Friday 29 August 2008

Have your cake...and eat it

Well - we ate the chard. It had a bitter-ish sort of taste, and neither of us was that keen on the flavour. It looked very pretty on the plate though! Not quite sure what I shall do with the other half of the bundle. Maybe make this pesto sauce For pudding, I made the Dessert of the Month from Martha Stewart Living Magazine.

msl picture Here's the picture from the magazine. The blurb says...

The carefree days of summer are embodied in this relatively effortless, yet elegant, skillet dessert. Aromatic lavender permeates the lightly sweetened cornmeal cake, and plump peaches impart even more fragrance and flavour.


Mine looked like this >>

I am afraid I didn't slice the nectarines into slices - mine were round blob shapes!

It wasn't totally authentic - I realised I had no cream, so planned to substitute Greek Yogurt. Then I missed out the crucial line in the recipe where you 'mix in cream and vanilla' !It is meant to serve 8, so we had ¼ tonight and I have put half into the freezer. We spooned Greek Yogurt over it. It tasted very nice - the cornmeal gives a pleasant sort of sandy texture to the sponge.


  • 5½ oz butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 peaches/nectarines, skins on, cut into wedges
  • 1 cup coarse yellow cornmeal or polenta
  • 3/4 cup plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons chopped lavender
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup double cream

Preheat oven to 180' Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat, using a pastry brush to coat sides with butter as it melts. Sprinkle ¼ cup sugar evenly over bottom of skillet, and cook gently about 3 minutes. Arrange peaches in a circle, on top of sugar. Reduce heat, cook until peaches begin to soften, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat.

Whisk dry ingredients. Beat remaining 4oz butter and 3/4 cup sugar with a hand mixer, until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl. Mix in vanilla and cream.Beat in cornmeal mixture.

Drop large spoonfuls of batter over peaches, and spread evenly. Bake until golden brown 20 to 22 minutes. Transfer skillet to a wire rack, stand for 10 minutes. Run a knife or around edge of cake. Quickly invert cake onto a plate. Tap bottom of skillet to release peaches, and carefully remove skillet. Reposition peach slices on top of cake. Let cool slightly before serving.

Not quite sure about "the carefree days of summer" - MS is very fond of flowery prose when describing her recipes. The lavender was an unexpectedly fragrant addition however. I shall try it again sometime with half quantities in my smaller skillet. If it works without the lavender, and using canned peaches and soft marg, it could be a useful, inexpensive store-cupboard standby.

If you burn it, do you get Charred Chard?

swiss chard I went with my friend Debbie to a nearby Country Market this morning. I didn't buy much - just some blackberries [because I haven't had time to forage in the hedgerows myself this autumn] and some Swiss Chard [because I don't recall ever cooking or eating it in my life]

Having it for tea, with the second half of yesterday's beef casserole, with a recipe from this site. Yesterday the casserole was served with some beautiful beans from friend Irene's garden. Trying really hard to eat plenty of veg lately!

Swiss Chard Recipe

1 large bunch of fresh Swiss chard

1 small clove garlic, sliced

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp water

Pinch of dried crushed red pepper

1 teaspoon butter



1 Rinse out the Swiss chard leaves thoroughly. Remove the toughest third of the stalk, discard or save for another recipe . Roughly chop the leaves into inch-wide strips.

2 Heat a saucepan on a medium heat setting, add olive oil, a few small slices of garlic and the crushed red pepper. Sauté for about a minute. Add the chopped Swiss chard leaves. Cover. Check after about 5 minutes. If it looks dry, add a couple tablespoons of water. Flip the leaves over in the pan, so that what was on the bottom, is now on the top. Cover again. Check for doneness after another 5 minutes (remove a piece and taste it). Add salt to taste, and a small amount of butter. Remove the Swiss chard to a serving dish.

Betty - who sold me the chard - was telling me about the competitions at Village Flower and Produce Fete last weekend. She won two cups - and came second in the 'Marmalade' Class [which, bizarrely, was won with a jar of rhubarb and ginger jam] and my neighbour submittted a jar of fruit vinegar, which came first in the 'Homemade Red Wine' Class. Jan's photograph of the children and parents queuing outside the church for Holiday Club won the first prize in the 'Photo of A Village Event' Class. Well done, Betty, Jan and co.

It was, apparently, a very successful Fete - despite the absurdities of the judging! English Village Life is not yet dead.

Thursday 28 August 2008

The Little Knitters

little knitters anker

I just found this lovely picture - it is by a Swiss Artist called Albert Anker, who lived a century ago. He specialised in painting children. [More pictures here.] I hadn't heard of him before, and wanted to share it!

