Wednesday, 27 January 2021

The Man In The Moon


A strange nursery rhyme indeed - has anybody any idea what it is about? Pease-porridge [or pease pottage] is a thick savoury pudding, made with yellow split peas. often served with ham. Not a dish I have  ever cooked. But I do enjoy regular oat-based porridge - a hearty breakfast on a cold day. Our recipe is 1 cup oats, 1 cup water, 1 cup of milk and a pinch of salt. I know that each family has their own favourite method. Bob has promised that once he is retired, he will turn me a proper porridge spurtle on his lathe.

George likes porridge. At the moment, George likes most food - and cheerfully gives his Mum a High Five at mealtimes

I saw this rather attractive textured Sirdar Pattern and asked Steph what she thought. She liked it - "it looks like porridge"

I downloaded the pattern and knitted it up in some oatmeal coloured DK I had in my stash. The pattern is very simple - only 4 rows to remember [ A - knit, B - purl, C - k1p1, and D- p1,k1below] It does look quite porridge like!

I recently treated myself to a tin of knitting clips. They have proved very useful - holding work together safely. No risk of accidentally leaving a pin in the garment - or on the sofa where I sit to sew. 
I have just used them to hold fabric when sewing on the machine -- equally good results.
Porridge in his tummy, and on his jumper -George will be well equipped to face the cold weather in Manchester [or Norwich, when he next visits East Anglia]

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On...

 I will admit that I cannot stand Iggle-Piggle and In The Night Garden. And don't get me started on The Teletubbies.But over the summer, Rosie introduced me to two of her favourite CBeebies TV presenters - and I think she excellent taste.

Justin Fletcher - aka Mr Tumble - is brilliant. He engages the children, is a master of costume change, 
a wizard at Makaton  - and generally very gifted. He includes children of different ages and abilities in his show - and makes learning fun. Andy Day, presenter of Andy's Dinosaur Adventures is equally talented. Under his excellent tutelage, Rosie can now explain the differences between a triceratops and a pterodactyl. Our Dinosaur Day last summer certainly benefitted from some of his teaching materials.
And these two- plus a number of other TV presenters and well-respected actors [like Annette Badlands -oldies like me know her from many radio and TV roles, lately the Pathologist in Midsomer] got together a couple of years back to produce a play. With the help of the Royal Shakespeare Company, they did The Tempest - for children.
Rosie sat and watched it with her parents over the weekend. She thought Andy made a very good monster [Caliban] Mr Tumble, not surprisingly, was in truly well-cast as The Jester.
The filming was beautifully done on stage in Huddersfield, with an invited audience of parents and pre-schoolers.
It is a truly magical show - in the heady pre-lockdown age of 2018, the sight of the children laughing, singing and clapping together is heartwarming. And the cast [plus stage sets and costumes] are superb.
Rosie's a bit young for Mr Morpurgo's Tales as yet - but this is certainly something to get a child turned on to the Bard from early years [well done Liz and Jon]
If you have an hour to spare, enjoy this production. After Rosie saw it, I made a point of watching it - a glorious romp, as good as any Christmas Panto. Link to the whole production is HERE - or you can just watch the songs


Monday, 25 January 2021

Bags, One For Me!


I kept reading about Stasher Bags - these eco friendly, easy-use silicone food savers. The website tells you how they are good for you, and for the planet - how every time you buy one, a some of the money goes to clean up the oceans...The blurb is pretty compelling. Very green credentials...

"Stasher bags are multi-purpose, easy to use, easy to seal and reusable. You can cook dinner in them, use them for kitchen storage and even fill them with cosmetics for your travels.

Key features:

  • Made from plastic-free platinum silicone
  • Easy clasp pinch-and-press airtight seal
  • Reusable and dishwasher safe, but hand washing is recommended
  • Freezer and microwave safe, and oven safe to 220°C
  • Ideal for sous vide cooking
  • Complies with FDA and European food-grade standards
  • Made from platinum silicone, they’re plastic-free and cause no harmful off-gassing when exposed to the sun, making food storage and cooking healthier.

Fold them over to expel air before sealing them with a pinch and a press to make them airtight. Poach fish in them, with added herbs for flavouring. They’re ideal for marinating meat in the fridge and then simply transfer for cooking without fuss. Add a little water to steam vegetables, retaining nutrients and flavour. You can put them in a saucepan of boiling water or use them in a sous vide machine to tenderise meat for tastier meals.

Stasher bags also keep food fresher for longer. Expel the air and place half an avocado with its seed in the fridge to keep until you’re ready to eat it the next day. Take a stasher bag on your travels, filling it with cosmetics and toiletries or pens and pencils to keep kids occupied. You can even write on the bags with dry-erase markers to label your food by date for the fridge or freezer."

