Thursday 31 December 2015

If You Have A Long Felt Want... do some belated Christmas Crafting, then check out this book

I have just borrowed it from Dereham Library, and I suspect that I shall be copying a few of the ideas before I return it [not sure when/if  I shall create them though!]

Lots of ideas for different felt decorations - to hang on the tree, stand on a shelf...and whilst many are variations of stars and birds seen elsewhere, this book had some fresh inspiration.
I liked the pink/orange 'mid-20th-century' themed pieces.
And I have not seen a llama tree decoration before [Lynda Snell probably has one in Ambridge though]
It has been a fun little read - instructions, templates etc very clear, and advice for no-sew variants. Definitely rates *****
I also borrowed this one. But do not intend to recreate any of the wild and wacky jewellery therein. It is a fun read though! ***

Wednesday 30 December 2015

Love Tokens!

I really do, I love receiving gift tokens. We tend to keep them for a while then have a bit of a spending spree when we have the time to do things properly. So yesterday we took an envelope of tokens [saved from my birthday, Bob's birthday and Christmas] and were able to get a few things we had been saving up for - but did even better, because of the sales

Full marks to

  • HMV - where we got the DVD of Cloud Atlas [Bob's wanted this for ages] and the latest Rend CD- and because of a Sales Offer, got the DVD of 'Theory of Everything' as well. And the assistants were brilliant, they knew exactly where things were in the shop.
  • John Lewis - Bob's got his new Satnav at last. I am not saying the original needed replacing - but we were unable to navigate to anywhere which had any of the letters S-Z in its name or its postcode!
  • Maplin - replacement soldering iron in the sale
  • M&S - underwear [and not the usual boring plain stuff either]
  • Castle Mall Post Office, for its very efficient self-service section [no queue]
I also found in Thorns the replacement gasket for my pressure cooker, and in Jarrolds I finally got the candles for my Swedish Tree [also 30% off in the sale] so they will be going in the box ready for next Christmas.
For lunch we went to Clark and Ravenscroft's Deli - Alexandra Ravenscroft, one of the owners, is the daughter of the late, great John Peel.

The food is really good - and they make the sandwiches to order [so you can have red onion marmalade instead of tomato chutney, if you like!] 
Another successful day in one of my favourite cities - exploring the lanes and enjoying the sunshine.

And that is my sales shopping done for another year - thanks to all my nearest and dearest who made it possible!

Tuesday 29 December 2015

Goede Smaak

I think that is spelt correctly - it is Flemish for 'it tastes good' - and certainly our Christmas food has been excellent. Here are a few of the things we enjoyed

  1. Fish Pie [Mary Berry]  
  2. Pear and Syrup Sponge [James Martin]
  3. Christmas Breakfast [smoked salmon, cream cheese, blini]
  4. Christmas Tree Pavlova, with winter fruits [James Martin]
  5. The Christmas table - loads of different veg
  6. Bob carving the turkey
  7. St Stefanus [bottle & glasses from SAB Miller, c/o Steph]
  8. The last slice of Bob's Amazing Christmas Leftovers Pie*
  9. The last bowl of the butternut and turkey stock soup.
Just a few more days of feasting with other friends and family - then it will be some fasting I suspect! I hope you have enjoyed some good festive fare this week too.
* as Jon remarked "It must be good, if you are so busy eating that you don't remember to take a photograph until the last slice!"

Monday 28 December 2015

Icing For Joy - Again!

Some years ago [2008, just pre-mortgage!] , I purchased a set of resin Nativity Figures from Lakeland. I said at the time  "These are quite expensive, we will have to use them every year from now on" and true to my word, I have dusted them off and stuck them in my Christmas cakes - which have been round, square, and even semicircular with an arched stable.

