Sunday 31 March 2024

Saturday 30 March 2024

Boom Time

I'm very late to the party with this one. It was on BBC1 in 2017 and I never watched it then, but saw it was available on Netflix, so thought we would try it out. It is a three-part series. We watched part one on Saturday afternoon last week. I found it quite violent, and decided I didn't want to make it 'evening' viewing. We got home from church at 4.30 on Maundy Thursday, quite tired. "I need to watch the end of Gunpowder, or I will forget the plot" I declared. Then fell about giggling, realising what I'd just said
According to the Radio Times, it is fairly historically accurate in terms of what we know of the whole affair.
Mark Gatiss and Liv Tyler, as to be expected, give brilliant performances,as does Peter Mullan [playing Jesuit priest Henry Garnet] And Guy Fawkes, although his name is the one everybody associates with November 5th, was really a very minor character.
The key figure behind it all is Robert Catesby. He is played by Kit Harington [aka Jon Snow, Game of Thrones] Kit was born Christopher Catesby Harington - named for Tudor playwright Christopher [Kit] Marlowe, and Harington's ancestor, the aforementioned Robert Catesby. So he definitely has a vested interested in the production.
Is this a terrorist or a revolutionary? Is he a guerilla or a freedom fighter? I was a student in the 70s, when 50% of my mates had posters of Che Guevara on their wall. The idea of planning to blow up the whole of Parliament, the King, Queen and all the others present [plus wives] is violence on a huge scale. Yet these were desperate men, who had seen unimaginable violence meted out upon their fellow Catholic believers by those in power.
"But were these men any different from the ones who planted a bomb intended to destroy Hitler and his generals?" asked Bob. Both groups had a passionate desire to remove the perpetrators of great evil from positions of authority, and usher in a better form of government. And both groups felt that they were doing the right thing and God was with them in their endeavours. 
I must point out that Garnet, the priest, did not condone their violence [although he did break the law by conducting Catholic Mass, and sought to evade punishment by hiding in Priest Holes etc] Annie Vaux, Catesby's cousin, whilst loving and supporting Robert did not want the killings either. 
Gunpowder was well filmed, with excellent costumes [ok I'm a geek about their clothes!] and in terms of making me think, it was good. But does the torture need to be portrayed so graphically? [even if it accurate] It has made me think, which is good. Rating ****
This is the weekend when I think about the pain that Jesus endured. Nobody should be persecuted for holding different beliefs. I am grateful for the freedom I enjoy - that tomorrow I will meet with others at sunrise, to celebrate Easter together. God be with all those who have to worship in secret, or who are in the minority in their community. 
And although I feel that our current government is totally out of touch, I'm grateful that we have a democracy and will soon have a chance to vote for a better one. 

Friday 29 March 2024

Cross Purpose

The teacher marks a cross when you get it wrong
The voter marks a cross to choose their favourite
The lover marks a cross to show their love
We got it wrong
but God chose us
and he loves us

The cross of Jesus symbolises complete forgiveness, belonging, and eternal love

This is what Good Friday is all about
Amazing love, how can it be. that thou, my God should die for me

Thursday 28 March 2024

A Shedload* Of Fun!

Up and out bright and early for the first on-site meeting  of the Swanton Morley Shed Project. We put signs by the entrance to the farm outbuilding. Another committee member arrived early too, so we set about putting up the church gazebo which we had borrowed for the day. The wind suddenly got very gusty. So Bob went home for ropes and tent pegs, while Roger and I  held the gazebo down!
Then we got out the table and the box of refreshments. And realised that the milk was still in the fridge - so it was my turn to go home [fortunately it's only a couple of miles]
At 10am, people started to arrive - the sun was shining
We had a couple of dozen blokes turn up - and two women [the lady from the council who works with community groups, and Rev Rachael the vicar, who is an enthusiastic supporter of the Men's Shed Movement]. Some brought tools to donate, and the atmosphere was really good. Many positive suggestions added to the chalkboard about what folk felt was needed to make things go well [I wrote 'more cake']
But by the time we had packed up and got home, we were both utterly exhausted.
I'm very proud of Bob for getting this community venture off the ground. I bought him a book to mark the day. [OK, it was 50p in the Charity Shop!] It is extremely funny. [see below]
I did get the feeling that its general premise seems fairly accurate - many men go to their Shed to avoid helping with housework or entertaining the in-laws. 
This time I sorted and served the refreshments - from now on, they will make their own. And whilst Bob is 'shedding' every Wednesday I can do housework get out my sewing! 
*It appears nobody can agree about the origin of the term shedload meaning a significant amount. It first appeared in the early 1990s. It may be 'the amount you need to fill a shed' or perhaps 'the amount spread on the road when a lorry sheds its load.' But it definitely means LOTS. I hope Bob's project gets shedloads of members and they make shedloads of projects - and more importantly, shedloads of new friendships.
I know at least one person reading this [Catriona] has a connection to a Shed. 

