Wednesday 30 September 2009

This Little Piggy went To Market...

My trip into town this morning was supposed to be just the bank, the GPO and John Lewis Haberdashery. But I noticed that there was a European Market set up in the pedestrianised area- so I just had to go and look at the stalls. I love the colours and the variety of goods on sale from all over the place.

Polish sausages...


Interesting meats...



Artery clogging tartiflette!


Beautifully painted matryoshka dolls [ I think I would prefer a 'trad' one to a Barbie-pink one, or President Obama!]


Fabulous french biscuits, tarts, and brioche...


DSCF0631 DSCF0630

Every sort of dried/candied fruit imaginable - looking like trays of bright sparkling jewels...


I am not sure quite how 'Peru' qualifies as part of Europe...


And finally some Dutch and Flemish produce



So I bought a packet of Speculaas for my beloved Belgian, as he is inordinately fond of these biscuits...


Then I walked back to the car park through the Highcross and stopped to look in this shop


The assistant seemed eager to chat and offered me a free cup of tea. It was absolutely delicious and made from lavender. Unfortunately they do not sell the teabags! We had an interesting conversation about the lavender fields of Provence - and Norfolk!Lavender is fast becoming one of my favourite fragrances. l'occitane lavender

The L'OCCITANE website declares it "has always been a socially responsible company. The meaning and purpose of the brand are based on strong values: respect for both man and the environment, with an emphasis on exchange and sharing."

Their products have braille labelling, and they are very committed to supporting visually impaired young people. They train them as perfumiers and also offer student scholarships each year. The company has, not surprisingly, won awards from the Helen Keller Foundation for its efforts. [HK said "Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived."]

I came home feeling a sense of continental je ne sais quoi!

Tuesday 29 September 2009

Take A Seat!

After I'd posted about fixing the dining chairs for Liz, my friend Debbie asked me if I could sort out the chair from the bedroom in her new flat. It was looking a little battered


I was glad to be able to replace the covering with a sample square of pretty curtain fabric from the stash, and I even had a large square of felt to cover the underside [which I had no other use for due to a large crease mark down the centre]



Unlike the chairpads I did for Liz, which screwed on, this has to drop into the frame. Hope it fits!

DSCF0616 I am quite pleased with the finished result.

After fixing the chair, I went with Bob to our local hospital - and noticed a door open along one corridor- it looked out onto a lovely garden area.

Sadly, the majority of people do not have time to stop and look at these beautiful flowers. Their colours were so intense.




We are very fortunate to live so close to such an excellent hospital, and I am very grateful for all the treatment we have had over the years from the staff.

It is easy to complain about NHS waiting lists and things - and forget that our free healthcare in this country is a real blessing - and not something to be taken for granted. I nearly said that to the man opposite me in the Waiting Room, who grumbled - because his appointment was SIX MINUTES late! But I just smiled sweetly and went back to the magazine I was reading [an ancient "Prima" full of ideas for Christmas 2008]

I had sorted out a bag of 'stuff for charity' on Saturday, so dropped that off in the Hospital Charity Shop on my way past. They were selling this for £2

ikea Vasen vase

"Excuse me" I said, politely as I could - "I notice that vase is £2. Did you know you can buy them brand new for only £1.59 in IKEA?"

"Can you?" said the assistant, smiling back at me "Well, I don't think it really matters - I have sold three for £2 each already!"

Sunday 27 September 2009

What A Wonderful Day!

Sometimes you get to the end of a day utterly exhausted- but totally exhilarated because of how great it has been. I was at church for almost twelve hours but it was so good.

This morning I arrived early to start setting up for the lunch


Then the service began at 10.30am. We had lots of visitors, which was really encouraging and there was a great atmosphere. Lots of different people shared in the service in various ways - and the culmination was Janet's baptism [that is her husband David in the water with her and Bob, he's one of our deacons]


It was really moving to hear her speak of her journey of faith

- then she was baptised...


The picture above is a photo of the image on the big screen which is why it isn't so clear - but it shows how people in the congregation can actually see what is going on in the water.

After the service we went down for lunch



I had prepared jacket potatoes to cook during the service, and other people had provided a splendid array of salads and cheeses and quiches- followed by trifles, gateaux and more...

