Sunday, December 25, 2005

Guess what I got for Christmas

A digital camera.

My first pictures were of the Husband, the Stepson and the Stepdaughter.

It's a complicated machine so it will take a while to get totally used to it. It should be fun.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Most Delicious Drink in the World

This recipe is not for slimmers. But at this time of the year it is nice to indulge yourself a little. Enjoy!

For each big latte mug you will need:

300 ml (I/2 pint) of "gold top" Channel Islands or Devon full fat milk
100 gm bar of Green and Black's "Maya Gold" dark chocolate with orange and spices
50 ml of Cointreau (or other good orange liqueur)

Bring the milk gently almost to the boil. In the meantime break all the chocolate up into squares and place in a liquidiser , blender or food processor and pour the liqueur over the top of it. When the milk has almost boiled, pour it over the chocolate/liqueur and blitz this carefully (it's hot and will give off a lot of steam) until it is frothy. Then pour into your mug and sit back and savour.

Don't be tempted to skimp on the ingredients. You do need creamy milk and very good chocolate. But I suppose you could stretch it by pouring some whipped cream on the top of the finished drink in the mug, and then sieving a light dusting of cocoa powder on top of that.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


As a child I had huge difficulty in deciding upon names for my dolls. I could never find names that I liked. I can remember that I eventually called my main doll "Barbara" but even then I wasn't very keen on it and often tried to think of alternative names for her, without success. The naming of my cats, over the years, has been a similar problem. When 10 years ago I brought home sister and brother kittens from the Cats Protection League I just could not think of good names for them and eventually came up with Pickle and Pepper. Afterwards I realised just how twee the two names were together but by then the black cat then named Pepper started to bring in his kill and live captures. The Husband said "we ought to call him Nimrod the Mightly Hunter instead". So we did.

I think the problem is that I have always been aware that I disliked the names given to me by my parents, particularly my first name I don't use here (not Val, which was and still is my second given name). Eventually, after over 50 years on this earth I came to the conclusion that why should I continue to live with a first name thaat I didn't like. I was also aware that it had not taken much time or difficulty to get used to my new surname when I married.

It took some time to find a name I did like for myself but one day, when I was at a conference at the Metropolitan Hotel, Brighton and listening to something extremely boring while sitting under an air conditioning outlet and trying to stop thinking just how cold I was, a name that I liked and wanted to be callled suddenly popped into my head.

It is a bit of a fiddle to change your name as there are so many places where your name is registered. Also to change your name legally is some places, like bank and savings accounts, shares, etc, etc all require official documentation. Fortunately a quick surf of Google found a reasonably local company that would do a Deed Poll Certificate for me for only about £20.

Generally changing my name has been successful and virtually everyone uses my new name. The only exceptions are my mother who hates my new name and insists on calling me by my old first name (which she chose, so I can understand her on this) and my hairdresser who only sees me once a month and was used to my old name and sometimes forgets my new one.

I think the main problem over the naming of babies is that parents are required to register the name(s) of the baby so shortly after birth, when the child's character has yet to emerge. So I would urge everyone who dislikes their name not to be afraid to consider changing it to something you feel better suits you.

On this track I have found a very funny website called "Baby's Named a Bad, Bad Thing - A Primer on Parent Cruelty" where some parents have come up with some very imaginative names for their children, either already here and suffering from the names they have been given or still to be born and to have a daft moniker given to them. There are 15 pages of the website and so it will take a time to read. Thus it is an ideal site to read in the hiatus between Xmas and the New Year when times hangs heavy and you need something to laugh at.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Cherry Mistmas

Christmas Cookie Ingredients:
1 cup of water
lemon juice
1 tsp baking soda
4 large eggs
1 cup of sugar
1 cup nuts
1 tsp salt
2 cups of dried fruit
1 cup of brown sugar
1 bottle Brandy

Sample the Brandy to check quality. Take a large bowl, check the brandy again, to be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level glass and drink. Turn on the electric mixer....Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar...Beat again. At this point it's best to make sure the brandy is still OK so try another cup .. just in case. Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit. Pick the frigging fruit off floor... Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers just pry it loose with a drewscriver. Sample the brandy to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift two cups of salt, or something. Who giveshz a sheet. Check the brandy. Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find. Greash the oven. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over. ; Don't forget to beat off the turner. Finally, throw the bowl through the window, finish the brandy and make sure to put the stove in the dishwasher. CHERRY MISTMAS

Found on the web. I think this is one recipe I will not be adding to the Recipe blog (grin)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Exercising Indoors - Hmm

Wednesday of last week I had an appointment with the asthma Consultant at the local hospital. I've been seeing him every so often since my asthma was diagnosed a couple of years ago. When I saw him last February he said that he wanted me to lose a stone (14 lbs) by the time he saw me at the end of November. Well, I tried hard and lost about half a stone. Then I got ill and the shingles lasted for quite a while. So I put on again the weight that I had lost. Anyway, when I saw him last week he said that I definitely need exercise to improve my asthma. However, he thought that major exercising outdoors isn't a good idea for me and said that I need to find a way to exercise indoors. So he started talking about gyms. Immediately he said this I felt a little concerned because to me gyms and sports centres are meant more for the young, slim and fit to use for body maintenance, not an overweight woman of 54 who doesn't exercise. PE classes at school were definitely not my best subject.

Pondering the situation subsequently I've bought a couple of exercise DVDs which are currently winging their way to me through the post (thank goodness for I've also looked on the Net and discovered that it is possible to join a special programme of exercising at the local council's sports centre. You need to be referred by your GP for this and as soon as my GP returns to the fold (he is on holiday this week) I will make an appointment to see him about it.

I hope it works out. Exercising isn't something I've ever done, though for several years I did do some yoga positions every morning before work. I stopped doing them some time ago. Perhaps I should restart them again.

Parmesan Parsnips

We usually have these with Christmas Dinner, delicious and they can be prepared beforehand to cut down on the fuss on the day.
2.5 lbs parsnips
6 oz plain flour
2 oz parmesan, freshly grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sunflower oil
knob of butter
  1. Mix together the parmesan, flour, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl.
  2. Peel and halve the parsnips then quarter them lengthways then cut each quater into smallish chunks. Cut out any woody centres.
  3. Put the parsnips into a saucepan with enough boiling water to cover them and add salt. Parboil them for 3 minutes while you get a large kitchen tray ready.
  4. As soon as they are ready drain in a colander and drop them, while still steaming, into the flour and parmesan mixture making sure each chunk gets thoroughly coated with the mixture. (N.B. Make sure they are steaming at this stage as this is the easiest way to get them covered with the mixture.) Then transfer them to the tray.
  5. Heat the oil in the oven and roast them above the roasting turkey/meat for 20 minutes then turn them over and continue to roast for a further 15-20 minutes.


After Stage 4 has been completed they can be prepared ahead, storing in the fridge for about 24 hours. Alternatively they can be frozen at this stage. Make sure they are fully defrosted before being put in the oven.
The recipe states that sweet potatoes can be used instead of parsnips but I have not tried this.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Ah, Christmas

The advantage of buying virtually all the Christmas presents you are going to give the family either via the Internet or by telephone is that you don't have to brave the shops and all those crowds of frantic shoppers, desperately trying to find things to buy. You can order at home with the knowledge that the goods will be delivered to your home, leaving you relaxed and free of stress. There are few downsides to buying online or by phone. The only ones I can think of is the amount of cardboard boxes and packaging that you end up with. Oh, and the fact that because the Husband and I are awaiting deliveries of things we have ordered one of us always has to be at home during the day and we can't go out together. But it's only for a few days, so this is soon over.

I may not be out buying Christmas presents but I'm still not avoiding the shops totally. There are still "ordinary" things to buy for day-to-day life. And in each shop there is the piped music, which at this time of the year is all Christmas based. Like "Deck the Hall with Boughs of Holly, tralalalalalalala .....

And then there is Christmas music being played at home. The Husband loves to listen to Christmas choral music and oratorios during December, loudly.
[Posted a bit later - at the moment he is playing, one after the other, all the FIVE different versions he has of Vaughn Williams "Fantasia of Christmas Carols" so he can work out which one he prefers. (FYI, so far he prefers the one from the Guildford Cathedral choir. The one I liked was dismissed because it had sopranos singing rather than boys - grin)]

Have you noticed that Television adverts change at this time of year? Suddenly they are full of adverts: for perfume (including that incredibly expensive one from Dior with Nicole Kidman that they originally showed last year); for food for THE meal; games (I believe that this is the best time of year to sell games); and lots of happily smiling perfect-looking families opening parcels to display things that advertisers think we should buy as gifts.

Oh well, only 19 days to go. All that anticipation.......

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Parsnip and Baked Apple Soup

I came across this recipe last week when looking through Tamasin Day-Lewis' book "Good Tempered Food" and tried it out on the Husband. He raved about it and said it was really delicious and when was I going to make it again. Soon, dear. It is easy to make too.

Parsnip and Baked Apple Soup
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
750g parsnips, peeled and diced
1 large cooking apple
2oz butter
1.2 litres chicken or vegetable stock
6 sage leaves
salt, pepper, parsley leaves
  1. Score the apple around its circumference, core it and bake it in a dish with about 1/2 inch water and NO sugar. Bake in a hot oven until tender right through.
  2. Sweat the onion and parsnips in the melted butter for 10-15 minutes with some seasoning. Then pour on the stock and sage and simmer until tender. Fish out the sage leaves. Peel the baked apple and add it to the mixture. Liquidise until smooth. Check the seasoning and add some chopped parsley and a little cream if you wish. Serve.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Day from Hell

Last Thursday I decided to visit my mother for the day, as she had been sounding a little down when I spoke to her on the phone. Now I live in Chelmsford, Essex, about 15 miles from the sea on the eastern coast of England. She lives in one of the suburbs of Cardiff, the capital of Wales. Now, despite the distances involved it usually isn't a difficult journey by public transport - just straight to London, tube to Paddington Station and a two hour train journey straight to Cardiff Central station and then a taxi. I can do a day trip, therefore, without any difficulty. Usually.

