Sunday, 31 August 2014

A wonderful day

This is just a very short post to say I've had a wonderful day.  I cooked a tasty dinner of roast pork, pigs in blankets, apple sauce, roast potatoes and parsnips, peas, beans, carrots followed by apple pie and summer pudding.  No-one left the table complaining of being hungry!

And I had time with people I love.  I'm a bit short on close family as I have neither married nor had children and my only sister died a few years ago.  Her only son and his wife live in Belgium and I see them perhaps twice a year for just a couple of hours.  My 89 year old aunt is my closest relative and my cousins are all very important to me.  I am truly blessed to have a loving extended family.

So now it's just me and the washing up.  (Don't worry, I've got a dishwasher!)

Saturday, 30 August 2014

They come to my table

Today I am having a lovely day getting ready to entertain guests to lunch tomorrow.  Four members of my extended family are coming and I am so looking forward to it!    I live alone and so normally eat alone.  When guests come I want to enjoy their company so I do as much as I can before the day so I don't get too tired. 

I've just set the table and that's a job I love.  I use "best" crockery and cutlery all the time as I don't want to be like my grandmother who was very proud of her complete tea service which she used only twice in the seventy years she had it.  I've collected Haddon Hall crockery since I was eighteen and I use the plates, mugs and dishes daily.  Many pieces were gifts for birthdays and Christmas

But as I put things on to my table I delight in the memories.  The linen tablecloth was my grandmother's and it only sees the light of day when I have guests.  The cutlery was a gift from two dear friends to celebrate my ten years of being ordained.  Some of the glasses belonged to my late sister and some to my mother and although I use odd pieces when I'm on my own it's when I have guests that I really enjoy using it.

There will be just five of us sitting down for lunch.  But far more have come to my table

Friday, 29 August 2014

Horses for courses

If you read Flylady.net you will know that CHAOS is Can't Have Anybody Over Syndrome and I have it BIG Time!  I need the best part of a month's warning of visitors.

However, it's a characteristic which I have learned to live with and indeed to exploit.  Ever since I had my first truly independent home I have invited people to come for meals becuase that's the best way I know of making myself do some tidying up.

When I lived in a vicarage it wasn't too much of a problem - there were enough rooms just to shove the clutter behind closed doors but in my current "bijou" residence it's rather more of a challenge and a challenge which I take on rather less frequently.

But this Sunday I have no services to take and so I have four guests coming for lunch, that's one very elderly aunt, two cousins and the wife of a cousin who is also a great friend.  So, for the past couple of weeks (yes seriously) I have been directing my attention to Getting The House In Order (it deserves capitals).

And today the truly wonderful Jack has been again.  Not only is Jack a gardener he is a wonderful friend and he is very well house trained.  Just to make matters even more complicated I had to conduct a funeral today so all I could do in my own house was to direct operations.  Jack has altered a couple of cupboards in the kitchen, moved the fridge and freezer and cleaned the floor, cleaned the kitchen, moved my sewing stuff from the sewing/dining room, cleaned the sewing/dining room, vacuumed most places AND he has shifted about a ton of gravel, dug over my veg patch, dug up the remaining potatoes and the ravaged brassicas and consumed four pots of tea.  All that in five hours.

I was exhausted just watching him but tomorrow I will get everything ready for Sunday - actually I've got most of the food in the freezer already.

And Jack said he'd rather do what he had done today four times over than conduct a funeral.

Definitely horses for courses.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Power of Thank You



I went to Lakeland today – no, not the Lake District but Lakeland Ltd, “the home of creative kitchenware.”  Kitchen porn is more like it.  The stuff in there ranges from the incredibly useful and difficult-to-find to the incredibly useless and why would you want to find it.   

I went to Lakeland and had a good ferret around but I made sure I was there early because last time I went I managed to smash a couple of sundae glasses when I knocked into a display whilst riding my mobility scooter. The staff were really good, “Please don’t worry, no need to pay” and I have to say if you’re going to break something, Lakeland is the place to do it as they have the best kit for clearing it up.

They were so good that I e mailed their head office and I sent the staff a thank you card.  I was trundling around (very carefully) today and an assistant said, “Excuse me, are you the lady who sent the lovely card?”

And once again the service was superb.  Several staff members greeted me and I was beautifully looked after. 

It’s the power of thank you.  One assistant told me that my card has pride of place on the staff notice board and thanked me for it.

So my thank you came back to me.  And I came home with a smile on my face. 

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Friend to wildlife?



