Thursday, 26 April 2018

Pigs; Both Salt And Peppa!

I cleaned and refilled the stoneware salt pig in my kitchen this week. I do love this efficient bit of kit - it keeps the salt clean, dry and easily accessible. Dave's hand carved spoon is so useful for scooping out the quantity I need.
I always thought that the name salt pig came from the domed shape like a pigs head, with the snout on the front. 
However, I have recently discovered that pig is simply an old Scottish dialect word for pot

The other word I have just learned is the Anglo Saxon word spōn which means a chip of wood - and is the origin of our word spoon.

The other pig round here is of course Peppa Pig. Peppa Pig World is not too far away from Ferndown, but I gather it is quite expensive, so we're in no rush to take Rosie. She is, like many other 2 year olds, very fond of this little pink cartoon character.
When we were looking after her at Cornerstones, she asked if she could watch CBeebies. However the only PP we could find was on iPlayer- and in Gaelic.
"Put it on anyway" I said to Bob. The programme started, and Rosie did not seem at all bothered by the wrong language. Then she shouted "Peppa Pig Muddy Puddle!"... and the next picture to appear on screen was Peppa Pig and a muddy puddle. She clearly knew which story it was, just from the pictures. I know I think our grand-daughter is gifted, but I am sure she hasn't learned Gaelic yet!
I learned the word spōn from this book. I first read about the author, Barn The Spoon, on the Spitalfields Life blog, and Jon has kindly lent me his copy to read. I'll review it properly once I have finished it!

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

A Real Pea-Souper!

Did you know that the term 'Peasouper' for those awful, thick London fogs was coined in 1849 by Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick? Our capital has suffered from heavy fog for centuries. The Thames basin is prone to mist, and even in the medieval period this was made worse by domestic fires burning wood and ‘sea-coal’ brought by boat from Newcastle. Elizabeth I proclaimed herself “greatly grieved and annoyed with the taste and smoke of sea-coales”. In 1661, John Evelyn complained that sea-coal had turned London into “hell upon earth”. 
His proposal to move industry outside the city and to create a green belt of aromatic plants and hedges was ignored, and so, as London expanded to become the largest metropolis the world had ever seen, the fogs grew steadily worse.
In the last century, there was the Great Fog of 1952 [well described in ‘The Crown’] which claimed 4000 lives, and resulted in the passing of the Clean Air Act. 
10 years later, in December 1962, there was a nationwide fog lasting 4 days. The death toll was in the low 100s [bad enough] and the public were warned [most had TVs by then] to take proper precautions – like these young chaps from Manchester!
Why the discussion of fog, when the weather these past few days has been bright and sunny? Because I have been using up some of my wild garlic to make pea soup!
Very quick and easy, lovely for a light lunch. I had half a small, stale baguette to use up - the heel was diced , and then the remainder brushed with oil and oven baked to make huge crisp croutons.
Pea and Wild Garlic Soup
Serves 2
1tbsp oil
1 small onion, diced 
500g vegetable stock
200g frozen peas
20g wild garlic
½cup diced stale bread
salt & pepper

1- heat the oil in a large saucepan and sweat off the onion for 5-10 minutes till soft and translucent.
2- add the stock, peas, bread, and chopped garlic [reserve a few flower heads for garnish] 
3- bring to the boil
4- simmer for 10 minutes
5- puree in liquidiser or with stick blender. 
6- season to taste. Reheat if needed
7- ladle into warmed bowls, garnish with a drizzle of oil and flowers
or allow to go cold, serve chilled

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

That Makes My Skin Itch!