Has anyone else got one in their town,

or belongs to one themselves / has a spouse who is a 'shedder' ? 

Many sheds have a women's contingent now as well.

From "The Shed" ... Michael and Gwen are looking for the placemats Gwen's mother bought them for Christmas.

'Quick,' says Gwen. 'She will be here in twenty minutes!'

'I bet we hid them in here,' says Michael, closing himself inside the quiet shed.

Michael says he will not give up looking for the mats in the shed, even if it takes him all day.'

Wednesday 27 March 2024

Janome Joys!

 Five weeks ago, just before holiday club started, I took myself off to Norwich and ordered a new sewing machine. It is a Janome 5270 QDC. QDC stands for Quilting, Decor, Couture - it is a designed to be an "all-round" machine, for people who make Quilts, Curtains, Clothes etc. 

It is from the same series as the 5060 used on the Sewing Bee - but has a bigger, stronger machine. Karen at Sew Creative asked me about the sort of sewing I do. "Are you a quilter?" I told her I have some pieces cut and waiting to be sewn up - but other projects got in the way...memory bears, fancy dress costumes for friends, covers for PA equipment made from recycled gazebo walls...and basic dressmaking and clothes renovations. She suggested that the 5060 can struggle with tougher fabrics and paying the extra would be worth it in the long run. I should get many years of service from it.This will be my last machine - I am not sure I will still be sewing when I am 90!
But I am loving it! On a day when Bob was out at the Hospice, I spent my time just playing around with the machine and see what stitches it did, experimenting with the new features I have never had on a machine before, and generally having fun.
Great things to mention are
  • The scissor switch- which cuts threads very neatly as you finish a piece
  • The lock-stitch switch, which does that little forward-backward-forward dance automatically at the beginning and end of a lionbe of stitching
  • The Knee Lifter - a lever which attaches to the front of the machine, and when I'm manoeuvring round corners or curves, this allows me to do it with both hands, because I can raise the presser foot by nudging the lever with my knee.
  • The automatic needle threader. 
  • The easy digital stitch selector panel 
  • The option of operating with a foot pedal or a stop start switch
  • The clear LED display
  • PLUS
  • The 'quilters' box' containing a Walking Foot and other aids
  • The extension table for spreading the weight of larger projects
Back in 2019, cousin Gillian gave me a pretty notebook for Christmas. I have decided it should be for my Sewing Notes
I have made a note of the things I discovered on my Practice Day [the instruction book is very comprehensive - so it is useful to know page 60 is the Twin Needle section], and all the projects worked on thus far. 3 bears, 4 cushion pads, 4 garments and an ironing board cover. That's a dozen items in the first month.
I think one thing I need to make soon is a cover for my notebook - the cover is a strange sort of embossed cardboard, and I suspect it will show the dirt very quickly.
My other 'regular' machine, and my embroidery machine are both made by Janome. I'm very happy with the design and quality of their products. Both John Lewis and Dunelm sell their own branded machines- but these are made for them by Janome. I would definitely recommend these machines. 

Tuesday 26 March 2024

Gird Up Your Loins

That phrase means prepare for action by tucking up flapping robes into your belt/girdle . My action here is cooking - I prepare by putting on an apron. I'm a very enthusiastic, messy, splashy sort of cook

Here's Miguel Barclay's Pork Stroganoff from his "£1 Meals" which I reviewed recently. Sorry, we ate ours before I took the picture, this is from the book! It was delicious, I will definitely serve it again. It was easy to multiply up the quantities for two people. 

