Friday 30 September 2011

Ready For Autumn

sirdar 9127

This is the knitting pattern [Sirdar Escape # 127] that my friend Carole lent me some months ago. I bought some King Cole ‘Riot’ yarn from the lovely Knitwits woolshop on Dereham in August, whilst we were on holiday at Cornerstones, and by the end of August, I had knitted the fronts, back and sleeves- and just had the button band to go.

That took ages – 460 stitches to pick up- and 22 rows of k2p2 rib. But now it is finished.



I found a really pretty button in my tin. Somehow when there is only one button on a garment, I feel t ought to be an interesting one!

Bob kindly took a picture of me in the new cardi. The yarn is wonderfully soft, and I think the colours will go well with my existing wardrobe.

Not sure about my next knitting project- Steph has mentioned something knitted for her birthday, and Bob has suggested I make a him jumper to fit his new slim frame. But that will take forever – he may be slimmer, but he is still tall,with long arms! But I suspect my next project may be tiny bootees for my friend’s first grandchild, expected shortly!

Thursday 29 September 2011

100% Satisfaction

When I was 13, every Friday at school was ‘Charity Day’ – and we were invited to donate odd pennies to the school’s chosen charity for the year. We always asked our Form Teacher, Mr Watson, for a contribution. He said “For every shilling [12 pennies] you collect, I will give you 3d more”. I was the Class Charity Monitor**.

pre decimal currency

So I would count up the money and say “One shilling” and he would hand over 3d, and I would repeat this until we’d finished. But I confess that I always put his 3d into the left hand pot – so by the time we had collected 4 shillings, he had given us 12d plus a further 3d. Instead of 25%, he was contributing over 31%. About half way through the year, he suddenly realised what I was doing! [I was the budding mathematician, and he was just the history teacher, after all] I didn’t feel too guilty- it was for charity.

I did feel vaguely guilty today, however in M&S. They had sent me some vouchers – one was for £1 off £3 worth of desserts, the other was 15% off food and wine purchases.


I calculated £1 off £3 of puds plus 15% off £10 = £2 + £8.50 = £10.50

I got twinpacks of puds normally £1.89, but today “Two for £3” and the “Dine In” offer would have cost £16.64 if I had purchased the items separately. So original full price this would have been £20.42.

The vouchers said “cannot be used with other vouchers” so I went in and bought £3 of puds, and the ‘Dine in for £10’ offer – but put them through the till as two separate transactions.

Here’s where things went crazy and I felt I was somehow swindling M&S - the computer in the till calculates the 15% reduction before charging the £10 – so I paid £10 - £2.49 = £7.51 [as £2.49 is 15% of original price] That’s 23% off, not 15%!

original price £20.42– I paid £9.51- a 53% reduction

That’s a generous main meal, plus veg, for two, and 8 portions of dessert, and a bottle of wine [normally £6.49 a bottle]

That was all I got in M&S – the rest of my groceries came from Sainsburys- where I spotted 500g of olive spread at £1, next to a 1kg tub labelled “Bigger pack, better value” costing £2.25. You do have to be alert these days –bigger is not always better!

however_you_dress_it_upGill has a great roundup of food thriftiness here today.

Other people are beginning to mention Christmas. It’s never too soon to start planning. Personally I would rather collect a little on and off throughout the year [gifts and foodstuffs] so I can take time when December gets here to concentrate on the spiritual side of it all. As this ad says!

**I got this job because I was good at maths, reckoned to be trustworthy with money, and I was too short to be Blackboard Monitor!

Thrifty Thursdays #5 – Final Roundup

thrifty thursday

The fifth and final one in this series of posts. Thank you to everyone who has joined in with posts and/or comments. I suspect some of you may continue with the odd ThTh as the autumn progresses- but I’m stopping now and will maybe resurrect the idea again next year.

I have decided to look back through the past month or so and see what thrifty actions I have taken each day – thrift has become part of the pattern of life, and it is easy to take good habits for granted.