Family conversation on What'sApp...
Steph and Gary posted a picture of two glasses of honeymoon champagne.
Liz posted a picture of her office desk, saying "Not jealous at all". 
Bob commented on her computer "Mildly envious.
Jon then posted a picture of his desk, "Liz's is tidier than mine". 
I posted a picture of my desk, adding "And mine!" 
Liz said "That makes my skin itch!"
Here is my dreadfully untidy desk
There really wasn't much workspace, I must admit. But on Friday, I got up early, and prepared for the Supply Agency to ring. For the third day in a row, no call...[well, it was only the 4th day of the new term] So I set to, determined to sort things out.
Doesn't that look better? Everything is just where I can reach it. I hope Liz's skin will stopped itching now.
I have also dealt with a whole load of obsolete filing - much shredding of agendas and minutes etc. The recycling bin will be very full on Wednesday.
I re-discovered my packet of WW2 postcards which I bought in IWM North last August. I've stuck them along the shelf temporarily - but I shall probably send them to people in a while.
Bob didn't post a picture of his desks in the family conversation [he has two- one at home and one in his church office]
But I'd already taken one of him working earlier in the week.
I am not surprised that his desk is tidy, but how come he manages to get a rainbow too?

Monday, 23 April 2018

Still Turning...

Last week, Bob's sister Denise and her husband Kevin dropped in en route to their holiday. It was so good to see them. In the past month we have seen 16 different family members, which is lovely, considering we are all so busy, and so spread out across the country. 
We got to talking about TV and the fact that like us, D&K like the "Eurocrimes." Denise is a great linguist, and probably doesn't need the subtitles as much as I do. We were talking about 'Spiral- the French cop drama which returned to BBC4 in January after a three year break. In France, the series is called Engrenages, which means 'gears'. I prefer the English title, as I love spirals...
Being a Maths geek, I'm fascinated by the way that the Fibonacci sequence occurs in so many place in nature, in the form of a spiral

 The patterns in sunflower seeds, ferns, snail shells, romanesque cabbages, galaxies, the DNA structures, cobwebs...

Truly wonderful.
I like using spirals when I am doing creative stuff too. It is so much easier to doodle or to crochet a spiral rather than to  make perfect circles!
There's something wonderfully organic about the way this shape just grows and increases.
Some people produce messages in spiral form.
 Above- two alternative versions of a favourite Bible passage. One starts at the edge, the other at the centre. Below, an interesting presentation of someone's New Year Resolutions.

I'm not sure if 'Shetland' comes into the Eurocrime category - but up in those northern isles, there are some amazing ancient Pictish carvings, involving intricate spirals.
My birthday gift from Denise and Kevin was a silver necklace. It is lovely [thanks D&K]The leaflet in the case says the design was inspired by these. Shetland carvings.
Everywhere I turn, I seem to find spirals!

Sunday, 22 April 2018

To Everything, Turn, Turn, Turn...

When Bob sold his motorbike, it left a huge space. Well two actually- the first was in his lifestyle, he no longer had the opportunity to go out and enjoy a ride, tune out from all the things on his mind, and just burn up the miles...and the second, a huge space in the garage. 
But then he found a woodturning lathe, on sale locally. The gentleman concerned was in poor health and could no longer use it, so was selling it, plus loads of tools, for an extremely good price.
Bob loves old tools, he loves working with wood, and it seemed a good purchase. There was now room to house it in the garage and he had a new hobby to replace biking. Wood-turning
But he needed to learn the skills - so for a combined birthday-and-Christmas gift, I arranged for him to go on a wood turning course. He loved it. It was a whole day, one-to-one with a master craftsman.
He was taught basic techniques, and tool maintenance, and he came home with some practice pieces, including a lovely bowl and some blanks to work on. The bowl is now at Cornerstones, and has been much admired.
His first task was to build a new lathe-stand, fit for someone tall - it is important to work at the correct height. But finally, the lathe was up and running. Bob's first solo effort was another wooden bowl. Obviously, it had to be for a very special occasion. 

