Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Normal For Norfolk

Just up the road from here is a little village called Worthing [not to be confused with the much larger seaside resort in Sussex] Until a few weeks back, it used to have a painted wooden sign …

worthing sign

…currently it is absent [being repainted?] And in its place …

worthing sign 2

Well, we wouldn’t want any of the visitors to this fine county to get lost, would we?

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Wandering Round The City


After breakfast in bed [we are on holiday, and he did drive a long way yesterday] we still managed to be up early and in Norwich before the car park queues. We did not intend to buy anything in the sales – but I did succumb in Clas Ohlson to these stars. Display models, reduced from £14.99 each, to £1 for two!

P1000463We spent a lot of time just strolling down quiet streets away from the crazy people fighting for “bargains” – including the ancient Elm Hill [sadly no elms anymore, due to Dutch Elm Disease] This is full of beautiful old houses, and lots of history.

Then we had an early lunch in Pandora’s Kitchen.

pandoras logo

This is at the top of London Street – and Bob chose it because it has been recommended by the Fry-Up Inspector. [the FUI is one of his favourite blogs!] We didn’t really want a fry up, so opted for the Roast-In-A-Bun. This was delicious. I expect Bob may blog a review himself soon.


Under the top of the bun, there was a small yorkshire pud, with gravy in the central well, then a generous amount of pulled pork, a slice of tasty stuffing, and a large dollop of good apple sauce [not over-sweet] This was held together with a skewer. The garnish was some lollo rosso drizzled with a flavoursome balsamic vinegar. Quite gorgeous. And a pot of tea that provided us with six cups!


Waitress service was excellent, and the understated shabby chic decoration was pleasant.

The large group of students at the other table, and the guy with the impressive camera all appeared to be enjoying their food too. And they had provided copies of the Times, Guardian and EDP available for customers to read. Definitely *****

Monday, 29 December 2014

Christmas Puddings


We have had some delicious food this week. Very grateful to Liz and Jon for preparing our splendid Christmas meal, ready for our arrival in Norfolk. Roast beef [from village butcher] and all the trimmings.

And on Boxing Day we all went over to Adrian and Marion – so 7 of us enjoyed a selection of turkey, ham, sausages, stuffings, vegetables – all very pleasant.



The main courses were relatively traditional, but we have been having some different desserts. I brought a choux pastry wreath on Thursday, and on Friday Marion made a blackcurrant roulade. For our meal on Sunday with Gaz and Fiona, I did my take on the Forest Hills Millionaires’ Shortbread.


The wreath was a simple choux pastry ring [from Rachel Allen].I put the dough in a plastic bag, snipped the corner and doodled a multilayered circle**, then when in was cooked, I pierced it to let out the steam, then sliced in half horizontally. The filling was whipping cream [plus 1 dsp icing sugar], and a punnet of fresh juicy blueberries. The topping was 100gm dark chocolate, melted with 100ml cream, and sprinkled with dark and white choc chips.


The roulade was stunning, and came from a BBC Good Food Magazine, which Marion has had for ages, although the blackberries were her wise adaptation [personally I do not like strawberries at Christmas either!] The shortbread dessert I adapted a lot…



For a start, I ditched the strawberry, and I reduced the portion size! I served it in shot glasses – after a large first course, a smaller sweet, plus a bowl of fresh fruit is all you need! [and I hadn’t got enough wineglasses here at Cornerstones] Here’s what I used for 6 glasses

  • 30g shortbread biscuits, bashed into crumbs
  • 2 tsp of Carnation Caramel*
  • 2 tsp chocolate mousse**
  • 1 tsp whipped cream
  • 2 chocolate ‘matchsticks’

*I’d usually cook up a tin of condensed milk and make my own, but it was on offer, and it saves time and energy! Yes I did have two thirds of a tin left over, but I made that into a banoffee pie.

** Melt 75g dark chocolate over a pan of simmering water, then allow to cool for 2 minutes. When you have taken the bowl of choc out of the pan, stand the tin of caramel in the hot water- the warmth will soften it and help make it easier to spoon!

Meanwhile separate an egg. Beat the white till stiff, then beat in 1 level tbsp. caster sugar. When the chocolate is cool, stir in the egg yolk, then fold in the white till fully incorporated. You just put each of the layers in turn into your serving glasses, and there you are!

** I ought to confess that I had two attempts at this – the first time, I spooned balls of dough round a circle drawn on my parchment, leaving room for expansion – but they didn’t expand very much and I ended up with lots of little separate choux balls! As there is no sugar in the pastry, I have frozen them, and will use them as a topping for a casserole sometime soon.

“Slimming World” pushed a promotional leaflet through the letterbox early on Sunday morning. Do you think they are hinting??

