Saturday, 30 September 2017

Five on Friday - Flowers and Books

Hello, hope you are all well. I'm joining with 'Five on Friday' with some photos of my week.
The last few weeks some of the family have been fighting colds. unfortunately for teen 1, it progressed to asthma too. Thankfully the asthma nurse was working that day and he received a week of steroid tablets. It's quite scary when you can't breathe, thankfully he didn't have an actual attack but was hitting less than half the expected norm on the peek flow chart. He wasn't in a fit state for college all week but caught up on work emailed from tutors. He also made good progress through the Jonathan Creek box set whilst resting.

M surprised me with some flowers last week, I love the rich red berries in the bunch too. Looking at the leaves (oak tree leaf shape), they look like Chrysanthemums. It's years since I worked in a florist, nursery garden centre. The lilies have had their pollen removed, as beautiful as they are, and I know QT doesn't usually jump on the table, but they are poisonous to cats.

M and teen 2 have been planting up 3 new hanging baskets. Each basket has a silver and a gold edged ivy plant with the winter flowering pansies and some tete a tete daffodils which will flower in early April. Becky if you're reading this, I loved your baskets and they were the inspiration, thank you. It's just nice to look out the kitchen window and see some beautiful flowers hanging in baskets.  

QT, soaking up the last of the sunny warm rays. He's such a fluffy boy and totally knows how to take life easy. He's been leading us in a merry dance of  'you stock up the cat food - then I'll not eat it after 4 days'. 

Today after shopping in town I called into the surgery for my flu jab. I've never attended a clinic for this before but thought I'd take the first of  the 3 available dates listed. The queue was very long but swiftly dealt with, so with an aching arm at least I'll be invincible over the winter. Having had flu once over Christmas 2 years ago, it's something I'm very pleased to avoid. I'm not sure how the eligibility is worked out but the asthma nurse invited me to attend. Last year she went ahead and gave me the jab as part of the asthma review.

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Last night was the local book club discussion, we discussed two books both of which I hadn't finished reading. I abandoned Killing Kate halfway but continued scan reading until the end to catch the gist for the questions. A Street Cat Named Bob, I saw the DVD which though doesn't always follow the books well, I'm glad I got to watch it beforehand. I'm half way through this one and want to finish it before starting the next one.

The questions we used were these -           

A Street Cat Named Bob
- Questions (Book choice for August).

1. Talk about the strange connection that exists between humans and animals. What makes us bond with one another? James was barely able to care for himself, as he admits, so what prompted him to undertake the care and added expense of a sick animal?

2. Bowen says that Bob attracted people and motivated them to offer money, far more generously than when he was playing on his own. What is it about animals—but not people—that brings out people's kindness charity? is there something strange about that? Isn't that backwards?

3. How do you react to the homeless? Do you ever stop to talk, learn their story, offer money, a word of encouragement, a cup of coffee? Has this book made you see homeless people differently?

4. Bowen's story, of an animal that changes one's life, is exceptional but not unique. What is it about animals that can heal the human soul?

5. How did James end up on the streets of London? What part did his mental health and/or his family history play? How responsible is/was James for his troubled life? To what degree are any of us responsible for the path our lives take?

6. Would you read the other books in the series?  
The World According to Bob 

Bob: No Ordinary Cat 

Where in the World is Bob 

My Name is Bob 

For the Love of Bob 

A Gift from Bob 

Bob to the Rescue.

Killing Kate – Questions (Book choice for September).

1. Leaving aside the whole issue of domestic violencewhich as a group we've discussed many times before, how did you feel whilst reading this book? eg did you enjoy the book, feel uncomfortable etc.

2. Was the plot with a serial killer, having an un-convicted past, believable?

3. Were there any red herrings, was there a twist?

4. What are your thoughts on how Alex Lake has written the book eg the characters – did you feel sympathy with any of them.

5. Was the writing fast paced or slow and dull?

6. There are mixed reviews on this book-

Second half not as good as the first half,

Predictable and boring,
Kept you guessing 'till the end.

If you were to write a blurb for this book or even a review, what would you say?

7. Would you read any more of Alex Lake's books?

After Anna (2015)
Copycats (Sept 2017). 

Revisiting The Haven in September.

You may remember a previous walk here where I mentioned Samphire growing on the beach soon. M and I visited The Haven on Thursday for a walk, it was very warm, bright and sunny and as usual hardly anyone about. Here are a few photos with what's left of it now, covering the beach in a reddish carpet. Here is some info about Samphire if this interests you.