Isn't it gorgeous? The girl concentrating so hard on her stitches [on four needles - I didn't learn to use four needles till I was in my forties!] and her little brother [sister?] gazing admiringly. The expressions on their faces are beautiful, and the details on the painting are wonderful.

I believe so passionately that it is important that we pass on these skills to our children.


Eagle-eyed daughter Liz has just spotted an error in my soda bread recipe [I have corrected it now] That should have been ONE pound of flour, not FOUR. Apologies to anyone who has made an incredibly big loaf!

On the subject of extremely large things, I feel very sorry for the family in Essexcamel spider who have been forced out of their home by the arrival of a Camel Spider, which apparently arrived here from Afghanistan in the Dad's Army Kitbag. On Radio 2, they said it was the size of a saucer, and managed to snap the plastic coathanger which the man's son used to poke it! In the Times it said they have red knees, but aren't particularly dangerous. The RSPCA won't comment till they have seen and identified it!

We've got lots of spiders in the house this week, of varying sizes, mercifully none that big. I think it is the change in the weather. I have got braver about dealing with them - but I still do not like wasps.

I am sure that wasps have a valid place in Creation, or the Good Lord wouldn't have created them - and I acknowledge that their nests are beautifully made. But I really do not like them. Especially the ones which climbed into my orange juice in Ireland and settled on my Danish Pvespaastry!

The Latin for 'wasp' is Vespa - and as far as I am concerned, the best Vespa is this sort!

The children round here went back to school today [late, as the bus didn't turn up on time] Poor things!

Wednesday 27 August 2008

It is BOUND to rain!

Sunday 14th September is our Village Fun Day. Bob is doing the PA. This event, like Topsy, has 'just growed' and this year they are using even more space and need more loudspeakers.

The weather being as it is, Bob has decided he needs proper waterproof covers for his gear. These cost a fortune - but he is convinced that I can sew anything if I put my mind to it. So I went to B&Q for this - a 5m x 4m tarpaulin, I have ordered some coated ripstop nylon from PointNorth, and spent much of the day measuring, making patterns and cutting out.

green tarp The idea is that the bulk of the cover is the tarp fabric and the front, where the grille is, is covered by the nylon which doesn't impede the sound too much, but is still waterproof.

It is OK for the big Behringer Sub Woofers like this. They are simple cuboidsbehringer

Anybody can sew a cuboid shaped cover.

[Oh, forgot to say he wants nylon drawstring cords at the bottom to stop flapping and keep covers in place.

The main problems come with the wedge-shaped speakers.

They are rather a challenge.

wedge speaker

I have been crawling round the floor with a tape measure and tearing my hair out!

Watch this space.

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Our revels now are ended...

The holiday is well and truly over, and we have both been extremely busy all day, doing admin and pastoral visiting, and I have still got a committee meeting to go to. The holiday reminded me how much I like soda bread, so I produced a loaf [plus home-made tomato and lentil soup] for lunch.


I was really pleased with the way it turned out. I used the recipe from my trusty Be-ro Book.


1 lb plain flour

1tspo salt

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

4 tsp cream of tartar

1oz lard [butter or marg]

2 tsp sugar

½pint milk.

Preheat oven to 200' C

Sieve dry ingredients, run in fat. Add milk, mix to soft dough.

Knead lightly, shape into round

Place on greased baking sheet, slash cross on top with sharp knife.

[at this point, I brushed loaf with milk, and sprinkled with 2 tsp porridge oats]

Bake 30 mins.

The Archers is getting exciting. The Vicar has fallen off his motorbike, and it is his wedding this week!

Monday 25 August 2008

Love & letters

In today's Times, there are extracts from a new book by the Duchess of Devonshidebo devonshirere. That's Debo, the current dowager, NOT Georgiana, the one they have recently made the film about. [The film stars the ubiquitous Keira Knightley and is based on a biography by Amanda Foreman]

I guess with all the fuss about her forebear, this one thought the market was ripe for another book.

<<here's Debo

georgiana devonshire

here's Georgiana >>

The first one, who also lived at Chatsworth, died 200 years ago, and lived an interesting life! She was born a Spencer, so there are inevitable comparisons to be made with Princess Diana. I did read the book when it first came out, but suspect the film will have turned the accurate historical perspective into a box-office bodice-ripper!

