Wednesday 31 August 2022

Pot Luck


As I watered my orchids last week, I realised they were looking a bit pot-bound. So I read up on what to do and then purchased some larger orchid pots at the garden centre.

They were Stewart ones [and I was pleased to see they are recyclable] 

I was even more pleased that afternoon to see some bushes laden with blackberries, and a tree covered in apples. And we had three empty pots in the car to collect our foraging.

There are two theories about the word potluck - one is that it has been in use in England for over 500 years [one of Shakespeare's contemporaries wrote of the luck of the pot but others claim 
it came via the Native American word potlatch meaning food which is given away.
Either way, my orchid pots will yield a few potluck puddings! [the fruit has been replaced by the orchids - but I am now struggling to find bigger cache pots]

Tuesday 30 August 2022

Jurassic Lark

George loves dinosaurs - in December we went to the Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure Park. I thought Jacob's bib and George's facecloth should have dino-designs. I went to Etsy and found the lovely Mermaid Embroidery site. An instantly downloadable design for my Memorycraft embroidery machine cost less than £2
I decided to try and simply stitch one  of the motifs from the cute picture. So I played around and practised the design on scrap fabric. I tried to be clever and flip the image, but that didn't work as well as I'd hoped. I also wanted to try a new idea I had read about for stitching on 
The problem is that the loops get caught into the work. I'd read that using water soluble film on top of the fabric helps
Instead of regular vilene underneath, I tacked some of this over the area where I planned to stitch. I chose the colours and set to work with the machine.

I think that this technique is a tip worth passing on to anyone who stitches onto towelling, The letters are clearly defined, and I'm extremely pleased with the results.
My Janome Machine is nearly 20 years old now, but still works a treat - apart from the facility which enabled me to design my own patterns. The software is completely out of date and I do not feel like shelling out £1600+ for a new machine . So the occasional £2 pattern purchase is not unreasonable. 95% of my output is bibs and facecloths after all, and I have plenty of motifs now.
Is there anybody out there, reading this, who regularly uses an embroidery machine for wonderfully complex, multicoloured designs? Do let me know [and which machine you have] I have yet to meet any 'home-sewer' who has an embroidery machine, I've only ever encountered professionals, demonstrating at sewing shows and in shops.


Monday 29 August 2022


I spent a whole afternoon vacuuming and sweeping floors, and found myself thing back 60 years to my childhood in Bishops Stortford.
Between the ages of 5 and 7½, I often spent Wednesday  with Mrs-Lakey-Next-Door while my Mum was busy at the Church Ladies' Meeting. 
Mrs L was a very kind neighbour - she fed me chocolate cake, juicy tangerines, and bags of Smith Crisps [with a  blue paper screw of salt] I stayed in a room at the front of the house. Her three sons were late teens, still living at home. The room held their billiard table, and lots of bookshelves. I remember sitting on the carpet under the table, happily reading. 
I was an early reader, and worked through the boys' books. Wind in the Willows, the Dr Doolittle series, and also Treasure Island, Biggles and John Buchan's Hannay stories. I'm sure Mrs L didn't realise I was reading these slightly more complex tomes - but I was quiet and she left me alone. 
My four memories of that room - the table, the books, the snacks - and the square of carpet surrounded by parquet flooring. I was mesmerised by the herringbone pattern made by the wooden blocks. I thought it was wonderful. Mum said you needed a lot of money to have a floor like that. We had lino [linoleum] with small 'area' rugs. 
Most people I knew had flooring like that. Fifteen years later, when I got my first flat, things were very different. Kitchens had vinyl flooring [I found this picture of the exact pattern I had in my flat in 1977] and people were buying wall to wall fitted carpets. 
Ten years later, people started opting for laminate flooring - a product developed in Sweden - hygienic, easy-to-clean, and back to "area rugs" again to soften things up. 
We have laminate in the lounge, dining area and our bedroom. It is rather useful when Jess is learning to feed herself and food regularly hits the floor round her high chair. And when I am sewing, I like to be able to sweep up threads that drift to the floor. But apparently for the super wealthy, the current flooring of choice is...linoleum!
Made in the traditional way with linen and oil [linum = flax, oleum - oil] it has many advantages over PVC/plasticised floors. It doesn't melt, it is anti static and anti-microbial, made from all natural, renewable products. It will last up to 40 years, but then can be put outside where it will degrade completely safely with no 'off-gases' 
I'm happy with our current flooring - but still remember Mrs Lakey's Parquet and the lovely smell of polish. One other memory from that era
Every morning at school, we lifted our chairs down, and every afternoon put them back up, on the desktop. I was small and struggled to balance my chair. I asked the teacher why we put them up only to take them down again next day. 
She explained to me that 'putting up the chairs' was a sign that the schoolday had ended, and we could go home, and next morning, lifting them down was a sign we should concentrate and start learning again. It was about three years before I realised it was just a way of making it easier for the cleaner to sweep the floor of the classroom! 
Happy memories...