Then after much help with washing up and clearing away, almost everybody went home - and soon after 2pm, the Leicestershire Ladies County Bowling Association arrived. We were hosting their Annual Thanksgiving Service, as this year's President belongs to the Bowling Club in our village.

DSCF0611 By this time the baptistery had been emptied and covered, and the communion table replaced on the platform.

It was duly draped with their colours.

The LCLBA had provided today's floral arrangement too...



I am not sure I have ever seen so many navy blazers in our church all at once! There were nearly 100 ladies [and only about 5 men!]


Only half of them had arrived when I took this shot! Their service went really well [I never knew there was a special prayer written just for Lady Bowlers]

Then they all went down to the Hall for their tea. Then they left and I stayed until people started arriving for the evening service. I found a neglected copy of the Sunday Times on the windowsill, so I filled in the crosswords whilst waiting for 6pm. When Gwen arrived she said "Ken left his paper behind, do you know where it went?" so I had to confess. She said he wouldn't mind as he never did them!

A good crowd came to the evening service - after which we had still more tea and biscuits in the Hall.

Everyone worked so hard today to make all the visitors feel welcome. there was lots of help in the kitchen with serving and clearing the refreshments - and two people volunteered to launder the tablecloths and teatowels.

I pray that some of those who came today will come again.

I am too tired to do anything now except sleep!

[special note to E in India - this post manages to mention both your parents, and include photos of your Gran and also your Mum's left foot!]

Saturday 26 September 2009

I Believe In Authenticity

Tomorrow is Back2Church Sunday, and after the Baptismal Service we have a Bring'n'Share Lunch. So this morning I went off to the Cash'n'Carry to get some Bits'n'Pieces of This'n'That [Oh dear, where has my usual pedantry about the English Language gone all of a sudden - Down'n'Out, obviously!]

I was slightly taken aback to see one product on sale in the cheese section [memo to self, wrap up well for future Makro Trips, they have built a specially super-cooled area for refrigerated produce now - it was full of customers whose teeth were chattering]

There it was - I had to put it in my trolley and photograph it. [Then replace it on the shelf, before anyone noticed my weird behaviour]


Anyone for some 'mild grated flavour' on their jacket potato? I think not! And this huge bag was only 15p cheaper than the genuine grated cheese beside it. Who buys this stuff, and why?

I am afraid that pseudo-food like this just leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. Unlike our lunch today - which was, of course, pie'n'chips.

Friday 25 September 2009

Pillion and Purlin'

I realise that my last post about knitting machines has interested people in this somewhat esoteric craft. Be warned, knitting machines have a mind of their own - my photos do not show the evil tension wires which come out at the back and hover over your head as you work. One time I stood up too fast and got my hair and clothing completely entangled. You remember Steve McQueen coming off his motorbike in "The Great Escape" into a barbed wire fence?

Fortunately I had a loving husband on hand to rescue me, not some nasty Nazis! [Although I believe I may have been threatened with isolation in The Cooler if I didn't act more circumspectly in future!]

I love knitting, and I love riding pillion - but I do not attempt to combine the two activities at once. It is said that Elizabeth Zimmerman [the British born woman who is credited with reviving the art of hand-knitting in the USA] used to hand-knit whilst riding behind her husband! I think that is dangerous - anyone who rides a motorbike without protection on their hands is utterly stupid, and you cannot hold needles properly in biking gloves [yes, I have tried!]And surely you risk stabbing the driver if he brakes suddenly!

zimmerman She was the first knitter to be honoured with a full obituary and article [in 1999] in the New York Times titled "E. Zimmermann Is Dead at 89; Revolutionized Art of Knitting."

Her motto was

 "Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crises."

She also said, in her book "Knitting without Tears"

 "Really, all you need to become a good knitter are wool, needles, hands, and slightly below-average intelligence. Of course superior intelligence, such as yours and mine, is an advantage."

I am not sure about that one - my knitting often reduces me to tears, and I feel like Pooh, the Bear Of Very Little Brain - I am definitely a better needlewoman than knitter. [btw It is important, in print, always to refer to oneself as a needlewoman, and not as a sewer. People may misread it, and think you are a member of the Effluent Society!]

A Great Knit

Bob is away for a few days at a Ministers' Conference [brief rant about the unfairness of the East Midlands Baptists who do not allow spouses along - most of the other regions do...]

