Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Through the Generations...

 I have been thinking a little bit about family heirlooms and what is passed down through the generations. As you will see,  I'm not just thinking about things, but talents and characteristics...  Recently I came across the company  Patience Brewster, an American company which is family run, taking advantage of talents within the generations. If you're not familiar with the name, Patience Brewster specialises in handmade figurines, whimsical ornaments, and stationery. There are some lovely things on the site, designed by the very talented mum, with the business run by the children.

I love the penguin!  Some of the designs are too fairy-twee and whimsical for my tastes, but I do really like the stationery in particular.

 So while thinking about the heirlooms and antiques and family treasures, I came to the conclusion that actually, there's not a great deal in the way of "things" that has been passed through our family. Mum has certain tea services that were her mum's, and her grandmother's before that.

One a little like this:

and another Minton one,  like this...

There is the oak table that Mum said I could have, but I've never quite worked out how to get it from Liverpool to St Just, but hopefully, one day, I'll get it out here.
But there aren't that many "things" that have been passed through the generations.

So what else has been passed down from mother to daughter...?

Artistic flair, perhaps? Mum used to do the most beautiful calligraphy - I once found a book that she had designed using a poem by James Elroy Flecker as inspiration. Full of the most amazing callgraphy and art work. It inspired me to take up calligraphy too, and maybe that creative spark has been passed down to me...I certainly love creating things, from zentangle inspired art, to cards, to calligraphy. I don't think I'm as talented as Mum, but it's certainly something I enjoy doing.

I'm not sure Nana was particularly artistic, but my Nana knitted - oh, boy, did she knit!? And crochet. But knitting was definitely her forte - she always knitted us school cardigans and jumpers, as well as other garments. I was often requesting different pullovers, and  I particularly remember a brown-and-yellow striped polo neck, something like this one:
and another in pale blue/navy blue stripes. Maybe that's where my love of pullovers comes from! And I still have the granny stripe blanket that she crocheted for me when I went off to college 33 years ago.
This isn't it...but it could be:

Mind you, looking at the wobbliness of the blankets that I knit for Spanish Stray Cats, I'm not totally sure the knitting gene has been passed on to me! Here is Darcy modelling my blankets:

The only pullover I ever knitted for myself was a fairly comprehensive disaster, ending up so huge, due to who knows what failure on my part to check tension, or something technical like that, that I had to sew about a third of it into the seams!

 I suppose the thing that is the most precious that certainly ties my Nana, my mum and me together is a Christian faith. Nana went to County Road Methodist Church, and brought mum up in the Methodist denomination. Me, my brother and sister would be dropped off at Nana's on Sunday, and we'd be taken along to Sunday School at County Road. I can remember singing "Hear the Pennies Dropping" and "Wide, wide as the Ocean..." and it is from those seeds that my Christian faith grew.

Mum went to Old Roan Methodist Church, and when Nana moved to live with us, that's where we went too. We used to take part in the Scripture Exams every year - I can't really remember what these consisted of, but this certificate looks familiar
(Not mine, taken from this site)

Gradually, through the Gideons, through Christian Union, through the support of the church and my parents, I became a Christian, a faith which I've been able to share with Mum, and which has sustained us both through some difficult times. Although I haven't stayed "true" to my Methodist roots, and have tasted most denominations, from Baptist, through free church, to Anglican and now worshipping at an Episcopalian supported church, I still feel a nugget of Methodism when we sing a particularly erousing Weslyan hymn. "That's from my roots", I think to myself, and say a small prayer of thanksgiving for all those who played a part in my coming to Christ.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Life pootles on...

Hello dear Peeps!

Life continues to pootle by - how is it that we're almost 1/3 through the year already?! - while we don't seem to do anything particularly noteworthy. Still, isn't that part of the pleasure of life: enjoying what you do, even if it's nothing special?

I have been going through odd phases where I get worried and upset about minor things - often things that one can do nothing much about. I find myself getting oddly down. While I'm not a great optimist, I am usually a happy-kind-of-bod, but there have been days when my stomach has been in knots and I've not really known why. I assume this is somehow connected to my "time of life" but it isn't terribly pleasant. 

Yesterday was a good day though. Mr FD was on a cycling tour with the Cycle Club, with a planned stop for lunch in a place called Lavoine, about 30 km from here. Some of the non-cyclists were meeting up for a walk beforehand, so I duly met with two other ladies and we drove to the village where we parked up and strolled for 30 minutes in one direction, turned round and strolled back. They chattered away while I tried to follow their rapid French. It wasn't great weather - a damp, grey drizzle - but still nice to get out.