Sunday 28 August 2022

Family Matters

Two of my favourite guys - the oldest and the youngest. This has been a wonderful week for Bob and me - time spent with Liz, Jon, Rosie and Jess- and then with Steph, Gaz, George and baby Jacob - and a celebration of 43 years of marriage. I feel so blessed and grateful.

But I am so conscious that sadly there are many families who are not feeling joy this week. The news of the cruel death of Olivia Pratt-Korbel in Liverpool has been utterly heart-breaking. Harry Dunn died 3 years ago, in August 2019, but his family still grieve and seek closure. Rebecca Adlington, champion swimmer, has spoken of her grief at suffering a miscarriage a few days ago. Someone I know here in Norfolk is supporting a husband and his two teenage children after the death of her friend- a young wife and mother. Other friends I know are struggling with disagreements and estrangements within their families, and some are coping with the pain of divorce.

All these families need love, and support, and encouragement to help them stay strong. Where family bonds are already fragile, an added stress can often be the tipping point. It has become very common for tragic news stories on TV to end with someone saying "So I urge you, go home and hug your children, tell them you love them" Yes this is true - but please- don't leave it till there has been a tragedy. We should work continuously at keeping relationships strong, and telling our loved ones that they are just that- the people we love and care about. Telling them often. 

The book of Ephesians says "Don't let the sun go down on your anger" and that is wise advice. Sort out disagreements quickly, do not lie there brooding all night. Little acts of love and kindness build relationships- constant criticisms and complaints eat away at them. 

Life is short - don't waste time in petty arguments with the people who are nearest to you. 

I'm working with the children in church this morning. We are going to decorate cardboard spectacle frames. On one arm, it says "Help me to SEE God's love in the world" and on the other "Teach me to LOOK for ways of sharing his love"

If they learn that lesson as children, it will help them as they grow up!

Saturday 27 August 2022

The Longest Day...

 We were up at 6am, and fell back into bed around midnight. But it was worth it to spend time with the family in Manchester. I've woken late this morning,  hence lack of post.  More news later. 

Friday 26 August 2022

Blanched Almond

Thank you everyone for the kind words about our new grandson and our anniversary. You're always so generous with your comments,  and it's lovely to have so many friends out there to share our happiness with. 

I remember years ago saying that if we had a daughter, we could never call her Blanche DuBois because she'd be Blanche D. Almond on the register at school. Blanche was a popular girls' name a century ago, meaning white or pure. 

Blanching in the cooking sense, means to plunge briefly into boiling water. With almonds, it enables the removal of the dark tough skin, leaving the nuts white and more suitable for cooking - with fruit and vegetables, this process is helpful in preparing produce for freezing.

I don't have almonds- but we did pick 7kg of pears from our tree last weekend. I find it hard to judge the right moment to pick

- ideally between when they are just too hard, and when they are soft and woolly. They have been arrayed along the windowsill to finish ripening there. But I had a load of bramley apples.