So, without any teaching having materialised, I have thrown myself into some craft activity, namely, work on the knitting machine. The KM sort of takes over, so it is best done as a project over a couple of days when I can get everything out, make the mess and then clear it all up again. In Bob's absence, I can listen to the radio** and zip away at the machine.


Machine knitting is a totally different craft from hand knitting - in the latter you have all your stitches on one [or two] needles and can see what the pattern looks like as you knit. In the former, you have hundreds of needles, with just one stitch on each, and the wrong side of the work facing you, so it is something of an act of faith.

DSCF0599 I got this machine back in 1983, when Liz was a baby. My friend Libby from New Zealand said everyone in NZ had them, and they were especially good if you had a tall husband, as it was a good way to make large jumpers quickly and cheaply. Bob treated me to this machine from a shop in Streatham. I have yet to master making jumpers for Bob - somehow they've never quite fitted. The first one came out way too small [My Dad wore it for years] The next was big enough apart from the neckline, which wouldn't go over Bob's head comfortably.

However I did make quite a few jumpers for the girls when they were younger- including two amazing ones for Liz with pictures of horses on them. And I have made lots of baby blankets. Also scarves and woolly hats.

I haven't done any MK for about 2 years and somehow I could not get my head round casting on yesterday. I spent the first 90 minutes muttering and struggling with the knit carriage, and every so often, everything fell off the needles and hit the floor!

DSCF0600 However it all came right in the end, and I knitted the things I wanted. But now I have all the sewing up to do.

I will post pictures of everything when it is done.


**I was listening to BBC7, and they had a dramatisation of Robinson Crusoe, with Roy Marsden. It was utterly brilliant - I had completely forgotten how much of Daniel Defoe's Christian principles come across in the original book. My memories are coloured by recollections of the TV series of the 1960s [can you have coloured memories of a black and white programme?]

Anyone else remember watching this?

Thursday 24 September 2009

Still More Strangeness...

After the Breeding Coathanger incident, I have been watching for other signs of Alien Life round here. This morning, I happened to glance out of the window at the Buddleia Bush [past its best now] and noticed something strange and brightly coloured deep in the foliage. I actually wondered at first if it was a parrot...


But closer inspection revealed it was Spiderman!




Sad, floppy, and a little bit damp. I propped him up against the garden umbrella and took a photo. He didn't look very pleased about it.



Then I popped round to my neighbour - and she recognised him immediately. A favourite toy of her young son [Spidey has apparently been on holiday to Portugal, the USA and many other places] she said he would be thrilled to have him back. She also said he hadn't actually mentioned losing him - probably because he didn't want to get into trouble. Apparently Spiderman is frequently thrown high into the air, in the belief that this will help him fly - obviously this time, the flight took him over the garden fence and into our buddleia!

As a good neighbour, it was my duty to return him -

"with great power comes great responsibility" you know!

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Bon Appetit!


Had a wonderful outing this week going to see the film "Julie and Julia" with a group of friends [it's chick flick though - warning - boyfriends and husbands may be bored]

It's based on the story of Julie Powell, a girl in New York in 2002 who decided to cook her way though "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" [by Julia Child] in just one year, and blog about it.

child French Cooking


The screenplay is by Norah Ephron [Sleepless in Seattle, Heartburn etc] and Meryl Streep gives a great performance as the legendary American Cook, and seems to have the mannerisms to a T.

An excellent review here


juliza child 1 j-j 3

Mrs Child [left] Ms Streep [right] see what I mean? She was 6'2" tall [that's a little scary for someone like me] and certainly a 'larger than life' personality. Although Mrs Child was around in the Fanny Cradock era, she is much more of a blessed St Delia to my US friends I think.

Good bits - I loved the shots of 1950s Paris, the pictures of boeuf bourguignon [I've got an Orange Le Creuset Casserole like that!!] the lovely swirly New Look skirts, and the little hats. I thought the way the two husbands were portrayed was great [bordering on uxorious] - each so ready to encourage and affirm his wife's achievements. [Bob bought me a pearl necklace like Julie's this year!] And when JP went to the Smithsonian in Washington to look at that kitchen, I got really excited - I was there in 2004. I thought JP's experience of blogging was interesting - although I cannot believe it was so long before she got her first comment [and that from her Mum, too] I thought Susan Spungen [ex Food Editor for Martha Stewart] had done a good job on the technical side of things. We saw the film at the new Cinema De Lux, in Leicester Highcross, and I liked the recliner seats and the general ambience.