Sunday, 28 December 2014

A Christmas Pause

pause in advent_thumb[2]

Advent is over, and Christmas has come. I have to say a huge thank-you to everyone who took part in the Pause this year. I’ve never hosted this before and it has been a real privilege. I’ve read all the posts – and been amazed, challenged and encouraged. Thank you everyone.

My own final personal pause came at a couple of minutes past midnight on Christmas Day – so technically no longer Advent – but I did want to share it. I took the midnight carols at a nearby chapel who are currently without a pastor. I chose Christina Rosetti’s ‘other’ poem[i.e. not Bleak Midwinter] as one of the carols…

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine,
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.

As the service finished, on the dot of midnight, I went to the door and hugged, or shook hands with the people as they left. One young woman was weeping. She stood beside me, and I whispered “It’s OK, this is a safe place to weep. We can talk in a minute” She said she just wanted to thank me for picking this carol. She had not known it till last week, when she read it in a book – and it had immediately become very important. The last few years had been really hard and she had felt let down and unloved by people she had trusted. When she read the poem, she realised that God is unfailing love, and He will always be there for her, and the birth of Jesus at Christmastime proved it. The fact that I had chosen this piece for the carol service had confirmed that truth for her, and given her fresh hope for the year ahead.

I was so glad that her Christmas was brighter – and her heart full of hope – and thrilled she had shared it with me. We will probably never meet again – but I pray that she continues to feel God’s love.

I am having a fairly quiet day today – Bob has driven back to preach at Kirby – and then this evening he will be back and we have family and friends visiting. Hope your day is a good one too [with not to much snow or travel disruption!]

Saturday, 27 December 2014

More News From The National Elf Service

I said I was not doing any more sewing. But then a friend mentioned on Sunday morning at Church that they had a minor problem to solve. They always get together as a family, and had received an email on Saturday night saying that today’s gathering was to be a Murder Mystery Event – and everybody had to come in costume, wearing a Christmas jumper. Which is all fine and dandy if you have one, but if the four of you do not possess one snowman&reindeer-embellished woolly between you, what do you do? Three days before Christmas, nobody wants to go out and spend £80 in M&S – or even £20 on four nasty acrylic ill fitting creations. “No problem” I said, with a mouthful of mince pie “My friend Kezzie had some brilliant ideas on her blog about solving this dilemma. Have you each got a fairly plain sweater?”  I muttered about cotton wool balls and bells, and promised to have something sorted out for them by Christmas Eve

elf-on-the-shelf-printNow I will state here and now that I loathe the concept of Elf on the Shelf. But having made all those elf costumes the other week, the two rolls of felt from the loft were still lurking on the spare bed. I dug out a round tea tray and made a paper pattern.


Useful note- a saucer makes a tight hole for the neckline, but a 6½” teaplate makes a comfortable sized hole for teenagers and adults [including Bob’s 17½” collar size!]

I cut out shapes in felt. I also cut some strips to be cuffs.


I left the embroidery machine stitching four Elfish slogans while I cut zigzag edgings and dug out a jar full of jingle bells, and another full of safety pins. Here’s the finished results.



With jingle bells attached to the points, and safety pins to fasten cuffs and collar, over a plain jumper, the collar and cuffs turn you instantly into an elf. [If it was my Murder mystery, I’d choose to murder the Elf-on-the-Shelf. I am absolutely horrified by the whole concept, and by the reactions of the children I know who have one of these. Laura Pinto’s reaction may be a little extreme, but I think the whole thing is creepy. And clever marketing]

Friday, 26 December 2014

Just Jammin’

In the summer, when we were in Norfolk, I picked some sloes. I made some sloe gin, and some sloe gin jam.


I packed up some tiny presents with a humorous label on the top. These have gone to the deacons and to the musicians in the Worship Group. My ‘test’ jar of jam tasted OK – I hope theirs do too.



We have received some lovely home made food gifts. And one of my 5 year olds even gave me a jar of Sainsbury’s pickled beetroot for Christmas. When we had a lesson about healthy foods back in September, it transpired that he and I were the only ones who like beetroot, so it became a standing joke between us. He told his Mum that he wanted to buy me a jar for Christmas as a leaving present. Methinks this child will go far!

Thursday, 25 December 2014

For God so loved the world that He gave…

He bequeaths us His manger, from which to learn how God came down to man, and His cross to teach us how man may go up to God.   [C H Spurgeon]


May God be with you and bless you this Christmas day and always

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Better Than Chocolate!