So I peeled and chunked the apples, and quartered the pears, and blanched them - then plunged them into boiling water, followed by rapid cooling in iced water. Fortuitously, there was a large bag of ice cubes in the freezer - so I hoicked that out to make my iced water [and leave space for the boxes of fruit]

Six boxes neatly labelled into the freezer. Now I just need to go brambling and get some black-berries as well. Please don't ask how long I've been working through that stash of tractor-feed labels, we seem to have had them forever, and I don't think we've had a T-F printer since the 80's!!

Thursday 25 August 2022

Forty Three Years And Counting...


Happy Anniversary Bob - 
thank you for everything!

Wednesday 24 August 2022


 We are thrilled to announce the arrival of
Jacob Nathaniel Brotherton
on Tuesday at 12.45 am
weighing in at 7lb 9oz
Mother and baby doing well [and back home by Tuesday afternoon]
Grateful to God for all His blessings

Here brother, have a snack!!

Tuesday 23 August 2022

The "Monica" Test

I watch less and less "live" TV.  But Sunday evenings is a time when traditionally we've chilled out watching something on BBC or ITV as it is being broadcast.  Such viewing should be relatively easy to watch,  no great intellectual challenge. Maybe a joke or two. When Sundays was a "work" day,  with lots of church stuff,  by 8pm we were usually shattered,  ready to collapse in front of mindless entertainment. Like that Scottish series which ran from 2000-2005,  which we referred to as Monica Thurrglenn.
Acting stalwarts [Richard Briers,  Susan Hampshire,  Julian Fellowes et al] lovely scenery,  and undemanding plots,  touches of humour. Sunday night shows have to pass the Monica Test. We have had a few recently which did that 
Jason Watkins has been such fun in "McdDonald &  Dodds" - a fussy little guy in an M&S anorak,  who is actually a very sharp witted detective.  And all the lovely architecture of Bath,  Georgian elegance,  glowing golden in the sunlight... 
Then we moved on to a new detective series set in the South of France. "Murder in Provence" stars Roger Allam and Nancy Carroll. I was really looking forward to this -
I love Allam's mellifluous tones,  whether he is playing Endeavour's boss,  Fred Thursday,  or narrating the Cbeebies children's show "Sarah and Duck".  Nancy Carroll [Lady Felicia in Father Brown]  has a cut glass English accent,  and a trim figure, always stylish. Her mother is played by Patricia Hodge [now 75] But the slightly peculiar thing is that it is set in Provence and these people with their beautiful English accents are playing French characters.
NC has the slightly bizarre name "Marine Bonnet" which looks like sailor's headgear. Provence looks lovely. 
That series was very brief and has been followed by Van Der Valk. Piet is a Dutch copper,  living on a houseboat in Amsterdam.  More beautiful architecture,  and bicycles. As with MIP,  VDV has British actors throughout - so we get a range of regional accents - Yorkshire,  Cockney,  Brummie,  Scottish [not heard Norfolk yet] The original Van Der Valk [1992-97] was also done with British actors.  This series is perhaps too serious,  with a bit too much blood and gore to pass the Monica Test -  but we've enjoyed it nonetheless.  And unlike the Euro time of Walter Presents,  we do not need subtitles. 
No, we've never watched Call The Midwife [my own experience of childbirth means I wouldn't find the programme 'light entertainment'!] but I did like Downton Abbey,  and All Creatures Great and Small [a new season coming next spring]
Do you have favourite Sunday night shows which pass the Monica Test? 

Monday 22 August 2022


 As I mentioned earlier this year, the Go-Go trail in aid of the Break Children's Charity once again has a prehistoric theme. There are 55 large T-rex, 24 Steppe Mammoths and 98 smaller Breakosaurus monsters roaming Norwich this summer [this runs till 10th September] It has been so hot, and I have not been in Norwich much recently. 
John Lewis has a woolly mammoth dressed in strips of denim donated by their staff

Outside the store is a red polka dot beast. I walked round to The Forum where lots of the smaller creatures are on display and talked to the Break Team

They said the pandemic upset plans in 2020, and last year a number of the models were quite badly damaged. Certainly I'd noticed that people seemed to be so glad to be out and about that many were clearly ignoring the "Do Not Climb" signs! 