Here is a random list of things I have done which have saved a few pennies here and there – and if appropriate I have linked to a blogpost which gives further explanations…

  1. made chutney from neighbour’s windfall applesDSCF2355
  2. made a greetings card for a friend [here]
  3. found a single portion of pasta sauce in freezer- added one can of budget baked beanz to make topping for two servings of spaghetti.
  4. cleaned some silver even though I had no ‘proper’ polish [here]
  5. split one pot of budget yogurt into two glass dishes and added a few chopped up windfall plums to make two desserts.
  6. used fabric scraps to make Log Cabin Patchwork [here]DSCF2415
  7. saved money by using coupons on products which I would buy anyway
  8. swapped some of my chutney for jars of jam and jelly with another blogfriend [here]
  9. used florists ribbon to make silk blooms to ‘pad out’ wedding flower arrangement [here]
  10. arranged to swap chutney for a cake next month [meeting up with blogfriend at a Conference in October!]
  11. made an Eve’s pudding, with free windfalls, in a slightly smaller dish than usual [better for diet!] and had leftover sponge mix - that made 4 fairy cakes for tea next day.
  12. altered Florence's babygros so they will fit her for a few moreDSCF2296 weeks [here]
  13. cooked a large casserole – and portioned it out immediately to make 6 servings [take the whole pot to the table and we either serve ourselves too much, or second helpings we do not need!]
  14. turned two old duvets into one ‘new’ bedlinen set  [here]and a pair of pyjamas [here]
  15. picked a small punnet of blackberries in lane beside the school to add to my 5-a-day fruit portions.[here]
  16. mended a friend’s leather handbag for her by re-sewing the strap [just needed a tough needle and a thimble and some button thread- all of which I had and she didn’t]
  17. found some meat with ‘yellow stickers’ greatly reduced in thelarkrise recipe book shop when I went to buy milk. Bought it for the freezer.
  18. made some Larkrise Potted Apples with final remainder of windfalls
  19. used my Boots points to buy some medication, rather than using cash.
  20. cleared out veg drawer of fridge to make a huge quantity of roasted veg with all that stuff that is almost past its prime [aren’t we all?!] portioned and froze the resultant Mediterranean Melange. Carrots, onions, pepper, potato, courgettes, squash, garlic, plus rosemary and thyme.
  21. sent an e-card to a friend for her birthday because postage abroad is so expensive
  22. arranged some flowers for a friend in a jam jar [wrapped in DSCF2471more of that florist’s ribbon] so I wouldn’t need a vase
  23. bought a ‘new’ dress for my Special Bletchley Events in a Charity Shop [pictured here]
  24. planned trips to bank/GPO/shops/doctors /market carefully, making efficient use of car and Park’n’Ride service
  25. resisted temptation to buy bag of chips on the way home [that was so hard for both of us!]
  26. used outside washing line as much as possible for drying laundry
  27. read news online rather than buying papers [well, apart from the Leicester Mercury last Friday!]
  28. borrowing books from friends, or the Library, rather thanIM003274 buying them
  29. resolutely sticking to my budget!
  30. like The Balancing Kiwi [here], I have started making Stash Reduction Plans [click on the attic picture in my sidebar]

I have analysed these, and colour coded them – it is not true that only crafty people or good cooks can be thrifty – there are dozens of different ways to stretch the budget.

blue = sewing savings

green = food savings

red = using what is already there to save money

purple = efficient shopping

brown = making my computer earn its keep

I hope you have found something useful in this series of posts – I know I have picked up a few good tips from some of the other bloggers involved. Thanks again for joining in!

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Move Over Popeye!


I was buying some milk when I spotted an assistant marking down a bag of spinach with a yellow sticker. My original plan was to use it in a salad, but then I decided to make some soup instead. I thought it would make two portions – but in fact I ended up with three- so Bob and I had some for lunch today, before he departed for his Ministers’ Conference- and I shall take some to school tomorrow to warm up in the staff microwave.

  • 100g bag of leaf spinach
  • 1oz butter [or margarine]
  • 2tsp olive oil
  • 2 shallots chopped
  • 1 large potato, peeled, cut into ½” cubes
  • 15floz stock
  • fresh nutmeg
  • 5floz milk
  • salt and pepper
  • 1oz feta cheese cut into small cubes
  1. Melt butter in large pan, then add shallots and potatoes
  2. Stir well, cover pan, and cook gently for 10 minutes
  3. Add stock, bring to simmering point, cook for 10 minutes
  4. Add spinach cover and leave to ‘collapse’ for 3 minutes
  5. Add milk, salt & pepper, and a generous grating of nutmeg
  6. Allow to cool a little, then blend in liquidiser till smooth
  7. Return to pan and reheat gently.
  8. Ladle into bowls and serve with cheese.