Deborah, on the other hand, was the youngest of the six Mitford sisters. Nancy became a writer, Jessica married Churchill's nephew, Unity was a girlfriend of Hitler, Diana married Oswald Mosely, Pamela was a close friend of John Betjeman - and Debo supported her husband [nephew of Harold Macmillan] in his political work, especially with the SDP. She also helped him turn Chatsworth into one of Britain's most successful stately homes. [It's worth a visit and they were especially accommodating when we turned up on the bike 3 years ago. we got to park right next to the house, not up in the Car Park!]

Anyhow, this book is a collection of correspondence between the Duchess and her friend Patrick Leigh Fermor. The extracts are intriguing, and leave me with a few questions -

  1. What kind of person keeps all her letters?
  2. Did she keep just his replies, or a copy of the letters she sent him? [And if these are handwritten - does she use carbon paper?]
  3. Why is her nickname for the Queen Mother "Cake"? [Bob thinks it is short for 'Fishcake' due to her habit of choking on salmon bones!]
  4. She refers to the 'much licked pews' of the Parish Church her family attended when she was a child. The footnote says "as children, the sisters used to lick the pews" WHY?? What reason would you have for licking a pew? [Bob said did the one who was best at it get a Pew-Licks-er Prize?]

I don't think I shall make my fortune with any great correspondence. I did keep my love-letters from old boyfriends [we never had email or text-messaging in the seventies] and when we split up, I would tie them in bundles with satin ribbon and fling them onto the top of a very high cupboard in my bedroom. [The letters, not the boyfriends!]

On 24th August 1979, I got a stepladder, climbed up, fetched them all down, and made a huge bonfire in the garden. It was extremely satisfying!

On 25th August 1979, I married Bob, and today is our 29th Wedding Anniversary.

Thankyou, sweetheart, for all these happy years together - it is a real privilege to be able share my life with such a loving man of God, and to serve Him together.DSCF0142


Having finished the bathroom at home, Bob drove to Elephant and Castle to put up some bookshelves for Liz and Jon. Like us, they are ardent readers and book collectors, both working in publishing, and their collection was getting a bit messy.

Here are two pictures of the space on the left of the fireplace in the lounge of their flat.




Bob went down Friday evening, and worked all day Saturday, returning Saturday evening. Liz sent me this picture of the new shelves and the sorting she has done so far!



Jon - a well brought up child - was also suitable grateful - but I dread to think exactly where he put this graffiti!


Nobody could accuse my man of laziness this week! But next year, I am determined that we will have a summer holiday which does not involve putting up tents, putting up shelves or laying down floors!

How about putting up sunshades and putting down beach towels?

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it is too dark to read" - Groucho Marx

All done!

The bathroom is all finished! I'm especially pleased that my picture goes so well with the colours. It is only a cheap print, free from a magazine about twenty years ago - but my Dad framed it for me when we moved here. It is just the right shade for the walls. I am still struggling to get pictures and text combined on this blog, so will simply put them all at the end in a row and hope it works!

When it was all done and tidied up, and photographed, the corner looked bare - so I put a plant there. It is gorgeous and I think Bob has done a brilliant job laying the floor.

Cannot quite work out why the walls look a slightly different colour in each shot. I think the last one is most accurate.





Wednesday 20 August 2008

Arranged at My Own Convenience!

IM002744 Here's a very hardworking man, spending the final week of his holiday redecorating the en-suite bathroom.

We divided up the tasks according to our different gifts. So Bob [6'4"] gets to paint the ceiling, whilst I [4'11½"] get to kneel on the floor and paint behind the loo.

I know my place!

Yesterday I cleared out tIM002745he  big cupboard under the sink - and was horrified to find how much toothpaste and other 'personal hygiene' products were lurking there.Am I expecting a world shortage?


The trouble is, whenever Boots have a 'IM002746Bogof' offer, I stock up, on the grounds that we will always have a use for them. Not buying any more toiletries till 2009 at the earliest!

The existing tiles are creamy coloured with a pinky/peach floral design on 10% of them. The walls were the original cream, from when the house was built 17 years ago.

We've decided to pick up the pinky/peach colour on the walls nowIM002747.[B&Q 'Warm terracotta'] The paintwork is B&Q 'Buttermilk'

The other major change is removing the original carpet - which was a rather horrid, poor quality beige, and replacing with laminate flooring. [From IKEA]

The floor is proving the hardest part. Bob has diligently watched the DVD on 'Laying Laminate Flooring' twice through now. Sadly the size of the room, and lack of true right angles, coupled wiIM002748th plumbing fixtures means he is having to do a lot of template-making and cutting of strips, to make them fit round the pipes etc.

It will look lovely when it is all finished.

The last of these pictures seems to show the wall colour most accurately.

