Monday, November 26, 2007

Upon due reflection I would have to say that my favourite piece of kitchen equipment is my stockpot. After I retired I started make a lot of soup and realised early on that my largest saucepan wasn't big enough and even the pan from the pressure cooker wasn't really up to the job. So we went shopping for a stockpot and bought the biggest and heaviest domestic one we could find. Even in a Debenhams 20% off sale it was still a lot of money but it was worth it, definitely. I use it frequently and it has the weight and the volume I need, although at times I still wish it was a bit bigger, especially if I've sized up a recipe as I often do. Anyway, here it is, full of scotch broth and sitting on a chopping board made by my father when I first left home. When he retired from work he developed a fascination with woodwork and although this is just a big piece of wood with no carving on it at all it is definitely fit for purpose as a chopping board.


The Beeb has been showing a wonderful series on BBC4 called "The Genius of Photography", described as the first real documentary describing the history of photography from the very beginnings and the way that the taking of photographs has affected the way we look at the world and the way it still affects us. The most recent one, shown last Thursday was about pictures taken of family life, not happy family pics but pictures of family life showing real lives. We saw pictures of people in the act of taking drugs, pictures one photographer took of his alcoholic father living in a high-rise block in a less then salubrius part of outer London. There was also one Japanese photographer who published series of books of pictures from his marriage day, throughout his marriage until his wife's illness, death and the subsequent funeral. Although it might not seem so we've found the series fascinating and many of the pictures really speak to you. Very, very thought provoking.

In this latest programme several of the photographers were takinhg pictures of everything in their lives and I've found it reminded me of something I had planned to do early this year - namely to take pictures of my life and what interests me. And why shouldn't I start to do so.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I seem to be going through a period of lethargy at the moment. I have a list of things to do and no wish to get on with any of them. For example the garden needs work, I have all the materials to do a crochet-a-thon but haven’t started it yet, I’ve put my (unfinished) knitting to one side, there’s a pile of papers and books in the study to sort out, and so on……and I don’t feel like starting any of them. The weather doesn’t help – it’s so damp and chilly that it makes me not want to do anything. And when I do try my chest starts to complain – having asthma that is triggered by damp weather isn’t easy, especially in a wet winter in England. Even working on the computer isn’t easy at the moment.

But just before the cold wet weather (and the wheezing) started I found a wonderful site where it’s possible to spend a lot of time improving my vocabulary and at the same time helping to feed the world’s poor. The Free Rice site is well worth a visit.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A couple of days ago I went to Cardiff to visit my mother. We chat on the phone every other day but I thought that she might welcome a visit now as my brother is on a three week holiday in Chile hunting cacti. Before I went I had been a little worried that she may not recognise me as some of the painkillers she has been put on, since several of her vertibrae crumbled due to osteoporosis, have made her mind wander into another world. Fortunately though they are now trying her on painkiller patches which help with the pain without afecting her mind. So she was with it, recognised me and was able to chat without any problems. It was a good visit.

Going from Chelmsford in Essex to a suburb of Cardiff involves a mile walk to the railway station, a train to Liverpool St station in London, a tube to Paddington station from where I take a train to Cardiff Central followed by a taxi out to the nursing home. I was lucky this time and everything ran like clockwork going there, so it took just over 5 hours. The journey back was almost as good with just the train delayed going back to london from Cardiff Central.

I am, however, not sure how I shall be able to see her over the Christmas period as, apparently, Liverpool St station is going to be closed from before Christmas until 1st January 2008. Some sort of bridge repairs I think. I suppose it's not surprising as that train journey goes through the area where the Olympics will take place in 2012 and I suppose British Rail is making sure the railway infrastructure is sufficient. However, it makes travelling up to London (and for me onto Cardiff) very problematic over Christmas with long bus journeys to get to tube stations.

I suppose I shall have to drive there, not my favourite journey as the A12, the M25 and the M4 are all very busy roads and I dread to think how long it will take. Then there is the fact you have to pay a toll to cross the Severn Bridge to go into Wales, something I bitterly resent. I never feel at home in Wales and would willingly pay any amount to leave there but not to go there. Oh well, I'll sort something out somehow.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Last Friday I posted a piece and a pattern for my Third Red Hat scarf. Well, I finished that scarf the day before my first cataract operation and when that was over I found myself at home with nothing to knit and with every published knitting pattern in such tiny print it was, for me, impossible to read at the time. But I could still remember the pattern of the scarf I had just finished so I bought a ball of green double knitting yarn (again I've last the ball band) and used the same pattern as before. I find the difference,using one colour rather than two,absolutely fascinating.

Monday, November 12, 2007


The Husband made an experiment yesterday. He added a piece of music to his iPod and then played that piece from the iPod and at the same time played the original CD in the DVD player – flicking from one channel to another on the hi-fi to which both the iPod and DVD player were connected. There was absolutely no difference in the sound quality at all that either of us could hear. And when he played the CD on his (very expensive) Naim CD player there was a only a very slight difference: the depth of sound on the Naim was hardly different from when it is played on the DVD player.

Incidentally, yesterday he also played a CD with what I believe to be one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written, so beautiful it tears my heart to bits every time I hear it. This is the Eclogue for piano and string orchestra by Gerald Finzi. It’s a sure sign the family is returning to normal – last week we couldn’t have listened to it as it would have been too sad.

Friday, November 09, 2007

cash advance

Is this good? As someone who left school at 16 and went straight into work I am very aware that I'm not a genius. But I hope I'm not stupid either.

