Thursday, May 31, 2007

Which Austen Heroine Are You

I am Elinor Dashwood!

Take the Quiz here!

A fun quiz for Austenphiles. I am 'content' (as Elinor might say) with the result - although I half thought I might be Anne Eliot.

For Dinner Tonight:

Frozen Pizza
Fox's Viennese Chocolate Biscuits

It has been a week with a holiday in it and yet both Rob and I feel absolutely exhausted. I read somewhere once that Tuesday is the day when people are most likely to feel depressed (not sure how scientific it was). Well for us Thursday is the day when we are most like to feel tired out and in a slump. But this Thursday it just seems much worse than usual. So we are seeking refuge in carbohydrates.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Works For Me Wednesday: Ice-Cream Cones

I’m going through an ice-cream making phase just now (you may have noticed), ostensibly as a way of using up the all the soft fruit puree we have stashed in the freezer since last year – although the Pleasant View School House recipe is so delicious I can’t see us stopping when supplies of fruit run out. We have never been ones for buying or eating a lot of ice-cream before for reasons of sheer ice-cream snobbery (can’t bear to eat the cheap and nasty kind – can’t afford the premium kind) so making home-made ice-cream has been a kind of revelation.

However, eating even home-made ice-cream hardly counts as the most healthy of pursuits, nor would it be exactly frugal if we munched our way though bowls of the stuff each evening. Just one little scoop of ice-cream in a bowl looks so sad and lonely so to get round it we use…. cones. Hardly earth shattering but it means that I only need put a fraction into a cone compared to what I would put into a bowl – for the boys, just a couple of curls of the stuff, not even a scoop.

Being only 2 and 4 and innocent in the ways of ice-cream they don’t know they are being deprived (yet) and think that the cone actually adds to the treat value. It works for me too! We never had cones at our house when I was growing up. So the ice-cream goes further, the boys get a pudding they love without overdosing on sugar and Rob and I get to indulge without too much guilt.

Visit Works For Me Wednesday for a whole host of great homemaking tips.

For Dinner Tonight:

Lamb With Garlic & Sage
Peas & Carrots
Yorkshire Puddings
Homemade Strawberry & Banana Ice-Cream

Okay, so no points for originality. An exact rerun of yesterday because it was just so easy. And there is still some lamb leftover. It must have been a big sheep.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Roast Lamb with Sage & Garlic
Carrots and Peas
Yorkshire Puddings
Homemade Strawberry & Banana Ice-Cream

Sounds very grand - but actually it was left-overs. I cooked a roast dinner yesterday (first time in ages - lamb on half price at the supermarket), intending that lunch-time would be our main meal . Then we had the telephone call to say that Rob's brother and family were coming over - so I ended up not having to cook from scratch tonight! The lamb was lovely. My ever resourceful husband boned it for me and I stuffed it with lots of chopped up garlic and fresh sage. I am sure that it goes further when boned, it is so much easier to slice. My husband really enjoyed it. I am so blessed to have a husband who will eat virtually anything (frugal mother and missionary training). He willingly puts up with all sorts of money-saving experiments and concoctions but like most men his eyes really light up when he is presented with a large slab of solid meat!

Monday, May 28, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Pork & Apple Casserole
French Bread
Homemade Strawberry & Banana Ice Cream

It is a Bank Holiday today in the UK and the weather has lived up to the tradition of being thoroughly unpleasant to honour the occasion. We had an unexpected telephone call from my husband's brother to say that he and the family were coming over to visit and that they would bring a casserole. Very nice it was too.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Spaghetti with Ham & Lemon
Homemade Strawberry Ice-Cream

Spaghetti is always a source of merriment for our boys. Much imitation of blackbirds swallowing wiggly worms! The sauce was a sort of carbonara affair. Eggs, a splash of cream, grated cheese (not parmesan, alas, waaay too expensive here) with chopped up ham from yesterday and some onions and mushrooms. Right at the last minute I added the juice and zest of a lemon. Very filling. Comfort food for a very wet day.

Pentecost Sunday

May God pour out His Holy Spirit on you this Pentecost Sunday!

We are gathered for Thy blessing,
We will wait upon our God;
We will trust in Him Who loved us,
And Who bought us with His blood.


Spirit, now melt and move
All of our hearts with love,
Breathe on us from above
With old time power.

We will glory in Thy power,
We will sing of wondrous grace;
In our midst, as Thou has promised,
Come, O come, and take Thy place.


