Monday 31 October 2011

Blistering Barnacles!

It is Bob’s birthday this week – so as a treat on our day off we went to the cinema. The showing was at 13.30. Here is Screen 2 at 13.23! DSCF2609NOBODY else there but me [Bob had gone to the loo] However by 13.27, about a dozen more people had arrived – but it was still pretty empty. But the film was amazing – a typical Spielberg.

The opening titles were very reminiscent of the Hitchcock films of the late 50s [Vertigo, North by Northwest etc] The voiceovers were stellar –  Andy Serkis [Gollum], Jamie Bell [Billy Elliott] Simon Pegg [Reepicheep], Toby Jones [Dobby], the ubiquitous Mackenzie Crook…oh, and of course, Daniel Craig. The graphics were stunning. There were loads of little jokes and references to other films – I am not sure I caught them all. The style of the chase scenes reminded us both of Indiana Jones. Andy Serkis is a brilliant Haddock! It is rather short on strong female characters- but then TinTin does tend to appeal to boys [But I am a girl and I have always LOVED TinTin, am I odd? Yes! replied Bob, rather too promptly]


It is enormous fun – and I am glad I went – looking forward to seeing a sequel or two. If you can, check out the BBC programme with Frank Gardner shown over the weekend. I have always enjoyed FG’s reporting, and his investigation into the origin’s of HergĂ© and TinTin were brilliant.

If you cannot get that on iPlayer, or visit the cinema, then just enjoy this trailer instead

with the French subtitles!

Pumpkin Pleasures


We don’t “do” Halloween in this house- but I did pick up a small ‘eating’ pumpkin on the market for just 90p.

I cut it in half, and sliced a small amount off the top and bottom so the two ‘bowls’ would stand securely. Preheated oven - 200DSCF2572°C

I scooped out the flesh and seeds, and with the edge of a spoon, hollowed out the two bowls as neatly as I could. then I separated the flesh and the seeds into two bowls.

I brushed the bowls with a little olive oil and put them in the oven upside down on a baking DSCF2573sheet. Then I foraged in the fridge. I assembled one red pepper, two carrots, a small red onion, two cloves of garlic. I chopped all these up, along with the pumpkin flesh and cooked them for 5 minutes in a little olive oil. Then they went into a dish in the oven beside the ‘bowls’.

I cooked half a cup of rice with a cup of water and a teaspoonful of turmeric [to make it a lovely golden colour] Meanwhile I rinsed the seeds and spread them onto a second baking sheet.  In another bowl I assembled 2 tsp chopped rosemary, and 2 tsp chopped thyme, plus 5 dried apricots [chopped] and a tbsp sultanas. I stirred all this into the rice as it cooked.

DSCF2574I spread the pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet and popped them in the oven for 10mins. They’re now cooled and in a jar for use in other recipes. I can’t waste them!


The pumpkin bowls cooked for about 35 minutes, and the filling was in the oven for about 25 minutes. Just before serving, I took the filing and mixed it with the rice. I served it in the pumpkin bowls, drizzled with a little olive oil and garnished with a sprig of rosemary.

This simple vegetarian dish was really tasty and looked beautifully golden and autumnal. Not bad for 90p and some fridge foraging!

Sunday 30 October 2011

Getting Things Into Focus

I watched the film “Bruce Almighty” again the other night. It is a clever, funny, film – but with some very profound moments in it. All the way through, Bruce [Jim Carrey] has been self-centred and thoughtless, even when he becomes omnipotent. His girlfriend Grace [Jennifer Aniston] puts up with him for so long- then breaks up the relationship – but she goes on loving him, despite everything. Towards the end of the film, Bruce is knocked down by a truck and fatally injured. He stands before God [Morgan Freeman in white suit!] who shows him that Grace is praying for him.

God asks Bruce what he really wants – and at last Bruce knows – because he has seen Grace in the way that God sees her – and now he truly loves her too. One of my all time favourite movie clips.

Bruce Almighty (2003)

for film clip, click HERE


Open My Eyes, Lord!

Going My Own Sweet Way

Watch out for a new sweetener hitting the UK shelves very soon. The UK has just lifted its ban on products made from Stevia [until quite recently it was legal to buy it here, but not to sell it]


It is being marketed as the new wonder-product, the ‘sweetener of choice’. Originally growing wild in Paraguay, Stevia Rebaudiana is a herb in the Chrysanthemum family. 125 years ago, a Swiss scientist named Bertoni recorded that the natives used it to sweeten their foods. They called it ka-a he-ee [sweet leaf]

80 years ago, two French chemists isolated the sweetening component of the leaf – and in the 1970s it went on sale in Japan – followed by the USA, France and a few other countries. There has been some controversial research, suggesting that although there are many benefits to a natural calorie free sweetener, as opposed to chemically produced ones [aspartame, saccharin etc.]there may also be some less desirable side effects [listed here]

But shortly it will be on sale – Tesco are marketing it as “Stevia Sweet” but the other two main brands are Truvia and Purevia


The lady on Radio 4 explained that these two names had been chosen to link to the Stevia name – and because ‘via’ is Latin for ‘way – you can choose between the Pure Way and the True Way!