Then I looked into the price - Lakeland sell the smallest 'snack size' one for £9.99. No way! I asked around among my 'green living' friends and couldn't find anyone who had tried them. Then in August, I found one reduced to £3.50 in John Lewis, Norwich. So I decided to treat myself, and see how I got on.

My conclusions

This is probably the wrong size bag for me. 

  1. Size: It is OK for snacks- but not of much use for anything else. Without the rigidity of a lock'n'lock, I thought fruit etc might get damaged if the bag was slung in a backpack.
  2. Versatility: I tried all the suggested uses....
  3. Storage: Slightly too small for a my chunk of cheese - so I trimmed the Cheddar. 
  4. Sous-vide: I cooked some frozen peas - dropping the bag in the saucepan in which I was boiling potatoes. They cooked fine- but it was hard to get them out!
  5. Oven: I baked a piece of salmon. Lovely and clean, fish kept moist - but the skin stuck to the side, and again, removal was difficult.
  6. Freezer: I put stored blueberries in it in the freezer - that worked well.
  7. Seal: I found the whole 'burping' and open/close procedure rather fiddly, so did Bob
  8. Cleaning: It washed OK in the dishwasher, but I had to leave it open to dry thoroughly.
  9. Family: I'm not sure a child [eg Rosie] would manage it very well in a lunchbox.
  10. Eco - yes, they are 'green', and ZeroWaste not single-use, and ethically sound
Maybe if I had bought a larger size I would feel differently - and I am glad to have tried them out. I have an adequate supply of good quality plastic foodstore boxes, and I think this is not something my kitchen needs. I don't do 'sous vide' cooking, but I can see that if you do, they'd be useful. And my 'rose quartz' bag [the only colour in the sale] looks strangely...surgical. The mint colour is more 'food friendly' imho.
Overall I would rate this product *** which is a shame, I hoped it would score more. 
Please do let me know if you are using these- and what your opinion is. 

Sunday, 24 January 2021

Rise Up And Walk

The link for this morning's worship service is here. You have to watch it just to see the lovely children from Manchester singing!

Saturday, 23 January 2021

Hiawatha Made Some Mittens ...

He killed the noble Mudjokivis.
Of the skin he made him mittens,
Made them with the fur side inside,
Made them with the skin side outside.
He, to get the warm side inside,
Put the inside skin side outside.
He, to get the cold side outside,
Put the warm side fur side inside.
That’s why he put the fur side inside,
Why he put the skin side outside,
Why he turned them inside outside.

This parody of Longfellow's poem was written in 1856 by Rev George A Strong, close friend of Phillips Brooks [who wrote "O Little Town of Bethlehem] I've been muttering it since Wednesday's Presidential Inauguration, when Bernie Sanders wore his Best Mittens. Poor old Bernie has been much parodied in the press this week for his choice of clothing [give it a break, guys. This chap is 79 - and as he says, he comes from Vermont, where they know how to dress properly when it gets cold] 

But these mittens were already famous in their own right. Sanders wore them to a Women's March in New Hampshire in January 2020. 

And these mittens have a great backstory. They were made by a Vermont teacher called Janet Ellis.
She makes lots of mittens- repurposing old sweaters, and lining them with fleece fabric made from recycled plastic milk bottles. 
In 2016, she made mittens as gifts for all the staff at her daughter's kindergarten. The principal is Bernie's DIL, so she popped in an extra pair for him [he used to be mayor of the town]
Janet calls her sweater-mittens swittens - and since the Rally a year ago, there has been increase in demand. On Wednesday evening, she had received 6000 emails asking about purchasing. 
She says she cannot possibly do that - just a few local sales are enough. And anyway, she has a teaching job to do. She encourages would-be buyers to check out Etsy instead.
But what a story! Home made, recycled mittens, elderly gent is able to keep his hands and fingers warm, a committed school teacher, love and kindness all round. 
Let's hope these things mark the characteristics of the new Presidency - care for the planet, care for the elderly, care for the children, care for one another...

Friday, 22 January 2021

Best Be The Tie That Blinds!

 I'd hate anyone to think that I'm doing all this  decluttering alone. Admittedly I'm probably doing more than Bob right know - he has a full time, demanding job. But he's doing his share, as and when he can.

Like Wednesday night. After chairing a meeting on Zoom, including managing a complex voting procedure, we relaxed watching our recording of The Repair Shop [new series next month!] then I suggested drinking chocolate would be a good idea. He went upstairs to switch off his computer. He I followed with mugs of drink, got undressed and climbed into bed.