I got to the station here and up to London Liverpool Street easily. A tube train arrived promptly and took me straight to Paddington Station where I got on the right train, which left on time. So far so good.

About half-way between Paddington and Reading, with fields all around the train stopped. The carriage next to mine was filled with smoke and all the passengers moved into our carriage, At the same time there were urgent announcements for all buffet staff to return to the buffet. Then we waited some more. Then the conductor announced to one and all that the problem was nothing to do with the buffet but because three brake boxes were dragging along the ground and they were trying to mend the problem. Later another announcement said that they were awaiting the arrival of a maintenance team to repair the problem. Still later and finally we were told that the problem had been solved and the train now met Health and Safety requirements and we could move again. So we set off to Cardiff which we reached over two hours later than planned.

The taxi got me to where my mother lives at 4.30. She gets a bit fussed easily nowadays and was upset about the delays I had experienced and whether I'd be stranded there (I wasn't, after over 30 years of commuting to London by train I had experienced far worse than this before). Obviously I couldn't spend as much time with her as I usually do or would have liked as I needed to get home the same day.

Anyway, I got back to Cardiff Central station to discover that London bound trains were running about 20 minutes late. The winds from the Arctic promised by our weather forecasters had arrived and it was a chilly wait. The train arrived and got to London, taking at least 30 minutes longer than anticipated. A quick tube to Liverpool Street. As I arrived at that station I heaved a sigh of relief at the thought I had only a 40 minute train journey to home. I thought too soon though. No trains were leaving the station at all due to overhead cable problems at Romford and a broken down goods train at Chelmsford. I had an hour wait before the first train left Liverpool Street station, and then it took longer than usual to get home. Then the queues for taxis were so long I phoned up the Husband and got him to drive across town to pick me up. I got home well after midnight, fortunately just before the snows fell that so disrupted Britain on Friday.

Than, to add insult to injury the following two days I had a nasty tummy upset that laid me low. Whether it is the bug currently going around Cardiff or the effects of the junk food I ate to get me through the day I do not know. Anyway, I am back to normal now.

Such days don't happen very often. Just one of those things but I am glad it's over.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


My forehead is covered with perspiration...
my nose is running...
my tongue is on fire...
my breathing is harsh...
my temperature is too high...
and I think the wax in my ears is melting....

just what is it about men and Curry?

When the Husband handed me lunch today he said, rather grimly, "I deliberately made it mild for you". Well you could have fooled me. One bite of the chicken curry he had made and the top of my head almost hit the ceiling. And I felt hotter and hotter as I struggled to finish the gargantuan portion he had made me (he always has a slight problem over portion sizes, often a single portion of the meals he makes is enough for two or three).

I am convinced though that many men have a view of curry that says "the hotter the better". It is a total cliche over here that young men who have been out drinking then go to the nearest Indian take-away for a hot curry - and they compete on who can eat the hottest. Well, I'm afraid I prefer some subtly to taste than just heat in the curries I eat. It also isn't, I believe, a traditional Indian thing to go for very hot curries. I can remember that sometime ago I worked in a building adjacent to Waterloo Station in London (the building now overlooks Waterloo International) and one member of the team was a really nice Indian lady of ~ahem~ somewhat mature years. One lunchtime we all went out to an Indian restaurant close to the office building and the men there insisted on ordering. The curry that appeared was too hot for the Indian lady, and she told us that she didn't know one Indian person who would eat a curry that hot.

The husband made the curry with some left-over chicken and various bits in the fridge and store-cupboard. For two portions he used four big fat cloves of garlic. Well, it should keep the vampires away, I suppose.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Thought of the Day

And inside you is your real freedom, because your consciousness cannot
be touched by anybody. You are the only master of your being.


From today's Meditation Tip of the Day

Friday, November 11, 2005

Interesting Mashed Potatoes

Now the term "Interesting Mashed Potatoes" is one that personally I consider somewhat of a contradiction in terms as I find mashed potatoes generally somewhat boring. We do have it at home with some meals. For example the Husband is very fond of them with sausages with onion gravy for example and when he dishes it up I do eat it. Anyway, I have recently treated myself to a new recipe book called "The Kitchen Diaries" by Nigel Slater. The book is big, about 400 pages and basically is a record of what he has cooked each day over the course of a year, with recipes and comments on foods. It is really fascinating and well-worth reading. As the book is very fat and covers a whole year I am trying to read the entry for the day I am living though, to get inspiration, etc for future meals.

Anyway, browsing through the book over the last couple of weeks I came across a couple of entries for mashed potatoes. For the entry for 31st October to have with sausages he suggests "Mustard Mash": this is mashed potatoes flavoured with Dijon mustard and grain mustard - he suggests 1 tablespoon of each in enough mash for two people. The Husband did this with the aforementioned sausages and onion gravy last weekend and it was delicious, Well worth remembering for the future.

The entry for 9th November included "cheese mash", which is basically 125g of grated mature cheese like Cheddar, Lancashire or Wensleydale in enough mashed potatoes for four. Now I haven't tried this yet but I think it well worth considering for the future. Interestingly the entire meal comprised a roast chicken with garlic gravy served with roast potatoes and no other accompaniments then followed by the cheddar mash with the gravy. I must admit that I am not too sure about this meal with no green vegetables and two lots of potatoes. But the cheese mash itself sounds promising.

Obviously one could vary the amount of mustard or cheese that one added to the mashed potatoes, according to personal taste.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Modern Improvements?

Once upon a time if you had bought a new computer printer you just bought it home, took it out of the box, connected the cable to the computer and the power cable to the electricity socket, turned on the printer and you were ready to use it.

Nowadays you buy the printer and bring it home. Then you remove vast quantities of packaging, the disposal of which will have a significant effect on the ozone layer. Then amonst the packaging you find an unconnected bit and work out that it is the English language front panel of the printer and snap it into place which takes a good five minutes fiddling. Then you try to work out which two of the three printer cartridges also buried in the packaging needs to be inserted immediately into the printer and do it. Then you plug the transformer into the electricity cable which in turn is plugged into the electicity socket. Then you turn to the computer and insert one of two CDs which also came with the printer. Once the installation wizard has started up you (a) plug the printer into the computer and (b) much against your better judgement you turn off your Internet Security programme so that the firewall doesn't affect all that is going on in the computer's innards. Then the CD takes about 20 minutes to download and install all of the many, many files connected with the printer. Then you restart your Internet Security software. Then the printer's software connects with its home via the Internet and starts to ask you questions when you have no idea of the implications of your answers. Then you have finished and the printer is ready to use. Then you realise that the new printer will not fit into the space left by the old one. So you have to reorganise the tabletop the screen and mouse stands on so that it can accommodate the printer as well. Then you sit back and contemplate the fact that because you wanted faster printing speeds from a more reliable printer you have bought lots of facilities you do not need and will not need unless you buy a digital camera.

Ain't progress wonderful.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Real life?

There are times when something appears on the news which, if presented in a work of fiction or a tv programme, wouldn't be accepted as being just too ridiculous and improbable.

Ross Kemp has a reputation as a tough man. He acts in a BBC soap opera called Eastenders as a character who is very tough man. The police were called to his house following complaints of a disturbance. It turns out he had been hit by his wife who is the editor of the Sun newspaper, the best-selling newspaper in the UK, which is currently undertaking a campaign against domestic violence. At the same time, the actor who plays his equally tough brother in the same soap, was being beaten up by his ex-girlfriend. See here for what we are all laughing about.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Interesting Websites

There are a few websites and blogs that I've either just found or look at on a regular basis that I thought worth while mentioning here. Eventually I will burrow through the depths of this blog's software to add them to the list of Interesting Sites but until then - here they are.

Mentioned in today's Times T2 supplement was the getcrafty site which looks a lot of fun. I've deliberately started by linking to the Editor's page as her writing seems quite inspirational for those who love crafts of all sorts.

I am a great fan of the author Jenny Cruisie and have read virtually all of her books, like "Manhunting", "Strange Bedfellows", "Welcome to Temptation", "Faking It" and "Bet Me". She writes well and with wit, romatic books which are more than just romances. And she has a new blog that I love reading. It is called Argh Ink and sets out the life of a published and well regarded writer who is also trying to deal with her own life and family and to cope with the ex-Special services author that she is collaborating with on a book called "Agnes and the Hitman. Or as he likes to call it "Shane and the Food Columnist". She cooks, he kills, they have great sex. And the shoes are to die for. Literally." The blog is funny and human and I love reading it. And it is the sort of blog that you can read every post from the beginning and really enjoy.

Another author I really like is Mary Janice Davidson, whose book about a smart-alec female vampire Betsy "Undead and Unwed" is one of the funniest books I think I have read for a long time. Its sequel "Undead and Unemployed" is equally as good. I am frustrated that I have to wait until 2006 for the next books in this series to come out in paperback. But I now have some of her other books. Anyway the author has a blog called MJ's Musings which I also love to read.