Personally I try and avoid adding unnecessary extra sweetness where possible, and they have already said that these will not be cheap [the lady ignored the interviewer's comments about  this being an opportunity to make a lot of money!]

I am taking the scaremongering about side-effects with a pinch of salt [although doing that may counteract the sweetness anyway!] and concluding that this product is unlikely to find its way into my shopping trolley. Pure Way, True Way…only One Way for me!

Jesus answered, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Saturday 29 October 2011

RIP Lucky Jim!

The death has just been announced of Sir Jimmy Savile, OBE aged 84

jimmy savile

A real eccentric if ever there was one, with such a diverse career. His first job was as a Bevin Boy in WW2. He is credited with inventing the discotheque – he was a great TV personality, and he raised millions of pounds for various charities. Many people will remember his “Jim’ll Fix It” which was the highlight of Saturday Night TV in the 1980’s. I know at least one little girl who wrote and asked him to fix it and buy her a horse, because her Daddy couldn’t afford one!


Sorry Liz, I don’t think he is going to get round to answering that letter now. There are some great pictures on the Guardian website here.Jim may have had bizarre taste in clothes – but he was kind and generous – for that reason he will be missed.

A Gift For A Gardener

Take a spiral bound notebook from Muji [the sort with creamy thick paper pages and a plain brown card cover]


Now find some ‘gardening’ type motifs from this book

jo versobook

Embroider them onto small pieces of Aida, fringe the edges, and attach with double sided tape. And there’s your gift!


Friday 28 October 2011

The Tree Grew Huge And Strong…

…its leaves were beautiful [Daniel 4, from The Message]

bbc stourheadEach autumn for the past few years, the head gardener at Stourhead in Wiltshire - Alan Power - has spoken to Radio 4's PM Programme. I listened to him last night as I sat in a traffic jam – and couldn’t wait to get home to look at the pictures of the beautiful autumnal foliage. [We went there on a family holiday about 20 years ago, Christine was with us – the gardens were lovely in the summer too]


Watch this amazing footage here

Not To Be Sneezed At

This week at Sewing Club Hayley and Victoria finished their Log Cabin Cushions


…and then we made tissue covers.


I gave the details for making these back here – and notice that I said then [June ‘08] that they would be a good Christmas gift project for Sewing Club! I completely forgot to take my ‘Bags’ library book to show the girls.

Thursday 27 October 2011

Risk Of Icing


I am sure my love's more richer than my tongue…

said Cordelia in King Lear. I wonder if she had a sweet tooth?

Mind you, her father had odd ideas about sweetness…

Give me an ounce of civet, good apothecary, to sweeten my imagination.

I just fell to wondering about all this because I am about to make my Christmas cake – using this bag of sugar from my sister in law


[it’s from Lidl. My usual brand is Sainsbury's own brand, which is fair trade] I have yet to decide how to ice my cake. Waitrose are selling one like this

waitrose gingerbread scene cake

It is £20 – and looks like half a round cake stuck up on its straight edge. I do like the idea – especially as I already have those same figures [purchased in Lakeland’s flagship store in Windermere in October 08 in my extravagant pre-mortgage days]



waitrose cake 2

Last year they did the same cake but with different coloured icing.

The problem with any of these celebration cakes is that they look fabulous until you start cutting into them!

I don’t find black icing very appetising though!


Then I thought “If I did make this style of cake, what do I do with the other half ?” The Waitrose one appears to be just on a sheet of fondant icing.

If I cut the cake one third/two thirds, I could put the smaller piece on top of the other section, giving M& J a ‘stage’ to stand on.


Perhaps I should make a square cake this year, and cut in half and rearrange the pieces into a triangle.


Then I could ice that shape like a stable – star on top, Holy Family in the front, Wise Men lurking at the side…

cakeOr maybe I could simply cover the whole cake with white icing, fluff it up with a fork and tie a red ribbon round.

Does it matter?

Will anyone notice?

What does everyone else do?

Please don’t say “Buy it from the Supermarket” – in the last 33 years I have only done that once – and it tasted dreadful!

Dear Santa…

The Toy Retailers Association has released its list of the ten toys which they predict will top the Christmas lists this year [the BBC has full details here]. Thirty years on, people are still wanting Star Wars Light Sabres, and there is more Lego [this year’s set is a whopping £89.99]. But who in their right mind would buy this for a child?

doggie doo

The blurb says

“For £24, your children can compete for the chance to scoop the plasticine poop of a plastic dog.”