Isn't it lovely? I have made a poster and put it up in the garage, over where Bob works at the lathe. It is a picture of some vintage tools, and this verse from Jan Struther's lovely hymn

Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith,
Whose strong hands were skilled 
at the plane and the lathe,
Be there at our labours, and give us, we pray,
Your strength in our hearts, Lord, 
at the noon of the day.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Happy Birthday, Ma'am

The Queen is 92 today [that makes her just 3 months older than Jim-next-door]
Here she is cutting a previous birthday cake with Nadya H.
Whether or not you are a Royalist, you have to admit that she has a very full diary for a nonagenarian.
As Matriarch of her family, she's got a lot going on at home to keep her busy, quite apart from Royal duties.
Her husband Philip has only just left hospital after a hip replacement.
One grandson is due to get married next month - and the other should be announcing the birth of his third child any day now.
Those are all good news stories.
On a less happy note, her favourite corgi, Willow, had to be put to sleep last weekend. Willow starred alongside HM and Daniel Craig/James Bond in that amazing Olympics Opening Ceremony.

She announced yesterday that she hopes Prince Charles will succeed her as head of the Commonwealth. She has been a great champion for this fellowship of nations, and I hope peace and harmony will continue to be the order of the day with this one.
Weddings, babies, illness, pets, concerns for one's children...these are all features of ordinary family life with which many of us will identify. May Her Maj be blessed with a birthday full of live, love and laughter. I hope they won't expect her to blow out 92 candles though!
Long to reign over us, happy and glorious, God save our Queen!

Friday, 20 April 2018

Card Sharp

I love the Sue Ryder Charity Shop on the edge of Fakenham. This is where I bought that sheet music. My other purchase recently was a plastic bag full of greetings cards.
The bag was quite heavy, and cards front and back showed this track through a snowy field. 
The info said that Norfolk artist Columbine Winstanley had produced a range of paintings showing the beauty the English countryside for the Quality Card Company
The bag wasn't sealed - so I took out the stack and looked - there were various different designs. They were printed on high quality card, and were blank inside. And the bag was priced at £1.50.
I queried this at the till, and was told the low price was due to the lack of envelopes - so I happily handed over a £2 coin.
When I got back to Cornerstones, I checked out the contents.
Six different designs - three landscapes; the field, some cheerful looking cows, and an empty swing under some trees - but the majority were 'floral' snowdrops, irises, and a bunch of autumnal fruits and foliage.
I think they are lovely
I counted them - 80 altogether. I've purchased bought some white C5 envelopes online. The cost per card&envelope comes in just under 2p . Bargain!
I have already used some as notelets - writing beautifully with my fancy new fountain pen.
But I plan to use my BigShot diecut machine to print off some 'sentiments' [happy birthday, best wishes, with thanks...] to turn others into regular greetings cards.
I send quite a lot of cards in the course of a year - some posted, others hand-delivered. It is good when I can plan and make a card specially [eg for Steph & Gary's Wedding] but on the other hand, to have a stack of good quality ones ready-to-go is always useful. I wonder how long this CS bargain will last me?

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Bouquet Garni

Do you remember The Herbs - a children's TV programme from 1968? It was written by Michael Bond, the creator of Paddington. As with many TV programmes, some of the script was quite sophisticated - I suppose that encouraged adults to sit alongside the children and watch with them [never a bad thing]
There was Lady Rosemary, Bayleaf the Gardener, Parsley the Lion, Sage the Owl, Dill the daft dog, Sir Basil and Constable Knapweed.
I have never considered myself much of a gardener - but I have realised that I am not too bad at growing herbs [although I never seem to manage to get anywhere with basil or parsley, however hard I try]
I wandered out into the garden after lunch yesterday and realised I had a reasonable crop of eight herbs. Bob said I should also include the wild garlic in my list - we have a patch of rampant ramsons - but they are nothing to do with me, they came of their own accord. They bring my total to nine. Here is my 2018 crop thus far
Clockwise from the top
mint [label hidden!]
wild garlic
golden thyme [not to be confused with Golden Time, which is a manic Friday afternoon activity in many Primary Schools]
common thyme
lemon balm
That's really not too bad, for someone who struggles with cress on a flannel,is it? Some potentially good flavours to fling into my summer recipes. I also have quite a few young nettles, but am unable to convince Bob of the merits of Nettle Soup, so I cannot really count them as a cooking ingredient [yet]
Do you grow your own herbs ?
Which ones, and how do you use them?

