Thursday, 21 September 2017

Things Hot And Not-So-Hot

I saw this advert on the tube on Tuesday evening, for Bach's Rescue Remedy. Here is an enlarged version of a similar one 

 The thing is, I am a very fast reader. If I follow this advice, I'd be panting away in a most indecorous fashion, not 'calming down' at all. Hot Pants are out of fashion.
I saw lots of other amusing signs on my travels round the metropolis. I pass this sign on my route to and from the station. 
It is for a small establishment offering beauty treatments. He may feel sexy - but I am not sure he looks it! Not 'hot' at all.

My stay with Rosie and Co has been fun. She is walking and talking very well. "No!" being a favourite word. Liz asked for three Where's Wally hats for a fancy dress event with her NCT friends. 
I used this simple pattern chart to make two adult and one toddler-sized warm woolly Wally hats. But I only did a small amount of ribbing, the main part is in stocking stitch. Knitted in DK on 5cm needles, they took less than 3 evenings to make.   It's all stash busting stuff, which is why the stripes are different widths. The hats will probably go to a CS after the party. I am back to sorting out the green Christmas Tree Squares now... 
And I came home with the world's biggest jar of Maille Dijon Originale, which I think Liz found in a Poundshop! This certainly cuts the mustard!


Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Still Roadworthy

I have written about Hobbies of Dereham before, and our late friend Ivan Stroulger who kept this wonderful company. One toy Dad built for the girls in 1986 was the Landrover and Caravan set. The roofs came off both pieces, so toys could be put inside.
We had a lot of fun with these, but over the years, they got rather battered and the caravan got lost somewhere along the way. 
Bob decided to refurbish the Landrover for Rosie.
He began by cleaning it up, and making a new roof. The chassis was stripped down, wheels removed - and everything given a new coat of paint, this time in green.

Finally he labelled the base
Made by S.W. Hall 1986
Remade by R.H. Almond 2017

I think my Dad would be so pleased - we're hoping Rosie gets lots of enjoyment with the Landrover too!

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Happy Silver Anniversary my brother Adrian, and his wife Marion - two great people whom I love very much!
Here they are in Southampton exactly two years ago, looking surprisingly serious.
I have been trying, unsuccessfully, to locate a picture of their wedding day - in Dereham Baptist Church, on 19th September 1992 [Liz and Steph were bridesmaids, cousin Julian was pageboy]
Back in 1992, we weren't using digital cameras and 
saving everything to the PC.
Here is a serious looking couple from 1922 - I really think we need a caption competition for this one!

Monday, 18 September 2017

Birds in Flocks, Words About Locks

There are lots of birthdays and anniversaries coming up in the next few weeks. I have been making some cards in readiness. Here are just some of them...

I prefer to keep my cards fairly simple, and not over embellished. Too much stuck on and they become too thick for a regular stamp.
I usually write a simple message inside - maybe a bible text, or apposite book quote.  On the subject of quotes, my friend [also called Angela] has been telling me about a family wedding where she was asked to read during the ceremony.
I hadn't come across this piece before. It is from The Bridge across Forever by Richard Bach. He wrote the best-selling Jonathan Livingstone Seagull in 1970 - and many students had it on their bookshelf at Uni [myself included] TBAF came out in 1984 - but obviously passed me by back then. It seems that a new edition of JLS came out in 2014, with extra sections, and this has led to renewed interest in this author. 
Here's the passage Angela read. Have you ever come across any of Richard Bach's work - or heard it read at a wedding ?

Sunday, 17 September 2017


My new job is exciting and rewarding, but also challenging and incredibly demanding. The children thrill me when they grasp a new concept, amuse me with their anecdotes- and often sadden me when they share their feelings about their lives. 
My body-clock is still struggling with being awake and alert by 6.30am and out of the house inside 45 minutes, with a 10 mile commute on very busy roads, a long working day, and back home in the rush hour, getting in around 6pm. Fortunately it is only two days a week -but I am not as young as I used to be. Thursday and Friday nights I am utterly drained! Bob has been so supportive, and has the evening meal underway when I get home.  
We try to have a slower start on Saturdays, but often there are things to prepare for church, and usually a few domestic chores. I feel more relaxed if I know that by Saturday night I am prepared for Monday and the week ahead. Even though Sunday has its busy moments, with two church services, I still like to make sure there is time and space for peace and relaxation. As a child, my parents had a 'no schoolwork on a Sunday' rule - and I have endeavoured to keep to that all my life, even when doing 5 days a week in the classroom.
In "The Songlines", Bruce Chatwin, the travel writer, tells of “a white explorer in Africa, who, anxious to press ahead with his journey, paid his porters for a series of forced marches. But they, almost within reach of their destination, set down their bundles and refused to budge. No amount of extra payment would convince them otherwise. They said they had to wait for their souls to catch up."
Whether or not you are a person of faith, whether or not you attend church - I still believe that a Sabbath, a rest day, is essential to the well-being of every person on the planet. Sunday may not be the day for you [Bob usually takes most of his Sabbath rest on a Tuesday] but I hope that you are able to find time and space each week to enable your body to rest, and your soul to catch up.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Appeeling Ideas From Sicily

Sicily is very 'on trend' right now - Inspector Montelbano has been back on TV on a Saturday night [sadly it was a very brief series, only 4 episodes] and no end of newspapers and magazines have featured arancini recipes lately.
It is almost a year ago that Bob and I had our wonderful holiday on this beautiful island- and we have often talked since about perhaps making another visit one day.