Bring us low in prayer before Thee,
And with faith our souls inspire,
Till we claim, by faith, the promise
Of the Holy Ghost and fire.


Paul Rader (1878 - 1938)

For more wonderful hymn lyrics, visit

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Plantain Salve

The other day while we were visiting the allotment I noticed a patch of plantain growing on the grass verge. I remember it used to be everywhere on the lawns of my childhood (my parents weren’t gardeners, you can tell) but hadn’t seen any around here for quite a while. I recalled reading how plantain, made into a salve, was great for wounds, burns, insect bites, chapped skin etc and so, after a bit of Googling, I decided to make some. I adapted several recipes to what I had on hand. I was quite pleased with the results, but I would love to know how any of you make herbal salves as I am only a beginner.

½ oz beeswax
2 Tbsps coconut oil
100g Vaseline
A good handful of fresh plantain leaves (washed and drained)
1 Tbsp calendula oil
12 drops tea tree oil
6 drops lavender oil

Melt the beeswax, coconut oil and Vaseline together. I used just an old saucepan with the heat very low but you could use a double boiler. Add the plantain leaves little by little, mashing them down to submerge them in the liquid. I let them stew on a very low heat for about 15mins but you could leave them in the liquid overnight or for a few hours and then re-melt the mixture later. Strain the mixture into a bowl. Let it cool a little, then add the calendula oil, tea tree and lavender oil. Stir well. As it begins to set, beat well with a wooden spoon. Put into pots.

The result was a pale green salve that filled several pots. I put some in an old lipsalve container to carry in my handbag for emergencies. The calendula oil is very good for irritated skin, the tea tree is a great anti-septic and the lavender is just all round wonderful – but these could be left out or replaced with other oils. I had some leaves left over which we will dry and use to make a herbal vinegar – good for insect bites and stings.

I find learning about the resources for healing that God has provided for us in plants and flowers a fascinating thing. Not that I disdain ‘conventional’ medicine. I praise God for that too. But I think that it is well to be as self reliant as one can be especially when it comes to health care. As a mother I want to be as well informed and prepared as I can possibly be to serve my family in this area and not have to dash to the doctor or the chemist for every little thing. As a Christian, of course, there is nothing really ‘self-reliant’ about it at all. Our daily health is thanks to God’s great goodness and we praise Him for it and I cannot imagine what it would be like to not be able to go to the Lord in prayer over the health issues that sometimes affect our family. God is indeed so good.

For Dinner Tonight:

Home-Cooked Ham
Homemade Strawberry Ice-Cream

The boys love ham. I have to say I do worry that it isn't the most healthy meat they could eat but I think that ham from a joint that you boil or bake yourself is probably healthier than those little plastic slices from a packet. Well I hope so. It certainly works out cheaper. The chips are from our local fish and chip shop, just a few doors down from us. Chip shop chips have a taste of their own that I, at least, have never been able to re-create at home but to really taste it you have to eat them out of the paper with the smell of the sea in the air.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Language of Flowers: Characteristics (Part 1)

Acacia, pink or white - Elegance
Acanthus - Artifice
Almond - Indiscretion
Aloe - Superstition
Amaranth, Cockscomb - Foppery
Amaryllis - Timidity
Arum - Ardour
Aster - Variety, impulsiveness
Azalea - Temperance
Balm - Sympathy
Balsam, yellow - Impatience
Barberry - Sharpness of temper
Bindweed - Humility
Birch - Meekness
Bluebell - Constancy
Borage - Bluntness
Bramble - Stoicism
Broom - Neatness
Burr - Rudeness
Buttercup - Ingratitude
Butterfly Orchid - Gaiety
Camellia, red - Unpretending excellence
Camellia, white - Perfected loveliness
Camomile - Energy in adversity
Candytuft - Indifference
Cedar - Strength
Cereus, creeping - Modest genius
Cherry Blossom - Insincerity
Chicory - Frugality
Chrysanthemum, white - Truth
Clematis - Mental beauty, artifice
Clove - Dignity
Clover - Industry
Columbine - Folly
Cornflower - Delicacy
Cowslip - Pensiveness, winning grace
Cress - Stability
Crocus, spring - Youthful gladness
Cyclamen - Diffidence

From: 'The Pleasure of Your Company' by June & Doris Langley Moore (1933)

For Dinner Tonight:

Lamb Rogan Josh
Naan Bread
Homemade Black Currant Ice-Cream

The naan bread was from Lidl but the rogan josh was from our local Indian take-away. An unexpected treat. Heavenly!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Frozen Pizza
Homemade Black Currant Ice-Cream

