Friday 31 August 2012

On My Way To Where The Air Is Sweet…

…can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?

Muppets The Count

A week ago Liz sent me a text to say that The Count had died. [or more accurately, Jerry Nelson – the voice behind The Count] 

The Count is my favourite Sesame Street Character.


When I was a student in the early 70s, my Maths Education tutor had just returned from the USA and raved about this programme, and particularly the way it taught maths. It was only being shown at odd times on random ITV channels then – but fortunately by the time Liz was born in 1982, it was being shown nationally [the BBC wouldn’t use it, saying they had perfectly good educational stuff already!] There is currently a Downing Street Petition to bring SS back to British TV [sadly it only has 40 signatures so far!]

You can read the BBC obituary for The Count, his favourite number was apparently 34969.

For all that I struggle with the American spellings [and ‘zee’ not ‘zed’] give me Ernie, Big Bird et al over Iggle Piggle and friends any day. SS is infinitely better written and I believe much better from an educational point of view. And it is such FUN.

It certainly helped to give my children a good start in numeracy and literacy well before they started school.

muppets the count with jerry nelson

Maybe I am turning into Oscar the Grouch!

Did you watch Sesame Street – or encourage your kids to watch it? and who was your favourite character?

Perhaps Liam can help out now Jerry has gone?

Wise Advice


Isn’t this a great poster? It was designed by the great Fred G Cooper, the gifted American artist for the US Government during WW1. These words from 1917 still have relevance for today. Intriguingly this poster is occasionally reproduced with #4 & #5 altered to read ‘save what will keep’ and ‘eat what will spoil’ – personally, I think the original ‘buy local foods’ and ‘serve just enough’ is better.

On the subject of wartime food production – this time WW2, I am looking forward to the return of Ruth, Alex and Peter for the Wartime Farm next Thursday on BBC2

wartime farm

I’ve just discovered a new blog [only started this month] called I blame Enid Blyton which looks like it may be full of some good ideas. You will see the ‘other’ Cooper Food poster there.

Thursday 30 August 2012

Coffee Break

I have been very busy at the PC this week, transcribing some audio files. It is hard work, and I have been very disciplined about taking regular breaks – usually to go to the kitchen and refill my coffee mug. When in Belfast, Bob spotted this shop – and said “Next visit, I want to go in there!” [please note Mags, he was clearly planning a return trip within hours of arriving in NI]


I was intrigued by the strapline so have checked out the Clements Coffee Shop. There are just ten outlets – all in Belfast. They take their name from Pope Clement VIII, who was around in the 1600s.

pope clement

This chap did various things, including canonising St Hyacinth.That is the Polish guy on the left, not the Etiquette Queen on the right.


But one story maintains that this pontiff was passionate about coffee. Coffee was first documented in 1000 by the Philosopher Rhazes although some date its cultivation to 575 in Yemen. It spread to Mecca and other middle eastern areas. Since Muslims were forbidden to consume alcohol, coffee became an alternative that assisted with long nights of prayer. This association with Islam meant European Colonies initially banned coffee during its first appearances in the 1500′s. Coffee was seen as ‘an invention of Satan’ because it was drunk as an alternative to wine [considered holy, since it was used for the Eucharist] The Cardinals went to Clement seeking a papal prohibition. Upon tasting it he instead declared that,

“This devil’s drink is so delicious…we should cheat the devil by baptizing it.”

I think I would agree with Clement completely on that one [I’ll take mine strong, hot, Fairtrade, with a dash of semi-skimmed please]

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Use It – Or Lose It!

My problem is that I am a bit of a ditherer when it comes to decluttering. Particularly over inherited or gifted bits and pieces to which I have sentimental attachment. Like The Two Tiny Tin Jugs which lurk in the cupboard nestling inside the ramekins-which-don’t-stack.

In the early 1970’s, Woman and Home magazine had a Summer Offer – four little jugs for £1 – they maintained such things were ideal ‘for serving your guests individual portions of cream for their coffee or desserts’ So Mum bought two sets, and gave me one of them. I have no idea where hers went, and I only have two left now. I suspect that they got mislaid back in the 80’s when we used them for the Dolls’ Tea Parties. But this week I found a suitable use [so the jugs remain and won’t be going to a Charity Shop just yet]


We were having Dover Sole for Sunday Lunch, and Delia recommends serving with parsley butter and lemon juice. I made a roll of butter before church and put it in the fridge, then sliced it into rounds just before serving [along with MIL’s little butter knife] I did not want to put a large bottle of juice on the table, and had no fresh lemons, so the 3cm high jug was the ideal serving container.