Do leave a comment if anything is of interest or if you've read one of the books. Have a good week and thanks for stopping by.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Five on Friday - Hubbard's Hills

Hello, I'm joining with Five on Friday for a walk on the last day of the school summer holidays in England. It  was a few weeks ago now that we set off for a family walk at Hubbard's Hills, described as an area of Natural Beauty, in Louth. It was a lovely warm sunny day and a short walk was just ideal.

The paths follow along the river Lud with a mix of leafy woodland and open green land. On one side of the river you have a choice of paths, up this steep bank to follow the edge of the golf course or along the river itself. Low down you are free to cross the water on some stepping stones or bridges. The other side of the river is a wide open grass area, which as the weather was so nice and warm, people were enjoying picnics and family games.

Thousands visit this 32 acre site every year. The trust was set up to purchase Hubbard's Hills with the gift of money left in the will of Auguste Alphonse Pahud in the early 20th century. For an aerial view of the land see here. The steep hills are the result of glaciation, for more information see here.

A memorial for Annie, beloved wife of Auguste Pahud. There is much information on-line if you're interested but briefly, Swiss teacher Auguste came to England to teach German and French at the grammar school in Louth. He met and married a local girl called Annie who came from wealthy farming parents. After her death, he was devastated and sadly committed suicide. He did however leave money in his will which the trustees have purchased and gifted Hubbard's Hills to the people of Louth. 

I'll leave you with a few more photos of what we saw on our walk, it really is a beautiful place. I've left off the photo of children sliding down the muddy bank. A pathway has been eroded into the hill which is wet and very muddy. There are signs up asking for parents to prevent this but... some children were covered from head to toe in mud and though they could wash themselves off in the river before their return journey home, environmentalists of course do not share their humour. 

It's such a shame, as obviously the environment needs protecting for future visitors and habitat etc and of course it's great to see kids having 'screen free time'. Anyway, it's probably best left for others in official places to think more on 'how to protect' areas of natural beauty as clearly signs alone are not working. 

For more info including the geology of Hubbard's Hills see here.

Thank you for reading, do leave a comment I'd love to hear from you. Thank you to all the new follows that have been reading my blog, you are very welcome. Cx

Friday, 15 September 2017

Cookery calendar challenge

The Hairy Dieters: Fast Food - Paperback - 9780297609315 - Hairy Bikers

During August I bought 'another' new cookery book, The Hairy Dieters Fast Food. I've chosen 2 books for the Cookery calendar Challenge, you can find more on the link at the end.
I'd watched the Hairy Dieters series of cookery programmes and I was pleased to see they'd released a new book. This book promises to help you have a meal on the table within 30 minutes. One that is healthy and lower in calories and hopefully won't be clogging up your arteries or tipping the cholesterol balance.

The book seems to be carrying on in the same vein as their previous books where they lesson the refined sugar carbohydrates and try and look for replacements. For example in this book, they bake bread tartlets with sliced bread instead of high fat pastry and in a previous book they cut leeks open length wise and used the layers instead of pasta sheets in a lasagne. For this healthy reason alone, I would recommend them.  

Each recipe has a short intro that is informative, offering advice and serving suggestions. They provide suitability for freezing, vegetarian and the important calorie count which is after all a huge reason for buying the book.

Si and Dave write in their unique style that feels like they are there with you. You can be sure they've tried and tested each recipe and if they say it's good, it is. Following their testimonials at the beginning of the book, they reveal their new challenge, which is to have 'fast' recipes for the table before you reach for the snacks.

There is a section in the book for slow cooking and making use of the pressure cooker. The slow cooking just means, the preparation required will take up to 30 minutes. I'm tempted by some of the pressure cooked recipes as I love using my pressure cooker. I find stews and casseroles always taste full of flavour cooked in there and have been very disappointed with my slow cooker. My second recipe I've chosen requires the pressure cooker, though you could simmer it for an hour.

The first recipe - 'Stove-Top Granola' is from the 'Breakfast and Brunch' section. I was looking for an oat cereal recipe as most shop cereals contain one or more of these - barley, soya, dried stoned fruits, nuts and coconut. As I can't eat any of these, I was pleased to see a few recipes that are suitable. I will be re-testing the nuts soon and hope these will be ok to eat.

The recipe itself is simple enough, melting the butter and maple syrup with some oil and then stirring in the oats and salt in a pan to coat evenly, this is done in 20 second bursts for 5 minutes. They should give off a nutty aroma and look slightly golden.