Finally another blog, this time one on knitting. Stephanie Pearl-Mcphee is passionate about knitting. And yarn. Somehow much of her life revolves about these pasttimes in a funny and vey human way. Her blog Yarn Harlot is another one I look at daily.

Monday, October 31, 2005


Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot...

It's that time of the year again. This Saturday it is the 5th November with all that involves: guys, bonfires, fireworks, parties.... I have happy memories of all the celebrations and trappings of Guy Fawkes Day during my childhood. It is a traditional time that I hope will continue for centuries to come. But people have, over the last few years, failed to remember that one of the key things is the date: the 5th November. The parties now seem to go on for as long as the fireworks are available to buy - I think retailers are licensed to sell them from the second week of October to a few weeks after Guy Fawkes Day. Fine. I hope that I am not a killjoy wanting to spoil peoples' fun. It is a pity though that they don't think of the effect their parties can have.

Nimrod's sister, Pickle, is usually a very strong-minded cat. She knows what she wants to do and the rest of us have to bow to her wishes. If she wants to sit on the settee we'd better move over and give her room to lay down (like her brother she is not a lap cat). Nothing usually frightens her, she is usually in control of her own life, and ours as well. However, the word is "usually", the one exception being this time of the year. From the first bang of a firework she hides under a cupboard under the stairs, the furthest distance from a window of anywhere in the house. She has been there for at least two weeks, just emerging for meals and then returning to the same slot. On past performance I suspect that she will be there until the last firework is set off. Then she will go back to ruling the house, us and her brother until this time next year.

People tend to forget, when arranging an outdoor party with fireworks, that the bangs and wizzes can frighten pets in the neighbourhood. We get lots of warnings to keep pets in on the actual day. But we can't keep them in for weeks on end.

So, in some ways this is a good time, enjoying all the traditional items but at the same time it is a difficult time of the year for those owning or owned by cats and dogs.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Degas, Sickert and Toulouse-Lautrec Exhibition

Last Monday the Husband and I went up to Tate Britain to visit the Degas, Sickert and Toulouse-Lautrec exhibition. It was well worth the visit, despite late trains and disturbed and overcrowded tube trains. There were several large rooms full of pictures, plus a couple of sculptures not only by the three artists that the exhibition was named after but several other artists as well.

I was pleasantly surprised by the works by Degas, especially his ballerinas. The pictures "spoke" to me in a way that reproductions of his pictures never do, it was well worth going to the exhibition for that alone (plus a sculpture by him of a young ballerina, a wonderful work).

The Husband wanted to see the works by Sickert but I have to admit that they were not really my thing. I could appreciate his works set in various music halls of the period but I had difficulty appreciating his pastels, especially the nudes. However, that may well have been because they were displayed alongside a couple of pictures of nudes by Pierre Bonnard and I got the distinct feeling that at the time he painted them Bonnard really cared for his model - something that to me came out of his pictures. In contrast I got the distinct impression that there was no connection between Sickert and his models other than the act of drawing. Perhaps I am wrong - my opinion, anyway.

I have to mention Degas' painting L'Absinthe which was given a special position, with only two other paintings in the same room. In the 1890's, when it was first really exhibited in London the painting caused a scandal as it was interpreted as glorifying people in thrall to the dreaded drink Absinth. In fact I enjoyed looking at the work and felt that it displayed people totally dislocated from their surroundings and community. It was a wonderful work.

It took the better part of two and a half hours to get around the exhibition and was well worth every minute.

Friday, October 28, 2005

No Comment

Bird flu is scary - I had flu recently and was miserable. I'll
be staying away from chickens.

by Coleen McLoughlin, girlfriend to Wayne Roony

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers

Just back from a concert at the towns theatre for an exhilarating performance of the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers, a high energy rhythm, percussion and dance troup. Just five performers with drums, a flut and what I assume is a Japanese equivalent of a didgeridoo. The way they played drums in particular was highly choreographed in a way which took nothing away from the impact of the music. The drums were so exhilarating and you could feel the beat in every part of your body- I don't think the marrow in my bones has calmed down yet. It was different but striking, if you pardon the pun. Well worth going to see and hear this. I really, really enjoyed it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Happy Christmas - but Not Yet!

Walking into town on Saturday to pick up a bit of food shopping I wandered into Marks & Spencer's Food Hall to find that they had rearranged everything. So that they could display all their Christmas food stock. On the 15th October. Then, walking past the Argos Superstore I saw that there was a large Snowman Christmas decoration in the window for sale. Tescos are beginning to display their Christmas stock already as, I noticed yesterday, is Woolworths and WH Smith. There are also a lot of really interesting looking recipe books just published over the last few weeks. Why? Just in time for Chrismas.

Please, everybody. Not yet! It's still only mid-October.

Every year it is the same. It is possible to start Christmas shopping virtually from when the schools start their Autumn term and the result is that by the time Chrismas arrives everyone is heartily sick of the whole idea of Christmas. When I was a girl (ye gods, I've started to say that!) the run-up for Christmas used to start after Guy Fawkes night and that was too early but over the last few years it has started much earlier. I know the retail pundits are complaining that the retail trade has subsided recently and shops are just not not selling as much as they used to but that is no excuse to try to start Chrismas shopping earlier. In fact when It gets near Christmas I just don't go shopping in town at all. I buy virtually all my Chrismas presents, and most of the food we shall want, over the internet. Why get stressed searching the High Streets through all the crowds to look for what you want when you can buy the same thing for (probably) much less money and have it delivered to your door without any stress.

There is another thing about Christmas that always disturbs me and that is the way the season is depicted as a time when everyone HAS to have a really happy time surrounded by your family. The architype of both parents and a couple of children having a wonderful time with smily faces and enjoying being together is promoted and puffed up not only by the retail trade but also by the media as being the only way to be at Christmas. But life is just not like that. For a start there has been a significant change in the family demographic with over 50% of all marriages ending in divorce nowadays so that the architypal family is becoming more and more rare. Those torn asunder by divorce are made to feel especially isolated over the "festive season", separated from their loved ones. Then there is the fact that a very significant proportion of the population live alone and are just not part of a family. So they too feel isolated from the way people are "supposed" to be at Christmas. People face a season when they are made to feel that they have to be happy and surrounded by loved ones. No wonder the arrival of Christmas is dreaded by so many. Most are just made to feel alone and out of things. A season of joy? I don't think so.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Puy Lentil Soup with Bacon

6 oz Puy or green-brown lentils, rinsed
4 oz smoked streaky bacon or pancetta, derinded and finely chopped
1 tbsp sunflower oil
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, trimmed and finely sliced
8 az (225g) tin Italian tomatoes
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
3 pints (1.75 lires) vegetable stock
8 oz cabbage, finely shredded
2 tbsps chopped fresh parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the bacon or pancetta until the fat starts to run. Then stir in the chopped carrots, onions and celery. With the heat fairly high mix together and cook until they are softened and slightly browned around the edges, stirring now and then.
  2. Stir in the rinsed lentils and the tomatoes, then the crushed garlic. Stir everything together then pour in the stock.
  3. As soon as the mixture comes to the boil, put the lid on and simmer, as gently as possible, for about 30 minutes. Then add the cabbage and cook for 5 minutes or until the cabbage has wilted. Season to taste. Just before serving stir in the chopped parsley.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Some months ago I watched a tv programme about archaeology, a favourite subject of mine, and they were talking about some australopithecine remains they had found along the banks of a river (can't remember where, I'm afraid). What stuck in my mind about this was that for once the archaeologists were absolutely certain how the individual had died - of toothache. They knew this because they could see in the jaw bone clear evidence that he had had an abscess on one of his teeth. As a result they thought that blood poisoning from this had caused him to fall into the river and then to die. This has rather been on my mind over the last week, since I developed a nasty abscess on a wisdom tooth. As a result I have just finished a weeks course of Amoxicillin and the strongest painkillers I was able to buy over the counter from the Chemists. Despite these the pain is still bad and I am still doing a wonderful impression of a squirrel carrying nuts just in the one cheek. Anyway, I am off to the dentist tomorrow to have the offending tooth removed - not a session I am looking forward to. I've had three other extractions and didn't like them - but at least I am hoping that I will end up with no more pain or infection (and can sleep again) .

Still the Stepdaughter has sent me something that really made me laugh. Look at this, starting with the description of the product on eBay and then going onto the Questions and Answers. Well worth it. Very funny.

What irritates me is the way that music "experts" automatically reject any piece of music that proves popular with the public. Phillip Glass's Violin Concerto was on Classic FM radio yesterday evening as I drove home fromthe Soft Furnishings Workshop. It is really a wonderful piece of modern music. Yet experts discount it because it is listenable and enjoyed by many. I know I am going to continue to believe in my own opinions on music, not on the opinions who think they know best. (We have it on CD and I am listening to it as I write. Excellent.)

I have recently been trying out a new soup recipe that the Husband and I have both decided is a success. It is Puy Lentil and Bacon Soup, from Delia Smith's book of Soups. A really good and very distinctive taste to the Soup and well worth doing again. I did have one problem though - trying to find the Puy lentils, the only ingredient I didn't have at home. I could find green lentils at the supermarket but not Puy ones. Eventually I found them at the health food stall at the local market where I was told that one cannot ask for Puy lentils by name as the name has been banned by the EU, as are all items named after specific places. Instead I have to ask for Dark Green Speckled Lentils. I will, however, have to make sure that I don't get given the ordinary green lentils in future as these are somewhat bigger and just don't have as much flavour. I will post the recipe for the soup here soon as it is well worth making.