How gross is that? I can only imagine it is for parents seeking to train their children to be responsible pet owners and clear up their pup’s productions when they go for ‘walkies’.

Do other people think the toy manufacturers are bonkers with this one? Or perhaps this is not aimed at the children’s market, but rather at groups of inebriated student housemates?

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Diwali Day


Today is Diwali Day – the start of the Hindu New Year, and their ‘festival of light’. Here in Leicester we host the biggest Diwali celebrations outside India, with huge firework displays and lights.DSCF2550

The children enjoy the gifts and cards [especially the sweets] They light diwa lamps, and decorate their hands with Mehndi patterns.


They retell the story of Rama and Sita, and they draw Rangoli patterns at the entrance to their homes, for the goddess Lakshmi.



Everything is so bright and colourful. I hope that my Hindu friends enjoy their special celebrations today.

And I also send good wishes to my friend Elizabeth who is a teacher in India.

[these are pictures of the display I prepared at school – did you spot the little terracotta diwas on the table?]

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Bag Book And Book Bags

Just a quick review of a new[ish] book I spotted in the library last week and immediately borrowed. I had seen one bag from this slim volume featured as a project in two different craft magazines in Smith a few weeks back, and wondered if the book was therefore a one-hit-wonder [rather like those recipe books which have one stunning dish which you make repeatedly, and 29 others you confidently ignore]

book of bags1

Well, this is definitely not a single-item-issue. The book is full of thirty different sorts and styles of bags – shoppers, bookbags, bucket bags, beach totes, quotidian handbags, evening clutch bags, duffles, purses…

book of bags3

What I particularly appreciated was the well-written style, and the mass of details.

Instructions for each bag, and the relevant techniques are clearly set out and easy to follow. Clear advice on how to attach handles, flaps, frames, closures, drawstrings as well as reinforcing, applique techniques, bias binding etc. The book also has photocopiable templates, and a helpful list of UK stockists.

Close-up photography of the construction at each stage makes me feel I could make any of these bags if I wanted to, and I don’t think you need to be an experienced needlework either.

I shall take this down to Sewing Club and see what my girls there think of it!

My only reservation is that Bob feels I already have way too many bags.

“Where did you put so-and-so?” he asks

“It’s in my bag!” I reply

“But which one? You have dozens!” [this is indeed true]

I am turning into a Bag-Lady!

bag lady

I Blame PomPom!

Last week PomPom did a post all about pixies.


She is very fond of pixies and gnomes and their eccentric wardrobe, and made especial mention of their feet.

I have been aware of the weather turning wintry– and I certainly feel the cold. I am glad I sorted out my summer/winter wardrobe swap last week

But I have identified a problem

- my winter trousers are all too big, so I am planning on wearing thick tights [I have a bag of these which have lasted me years] and/or my new leggings. But what does one wear on one’s feet in the winter months if wearing leggings? I cannot live in my best knee high black leather boots! Observation of others leads me to believe the answer is pixie boots.

I saw some for £12 in Primark, in Loughborough but they seemed very poor quality. Then I went into the nearby Heart Foundation Shop. There they were- a brand new pair of red boots from Office labelled “Size 6, £15”.[I think they retail at £60 or more] I am size 5. I tried them on. Perfect fit! I think they have been wrongly sized – I wonder if someone bought them mail order, and couldn’t be bothered to return them when they proved to be too small?

Here they are- my own little red pixie boots!


I can wear them with cuffs folded down, or up to midcalf. Skipping about happily wearing my bargain boots. No PomPom, I am not going to make myself a red pointy hat or a strange triangular dress. But I have just remembered that I do have a pair of these …


I wore them for a Comic Relief event at school, when I went dressed as Beryl The Peril.

And I did make Mark an elf costume for a New Year’s Party back in 2008. That is now up in the box of costumes in the loft.

So I suppose I could be a properly dressed pixie if the need arose.

But maybe not when I am Supply Teaching or Lay Preaching!

I’m as happy as Dorothy when she skipped to Oz in her ruby red shoes [but only red in the technicolor film – in Frank Baum’s original book they were silver]

Monday 24 October 2011

Ses Senare, Sven*


I know nothing about football – but they have just announced that Sven Goran Eriksson has lost his job as manager of Leicester City. He only took up the job in October 2010.

Ah well, he can always go back to advertising tomatoes I suppose!


* that’s Swedish for ‘see you later’ apparently

Holy Mo-le*

Saturday Night was great – we had a lovely time with Frank and Barbara and the food was [mostly] fabulous. It was a sort of Mexican theme [November 2nd – just over a week away - is a big feast day in Mexico – Dia de los Muertos – Day of The Dead]

Bob’s Ceviche starter was utterly amazing.