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Cup Final

Despite the good efforts of Hugh F-W et al, we are still astonishingly bad about reducing the number of disposable coffee cups which end up in landfill. 
It is two years since HFWs battle bus hit the streets to alert people about this.
2.5 billion cups a year currently go to landfill in the UK
However, I do believe that at last we are beginning to make some progress. A charity called Hubbub, founded by two guys named Gavin Ellis and Trewin Restorick [yes, honestly!] has organised two cup-recycling projects in Manchester and London. The Hubbub website goes a lot further than cups, and is worth checking out. There's a useful guide to switching to a reusable cup. Here's their infographic showing the benefits of recycling 'disposable' cups. The cups put in their #1MoreShot bins in Manchester went to make tubs and garden furniture for community gardens.

Waitrose have been giving free coffee to Loyalty Card holders for some years now- but last week announced that although they are continuing this scheme, customers will need to bring their own cup in future [but if you forget, you can buy one instore for £3]

A number of coffee chains have at last started giving a discount to people who bring in their own mugs - Pret being the most generous! Bob and I have been working really hard to change our habits in this respect. We make a pot of coffee at breakfast - measuring the quantity carefully for two mugs then - and enough left to fill our two reusable travel mugs. That way we not only avoid buying a disposable mug- we also avoid buying overpriced coffeehouse brews! Our travel mugs came from Starbucks, and we are very pleased with them, Liz tells me hers is from Robert Dyas. 

Next week we'll be at a conference organised by the Southern Counties Baptist Association - he's doing PA, I'm doing catering . The SCBA has made a point of asking all those attending to bring mugs for their hot drinks, and their own water bottles - both of which they will be able to refill throughout the day. 
Have you switched to a reusable mug yet?

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

A Load Of Rubbish!

Do you ever visit your local tip? Oh, sorry, we are supposed to call them Household Recycling Centres or Civic Amenities Sites nowadays. When we were in Norfolk last week, there was great concern about an increase in flytipping, due to the increase in charges for householders taking waste to their HRCs.
We often call in at Dereham Tip when we're visiting Cornerstones - occasionally to dispose of stuff, more often than not for a quick look at the little shop.

They have quite a lot of small furniture items and bric-a-brac at low prices [not that I have purchased anything there for a long time...but it's fun to nose around]
The Leicester Tip at Whetstone is another Top Tip, imho - we went there lots in the years we were in Kirby.
It was always extremely well organised. The discarded vacuum cleaners there were always lined up by make. It amused us to see quite so many Dead Dysons- but we never saw a Sebo like ours - which must prove something!
Our local Dorset Waste Partnership seems well organised. We've not yet visited our local tip - but the bin men collect our various bins [general, recycling, bottles, glass and foodwaste] very efficiently. And Jim-next-door does not even have to put his bins outside the gate - elderly and less mobile residents can opt to have the bin man come onto the property, to retrieve, empty, and replace the bins each collection day. 
 Outside the Library yesterday I met a couple of affable chaps, warning about the problems of flytipping in Dorset.
The guy was standing in front of a heap of rubbish, handing out leaflets telling us how to report any illegal dumping of waste, and how to dispose of our rubbish correctly. Dorset's charges appear [for the time being anyway] to be lower than those in Norfolk]
He said that people have become much more environment-conscious in the last few years, but there are still folk who just drive out to quiet spots and empty out a van load of junk, rather than deal with it properly.
We had a great conversation about the wardrobe behind him. It had once been a good piece of furniture- the decorate escutcheon plates around the lock were delightful - and the interior shelves each had beautiful name plates [for socks, shirts, ties, underwear..] 
I have no use for it, and couldn't have transported it home on the back of my bicycle anyway. But it did seem such a shame it was being scrapped.
TV Programmes like Money For Nothing  are good for ideas about recycling/upcycling and renovating. 