Eagle eyes will spot that in some years, not all the cast make it to the icing - and the first picture is an 'after' party, where the characters, plus two snowmen with a hangover, were left standing on a plate of fake snow. Another year, poor Joseph got separated from the others as the cake got eaten

This year, I have put four of the characters on the cake - with two of the Magi climbing steps up to the top. Also added details specifically to mark what has happened in the family this year- some blue stars [leftover icing from Bob's 60th birthday cake] and a fir tree [from Steph and Mark's wedding cake] And I have returned to the tradition which I always did when the girls lived at home - a candle is there too. Well it is Jesus' birthday!

Do you decorate your cake differently each year? Do you have family traditions? When are people allowed to cut into the cake? 

Sunday 27 December 2015

A Pause AFTER Christmas

I do not often publish the same post twice- but this week I remembered one from April 2010, and it seemed relevant to the Christmas season, so I thought I'd share it again...
I was covering an RE lesson. It was an introduction to Hinduism, and the idea of Brahman the Supreme Power. The plan instructed me to brainstorm the children about the idea of a "Job Description for the SP over the Earth- specifically noting what things the SP would control, and what things humans would control"
Here is what happened [my words are in red - stuff written on the board in blue]
No poverty, sickness, war or homelessness
Everything would be fair
Leicester City would win every football match they played.
"Would this work?"
"No, Miss, because if LCFC won every time it would not be fair on other teams. To be fair every match would have to end in a draw"
"That's no good, Miss, you wouldn't bother to play then, if you knew you would never win"

"OK, we will forget football for a minute [if only some of them could!] and think about what the humans will be allowed to control"
Where they put their furniture.
"That's it? That is all you will allow them? Re-arranging the dining chairs round the table!"
swastikaHumans can be allowed to vote in elections
"What if they vote for the wrong man - Germans chose Hitler to lead them in the 1930s and that ended in war."
"We cannot let them control anything then."
"That will make them into robots - is that a good idea?"
"I think that humans should be allowed to choose how they live their lives and control them."
"That's called Free Will"
"That is the best thing - let them choose for themselves"
Humans can have the Free Will to choose for themselves
"But just supposing you do let the humans have free will. You let them choose for themselves how they live. And they make the wrong choices - instead of ending hunger, they are greedy and take all the food. And they argue after a football match and have fights - or worse, two countries have a war with each other. If YOU are the Supreme Power, and you let humans have Free Will, and they make wrong choices like that, what are you going to do about it?"
There was a brief pause, then one boy said
"I'd go down there, Miss, and tell them"
And I just stood there - not knowing what to say next, with a lump in my throat. I so wanted to say "But He did - He did come down and tell us, and we didn't listen, we crucified Him"...but of course, I have to be a professional teacher, and I am not allowed to evangelise in class. And anyway this was meant to be an introduction to Hinduism. I just said
"That sounds like a good plan. Now let's move on to the next question..."
This past Christmas, I have wondered about that child - he will be a teenager now - and hope and pray that somebody, somewhere has told him that Christmas is all abut Immanuel, God with us...

Saturday 26 December 2015

May The Force Be With You

We went on a Family Christmas Outing to see the new Star Wars Film. We all really enjoyed it. I will not say any more because I do not want to spoil it for others!
Now I am going to spend more quality time with my fabulous family. I hope you are having a good time with your nearest and dearest too.

Friday 25 December 2015

Thursday 24 December 2015

Last Minute Tips And Dips [To Dye For]

This one is probably too late for this year - but you can use it next year! If you use the sort of home hair colouring where you get a cute little pot with latex gloves in it, you can reuse them for more than one dyeing session. 
So put unused sets away somewhere, and then when you need to 'massage your Christmas ham' a la Jamie and Nigella, you can wear the gloves and dispose of them afterwards. 

I realise that this looks like a scene out of Psycho or something! But rubbing black treacle into raw meat is the sort of messy task that justifies the use of disposable gloves, I think!
My other tip is one I think I have published before, but I got so many comments at the Open House on Monday, I am sharing it again.

If you need a couple of quick dips for a party, or unexpected guests drop round and you want to serve something other than mince pies, try these.