We are so blessed in having such a beautiful Manse to live in - and having an en suite is bliss [beats getting out of a sleeping bag in the tent at 3am and running across a field to the loo-block in the rain!]

Conversation in the Post Office this morning;

Sandra - So what are you doing this week, Angela, now you are back from Ireland?

Angela - Painting the bathroom. This colour [indicates small spot of paint on arm]

Sandra - Very nice. It's the same colour as the big splash of paint on your nose!

Bob has done the bulk of the work - my main role is encourager and tea-maker. [Oh, and I did clean the shower Very Thoroughly before we began, with Domestos Grot Buster, which worked wonders on the grouting. However, I will pass on Liz's helpful warning - use it in a well-ventilated room!]

Catalogue of errors?

This week I have had a Kleeneze catalogue and Betterware catalogue through the door, and a number of others through the post - mostly trying to tempt me into buying things I don't need. Lynn over at All Things Bright and Beautiful had an interesting post about this, this week. As Christians we try and live simply, then get seduced by the things on offer. As Liz pointed out once, many tools in the Lakeland Catalogue are quite unnecessary if you have a good sharp knife!tearcraft catalogue

However, there IS a lot of fun stuff in the new Tearcraft catalogue which arrived this morning. There are things in there I would be quite happy to a; possess or b; give as gifts- and feel better knowing that the people who produce them have been paid a fair wage and treated with dignity.

I also like their idea about "Living Gifts" - an interesting twist on the vouchers produced by Oxfam etc ["I have given you a toilet in Nigeria", or a flock of geese in Chad, or whatever] Instead of that, the recipient gets a code for an e-voucher and they can choose how it is spent.

Their Christmas cards for this year are good too- PROPER ones, with 'Nativity story' pictures and Christian sentiments. None of the robins/holly/snowmen/Victorian scenes which annoy me so much. Why are so many of my friends embarrassed to send cards which remind people of the true meaning of Christmas?

Apologies to those of you who feel that I shouldn't be mentioning Christmas while we are still in August - it never hurts to plan ahead!

Monday 18 August 2008

Home, sweet home

We got back from holiday last night - all the washing is done, and drying, I have done a grocery shop and I am in that post holiday stupor, trying to remember what needs to be done immediately and what can wait a day or two.

I have dealt with the post and the emails, and am utterly amazed to have been awarded a weblog award from a friend on this blog



Now it is time for me to spread the love. According to the rules I have to pass this award on to 7 other bloggers


For the nominees here are the rules:
1) Add the logo of the award to your blog
2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you
3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs
4) Add links to those blogs on your blog
5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs

So I hereby nominate some of the blogs I check out regularly - a very eclectic mix, but who knows, you might find one that resonates with you!

Pastor Bob's Musings

A Skinny Fairtrade Latte in the Food Court of Life



All things bright and beautiful

Stardust Shoes

I have to say

A full account of the holiday will follow sometime, once everything is dry! Bob took some photos, and when we have got them properly sorted and captioned, we'll post a link. maplin_logo

It is Monday - so Bob has gone to Maplin [where else?!]

The fig tree survived our absence and looks ok.

We came back to find the power out - so I was glad I had put my remaining frozen foods into the freezer at the church. When we were away for a week last year, we returned to some VERY smelly fish which had defrosted!

It's lovely to have a holiday, and I am grateful for the change, and the opportunity to see new places and learn new things and meet new people - but it is SO good to be home again!

Saturday 16 August 2008

Water, water, everywhere...

Back at the Holiday Inn. Hallelujah! We have had almost continual rain, and despite our economy drive and attempts to camp, the weather has forced us into B&B now and then. Landladies have bemoaned the freakish weather and sadly 3 people have drowned because of it. God has been good to us, and we have been kept safe travelling on some awful roads in really bad riding conditions.
VERY early start tomorrow to get the ferry and then a long drive back home from Holyhead. Met some great people, seen some wonderful sights and eaten a variety of ...err... interesting foodstuffs!
Will have lots of wonderful stories to relate on our return - but not too many photos.
It has been good to get text messages from friends enjoying sunny, dry holidays - we look forward to being dry again!
Exceedingly grateful to Bruce who impressed upon me the necessity of PROPER biking clothes. I a sure I would be even wetter and colder without my trusty Belstaff jeans and Danese jacket! feeling less grateful to Grace [aka The TomTom SatNav] which got damp and has been playing up since last weekend. Hoping a dry night in a hotel room will sort her out.
Its Grace that brought us safe thus far, and Grace will lead us Home!!

Tuesday 5 August 2008

We're all Going on a Summer Holiday...