It's Thursday and we all wish it was Friday. Excuse enough for frozen pizza which are on 'buy one get one free' at our local store. They are nice ones too - Dr Oetker. He was a real person you know and not the invention of a giant food corporation as I had thought - read more about him here. When I visited the Turkish store last week they had a whole shelf of incredibly sophisticated looking and very tempting Dr Oetker cake mixes - alas all in Polish.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Beef with Onions & Mushrooms
Homemade Bread
Homemade Blackcurrant Ice-Cream

We hardly ever buy beef, except in minced form, as it is so expensive here in the UK and, despite it being the traditional national dish, not of terribly good quality unless you go for organic, well hung meat from a good butcher and not a supermarket. A couple of days ago, however, I rather rejoiced to find two packets of 'Frying Steak' marked down for quick sale. It says 'beef' on the packet but given how tough it is it might as well be camel. I think I am going to have to put the other packet in a heavy duty marinade to soften it up a bit. The ice-cream was more successful - using Anna at Pleasant View School House's excellent recipe, with the addition of some blackcurrant puree from the freezer.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The She Quickie Cookbook No.2 (1964)

Now isn't this the jolliest cover ever! It couldn’t really be more Sixties if it tried. The book was published by ‘SHE’ a British women’s magazine in 1964.

The 1960’s were a rather schizophrenic time for such publications. So much change was going on. There was the early burgeoning of the modern feminist movement (very early in the UK – radical feminism didn’t really start making a mark here until the 70’s). More influentially there were the social changes that came about as the result of the Second World War. Millions of women had then entered the workforce and not all had returned home. The shape of family life had begun to be irrevocably altered. Successive governments seeking to strengthen an economy weakened by wartime were eager to increase the workforce and thereby their tax revenue. And yet the traditional assumption that a woman’s place was in the home was still the widely held belief (even if the Scriptural underpinning of it had largely been dismissed). More and more, especially young women, were entering the workforce and remaining there after marriage (though few after children – how times have changed). There was glamour and prestige attached to the working life and being an ‘independent woman’ however mundane and tedious the reality.

Women’s magazines began to buy into that fiction while still having to cater to the fact that the majority of their readership were homemakers as well, even if on a part time basis. This book reflects its era very clearly. Its target audience appears to be a young woman, probably married or possibly sharing a flat with other young women and dating a boyfriend, and almost certainly a working woman. The premise is “if you are chronically short of time this book is for you” and the recipes all take 15 minutes to prepare and cook. Each one has a little introduction, some cute, some quite alarming. For example:

Ham In ‘Coke’ Sauce: You’ll never be alone any more once you’ve had him round to a supper featuring this 15min super-savoury!

Poached Egg Superb
: Don’t panic if mother-in-law pops round without warning. Transform those two little eggs into a proud, delicious, nourishing meal!

Kidney Scramble
: Finicky boy friend coming to supper? There’ll be no more finicks when he’s finished this dish – your only trouble will be stopping him asking for more!

Sherry Ham: Wanting a new Easter bonnet? Tempt him with a spicy tete-a-tete supper – he’ll be eating out of your hand!

Each one is illustrated with step-by-step photographs plus a picture of the finished product. The recipes themselves? Oh my, they are so bad. Really, really bad. It is a rare recipe book that contains not a single recipe I would want to cook, but this book is it. Here is the worst of the bunch. I’ve never shared it with my husband – I’ve a feeling he would buy me any number of Easter bonnets to prevent me cooking it for him.

Tongue Italienne

12oz can of lambs’ tongues
4 small tomatoes
1tbsp olive oil
1 small onion
1tbsp flour
¼ pint milk
sugar, salt, pepper
10 stuffed olives
1oz butter
fresh rolls and butter

Open can, remove tongues and slice. Put in a saucepan with milk and simmer very gently. Light grill. Wipe and halve tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and sugar. Dot each half with butter and grill slowly. Heat oil in second pan. Grate onion and fry gently in the oil. Lay table. Add flour to the onion. Stir and cook for 1 minute. Remove tongue from milk to serving dish. Cover with greaseproof paper and keep warm. Strain tongue liquor into onion roux and stir well to avoid lumps. Bring to boil and cook for 2 minutes. Season with sugar, salt and pepper and add olives keeping a few for decoration. Allow olives to get hot. Pour sauce over tongue. Decorate with tomatoes, parsley and remaining olives. Serve with crisp new rolls and butter.