Autumn is clearly here. We've had a fair amount of rain the last few days and a few leaves are beginning to turn brown, although most are still, thank goodness, green. But I notice that a few leaves on the Alemanchier Lamarkii are beginning to turn red. I just wish it would stay dry enough to mow the lawn which is getting a bit overgrown.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

100 reasons why it's great to be a guy

1. Phone conversations are over in 30 seconds flat.
2. Movie nudity is virtually always female.
3. You know stuff about tanks.
4. A 5-day vacation requires only one suitcase.
5. Monday Night Football
6. You dont have to monitor your friends sex lives.
7. Your bathroom lines are 80% shorter.
8. You can open all your own jars.
9. Old friends don't give you crap if you've lost or gained weight.
10.Dry cleaners and haircutters don't rob you blind.
11. When clicking through the channels, you don't have to stall on every shot of someone crying.
12. Your ass is never a factor in a job interview.
13. All your orgasms are real.
14. A beer gut does not make you invisible to the opposite sex.
15. Guys in hockey masks don't attack you.
16. You dont have to lug a bag of useful stuff around everywhere you go.
17. You understand why 'Stripes' is funny.
18. You can go to the bathroom without a support group.
19. Your last name stays put.
20. You can leave a hotel bed unmade.
21. When your work is criticized, you don't have to panic that everyone secretly hates you.
22. You can kill your own food.
23. The garage is all yours.
24. You get extra credit for the slightest act of thoughtfulness.
25. You see the humour in 'Terms of Endearment'.
26. Nobody secretly wonders if you swallow.
27. You never have to clean the toilet.
28. You can be showered and ready in 10 minutes.
29. Sex means never worrying about your reputation.
30. Wedding plans take care of themselves.
31. If someone forgets to invite you to something, he or she can still be your friend.
32. Your underwear is $10 for a three pack.
33. The National College Cheerleading Championship.
34. None of your co-workers have the power to make you cry.
35. You don't have to shave below the neck.
36. You dont have to curl up to a hairy ass every night.
37. If you are 34 and single nobody notices.
38. You can write your name in the snow.
39. You can get into a non-trivial pissing contest.
40. Everything on your face stays its original colour.
41. Chocolate is just another snack.
42. You can be president.
43. You can quietly enjoy a car ride from the passenger seat.
44.Flowers fix everything.
45. You never have to worry about other peoples feelings.
46. You get to think about sex 90% of your waking hours.
47. You can wear a white shirt to a water park.
48. Three pairs of shoes are more than enough.
49. You can eat a banana in a hardware store.
50. You can say anything and not worry about what people think.
51. Foreplay is optional.
52. Michael Bolton doesn't live in your universe.
53. Nobody stops telling a good dirty joke when you walk into the room.
54. You can whip your shirt off on a hot day.
55. You don't have to clean your apartment if the meter reader is coming.
56. You never feel compelled to stop a pal from getting laid.
57. Car mechanics tell the truth.
58. You dont give a rats ass if someone notices your new haircut.
59. You can watch a game in silence with your buddy for hours without even thinking 'he must be mad at me'.
60. The world is your urinal.
61. You never misconstrue innocuous statements to mean your lover is about to leave you.
62. You get to jump up and slap stuff.
63. Hot wax never comes near your pubic area.
64. One mood, all the time.
65. You can admire Clint Eastwood without starving yourself to look like him.
66. You never have to drive to another gas station because this one is just too skeevy.
67. You know at least 20 ways to open a beer bottle.
68. You can sit with your knees apart no matter what you are wearing.
69. Same work, more pay.
70. Gray hair and wrinkles add character.
71. You don't have to leave the room to make an emergency crotch adjustment.
72. Wedding dress $2000, Tux rental $100.
73. You don't care if someone is talking behind your back.
74. With 400 million sperm per shot you could double the earths population in 75 tries, at least in theory.
75. You don't mooch off others desserts.
76. If you retain water, it's in a canteen.
77. The remote is yours and yours alone.
78. People never glance at your chest when you are talking to them.
79. ESPNs sports centre.
80. You can drop by to see a friend without bringing a little gift.
81. Bachelor parties whomp ass over bridal showers.
82. You have a normal and healthy relationship with your mother.
83.You can buy condoms without the shopkeeper imagining you naked.
84. Youneedn't pretend your 'freshening up' to go to the bathroom.
85. If you don't call your buddy when you say you will, he won't tell your friends you've changed.
86. Someday you will be a dirty old man.
87. You can rationalize any behaviour with the handy phrase 'Fuck it'.
88. If another guy shows up at the party in the same outfit, you might become lifelong buddies.
89. Princess Di's death was almost just another obituary.
90. The occasional well-rendered belch is practically expected.
91. You never have to miss a sexual opportunity because you are not in the mood.
92. You think the idea of punting a small dog is funny.
93. If something mechanical doesn't work, you can bash it with a hammer and throw it across the room.
94. New shoes don't cut, blister, or mangle your feet.
95. Porn movies are designed with you in mind.
96. You don't have to remember everyones birthdays and anniversaries.
97. Not liking a person doesn't preclude having great sex with them.
98. Your pals can be trusted never to trap you with 'So notice anything different?'
99. Baywatch.
100. There is always a game on somewhere.

My stepdaughter sent me this. Goodness knows where she found it as it is clearly American. And I don't understand No. 49 at all.

Sunday, October 02, 2005


After due consideration I’ve come to the conclusion I am in love. With a fictional character. Who wouldn’t be, when the fictional person in question is Sam Vimes.

He’s a fascinating character is Sam Vimes. By the start of Terry Pratchett’s latest book Thud! He has evolved from a man coming from a poverty stricken background and a complete alcoholic to being one of the most powerful men in the City, now Commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch and also the Duke of Ankh, married to one of the richest women in Ankh-Morpork and “as rich as Creosote”. He has the heart and mind of a true policeman, constantly trying to keep the city in some sort of order, not easy as it is run as irrationally as anywhere you could possibly think of. Members of the City Watch comprise virtually every species living in Ankh-Morpork, including humans, trolls, dwarves, vampires, a werewolf, a golem, a gnome, gargoyles, an Igor and even Nobby Nobbs (who carries a paper confirming he is a human being). Sam Vimes is determined to keep the city under control and to protect it whenever necessary. He is full of anger against the universe and prepared to do anything to keep the peace and will arrest anyone, whatever the odds against him. This includes thieves, political criminals, the Patrician (Ruler) of the City, both sides when Ankh-Morpork was at war with one of its neighbours as well as a Dragon. He also has a true understanding of the humanity in all people, whatever their species.

This is the background to the start of Thud!. In addition to all the other demands on the City Watch the anniversary of the Battle of Koom Valley is approaching and both sets of participants of the Battle, the dwarves and the trolls, have every intention of celebrating the fact. But there has also been a murder of a dwarf to clear up. And, with all these distractions Sam Vimes knows that every evening at 6.00 pm he has to be home to read “Where’s My Cow?” to his 14 month old little boy. So, he has questions to resolve. Why was the dwarf killed and by whom? Why are there deep-down dwarves in the City? Will he get home to read to Young Sam every night? And just who did win the Battle of Koom Valley?

Terry Pratchett combines a true understanding of humanity with a real sense of humour, His books, all of them, are incredibly funny and a joy to read. And I have read them over and over again as they are the type of books that you pick up something new every time you reread one. They are also kind books: he turns his spotlight of understanding on all characters, good, bad, or just brimming with humanity and the reader consider each character with compassion and understanding. The description of Lady Sybil Ramkin’s bedroom as seen by Sam Vimes in "Guards, Guards" after his first real fracas with a Dragon, where what Sybil is really like can be seen by the room in which she sleeps, is to my mind one of the most moving passages of the human condition I have read. Terry Pratchett’s books can be read on many levels – I have seen a posting that equates the deep-down dwarves in Thud! with the Asian-Muslim community in the UK. I am not entirely certain of that but I can understand why it was reached as others also see Pratchett’s works as allegories of life from: the story of Macbeth (“Wyrd Sisters”, one of his books about witches), the Internet (“Going Postal”, also a wonderful reference to the Royal Mail), War (“Jingo”, “Night Watch”) and the legend(s) of Father Christmas (“Hogfather” with Susan, another of my favourite characters, the grand-daughter of Death).

Terry Pratchett’s books are wonderful. I do recommend everyone reads them.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Vichyssoise Soup (a.k.a. Leek, Onion & Potato Soup)

4 large leeks, washed, split lenghthways and sliced finely
1 medium onion, chopped finely
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced into small pieces
2 oz butter
1.5 pints vegetable stock
0.5 pint milk
salt & pepper

To garnish
1.5 tbsps chopped chives or parsley
2 tblsps cream or creme fraiche
  1. In a large, thick based saucepan gently melt the butter. Add the leeks, potatoes and onion, stirring well so that they all get covered by the melted butter. Season with salt and butter. Put the lid on the saucepan and sweat the vegetables over a very gentle heat for about 15 minutes.
  2. Add the stock and milk, bring to simmering point and simmer gently for 20 minutes until the vegetables are cooked. )Be careful not to have the heat too high or the milk will boil over.)
  3. Cool the mixture slightly then puree it, either with a hand blender or in a liquidiser or food processor.
  4. Add garnish to serve

This soup can either be served hot (Leek, potato and onion Soup) or cold (Vichyssoise Soup). Either is delicious.