Pork stroganoff  Serves 1 
  • ½ mug of brown rice
  • 1 mug of water
  • ¼ onion, peeled and diced
  • Olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced
  • 1 pork loin chop (about 100g/ 3½oz), cut into strips
  • Salt and pepper
  • A handful of mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 100 ml (3½fl oz) single cream 
  • A handful of spinach 
Put the rice and water in a saucepan, bring to the boil, cover then simmer gently for about 10 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed and the rice is cooked.
While the rice is cooking, gently pan-fry the diced onion in a splash of olive oil over a medium heat. After 3 minutes, add the garlic then the strips of pork. Season and continue to cook for a few minutes.
When the pork is starting to brown, add the mushrooms and paprika then continue to fry until the pork is cooked through.
To finish the dish, add the cream and simmer for a few minutes until the sauce thickens slightly, then stir in the spinach and, once it has wilted, serve with rice.

Comments; I used a couple of pork loin steaks from Iceland which I had in the freezer. They were quite large. I had some small homegrown shallots in the garage which I used in lieu of half an onion, and some homegrown spinach in the freezer. The cost for two of us came in around £2.56.
Next time I'd use less meat [Lidl fresh pork loins are smaller but cheaper] and certainly for four of us, 2½ or 3 of the Iceland steaks would provide adequate meat. I think the cost could be brought down  a little. It wasn't quite 'saucy' enough - Bob suggested a little more cream or a splash of stock or water.
I reckon the cost would come in at around £1.25 a portion, and considering the book was written seven years ago, that is quite fair imho - especially as it is good enough to serve guests!
Thank you all for your kind words yesterday. Our journey to Leicester and back went smoothly. It was good to see old friends again, albeit at a sad occasion. Steve appears to be bearing up well, and receiving lots of support. 

Monday 25 March 2024

A Difficult Day

Seven years ago, we travelled up from Ferndown to the East Midlands, for the wedding of our good friend Steve from Kirby Muxloe. We had not met his bride before - he and Angela got together after we left KM. But it was a lovely day and the wedding was full of love and joy. 
They were so happy to have found each other. Sadly we will be travelling back to Leicester today for Angela's funeral. She died suddenly a few weeks ago following a fall. Steve says friends at church have been really supportive, and his faith remains strong - but these are truly difficult days. 
May God give Steve strength for this time - and may he know that there are many people who care for him. 

Sunday 24 March 2024

Not Simply "Palm Sunday Christians"

Shout and cheer, Daughter Zion!
    Raise your voice, Daughter Jerusalem!
Your king is coming!
    a good king who makes all things right,
    a humble king riding a donkey,
    a mere colt of a donkey.
I’ve had it with war—no more chariots in Ephraim,
    no more war horses in Jerusalem,
    no more swords and spears, bows and arrows.
He will offer peace to the nations,
    a peaceful rule worldwide,
    from the four winds to the seven seas.

These are the words of the prophet Zechariah - fulfilled as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey. In my reading today, Delia says this
"I wonder if Jesus knew. as he looked at their demonstration of support and loyalty, that when the going got rough, they would turn and run? Our response today is to pray, not for human strength, but for the strength that comes from God; that through his strength we can learn to love him even when the going's rough; that we won't be simply 'Palm Sunday Christians' seeking all the comfortable aspects of religion Instead let us ...learn how to follow Jesus, imitating his humble submission to the Father in all the circumstances of our lives. Above all, let us learn to recognise Jesus not only in praise and worship, but also in the midst of our difficulties, sorrows, or frustrations; so many times in such circumstances, we tend to close the door on him, forgetting that the resurrection happened in the midst of chaos and confusion. Let us pray for grace to allow the Man of Sorrows to enter in and share all our sorrows....See now, your King comes to you.He is triumphant, he is victorious. 

Paul writes to Timothy and urges him to pray for those in authority, kings etc [1 Tim 2:1-3] So it is right for me to pray for Catherine, Princess of Wales right now [and her family]

In her message on Friday, Kate said: “At this time, I am also thinking of all those whose lives have been affected by cancer. For everyone facing this disease, in whatever form, please do not lose faith or hope. You are not alone.” Amen to that thought.