PaperDollWhen the girls were younger, we had an advent calendar with pockets which we dug out every year. In each pocket was a gift and a slip of paper. They took it in turns each day – one read the paper, the other got the gift. All year I had saved tiny freebies [pencils, soaps, etc] to give them, and on the papers were written the Christmas story. The girls would read each day’s portion, and we would blu-tac them down the door, until the final morning, when Christ was born. I miss that tradition

PaperDoll3[I gave up putting edible gifts in after the year they were all mysteriously eaten by 3rd December!] But since the girls grew up…

This year, however, I have had my own Advent Calendar, courtesy of a dear friend. It is a Jacquie Lawson e-calendar. It has brought me such pleasure each day. I have perfected my Solitaire skills, and dressed dolls, designed baubles, planned wreaths…And not one calorie consumed in the process!




There is so much detail, and after each day’s activity, you can go to the “Family Room” and read the fascinating information in the library. For instance, they make a 4 tonne Stollen in Dresden each year – who knew? [it cut up into small pieces, which are sold for charity.

And this gift is doubly delightful, because it will not have to be packed and moved to Dorset. Thank you, friend. Thank you too, to the person who gave us both Oxfam gifts – we already have more than enough books, and are thrilled that schoolbooks are going out to Africa where they are truly needed.

I hope you are just about ready for tomorrow. Leave the computer and go and enjoy family time!

Monday On The Motorbike

On Monday we had a space between Carol Services, and we needed to do a few jobs in the City, so we went in on the motorbike. We parked up and walked through Town Hall square, where the Nativity Scene, and children’s displays were bright and cheerful.

xmas 2014

I paused to put my camera back in my bag, by the War Memorial at the corner of the Square. Then I had to stop and photograph it.


I confess to my shame, that I had always thought this was a WW1 Memorial [although I knew there was the ‘Lutyens Arch’ in nearby Victoria Park] It was only this week that I discovered it was actually a memorial to those lost in the Boer Wars in South Africa. There was a temporary WW1 Memorial and fountain in the square, but only the fountain remains, as the memorial was smashed up in 1954. Why didn’t I notice the dates on this memorial before? I must have walked past it dozens of times.


We went into Cafe Roma for a coffee. I love it in there – but no doubt we will find another good coffee place when we move.

Then off to Button Boutique for some wool, and Bob looked in the window of the music shop which was closed. “Look at the finish on that guitar” he said “It is called ‘suede’” So I looked…


Then I noticed the sign on the neck of the guitar- Ultra Swede!!



After the bank, post office and other things, we rode home. Then drove in the car down to see Frank and Barbara.Their poppy from the Tower of London has arrived, and is standing by the front door. It was great to actually get close enough to touch one.

And it was even more lovely to be with family members at Christmas time

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Pick Of The Pops!

Two easy peasy recipes for popcorn. This will make two large bowls for a party, or fill about a dozen jam jars if you want to give it as gifts.
popcorn 5
Start with about 125 grams popping corn and a large saucepan [I use my venerable old Hi-Dome pressure cooker] Heat about 1 tbsp oil on a medium heat [not too hot] and cover the base with kernels [that’s about 30g] Hold the lid in place and shake well. Keep the lid on – and as the kernels start to pop, shake the pan vigorously. Shake periodically, and when popping stops, tip popped corn into a large bowl. Remove any unpopped kernels. Repeat until all corn is popped. This will fill an average washing up bowl.
At this point, I divided it into two batches and made one sweet and one spicy. I find the easiest way to combine the flavourings with the corn is to put the corn into a large bowl and mix by hand, then tip it back and forth between large bowl and serving bowl a few times. That gets everything well combined. Quantities below each flavour 60-75grams of unpopped kernels. Just make up the powdered mix and combine with popped corn.
Mix in a mortar and pestle [or grind with back of spoon in a small pyrex bowl or jug] the following NB these are TEAspoons NOT TABLEspoons!!
  • 1tsp sea salt
  • ½tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½tsp chilli flakes
  • ½tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp demerara sugar
Mix together
  • 2tsp icing sugar
  • ½tsp cocoa powder
  • ½tsp ground cinnamon
Do make sure you label the bowls, so people know which is which – not everyone likes chilli! The first recipe is not too spicy [I can eat it, and I am not a great chilli fan] but you do get a gentle hit of flavour. The second is not over-sweet. Taste your finished batches and adjust to your liking!
Update - here's another recipe sent by blogfriend Mrs Micawber - thanks Mrs M

Monday, 22 December 2014

Top Tips For Christmas 2014–#4


faith popcornMy final tips this year are inspired by this lady. She calls herself a ‘trendcaster’ and ‘futurist’ – and by studying consumer behaviour and the way people act, she predicts how we will be living and what choices we will be making in the years ahead [and by knowing in advance, we can better prepare ourselves]

Personally I am not particularly convinced by many of her arguments, but what fascinates me about this grinning lady is her name – she is

Faith Popcorn

I mention her because at this time of year, popcorn is a fabulous, thrifty thing to have around, and has a variety of wonderful uses.


