Saturday, 23 September 2017

Call My Bluff

This long running TV panel show was a great favourite in our family, and we learned many fascinating new words. A panellist would read out a word, and there would be three possible definitions - the other team had to guess which of the three was the right definition. I have learned three interesting new words recently - but I am just going to tell you the real meanings , not attempt to bluff you.
Oobleck - this is a Non-Newtonian liquid. I knew about NNLs - these are substances which don't follow the usual rules about liquid, as they become solid under pressure. You can fill a swimming pool with custard and run across it. Yes, you can. Watch this ancient kids programme introduced by Richard Hammond.
What I only recrently discovered is that the popular name for these NNLs is oobleck. The name comes from a Dr Seuss book where a musterious substance is made

My second word is cockaigne - not to be confused with cocaine, the drug, nor yet Elgar's Overture, Cockaigne (in London Town) This is an old English method of preserving fruits in alcohol, usually brandy, similar to the German Rumtopf. I found the recipe in Beryl Wood's book. It is made through the summer, and the jar is sealed at the end of September, not to be opened till Christmas Day. Beryl says the drained liquid is served as a liqueur, and the drained fruit should be served with ice cream, meringues and cream. She adds "This is not a nursery sweet"
My third word is equilux. I knew about equinox - when there are exactly twelve hours between sunrise and sunset, but not equilux. This is when there are 12 hours of light, and twelve of dark [obviously, it starts to get light before the sun rises, and some light remains even after sunset for a while] The days on which the length of day and night are exactly equal, called the equilux, occur a few days before the spring equinox and a few days after the autumn equinox. This date will vary depending on where on Earth you are, and indeed equiluxes do not occur at all close to the equator, whereas the equinox is a fixed instant in time. For us, in the UK, the equilux is early next week.
So there you are- three new words learned this term- but where and when I will get the chance to use them[other than here], I have no idea!

Friday, 22 September 2017

When Life Gives You Marrows...

...make Lemon Curd
Yes, I know that is an unexpected response. But we were given a large marrow last week and I wanted to use it up promptly. I'd picked up Beryl Wood's "Let's Preserve It" in the Library when I went to get my replacement ticket. It is a treasure of a book - nearly 600 recipes for jams, jellies, pickles, chutneys, curds and 'cheeses'.
And to my surprise, there was a recipe to make Marrow Lemon Curd I imagine this may have started out as thrift cookery in the years of WW2 and Food Rationing.
I peeled, seeded and roughly cut up 400g of marrow, into 2cm chunks. Then I simmered it slowly for 15 minutes till it was soft [the recipe said "Without water" - but I put 1tbsp of cold water in my pan first which helped prevent sticking] Then I liquidised this, along with 100g melted butter, and the grated rind and juice of 2 lemons. This then went into a double boiler with 400g sugar, and I cooked this slowly till everything was melted and well blended. Then I slowly stirred in 3 well beaten eggs, and cooked for a further 15 minutes, till the mixture was thickened. This was then poured into prepared jars - and topped with wax discs and cellophane, before I screwed on the lids. Once cool, the jars went into the fridge. These should be kept there, and consumed within one month.
The three little jars have gone to friends [including the marrow-donor] with careful instructions about storage and use.
I have already enjoyed lemon curd on toast, and used some, plus buttercream, to fill a Genoese sponge. The taste is smooth and very lemony. 

I used some of the remaining marrow to make Saturday's Supper - using Nigel Slater's recipe from a recent weekend Guardian. Her says "The key to a crisp exterior and a juicy inside is to cut the marrow no thicker than 2cm, otherwise the heat will take too long to penetrate and the outside will overcook. The sauce adds substance, making this a light supper dish." I halved the quantities- and as I had one large home-made beefburger left in the freezer, I rolled that into 6 meatballs, which I cooked in a separate pan, and 'stuffed' my marrow rings. I didn't have any fennel seeds - but did have coriander and mustard in the spice rack. It is not particularly hot, but it is flavoursome. 
Serves 4
  • onions 2, medium 
  • olive oil 5 tbsp
  • celery 2 sticks
  • garlic cloves 3
  • plum tomatoes 500g
  • fennel seeds 2 tsp
  • brown mustard seeds 2 tsp
  • coriander seeds 2 tsp
  • parsley (a handful)
  • marrow 600g
  • plain flour 6 tbsp

  1. Peel and roughly chop the onions. Warm 2 tbsp of the oil in a deep pan, then add the onions and cook until soft and pale gold, stirring regularly. Slice the celery and add to the onions, then flatten the garlic cloves with a heavy knife and add them.
  2. Chop the tomatoes and stir them in to the onions. Add the fennel, mustard and coriander seeds and a generous seasoning of salt and black pepper. Let the tomatoes cook down to a soft, stew-like consistency. This should take a good 20 minutes. Remove half of the mixture and process it in a blender to a rough, soupy texture, then return to the pan. Chop the parsley and stir into the sauce.
  3. Slice the marrow in half and remove the seeds and fibres. PEEL IT [NS doesn't say this, and perhaps he should have done] Cut into 1cm thick pieces. Tip the flour on to a plate and season with salt and black pepper. Warm the remaining oil in a shallow pan. Dip the slices of marrow into the flour then fry for 5-6 minutes on each side, until the outside is lightly golden. Drain for a couple of seconds on kitchen paper and serve with the sauce. 
The marrow tasted pretty good,once we had cut off the peel!
One of my relatives would not eat marrow, claiming 'he did not like the feel of it in his mouth'. I imagine it can end up bland and watery sometimes- but these two recipes really make good use of this massive autumnal vegetable.
I wonder how many marrows will be in evidence at our Harvest Festival on Sunday?

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.