This recipe originally came from Delia Smith's book on Soup, although I've made it so often I think of it as my recipe.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Up to London yesterday to buy some curtain fabric. I've just started a Soft Furnishing Workshop and last Wednesday evening was my first class. Following that I had to think what project to start off with and after some pondering decided that I would make some curtains for the main bedroom. This room has one wall with a window alongst a door that leads onto the patio at the back plus another (ordinary sized) window at right angles to it on another wall. I decided to make one set of ordinary sized curtains, plus a second set which would run from all along the back wall of the room right down to the floor. So I knew I would need a fair bit of fabric. The place to find the best selection is, of course, the John Lewis store in Oxford Street and so it was to there that the Husband and I set out.

After spending a fair amount of time looking around I decided on a curtain fabric with a pattern of lilac and light purple Iris flowers on a white background. How much yarn? 17.5 metres in all, plus the same length of lining fabric and the Header tape. When we set off for London the Husband was saying pessimistically "this lot is going to weigh a ton to get home". Fortunately I was offered the shop's delivery service, which I accepted. This was for delivery within 24 hours. OK, that was yesterday morning and at 7.00 pm today day the delivery has yet to arrive. I am not too worried, however. The class is not until Wednesday evening. If the parcel does not arrive by early afternoon I'll just pop down the road to the shops and pick up a metre of fabric, and accessories, and spend the evening at the workshop practicing making a cushion cover "professionally" (obviously I know how to run one up in a "home made" fashion).

What I don't understand is why curtain/furnishing fabric is becoming so difficult to find. The shops that used to sell it are still around - they just sell only ready-made curtains instead. That's why we went up to John Lewis, although their second floor used to be full of furnishing fabric and now has areas which sell ready-made curtains and other furnishing items. Obviously soft furnishing as a craft is dying out, probably because many just don't have to time to make their own curtains, cushions etc.

The Husband had his own agenda for going with me. He also started an adult education class last week - one in Interior Design on Thursday mornings. He is not deterred at being the only male in the class. Anyway, as a piece of homework they were given a black and white picture of a bedroom and asked to suggest colours to be used. He has really thrown himself enthusiastically into the challenge. I estimate that, compared to the amount of time I spent deciding what what sort of curtain fabric to buy, we must have spent at least four times as long looking at paints, curtain fabric ( a 20 cm sample was purchased), bedlinen (pictures of which I later had to download from the store's website and print off for him) and carpets (he got a free sample of his final choice). If he plans to do this for the rest of the 30 classes he can go up to London on his own. It was exhausting. (And what made it doubly trying is that looking at the samples this morning in daylight he has decided that they don't really match as well as he thought.)

Anyway, we were both shattered today and so we've taken things a bit easy. This means that he decided to burn a few CDs of collections of music, where all the songs are ones he would want to listen to at the same time, like us all most pop CDs have one or two songs you want to listen to a lot, compared to the rest that you only want to listen to occasionally (if at all)He has a fair number of CDs of pop music (although not as many as the 3,000 or so that he has of classical music). So, I've been unable to get near the computer all day until now, and have had to move piles of CDs off the computer table so that I could reach the keyboard.

One infuriating thing was that he wanted to buy a piece of music from iTunes, namely "Crying in the Rain" by Art Garfunkle and James Taylor (?). When I tried to buy this from iTunes they refused to sell it because it was "only available from their US store". Whatever happened to the World Wide Web?

Housework this morning and both cats promptly ran away from the vacuum cleaner. I wouldn't mind but if I'm out in the garden with the lawnmower they run towards me and I have to chase them away. They clearly don't understand which is the most dangerous machine.

I am exasperated about cuttings. The ones I took from a root cutting of my Chocolate mint plant are beginning to show and look really healthy. However, the ones from the French Tarragon have just died. Guess what? The Mint is hardy, the Tarragon - not at all. With our bad winter frosts the likelihood of it surviving outside is very small. SIGH

Sunday, September 25, 2005

You Should Be Attentive Today

Do not go after the past,
Nor lose yourself in the future.
For the past no longer exists,
And the future is not yet here.
By looking deeply at things just as they are,
In this moment, here and now,
The seeker lives calmly and freely.
You should be attentive today,
For waiting until tomorrow is too late.
Death can come and take us by surprise--
How can we gainsay it?
The one who knows
How to live attentively
Night and day
Is the one who knows
The best way to be independent.

from the Bhaddekaratta Sutra

And something I need to remind myself regularly.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Art and Confidence

There was an article in The Times newspaper earlier this week which really made me think. It was written by Grayson Perry who recently started a weekly column in the paper's Arts section. In 2003 Grayson Perry won the Turner Prize, the UK’s premier modern art prize. At the time there was a lot of publicity about him winning the Turner prize (but that this publicity was aimed much more at the pink frock that Mr Perry wore to the award ceremony rather than his skills as a potter). Anyway, his columns in The Times are really thought provoking, the one this week is a case in point.

He was discussing the fact that so many people seem to rely on others to tell them what is actually going on, and especially what is beautiful and significant, as they lack the confidence to make up their own minds and to express their own views to the real world. He has a real point. Many seem to prefer to allow “experts” to tell them whether or not, for example, a picture or other work of art is a work of a genius or just a pedestrian work not worthy of real attention. Why can’t people make up their own minds? The answer? They do not have the confidence of their own opinions because they think that if they don’t make sure that what they are admiring is considered by “experts” to be a masterpiece then they are demonstrating their own “ignorance”. But why? The point is that personal views on what is beautiful, ugly or just striking are entirely subjective and will differ from person to person. The picture that you find as beautiful may well be different from the picture that I find really “speaks” to me. Even if you are a real expert at art and know what you are looking at your opinion does not make my own personal choice of art invalid. Surely the only thing that matters is the amount of enjoyment I feel when walking, for example, around an art gallery and find certain pictures that give me pleasure when I look at them.

I am not educated at all in art. But, to paraphrase the ultimate cliché, I do try to look at what gives me pleasure. One thing that just makes me smile however is a trip the Husband and I made to the National Gallery in London last year for an exhibition of pictures and drawings by Raphael. In the exhibition was one picture by Raphael’s father Giovanni Santi. Both of us really admired this picture and spent quite a bit of time looking at it. Interestingly Kenneth Clark, in his masterpiece television series “Civilisation”, describes Santi as a second rate painter. Ha! I have absolutely no intention of withdrawing my own personal opinion of that picture.

It is an odd thing. I lack self-confidence in many ways, especially socially, But where art is concerned I do know what I like.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

A Decision is Made

Since I wrote the last entry (below) I have been considering the situation of how to highlight the recipes that I've posted in this Blog. This consideration has been about the most I have been able to do as I have been felled by a virus thing that has been doing the rounds in this area. I suspect that I've got it as my immune system is still a little wonky due to the shingles (will it EVER go away?). So, I've been feeling more than a bit achy and weary and have been able to spend only short amounts of time at the computer. Once I made my decision I took short periods of time to set up another Blog called Moment after Moment - the Recipes. This is where I will be posting the recipes that were originally posted here.

I will still be posting recipes here first in the future because cooking is to me an integral part of life. Come to that eating is essential to us all and find it baffling that some people (and I'm speaking generically here and not pointing a finger at any specific person) do not find food and its preparation and cooking really interesting.

I could have accepted a friend's offer to allow me to post my recipes in their cooking Blog (thank you CopCar) but decided that I would prefer my own space, where I can take full responsibility for everything that goes on. Also, to repeat what I have said before in this Blog, there are significant differences between the UK and the US not only in the measurements and methods of cooking but also, to some extent in the actual make-up of the ingredients (i.e. the gluten conten of the flours used). To include in one Blog recipes from two such different countries (in terms of their recipes) would just confuse the innocent reader.

This current stage may not last forever. When I was having yet another burrow through the help pages provided by Blogger I found a page where Blogger members could vote for future changes to be made to Blogger's Blogs. The top one on the list was the addition of Categories to posts on Blogs. Needless to say I immediately voted for this enhancement.

Just to repeat my second Blog, specifically to act as a database of the recipes that originally appeared here, is called Moment after Moment - the Recipes.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Blogging, Questions that have arisen

I hesitated for some time before I started a blog as I wasn't sure whether I would continue with it in the long term. In the end I started it, have enjoyed it and want to continue. But I am beginning to find a problem with being with Blogger.

Amongst the things I post are recipes, lots of them. The trouble is that as time progresses they are beginning to become lost amongst the other posts. So I searched Blogger Help and Blogger Knowledge to see if it is possible to add Categories to my posts so that it is easy to find specific types of subject what I wrote (a slight nod to Ernie Wise there), like recipes or posts about cats. However, I can't find any trace of Categories at all in Blogger. A search amongst the many blogs that are in my Favourites and that I look at regularly shows that none of the ones who use Blogger display Categories. So my assumption is that Blogger does not provide this facility.

So, where do I go from here? There seems to be few options:-
  1. Continue as I am - not really possible because as time progresses the current problem will just increase until it is impossible realistically to find things in the archives.
  2. Set up a separate Blog for recipes - not really what I want to do. Cooking is such an integral part of my life that separating it out would be both artificial and, I fear, to the deficit of both that new blog and my original one. It would also be cumbersome for me to manage, I suspect (although CopCar is managing her new one fine).
  3. Find a new Blog host - Hhmmmm... this might be an option, if I can find another blog host that is easy to use and doesn't cost me anything. Which are the good ones?

Well, these are the options. Has anyone any advice for me on this?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Things about me

A friend sent me one of those questionnaires about yourself that you fill in and send back so that they can learn more about you. Here are some of the questions and my answers.

