Thursday 31 January 2013

Scandi Style

scandi glassesWhen did this adjective ‘Scandi’ first arrive? It seemed to be appearing everywhere before Christmas. Is it all these police/political dramas popping up on our TV screens?

camilla-killingIs it a secret IKEA plot? I did succumb a couple of years ago to a set of six glasses which I thought were rather attractive. Then of course there are the ubiquitous Sarah Lund Sweaters which even have their own website [here]


But I have decided that there’s a new contender to rival Sarah’s Swedish Knitwear. I suspect that Borgen is being  sponsored by the Danish Scarf Industry. Look at this selection of pictures…

borgen scarves 2Borgen sc 1338 1339Borgen scarvesborgen scaves 4

Kristine, Hanne, Laura and Birgitte have an astoundingly large collection of neckwear between them. The other Saturday night I counted twelve different scarves in two hours [OK I am a sad woman!]

In the 80’s, Tie Rack used to give you a leaflet on ‘how to tie your scarf’ if you purchased one of their products – I suspect they are working with the Danish equivalent, or maybe this one

I must work on this, my scarf style seems to swing between Rosie the Riveter, Rupert Bear and Dick Van Dyke’s chimney sweep!

rosie sacrfrupert bearscarf divk v dyke

Sidse Babett Knudsen [who plays Nyborg] says that she thinks the Danish language “is one of the most ugly and limited around. You can't seduce anyone in Danish; it sounds like you are throwing up.” and helpfully adds that if you ever want to get lucky with a Dane, a good line to try is: "Hva så smukke?" ("What's up beautiful?") SBK not only ties her scarves with panache, she also speaks fluent English, having learned it when she was growing up in Dar Es Salaam. No wonder she got to be Prime Minister!!

Wednesday 30 January 2013

Sleepy, Dopey…

seven dwarfs

and Happy…also Achey, Stumbly, Woozy and Wobbly! Hoping not to become Grumpy though. Mr Darcy was extremely kind [but not a Firth-lookalike] Back home safely now and installed on the sofa


Now to learn a new skill and do my physio exercises. Thank you everyone for your get-well wishes [and Morgan for loan of DVD] So very grateful to everyone for their kindness [particularly my ever patient husband]. I may not be walking and leaping just yet, but I am certainly praising God [Acts ch 3]

Oooh Mr Darcy!

I have to be at the hospital at 8am this morning for my knee op. Here’s a totally gratuitous picture of Colin Firth. I include it because my surgeon, whom I have yet to meet, is apparently called Mr Darcy!


[Mind you, the other consultant I saw was called Mr Sharif. He was extremely pleasant, but he looked nothing like Dr Zhivago]

I will post a progress report when I can – tomorrow I hope.

[My apologies to any Janeites who thought this was going to be a post celebrating the bicentennial!]

Tuesday 29 January 2013

The Things They Say

I have loved being back in the classroom – even if it has only been for a four days this term. The kids say such wonderful things.

 Chilean Rose Hair Tarantula (Grammostola rosea)

“I am going to marry her, and we are going to live in Scotland and keep pet tarantulas and scorpions”

[his classmate says she is quite happy with this!]

“You’re quite short, aren’t you, Miss”

“Yes, just under five feet tall”

“My Dad says people shrink when they get old, especially ladies”


And best of all

“So what's your favourite food then?”

“I like spogglinese, Miss”

Do you think he eats it with Dalek Go Balls, like Mel’s family?

Monday 28 January 2013

Unconsidered Trifles

A recent ‘trifle’ post by Gill [That British Woman] reminded me of a trifle recipe I had not made for ages – and so I thought I’d do one for our Sunday pudding. I first tasted this 35 years ago – I’d just started teaching, and it was frequently served by the older ladies in the church as dessert when they had guests for Sunday lunch.