The fish had a lovely delicate flavour, but it was rather fiddly work eating it, and we were left with a plate of bones. Fishbones like this always put me in mind of Hanna Barbera’s Top Cat!

top cat

Dover Sole is an extremely rare treat – this was a yellow-stickered bargain. I must find another use for these tiny jugs again before Christmas or they will definitely have to go.


Tuesday 28 August 2012

Following His TV Appearance…


…our Intrepid Hero clutched the hand of his wife and strode boldly out into the chilly Atlantic Ocean…


Within minutes of this shot, he was swimming around happily - and I was dashing back on the beach, to wrap myself in a towel, declaring that I could no longer feel my frozen feet! [Please note, for once I am Properly Dressed in my best blue swimming cossie!]

Thank you Mags for the photographs!

The Bears Go Back To School

Albert and Annick, the French school bears, have spent the summer sitting on Steph’s bed. For Christmas 2010, I’d made them these outfits. Mme Smith asked me if I could make some more clothes.


The bears come with sweatshirts when you buy them. Since our return from holiday, I have been busy making more clothes. First I had to make the paper patterns.


I’d been asked to provide coats, hats, boots, socks, tee-shirts, trousers and pants, in a variety of colours.


Making a hole for the tail proved tricky. I made Annick a skirt too, for days when she feels feminine.


The tee-shirts were decorated with iron-on decals.





All ready for the winter term!

Monday 27 August 2012



Or to be more accurate OO! Last week, I picked up a bag of ‘OO’ grade flour which had been yellow-stickered. Bob had mentioned he wanted to try some for making pasta. This afternoon, as the weather was awful and we didn’t fancy a Bank Holiday outing, he made some pasta and a splendid sauce to go with it [using some Aberdeen Angus meat balls which had also been reduced]


It was utterly delicious. Bob was not as happy with this batch as with his previous attempt- the eggs in Norfolk were larger so the mixture was more moist and so he was able to roll it thinner. Many Mutterings about pasta machines – but such frivolous expenditure is on hold right now.

Looking out at the grey sky and the rain, I cannot believe that this time last week we were in Northern Ireland eating fish and chips overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

At church yesterday, one of our members said that her cousin telephoned her last week. “Is your Pastor in Northern Ireland right now? I think I have just seen him on the television talking about the art on Giant’s Causeway!” Unfortunately you cannot get the Newsline Programme from 20th August on i-player outside NI. But is is quite exciting to think that Bob was spotted! TV and radio. Chef and art critic. Oooh!

To Marrow, And To Marrow, And To Marrow**


These are the two marrows which niece Lucy left on the doorstep of Cornerstones for us. You can see by the ruler just how big they are. The one on the left is certainly an interesting shape.

Together they weighed in at 2kg. I googled ‘marrow recipes’ to decide what to do with them. Delia was surprisingly unhelpful – if you search for marrow recipes on DeliaOnline, all you get is this …

“Courgettes are baby marrows, and don’t I know it! I used to grow them, but if I wasn’t vigilant about picking them every day in season they seemed to turn into marrows overnight – and marrow for supper night after night is not a good idea!”

After discussion with Bob, I decided to try out three recipes – stuffed marrow, marrow jam, and marrow cake! The jam would keep, and the cakes would freeze, so I wouldn’t be stuck with the nightly diet of marrow so despised by St Delia.

I began by cutting a length from the end of the straight marrow, for stuffing, then prepared enough marrow for the cakes, then finally used the remaining marrow for the jam. Here’s the BBC recipe from Antony Worrall Thompson/Saturday Kitchen

Chorizo and couscous stuffed marrow


Ingredients [this serves 4 – I halved these quantities]

  • 1 large marrow
  • 100g couscous
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1red onion finely sliced
  • 100g chorizo cut into small chunks
  • 1 roasted red pepper finely sliced
  • 2 vine ripened tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tbsp parsley roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp mint roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp coriander roughly chopped
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation method

  1. Preheat an oven to 200ºC/Gas 6.

  2. For the chorizo, pepper and couscous stuffed marrrow, slice the marrow lengthways and scoop out all the seeds, then place on a roasting tray.

  3. Place the couscous in a bowl along with the lemon juice and enough boiling water to cover.

  4. Cover with cling film and allow to soak for five minutes.

  5. Meanwhile, heat a frying pan until hot then add the olive oil. Add the red onion and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes until just softened. Add the chorizo and fry for a further two minutes until just crisped and the juices are released. Add to the couscous, along with the pepper, tomatoes and herbs.