Saturday 23 March 2024

Sitting Pretty

Last summer I did a refurb on my 1960's bedroom chair  I painted the wood a rich blue, and recovered the seat in glorious IKEA print [50p from a village yard sale] We also have four folding chairs [Habitat 1980] When we first got Cornerstones, I made cushion pads for them using Laura Ashley curtain fabric.

I decided that they needed refreshing. So I took the inner IKEA seat pads out, and made new covers from the rest of the Yard Sale fabric. I used the print on both sides, so even when folded, they would look cheerful. I sewed on Velcro tabs to keep the pads in place. They slot through the holes in the grid
Now I have 11 dining chairs plus a High Chair. Which will seat a dozen of us once both flaps are up on the dining table!
Not a bad refurb - costing just 10p a chair for the fabric!

Friday 22 March 2024

One Person Found This Helpful

People seem to use the most random of starting places for making programmes [as anyone who has watched Dave Gorman on TV will know] OPFTH is the name of the new Radio 4 comedy programme hosted by Frank Skinner. It is all based on the reviews which customers give products which they have purchased online.
I have always been Very Careful with my money, I used to joke that in my family we did not have Loose Change, we had Tight Budgets. So if something needs replacing, I will check out carefully what is available, what it costs, and what others think about their model. I ask around among my friends, in person and via the blog.
I read articles in Good Housekeeping and similar august publications - "The Top Ten Air Fryers This Christmas" "What sort of Microwave does your family need?" "Find the best jeans for your shape" and I read the reviews online [on the manufacturers' websites, on Amazon, and on retailers' pages, especially John Lewis and Lakeland. 
With the demise of so many domestic items recently, I have spent a lot of time searching through reviews- and mostly deciding that I will manage with what I've got, and not spend my pension on inadequate products.
But along the way, Bob and I have had a good laugh at some of the things people say...
Most review pages require you to give a username, a brief title, a star rating and some comment.
I felt desperately sad for the person reviewing the steam mop, the title was I am in my 40s and this is exciting. 
And then there was 'Grandad' whose review of a steam iron entitled "never used an iron before"  said - This iron cuts through creases like a hot knife thru butter, I can't understand why my wife put up with the old heavy types" 
Frequently I find people who review within seconds of obtaining the parcel [I guess they get that email from A saying "take time to review your recent purchase" and feel obliged to do it then and there] There are so many that say "5* - I haven't unpacked it yet, but the picture on the box looks good." 
And the ones which say things like "I bought this as a gift for my Mum/daughter/sister and she hasn't said anything bad about it" 
Some reviews are so short and stupid you wonder why they bothered...
"5* It is an iron" is admittedly brief and to the point - but not very informative.
"This vacuum cleaner is good if you have carpets" - isn't that what they were designed for??
Others go on for ages, with complicated stories about how it was better/worse than the thing it replaced, what every member of the family thinks about it, and in depth details of the pets.
"I use this vertically on my curtains" 
 conjures up amazing pictures of someone waving a steam mop like Hermione's Magic Wand. 
So reviews can be amusing - but sometimes they are helpful. The M&S website [clothes and footwear sections] is good for letting you know about fit. I wanted to spend some vouchers on a particular pair of shoes - and many reviewers said 'these come up small, go up a half size". I did, and they fit perfectly.
Lakeland are good at responding, and have sometimes modified their products to meet customer requests. 
I won't even discuss the "fake" computer generated reviews. 
I write reviews occasionally - usually after a few months, when I am sure the product is still meeting up to my requirement, and my initial enthusiasm has calmed down. Which is why I haven't yet reviewed my new car here. But I will do so sometime!
Do you read reviews?... And do you ever post reviews of products you've bought? 

Thursday 21 March 2024

Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad!