I think of myself as rather a nice person, I suppose.  I had a dog (sadly now deceased) who lived off the fat of the land.  I'm kind to old ladies and children alike.  I even care about the dignity of teddy bears.  (The sewing machine is still away which is why there have been no  Bobo updates.)

And I encourage wildlife.  Freddie the Frog is living quite happily in my garden.  Barry the Blackbird and Roger the Robin are regular visitors and lots of other birds drop in for a snack or a drink.  I planted a lavender hedge and have beautiful butterflies visiting.

But sometimes I think I am just too nice.  I left some kale and some cabbages in the garden - well, if I'm honest I will say they were past their best and I had turned my attention to beans instead.



And what happened?  This did.  Those lacy looking looking specimens are kale once the cabbage white caterpillars had done their worst.  They've just left the ribs of each leaf and my collection of caterpillars would have been the envy of any lepidopterist barmy enough to treasure Pieris brassicae, and Pieris rapae.  (Large white and small white if you were wondering - both are prime ravagers of vegetable patches.)

Well that's it.  I will be planting my winter vegetables in the next week or two so I've bought a spray to see them off.  It's labelled organic and I mean business.

What really annoys me though is, where were Barry Blackbird and Roger Robin when the green hordes were munching their way through my garden?  Base ingratitude I call it.




Saturday, 23 August 2014

Bacon



I’ve just been making bacon using a big piece of belly pork and my own curing mixture.  It will be a couple of weeks before I can eat it and am I looking forward to that first rasher!  I’ve only made it once before and sometimes I make sausages as well.  (Maybe I’ll blog about sausages another time.)

My Grandad was a farmer so my grandparents lived in a big old fashioned farmhouse.  It had eight bedrooms and one could be reached by a trapdoor from the kitchen.  It was known as the bacon bedroom because that’s where the sides of bacon were hung.  Grandma also had long trestle tables for apples up there but it was the bacon which was most important.

They didn’t send pigs to market, as far as I can remember but they did keep a couple of pigs for home consumption.  When I went to see the pigs I knew that I would be eating them a few months later and it never worried me.  My Mother told me that Grandad was always very careful that pigs could only be killed when there were no children on the farm so the slaughter could be neither seen nor heard by young eyes and ears.  (Friends have told me however that pig killing was an exciting entertainment in other places.  I like my Grandad and his ways.)

My Mother used to go to the farm after the pig had been killed to help with the very considerable work which had to be done.  Those were the days before domestic freezers so meat had to be preserved by salting or eaten fairly soon so pig killing was a time of feasting.  There was pork, sausages, pigs fry (a Lincolnshire dish consisting of pork scraps, liver, kidneys covered by a caul and cooked in a rich gravy) pork pies.  Everything bar the squeal could be used.  The bacon was left to cure in a big wooden trough and there was a lot more than the couple of kilos I make! It had to last for the year so the quality of the cure had to be certain and it was left in the trough for quite a long time before being hung up to dry.

Mine won't be quite like Grandma used to make but with luck it will be well worth eating.  I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Ere the winter storms begin

The nights are definitely drawing in now.  I've scarcely closed my curtains for ages but the last two nights I've drawn them.  There’s been a bit of a chill in the air sometimes and while I have every hope that we may see a bit more summer, my thoughts are beginning to turn towards autumn.

At this time of the year my Mother was always so busy.  Quite apart from the fact that it was the long summer holiday from school so I was under her feet, the garden was at its most productive.  She would already have made the raspberry and blackcurrant jams.  Although we didn’t grow apricots she would have bought a tray of apricots from the greengrocer and made jam as well as bottling copious quantities ready for puddings in the winter when fruit was more expensive.  She would also have bottled raspberries and by now would be starting to bottle pears.  The runner beans would be hard to keep up with but she would have bought several blocks of salt and would have got the big stoneware jars down so she could salt beans, topping up the jars every day with that day’s pickings.  

Father would be quite busy too.  Soon he would be digging up the main crop potatoes and making a potato pie – a heap of potatoes covered with straw and soil to protect them from frost.  Throughout the winter he would open the pie each week and bring enough spuds to the house along with the parsnips which had been sweetened by the frost.  By the end of the autumn the onions would have been lifted and tied into strings to hang inside, the cabbages and the dreaded Brussels sprouts would be growing and he would have picked the Bramley apples, checked each for blemishes and wrapped the sound ones to keep through the winter.

Many of those things are still true for me but my garden is much smaller and I rely on the generosity of others who give me fruit and veg when there is a glut, knowing that I will process it one way or another and use it well into the spring.