What is your name? Val

Were you named after anyone? The name Valda originally came from an ex-girlfriend of my father. He chose that name for me because he liked it (well, that's what he told my mother, {smile}).

Do you wish on stars? I'm not a great believer in wishing.

When did you last cry? Hard to tell ...I do cry at things at times

Do you like your handwriting? Yes, though it's fascinating how it's changed over the years.

When is your birthday? ** February 195*

What is your most embarrassing CD? Not sure I've got any, although I blinked at the number I've got by Karl Jenkins

If you were another person would you be friends with you? Hopefully

Do you use sarcasm a lot? No

Would you bungee jump? Not sure, though if I took off my glasses I wouldn't be able to see the height. If I kept them on I'd probably lose them during the jump.

Do you untie your shoes when you take them off? I tend not to wear tie up shoes

Do you think you are strong? Sometimes, sometimes not

What is your favorite ice cream flavor? Chocolate or vanilla, depends on my mood

Shoe Size? 6 1/2 (UK)

What is your least favorite thing about yourself? My tummy...much too prominent

Who do you miss most? My cat Tigger, he was with me for most of my (single) adult life when otherwise I lived alone.

What color pants and shoes are you wearing? A long denim skirt and a pair of sandals

What are you listening to right now? Nothing, I love the peace of silence

Last thing you ate? 2 pitta breads with some taramosalata

If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Red

What is the weather like right now? Warm and sunny

Last person you talked to on the phone? My mother

The first thing you notice about the opposite sex? Their eyes and whether they look kind

Favorite Drink? Filter Coffee, black, no sugar

Hair Color? Light Blond/Brownish

Eye Color? Blue/grey

Favorite food? Chocolate

Last Movie You Watched at the cinema? Mr & Mrs Smith

Favorite Day of The Year? Not sure I have one.

Scary Movies Or Happy Endings? Happy Endings

Summer Or winter? Depends, both can be nice. Just No snow, ice or fog.

Hugs OR Kisses? Both

What Is Your Favorite Dessert? Cold Chocolate Soufflé

Where would your ideal house be located? In the English countryside, although I might stretch a point if I had the opportunity to live in the Tuscan countryside

What Books Are You Reading? "Courtesans" by Katie Hickman. Fascinating, these were women who really broke out of the moulds set by Society to become independent in their own right.

What did you watch on TV last-night? DVD of old Frasier episodes

Favorite Smells? Herbs, especially rosemary and mint.

Favorite Sound? Sibelius Symphonies, especially Symphony No 2

Rolling Stones or Beatles? Beatles

What's the farthest you've been from home? Amsterdam

What's something you want to do before you die? To do the Diceman thing and travel around making decisions based on throwing a dice.

Favorite Movie? Groundhog Day

How many piercings: 2 (1 in each earlobe)

Place of birth: Wimbledon, London

Ever been to Africa: No

Been in a car accident: No, thank goodness

Croutons or bacon bits: Croutons

Favorite day of the week: Sunday

Favorite restaurants: Don't particularly have one. It depends on my mood (and my budget)

Favorite sport to watch: Absolutely none.

Favorite fast food restaurant: Don't go to them

How many times you failed your drivers test: 0

Which store would you choose to Max out your credit card ? I don't max out my credit card (although it gets a hefty wallop from Amazon at times.)

What do you do most often when you are bored: Read books

Favorite TV shows: Doctor Who, Lost, House MD

How many tattoos do you have: 0

How many pets do you have: 2 cats, Pickle and Nimrod, the Mighty Hunter

A Good Slowcooker Recipe

Sticky Chicken

4 tsp salt

2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp thyme (I have used oregano or basil instead)
1 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 large roasting chicken
1 medium chopped onion

In a small bowl, thoroughly combine all the spices. Remove giblets from chicken, clean the cavity well and pat dry with paper towels. Rub the spice mixture into the chicken, both inside and out, making sure it is evenly distributed and down deep into the skin. Place in a resealable plastic bag, seal and refrigerate overnight.Stuff the chicken with the onions; place in the crockpot and set to Low all day long.

This is an excellent recipe I use when I know I will be busy during the day but would like to serve everyone something nice for dinner. The skin of the chicken is lovely and spicy and the flesh is well cooked and delicious.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Good old Nimrod

Nimrod, the Mighty Hunter is really in our good books at the moment because after years of trying he has caught, and disposed of, a squirrel. I looked out of the kitchen window to see him crouching on the patio with the creature in his jaws.

I am not sure just how loudly to laud his actions because about 50% of the population of Great Britain look at the grey squirrel's big eyes and sweet face and say "Aahh" and think it looks cuddly. The rest of the population, including this Household, see a squirrel and think "Tree Rat". A squirrel is just a rat with a big bushy tail. Admittedly it can be seen doing tricks, but these are usually attempts to pinch the food left out for the birds and are just an indication of what a thieves they are.

We've had intimate experience of a squirrel August last year, possibly this one I'm not sure. When we investigated some scratching and rustling that we heard in the sitting room of our house. Our investigations led led us to discover that a squirrel had moved into the eves of the house. I put Nimrod into a cupboard that led into the eves in the hope that the cat would chase it out. He didn't succeed unfortunately as we saw it the next day getting into and out of its lodging via a small hole. So the Husband hammered the hole shut and a couple of hours later we saw the squirrel making determined efforts to get in. Failing, it then saw the open window to the Stepson's bedroom and headed towards it at a rate of knots. We had to yell to the Stepson to close the window quickly to stop the squirrel getting into the house. I am not sure whether this was the squirrel we had dealing with last year - there has been at least two recently playing on our fence and in our trees. At least the squirrel population of our garden is reduced by one.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Marinade Recipe for Lamb

When I got home from the Gardening Club on Friday evening the Husband told me that he had invited his parents, sister, brother-in-law and niece to a Barbeque the next day. Fine, no problem. So I did a quick Google for a recipe for a marinade for the lamb loin chops we decided to buy. Luckily I discovered a really good marinade recipe here for which I already had all the ingedients. It turned out to be a real success, as was the family gathering. A good time was had by all.

Here is the Marinade recipe:-


1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. fresh lemon juice
4 cloves garlic
2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. rosemary
1 c. thinly sliced onions
10 bay leaves
1/4 c. chopped parsley
Beat together oils and lemon juice. Peel and smash the garlic and add to oil mixture along with other ingredients. Toss with 5 pounds cubed lamb or spread over a butterflied 7-9 pound leg of lamb. Marinate for at least 8 hours in refrigerator (overnight, too). Baste with the garlic marinade during grilling. Makes about 2 cups.

I managed to find a site online which told me how much olive oil, vegetable oil (I used sunflower) and lemon juice to use. Instead of the dried herbs I used fresh, straight out of the garden. The recipe is well worth doing again.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Chelmsford and District Gardener's Association

The gardening club in Chelmsford that I belong to is called the Chelmsford and District Gardener's Association. It meets the First Friday of the month at the Link, Trinity Methodist Church, Rainsford Road, Chelmford, Essex, UK at 7.30 pm.

Events in 2005/2006 are:-

2nd September 2005 - AGM and Member's evening

7th October 2005 - "General Horticulture" by Margaret Willis

4th November 2005 - "Trees" by Neil Catchpole

2nd December 2005 - Christmas Social

6th January 2006 - "Potentially Hazardous Plants" by Ben Page & Roger Prentice

3rd February 2006 - "Garden Photography" by Marcus Harpur

3rd March 2006 - "Autumnal Colour in Sussex" by Roger Claydon

7th April 2006 - "Gardens of the City of London" by Sue Sincock

5th May 2006 - "Slugs & Snails & ..." by John Llewellyn-Jones

I'm a member of the Society. The meetings are really enjoyable. New Members are always welcome.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Hairdressers

Most women go to the Hairdressers at least occasionally, a lot go regularly. I am one of them. I go once a month where in addition to having a cut and blow dry I also have a semi-permanent colour (to cover any grey hairs). I am lucky, the hairdressers is literally five minutes walk from the house and they are excellent at what they do, for example my hairdresser is a real expert at colouring. I have been going there for about nine years approximately and am extremely happy with the service I have there. What I have found over the years though is that the shape and colour of my hair does not stay exactly the same each time I go, even though I haven't changed the style for some time. My hair grows very fast indeed and so I am not surprised that sometimes the shape looks a bit different.

Yesterday I had an appointment at the hairdressers and saw my own hairdresser when she had just returned to work after having a baby. She looked hard at my hair and said "Hmmm...". So I was not really surprised when she suggested a "slight change" to the colour to be used on my hair. When my appointment was over and my hair dry so that I could see its actual colour now it was not the light blond that it had been but instead a warm, somewhat darker blond.