So why do I keep it? It has to be the cover and the social history aspect. And I never know when I might need a new hat.

Out of print now but available, should you have a strong stomach, from

Postscript: SHE magazine is still in existence and, from what I’ve seen, as depressing as most women’s magazines today. Their website address says it all: . It really isn't you know.

For Dinner Tonight:

Red Lentil, Tomato and Frankfurter Soup
Baker's Bread
Homemade Strawberry Yoghurt

The weather here was fairly dull all day so a hearty soup didn't seem at all out of place - until dinner time that is when it brightened up and came over all summery. Ah well, that's May for you. The bread was from my emergency freezer stash, I got my timing all wrong and realised, too late to make any, that the bread bin was bare. In Grace Livingston Hill novels, of which I am fond, whenever a scene of domestic chaos is described there is always mention of a loaf (usually a stale one) of 'baker's bread'. It is a sort of code so that we know just how bad things are in the household that the heroine is about to transform. I could do with a GLH heroine about the house just now to restore some domestic order!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Rainy Day Joy

We had a lovely time this morning having coffee with a friend, but as we were about to leave the cafe the heavens opened. By the time I had fastened the rain cover on the buggy it was pouring down! The two boys were anxious to be home (they had been so good in the cafe but little boys have their limits, you know) so there was no hope of sheltering until it passed. My first inclination was to hurry home as fast as we could, muttering under my breath about the unpredictability of May weather, hustling and bustling the children. Little Isaac had other ideas.

For a 4 year old the world is an incessantly fascinating place. Rain is not a hindrance to a 4 year old boy- it is a positive addition to a walk home. He saw no need to hurry. This was fun. He was pretending to be a train, and “trains have to take their time in the rain in case their wheels slip and they come off the rails, Mummy”. He splashed in the puddles, he climbed on every thing that could be climbed on, he stopped in shop doorways (“stations Mummy!”) and offered hugs and kisses. When we reached home Elisha was snug under his rain cover, I looked like a drowned rat and Isaac was soaked to the skin, but perfectly content.

And drowned rat or not, so was I.

For Dinner Tonight:

Minced Beef and Vegetables in Tomato Sauce
Bulgur Wheat
Home-Made Strawberry Yoghurt

I can’t think of anything better to call the minced beef part of the meal! I made a big pan full of it, all sorts of veggies and some of last year’s tomatoes from the freezer. It will crop up in disguise later in the week. I did the same for the bulgur wheat – it is so easy and quick to reheat, a real time saver. My trip to the Turkish supermarket reminded me that we still have two 5 kilo bags of bulgur wheat in our store cupboard (under the eaves of the roof in our bedroom so a bit out of the way) so I have decanted some out for use over the next few weeks. The yoghurt was made using strawberry puree from last year’s harvest. I have never before been in the glorious position of having more strawberries than I could use immediately or give away, but last year was a bumper year! I’ve never had much success freezing whole strawberries – something very strange happens to their structure when they defrost – but freezing them pureed seems to work well, although it limits what you can do with them.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Stylish Shirts!

It always used to be quite hard to find men’s shirts at charity/thrift shops, at least where I live. I think it was because men, bless them, being less preoccupied with fashion trends than women used to wear their shirts until they wore out and were in no condition for anything but the rag-bag. I’m not sure what has happened over the last couple of years but I am suddenly seeing a lot more men’s shirts in the shops than ever before. Not old tatty ones that have been lurking in the wardrobe for a decade or more but nice, fairly new, obviously expensive and remarkably unworn shirts. Maybe men are becoming fashion conscious and don’t want to be seen wearing ‘last year’s colour’.

It isn’t a trend that has reached our household yet, but what ever the reason for it God has certainly blessed us by it. My husband wears ‘smart casual’ for work i.e. not a suit but always a shirt and tie. I noticed that several of his shirts were beginning to look the worse for wear, and since I don’t possess the knack (as my mother did) of being able to successfully ‘turn’ a collar or cuffs, I knew we would need to buy some more. Imagine my joy yesterday while visiting my friend and browsing in an Oxfordshire charity shop, when I came across these two lovely shirts:

One is by Daniel Hechter, the other Thomas Nash and I imagine they would be at least £20 each new. I paid £3.99 each! My husband is thrilled and not the least worried that lilac may be so last season!