The cyclists dribbed and drabbed to the restaurant, while I chatted with Sylvie, a friend of ours, who understands my need for a slower conversation! When they had all arrived we were served, first with a kir and snacks, and then with a huge plate of salad, with toasted cheese, ham and hard-boiled egg. This was followed by turkey in mushroom sauce, spaghetti and grilled tomatoes, then a good cheese board, and then tarte tatin with ice cream and crème anglaise. The wine flowed throughout, coffee and eau-de-vie was offered - all for the princely sum of 13€ (£9.50!) 

Of course, if you'd cycled 80 km with another 20 or so to go then it's all good fuel. A leisurely stroll doesn't use up quite so many calories though!! We decided to go for another walk at the nearby Ski Station before we left for home

We only did 2.2 km more but it made us feel a bit less guilty!

Then when I got home, Mr FD had already arrived home after the ride down, and we had been invited to Gilles' house for apèros (Sylvie is Gilles' girlfriend) so we went there to drink our way through a bottle of fizzies. I didn't feel like eating much so I had a cheese sandwich for supper. Mr FD made himself a throw-it-all-in omelette with a couple of rolls. He had used up more energy than me though!

Planned meals for this week:
TODAY: Pork mince ragu with soufflés and green beans
(we're having the Nature ones, not the brochet (pike) flavoured ones!)

MONDAY: Beef, chilli, vegetable & noodle stir fry - planned for last week, but not eaten. I have Straight to Wok chilli noodles that require eating.

TUESDAY: Cod with chorizo crust (a Hairy Dieters recipe) plus vegetables. Mr Fd might have some potatoes with his. But he might not.

WEDNESDAY: Aubergine Bake - but I'll be using some of the ragu sauce from Sunday, instead of chopped tomatoes. I'm guessing we'll be down at Alison's (or up here) drinking apèros as Cathy is arriving this week - huzzah! so this is an easy pop in the oven & forget about it meal.

FRIDAY: Richard is taking us and Cathy out for a meal tonight. We're going to La Murette which is a Belgian restaurant serving delicious Belgian beer and good food too. I will be fasting all day but forgetting about the 500 calorie limit at dinner time!

My work hours are right down at the moment - I've finished my all day Monday lessons, my all-day Tuesday lessons are a bit hit-&-miss at the moment because the people are zipping all over France to various meetings/events, Wednesday is still busy, but Thursday is also thin-on-the-ground with a phone lesson every now and then. With four bank holidays in May (FOUR?!?!) I won't be earning that much. Luckily Mr FD is working very hard and getting paid well, so we won't be in too much difficulty. Also, I had this good news (if it actually happens, that is!) last week which will mean 300€ a month added to the coffers without me doing anything for it. Well, I've already worked for it, but now I will see the results of those labours. Finally.

As always thank you for your lovely comments.
KEZZIE: I'm back!

FRUGAL IN FRANCE - was confused about why I baked carrot cake for my students and why I was coming to the end of my course with them. I explained to her by email that my teaching is not in school (Thank goodness! I did that one year. Once was enough) and that the carrot cake is so we don't have to learn anything in the last lesson!

POMPOM: Here's a lot of owls for you.

I discovered that the French have two words for "owl" - chouette and hibou. I was told that chouettes don't have visible ears, while hiboux do. I don't know if that's true. Any French speakers to verify?

Chouette - no ears to be seen
Hibou - just look at those ears!

Well, I suppose I ought to go and do something productive. I cleaned the fridge today! It is sparkly now.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Recipe and Grovels!

I am so sorry! I am really bad at updating my blog recently. I think I need one of these LOLcats!

 ...because I'm certainly not doing it!

Just to let you into a delicious recipe: 
Serve this tart warm, with a green salad alongside.
serves 6
250 g self-raising flour
125 g butter, cut into small pieces
cold water
1 x 400 g tin duck or goose confit
500 g small whole potatoes, cooked (I used tinned potatoes)
4 eggs
75 ml milk
2 tbsp double cream 
butter for greasing
4 shallots, diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed, peeled and chopped
a bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

1. To make the pastry, put the flour in a bowl, add the butter, and rub together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Using a round-bladed knife in a cutting motion, combine a couple of tablespoons of cold water with the mix until a pastry ball forms.