It’s called Hot Swiss Trifle – because it is served hot, made with a Swiss Roll, and has similar components to a trifle [obvious really]


It is also a brilliant store-cupboard standby, and dead simple to assemble. You need 2 eggs, half pint of milk, sugar, some sort of fruit filling, and a Swiss roll. And a Pyrex dish [it must be ovenproof – don’t use Granny’s Edwardian cut glass trifle bowl, please!!] The one in the picture is 7” diameter/2pint capacity

swiss roll basicsBegin by slicing your Swiss roll into thin slices – mine here is made with a Sainsbury’s Basic chocolate roll**, and I got 12 slices from it. Stand them up round the edge of your dish.

Any spare bits of sponge should be placed in the bottom of the dish. Now put your fruit in the dish. This time I used some cranberries [Xmas remnants] which were in the freezer, I microwaved them with some sugar before tipping them in. You can use almost any fruit; sliced peaches, mandarins in juice, stewed apple…for a luxury ‘Black Forest’ feel, use a can of cherry pie filling and chocolate Swiss roll.

Now separate your eggs, and make a simple custard with the yolks, the milk and sugar [I put in ½tsp custard powder or cornflour to stabilise it and stop it ‘splitting’] Pour the custard over the fruit.

DSCF5181Make a meringue with the egg whites and more sugar. Spoon on top. Bake at 180ºC for 10 minutes until golden. [I sprinkled a few flaked almonds on top for extra ‘poshness’]

It’s a good pud because it is easy, and it uses things you usually have to hand, it is adaptable and you can make it cheaply, or use more luxurious ingredients if you want to impress. If the oven is on already, at a lower temperature, then it is just as happy to go in and cook a little longer. You can make it on Saturday evening, and zap it in the microwave to reheat for Sunday lunchtime.

I have also made it in individual ramekins, putting a slice of Swiss roll in the base, then the fruit [or even a spoonful of jam] next, then the custard and then the meringue. You can use plain Rolls if you haven’t a chocolate one to hand.**Until 11th Feb, you can get 3 Basic SRs for 74p. 

I couldn’t remember which bit of Shakespeare ‘unconsidered trifle’ comes from, so I looked it up. It is A Winter’s Tale – very appropriate as this is a great pud for cold weather.

“My father named me Autolycus; who being, as I am, littered under Mercury, was likewise snapper-up of unconsidered trifles”

Sunday 27 January 2013

Today Is World Leprosy Day


Read more about this on the Leprosy Mission Website [here]

The Love of Christ has blossomed
in many hearts, both staff and patients.
The Truth is out!
God cares for His suffering children;
hears their cries of misery and hurt
and comes Himself to share their patient waiting
as the slow pages of history turn
to bring us to this hour of Joyous Celebration.


Now the real treasure is displayed
for all the world to see:
A people of God from the darkness of leprosy.
The discarded now valued.
The rejected now welcomed.
Hosea's prophecy fulfilled again:
"I'll call nobodies and make them somebodies.
I'll call the unloved and make them beloved.
In the place where they yelled out:
You're nobody. Now they're calling you
God's living children."


Past generations hand on the torch to us.
Hold it high with pride.
The flame is His, the Glory too.
The final victory is not yet,
But is assured.
Let's Celebrate what has been
and lay firm hold on what has yet to come.


[Poem and pictures from Sounds of Laughter, by Hugh McKee, former TLM Regional Organiser]

The Leprosy Mission has recently changed its logo

leprosy missionleprosymission NEW

according to TLM’s informative magazine, “the figure of Jesus bending down has been amended to show an angle that makes Christ look as if he is helping to lift up the person affected by leprosy kneeling at his feet. This embodies the compassion of Christ” I quite like this change of design, don’t you?

Saturday 26 January 2013

Lead On, Small Mollusc!

Do you remember Brian the Snail in the Magic Roundabout, constantly urged by Dougal the Dog to share in his crazy schemes?


Today is definitely my day for thinking about molluscs –this evening we are eating Moules et Frites, which will keep my Belgian Boy very happy.


I had already decided that I needed to eat more fish – and preferably sustainable fish. Yesterday night I took advantage of a special offer in Sainsbury's to Switch the Fish and collected a free bag of mussels.