He served it with toasted tortilla triangles[try saying that fast!] The flavours in it were really great – he used this recipe .

The chilli was good too, but I found it hot [I am a wuss with chillies]

Bob used the BBC Good Food Chilli recipe [here]but with two cans of kidney beans not one, and he didn’t use any marjoram. This was supposed to serve 4 but made a huge amount – and we only ate half of it, so that left a double portion to freeze and a double portion for Sunday lunch in Norfolk [with leftover creme fraiche and guacamole]

But as for Nigella’s Express Mousse- you can keep it, thank you. It was more like a ganache. Incredibly rich and very dense. I would have done better decanting Sainsbury’s Basics Choc Mousse [only 31p for FOUR pots] into my espresso cups I think. At least our guests were family, and very forgiving – and there was plenty of fresh fruit as an alternative. Next time, I think I shall let Bob do the dessert as well as everything else! [my flower arrangement looked good though!]

*Mo-le [as in guacamole] is the name given to any highly spiced Mexican sauce, usually with chillies, often with chocolate, served with meat. Not to be confused with mole, which is a small burrowing rodent with tiny eyes and strong forefeet.

Guacamole is a mole made with avocados. ‘Avocado’ comes from the Aztec word for ‘testicle’. [I’m not making this up – both Countdown’s Susie Dent and the BBC agree on this one] When I first learned this fact, I didn’t eat avocados for ages.

Holy Mole!  was an exclamation frequently used by comic character Captain Marvel.

captain marvel

Sunday 23 October 2011

Seeds Of Change

logo_1A second post about our attitude to food, and our responsibilities towards others. Last Sunday was World Food Day, and this is One World Week.

Jen has posted here some thoughts about the Harvest Festival at her boys’ school, and also linked to this Red Cross Video. Many of us [myself included] have been muttering about the rising price of corned beef etc – but let’s get things into perspective – if I am sitting at a PC typing this, with a roof over my head and food in my belly, I am rich [and so are you, dear reader]

more info on Red Cross Website

Dear friends, do you think you'll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, "Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!" and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

[James 2:16,17 from The Message]

Genesis 1:30

I am an omnivore – I eat most things [the exceptions include cheese, okra and fried eggs] From 1991, for over ten years, one or other daughter was vegetarian. But of late, I have been eating less and less meat and fish – and that I try to get from ‘responsible’ sources. So HFW’s new Sunday night series interests me greatly.

I like his new haircut too!

Read more here

Mind you, I hope the lentil stews which Hugh and I cook will be served with love and not jealousy -

Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright.[Genesis 25;34]

Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred [Proverbs 15;17]

Saturday 22 October 2011

Just Waiting For Family To Arrive!

Bob’s on holiday, so he is cooking again! His bro and SIL are coming over for a meal [we’ve all been so busy, it is the first time for absolutely ages] I get the less stressful tasks – setting the table and preparing dessert – Bob has done the bulk of the meal.


Going for a green and white colour scheme here. Aren’t the glass candlesticks gorgeous- my other SIL Marion gave them to me last month.

I’ve been watching Ina Garten on TV recently [we just discovered we can get the Food Network between 6 and 10pm each evening] She maintains that an arrangement of white flowers always looks good on the dinner table.

Bob’s prepared a great menu

King Prawn Ceviche

Chilli con Carne [with rice, nachos, guacamole and creme fraiche]

Chocolate Mousse and Fresh Fruit


The chilli is looking very good. I am not posting a picture of the ceviche – as the prawns are still resting in their marinade, and to be honest, do not look very appetising just yet!


The theory is that if you leave the avocado stone in the middle of the guacamole, then it will retain its green colour until you are ready to serve it. I am not sure about this- I suspect it is the lime juice which prevents the oxidation!

The chocolate mousse is Nigella’s Express recipe. I am anxious about this to be honest – it is more ‘set’ than a conventional mousse made with eggs – but it looks good served in the little espresso cups.


As an alternative/extra to this rather rich pudding, I have got some fresh fruit and arranged it on my favourite Midwinter Cake Stand. Apples, satsumas, plums, clementines and grapes. [When I was young you only got grapes if you were really ill!]


This half term holiday has turned out nothing like originally planned – instead of a quiet week at Cornerstones, we have been all over the place, seen Liz, Jon, Steph and Mark, and tonight Frank and Barbara – and tomorrow we finish off the week with a quick dash to Norfolk to see Adrian, Marion and Lucy. They are out of our place now, and into their new home.

I have really enjoyed this holiday week when we have both been free of ‘regular’ work commitments, even though we have been so busy. I still haven’t finished making that kilt though…