect may please Baroness James.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

One down and one to go!

Back in September I succumbed to my children's request for larger Christmas stockings and started a new knitting project. I have just finished the first. It may eventually acquire tassels and pom-poms if I can persuade DD to make some!

I had never knitted socks before, so this was a bit of a challenge - turning the heel was interesting...

To be honest, it wasn't totally successful and there are a few judicious stitches in the heels. I am still fairly pleased with the result. I have persuaded DD that a snowflake pattern is much more exciting than stripes and started on the next stocking. I have just about reached the fair isle section.

Fair isle knitting in the round? I am feeling nervous!

Friday, 5 October 2012

In praise of chorizo!

Back in the summer I looked after my neighbours' cat for a time while they were enjoying Spain. I am not generally considered an intimidating person, but this particular cat turns tail and runs at the sight of me! He obviously associates me with being home alone and I am his least favourite person. I am treated with the disdain that I so obviously deserve. So I was very happy when the travellers returned, and was even more happy when they presented me with Spanish sweets and a chorizo!

I was a bit baffled by the chorizo. I have never cooked with one before as I don't usually hang around the deli section of the supermarket. 

I didn't actually keep it on a cupboard door!

Fortunately I spotted this recipe for spicy chorizo and tomato pasta on a brilliant blog called Frugal Feeding. It is very simple and only uses a few ingredients.


100g spicy chorizo
400g carton of passata
1 tbsp smoked paprika
300g pasta


1. Chop the chorizo into small cubes and start to fry gently in a saucepan.

2. Put the pasta on to boil.

3. After a few minutes add the paprika to the chorizo and chuck in the passata. The sauce will be ready when the pasta is cooked.

As well as being tasty chorizo is also a pretty frugal way of eating meat. Since my first encounter I have bought one from the supermarket. The only one I could find was from the "pay a lot more for fancy packaging" range but it was still only £2.25 for 220g which makes the meat in this meal work out at 25p per person. I have been told you can get them in Lidl but I haven't seen one there yet.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Birthday weekend

On Sunday I reached a milestone. The clues to the number are easy:

Yes, I have now had 22 years practice of being 18! As DD pointed out, it was more a matter of survival than achievement! When we got back from church I found some guerilla bunting.

I eventually found that these were made by a good friend of mine, out of pants! She got them very cheaply and had them sewn together. That wasn't the only surprise of the day. Having been told that I was going out for a sandwich, I was taken to a local country house for a surprise party organised by my small group at church. 

They also presented me with this lovely Willow Tree sculpture. I love Susan Lordi's figurines; a family of them already grace my windowsill. This one is called "Grateful".

I had a lovely weedend, was waited on hand and foot, and ate vast amounts of cake. DH and DD collaborated on the cake; I was very impressed with the outcome.

I can't write this neatly on paper; DH managed it on his first attempt with writing icing!