This afternoon I have been working hard on tomorrow’s sermon – I was asked to preach from Acts 16, and have chosen the section about Lydia, the ‘seller of purple’. My background research has left me fascinated by ‘Tyrian purple’ – the cloth chosen by emperors for their robes. It was dyed using a stinking secretion from a sea snail [How I love alliteration] called the murex

pompeii purple

The great thing about this dye was that as the fabric aged, the colour became more intense [as opposed to the fading dyes we are more used to] and it was highly prized throughout the Roman Empire. It was first used around 1600BC – and continued to be popular till the time of the 4th Crusade around 1200AD. But then it fell out of favour for various reasons, and the secret of turning the slime into dye was lost in the sack of Constantinople in 1453

tyrian purple john edmonds

It was only in 2003 that a retired English chemist called John Edmonds rediscovered how to create the dye.

Getting Murex Snails from Crete was expensive, so John says he did his experiments with cheaper cockles from his local Tesco supermarket!

The frites will be oven baked, and I am not planning on experimenting with my mussels- so I think I can safely say that I am neither Frying Tonight, nor yet Dyeing Tonight!

As I Said To Mr ‘Udson…

upstairs downstairs bridges hudson

Back in the Old Days, way before Downton, there was Upstairs, Downstairs [the great original one, not the awful newer incarnation]

And downstairs you would find Mr Hudson and Mrs Bridges ruling the household staff with a mixture of stern glances and wry smiles.

I am not sure when the “Mrs Bridges Food Company” in Arbroath was founded, but their website makes it quite clear that they consider themselves to be carrying on the spirit of the Eaton Place Kitchen in the way they produce their products.

mrs bridges cranberry and orange treats

Among our Christmas presents, we received a jar of Mrs Bridges Cranberry and Orange Treats. These are basically small boiled sweets – each about the size of a fresh cranberry. They are exceedingly delicious. And wonderful to suck very slowly, so they last ages!

We are really enjoying these little sweets – but we’re a bit perplexed by the website which says

As you’d expect from a deluxe brand with traditional values, the Mrs Bridges collection is crafted using classic methods…Based at our family run company in Arbroath on the east coast of Scotland, Mrs Bridges products are all manufactured with no additives, thus we preserve tradition - and more importantly rich flavour.


With the best of Scottish soft fruits on our doorstep in the berry fields of Scotland, Mrs Bridges’ recipes use only the highest quality crops to produce a notably superior collection of food gifts. As Mrs Bridges herself would say “the difference is in the taste” creating a deluxe range from original recipes…

The reason we are perplexed is that the back of the jar lists these ingredients; sugar, glucose syrup, palm oil, citric acid, emulsifier, soya lecithin, flavourings, concentrates, apple, radish, sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot.

Now I am not denying that their radishes, sweet potatoes, apples, pumpkins and carrots are all sourced from the ‘highest quality crops’ – it is just that I vaguely expected there to be a cranberry or an orange appearing somewhere in the list!

Never mind – they taste very good [with all those vegetables included, can I count them among my five-a-day?]

Friday 25 January 2013

Buon Appetito!

At the beginning of the week I used a large butternut squash to make lots of soup. It has been very warming on these cold days. I kept some back to make Nigel Slater’s Risotto, recently featured on his “Dish of the Day” programme. I modified his recipe slightly.

slatersquash risotto

I thought Nigel’s risotto looked a little anaemic – and I don’t eat Parmesan anyway- so I added a chopped red pepper and a few sliced mushrooms, and a few chopped spring onion tops for a garnish. Bob had Parmesan on his.



  • 400ml/14floz leftover butternut squash soup

  • 200ml/7 fl oz stock

  • 4 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 onion chopped

  • I red pepper diced

  • 3 mushrooms, sliced

  • 200g/7 oz arborio rice

  • 4 tbsp grated parmesan, spring onion tops for garnish

Preparation method

  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan over a low heat and soften the onion, mushrooms, and peppers. Add the rice to the pan. Cook through for five minutes.