The soup was a fabulous green colour, and with the home-made rolls and fresh pears, it made a lovely autumnal lunch.

In dentibus anticis frustrum magnum spiniciae habes*

During the 1930s Popeye, probably the world's most famous consumer of spinach, was indeed credited with a 33% increase in the consumption of spinach in the USA.The mythical strength-giving properties of spinach are, however, mostly credited to a simple mistake concerning the iron content of the vegetable. In 1870, Dr E von Wolf published figures which were accepted until the 1930s, when they were rechecked.

catherine de mediciThis revealed that a decimal point had been placed wrongly and that the real figure was only one tenth of Dr von Wolf's claim! However it’s still full of vitamins, and good for you. Spinach has always been popular - Catherine de Medici,  brought cooks from her native Florence to France after she married the King, in order that she could still eat her favourite spinach dishes – which is why many spinach dishes are still described as 'à la Florentine'.

* a useful Latin phrase, meaning “you have a big piece of spinach in your front teeth”. Actually not that useful, as few folk [apart from Mags] know much Latin anymore.

Mug Shots!

We are in process of renewing our passports. They actually expired months ago, but we haven’t travelled anywhere foreign since we bought Cornerstones [contrary to common belief, East Anglia is not another country!] I will be needing mine in November**. So we got new photos. The instructions state

Neutral expression, no frowning or grinning, no raised eyebrows, no teeth showing, no glasses, no head-coverings, no hair across face, no shadows, no red-eye.

The resulting pictures are utterly dire! they may let me out of the country, but I am wondering if they will let me back in again!


Somehow I feel that just out of shot, we ought to be holding up cards with our convict numbers on them!

hugh grant convict

It costs £77.50 to renew a passport. At least it lasts ten years. This will only be my second passport, and I think the first was used about 12 times.

I wonder how much use this new one will get?

**I will tell you more about the November trip nearer the time.

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Back To The Real World…

…after all the excitement of being on the radio yesterday. If you’re in the UK, you can listen here – it is about an hour into the programme. I’ve decided it is way to late to try and lose my Essex accent. I did half a day in school, with many children and colleagues saying “I saw your picture in the Mercury, Miss” and “Miss, Did you know you were in the paper?” It began to feel a bit like “Oooh, you’ve had your hair cut!” – as if the victim wasn’t aware it was happening. Made another sweatshirt yesterday…


…this time for Lester The Lemur.

I am OK with teddy bears, just about happy with lemurs- but I may draw the line at meerkats!

The ‘Exotic Pet Refuge’  in Lincolnshire advises that meerkats make very poor pets. They bite, and the bite can become infected. They stink, and will scent-mark their owner and the house. Being a pack animal, they may become hysterical if kept as single pets. And they aren’t very good at insuring your property either!

Potted History

I have just used up the last of the windfall apples from my neighbour. I was looking through this book the other evening when I came alarkrise recipe bookcross an interesting recipe.

The book is The Lark Rise Recipe Book by Mary Norwak [pub 1986] cost me all of 20p at some village event held in the Parish Church Hall earlier this year.[sft mentioned Lark Rise yesterday in her post too!]

It’s a lovely little volume, full of super reproductions of Victorian paintings of rural life. Here’s “Picking Turnips” by Robert Cree Crawford…

picking turnips cree crawford 

But the recipe for “Potted Apples” caught my eye- it looked so ridiculously easy. And it was!

  • 4lb Mixed Apples
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Ground Cloves
  1. Cut up the apples without peeling or coring.Only just cover with with water.
  2. Cover and cook in a moderate oven [150ºC] for 45minutes until the apples are soft
  3. Press well through a sieve, forcing out all pulp and juice
  4. Weigh the puree and add 6oz sugar and pinch of cloves to each 1lb of puree
  5. Stir over low heat till sugar has dissolved, then boil for 5 minutes.
  6. Put into small, hot jars and seal tightly.