  6. Mix well and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Spoon into the centre of the two marrow halves.

  7. Place in the oven for 20 minutes and cook until piping hot and the marrow is just tender.

  8. To check if the marrow is done, place the tip of a knife into the side, if it offers just a little resistance it is done.

We both really enjoyed the stuffed marrow – and were surprised that the filling was more moist than we’d expected, and conversely, the marrow was less watery than we had anticipated.

The Marrow Cakes were from the AllRecipes site



  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 250ml vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 375g plain flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 225g grated marrow

Preparation method

Prep: 15 mins | Cook: 45 mins
  1. Preheat oven to 170ºC / Gas 3. Grease two 1lb loaf tins
  2. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the eggs until fluffy. Beat in the sugar, oil, and vanilla. Gradually mix in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. Fold in the marrow. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.
  3. Bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven, until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.

These freeze well, and can be served as is, or buttered. The final project was jam. For the last two years we have found plenty of plums to forage when we’ve been on holiday – this year they were not ripe. But now I do have some jam to see me through till next year. I remember someone used to give my Mum a jar of marrow and ginger jam each year when I was a child, and I loved the taste.

Marrow and Ginger Jam


Begin by preparing your marrow – remove the dark green skin with a potato peeler, then cut marrow into four lengthways. Run a spoon down the centre core to remove all the seeds. Chop your marrow into 5cm chunks, then weigh the prepared veg. Assemble the ingredients as follows -

  • for every 350g of marrow, you need
  • 350g of sugar
  • 1tbsp lemon juice
  • 1cm piece of root ginger [peeled and roughly chopped]
  • ½tsp ground cinnamon.

Now place all the ingredients in a food processor, and process till there are no lumps and an even consistency is achieved. I do this in batches, and tip all the processed mixture into the bottom of my pressure cooker [but any large pan will do] Stir well to combine.

Heat over medium heat till all the sugar is dissolved. Then bring to the boil and continuing boiling for about 30 minutes [If you have a jam thermometer, heat to 105º] Pour into warm, sterilised jars and cover immediately. 1200g marrow made me these five jars.


Marrow is like pumpkin – it really needs a lot of flavour-boosting – so its good to add things like ginger, cinnamon, chorizo and coriander.

Another childhood memory – a relation who refused to eat marrow “because he didn’t like the feel of it in his mouth”

[**apologies to Macbeth]

Sunday 26 August 2012

Great Tune, Great Words

hid with xt

Charitie Lees Smith [another minister’s daughter] wrote this hymn – entitled “The Advocate” 150 years ago. She was only 22 at the time. It was one of my Dad’s favourite hymns, and we used to sing it to the tune ‘Breslau’ when I was younger. That tune is absolutely ancient – adapted in about 1625 from a tune originally written two hundred years before.

Before the throne of God above,
I have a strong, a perfect plea,
A great High Priest whose name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart;
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Saviour died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there! The risen Lamb,
My perfect, spotless righteousness;
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace!
One with Himself I cannot die,
My soul is purchased by His blood;
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Saviour and my God.

Lately the hymn has had a tune written especially for it, which many people will know. Vikki Cook penned her music in 2006. But we are singing it this morning to Parry’s great “Jerusalem”  This YouTube clip isn’t the best – but it gives you an idea of how it sounds.

Better words than Blake’s, I think!

Saturday 25 August 2012

A Gift Of Love

During our holidays, we look out for some little item which we can buy as an ornament for the Christmas Tree. We didn’t see anything this summer and had given up the hunt.

But then we were waiting at George Best Airport on Tuesday afternoon. The Wild Goose Studio had a display of stuff in the shop. Bob loves Wild Goose stuff and already has a couple of their pieces [a dove and a Celtic Cross]. “If I had £43 I’d buy you that as an anniversary present” said Bob – pointing to a frame in which was mounted a relief sculpture called “The Embrace”. The design is inspired by the work of the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi.

embrace - wild goose

The description of the piece says “Celtic love – there are many kinds of embrace

  • supportive
  • passionate
  • loving
  • a parent to a child
  • fraternal
  • celebratory
  • consoling

all of these emotions are encompassed by the simple, single act of encircling another in your arms”

DSCF4534Then I spotted a small bronze copy, on a tiny length of ribbon. Not sure if it is a phone charm, or meant to go on a neck chain or what…but it was much, much cheaper. So we treated ourselves to this loving pair to hang on our tree in December.