2. Turn out on a lightly floured surface and quickly knead until the pastry is even and smooth, then wrap and place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes. (Or, do what I did and use bought pastry!!)

3. To make the filling, open the tin of confit and remove the meat (save the fat, in the fridge, for roasting potatoes). Discard the skin and then roughly chop the meat. Slice the potatoes. In a bowl, beat the eggs with the milk and cream.

4. Heat the oven to 220°C/gas 7.

5. Lightly butter a 20-25cm pie dish. Roll out the pastry and use it to line the dish.
Add the confit, shallots, garlic, parsley and seasoning to the pie base, then layer the potatoes over the top. Finally, pour the egg mix over.

6. Cook the pie in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature after 30 minutes if the tart is browning too much on top. 
It really is delicious! Though not necessarily very good for the diet, I fear!!
This week's menus (in brief)
TODAY: Cajun chicken, potato wedges, HM coleslaw & waldorf salad
MONDAY: Duck tart and baked beans
TUESDAY (fasting) Vegetable curry
WEDNESDAY: Chilli beef & vegetable stir fry
THURSDAY: Hairy Dieter Swedish meatballs & rice
FRIDAY (fasting): Zesty pork with salad & a bit of rice

Sorry! I need to go and ice a carrot cake which I made to take into my students for their last lessons tomorrow - it was a very good recipe, actually. Here's the link to what is supposed to be a "healthier" carrot cake

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Easter Greetings, Easter Food and - owls?!

I just loved this LOL cats!!!

Life has been rather busy this last week, with my usual Thursday "off" (to catch up on preparing lessons/ iron/blog/ do a tad of housework etc) taken up with a training course on administering the TOIEC test. It was reasonably interesting, with a few freebies thrown in, plus a chance to catch up with colleagues I don't see very often. We also went out for a curry at lunch time. Well...I say a curry. It was chicken in a vaguely spicy sauce, but there was no sense of "curry" about it. Most of us (English)  tried to hide the snorts of derision when the waiter asked if "it was too spicy" for us?! Still, the garlic naan was nice (if a bit thin) and the onion bhaji was tasty (if a bit odd, being onion-ring bhajis) 
LOLOwls has opened up a whole new seam of irrelevant photos!

Next week I will need to get my head around a new timetable - my lessons in Clermont that take up all Monday are finishing, so Monday will become free. My all day lessons on Tuesday will start up again, so Tuesday will no longer be free to prepare. Wednesday stay the same: out all day in Roanne (but for 2 weeks it's school holidays, so I will only be there in the morning). Thursday will involve a couple of phone lessons, and Friday,  which currently has a free morning, will be taken up with a 3 hour lesson in the morning and then teaching/shopping in Roanne in the afternoon. Of course, if Infolangues give me more phone lessons that may all change again!!

Sorry I haven't blogged my menus much recently. I have still been meal planning, but just not blogging. I think I need to tidy out my big larder cupboard again though - it's so messy I don't know what's in it! It doesn't help that Mr FD isn't very good at keeping to a system, so everything just gets lobbed in. 

TODAY: stuffed peppers and jerk chicken drumsticks. The peppers were for yesterday, but I didn't make them as there wasn't time before I went out. So I have peppers to use, plus other bits-and-bobs to stuff them with. Plus two chicken drumsticks. So I bought more chicken to jerkify and then to freeze.

SUNDAY: Souris d'agneau, with roast potatoes, carrots and leek-and-broccoli cheese.

But I'm afraid my souris d'agneau are ready prepared and just need warming through! 
MONDAY: Duck confit tart - good for the soul if not for the waistline!! Served with green salad. Lots of green salad! We may be attacking the courtyard today so we'll need sustenance!

TUESDAY (fasting) Imam biyaldi, chickpea salad, tomato salad.

WEDNESDAY: Beef casserole from the freezer, baked potatoes and vegetables. OR leftover duck tart. Not sure yet.

THURSDAY: Mushroom fajitas. But with rice. I have made these before and they are lush.

FRIDAY: (fasting) Turkey with pesto and mushrooms - basically turkey escalope, sauce made with pesto and mushrooms. As I'm fasting, there'll not be too much of the turkey and pesto but a lot of mushrooms! Mr Fd can have pasta with this. I'll just have veggies.

As always, thank you for your comments. It is always lovely to hear from you.

Some of you (SANDRA & CACHE MIRE) commented on the recipe for plum pudding cake - it was a success, although I cut down on the amount of sugar in it, which may have been a mistake. We've been eating it as a cake, but I may make custard and have it warmed as pudding tonight. 