At this point you can add your chosen dried fruit, seeds and nuts if wanted. Then tip onto a tray to cool and crisp before serving with milk or yoghurt. It'll store in an airtight container, this amount for one will last a few days. I used sultanas and sunflowers and I also added some fresh fruits to my bowl one morning.

There was a nice buttery taste with this cereal but I was a bit disappointed. When I think of granola, I imagine crisp, hard pieces or nutty oats but this quickly absorbed the milk and became the usual soggy oat based museli breakfast. I did wonder if baking it in the oven rather than a non-stick frying pan would've crisped the oats up a bit.

I would definitely make it again, but would use less butter, as the taste was overpowering after a while, with the milk.

The second recipe I've chosen is 'Pressure Cooked Tomato Sauce' from the 'Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick, Slow' section. We were wanting to use up some tomatoes from the greenhouse and this was perfect. You do need a glass of white wine for this recipe, not to drink whilst it cooks, but to add to the pan as it steams away merrily. The recipe calls for 2 cans of chopped tomatoes, so you could of course make this all year.

You start by lightly frying a chopped onion to brown the edges, meanwhile continue chopping the other ingredients and then adding the garlic. 

All the other ingredients can then be added but don't be tempted to add more water as it won't need it. My assistant was busy chopping for me whilst I stirred and tidied things away.

Here it is in the pressure cooker before the lid went on for steaming. It is very bright, bold and with the red onion, quite something to see.

The recipe says to cool quickly and reduce the sauce on the hob stirring with the lid off. I served some (not reduced yet) in a ramekin dish alongside our jacket potato as dinner had already been planned but we wanted to try it. The sauce was delicious, sweet, fruity and flavoursome.

As it was not yet reduced it was more liquid than it should have been but I ended up tipping it on my plate and it complemented the dinner nicely.

I shall be making this again, they suggest freezing it, eating it with pasta, meatloaf or burgers. I've made tomato sauces before and they have never tasted this good. I've added marrow or other squashes and basically ended up with a very watery tasteless liquid. I wouldn't really like to call them a sauce. This one is delicious and looks and smells good too. There was no complaints from the family which is always good when they like what you've provided.

Next month I'm going to choose 2 recipes to cook from Jamie Oliver's 'Ministry of Food' cookbook. I know not everyone is keen on him or his style of presenting his ideas but I've watched this particular series on TV and bought the book. The whole point of the cookery calendar challenge was to get reacquainted with our long forgotten cook books, this book certainly fills the brief.

I hope you've enjoyed reading about my 2 chosen recipes, I certainly loved making them and hope to make more in the future.


Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Sock knitting and back to school.

Hello and welcome. I was pleased to see my yellow sunflower, fully open today, just what's needed on this gloomy wet day. The petals and their shades of yellow and orange are a delight. I hope the weather is good wherever you are today. I collected teen 2 from the bus this evening, his first day back and not at all happy to be back at school, especially with the rain. It's not that he doesn't like school, rather he'd prefer to be at home. We arrived home just in time, before the heavens opened. Teen 1 has another day off before college starts back, he's always liked being at school, being a social child chatter box

My sock knitting is progressing, slowly. I've struggled with this one, not sure why exactly as I've knitted socks before. The pattern by Winwick Mum, is relatively simple as it's knitted in the round on short circular needles. M has read some parts of the pattern to me, and I've followed the instructions. The heel was looking a very funny shape before I asked him to 'sort this out'. It seems I was only decreasing on one side of the heel flap. As it's going to be for him, he has strong feelings about wanting to be able to wear it comfortably, fair enough. For the sock details, which I spoke about before see here.  

Overall, despite the frustration in understanding what I'm doing, I like this method of sock knitting. After trying it on, M found the leg section a bit loose. I'm going to continue and finish this pair and consider doubling the length of rib and reducing the cast on stitches by 4. If that produces a tighter leg section next time, I'll be happy. I'm not unpicking it again!

It's a good thing M asked me how many stitches I had last night, I'd been decreasing 2 stitches on alternate rows and I'd gone way too far. As he always points out, I spend longer unpicking than actual knitting. He terms it my anti-knitting. Now the heel flap, turn and gusset is complete, it's continuing knitting until nearer the toes. It should be quite straight forward now.