Our San Pellegrino drinks on Tuesday were flavoured with Sicilian oranges. Sicily produces hundreds of thousands of tonnes of citrus fruits every year - lemons, oranges, blood oranges... There are groves of fruit trees nestling at the base of Mount Etna - and their crops go around the world, as fruits, but mostly the fruit is juiced before it leaves the island.
But that juicing leaves huge amounts of waste - tonnes and tonnes of peel and pith.
For years, local farmers have made use of some of it as animal feed or fertiliser - but most of the waste, the rind and seeds known as 'pastazzo' used to be just discarded. I was thrilled to discover that in recent years, enterprising people have come up with some brilliant - and very diverse -ideas for using this peel. 
For instance "Orange Fiber" is a company which transforms the cellulose from the peel into a beautiful silky fibre. Salvatore Ferragamo, the fashion house has used the fabric to make high end scarves and other garments
The Coca Cola Corporation has financed a plant which converts pastazzo into biogas- a useful fuel which provides energy all across the island.
Some scientists at the University of Catania have developed a way of turning the pastazzo into flour. It is fat-free and healthy, and the local bakers in Catania have been very pleased at the results obtained when used in cooking and breadmaking. It is also very cheap to produce.
I think it is wonderfully inventive, and very eco-friendly, that all these products are being created from what would otherwise be waste. 
These sunny Sicilian fruits give fuel, flour, and fashion - as well as all that delicious juice!
Learning all this makes me feel I really do want to go back to the island again...

Friday, 15 September 2017

Sowing Seeds Of Kindness

One of the delights of visiting the John Rylands Library last month was being able to look at the digitised version of "A Forme of Cury" - the 14th century cookbook, from the kitchens of King Richard II. Caraway is one spice which crops up frequently. Called seeds, actually they're split and dried fruit. 
They are brown, long, narrow, slightly curved, ridged, and pointed at both ends. They are aromatic and have a distinctive bitter, sharp, nutty taste, with warm, sweet undertones.
Caraway is associated with fidelity and was often used in love potions. And it was believed that possessions couldn't be lost, stolen or mislaid if they contained a few seeds, and country folk fed caraway to their geese to ensure they always returned. It was a tradition in East Anglia to eat cakes or biscuits made with caraway seeds to mark the end of the wheat-sowing season. 
My Mum never had a vast collection of herbs and spices - but she always had a little jar of caraway seeds in the pantry for making the occasional Seed Cake. "Because my Mum did too" she once told me. I wonder how many generations of Essex girls in our family said the same thing?
At the weekend, I decided I needed to make a cake. The last two weeks had been really intense [stolen purse, cards to replace, stained carpet, busy at school and church, a drowned phone and then a temporarily lost phone] ...a session in the kitchen, with the radio making a special weekend treat seemed a great idea. I haven't made a Seed Cake for years.
Seed cake was first mentioned in 1570 by Thomas Tusser in an new edition of A Hundreth Good Pointes of Husbandrie
"Wife, some time this weeke if that all thing go cleare,
an ende of wheat sowing we make for this yeare.
Remember you therefore, though I do it not,
the Seede Cake, the Pasties, and Furmentie pot."
Since then, authors throughout history have mentioned seed's a few
Bronte; Jane Eyre [1847] - Taking from a parcel wrapped in paper, she disclosed presently to our eyes a good-sized seed-cake. "I meant to give each of you some of this to take with you," said she, "but as there is so little toast, you must have it now," and she proceeded to cut slices with a generous hand.
Dickens; David Copperfield [1850] - I cut and handed the sweet seed-cake—the little sisters had a bird-like fondness for picking up seeds and pecking at sugar; Miss Lavinia looked on with benignant patronage
Tolkien; The Hobbit [1937] - "But I don't mind some cake - seed-cake if you have any." "Lots!" Bilbo found himself answering, to his own surprise; and he found himself scuttling off… to the pantry to fetch two beautiful round seed-cakes which he had baked that afternoon for his after-supper morsel.
Christie; At Bertram’s Hotel [1965] - "We endeavour to give people anything they ask for." "Including seed cake and muffins – yes, I see. To each according to his need – I see... Quite Marxian."

I checked out my cookbooks for a seed cake recipe - HFW's "Love your Leftovers" had a slightly different take on Delia's more traditional version. Hugh says "Based on a traditional seed cake, this is quick to make and is a sweet way to use up leftover roots, especially beetroot, which gives it a cheery colour"
  • 100g cooked beetroot [or *carrots or parsnips - boiled, roasted or mashed]
  • 2–4 tbsp milk**
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 11⁄2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 150g butter, softened, plus extra to grease the tin
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten 150g self raising flour, sifted
  • 2 tbsp pearl or demerara sugar, to finish 
1 Preheat the oven to 160°C/Fan 140°. Lightly grease a 1.5-litre loaf tin and line with baking parchment, then butter the parchment.
2 In a bowl, mash the beetroot with some of the milk until smooth. [I used *carrots, and **replaced 1tbsp of the milk with orange juice.] Mix in the ground almonds and caraway seeds.
3 Using a hand-held  mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition.
4 Gently fold in the flour, followed by the beetroot mixture, until just combined.
5 Spoon the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and gently smooth the surface. Sprinkle the
 sugar over the top and bake for 55–60 mins, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
6 Leave in the tin for 10 mins, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. This cake keeps well; if anything, it’s better after a couple of days stored in an airtight tin.
Hugh's Beetroot Cake is very pink. I like the little flecks of orange carrot and black seeds in my version. I don't have any pearl sugar- but used just one tbsp demerara.
The flavour was lovely - and yes, it did improve with keeping