Sunday, 24 May 2015

Parsnips And Peas In The Pulpit At Pentecost?

I have only just heard the story of The Vegetable Sermon – a tradition stretching back nearly three centuries. It all goes back to a gardener called Thomas Fairchild, from Hoxton, East London. He is credited with creating the first hybrid - in 1717 he took the pollen from a Carnation and brushed it onto a Sweet William in his nursery. The resulting flower [which did not produce seeds] became known as Fairchild’s Mule.



But Thomas was a God-fearing man, and concerned that it might appear that he was seeking to out-do the Creator by making his own flowers.

So when he died in 1729, it was his wish to be buried in the Poor’s Ground of St Leonard’s Church in the Hackney Rd and he bequeathed twenty-five pounds to the church for the endowment of an annual Whitsun sermon.

The sermon was to be on either the wonderful works of God or the certainty of the creation. This annual event became known as the “Vegetable Sermon” and continued in Shoreditch until 1981 when, under the auspices of the Worshipful Society of Gardeners, it transferred to St Giles, Cripplegate.

This year the tradition is to be revived [admittedly 3 days after Pentecost – better late than never, I suppose] This is billed as a lecture rather than a sermon. I wonder what Dr Sheldrake will say


Some suggestions for hymns at a vegetable service…

Let there be peas on earth

We will salsify

Sprout for joy and sing

Beauty for broccoli

Lettuce draw near

These are the days of the Endive

Enough of this frivolity – it is Pentecost Sunday and that is far more exciting than a sermon about vegetables! Have a glorious day


Saturday, 23 May 2015

Whitsun Winner

Following last Saturday’s post, I am happy to announce that the winner of the giveaway is…



So please can you email me your address Carol? I will pop the book in the post to you next week.

Thankyou, Morgan, for the loan of the Saving Mr Banks DVD – a review will follow shortly!

I have since borrowed another Harriet Evans from the library [Going Home]  but really didn’t enjoy that one quite so much!

Currently I’m ploughing through a Jo Nesbo – but I think I am going off these Scandiwegian crime novels. Altogether too much blood.

Jockeying For Position

P1010398My daughter Liz rides horses, my niece Lucy rides horses …I just curl up on the sofa with a Dick [or Felix] Francis novel. I lived in Leicester nearly twenty years, but never once went to the racecourse. But this week I got to meet a real life jockey in the foyer of the supermarket, and we had a great chat together.

This is Bob Bracken, retired amateur jockey, and caretaker at one of the Ferndown Schools. It is ten years since he did any serious horse racing. He has climbed into his silks again because on June 19th [the day before The Wedding] he will be off to York Racecourse to do a sponsored ride for Macmillan Nurses.

bob bracken waitrose

If you read the Waitrose Weekend magazine, you may have seen this picture of Bob in the March edition. Below is a picture of him ‘in action’

He says he is really pleased to have been selected as one of a dozen riders to ride at this prestigious race, for such a good cause. The youngest rider is in her teens, and there is well over 30 years in age between her and Bob!

I wished him all the best, and said I hoped he didn’t fall off, and that he not only did well in the race but that he was able to raise a good amount for such a worthy cause. I promised to give him a plug on the blog too. Ferndown First School are having a fundraiser next Saturday [tabletop sale etc] to boost his sponsorship. Find out more here and here.


Bob told me his wife is an archaeologist. On the way home, I remembered the famous Agatha Christie quote “I married an archaeologist because the older I grow, the more he appreciates me.” I am sure his wife really appreciates him – as do all those who will be blessed by the support he is giving to the Macmillan Nurses.

Go for it Bob – ride like the wind!

Friday, 22 May 2015

A Seaside Stroll

When Bob collected me from Christchurch Station on Tuesday evening, I asked how he had spent his day off without me. Clearly he had enjoyed himself [intermittent hailstorms not withstanding] He made a  trip to the cinema in the afternoon to see Charlize Theron etc in Mad Max'; Fury Road  [which is not my sort of film]


In the morning he had a motorbike ride to Christchurch – and found a lovely place to walk and relax. He suggested we went and had a look together at Steamer Point. At the top of the cliffs, a Nature Reserve, and below, Highcliffe Beach.

Highcliffe is at the opposite corner of Christchurch from Ferndown


We walked along the cliff top through the trees, and it was beautiful and peaceful – then down to the beach, where we walked along past the beach huts to the Café [by 6.30 it was closed- but Bob had enjoyed coffee and a Danish pastry there in the morning] Look Kezzie – rows of pretty beach huts to rival those of Essex and Norfolk! To our left we could look across to the sea to the Isle of Wight, on our right, the Isle of Purbeck [which isn’t truly an island]

steamer point may 15

I shall definitely come back here again sometime – to explore the Nature Reserve a little more, to test the quality of the Café, and to stroll ‘hand in hand along the Strand’ with my beloved!