KEZZIE - the sweet potato and spinach dish worked well, but I think it's better as an accompaniement to something (meat?!) The tomato sauce is necessary too. I had it just with extra veggies on Tuesday, but preferred it with the chicken casserole on Wednesday. 

FRUGAL IN FRANCE - I find 5:2 reasonably easy, now I'm in the swing of things. It's not great, fasting, but it's bearable. As I remind myself, many people survive on less than my fasting day every day of their lives!

I had several comments about my boots - oh they are so comfortable! And I can dance in them!! 

POMPOM - Are the owls to your taste or do you prefer the cats?!

Here is an Easter Bunny Cat for you all
Wishing all my dear readers a Happy and Blessed Easter
If you want to read what I thought of 40 Acts, here's a link to The Teapot (if you need them, there are certainly LOLcats there!)

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Recipe, chat, food and cats. A bit of everything!

I had a very busy weekend - on Saturday I was down in Clermont Ferrand making palm crosses, and then helping tidy and organise the Church offices. I then went to see "Selma" and finally sang at an evening of prayer for Africa. Due to weird timings my food consumption was not very healthy, by a long chalk - breakfast was fine (fruit juice, toast-and-cheese, yoghurt and dried fruit-and-nuts), lunch was a chicken/salad sandwich and a yoghurt/fruit bar (200 calories in the bar alone!) eaten hurriedly before the film, and then dinner was a cheese panini and chips, scoffed in a small park near the church (while being watched by slavering dogs!)

Sunday was a late get-up (clocks going forward) a bit of domestic activity, and then writing letters for 40Acts Day 31. I then became so involved in writing more Ninja notes (as I'd delivered all my spares around Clermont) that I found that I didn't have time to blog. I'm way behind writing up my 40 Acts reactions over at The Teapot.

Yesterday was all day work, and today I've got planning to do, cat litter trays to change, kitchen floors to wash, chicken casseroles to make, and a cake to make to use up some stewed plums that I took out of the freezer to fit something else in.

This one, copied from another blog, sounds as though it might be the ticket, especially as a commenter noted that she'd used stewed plums with no problems. 

A pudding cake of honey, cinnamon, and plums 
adapted from Ripe by Nigel Slater
  • 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 slightly heaping teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup (220g) golden syrup
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup (125g) butter
  • 1/2 cup (125g) light brown sugar, packed
  • 12 ounces (350g) plums
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup (240ml) whole milk
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9-inch square cake pan with parchment paper.
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon into a bowl.
Warm the golden syrup, honey, and butter in a pan until the butter melts. Stir in the brown sugar. Halve the plums, or cut them into quarters if they are large, and remove the pits.
Break the eggs into a bowl, pour in the milk, and whisk to combine. Pour the golden syrup mixture into the flour and mix with a spoon. Pour in the eggs and milk and continue stirring until you have a loose batter without any traces of flour.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, scatter the plums in the pan, and bake for 35 minutes. Place a piece of foil loosely over the top of the pan and leave to cook for 15 minutes longer. Switch off the oven, but leave the cake in for a further 15 minutes, then remove and leave to cool.

Baking this on a Fast Day might not be the greatest idea yet, as I may be forced to try it! However the oven will be on for the casserole and for today's dinner (sweet potato and spinach bake with a tomato sauce - and not as much cheese as the recipe suggests!) so I should make the most of the heat! 

Right! I need to get back to my planning now! Take care my Lovelies!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Yes, I'm still alive!

Sorry, sorry, sorry dear Peeps! I had all good intentions of blogging on Tuesday, but I had a preaching appointment (for this Sunday) sprung upon me, so I wanted to get that under my belt. It's a good job I did, as I found it a bit of a struggle, to be honest! I finally found an old sermon - last preached in 2001 - that gave me a springboard for the rest of it! I'll post the sermon on The Teapot tomorrow, if you're interested (it may be my Pause In Lent contribution!) but I thought Mags and her Rend afficianados might like to know that I'm hoping to play one of their songs during the service...so maybe we'll get some more fans!

"Create in me a clean, clean heart"

Several of this week's meals were focussed around ham, as we had the ham last Sunday. It really was delicious, and I'm thinking I may go back to Ikea to buy one more before stocks run out - they were Christmas hams,already boiled, just needing a 30-40 minute roast to be truly scrummy. They had a use by date of May 2015, so they will need getting rid of shortly! 