We are here in Dublin, having arrived safely yesterday afternoon. It is raining. Hard! Fortunately last night we were booked into the Holiday Inn by the airport, so didn't have to worry about finding a campsite. Unfortunately yesterday was a Bank Holiday - so attempts at picking up food for the evening to eat in our room were not too successful - we were reduced to watching the Simpsons whilst munching on Pot Noodles from the ill-equipped Spar Shop!!
We have just eaten all we could at the excellent all-you-can-eat-breakfast-bar! [paying for this with some reward points, so it feels "free"!]
Irish TV is in a 1970s/80s timewarp - woke up to 'Are you being served', 'Benson' and 'Falcon Crest' - most bizarre!!
Anyway, this is the end of luxury for a bit [bed, shower, teamaking facilities, Internet access] off now to the Wicklow Mountains in the mist and rain. Oh, and thunder, which has just started outside!!!
Still finding ourselves singing all the Holiday Club Songs - they have burned themselves into our brains!!

Sunday 3 August 2008

Support Free Speech - and "Christian Resource"

Just a brief note - if you follow this link you will get the full picture of why the SPCK Christian Bookshop in Bishop Street, Leicester, has changed its name, and is Under New Management. Like many others, I am really unhappy about the way SSG has been treating people- particularly their efforts to prevent Dave Walker speaking about the issue.

Rant over! back to packing the motorbike!

Saturday 2 August 2008

Ahead of the Trend!

This morning I allowed myself the luxury of reading the paper at breakfast. It felt very decadent, to take time, and not rush off to Holiday Club. According to the fashion writer, the key things to remember this coming season are

  1. leather jackets- pref. biker style
  2. trousers
  3. minimalist

biker jacket So that's brilliant - I needn't worry about my holiday clothes being out of style [1 leather biker jacket, 1 pr leather biker jeans, 1 pr denim jeans, 3 T-shirts, 3 sets underwear, 1 jumper, 1 pr trainers, 1 pr biker boots, 1 swimming costume] That minuscule list is definitely in agreement with The Times Fashion Editor's instructions. It is the same packing list I had in 2006 & 2007 - which just goes to show how much of a trend setter I am!

Off to do the packing now!

Friday 1 August 2008

You Won't Find Dracula in My Garage!

Debs kindly gave me some splendid garlic bulbsIM002741 this morning, she has a glut in her garden. They were beautifully plaited into a string, which is now hanging in the garage.

I have been told that this year has been a good summer for garlic [and therefore a bad one for vampires, I suppose!]

Since we moved the fig outside, none of the smaller figs have got any larger.

I hope they decide to ripen in two weeks time, ready for our return from holiday.

More pipecleaner people!




Now people will understand why I needed all those bottle tops with holes in! I realised too late that I had not got many photos of the PE bags they did with fabric crayons yesterday. They came out really well.We got them from The Clever Baggers and they were not too expensive [I just didn't have the time or energy to make 100 bags this summer- and when I priced up the fabric, I'd only save 20p per bag, so it wasn't worth it] The pipecleaner people and rock monsters were VERY inexpensive so I didn't feel too bad.


Crafty Kids

 IM002734  IM002733  IM002731   


   IM002735IM002718  I still haven't quite mastered this arranging of text and photos thing. Keep losing bits of words or edges of pictures. I am just blown away by the artistic skills of these children. The pink pig was done by a 6 year old [unaided] The pipe-cleaner rowers and skiers were made by 8 and 9 year olds. We let the top group do a slightly different craft on at least one day and they brought in pictures and papers to collage mirror frames.



We finished the session with a lovely fish'n'chip lunch, which David collected for us from the Desford Chippie. We sent him on his way with spare worksheets and craft bits for his club next week.

Clearing up went well and all the things were rapidly sorted and put away. Displays went up in the chapel ready for Sunday. Then we came home and collapsed!











Last night's Barbecue was excellent- almost 250 people there, enjoying games and hotdogs and good conversation. Bob had rigged up a superb awning to cover the two BBQs in case of rain but the weather was fine, so we all rejoiced! We don't charge for the evening, just put out buckets for donations, and through the generosity of those who came, our costs were completely covered.

I am too tired to think straight or type properly! It has been a splendid week though, and a great opportunity to work together with a group of good friends. It was wonderful to go round the group rooms, and hear staff explaining things like believer's baptism, and the importance of prayer, to the children. I wonder what their parents make of it all - when the children go home singing

"He's my Ace Foundation, my Ace Foundation,

I'll build my life on Jesus, and what He says to me"

I just pray that lots of them turn up for the service on Sunday!

Right now, I just want to sleep!