Less Good Bits - The lady three seats along who kept laughing so loudly. The people in the row behind who kept kicking the backs of our seats [there is so much leg-room, they must have been as tall as Julia to do that!] The Lobster Death Scene [although the American juli&julia Humane Society declared in the credits that no animals had been harmed - so maybe it was CGI!] I am not sure when I shall cook cannelloni again either. I didn't like the 'Bitch' scene much, but research leads me to believe that the real-life JP isn't as sweet and sugar coated as the one portrayed in the film, and her original book [and blog] is peppered with four-letter words [and I can do without that kind of seasoning, thank you]

We had some good conversation afterwards - I never eat eggs if they are boiled, fried or poached- but it appears my friend Sarah never eats them at all! We wondered what kind of balanced [unbalanced?] diet Julie and Eric Powell lived on throughout the year. And to wear heels that high when you are on your feet cooking all day long!

Concluding thoughts -

Number One - both Julia C and her [even taller] sister married men who were not only shorter than them, but actually shorter than the average man. That shows confidence and love on both sides of the relationship. Ronnie Corbett once said "If you are a short man, you should never marry a short woman, or when you walk down the street you will look like a pair of bookends." [His wife is tall, too.] It doesn't strike me as quite such a problem when the height disparity is the other way round [I know this from personal experience!]

Number Two - I think I would like a professional navy bistro apron like Julia and Julie wore. But it would probably look silly on a woman my height.

Number Three - it was a fun film, and I enjoyed it. Even if you knew nothing about Julia Child, or about blogging, but you like French food and cooking, I think you might enjoy it [even if you're a bloke]

Here's the real Mrs Child

Compare and contrast!

[Oh and Liz, you were right - the film does make you hungry, so it was useful to take along some sweets!]

Strange, But True

I picked up this white wire coat hanger from the bedroom floor [no that's not the strange bit!]


When I came out of the bathroom a few minutes later, I found these two white wire paper clips in exactly the same spot where the hanger had been.


Is it breeding, do you think??

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Sign Of The Times!

We had a banner professionally made for Holiday Club


It has been rolled up in the Church Office since August [hence Bob's shoes holding it flat now!] The back was plain white, and it seemed a waste to discard it just because Holiday Club was over. We decided to re-use it for Back2church Sunday this weekend. So I turned it over, and carefully measured and worked out the wording, marked it in pencil and drew up the lettering using a permanent pen. Permanent? Huh! The only surfaces on which this ink appears to stay permanently are my hands!


So then I covered my smudgy blue lettering with black PVC electrical tape.


Which looks OK from a distance - but get closer and you will realise the tape is not sticking down properly - it is peeling up and revealing the blue ink


At this point in the proceedings, Bob came home and found one very disgruntled wife kneeling on the carpet. He suggested spray painting. So we carried it out to the garage and he applied some Chrysler Red Spray Paint which happened to be in the garage [when did we have a red Chrysler?]


Then we went inside and had some lunch.

After which I went back out again. The paint was dry so I peeled off the tape.

This revealed the nasty smudgy blue ink underneath. Fortunately this washed off easily with soapy water, leaving white lettering on a red background.




Then I finished off the sign with a black Sharpie pen [I love Sharpies!] And finally Bob went down to the church and hung it up!



So I hope somebody sees it and comes along! [We have a baptismal service and a bring-and-share lunch]

Whilst I was doing all this crawling around on the carpet, I was watching an old film on TV - "The Inn Of The Sixth Happiness"

I love this film, it is the story of Gladys Aylward, who went to China as a missionary in 1930. The film gives a somewhat over romanticised version of the story - but it's a good biopic nonetheless. My parents originally planned to go to China as missionaries, so I was brought up on this story.  If you have not seen it, or read the book, I'd really recommend it.

The book is 'The Small Woman by Alan Burgess. There's a good synopsis of it here.  This small woman [only my height!] was told she wasn't qualified to go out as a missionary - but she knew God had a purpose for her there.

My Mum actually got to meet Gladys when she visited England about 50 years ago. This film reduces me to tears every time!

I have got to get my hands clean somehow. Bob keeps referring to me as his Small Woad Woman!