This week may be focussed around a joint of pork that I'm cooking tomorrow. I'm hoping on two meals (for two) plus small leftovers to supplement aanother meal. It rather depends on how much the joint shrinks during cooking!

TODAY: Scouse, leftover from last month's Pot Luck Supper. I may (if I can be bothered!) make pickled red cabbage. Otherwise I may just make braised red cabbage to go with it.

SUNDAY: Roti de porc aux pommes This wasn't the recipe I was planning...but it might be now!!

with red cabbage and some carrots.

MONDAY: Asparagus risotto (from a packet mix!) with cold pork.

TUESDAY:Fasting: Red bean and mushroom burgers, with lots of salad, and maybe some pork.

WEDNESDAY: Rougail de saucisses - which is a slightly curried tomato-and-sausage stew. I'll prep this on Tuesday and Mr FD can just heat it up in the evening. I'll be out dancing.

We learned two new dances (can't remember their names!) in the 2nd (Improvers) group last week - I was very pleased that I picked them up quite well. There are two other dances I can't get my head round though - Celtic Kittens (now renamed Septic Kittens as I really hate it for its nifty footwork that I can't do!) and "Just Add Moonlight"...That one is less tricky but I need to put in some work on it this afternoon.

I bought these boots last week which do look a bit clunky for dancing in, but actually they're great! I know they're not cowboy boots, but with my dodgy feet I can't do pointy cowboy type boots. These are so comfy and slightly slippy, so I felt great dancing in them on Wednesday. Mine are in silver rather than bronze.

THURSDAY: Chorizo, potato and Spinach bake - basically, chop up some new potato type potatoes (firm flesh) and par boil. Slice up about 100g chorizo plus cut an onion into wedges and a thickly cut red pepper. Mix together & cook in oven for about 20 minutes or so. Throw in a few cherry tomatoes, should you feel so inclined. Then either wilt some fresh spinach, or defrost some frozen spinach. Mix everything together. Make sure it's all piping hot and serve. We'll probably have this with some frozen mixed vegetables.

I'm trying hard to up my vegetable/fruit intake, by making sure that we have a side serving of veggies no matter how many vegetables are in the main dish. So although yesterday's lentil shepherd's pie had carrots, tomatoes, lentils, spinach and leeks in, I also had a serving of mixed veggies. Lidl sell good packs of microwaveable vegetables like this:

Very convenient and quick to prepare - and not too expensive. They were selling at under 1€ last week.
I'm also adding 4 dried apricots and a handful of nuts to my breakfast. I've reduced my fruit juice intake, and now have about half-and-half juice and water, which I find fine. In fact straight juice tastes too strong now! With a vegetable soup at lunch time and an apple too I'm not doing too badly!

FRIDAY:Fasting:  Southern Style Rice, with a little bit of added chorizo - and vegetables!

I haven't been weighing myself for ages, so I don't know how much weight I've lost doing 5:2, but I do know that my "aspirational jeans" (which are a small size 16) are almost all-day-wearable. That is to say, I can get them on, I can zip them up, I can bend down in them, but after a couple of hours they feel a bit uncomfortable!  But having said that, another pair of size 16 jeans are too loose around the waist (it's my tummy that causes the problems, not my waist!) so I am feeling happy to continue with 5:2 as I am pretty sure it's working. It would work even better if I didn't have wine and chocolate on non-fasting days, but hey! There you go!

Talking about jeans...
Is there anyone out there who would be interested in buying a pair of black jeans size 20. I bought them when I was at my biggest, and they have hardly been worn, but now they do just fall down. They are very good quality BUT unless you are 6 foot, you would need to take up the legs, as I bought them at Long Tall Sally. If you're interested (or know anyone who might be), let me know in the comments section and we can negotiate!!

As usual thank you for your comments...

 Lots of you commented on my exploits at the Post Office! It seems that all over the world The Evil  Slot of Package Measuring is becoming common! I'm definitely going to have to learn to find thin, light things to send for swaps. I don't want to stop doing them, but I am going to have to curtail my random purchasing, and think more cleverly. Christmas will be fun!!

I haven't forgotten about the scarf giveaway...I bought a new one (NO!!!) when I was shopping for my boots, so I will get round to sorting them out soon - promise! Of course, scarves are quite flat so postage shouldn't be too bad! (I hope!!)

I hope everyone has a good week, full of good food, good friends and good times. thank you all for visiting. Do let me know if you try any of the recipes - and what you thought of them.