Mary says “This makes a good sauce for savoury or sweet dishes, or it may be used like jam and spread on toast or biscuits.”


I had no ground cloves, but put 8 whole cloves into my pan.

I made 6 jars altogether – I have already used up two of them. I used half the smallest jar on toast [yum!] and the other half into a sauce for pork chops.

The second small jar, I combined with custard and stirred in another half punnet of blackberries [picked after school yesterday] to make a fool-ish dessert.

I like the fact that the apples needed so little preparation, and cooked in the oven, alongside a load of other stuff. I poured them into the sieve, weighted it down with a plate and some weights from my scale pan set. Came back later to find the puree almost all gone through, and it was less that twenty minutes from there to jars filled and ready to label!

Another picture from the book – this one is “The Harvesters” by George Vicat Cole, painted in 1881.

harvesters-1881 george-vicat-cole

Keep Calm–Then Rant A Bit


This poster was produced by the British Government during WW2, part of a set of 3, but its distribution was limited. In 2000, Stuart and Mary Manley, who ran a bookshop in Northumberland found the poster and framed it. It attracted so much interest that they began printing and selling the posters.

And there have been loads of spin-offs, and clever twists [‘keep calm and carry yarn’ etc] The Manleys have been OK with that – and are happy to acknowledge the history of the poster, citing the 1997 undergraduate dissertation, and later PhD thesis of Dr Bex Lewis

But now a man called Mark Coop, who set up his company “Keep Calm and Carry On Ltd” a mere four years ago** is trying to trademark the slogan, and prevent anyone else from using it, because he says his livelihood depends on it. I think the man has a real cheek. Will he try and claim “Dig For Victory” is his next?

I am all for people being able to protect and copyright their property – whether it is words, music, art, crafts whatever. But I do not believe this man ‘owns’ this phrase. He was not the first to use it, nor the first to unearth the posters [apparently he does not even possess a WW2 original poster] This strikes me as sheer greed.


**Liz gave me a KC&CO poster before Mark Coop’s company started!

There were originally three posters in the WW2 set – so here’s the third. Do check out the campaign here


Monday 26 September 2011

Teddy Sweatshirt Tutorial

I have now lost count of the number of bears I have dressed in these mini-sweatshirts. A number of people have asked for the pattern – but of course, they changes from bear to bear as the toys are all different sizes.

Here are the basic notes for making the garment.

Measure the bear round at his widest part [chest or tummy] add 4cm and halve to get measurement ‘across’ [measurement A]. Now measure from shoulder to ‘tum’ -or wherever you want bottom of shirt [measurement B].  Do not add anything here. Get a piece of scrap paper, and fold it in half. With fold at the top [ie shoulders]draw a rectangle to those dimensions [A x B], and then draw curves for armholes and neckline. Cut out, and also cut straight up centre back. Slip this onto the bear and check it is big enough, with overlap for seams. Cut the pattern in half along shoulder folds.

Now measure shoulder to wrist [measurement c] and also round the arm at thickest point add 1cm [measurement D] Cut a rectangle [C x D] and curve one edge.


Now you have the two pattern pieces – body and sleeve


Now take your full size sweatshirt and work in this order

  1. Cut off the collar, waist and cuff ribbing- as close to the seam as possible [leaving seam attached to shirt part]
  2. Cut up the side seams and along should seams, so you have the front piece, and the sleeves attached to the back.
  3. Pin the ‘body’ pattern over the school crest – allowing at least 0.5cm round the crest, so it doesn’t get stitched into the seam.
  4. Cut out back and sleeves from the rest of the front [if you have a very large bear, you may need to use other bits of the original sweatshirt!]
  5. Sew shoulder seams [right sides together]
  6. Pin sleeves into place [right sides together] and stitch
  7. Now cut a piece of ribbing to fit ends of sleeves, pin and stitch [right sides together]
  8. Pin the sides/sleeves/cuffs [right sides together] and stitch – working from bottom edge to cuff, so that seams are lying towards cuff.
  9. Fold cuff to inside, turn in a narrow hem and handstitch in place.
  10. Cut a piece of ribbing to fit the neck, adding 1cm for seam.
  11. Sew a seam in the ribbing [right sides together]
  12. Pin the ribbing round the neckline [right sides together] and stitch into place
  13. Fold neck ribbing to inside, turn in a narrow hem and handstitch in place.
  14. Measure the bottom of sweatshirt, and cut a piece of ribbing to fit, adding 1cm for seam. Sew the seam [right sides together]
  15. Fold hem ribbing to inside, turn in a narrow hem and handstitch in place.