But the biggest difference is the advent of the domestic freezer – the deep freeze as we called them when first they came on the market.  My Mother had one from the mid-sixties and surplus fruit and veg went in there.  From where I stand I think that freezers have made one of the biggest difference in how many of us run our homes.

This last couple of days I have been making fish pies, cauliflower cheese, pigs in blankets and other goodies and will freeze them.  (No, I didn’t go fishing and I don't keep pigs!)  I’ve put some pork to cure as bacon and will freeze that when it is ready and I have sliced it.

I like to be ready “ere the winter storms begin”.  When the weather is really bad I’m stuck – or rather I would be stuck if I didn’t follow my late Mother’s example and make sure I have a full store of delights.

Thanks, Mum!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Smells

My house smells wonderful!

I hope it never smells anything but wonderful but today it is extra wonderful because it smells of the second batch of chutney which is bubbling away in the kitchen.  Yesterday I was given a huge bag of Victoria plums and now I've got plum jam and plum and apple chutney cooling. 

Aren't smells evocative!  One whiff of Wright's Coal Tar soap and I'm taken back over fifty years to my grandma's farmhouse kitchen.  Bread baking takes me back to childhood when my Mother usually baked her own.  I'm ashamed to say that back then a white sliced loaf was a rare treat and I couldn't understand why Mother didn't buy it all the time like my friends' mothers did.  Sweet peas bring memories of the garden when I was a child - I've never found any sweet peas as richly perfumed as those.  On the other hand cooking cabbage (or rather the stale after pong of cooking cabbage) brings to mind the school dining room.  Even today the smell of a freshly picked tomato or home made sausages sizzling in the pan makes me feel excited.

I'm not a great fan of air fresheners, of scented candles and the like.  Synthetic daffodil can't compare with the fresh clove smell of pinks from the garden. 

And I've never yet smelt an air freshener which takes me back to childhood.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Trundling



One of my most important possessions is my trundle truck.  I wish it were not.  I wish I could still walk to the shops, around parks, along the beach.  But I can’t.

And so I have my trundle truck, so important to me that I named this blog after it.  I’ve had it for four years and wherever I go, the TT goes with me.

For the last couple of years of her life I was carer for my Mother and I had to buy a car which I could use to take her around in her wheelchair as she had to have a leg amputated.  When she died I thought about selling the car but never got around to it and within three years my own mobility was seriously impaired so I was glad I still had that car.  I’ve recently bought a similar but newer car, still with a ramp on so I can get TT in the back.  

  
So I keep the TT in the car.  It goes with me wherever I go.  Last year I went to Bruges to visit my nephew and I used the TT to get on and off the ferry then my nephew dismantled the TT and put it in the boot of his car re-assembling it whenever I needed it.  TT took me around Bruges, and around the Great War sites in Flanders.  TT takes me into our village and with the help of the car, into the nearly town.  TT goes with me for days out in the country and for visits to garden centres.

For me, TT is freedom.  I’m so glad that if I have to be disabled I can be disabled in the twenty first century.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

A Better way of Hoarding



I love learning!  I’m not talking about doing more exams but rather learning for the sheer joy of new knowledge.  I’ve been a terrible hoarder of things, now I’m a hoarder of knowledge and experience. 
 

This year I have already done a one day course on Copperplate at Knuston (I'm on the right with my back to you all!)


 






and creative embroidery at Glastonbury. (The picture on the right is an unfinished piece which I have since finished.)


 
Yesterday the prospectus came for Knuston Hall, an adult residential College in Northamptonshire.   They offer a very tempting range of short courses and I’ve got my eye on a Christmas Craft two day course in October.  If I did that I could get several Christmas presents made and it would still give me time to create using any new skills before Christmas.  It will involve a very careful checking of my finances.

But what amazes me is the range of learning I can find on the web.  I’ve long used YouTube and other sites to learn a special technique but this year I have discovered the free courses offered by colleges and universities all over the world.  This year I have already done a course on Kitchen Science (tea bag rockets anyone) and Managing my Finances.  They were offered by the Open University and the University of East Anglia and were brilliant.  Although they are offered by Universities they are within the capabilities of a very average person like myself.  Today someone has e mailed me about a photography course offered by an Australian University and I am more than a little tempted.  All these are free courses.  Local authority sponsored adult education is now for the most part out of my reach (it’s expensive, at inconvenient times and inconvenient places) but t’interweb brings learning within my reach in every sense.

And the hoarding of learning doesn’t need any extra shelving!