Very pleased with this find – an anniversary gift and a Christmas gift all in one.

I have only just got round to unpacking properly – I must put this somewhere safe, so I do not misplace it before Christmas!

Happy Anniversary Bob!

Thirty three years today since our wedding. 25.08.79


I bought this intricate Rob Ryan cut-out card in the Ulster Museum on Tuesday. I think it is gorgeous. I think Bob is gorgeous too!

wedding 1979

Friday 24 August 2012

Today's Top Royal Story–With Pictures!


The Leicester Mercury has the story today– as does the BBC. King Richard III may be buried under one of our City Centre Car Parks [along with Shergar and Lord Lucan?]

jason Senior / Grey Friars Car Park on New Street Leicester .


This interesting monarch, who lost his life at the Battle Of Bosworth in 1485 [see this post] may possibly have been given a Christian Burial by the Grey Friars whose Friary was situated here.

While the rest of the UK is looking at pictures of a current royal, here in Leicestershire we are more interested in what happened 500 years ago!

Did you see my title and expect something different then?

Small Fry - And Let Them Eat Cake !

The Belfast Equivalent of a Full English is an Ulster Fry.

DSCF4483I had the small version – which is one sausage, one egg, one rasher of bacon, tomato wedge, portion of mushrooms, slab of fried soda bread and slab of fried potato bread. That is small!

Bob opted for the medium, which got him


twice as much bread , tomatoes, and bacon. Plus he had my egg [I don’t like fried eggs]

I hate to think how much food you get for the large one.

It was delicious – and we shared a large pot of tea, and there were copious sachets of HP sauce and ketchup available too.

Sunday lunch at Mags was great.


We had some delicious, home cooked, ham [boiled then roasted then sliced most efficiently by Al] accompanied by various salads- green, potato, tomato – and

Jamie’s Carrot and Coriander Crunch [serves 6]

• 6 medium carrots, washed and peeled
• a large handful of fresh coriander, leaves picked
• 4 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted, or poppy seeds
• zest and juice of 1 orange
• 2 lemons
• extra virgin olive oil
• 2 heaped tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

saladFirst of all, slice the carrots or cut them up into fine ribbons, matchsticks or batons. Put them into a bowl with the coriander leaves and the sesame or poppy seeds. To make the dressing, finely grate the zest of the orange into a bowl. Add the orange juice, the juice of 1½ lemons and about 4 times that amount of extra virgin olive oil. Pound your toasted sesame seeds to a pulp in a pestle and mortar, then add to the dressing. Mix well, then season to taste with salt, pepper and possibly more lemon juice to make it nice and zingy so that you can taste it once you've dressed the salad. Once your salad is dressed, the flavour of the lemon will lessen, so get eating straight away.

My apologies to Linda, Ann and Catherine, as I forgot to photograph the desserts they brought along. I hope Mags will soon be posting about Herman and the Sourdough Cake though!

Monday night was also calorie-laden – yet more cakes at Hookery


Mags, you and your friends have certainly fed us very well. Thanks! [Bob and I noticed that in NI there are many, many churches- and a high proportion have posters outside advertising Slimming World]

Thursday 23 August 2012

Holiday At Home

A quick break from post-holiday domestic chores to call in at the end of the ‘Holiday At Home’ which has been running at church all this week for the OAPs [it’s like Holiday Bible Club for grown-ups] This year had a patriotic London Theme. The Church Hall was decorated with much bunting and patriotic red, white and blue stuff.


Janet, who was in charge of everything made loads of flowers


Here is Janet, being Luvverly, as Eliza Doolittle in the concert


Isn’t Brian and Trevor’s Tower Bridge backdrop fantastic?


The youngest team members, Emma and Sarah provided a musical interlude [well done Emma, on excellent GCSE results today!]


Meal time place mats were enlarged, laminated, travelcards


Her Majesty came along for the fun too. Well, she is a pensioner, so quite entitled to join in - and I suspect that she probably wanted to get away from the furore surrounding her grandson. The face is cardboard, the hands are plastic- but the costume is an incredibly intricate knitted affair!

And when we left at the end of the afternoon, we spotted David, still working. This time [having left our loft] he was up on the church roof. He is always so determined to get the jobs done.


Well done everyone who worked so hard to give pleasure to the ‘holidaymakers’ – your efforts were greatly appreciated.