I was sitting up in bed, sipping my delicious nightcap when he came in, opened the wardrobe - and proceeded to sort out his tie rack. Which is why it was midnight before I settled to sleep.

Bob loves ties - in pre-pandemic days, he'd wear them frequently. In Advent he'd wear a different Christmassy tie at each different event. He has ties for Children's events, ties for funerals, ties for weddings, college ties... Over 80 of them! 

And now there are just 26. He said he will probably prune that even further. I kept a dozen because they are attractive fabric [but in the cold light of day, I realise they aren't that brilliant. 
The duplicates —one Christmas he received two matching "computer themed" ones. The ones bought for weddings, but never worn again, the redundant Boys' Brigade tie, joke ties, nasty thin slippery ties which don't knit properly, hideously patterned ones, and pale ones with prominent stains. 
The "unwearable" ones have gone in the bin, and 40+ are rolled up into boxes to go to a CS sometime. 
I don't think I'm very good at late night decluttering though. I'm much more determined, less sentimental first thing in the morning. But I am impressed with the cool efficiency with which Bob dealt with his overabundance of neckwear. 
Today's Trivia: the necktie was invented by the Croatians. During battles, the men tied a strip of cloth round the neck - to wipe the blood from their swords! From 'croat' we get the word 'cravat'. Perhaps the odd gravy stain isn't so bad after all. 

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Rabbiting On

Around 6.45 each evening, we get a WhatsApp call from Rosie "Please can I have a bedtime story?" It is good for her to have a proper conversation with someone other than Mum and Dad- and she sits, bathed and pyjama-ed, waiting on her bed for the story. "You guys, I've made a stand for the phone with my Lego!" she announced brightly. This has helped, she's a bit of a fidget and I was getting a bit seasick when her screen was bobbing about so much.

We are currently working our way through the Beatrix Potter stories. Bob holds the book, whilst I tell the tale, and vice versa.

BP was one very gifted woman. At the start of the twentieth century, she was already an accomplished artist and scientific illustrator. She wrote a paper on the development of fungi spores- but women were not allowed to present papers, so a friend presented it for her. The work was never published- but to this day, her significant contribution to mycological research is acknowledged.

BP first drew and wrote about Peter Rabbit in 1901, and self-published, as Frederick Warne had turned her down. The 250 copies were so successful that Warne recanted, took her on board and agreed to publish all her little animal stories, provided she illustrated them in colour.

BP felt strongly about merchandising her work- and that all the items should be of the highest quality, and remain faithful to her illustrations. Peter Rabbit is the world's oldest licensed literary character. Here's an early plush toy - made by the German high-end toymakers, Steiff.

She also designed and marketed a Peter Rabbit Race Game. Romance blossomed between Miss Potter and her editor, Norman Warne. The family disapproved, he was 'in trade' - but despite them, the pair got engaged- and sadly Norman died a month later of leukaemia. Beatrix was devastated. She was thirty nine when this all happened. Poor woman!

But by now she was very wealthy from her books - she moved up to her beloved Lake District and purchased a lot of land, and  Hill Top Farm. William Heelis, the solicitor who assisted her in this proposed- they were married in 1912 and lived very happily for 30 years at the farm till her death in 1943.She purchased fifteen farms, and really committed herself to helping the local community. She bequeathed 4000 acres, plus Hill Top to the National Trust on her death - requesting the Farmhouse stay exactly as it was for her. Thousands of visitors see her home each year [well, apart from 2020!]

I confess that at the moment, we are modifying the words a bit. Some of the vocabulary is a little archaic for Rosie, and we cannot stop every two minutes to explain, she loses interest in the plot. I've realised that our two large format books, which have 8 stories in them do not include The Tailor Of Gloucester. That is definitely my favourite- its all about sewing! When the girls were at primary school, we took them up to the Tate Gallery [now 'Tate Britain'] for their special Christmas BP exhibition. They had all sorts of things on show- including, on loan from the V&A the actual waistcoat she had copied for her illustrations.

Rosie seems to like the stories- but has asked where Lily Bobtail is. How do you explain to a child that this character was added in a century later, by an American production company? That this is a 'based-on the stories of..' and not true to the original?

I wonder what BP would make of it? She was a shrewd businesswoman, and might like the marketing - but somehow I think she'd be a little disappointed by the slick animation and alterations to the tales...

You can watch these new stories here on CBeebies. Personally, I'd rather cuddle up, with a little pocket-sized book and read the original tales to Rosie [with Grandad Bob supplying all the sound effects]