Time for tea and blueberry muffins with hidden blueberries. I made them in the food processor following an all-in-one method. I can't remember where I found this recipe from, I've copied it out into a recipe book a long time ago. The recipe uses oil, which is handy as teen 1 is dairy free at the moment. If he can avoid scratching his hands, I'm hoping he'll improve. The recipe is better with lots of blueberries, I've added dark chocolate chips to mine to fill them. If you'd like to bake some, with 'visible' blueberries here's the recipe. My fruit and chocolate are placed at the bottom of the cake cases. If you wish to use a food processor, either blitz quickly at the end to mix the fruit in without chopping, stir in the fruit or add separately to the cup cases.

More spring cleaning today, this time in the bathroom, complete with raindrops outside. With other routine cleaning jobs to be done such as hoovering and floor washing etc it seemed a strange day with the schools back today. It's a 4 day week for teen 2, so not so bad for him really, despite his protests. The summer holidays do seem a long time off. I think many children are already dreaming about their next summer holiday. 

Dinner time - Tuna pasta bake tonight. One is made with goats milk, goat cheese and sweetcorn, being dairy free can sometimes be difficult. As teen 1 isn't sure it's totally successful anyway, we've introduced goats milk and cheese. M isn't keen on sweetcorn and I can't eat it anyway, so the other has diced aubergine and cows milk. I've not tried the goats milk but having found the goats yoghurt to be sharp in taste, I can understand that teen 2 wasn't totally happy with it.

QT's had his dinner and has retreated to his bed. He tried and failed to gain some tuna from our dinner. He has 2 other proper cat beds upstairs but... cats! He chooses somewhere to sleep and returns to it frequently over a few days. At the moment the box is 'the one'. He's a funny boy.

Do leave a comment telling me what you've been doing today.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Five on Friday - Savouring summer.

Hello and welcome as I join with 'Five on Friday'. As the weather seems to be cooling and the evenings drawing in, I find myself not really wanting to let summer go just yet. My five random summer photos reflect my mood perfectly, summer days with winter preparation.

Summer holidays and carrying on with routine jobs and shopping, are not so easy with teens, that don't really want to be taken out for some 'fresh air and a change of scenery'. These bold, bright and beautiful flowers, complete with a sunflower, were purchased on one such occasion. Chosen with a chorus of 'can we go home now'.

A bit of a polish and more spring cleaning, this time upstairs in my room. I found all these seaside, ocean related ornaments tucked away and neglected behind a calor gas fire. This unused fire place welcomed a sweep out and polish. The birds drop twigs down the chimney and of course dust and cobwebs are never far behind. Having lit the multi- fuel stove a few times this week downstairs in the lounge, it's reminded us to source a double fronted stove to replace it. This will open up and heat into the dining room, which is the coldest room in the house. 

I've neglected Knit and Natter group over the holidays, there have been other things to do. Having teens you're sort of wanted home, but not really needed, strange. This week, I was handed these angels for the town's angel bombing nearer Christmas, shush a secret! I'd asked the ladies a while ago now if they'd like to knit or crochet some for me. There's more in the bag, so lovely that they took the time to do this. I wrote before and left the pattern links here on this post. I took my latest project that is small and portable, socks. I also bought a few more new balls of sock yarn too, well I thought they'd be good for presents.  

Preparing for the barbers and a duck walk at a local beauty spot this afternoon, I made up my duck food recipe. Some children made it for their sponsored walk last summer. People often tell you, 'don't give ducks bread', but they never say what to feed them. As I like things done properly, I thought I'd better find out what to feed them. Here is the official answer, so that's what I went with. This time I didn't have any peas, so mixed up - bird seed, oats, lettuce and sweetcorn.  

The ducks seemed to appreciate their meal and ventured onto the grass to eat. There's a definite pecking order, with the ladies very much in charge. We thought the male ducks looked quite young, their heads not fully sporting the gorgeous green colour that defines them. There were many families enjoying the last of the warm sunny days, playing frisbee and picnicking on the grass too.

Swallows And Amazons [DVD] [2016]

I borrowed this DVD from the library and hope to watch it tonight. The original was filmed in 1974 with the characters and events set in the summer of 1929. Here is the Wiki link if you want a trip down memory lane. Teen 2 has seen this already and I remember studying the book with the Open University Children's Literature course. It'll be interesting to see the changes that have been made in this updated version.

I'm off to knit some more of M sock and maybe watch a bit more of the film. I'm not sure if the teens really like it. Maybe if there had been aliens on the island.... If you've seen this new version of Swallows and Amazons, do let me know your thoughts. At the moment we're a bit confused as to why the beginning was made unnecessarily sinister.

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