For Dinner Tonight:

Pancakes with Assorted Fillings
Homemade Banana and Brown Sugar Ice-Cream

Pancakes always feel like a treat and yet they are the most frugal of things to make. They always go down well in our home, either the thin French kind (which I made tonight) or the equally delicious breakfast kind. They make a little filling, savoury or sweet, go a long way. Yum!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Left-Over Chicken and Vegetables In Orange Hoi-Sin Sauce
Egg Fried Rice
Cheese Sandwich
Blueberry Cookies
Yoghurt with Honey and Nuts

What a mixture. I had a wonderful day out today visiting my dearest friend who lives near Oxford with her husband. We had a delicious meal at lunchtime so all I wanted when I returned home was a cheese sandwich and some yoghurt. My sweet husband held the fort all day and looked after the boys. He had the chicken and the cookies which were a gift from said friend. The boys snaffled down scrambled eggs and fruit. Exhausted now - it was a long journey.

Friday, May 18, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Chicken and Vegetables in Orange Hoi-Sin Sauce
Homemade Banana and Brown Sugar Ice-Cream

The sauce was an invention - the juice of two very sorry looking oranges and some hoi-sin sauce from our local Chinese superstore (which deserves a blog post all to itself).

Off shopping afterwards to Lidl with a dear missionary friend of ours. If you have never tried Lidl then you have missed some bargains. It is rather like Aldis (which I also love - one is opening near us soon) and the quality and prices on almost everything is very, very, good. Then we had a great treat. I mentioned a few days ago how I missed the Turkish shops of Leyton. Well now I need miss them no more. My friend drove me to the most wonderful 'international' store - Turkish, Polish, Indian, African - all manner of fascinating things at very good prices (especially herbs, spices, dried beans and nuts). It isn't far from here but not somewhere that is easy to get to without a car. Is it shallow to get so much pleasure from a shopping expedition? I hope not. We thank God that He provides so amazingly for us when it comes to our food shopping and He has really blessed us here with good Christian neighbours and friends!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Ascension Day

May you know the blessing of the Lord this Ascension Day!

Alleluia! sing to Jesus!
His the scepter, His the throne.
Alleluia! His the triumph, His the victory alone.
Hark! the songs of peaceful Zion thunder like a mighty flood.
Jesus out of every nation has redeemed us by His blood.

Alleluia! not as orphans are we left in sorrow now;
Alleluia! He is near us, faith believes, nor questions how;
Though the cloud from sight received Him when the forty days were o’er
Shall our hearts forget His promise,
“I am with you evermore”?

Alleluia! bread of angels, Thou on earth our food, our stay;
Alleluia! here the sinful flee to Thee from day to day:
Intercessor, Friend of sinners, Earth’s Redeemer, plead for me,
Where the songs of all the sinless sweep across the crystal sea.

Alleluia! King eternal, Thee the Lord of lords we own;
Alleluia! born of Mary, Earth Thy footstool, Heav’n Thy throne:
Thou within the veil hast entered, robed in flesh our great High Priest;
Thou on earth both priest and victim in the Eucharistic feast.

William C.Dix (1837 - 1898)

For more wonderful hymn lyrics, visit: If you would like to study more about the Gospel account of the Ascension, my husband's site has this article reprinted from the Tyndale Bulletin.

For Dinner Tonight:

Homemade Banana and Brown Sugar Ice-Cream

The theory is that our family eats nutritious, wholesome, mostly-made-from-scratch meals. This is the sad reality. Frozen pizza. Well not for the boys - they ate numerous oatcakes with redcurrant jelly and peanut butter, plus grapes and bananas, which I felt was vaguely more healthy. It is a very good thing that a very tired mummy (who had spent the day doing a major house clean and couldn't face cooking) has the great good fortune to be married to a very understanding pizza-loving husband.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Vegetable and Chicken Curry
Homemade Cherry Ice-Cream

It was a big chicken and tonight we ate the last of the left-overs. More vegetables than chicken in the curry but it was very nice (and some left for lunch tomorrow). I used a jar of sauce rather than make one from scratch – Patak’s Korma (buy one get one free from Sainsburys).

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Chicken and Vegetable Casserole
Homemade Bread
Homemade Cherry Ice-Cream

The weather here is grim: cold, wet and windy. Definitely the weather for a comforting one-pot casserole, with everything in it.

Taking Tea

I am plagued with a bad memory. I don’t just mean forgetting names or faces (but why is it that I can always remember one but not the other?). It is more complex than that. For example, I am constantly forgetting things to do things that I know are of great help to me – anything from praying Scripture when I am worried to planning fortnightly menus. It is more than just a question of lack of self discipline (I have that too) but genuinely forgetting that such solutions to the problems I may be troubled with even exist. Something for another post.