Anyway, I don't want to frighten away anyone by the extent of my erudition. (Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it - grin.)

Free Knitting Pattern: My Third Red Hat Scarf

I am staggered to realise that I finished my second Red hat scarf in May. Almost immediately afterwards I started on my third Red Hat scarf and finished it the day before my first eye operation. What with one thing after another I put it to one side and just stuffed it in a cupboard. I dug it out this morning and took this picture of it.

Because I finished it four months ago I can't find the ball bands and can't remember the actual yarn I used but I do know that both balls were Double Knitting and contained a high portion of wool. The scarf used one 100 gram ball each of Red and Purple. Oh, and I carried the unused colour up the side of the knitting so there weren't loads of ends to work in. Anyway, here is the actual pattern:

Abbreviation to note:
ssk = slip the next 2 stitches one at a time, insert left needle into the front of the slipped stitches and knit them together.

1 100grm ball of DK each in Red (M) and Purple (C)

Using M cast on 49 sts. Follow stitch pattern as follows:

Row 1: (WS) K1, P3, *K11, P4; rep from * to last 15 stitches, K11, P3, K1.
Row 2: K4, * P11, K4; rep from * to end.
Row 3: K1, P1, * P2tog, P11, P2tog tbl; rep from * to last 2 sts, P1, K1.
Row 4: K2, *ssk, K9, K2tog; rep from * to last 2 sts, K2.
Row 5: K1, P1, * P2tog, P7, P2tog tbl; rep from * to last 2 sts, P1, K1.
Row 6: K4, * [YO, K1] five times, YO, K4; rep from * to end.

Using M (Red) and C (Purple) as follows:
2 Rows M (R1 & 2)
2 Rows C (R 3 & 4)
10 Rows M ( 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
And continue……

I hope this is all understandable. If not give me a shout and I'll try to explain a bit more.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Spiced Parsnip Soup

I am never sure about the copyright issues of quoting a recipe here that I have found in a magazine or a book. However, sometimes I find something so good and easy - I don’t believe in making too much fuss when cooking - that I really want to remember the recipe for future occasions and also to let my friends know about how good it is.

Here is a case in point. In the November issue of the Country Kitchen magazine was a wonderful soup recipe. When I made it the Husband said “this is a keeper – you should make it again”. And so I am writing the recipe below and say to everyone – here is a reason to buy Country Kitchen magazine. A good advertisement for the magazine (especially as their website still shows their July issue.)

Oh, I made one small change to the published recipe. I like my soup thicker than the finished article so I added a tin of Butter beans and blended them in too. It all depends on your own particular tastes, of course.

Spiced Parsnip Soup

1 tsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp ground ginger
0.5 tsp ground turmeric
700g parsnips, peeled and chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1.2 litres (2 pints) chicken or vegetable stock

Heat the oil in a deep pan and fry the onion over a gentle heat until it starts to soften. Add the spices and cook for a few minutes before adding the parsnips. Stir well, season with salt and pepper and sweat over a medium heat for 5 minutes.

Pour in stock and the simmer for 15-20 minutes until the parsnip is soft. Blend until smooth. (It was at this stage that I decided to blend into the soup a tin of butter beans to thicken it a little.) Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with a swirl of plain yoghurt, if you wish.

(Like many soup recipes this is best made a little before you plan to serve it and store it in the fridge for a while. I usually make it the day before we plan to eat it. This allows all the flavours in the soup to come out fully.) Delicious.

Monday, November 05, 2007

It is all over now. And it all went well.

On Thursday the Husband and I set off for Cambridge to pick up the Stepson and bring him home, ready for Friday. He had lectures in the afternoon and would not be free until after 6.00 pm and so we went up to Cambridge earlier in the day and had a look around. As it was a typical dull late October day we ended up in the Fitzwilliam Museum and spent a couple of hours looking at some of the pictures until the museum closed. Some of the pictures were wonderful: there was a Canaletto of the Interior Court of the Doge’s Palace that I would have cheerfully have gone to prison for attempting to steal (I didn’t, of course). After the museum closed we walked around the shops until the Stepson was free to meet us. And then, after a meal at a local Pizza Express we set off for home.

Friday was the day of the funeral and so the Husband, the Stepson, Stepdaughter and her boyfriend and I set off for Whitstable in Kent. We went to the Father-in-law’s flat, from where the funeral cortege left for the crematorium which was at Barham, a good 35-40 minutes drive. The grounds of the crematorium were lovely, situated on the top of a hill so you could look down into a valley of English countryside showing wonderful autumnal colours. We met up with lots of other members of the family and went in for the service. It was a nice service, the Mother-in-law had been a practicing Christian and so it was very much along those terms with two good “old fashioned” hymns all of us knew “All people who on earth do dwell” and “Praise my Soul the King of Heaven”. I remember both from my schooldays – it was good to have a chance to sing them again.

After the service we all made our way back to Whitstable. As the Father-in-law lives in a flat too small to hold all the mourners a function room had been booked in a local hotel which also provided a very good buffet meal. The whole family had a good chance to get together and to chat. After it was over the Father-in-law went home and we went with him and spent a few hours with him. In the evening we made our way home again.

The following day we drove the Stepson back to Cambridge, a rather lengthier drive than we were expecting because a crane was being moved through the town and so all the roads were gridlocked. And then the Husband and I returned home and have tried to relax after a trying period.

The past few days have not been easy on anyone and all of us have had memories and feelings with which to come to terms. Now we are returning to a normal life, except for the one person who is no longer there.

And so I am hoping that this blog will now resume to normality.