I think she was right, the colour does match my skin colour better than the former colour and I know that it was the right change to make. The thing is that every time I catch a sight of my reflection in a mirror I stop dead. It still looks very different to me. The Husband doesn't seem to have noticed the change at all. Men!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The History of the English Language

In the beginning there was an island off the coast of Europe. It had no name, for the natives had no language, only a collection of grunts and gestures that roughly translated to "Hey!", "Gimme!", and "Pardon me, but would you happen to have any woad?"
Then the Romans (who had a pretty decent language) invaded the island and called it Britain, because the natives were "blue, nasty, br(u->i)tish and short." This was the start of the importance of u (and its mispronounciation)to the language. After building some roads, killing off some of the nasty little blue people and walling up the rest, the Romans left, taking the language instruction manual with them.
The British were bored so they invited the barbarians to come over (under Hengist) and "Horsa" 'round a bit. The Angles, Saxons, and Jutes brought with them slightly more refined vocal noises.
All of the vocal sounds of this primitive language were onomatapoedic, being derived from the sounds of battle. Consonants came from the sounds of weapons striking a foe. ("Sss" and "th" for example are the sounds of a draw cut, "k" is the sound of a solidly landed axe blow, "b", "d", are the sounds of a head dropping onto rock and sod respectively, and "gl" is the sound of a body splashing into a bog. Vowels (which were either gargles in the back of the throat or sharp exhalations) were derived from the sounds the foe himself made when struck: AAY! EEEEE! III! OH! OOH! and sometimes, "Why?"
The barbarians had so much fun that they decided to stay for post-revel. The British, finding they had lost future use of the site, moved into the hills to the west and called themselves Welsh.
The Irish, having heard about language from Patrick, came over to investigate. When they saw the shiny vowels, they pried them loose and took them home. They then raided Wales and stole both their cattle and their vowels, so the poor Welsh had to make do with sheep and consonants. ("Old Ap Ivor hadde a farm, L Y L Y W! And on that farm he hadde somme gees. With a dd ddhere and a dd dd there...")
To prevent future raids, the Welsh started calling themselves "Cymry" and gave even longer names to their villages. They figured if no one could pronounce the name of their people or the names of their towns, then no one would visit them. (The success of the tactic is demonstrated still today. How many travel agents have YOU heard suggest a visit to scenic Llyddumlmunnyddthllywddu?)
Meanwhile, the Irish brought all the shiny new vowels home to Erin. But of course they didn't know that there was once an instruction manual for them, so they scattered the vowels throughout the language purely as ornaments. Most of the new vowels were not pronounced, and those that were were pronounced differently depending on which kind of consonant they were either preceding or following.
The Danes came over and saw the pretty vowels bedecking all the Irish words. "Ooooh!" they said. They raided Ireland and brought the vowels back home with them. But the Vikings couldn't keep track of all the Irish rules so they simply pronounced all the vowels "oouuoo."
In the meantime, the French had invaded Britain, which was populated by descendants of the Germanic Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. After a generation or two, the people were speaking German with a French accent and calling it English. Then the Danes invaded again, crying "Oouuoo! Oouuoo!," burning abbeys, and trading with the townspeople.
The Britons that the Romans hadn't killed intermarried with visiting Irish and became Scots. Against the advice of their travel agents, they decided to visit Wales. (The Scots couldn't read the signposts that said, "This way to LLyddyllwwyddymmllwylldd," but they could smell sheep a league away.) The Scots took the sheep home with them and made some of them into haggis. What they made with the others we won't say, but Scots are known to this day for having hairy legs.
The former Welsh, being totally bereft, moved down out of the hills and into London. Because they were the only people in the Islands who played flutes instead of bagpipes, they were called Tooters. This made them very popular. In short order, Henry Tooter got elected King and begin popularizing ornate, unflattering clothing.
Soon, everybody was wearing ornate, unflattering clothing, playing the flute, speaking German with a French accent, pronouncing all their vowels "oouuoo" (which was fairly easy given the French accent), and making lots of money in the wool trade. Because they were rich, people smiled more (remember, at this time, "Beowulf" and "Canterbury Tales" were the only tabloids, and gave generally favorable reviews even to Danes). And since it is next to impossible to keep your vowels in the back of your throat (even if you do speak German with a French accent) while smiling and saying "oouuoo" (try it, you'll see what I mean), the Great Vowel Shift came about and transformed the English language.
The very richest had their vowels shifted right out in front of their teeth. They settled in Manchester and later in Boston.
There were a few poor souls who, cut off from the economic prosperity of the wool trade, continued to swallow their vowels. They wandered the countryside in misery and despair until they came to the docks of London, where their dialect devolved into the incomprehensible language known as Cockney. Later, it was taken overseas and further brutalized by merging it with Dutch and Italian to create Brooklynese.
That's what happened, you can check for yourself. But we advise you to just take our word for it.

Taken from here. It's wonderful what you can find on the Internet.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

So True

Today is the absolute day,
the only day in the eternity of time.
Everyday is fresh and new
just as one's life is new everyday.


From yesterday's Meditation Tip of the Day

The Library That Lends Out People

A public library in Holland has been swamped with queries after unveiling plans to "lend out" living people, including homosexuals, drug addicts, asylum seekers, gipsies and the physically handicapped.
The volunteers will be borrowed by users of the library, in Almelo, who can take them to a cafeteria, and ask them any questions they like for up to an hour, in a scheme designed to break down barriers and combat prejudice.
The library's director, Jan Krol, said yesterday he had been deluged with requests from prospective borrowers after his project was reported in the Dutch media.
Almelo, a prosperous town of 72,000 people in the Twente region of east Holland, is not known as a hotbed of Amsterdam-style liberalism.
The people-lending scheme was conceived as a local project, designed to encourage the solid burghers of Almelo to make contact with members of ethnic minorities and other marginalised members of society but caught the imagination of the Dutch press.
"It has caused a lot of interest, a lot of people have already called with questions like: do I need a library card?" said Mr Krol.
Borrowers of people will not need a card, he said, though one will remain necessary for more prosaic items, such as books.
There will be no fines for returning people late, he added. "Most meetings will last 45 minutes, we imagine. You can ask anything you like, but racist or strong language is not allowed. To avoid unpleasantness, all meetings must take place in the library café."
Mr Krol, who said he was inspired by a similar scheme in Sweden, has already filled many of his volunteer slots, and hopes to launch the project next month.
He said: "I've got several gay men, a couple of lesbian women, a couple of Islamic volunteers, I've got a physically handicapped woman, and a woman who has been living on social security benefits for many years in real poverty. "
Mr Krol said he was especially keen to find members of Holland's small Roma gipsy community after a recent attack on two gipsy families in the city of Enschede.
Under the scheme, photographs and short biographies of the volunteers will appear in the library, and on its website. Library users who wish to take a person out can apply for an appointment. Mr Krol said he had not cleared the scheme with his municipal bosses.
"Oh, I never ask the council before I do anything," he said. "And there are no costs at all, only two cups of coffee."

Absolutely true and from today's Telegraph

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

My version of Minestrone Soup

2 ounces of steaky bacon, de-rinded and chopped into small pieces
1 onion, chopped
2-3 celery stalks, chopped
6 oz carrots, chopped
tin chopped tomatoes
4-5 cloves of garlic, crushed
4-5 leeks, chopped
about 6 oz green cabbage, shredded
1 oz butter
1 tablespoon oil
2.5 pints vegetable stock
1.2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped, or 0.5 teaspoon dried basil
3-4 oz macaroni
1 tablespoon tomato puree
salt & freshly ground pepper
Parmesan cheese, grated

Heat butter and oil in a big saucepan, add the bacon and cook for a minute or two. Then add the onion, cook that for a minute or so then add the celery, carrots, tomato pulp, garlic and season with salt & pepper. Put the lid on the pan and let the veg sweat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the stock, the juice from the tin of tomatoes and the basil. Simmer gently (covered) for about an hour. Then add the leeks, cabbage and macaroni and cook for a further 30 minutes.

Stir in the tomato puree, cook for another 10 minutes and check seasoning. Serve with the parmesan on top of each serving of soup.

My Comments:

Although it might seem to take a while to make it is very economical, healthy and has few calories.

You can change the amounts of veg/garlic/seasoning used, depending on taste and what you have available.

Sometimes when I make it I find that because I've added more veg than above it gets very thick indeed. Fine, I just treat it like a condensed soup and let it down with some more stock.

I find one lot of soup lasts the Husband and I several days. The soup lasts well in a (big) bowl in the fridge and I just take out a couple of portions and add some stock to make it go further and last longer. So, although it takes a while to make it is well worth it in the long run.

To save time I tend to chop/shred all of the vegetables in the food processor.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Oh Nimrod!

Nimrod the Mighty Hunter is feeling better. And as a result I am feeling absolutely shattered. I was worken out of a deep sleep at 2.30 in the morning by him bellowing outside the bedroom door. His Mightiness had caught a bird and laid it, like an offering, outside the door. He clearly wanted my approbation. SIGH.

Obviously the antibiotics are working. Only two more days to go.

Fascinating Idea

There is an absolutely fascinating idea in the news today of a proposal, by a professor at Cornell University and published in Nature, to repopulate the open spaces of North America and Canada with a variety of endangered species from other countries. Animals like lions, cheetahs and elephants could fill gaps in the ecosystem which could have major environmental benefits. The idea is to fill the continent with large mammals similar to those wiped out 13,000 years ago at the end of the Pleistocene era, when human beings reached North America. The full story can be found in The Times and the BBC.

I find this an absolutely fascinating idea, well worth investigating further. What comes to my mind is that over here wild boar were hunted to extinction a couple of centuries or more ago. Since then wild boars, which had been bred in captivity have escaped from farms and have now established themselves in Great Britain. I understand that they are absolutely thriving in certain areas. It would be wonderful if some endangered species could be established in the wild areas of the US/Canada - provided, of couse, that the whole thing is properly managed and the creatures protected.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

There are times when you wonder what part of the year you are actually in. The last few days were a case in point. This weekend saw the start of the football (soccer) season. I know this because I am the wife of a third generation Arsenal supporter (he was born within walking and listening distance of the Gunners’ grounds) and Arsenal won their first match 2-0. Now the fact that I have no idea who they were playing gives you some idea of my interest in the game. All I do is to listen to what he says - it goes in one ear and out the other without sticking in my memory at all – and make comments which I always think of as intelligent but turn out to prove my absolute ignorance of the game. But then I just do not understand why, if there is a whole generation of young lads who would like to be a professional footballer that Arsene Wenger (the Manager) is looking for decent players. Anyway, to get back to the point the Football season to me is supposed to be in Winter.