Less serious is a tendency to forget things that I really enjoy doing. I’ll be doing or making or eating something and think to myself “Golly, I really enjoy this! Why don’t I do it more often?” and then it will hit me like a flash that at sometime in the dim or not so distant past, I actually did that very thing but it had passed out of my memory until now.

Now it is hardly earth shattering either in terms of enjoyment or importance, but I have recently re-discovered a forgotten pleasure: tea. I have always drunk a lot of tea and enjoyed it. I am English, after all. One of the things that thrilled me about my then husband-to-be was that when he offered me a cup of tea and I replied “Best drink of the day!” he knew exactly which 1980’s Tea Council advert I was referring to. But what I have re-discovered is the pleasure not of your everyday teabag but rather that of trying different kinds of exotic and elegant leaf teas. The kind of tea that belongs in a flowery china cup and not a sturdy mug. Even better for me, I have discovered a stash of exotic loose tea in one of my chaotic kitchen cupboards, remnants of Christmas and birthday gifts. Not sure how old it is but then surely tea keeps forever – or so I’m hoping.

The re-discovery stems from my sister’s visit this January, when we took afternoon tea at Claridges Hotel in London. Oh my, what an experience! We followed it up with several visits to the wonderful Food For Thought CafĂ© in Westerham, Kent where they serve the most delicious pots of tea and homemade cakes. I was hooked. Assam, Darjeeling, Earl Grey, black, green or white. You know there is a whole wonderful world of tea out there waiting to be explored! I enjoy the ritual of the tea strainer but must admit that finding a 'single serving' cafetiere/french press (50p from the charity shop and ideal for tea) has made the business easier. Many varieties of tea are available now as organic and Fair Trade and not only that but tea-leaves are a fabulous addition to the compost bin. A guilt free pleasure indeed!

Monday, May 14, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Frozen Ready Meals
Home Made Cherry Ice-Cream

Tired and hormonally challenged Mummy. Understanding husband made sausage omlettes for the boys while I went out to buy the best the frozen food shop could provide (which isn't saying much).

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Why It Pays To Recycle

We have no recycling collection where we live. The rest of the borough does (and we certainly pay for it in our Council Tax) but we don't. Something to do with being above a shop and not having a front entrance. So every Sunday afternoon, after church and lunch, we have a little recycling ritual. We load up the baby buggy with newspapers, jars, bottles and milk cartons and trundle off en famille to our nearest recycling point (we have no car you see). Sometimes we are handsomely rewarded. Today was such a day. In a plastic bag, by the side of the paper bank, was this:

Now our Council does not, as yet, recycle electrical items. The local charity shops will not take them just in case they blow up and you sue. So this was just dumped. No one to give it to. Too much trouble to put on Freecycle. Well, thanks be to God. We have wanted a radio for our bedroom for a very long time and this one plays cassettes too. The CD contraption does not work, but it may be possible to repair it. They boys were entranced with it and lay on the floor in the hall listening to it as if they had never heard a radio or cassette player before. They christened it 'the Recordio'!

For Dinner Tonight:

Mashed Potatoes
Onion Gravy
Homemade Cherry Ice-Cream

The onion gravy was a last minute thought, made with the scrapings from the pan and some onion powder which we made from the onions we dehydrated last year. Not as good as the real thing but an acceptable enough last minute substitute. Mashed potatoes need gravy - don't you think?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Chicken and Vegetable Couscous
Homemade Bread
Cherry Ice-Cream

We do things with couscous that would make a North African weep. Tonight involved leftover cous cous, leftover roast chicken, lots of chopped mixed vegetables, cinnamon and Vegeta (can't cook without this magic powder) all fried up together in some olive oil. Very nice, especially with some garlic chilli sauce on the side. The boys didn't like it though - 'mixed up' food doesn't always go down well with them. They did enjoy the bread, which for a decadent change I made with just white flour. For the ice-cream I cut down the amount of sugar and stirred in a cup of Turkish Cherry Jam, which I had found lurking way, way in the back of a cupboard. How I miss the Turkish shops of north-east London. Sigh.