Mix three parts Mayo [Sainsbury's Basics is fine, and lower fat than Hellmans!] to one part natural yogurt [again, basics] plus one or two finely chopped spring onions [white and green parts. Add salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. 
And add a few snipped chives if you have some!

That works out at about 50p for a jam jar full
The second dip is red pepper and chickpeas. Drain a can of chickpeas, but reserve the liquid. Add about a quarter of a jar of roasted red peppers [not the spicy one] a squeeze of ketchup and some salt and pepper. Blitz in a processor till almost smooth but with a bit of texture. That comes in around 65p for a jam jar full. These will keep in a sealed jar for a couple of days in the fridge.

Yogurt dip and red pepper houmous for a quarter of the price of bought stuff- and made with store cupboard ingredients. A plate of crudites [peppers, celery, carrots, tomatoes] and a bowl of tortillas [or basic pittas split,cut into triangles and toasted] and you have one very inexpensive but tasty refreshments!

Wednesday 23 December 2015

Friends Reunited

Two weeks ago, I said to the welcome team at the front of the church "I have some friends coming this morning,can you keep an eye out for them, please?" The conversation then became rather surreal as I had to explain that I'd only met one of them, briefly, in Belfast, a few years back, but she wasn't Irish - and I had never met her mother [who lives near here], but Mum would probably be carrying a large wedding hat. I suspect the welcome team wondered how they were going to give a special welcome to someone who I could not describe at all! [So they did their usual thing and welcomed everyone warmly!] Fortunately I spotted Niqi soon after she came into the building, and all was well. 
The week before, someone at church told me that a lady they work with had asked about me, as she has been following the blog for some time, and worked out from posts this year that her colleague and I go to the same church. We have not met up [yet]
This week, I was in Boscombe, following Bob into a CS, when a lady coming out said "Excuse me, are you Angela?" and this was someone who had exchanged a few emails with me over the past year. She too has followed Tracing Rainbows for a while, and lives not too far away. She'd kindly got in touch to wish me well with the move to Dorset - but we both had family weddings, and have never got round to meeting up for coffee [In the New Year I hope we will]
Two other friends, both of whom I have known for more than 30 years, but rarely get to see these days, put kind notes in their Christmas cards, saying they still follow the blog to keep up with our family news.

It has all been quite amazing - and particularly helpful these past few weeks, when I have been remembering how many good friends I left behind in Leicester. Those friends are still very precious - but I am grateful for the many new friends I have here in Dorset too, and many others all over the world.

I cannot send everybody a Christmas card - but whoever you are, thank you for reading the blog - and may God grant you and yours a truly blessed Christmas time and a New Year full of unexpected joys.

Tuesday 22 December 2015

Punch Drunk!

Last night was the Christmas Open House - we have lots of festive nibbles, friends brought more goodies with them, and we served four different drinks - three alco-free cocktails [the same ones I did for the conference in October] and Bob made Jamie's Punch, but without the rum. As I needed the cooker, he used the portable camping gas ring. During the evening, we kept it warm on the hot tray. The drink was delicious!

I forgot to take any other pictures of a great evening - sorry! So good to have friends from church and a few neighbours sharing festive nibbles with us. As it is the first time we have done a Christmas Open House here, I was not sure if it would work - but there were people dropping in and out all evening, it was lovely!

Monday 21 December 2015

A Few Festive Tips - Some Better Than Others!

This year I have been quite remiss, and not posted many seasonal tips and tricks. Sorry about that. There have been plenty of other people sharing good ideas. But here are just a few more...
Remind family members to top up the ice tray when they remove cubes - not put it back in the freezer half-full [or even empty] And don't forget that if you cut up some lemons and open freeze them, before putting into a bag, you have ice-and-a-slice all ready to go!

If you have one of these 'cheese planes' you will find that they are brilliant for making quick, thin, cucumber slices for salads or sandwiches [or decorating your side of smoked salmon, should you be working at Downton Abbey] Also for shaving thin strips of pear [for James Martin's treacle and pear sponge pudding]

There seem to be fewer Christmas cards this year - certainly I have not sent as many - partly for budget reasons, and also because I am able to email lots of friends. But I do have a basket by the Christmas tree to put the 'Christmas letters' in. I cannot always take in all the information when the post arrives, so if I have a designated place for them all, they can be read at our leisure later.