You can eat it – obvious, I know, but popcorn is very cheap [especially if you buy the kernels and pop your own] There are dozens of recipes out there on the internet [I shall post a couple tomorrow]. I made batches of both sweet and savoury corn to serve up as snacks at our Open House. If you are careful [and do not overdo the butter and sugar coatings] it is much better for you than fat-laden crisps. 


You can hang it – thread some popcorn onto cotton to make garlands- intersperse with dried cranberries if you want to be extra festive. Put it inside, round the tree, to delight your family, or outside round the trees, to delight the birds.


You can pack it – it will cushion delicate gifts like the china ornament you are giving your auntie. Include a note with the gift suggesting that the corn be put outside to feed the birds once the gift is unwrapped!


You can give it. Make a batch of fancy popcorn, put it in a lidded glass jar which you’ve decorated prettily, and that’s a good hostess gift. Or make a batch, put it in a sealed plastic bag inside a box, and tape a cinema token to the lid. That gift gives not just the chance to see a film, but also something to nibble whilst the recipient watches it. And it means there is something to unwrap, not just an envelope to open.

cine voucher

Popcorn - You can use it in loads of ways, it is cheap and cheerful! And making it is such a fun thing to do! I actually checked out Faith Popcorn in a bit more detail, and was really disappointed to discover her original name was Faith Plotkin.

So my final tip this Christmas [which will not surprise you regular readers] is just don’t worry about popcorn, or anything much else - just have…


Sunday, 21 December 2014

Pause in Advent #4

pause in advent

This week has been tiring and emotional, saying goodbye to colleagues and students. This final Sunday before Christmas is always special at the Church here in Kirby. In the morning, the children have a Praise Party in the Church Hall, whilst the adults have a more reflective Christmas Communion Service in the Chapel.

And in the evening, it’s the Big One- the Candlelight Carol Service. The Dance Group who use our premises to practise will dance, we will sing carols old and new, and listen to the old, familiar story again. And people who do not attend church the rest of the year will come and slip inside, in the darkness, and share with us in the singing and the story. And it feels really Christmassy – students will be back home from Uni, old friends will be there because they are back in the village for a few days to visit family. And we laugh and hug and swap news as we drink hot chocolate after the service.

mulled wine

Mags had a lovely Pause Post this week about the ‘mulling pot’ – rich in fruit and spices, warm and colourful, full of flavour – and likened it to the other meaning of the word ‘mull’ – to ponder.

Mary kept all these things, and mulled over them in her heart. I too have been ‘mulling it over’ – looking back at the last year [well, the last 19 years actually] and seeing how God has led us and blessed us. Life here has been rich, and full – with variety and spice and colour – so much joy, but not cloyingly sweet.  At Christmas we usually read John 1 – In the beginning was the Word …this year I shall be going on into chapter 2 as well, and thinking about that first miracle – the water turned into wine. We have been provided for, every step of the way, in our time here, far more abundantly than we could ever have dreamed of. So much to be thankful for…

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Upstairs, Downstairs

I did like the original series back in the ‘70s – not so keen on the more recent incarnation [somewhat overshadowed by the rather better Downton] But I could certainly do with a butler, cook and chambermaid at the minute. My house is in chaos!

Thursday was incredibly emotional, leaving the school where I had worked for 10 years on and off as a Supply Teacher [and made an infinite number of play costumes, and given SATs support to lots of 10 year olds] In assembly, the Head asked all the pupils I had taught to stand up. It seemed that almost every child got to their feet. I was in tears when presented with some gorgeous gifts, and more flowers and cards – and all day, random kids were running up and hugging me. Even a few Mums hugged me at 3.15!

I didn’t sleep well last night, and kept remembering different pupils and many of my good [and less than good] lessons. So on Friday  morning I was not really on top form when it came to getting the house ready for our Christmas Open House.

6.45pm downstairs was fine – my Belvoirdale ‘Tree card’ is already framed and on the wall – the sofas had a quick steam clean, the dips and crudités and nibbles are all ready for the guests. You can see my lovely flowers on the table.

open house chaos

but upstairs…I had a disaster emptying the shredder, lots of school stuff was just thrown [literally] into Steph’s bedroom, there are heaps of clothes in my bedroom awaiting sorting [wear them, pack them, send them to a CS]Utter and complete chaos reigns!

open house chaos1

Today we have Carol Singing at Cherry Tree Gifts, and then an evening with friends. Sunday will be busy preparing for the Candlelight Carols [and hot chocolate afterwards] So Monday is going to be a rather busy day, as I seek to find the floors again!!


This little metal star shaped tray is really meant to hold a candle – but I thought it made a good spoon rest for the little spoons I have put out to use for the dips. I decided to use up all my disposable plates/napkins/cups. No washing up, and less stuff to move to Dorset!