And you now have a sweatshirt for your bear

Hoping you have made sense of all that!


Extra tip – if your bear has something embroidered on his footpad [Mothercare/Xmas 2007/etc] you may wish to cut two circles of the sweatshirt fabric and stitch them on the feet.


But stitch them on very firmly, as I have discovered that little fingers like playing with the footpads and pulling out the stitching. I have spent time over the weekend making repairs to a Barnaby Bear with very tatty feet!

For pyjama jackets, use the same pattern – but cut the front in two pieces and allow overlap for fastening.

On this bear, I cut the pjs from the front of an old adult pair, and used two existing buttons and buttonholes to save effort. Other times I have I used press studs or Velcro dots, and sewn buttons on separately.

Warmly Welcomed!


We had around a dozen or more extra visitors – which was great.


DSCF2481…and they all stayed for lunch!

Janet and her team laid on a fantastic spread.

Look at all these eager young hands reaching in to get a plateful of goodies.

The worship group played and sang really well, Bob preached a super [but brief] sermon and all in all it was A Good Service.

Hoping that some of these people will come again to worship with us.

Sunday 25 September 2011

God Loves All Sorts

Another church near us has just done an OAPs Holiday At Home. This afternoon they are having a closing service, and I’ve been asked to give a brief talk on the theme above.  Which is fun, because the idea of Liquorice Allsorts came from round here! My talk is not particularly original [In fact I vividly remember hearing Dr Raymond Brown giving a similar one in Bishops Stortford in 1961!]

Here are my notes…

boxLet’s begin with the history of the allsort- Allsorts were created by happy accident. The story goes that in 1899 Bassetts – a confectionery company in Sheffield, sent one of the firm’s salesmen, a certain Charlie Thompson, here to Leicester, to demonstrate his liquorice sweets. He accidentally knocked his boxes of samples onto the floor in front of a buyer.

The buyer, seeing the colourful mixture of sweets asked Bassetts to produce just such an assortment for him to sell. Bassetts asked Charlie to name the sweets and the rest, as they say, is history.

bertieThirty years later, in 1929, they created “Bertie Bassett” – a character made up of an assortment of the sweets.

Our theme this afternoon  is ‘God loves all sorts’ – however I don’t think that means that the Almighty always has a dish of liquorice sweets beside him.

But who knows what foods will be at the Bridal Feast of the Lamb? After all, Isaac Watts wrote in one of his hymns, [Marching To Zion'] about ‘the hill of Zion yielding a hundred sacred sweets’

No – I think our theme today has been chosen to remind us that whatever we are like, whoever we are, God loves us.

selectionHave you looked at these sweets lately? Every single one of them has liquorice in it somewhere. Romans 3v23 tells us that “All have sinned and fallen short of God’s standards” – and every person who has ever walked this earth- apart from our Lord Jesus, has done wrong. We all have the marks of sin in our lives.

plainSome people are like the sweet that is all liquorice, it is really hard to find any sweetness in them.

They don’t really care about the sharp taste they leave behind.

selection4Others appear outwardly to be ‘a bad lot’ – but inside they want to put things right. Yes, maybe they have gone spectacularly, publicly wrong and made awful mistakes – but in their heart they have sought forgiveness.

layersMost people are like the ‘sandwich’ variety – some sweet layers with liquorice in between – good sometimes, and bad at other times.

My favourite allsort as a child was the round pink coconut one – sweet and chewy and pretty to look at – but selection5even that had a liquorice core. Even the prettiest, sweetest people have sinned – it may not be too obvious to the outsider, but God, who sees our hearts, knows the pride, the greed, the bad thoughts that are deep inside us.