Friday, May 11, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Lamb Kebabs
Green Salad
Homemade Vanilla Ice-Cream

Feeling sooo tired today so the kebabs were from our local fish and chip shop (which being Turkish owned sells kebabs). Utterly delicious. With some dread in my heart I did a cost breakdown for the homemade ice-cream, just in case it turned out to be more expensive than Haagen Daz. Much relieved to find that it wasn't. Haagen Daz costs £3.78 for 500ml - the homemade £1.53 for around 750ml (more if we add our own fruit puree to it). We don't usually buy ice-cream (the expensive stuff is just too, well, expensive and the cheap stuff has the most hideous ingredients) so it is a great treat to find a recipe that I can make work.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Ham Omlettes
Cheat's Fassoulia (from last night)
Homemade Bread
Homemade Vanilla Ice-Cream
Stewed Blackberries and Damsons (the frozen remains of last year's harvest)

Leftovers. Yum!

Growing Your Own

We hope to harvest this year, God willing:

Red Currants

Black Currants







Blueberries (we had 12 the first year - one for each muffin)


Potatoes (new and old)

Tomatoes (Roma and Sungold)

Pickling Onions

Sweetcorn (never tried growing this before)



Butternut Squash




Broad Beans

Borlotti Beans

Celeriac (again new for us)


Apples (it is the third year for our oldest tree so we will hopefully gather a few - the cooking apples, pears, plums and cherries will have to wait another year)

We have been so greatly blessed by our allotments, since moving here in 2004. As soon as we had a moving date to come here my resourceful husband had searched out the nearest allotment society and asked to be put on the waiting list. By a miracle there was no waiting list at that time and we were able to sign up straight away.

Allotment growing is undergoing a huge renaissance at the moment - it is a very fashionable pursuit indeed. For us, growing our own is a practical necessity and the food we grow on the allotment contributes a huge part to our household ecconomy. With careful storage and preservation of the harvest we hope to eventually become almost self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables (and there is the added blessing of being able to share our surplus with friends and neighbours). We try to be as organic as possible and certainly without it we would not be able to afford shop bought organic vegetables. Before we had the allotment I calculated our weekly fruit and veg bill and worked out how much it would be if we switched to organic. Three times as much!

I would greatly recommend growing your own to anyone with even a tiny square of outside space. Even a window box could be put to frugal use to grow something like salad leaves, for example (for less than the price of a bag of designer salad leaves you can get a packet of seeds that will supply you for much of the summer). You can even recycle old containers to save money. We grow lettuce and celery in 6 pint milk containers and onions and carrots in catering size yoghurt pots salvaged from our local Indian restaurant.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Roast Chicken
Cheat’s Fassoulia
Green Salad
Homemade Bread
Homemade Vanilla Ice-Cream

I cheated on the fassoulia by pre-cooking the haricot beans then simmering them in pureed tomatoes (frozen from last year’s harvest) with bay leaves, lots of our own garlic (getting pretty dry now) and a good slug of olive oil.

The vanilla ice-cream was made using this recipe from the wonderful Pleasant View School House. I’ve never had success making ice-cream before but this recipe is absolutely amazing. We’ve tried it with strawberry puree mixed in too – it’s the cat’s pyjamas!

Tonight was a good night. Last night it was peanut butter sandwiches for the boys and a frozen ready meal for us. I have a very understanding husband.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Kerb-side Treasure!

Well not exactly found on the kerb-side but in a front garden, not far from us, leaning against the hedge. The house it came out of is being quite extensively ‘redone’ but the owners don’t seem to be living there and it took us a few visits before we could meet the builders and ask permission to take it. The moment I saw it I knew it would be just the thing for another bookcase in the boys’ room.

There is a little, oval, metal disc on the back, which says ‘Hussif Cabinets – British Made’. Originally I put the date at around the 1950’s but thinking about it is more likely to be original to the house, which would make it 1930’s. It is certainly well made and of solid wood. We cleaned it up (dislodging the wood lice and the spiders' webs) but it needs painting and divesting of sticky-back plastic. Until that day we have already pressed it into service as a bookcase and it is just the right fit for the space under the window.