  2. Ladle half the soup and stock into the rice pan, stir and allowing the rice to absorb the liquid. Cook over a low heat for 8 minutes. Stir in remaining liquid, stir and simmer a further 6 minutes till all liquid is absorbed.

  3. Serve sprinkled with grated parmesan and spring onion tops

It was very filling, easy to make, and we both enjoyed it!

Thursday 24 January 2013

Good Game, Good Game!

In a world where the economists are being Very Gloomy, it is interesting to note that the Toy Industry seems to be virtually recession proof. Toys continue to sell well, round the world

snakes ladders

A recent report on the BBC website [here] says that some of the older ‘traditional’ games are good for children, because they develop numeracy and literacy skills.

DSCF5143And building with Lego helps develop motor skills. Newer toys have benefit too – the Top Trumps Cards develop confidence, memory and comparison skills.

legoThe Horrible Histories games have innumerable benefits [These games include a challenge for Genghis Khan to collect enemies' heads, and players fire plastic rotten pigs at each other! but the kids love them]

Electronic toys are incredibly popular – and parents believe they are getting value for money if the toys they buy have educational value as well as entertainment value. Learning tablet devices for youngsters were among the biggest sellers of 2012.On the other hand, statistics show that Grandparents are very keen on buying more traditional wooden toys!

What do you look for when buying toys?

Educational value, educational value or a mixture of both?

Play is really important for children’s development – as Carla and Tom have demonstrated [here]

What was your favourite toy as a child?

What do the kids round you play with now?

Wednesday 23 January 2013


Not this one

No, magazines with simple titles. Liz and Steph have given me a subscription to this magazine as a birthday present for the last few years. My RS magazines are neatly stored on the bedroom shelves


I have enjoyed RS enormously – but it’s beginning to repeat itself, so I suggested to the girls that they do not renew it in April.

Liz went abroad just before Christmas, and brought back another ‘simple’ magazine for me to read.

This one was free in the Carrefour Supermarket!


I’m fascinated that a French mag has an English title. Although its 4 weeks since Liz gave it to me, I have not read it carefully yet. My French is not up to the standard of Elizabethd, Alison-the-Dormouse, Floss or Mags, so I know it will take me hours of deciphering.

  • how come so many of my blogfriends are such fluent Francophiles?
  • is this a “magazine de magasin”?

I am saving the mag for next week when I am convalescing after Wednesday’s op. This week I am concentrating on getting things straight round the house. I am not good at sitting down and resting, so I need to have a pile of reading materials and a craft project in readiness beside the sofa.

The-Simple-Things-launch-coverI haven’t read this one yet – it is from the ‘Mollie Makes’ stable.

Their website is attractive to read – but I suspect their brand of ‘simplicity’ is a little more expensive than mine!! [rope doorstop, £60, anyone?] [yes SIXTY POUNDS!]

Je suis une femme très simple avec peu d’argent.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Not Norfolk Dumplings–Further East Than That


These are traditional Norfolk Dumplings [known as ‘floaters’ or ‘swimmers’] I like mine soft on top, Bob prefers his with a crust. But recently I have been making Jamie’s Asian style coconut coconut-buns-001dumplings. They are incredibly easy, and very filling. They come from his latest TV series, “15 Minute Meals”. I cook them in my bamboo steamer, if I am doing a full-on Chinese meal - but they work just as well in my metal steamer saucepan, when I cook them over a pan of vegetables.

Steamed Coconut Buns –  8 buns (or 12 smaller buns) serves 4

  • 1 14oz (400 gr) tin of coconut milk
  • 2 empty coconut tins of self-raising flour
  • good pinch of salt
  • You also need: a wok (or pan) with water on medium heat, a steamer basket (or colander) and muffin cases


  1. Pour the coconut milk into a food processor. Use the empty tin to measure out the self-raising flour. Add the flour and salt to the food processor and process until a smooth dough.
  2. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and form into a large roll. Cut out 8 equal parts (note: I make 12 smaller ones) and place these balls into double paper muffin cases.
  3. Place muffin cases in a single layer into a steamer basket. Fill a wok with boiling water, put the steamer basket (with lid) on top and leave to steam hard for about 10 minutes.