I realised on Saturday that I had forgotten to get confetti for the wedding - but then saw the large notice at the Registry Office,  "This counts as litter, and therefore throwing confetti is illegal"which somehow seemed a little joyless!
One summer we had been invited to three weddings - so I bought 3 boxes of eco-friendly biodegradable confetti [on a 3-for-2 offer] Unfortunately by September, the contents of the third box had already become dust. 
As yet, we have a long way to go in this house before we become a "Zero Waste Home"   but I am trying to be extremely diligent about how we dispose of things. The largest item we are getting rid of this month will be a defunct Skoda Octavia.
Do you have helpful binmen?
And is your local tip well organised - or expensive to use?

Monday, 16 April 2018

Write On!

There has been a lot of debate recently about teaching children to write cursively - i.e. 'joined up' handwriting. The majority of their communication is verbal - face-to-face or on the phone, or it is with a keypad on whatever device is in front of them. Very little is actually written down - and when it is, it is often form filling, which must be done in capitals. 
Time have changed- when I was 7 we had to learn formal copperplate, and at 11, I was in a school where we used 'dip' pens. Our desks had inkwells - I was even 'inkwell monitor' at one point, charged with the responsibility of refilling them on a Friday afternoon.
I'm quite happy to write things down - my diary is an ancient, bulging filofax, with notes written in pen or pencil - neatly or scribbled. And when I am writing sermons, they almost always start off with 4 vital things- a Bible, a notepad, a writing implement, and a cup of good coffee. I find it much easier to put down my thoughts, include comments in the margin, or add asterisked footnotes if I am using a conventional writing method rather than typing. 
So I was thrilled when Bob, Liz, Jon and Rosie got together and gave me a beautiful birthday present last week - a really good quality fountain pen. This is going to live on my desk - it will not be leaving the house in handbag or school briefcase. It is too precious.
It rejoices in the name "The Parson's Essential" and came from the Mr Pen company.
My pen is a beautiful deep red in colour, with a medium width cursive nib.
It comes with cartridges, but also with an adaptor so that it can be used with regular ink.
I shall use the black cartridges supplied for the time being, but I am considering buying a bottle of ink sometime in the future.
I have a beautiful Victorian Glass Inkwell currently oin my ornaments shelf- it would be good to actually use it. In my teens, I filled it with turquoise ink. I was into writing poetry, and I pretentiously thought it improved the quality of my verse.
But here is my lovely new pen... with it's optional adaptor.

Bob has to use a 'proper' fountain pen for doing the marriage registers.
His is called "The Churchman's Prescriptor" - and is slightly larger and weightier than mine. It is a legal requirement that marriage registers are filled in with a particular non fading, long lasting ink. On Saturday, when I was witness at a wedding, I had to use the Registrar's pen. I don't have all the proper pictures of that event yet - but I know many of you have been here's the one actually taken by the Registrar in the 'Pankhurst Suite' at Manchester Registry Office.
From left to right, Bob, Ang, Steph, Gary's Mum, Gary, Gary's Dad, Gary's sister.
We had a fabulous day, the sun shone, and everyone was extremely happy.
Details will follow later.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

A Mother's Prayer

All this day, O Lord
let me touch as many lives as possible for thee;
and every life I touch
do thou by thy spirit quicken
whether through the word I speak,
the prayer I breathe, 
or the life I live.
Born near Manchester in 1828, Mary Sumner [nee Heywood] was the vicar's wife who founded the Mothers' Union.
She believed that if Christian women worked and prayed together, the life of the nation could be transformed.
I found this little plate, bearing the words of her personal daily prayer, in a charity shop a few months ago.
I keep it on my dressing table to hold ear-rings other bits of jewellery, and loose change. When I am get ready to face the day, I often re-read the words and echo her prayer.