I do so love salvaged treasures and God has blessed us with many of them. It is quite amazing what can be found in skips and bins and it helps to live in an area where the homeowners are perpetually ‘making over’ their homes.
Updated to add: This Vintage Chica has two great posts on dumpster diving here and here. A very inspiring blog.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Language of Flowers: Professions

Aconite - A misanthrope
Apple blossom - A lawyer
Auricula - A painter
Auricula, scarlet - A miser
Box leaf - A stoic
Buttercup - A man of wealth
Cherry blossom, white - A man of learning
Clover, pink - A working man
Cypress - A doctor
Flax - A domestic worker
Foxtail grass - A man of sport
Hyacinth - A lover of games
Laurel leaf - A poet
Lily - A nobleman
Milkwort - A hermit
Nasturtium - A patriot
Oak leaf - A farmer
Pitch pine - A philosopher
Ragged Robin - A wit
Reeds - A musician
Rose - An artist
Thistle - A soldier
Tulip - A landowner

From: The Pleasure of Your Company by June & Doris Langley Moore, 1933

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Simply Green: Repairing Things

Danny Seo’s blog Simply Green is a fantastic resource of green, eco-friendly ideas for the home. I love his premise ‘reduce, reuse, recycle and repair’. Yesterday he blogged about trying to get his ipod repaired and his frustration with the ‘replace, not repair’ culture.

I can recall a number of occasions where items we own have broken and we have been told “it just isn’t worth repairing”. Oddly it always seems to happen to the things we have bought new (rare as that is) rather than the older items we have been given or bought second hand. Electrical items are the worst. But this week we had a good experience. A couple of years ago I was given a Kenwood Chef Food Mixer – not only a design classic but a very efficient kitchen work-horse. It was a 1970’s model, possibly older– these things were built to last a lifetime. Sadly, last week, in the middle of a batch of bread dough, it breathed its last. We looked at the newer models available and I realised that the one that would be best for our family’s needs (and be most like the old one) was not the £150 model but the semi-professional, heavy duty £400 plus one (I might have guessed as much).

Then we discovered that, to our joy, our local, tiny and very quaint, independent electrical shop (a rarity itself) would be able to arrange for a repair. We await an estimate. The shop’s owner (who has run it for over 40 years) looked approvingly when we mentioned it was a Kenwood Chef. The quality of the workmanship and parts in the early models was so good, he told us, that they are well worth repairing if possible – in fact they were designed to be repaired. It seems that so much today, isn’t.

I am blessed with a husband who is very good at fixing things (aside from a Kenwood Chef that is). Our boys love to watch him; in fact they are of the firm opinion that Daddy can fix anything, absolutely anything – household items, toys, broken biscuits. He learnt by watching his father and also had the benefit of woodwork and engineering classes at school. Such practical and useful subjects are rather out of fashion these days in most schools or so I am led to believe, thanks to an emphasis on academic league tables and a fear of lawsuits. I think such practical skills are of huge importance and I’m very happy that we will be able to include the teaching of them in our homeschooling. I think our boys will be too.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Pleasure of Your Company: Preface

"This book was written as much for men as for women, as much for people of moderate means as for rich ones. We never had any 'ideal reader' in mind while we wrote it, except, perhaps, a rather intelligent person trying to live with dignity and grace.

Our ambition was to give this person, and those who were most like him, something more comfortable, something less imbued with the spirit of snobbery than the other books we have read on the same subject. Those which we have come across usually contain numerous statements to the effect that certain things are 'only done' in the provinces, or the suburbs, or the servants' hall, as the case may be. Such statements seem to us very offensive and absurd, and we have tried not only to avoid writing anything like them, which was easy, but even to refrain from private dis­cussion upon those narrow lines.

We have taken a middle course and resigned our­selves to doing without readers whose position, either financially or socially, is extreme and exceptional - the enormously rich and the acutely poor, those too exalted to need counsels and those who would not or could not take them. It is true that many suggestions unsuited to a slender purse will be found in our pages, but the less well-to-do inquirer has only to ignore them and turn to others better adapted to his means. We have, as we say, excluded millionaires, but we could not overlook the fact that the rich (as apart from 'the very rich') were entitled to a place in our scheme; in short, that:

Hearts just as pure and fair
May beat in Belgrave Square
As in the lowly air
O f Seven Dials!

Throughout the book we have dropped freely into personal reminiscence, because impersonality, though doubtless very laudable, gives rise in such a work as this to stiffness, and stiffness gives rise to snobbery, or something that looks distinctly like it. And besides, it's very disagreeable to have to forget all one's own tastes and distastes in writing a book. We are not at all sure we could have managed it."
The Pleasure of Your Company by June & Doris Langley Moore

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Pleasure of Your Company

I've just been blessed with the most delightful book: 'The Pleasure of Your Company' by June and Doris Langley Moore. It is a book about how to be hospitable and was written in 1933. The authors were sisters and their dedication of the book was enough to make me want to have it:

The authors
dedicate this book
to each other
as a token of esteem
for their having not quarrelled
at all
in the making of it.