Then yesterday (Monday) our house reverberated with shrieks and bellows on the last day of the latest Ashes. England versus Australia and England could have won (I was told) up to the last ball bowled. Cricket is a game with a huge number of abtruse names and points, none of which I understand. Only an Englishman could. Anyway, at least Cricket is supposed to be played in the Summer, although there seem to be matches most of the year and in all parts of the world.

The shrieks were coming from the sitting room (Husband) and the Stepson’s bedroom. He telephoned at 7.00 pm on Friday to announce that he was turning up at 8.00 to stay for a week. My immediate reaction when I had put the phone down was a panicked mental inventory of what was in the fridge – he drinks vats of milk daily and we were a bit short – but then to realise that it is good that he feels comfortable enough with us to do that. He is an undergraduate, of course, and they all make decisions on what they are going to do at the last minute. He’ll learn.

We had to have to plumbers in yesterday to sort out a leak that was coming through the main bedroom ceiling. The Husband had traced the problem before he rang the plumber – whoever had lived in the house before us had been an absolutely terrible DIYer and this was one of a number of botched jobs we have discovered over the years. I had to keep away from our plumber because she is young and has a couple of school-age kids and, of course, I am still infectious. For the same reason I am not going up to London tomorrow with the Husband and the Stepson when they visit a couple of exhibitions at Tate Britain and the go on to the Proms. I am sorry to be missing the exhibitions but not really to miss the Prom – Berg isn’t really my thing.

Nimrod has been limping around the house for several days. I kept an eye on him in the hope that it would clear up of his own accord but when he was still being a brave little soldier (Ha!) on Monday I gave up and took him to the Vets. It turns out that he has a puncture wound in one of the pads of his left front foot and that it has become infected. So I have to give him antibiotics twice a day for the next five days. Fortunately he is good about taking pills, or perhaps it is that after a lifetime of keeping cats I have developed some experience of putting pills down their throats.

We are not sure how he got the puncture wound but I have a pretty good idea. We have an old climbing rose on a wall in the back garden which has a trunk that is hard and wood like. Nim will keep on trying to climb up it or to sharpen his claws on it despite the many ferocious thorns. Nimrod may be a Mighty Hunter but he is hardly the sharpest of moggies.

Shingles isn't much fun. Apart from its very obvious presence on the face and the pain it also makes you feel very washed out. A deadheading session in the backgarden today was enough to make me very puffed. But then we have a lot of white Cosmos which look wonderful but need deadheading virtually daily and I haven't done any since last week. Oh well, what I've done today should keep them going for a bit. Now I am going to rest.

Thought of the Week

If you deliberately plan to be less than you are capable of being, then I warn you that you will be deeply unhappy for the rest of your life.

Abraham Maslow

From Meditation Tip of the Day

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

At times I know how they feel

From The Idler:-

Researchers in Gruenau, Austria have provided a flock of lazy birds with a car and driver because they are incapable of migrating on their own.

Ornithologists from the Konrad Lorenz research centre have spent more than two years breeding the Northern Bald Ibis species.

The birds were escorted to their winter quarters in the Maremma region in northern Italy by car because they simply couldn’t be bothered to make the 500 mile trip. If they’d flown, the birds (which are about 80 centimetres tall with slimy black feathers) would have taken about a fortnight to complete the journey.

Dr Kurt Kotrschal from the Zoology Department at Vienna University said: ‘The birds are used to the all-inclusive treatment at the research centre. So we had to pack the lazy birds into the car and drive them.’

The species had once been widespread in Austria but was entirely wiped out in the Middle Ages. Experts claimed that the idle things had lost their natural sense of orientation and are now being retrained in hang gliders.

Monday, August 08, 2005

And three times is... Unlucky?

I am not a superstitious person, never have been. Let’s face it when you are owned by a big black cat (Nimrod the Mighty Hunter) who is constantly wending his way around your ankles it is difficult to be superstitious about such creatures. Horrorscopes is another thing I don’t believe in. I was born on the cusp – literally – between Aquarius and Pisces and it all depends on what time I was born which I belong to. However my mother can’t remember what time of the day I was born… and neither horoscope ever seems to match up to me.

Many people have another superstition, that if something (usually bad) happens twice it will happen a third time. This is yet another superstition I usually don’t espouse to either. However…

The Husband developed shingles about three months ago and suffered (quite loudly) for the two months that it was a real problem for him.

Buffy, a friend of mine, is looking after her 88 year old mother who has developed shingles and is really uncomfortable with it at the moment.

Do you see where I am going with this…

I went to the doctors this morning to find out why (a) I feel as if I have been kicked in the face; and (b) why I have a large and very obvious group of swellings, blisters, etc on the left side of my mouth. Yes, I have shingles too.

The blisters, etc, first showed their ugly heads a couple of weeks ago but were not too bad. However, on Friday I took a day trip from the town in Essex, where I live, to the outskirts of Cardiff, to visit my mother in the nursing home where she lives. An exhausting trip and visit. By Saturday I felt horrible and the problems with my face were about four times as bad as before. Hence the visit to the Doctor today.

I am trying to avoid painkillers if I can. I do feel a bit drained, I must admit, and after spending the rest of the morning making a huge bowl of Scotch Broth have spent the afternoon listening to Classic FM for a bit of relaxation.

This too shall pass.

Friday, August 05, 2005


Off to Wales in a minute to visit my mother. Just some thoughts before I set out....

A man walked into the ladies department of a department store and shyly walked up to the woman behind the counter and said, "I'd like to buy a bra for my wife."
"What type of bra?" asked the clerk.
"Type?" inquires the man, "There's more than one type?
"Look around," said the saleslady, as she showed a sea of bras in every shape, size, color and material imaginable.
"Actually, even with all of this variety, there are really only four types of bras to choose from."

Relieved, the man asked about the types. The saleslady replied: "There are the Catholic, the Salvation Army, the Presbyterian, and the Baptist types. Which one would you prefer?"

Now totally befuddled, the man asked about the differences between them. The Saleslady responded, "It is all really quite simple...
The Catholic type supports the masses.
The Salvation Army type lifts the fallen,
The Presbyterian type keeps them staunch and upright, and
The Baptist makes mountains out of mole hills.

Have you ever wondered why A, B, C, D, DD, E, F, G, and H are the letters used to define bra sizes? If you have wondered why, but couldn't figure out what the letters stood for, it is about time you became informed!

(A} Almost Boobs...
{B} Barely there.
{C} Can't Complain!
{D} Dang!
{DD} Double dang!
{E} Enormous!
{F} Fake.
{G} Get a Reduction.
{H} Help me, I've fallen and I can't get up !

They forgot the German bra....Holtzemfromfloppen!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Slow Cooked Lamb Casserole

1 kg/2lb beef/ Lamb cut into 0.5cm/1inch pieces
Seasoned flour for dusting
2 tbsp vegetable oil or beef dripping
175g/6oz smoked bacon, diced
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 sprigs thyme
2 tbsp redcurrant jelly
275ml/10fl oz of red wine
500ml/1 pint beef stock
150ml/5fl oz port
1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
12 stoned prunes
100g/2oz dried cranberries
115g/4oz button mushrooms
2 bay leaves
1 orange, zest only
1 tbsp tomato purée
2 tbsp rough chopped parsley
freshly black ground pepper

1. Toss the lamb in the seasoned flour. Heat the oil in an ovenproof casserole dish and brown the lamb all over.
2. Add the bacon, celery, onion, garlic and thyme, the redcurrant jelly, red wine, beef stock, port and Worcestershire sauce along with the dried cranberries, button mushrooms, bay leaves, orange zest and tomato purée.
3. Bring slowly to simmering point then cover and cook in the oven at 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 2 ½ hours or until the lamb is tender.
4. Remove the casserole from the oven and allow to rest for five minutes. Skim off any fat that has risen to the surface.
5. Serve with mashed potato.


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Su Doku

Cop Car was asking what is Su Doku. Well, it's an absolute craze over here and totally addictive. Su Doku puzzles can be found in many of the UK daily newspapers and from the many books of compilations of puzzles currently being published, some of which are now in the UK's bestseller list for books.

Su Doku is a challenge for logic and common sense. There is a grid, 9 squares across and 9 squares down and the challenge is to fill each square with a number between 1 and 9 so that every number appears once in each line whether across or down. Some of the numbers are given and you have to deduce the rest through reasoning and deductuion. It is simple to learn, requires no mathematical calculations and provides a surprisingly wide number of logic situations. It appeals to all ages and, as I have already said, is totally addictive.

Su Doku originated in an American puzzle book in the 1980s and was originally called Number Place. Somehow it migrated to Japan and slightly adapted when it was called "Suuji wa dokushin ni kagiru" and became the most popular number puzzle in Japan.

One thing I have read about Su Doku in a crafting magazine thought that Su Doku had probably originated from a quilting block. I understand that the 9 patch grid is well known in quilting circles.

For access to Su Doku (and a source for puzzles on a weekly basis) try virtually every UK newspaper. I read the Times and so I suggest you try here which also gives hints and tips on how to solve the puzzles. But, as I have already said, once you start the puzzles you get totally addicted. I know I am, as is the Stepson.