Do remember to get the priorities straight. Some things matter more than others - relationships are more important than fine dining, the gift of time is more valuable than the gift of diamonds. When a minor domestic 'disaster' strikes, tell yourself "it's only stuff" Sprinkle grated cheese, or breadcrumbs over burnt savouries, create a snowstorm of icing sugar [or cocoa powder] over collapsing puddings - thus disguising the faults. Be truly creative and make a feature of the culinary crisis

My final tip - totally original, [at least, I have not found it anywhere else] buy a large jar of pickled gherkins.  I have some in the pantry already [as Steph likes them, and she arrives very soon] The other night I was putting together a last minute meal with leftovers, and the potatoes and pasties just looked boringly brown on the beige plate. Remembering Shirley Conran's advice in Superwoman 'always try to add a touch of green, it adds a look of freshness' I hunted for something to throw on the plate.  Bob grinned at the three large gherkins nestling beside his spuds and declared that 'gherkins make any meal more amusing'
So if you do not have plastic dinosaur, when calamity occurs, I think gherkins are a useful alternative. And you can use them to make mini Christmas Trees too!

Sunday 20 December 2015

Pause In Advent #4

How are we already at the last Sunday in Advent- it has gone so fast this year. Last week we had such a brilliant All Age Service, and the children and young people did some great dramas. One involved a number of angels [many with clipboards] preparing for their next mission [visiting shepherds just outside Bethlehem]

I got a great photo of the twins, two students, just back from Uni, as they stood outside the door, waiting to come on and play their angelic roles. The shopping bag was full of divine sandwiches!

Last week, when I went to Waitrose with Bob to collect their gift, we were taken out through the rear of the store and upstairs to the Staff Restaurant for the presentation. On our way out afterwards, I noticed that on the back of the doors going into the store, there were 'motivational signs' to encourage the staff as they went out to serve the customers. Like this...

For those of us who are Christians, perhaps we should put these signs on the inside of our church doors, so that each Sunday as we go back into the community, we should ask ourselves if we are willing to go the extra mile, and are ready to make a difference for Jesus.

Saturday 19 December 2015

The Queen's Corsets!

 I have been watching Kirstie Allsopp's latest programme Christmas Craft Programmes.I really shouldn't - she just winds me up, and I rant at the TV - and fail to find any ideas which succeed in being manageable, affordable, original and workable-with-children.

 "I was being crafty and thrifty before she was born" I mutter. This week, more evidence of the amazing thriftiness and creativity in my family - Back in 1977, when I was young and carefree single, there was an OAP Residential Home at the end of my road. I used to visit the tenants, and we did a Sunday Service once a month in the lounge for them. I helped the warden decorate their lounge for Christmas. She had huge strips of coloured acetate and she made massive chains to festoon the large room. "My husband works for BBC, and this is lighting gel they were throwing out" she said. After Christmas, when we took it all down together, she gave it all to me, hoping I could make use of it. 
There were over a hundred strips of the gel, in loads of different colours. Down the years we have used them for all sorts of projects. This week, Bob has been up into the loft and selected a few strips - this time for their original purpose - he is going to put filters on the uplighters at church for tomorrow night's candlelight carols. Without the lights, it really will be Stygian Gloom, but with some tastefully shaded jewel-like illumination, the newly painted ceiling should look amazing!
But you are wondering about the royal underpinnings, aren't you? I am clearly not the only thrifty woman in Ferndown. I picked up a stocking filler in the Trussell Trust Shop this week, and the lady said "I've got a bit of tissue, I will wrap it up for you" And produced this sheet from under the counter "Ooh! The Queen's Corsets!" I exclaimed. I showed her the gold lettering on the paper, and explained that Rigby and Peller are a very old company in London, and hold the Royal Warrant as the Queen's Corsetieres. The CS assistant, who saved the tissue is clearly thrifty, but I do wonder about the sort of woman who can spend hundreds of pounds on a bra! I may use this fancy paper to line my knicker drawer, even though its humble contents are from M&S.