Whichever allsort you select, you can be sure that it will have some liquorice in it – and whichever person you think of, you can be sure that somewhere in their life there is something wrong, the Bible shorthand word is sin, which separates us from a perfectly good and holy God. The Bible tells us that because God is perfectly good, he cannot bear sin – so what does that mean if we are sinners?


Maybe as you look back on your life, you are thinking “but I’ve been pretty good – I have never murdered anyone, or robbed a bank, or rioted and thrown bricks through windows” but you know that you have had selfish thoughts, said unkind words, been jealous or greedy – you have fallen short of God’s standards. Or perhaps you already acknowledge the times you have done wrong. The good news of the Gospel is that you can know forgiveness and peace and joy and abundant eternal life because God truly loves allsorts, in John’s Gospel it says [approximately!]  “For God so loved the allsorts in the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

My prayer is that as you enjoy your tea and sweets this afternoon, you too will know that God loves you, whatever ‘allsort’ you are!

The Big Welcome

It is happening all over the country today, at dozens of churches. Last year it was called ‘Back to Church Sunday’. But some people objected to ‘Back’ [what if they hadn’t been before?] others to ‘Church’ [what if we meet in a school building or other non-ecclesiastical structure?] others to ‘Sunday’ [what if our event is on a Saturday?] There probably are even some who objected to the word ‘to’ ! But it’s been renamed The Big Welcome.

Here at KMFC we have delivered hundreds of personal invitations, and put up a poster, and planned a [free] lunch for after-church.

And we’ve prayed hard…

with mug

Lord may the people come, and may we make them welcome!

Saturday 24 September 2011

Danielle’s Wedding*


The weather was great, the bride looked lovely [but very nervous] People liked the service and the music and the flowers…so all was well. Thank you everyone for your kind comments on the previous post.

If you want to make your own ribbon flowers, they are selling Ribbon Masters on eBay [here] or you can go direct to the manufacturers [but you need a minimum order of 2000!]

*she married Luke – but the pictures I took of the couple didn’t come out at all well, so I am not posting them.

Blooming Marvellous!–A Quick Tutorial

All that pinkness displayed on Wednesday morning was for this weekend’s wedding at Church.

DSCF2429Danielle and Luke are working on a very tight wedding budget and wanted to decorate the church in their chosen colours at minimal cost. I knew I had quite a few white and pink silk flowers in my box in the garage – some from Paul and Kathryn’s wedding – more than ten years ago – and others from the BWA Women’s Conference I organised in Birmingham in 2005.

Sometimes hoarding proves a very useful and thrifty habit! I said I could lend them those flowers, and just buy a reel of ribbon in the right shade of pink. I’ve managed to produce twenty pew-end arrangements, and a large display for the front. But there was one extra request – Danielle’s Gran cannot be at the wedding, and so I said I’d do a flower basket which could go to her after the ceremony.

I found a white basket in the garage, and decided to fill it with fresh white chrysanthemums and gypsophila – with some pink silk flowers as accents, along with a pink bow on the handle. But I had no pink silk flowers left!

Then I remembered a guy who was displaying flowers at the Sandringham Craft Fayre last year – making them from florist’s ribbon. So I had a play around with these things


The blue tool, bottom right in photo, is a Ribbon Master, which came with a multipack of wrapping paper and ribbon about twenty five years ago! It has little teeth on one side of the hinge and you use it to shred ribbon.


Cut two lengths of ribbon about 18cm and 24cm long.


Shred the ribbon, leaving 1.5cm at each end unshreddedDSCF2450

Fold in half, but overlap the ends


Wind this round a bbq skewer, and stick in place with florist’s adhesive tape. Repeat with the other length of shredded ribbon. Tidy up the stem with sticky paper ‘stem’ tape.


Experiment with different lengths, and ‘fluff out’ the ‘petals’


Continue till there is a whole bunch of them


Then arrange the real white flowers in the basket, add some pink ‘accents’, and tie a bow on the handle


And that will be part of the floral decoration in church for this afternoon’s wedding. All for less than £20!

btw – if you have some silk flowers which look rather dusty, hold them firmly upside down, and blast them with a hairdryer!