Have you tried 'baked oats'? They are quite trendy at the moment. I think the idea is that it saves time if you are busy in the morning, because you prepared breakfast beforehand - and you get all the goodness of porridge oats, and the sweetness of fruit in a manageable form. If you don't get to eat it in the kitchen, pop it in your bag, and eat it once you get to work [preferably warmed in the microwave]  I don't have two children to get ready for nursery, or a class of children waiting for me to teach them - but I have been eating baked oats this week. I quite enjoyed them. Liz sent me her recipe

Makes 3-5 servings.
  • 200g rolled oats
  • 2 bananas
  • 400ml milk
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 120g frozen blueberries, warmed in the microwave
Mash the bananas, mix it all together and bake at 180°c for about 35 minutes. Portion up into Tupperware, store in the fridge. Reheat for 2 minutes or so in microwave

I cut mine into 6 sections. Reheating 1½mins on high worked for me. I had no blueberries, so used the blackberries from the freezer. This did make the final dish rather grey inside. It has the texture of bread pudding [which I love anyway] and was warm and filling. I can see why it is popular with busy people!

At the beginning of the week I made some quick soup,blitzing up a can of baked beans, some stock, leftover cooked carrots and a squeeze of tomato puree. I served it with Soda Bread Scones. I use Rachel Allen's recipe, but pat my dough into a big circle 1"/2.5 cm thick, which I cut into eight segments. I separate these out on the baking tray and bake for around 20-25 minutes. We had wo each with our soup. Lovely! I had a cup of soup leftover.
Next day I made a snack lunch by lightly toasting the split scones. I had butter and Marmite on mine, and for Bob, grated cheese, grilled. Two very successful recipes I thought. I found a container in the freezer labelled neatly Veg Soup. It had originally contained fresh soup from Morrisons, which Liz provided for a family lunch in Half Term. It thawed out to a creamy orange colour, and I was fairly certain it was mostly Butternut Squash.

I stirred in the leftover ½ cup of bean soup. But when I served it up for lunch, it tasted peculiarly sweet and milky. Bob asked about the ingredients. I explained. He is adamant that it was not veg soup in that container, but rather CUSTARD! 

It was a proper label, printed on the labelmaker though - and it said Veg Soup quite clearly...But I have to admit, there was a certain Bird-like quality to it!

You could say he got his just desserts!

Wednesday 20 March 2024

Everything Everywhere All At Once

No I have not seen the film with this odd title, described as a phenomenally deranged sci-fi epic that catapults a heartwarming family story to cult status thanks to its cutting edge visual imagery and unexpected narrative quirks. But the phrase does describe the domestic chaos which seems to be besetting me at the minute...

First, my beloved Sebo vacuum cleaner, aged 27, stopped working in February. Fortunately there was a Panasonic cleaner here before we retired, and I had kept that. I dug it out and have been using that. It does the job, but not as efficiently. The Sebo had already been repaired once. Bob fixed it, but the motor smells, and it is no longer up to the job. I will learn to love the Panasonic.
Next, I switched on my Rowenta steam iron, last week, and all the lights went out and the TV went off! I let it cool down, tried again later, and the same thing happened. I had a smaller pre-retirement Bosch iron here. That came out and has been 'pressed into service' Yesterday Bob found the right hex keys for unscrewing the Rowenta. Verdict: that too is unfixable.  Rowenta have some sort of policy that you can buy spare parts for up to 15 years. I have had my iron just over 16 years! [So I cannot complain, it has given me good service] I have fewer items to iron now we are retired anyway.
Finally my Vax Steam Cleaner bit the dust yesterday. All that rain meant a fair bit of mud had come in, despite our best efforts at wiping feet. I decided to steam clean all the hard floors [that's everywhere except the study and the spare bedroom] But the design is faulty, in that however careful you are, this thing has a tendency to fall over if left unattended. And when the plastic handle hits the ground, it smashes. We realised we were onto our fourth layer of gaffer tape, and the thing could only be operated with both arms wrapped round the handle, top [switch] and bottom [steering] and cleaning the floor was altogether very complicated. I had the steam cleaner before I got the Rowenta - so again, a rather old piece of kit, and the plastic was very brittle.
I looked at the possibility of replacing it. But I don't want to shell out £80. Liz and Steph suggested I was overthinking, and I ought to use a regular mop and bucket. So I shall use the Vileda Mop that [you've guessed it] I used at Cornerstones pre-retirement. 
I am very fortunate to have replacements for each of these three items to hand, even if they aren't quite as good as the originals. 
But it really does feel as if everything, everywhere, all at once, is falling to bits.