Friday 18 December 2015

If I were A Carpenter...

Every Thursday, a group of hardworking volunteers serve "The Carpenter's Lunch" at our church to around three dozen 'seniors'. It is always an excellent meal, and the atmosphere is so friendly - people pay just £3 for their food. Bob and I attend when we can - so we can get to chat to folk [and I help with serving] On a Sunday at 'after church coffee' it is sometimes a bit of a rush to speak with people, and this relaxed opportunity to catch up with the older generation is useful. This week's menu was splendid [Thanks to Rick and Angela J.]

  • pate and crackers with salad garnish
  • gammon, accompanied by new potatoes, red cabbage and peas
  • Carte D'or Raspberry Vanilla Log
  • tea or coffee

then guests received a slice of Christmas cake and a satsuma to take home. 
I must say that the dessert was quite stunning, with the raspberry layer and the exquisite gold curl decorations. Afterwards I went up to Sainsburys to buy groceries- my 3rd visit this week - I went on Monday to ask about gifts for the lunch, on Wednesday to collect a trolleyful of lovely items from Sue, the Public Relations Link Person, and then today to buy my groceries. 

When I was chatting with the checkout operator, I said how grateful we were for Sainsbury's generosity - and she say "I have heard that your church is a very caring one" which was a lovely thing for her to say. It is encouraging to think we really are making a difference in our community. [that is a red Santa Hat on my head- unfortunately it does look like I am just swathed in a cotton wool bandage]

Thursday 17 December 2015

Oh My Darling Clementine

I love all the little citrus fruits that you get at Christmas - mandarins, clementines, tangerines - I am never sure which is which. So often the supermarkets seem to just label them 'Easy Peelers' [which reminds me of simple Victorian Policemen!] I've recently come across this quick, easy recipe in various places, with different tweaks - but here is the one I made earlier in the week. The recipe does 4 portions, so we each ate one and kept one to have on another day. You do need a food processor and a microwave though
Microwave Clementine Puddings
  • 2 small clementines [reserve 4 segments]
  • 90g butter
  • 1 large beaten egg [or 2 small, but only use about ¾ of the liquid]
  • ½ cup caster sugar
  • ½ cup self-raising flour
  • ¼ cup ground almonds
Grease four individual plastic pudding moulds
Cut clementines into quarters and remove any pips [but do not peel them]
Put all the ingredients into a process and blitz till smooth
Divide between the four bowls, top each with clingfilm
Stand on a Pyrex plate, microwave on high for 4 minutes.
Turn out into serving dishes
Garnish with mint or a clementine segment
Serve with custard, cream or natural yogurt
This makes a moist sponge pudding, with an amazing orange colour, and a tangy citrus taste.

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Lah-Di-Dah or Lardy-Da?

Here is Bob on Tuesday morning - we went to Salisbury to look at the Christmas Market [and to try and find little red candles for my wooden Swedish Tree] and to replace our clothes airer, which collapsed and died over the weekend*

He is sitting in Reeve The Baker, about to tackle a Lardy Cake. These "local" delights [Wiltshire, Hamposhire, Dorset and other counties all claim to have invented them!] and they are not so much cake as bread- laden with spices, dried fruit, sugar...and lard! I could feel my arteries silting up as I nibbled a small piece! To be fair, even with my help, Bob could not manage to finish the cake.
We didn't find any candles- I did make a couple of good CS purchases [to be revealed later] and after a great meander round the market, sampling fudge and things, we walked round lots of CS. I was very impresed by the window display in The Entertainer Toyshop. One side of their door was a window full the usual display of Toys - the other side was completely given over to a large Nativity tableau with an explanatory sign. Brilliant!