Maybe the hot weather has put people off following the citywide trail?
I have photographed just a few, inside and outside the shops. The BREAK team said there has been less interest this year - fewer people posting selfies online [despite some sponsors offering generous prizes if your selfie with their T-rex is a winner]
There will not be a GoGo trail in Norwich next year - the team said they are planning one in Cambridge instead, and hope that having a fallow year will revive enthusiasm in Norwich for 2024. They are also hoping the auction of monsters on28th September in Norwich Cathedral will raise lots of money.

I really must try and get down to Ipswich and see the Big Hoot Owl Trail there.

Sunday 21 August 2022

Getting Ready To Be A Big Brother

Steph is now in the final days of pregnancy. She's had her last day at work - and friends and colleagues have generously arranged baby showers. And George- who was two in May - has had a haircut. Those lovely golden curls [like Rosie's inherited from his Belgian great grandmother] have been trimmed. I'm sure they will grow back - but suddenly he seems to have lost his baby face and become a proper little boy. Baby George to Boy George. He's still gorgeous, but somehow this is an emotional moment!

I'm sure the steering wheel and foot pedals on the barber's chair - plus the lollipop afterwards- helped the operation go smoothly. My precious Manchester family is very much in my thoughts and prayers right now.

Saturday 20 August 2022

Saturday Morning

Bob did make me pancakes for breakfast - we ate them happily, but we did remark that it was ages since we'd eaten breakfast pancakes without Rosie's company. I found this poem by Jim Yerman, called "Saturday Morning" which seemed appropriate...
Every Saturday morning always begins the same for me…standing in the kitchen, I’m flooded with memories.
When our children were little…and whenever grandchildren came our way…Saturday morning at our house was always pancake day.
Saturday morning was when my creativity and artistic talent were thoroughly tested…as I’d make pancakes in any shape and colour our children or grandchildren requested.
Some of my creations were more Impressionistic…others were a little less than breathtaking…but I’m proud to say no request was ever rejected in all my years of pancake making.
I like to think that, every now and then, on a Saturday morning our children and grandchildren think of me…and think about the branch we grew upon our family tree.
And how that branch connects to all the other branches…back through the annals of time…helping to make our tree strong and transcendent…noble and sublime.
I hope they’ve learned this lesson…deeply rooted in our family tree… that an adventure is exactly what a family is supposed to be!
And how a family, again like my pancakes, on this my children and grandchildren would agree…is never flawless…never perfect…but…they don’t have to be.
You see, no pancake I created was ever perfect…but they did have a kind of flair…and as long as they resembled the request…our children and grandchildren didn’t care.
Because when it comes to family, just like those pancakes made every Saturday morning throughout their childhood…. It’s the time spent together in their creation… that makes them taste so good…

Friday 19 August 2022

Pillars, Fillers And Spillers

 Back in June, Monty Don said that flowers planted in containers looked good if you go with the "Pillars, Fillers and Spillers" rule. Something tall, something to fill the gaps, and something to spill over the side. I discovered that other gardening experts refer to 'thrillers' - but personally I think that 'pillar' makes more sense. I hadn't realised till I saw Gardener's World that I'd already unwittingly planted like this anyway. 
I had some flower seeds, and I'd put some nasturtiums [spillers] and zinnias [fillers] in my three front tubs - plus a box of Sword Lily Corms - pillars [a birthday gift from best friend Christine]
I waited with interest to see what would happen. After a while a few green shoots came up. They were spindly in Jubilee week, but by the end of June, quite lush.

Then the orange nasturtiums appeared. I forgot to take pictures. And finally the pink zinnias arrived in two out of the three terracotta pots. You can see a few lemon nasturtiums  lingering...