However there are only two of us – so I tried pouring half the coconut milk into a lock’n’lock box [for making curry on another day] and making just half the quantity, but we found that very filling too. Next time I shall go for one third quantities! These dumplings are delicious drizzled with sweet chilli sauce.

jamie15 minutes

Steph had this book as a Christmas present, and I enjoyed reading through it when I was with her last week.

Dumplings are a wonderful comfort food on cold snowy days, great for internal ‘warmage’ to borrow a fabulous word from The Custards. Trouble is, dumplings are quite calorie-laden!!

Monday 21 January 2013

What Women Want

According to today’s Daily Mail, here are the top 50 things which allegedly ‘make women feel good’…

  1. A partner giving you a spontaneous cuddle
  2. Comfortable underwear
  3. Someone telling you they think you’ve lost weight
  4. Buying a present for someone which they’re obviously pleased to receive
  5. Wearing sexy underwearlanigan tulips
  6. Finding a bargain
  7. Receiving flowers
  8. Being bought a present
  9. Someone telling you you look younger than you are
  10. A stranger complementing you on your style [I think they mean ‘complimenting’!]
  11. Tucking into a bar of chocolate
  12. Being asked where you bought something
  13. Catching up with old friends
  14. Fitting into an outfit you thought was too small
  15. Reading a brilliant book
  16. Having clean teeth
  17. Having a meal cooked for you
  18. Shopping
  19. Someone noticing you’ve had your hair done
  20. A proper hug from your son/daughter
  21. Getting dressed up for a night out
  22. A sale in your favourite shop
  23. Being told your children are well behaved or clever
  24. A bubble bathbubblebath
  25. Buying a new bottle of perfume
  26. [missing from the list – don’t know why]
  27. Going out for lunch with friends
  28. Winning a debate
  29. Getting praise from the boss
  30. A child thanking you for having them to tea
  31. A spa day
  32. Exercising / playing sport
  33. Showing off a new handbag
  34. The DJ playing your favourite song on a night out
  35. Watching a box set
  36. Your children doing well at school / sport
  37. Taking heels off at the end of the night
  38. Recycling clothes
  39. Eating cheese
  40. Doing a great job at work
  41. Going on a first date
  42. Have a good chat with friends
  43. Watching soap operas
  44. Sharing a bottle of wine with friends
  45. Buying new make up
  46. Having a manicurebbc_radio_two
  47. Shapewear which makes your figure look amazing
  48. Singing along to the radio in your car
  49. Picking up a new skill / hobby
  50. Cleavage enhancing bras

HOWEVER I am afraid I dismissed many of these – some are quite contradictory, some just not part of my lifestyle.

  • I don’t eat cheese
  • I think I have only had one manicure in my life, and one spa day [both fun, but not in my top fifty]
  • ‘going on a first date’ – not done that for over 35 years!
  • does ‘The Archers’ count as a soap opera?
  • looking at 2, 5,47 and 50 – sexy, ‘cleavage enhancing’ and shapewear are often not comfortable!
  • shopping, new makeup, new handbag – don’t fit in with my frugal habits.
  • if you eat the chocolate [11] you won't have clean teeth [16]

BUT I do like cuddles and hugs, especially spontaneous ones, from family and friends. I love giving presents [especially making them, rather than buying them] and catching up with old friends. Reading good books and learning new skills definitely bring great pleasure. Recycling and finding bargains are also high on my list.

What else makes me feel good? in no special order, a few things from my list [which is far longer than fifty items…]

  • The first, and last, cup of tea of the day
  • Riding my bicycle
  • Feeling that somebody has been helped by a lesson I’ve taught or sermon I’ve preached.
  • Getting into a bed with freshly laundered sheets
  • All the family around the meal table at Cornerstones
  • Watching meteor showers
  • Marmite on toast
  • Finishing a craft project
  • An evening with Bob undisturbed by meetings or phonecalls.
  • Smiles and hugs at the end of a long journey.
  • Hymn singing








What makes YOU feel good?