Lunch was soup in Henderson's by the market. Beautiful home made bread accompanied our soups - his was red lentil and tomato, and mine was butternut squash and sage [mysteriously they were the same colour - but completely different, delicious flavours]

There was a lot of rain, but we really enjoyed our day, wandering round the pretty stalls and looking at the festive displays. I bought two large butternut squash for £1 on the market and will make some more soup myself.
*We ended up with an airer from Lakeland - I have returned to a wooden concertina one, as we decided the metal ones, and the pull out ones were not what we wanted. Now we only have one bath/shower, drying washing over the bath is not so easy! And I am not using the tumble dryer in the garage - it is expensive, and the motorbike is in the way!!

Tuesday 15 December 2015

All Good Gifts Around Us...

I know, that's a harvest one, and this is Christmas, but I'm feeling blessed with good gifts already. Last week I went with Bob to Waitrose at Wimborne, where they gave us a generous gift card to help finance the Free Christmas Day Lunch, which will be happening at UCF. They were helping half a dozen groups doing lunches.

Then yesterday I spent the morning going to all the shops in Ferndown town centre, asking if they had any gifts we could give to our guests at the lunch. 

I stressed that just a couple of items would be lovely - stockingfillers of any sort. I had two bagsful to bring home, plus promises of something 'once the District Manager has OK'd it' from a few shops. By midday, I decided I was getting really good at scrounging! The three opticians I visited gave me glasses cleaning kits, the chocolate shop gave me cute gift boxes with chocs in, another gift shop gave me some soaps 'these are more masculine ones for your male visitors' The electrical shop gave me easy-operate mini torches ... and as the morning wore on, I got more and more items.

I hesitated outside the Very Posh Gift Shop. Then confidently went in, smiled and explained what I was doing, and said "I appreciate your goods are all premium quality and their price reflects that - but could you spare some giftwrap, please?" and came away with giftwrap, and party balloons! 

Which all goes to show the truth of "Ask and you will receive" 

So THANKYOU to all those generous people who said how pleased they were that we were doing this for the Community. It was useful having cards with our new logo on, to show where I'd come from!

Monday 14 December 2015

Go To Work On An Egg

The postman brought an unexpected gift this week - a friend is having a new kitchen, and as she cleared out the old cupboards she found 2 Hornsea eggcups. The accompanying note said "I have waited 20 years to say this to someone - I saw this and thought of you!"
I am truly grateful for her thoughtfulness, here is a picture of them
I also received another unexpected gift this week - Bob went to deliver presents to his sister, and collect some stuff for Steph, and my darling daughter sent back a magazine for me to read. A lovely treat after I had been to have a filling. Glad to say my tooth is fine now, and I like my new  dentist. He rides a motorbike and tells bad jokes

The eggcups had reminded me of this great ad campaign - it started back in 1957 and ran for years with posters and TV ads [the slogan was thought up by Fay Weldon, the writer]

The magazine had a lovely feature about a book produced by the British Library called "Try It! Buy It! Vintage Adverts". I've spent ages looking at these brilliant bits of art.

 Some of the posters were for products we still recognise today, although the birds on the custard are now a yellow mum with two little blue chicks, and the Bisto kids disappeared from our gravy twenty years ago. Did you know their names were Bill and Maree? [me neither till I read this]
The name Hovis was from hominis vis meaning strength of man and was a prizewinning suggestion from Mr Herbert Grime in 1886 [better than its original moniker Smith's Patent Germ Bread !]
But the ad that really amused me was the one below for O-Cedar Mop Polish.
Reading the blurb, I cannot imagine how thrilled many women would have been to find this under the Christmas Tree in 1919! And how many husbands might have regretted handing back their WW1 tin helmet as the can of polish was hurled at them across the room!

 In the Old Days - before all the modern techniques of colour printing, Photoshop, Computer -Aided-Design etc, when advertising was simply printed in magazines or on posters [no TV, Facebook, or colour films] these adverts were truly works of art.
Thank you S & S for the two lovely gifts, which brought joy and colour to my week!