But no sign of the "Sword Lily Gladiolus" Just spear shaped leaves. Lots of leaves. No blooms. I was a little disappointed.
I checked every leaf in case I'd missed a flower shoot/ bud/ whatever. I was a little disappointed. The M&S box said 'flowers from spring to early summer'
It got to August. No blooms. I contacted M&S, sent them pictures - and said the leaves were lovely but I'd hoped for at least one flower! And I was sorry, I had no receipt, these were a birthday gift from my best friend. M&S Customer services replied immediately - they thanked me for my email, and apologised. And sent me a £5 M&S Voucher. 
I went into Norwich, and used the voucher towards a new bedsheet. And the very next day we spotted just one bloom in one of the tubs!

Do I owe M&S 20p for the single corm that flowered? 

Thursday 18 August 2022

Chicken Feed

 "Look at that fungi, Mum, it's like a big pile of pancakes!" said Liz, as we walked across the grass from the museum towards the farm on Tuesday. And she was quite right

When we got home, I checked it out. It is called Hen-Of-The Woods, and grows all over Europe and the USA, often at the base of oak trees. It is edible, and in many countries [especially China and Japan] it is known as Maitake.

It has long been used in Oriental medicine to treat diabetes and hypertension, and there is ongoing research into whether it will reduce cancerous tumours. 

Watch a brief video here for more information on grifola frondosa. 

No, we did not pick any to bring it home for tea. But I have been thinking about a stack of pancakes for the last couple of days. Rosie likes Grandad Bob's Breakfast Pancakes when she comes for a sleepover - maybe he will make some just for me!

[other nature news - one of the bee-eater birds has fledged -details here

Wednesday 17 August 2022

Strong Women...

may we
  • know them
  • be them
  • raise them
That's a quote from the great Ada Lovelace- she was daughter of the Poet Lord Byron [a man declared "mad, bad and dangerous to know"] and a brilliant mathematician. Her mother separated from the poet- who was showing signs of insanity - and brought Ada up in Leicestershire. She encouraged her daughter to be strong, and independent, and to study maths and science. I admire strong women - especially those who have fought against the odds to achieve good things.
Yesterday we took the family to the Gressenhall Museum for the day [I'd won free tickets as my prize for the Scarecrow competition] It was brilliant.
As we arrived, Liz was keen to ride the shire horse at the edge of the car park, and then Rosie wanted to do it too. We had brought her to the Workhouse in October, and she remembered the activities we had done [the old fashioned shop, the schoolroom, the crafts - and the statues of the children]
Bob took Jess in the buggy, Jon and Liz went for a look round inside the Workhouse and Rosie took me into the classroom and gave me a lesson in phonics!

Who is on the picture behind you? I asked "Queen Victoria" came the instant reply. 
We walked across to the Learning Centre.The craft activities were all about pictures and portraits [because of the Georgie Menzies portraits] and stitching. Rosie made a self portrait collage, and a picture of a cheetah [by punching holes in a cardboard plate with a plastic needle] The woman sorting out the crafts asked if I would like to stitch something, I was given a piece of hessian, a plastic needle, and some wool. I knew this would not be a carefully planned embroidery like the Postcard Project. What to stitch?
I looked down at my "Votes For Women" teeshirt, and at my determined grand-daughter piercing the card, and opted for Ada's quote.

Then we met up with the family for lunch. "Take a picture Grandad!" she begged, running to the child-sized figure by the entrance. Instantly she held her hand, and thrust her right arm defiantly upwards. Walking hand-in-hand with Bob to the café Rosie called over her shoulder "Bye Sister!" 
Earlier, Liz had tried on the uniform of a Workhouse girl- Rosie wanted to follow suit. So that's what we did after lunch. I am so proud of the strong young women in my family [I'm missing Steph terribly at the moment] Jess is definitely developing a strong personality too, Rosie is a great Big Sister. How fortunate we were to have such a lovely day together.

Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse is not the cheapest day out - but we were there from 10.15 till 3.15, and did the Museum, Adventure Playground and the Farm - it is very good value for money [and the café serves good food, and there are tables inside and out for those who take their own picnics]