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Icing For Joy

Jill came round in answer to my prayers this week, and taught me how to ice a wedding cake! She is so gifted, and so patient – and between us we got the cake sorted. No pictures yet, other than these two – the first is Bob trimming the cake to the right size [a couple of weeks ago, before the marzipan stage], the second is Jill demonstrating how to ‘lift the icing and lay it like a blanket on a bed’ Yes the icing is green – no you can’t see the finished cake yet!


Not being very experienced at this, and fearful of finding myself short [no height jokes please] I’d bought way too much icing. Jill assured me that it was better to have too much. But I was still left with a substantial ball of green icing trimmings when she went home.

P1010410Somewhere in the back of my brain, I remembered Mary Berry on GBBO doing a “Swedish Princess Cake” covered in green icing. And I have “Fika” the IKEA cookbook of traditional Swedish cakes [fika is a time to socialise over coffee, cakes and pastries] so I got the book out and checked. This cookbook has great photographs


This double page spread lists the ingredients for Princess cake – and in case you aren’t sure, helpfully shows you eggs, gelatin leaves, heaps of flour and a smear of cream, plus a pink marzipan rose and green disc. Here’s when I discovered that the green is marzipan, not fondant icing. And you need a pint of cream, 4 leaves of gelatin and 5 eggs. I just wanted to use up a ball of icing in a thrifty way, not go out and buy cream and gelatin. Plus this made a huge, rich cake which would need to be eaten quickly because of the cream.[too fattening] So I reconsidered. I made a regular all-in-one sponge [thankyou Delia] and filled it with a soft buttercream. I used 7” sponge tins – not too big.  I rolled out my fondant and, just like laying the blanket on the bed, I draped it over the sponge. A scrap of marzipan was turned into a rose and two leaves for garnish.P1010408

I shall slice it and freeze half for next weekend. Thank you Jill for your help with the cake – and Bob for the continuing encouragement when I panic, and for supplying the blogpost title [it’s a line from the Chris Tomlin worship song “Shout to the Lord”]

Twiddlin’ My Thumbs!

My blogfriend Carol first introduced me to the concept of Twiddlemuffs – aka Sensory Bands or  Fidget Rings.

nursing times

These warm woolly wonders [the picture above is from The nursing Times] are designed to help people who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s. The explanation is this…

A sensory band is a pocket or glove that has attachments added to it, inside and out, that patients can twiddle and fiddle with. They are used to calm patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s by giving them something to do with their hands or just enjoyed by older patients.


Here is a picture of the utterly fantastic one which Carol posted in 2013, a gift she had made with great love for her Mum [who sadly passed away earlier this year] Carol had put loads of detail and twiddly bits into her creation. [and she kindly sent me one later, to pass on to someone who’d value it]

I have never got round to making any myself, until this week. I picked up the news on another blog that the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals [those lovely people who helped when I hurt my wrist in March, and also the place where my SIL Marion works] were appealing for some for their Integrated Dementia Services Dept. You can buy them from the internet – at around £40 each. Why pay that? Here’s the pattern [rather quirky spellings in places! link here]


It needs double knit [used double] or chunky – and it is a great stash buster. Especially good for using up random balls of loopy or eyelash yarn. Do be sure to sew on beads and buttons with unbreakable yarn. On Sunday evening after church I started one as I watched ‘Home Fires’ then I took it on the train with me up to London on Monday. I knitted in the evening at Steph’s and again on the train back on Tuesday. More knitting on Tuesday evening, and then a bit of time Wednesday sewing on beads and buttons, and doing the seams. I made three in total – it certainly is a quick and easy project.

twiddle muffs

With the first one, I threaded the beads onto nylon thread first and ‘knitted them in’ as I worked – but wasn’t really happy with that, and sewed them on again, more firmly, afterwards. When I got to the third band, I was using up my chunky wool – so the lining is striped and not one colour. The furry ‘eyelash’ and ‘loopy’ yarns certainly provided a variety of texture. I found a row of running stitches round the edges kept the band in good shape. My bands have a plain lining – I’m told that some people prefer to wear the band on one arm, and use the other hand for ‘twiddling and stroking’, but others turn them inside out and have both hands inside, like a Victorian lady’s muff.

The gentleman opposite me in the railway carriage [who looked just like Hugh Bonneville, but sadly it wasn’t him] eventually plucked up the courage to ask what I was making, and was genuinely interested in the project. I suspect he may have been wondering about my state of mind, knitting such bizarre stripes with loops and whorls and furry bits!

By the way – this is Dementia Awareness Week!you may have seen the Alzheimer’s Society Ad on TV

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Wider Still, And Wider

H&Gchocolate…that’s definitely what my hips will be, if I make anything from these Hope and Glory Greenwood cookbooks. I have to say, they are both delightful little confections – fudges, truffles, fairy cakes, cream teas, cakes, cucumber sandwiches, and more.


But I have, for the time being, returned them to the library, without trying any of the morsels mentioned therein. I must lose weight, or the MOB dress purchased in January will not fit in June. But they are lovely books, beautifully written.

Miss Hope writes in a charmingly retro style, top notch and t’riffic! Her recipes all seem to be petite portion sizes. But they sound so delicious I think I would be hard-pressed to stop at just one or two. I may get these out of the library again in July – these are quite definitely “Vicarage Tea Party” recipes.


At the other end of the bookshelf is Alison Walker’s Country Cook’s Kitchen. Food Editor for Country Living mag, AW has put together a guide to ‘traditional’ culinary skills – baking, breadmaking, curing, dairymaking, bottling, potting and preserving. Each chapter begins with sections on ingredients, equipment and techniques – then there are plenty of recipes.

I didn’t realise you could make your own marscapone – at about half the price of shop bought! She also says ‘there is a great deal of inexpensive fun to be had in building your own smoker out of a discarded filing cabinet’ [yeah, I know – I’m married to a Heavy Smoker] The photographs are lovely, the text is well written. The book is beautifully informative, even if you never actually produce anything from it, you feel you have learned a lot just in reading it.

rachel allen home cooking

And finally, good old Rachel Allen. I discovered RA in Ireland 7 years ago when torrential rain on holiday meant we forsook our tent for the dry, warm B&B. We spent the evenings watching her on TV and I loved her down-to-earth style and homely recipes [‘homely’ in a good sense, she isn’t ‘cheffy’] In Austria last year, Hannah told me all about Ballymaloe, and I’ve looked out more RA books since.

This is a great ‘family’ book. Lots of everyday, manageable recipes, which will appeal to adults and children alike. Plenty of basic recipes for accompaniments [such as sweet and savoury sauces] and ideas for using leftovers creatively. The recipes are peppered with good tips and techniques. I am planning to make her toffee sauce, and mocha sauce in the summer, to put on ice cream etc. But not till after the wedding!  I could have done with just a few more photos though – I do like to know what the finished result should look like.

redonion jam

Interestingly, Rachel and Alison have two almost identical recipes – RA has ‘red onion jam’ and AW has ‘red onion marmalade’. But whereas Rachel adds colour with “Crème de cassis or blackcurrant cordial”, Alison opts for “Grenadine or raw beetroot juice” I quite fancy making one of these crimson preserves sometime.

These four library books were all an enjoyable read, and I would give them all ***** They all made my mouth water, and each made me want to try at least one, if not more, of the recipes therein. They were a good read, and well written and attractively laid out.

Salad for tea again tonight…


“I am half sick of salads!” cried the Lady of Shalott

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The Seven Purple Wonders Of The UK

Today is World IBD Day [Inflammatory Bowel Disease] If you know anyone who suffers with this, you will realise what a debilitating condition it is. There is, as yet, no known cure.

ibd purple-infographic

ibd purple towerIf you live near any of the 7 landmarks below, do check them out today – they are going to be turning purple to raise awareness of IBD.

Gateshead Millennium Bridge, Portsmouth Spinnaker Tower, Cardiff City Hall, Blackpool Tower, Aberdeen Mareschal College, Leeds First Direct Arena, Glasgow SSE Hydro

ibd _fundraising-tools-icon_300x300

Monday, 18 May 2015

Juggling Priorities


Despite the fact that I don’t have any paid employment right now, I’m still doing a lot of juggling- home [boxes still to unpack] money [pension issues yet to be sorted] children [especially the one about to get married] work [applying for jobs] health [must find a dentist soon] love [I need to support Bob, who is even busier than I] The poor lady in the picture appears to have dropped ‘church’ sadly!

Today is one of those days when I have to be at too many different appointments. But this afternoon -in between a Dr’s appointment, and catching a train to London for tomorrow’s WWDP committee - I shall be working with some lovely ladies to make more juggling bags for Miriam. She really liked her set two weeks ago– and wants loads more for Kids Club in July. We did some last MondayP1010329

Watch out girls! We’ll be on the blog tomorrow!” said Jenny. [they are getting to know me too well]

On Friday, I prepared some more bags for filling – here’s a quick tutorial. Cut your pieces of fabric 10cm x 20cm.


Fold in half and sew two sides to make a bag. You can do this in a chain of bags to save time, and cut them apart at the end.

More bunting? said Bob




P1010377Once separated, fold the other way and sew ¾ the away across the top of the bag. Here’s my box of 150 bags! Turn them right side out using a chopstick to push out all the corners. Then fill each bag with rice.**

P1010380P1010383You need about 55 grams per bag. I found some little medicine cups in my kitchen which held the right amount, you might have an eggcup which would do. Pour the rice through the gap using a funnel, then turn in the raw edges and oversew firmly.P1010379

Most people make do with a set of 3 bags. Miriam thinks 150 should be sufficient for Kids Club! In a couple of weeks we’ll make the draw-string bags to hold each set and I’ll copy my ‘How to juggle’ sheet, to put in each.[email me if you want one]

Despite the fact that I have been making sets of juggling bags for years, I still haven’t mastered the art of juggling myself.

**I use rice because it is safe, non toxic, biodegradable and cheap.  Do not be tempted to overfill the bags. A certain amount of floppiness makes them easier to catch, and less likely to burst.